POLITICS

GOP Congressional Candidate Won't Say If He Thinks The KKK Is A Terrorist Group

Texas Republican Tony Gonzales dodged the question for two minutes straight.
Texas Republican congressional candidate Tony Gonzales.
Texas Republican congressional candidate Tony Gonzales.

Is the Ku Klux Klan a terrorist group? Texas Republican congressional candidate Tony Gonzales dodged the question multiple times in an awkward exchange with a local talk show host.

Gonzales spent two solid minutes avoiding the question in an interview posted last Thursday on “The Carpenters Apprentice,” a San Antonio-based talk show that streams on Instagram.

Seated close to his guest (with neither wearing a mask) in a what appears to be a bar and with a bottle of Tito’s Vodka on the table, the host brought up a pro-Gonzales campaign ad that claims he is committed to designating “violent gangs like MS-13 as terrorists.” The ad is funded by Future Leaders Fund, a super PAC founded by retiring GOP Rep. Will Hurd, who currently represents the seat Gonzales is running for. The group has spent nearly $200,000 in support of Gonzales’ campaign.

Since Gonzales plans to push to label MS-13 as a terrorist group, the host asked if he similarly plans to push to label the KKK as a terrorist group.

“So, Futures [sic] Leaders Fund is not an organization that I’m ― like, it’s an outside group,” said Gonzales. “There’s all these outside groups that do all this stuff.”

“Did you not say that?” asked the host, confused. “Do you not think that MS-13 should be labeled as a terrorist organization?”

“I think MS-13 terrorizes people,” said Gonzales.

“You don’t think the KKK does?” asked the host.

“Absolutely,” replied Gonzales.

“So then I’m asking you, on the level, would you push for both of them to be labeled as a terrorist organization?” said the host.

“I would push for this: for us to talk about racism. Nobody talks about it. Nobody wants to talk about it,” said Gonzales. “They want to talk about organizations.”

They went back and forth several times, with Gonzales saying he does think that MS-13 is a terrorist group but then avoiding the same question about the KKK.

“Why isn’t that, like, a simple yes or no?” asked the host.

“We’re living in COVID. There’s a million things going on. You have this much oxygen in the room,” replied Gonzales. “And it’s not to talk about the KKK.”

Here’s a video of their exchange.

In reality, there is no legal mechanism in the United States for labeling a purely domestic organization as a terrorist group. That point was never made in the interview. But as the University of Wisconsin’s Anna Meier argues, people’s desire to apply the label to certain organizations is more about signaling what types of groups and political actions are acceptable to the U.S. government.

Gonzales campaign spokesman Matt Mackowiak on Tuesday initially dismissed HuffPost’s request for comment on whether Gonzales thinks the KKK is a terrorist group. He asked who flagged the video clip to HuffPost and said, “What does any of this have to do with KKK?” But he followed up Wednesday with a statement saying that Gonzales “believes any organization that uses violence to terrorize our communities should be designated a terrorist organization — including MS-13, the KKK and Antifa.”

“Trying to imply that a Hispanic veteran is somehow sympathetic to the KKK demonstrates just how desperate the Jones campaign has become,” said Mackowiak, suggesting Gonzales’ opponent, Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones, sent the clip to HuffPost.

Gonzales and Jones are locked in a tight race in Texas’ 23rd Congressional District, though Jones appears to have the edge. FiveThirtyEight has her with a slight lead in the polls and The Cook Political Report puts the House seat at “lean Democratic.”