The Arizona Republican Party ignited backlash on Tuesday after firing off a pair of tweets that appeared to encourage President Donald Trump’s supporters to give their lives as part of an effort to overturn the election results.
The controversy started late Monday when the group retweeted Ali Alexander, a leader of “Stop the Steal” ― a movement that embraces the debunked conspiracy theory that there was widespread election fraud and that Trump, not Democrat Joe Biden, actually won the contest.
“I am willing to give my life for this fight,” Alexander wrote in the tweet, which the Arizona GOP shared with its more than 61,000 Twitter followers.
“He is,” Arizona GOP added in their retweet. “Are you?”
About an hour later, the Arizona GOP tweeted a clip from the 2008 film “Rambo” in which the titular character issues a call to action to soldiers: “This is what we do, who we are. Live for nothing, or die for something.”
The “Rambo” tweet was removed late Tuesday morning after racking up hundreds of thousands of views. Zachary Henry, a spokesman for the Arizona GOP, cited “concerns about copyright and fair use law” when asked about its removal.
“The Republican Party of Arizona condemns all forms of violence in the strongest terms,” Henry said. “Fictional movie scenes should be weighed in their proper context.”
He did not respond to a request for comment about what the Arizona GOP meant when it asked if people were willing to give their lives for “Stop the Steal” and whether the pair of tweets could be viewed as encouraging violence.
“If some random yahoo in AZ kills somebody in the name of Trump staying in office, will Arizona GOP chair Kelli Ward be charged as an accessory?” tweeted Philadelphia Inquirer opinion columnist Will Bunch.
Elections officials, Democrats and some Republican lawmakers have urged Trump and his allies to stop spreading lies about the election results and tone down their divisive rhetoric, warning that such remarks could lead to violence.
“It has to stop. Mr. President, you have not condemned these actions or this language,” Gabriel Sterling, a Republican and the voting implementation manager in the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, said during a press conference last week.
“Stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence,” Sterling continued. “Someone’s going to get hurt, someone’s going to get shot, someone’s going to get killed. And it’s not right.”
Trump and his supporters in the “Stop the Steal” movement have baselessly claimed Democrats “rigged” the election against Trump. Election officials nationwide, including Republicans, have rejected such claims. The Justice Department ― headed by Trump appointee Attorney General William Barr ― has also dismissed allegations of widespread fraud.
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