Alleged New Zealand mosque gunman linked to far-right group backed by Steve King

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Alleged New Zealand mosque gunman linked to far-right group backed by Steve King
BERLIN, GERMANY - JUNE 17: Supporters of the Identitarian Movement march on June 17, 2017 in Berlin, Germany. The Identitarian Movement originated in France and with its ideology of a racially-based concept of European identity has drawn right-wing supporters across Europe. The movement has positioned itself against the acceptance of Muslims and Islam in Europe and has also sought to stop immigration from non-European nations. (Photo by Michele Tantussi/Getty Images)

Austrian authorities announced Wednesday that they had discovered a financial link between the alleged New Zealand mosque shooter and a white nationalist group frequently championed by members of the U.S. far right, including Rep. Steve King (R-IA).

Prosecutors in the south of the country said the Identitarian Movement, a white nationalist group that first originated in France, received roughly $1,700 from the alleged gunman in early 2018. A spokesman added that there is now an investigation underway to probe any criminally relevant links between the group and the suspected attacker.

Martin Sellner, leader of the Identitarian Movement of Austria, said he had “passively received a donation” from alleged gunman but had nothing else to do with him. This is not the first time Sellner has been in trouble with the law: In May 2018, he and 16 other members of the movement were arrested and charged with hate speech in connection with several anti-immigrant and racist demonstrations they had staged over several years, although they were eventually acquitted.

There is no evidence yet to suggest that anyone involved in the Identitarian Movement had anything to do with the New Zealand attack. But the connection reveals how the group acts as a node, connecting the ideologies of violent white supremacists with the views of more mainstream far-right figures.

The group has particularly gained a large amount of sympathy from members of the U.S. far right.

In September 2018, King, on a visit to Austria, gave an extensive interview to Caroline Sommerfeld who, as HuffPost noted, is a prominent far-right intellectual within the Identitarian Movement. In the interview, King talked at length about the “Great Replacement,” a conspiracy that claims white populations are slowly being replaced by a nonwhite majority due to declining birth rates and mass immigration. The conspiracy was also a central point of alleged gunman’s manifesto.

“The [United States] subtracts from its population a million of our babies in the form of abortion,” King said at the time. “We add to our population approximately 1.8 million of ‘somebody else’s babies’ who are raised in another culture before they get us.”

ThinkProgress has reached out to King’s office for comment on his past association with the group, as well as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who earlier this year stripped King of his committee assignments after the congressman asked in an interview with The New York Times why the terms “white supremacist” and “white nationalist” were offensive.

In addition to King, the Identitarian Movement has attracted the attention and support of conservative media figures in the United States.

In March 2018, Sellner and his American girlfriend Brittany Pettibone (who also has a number of far right links) were banned from visiting the U.K. Fox News host Tucker Carlson used his primetime news show to defend the pair, asking why they weren’t allowed into the country while “radical Muslims, more than 4,000 former ISIS fighters, were welcomed.”

Sellner had previously praised Carlson in January last year for “calling out the Great Replacement” when he ran a segment criticizing Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-SC) views on immigration.

There are other U.S. links to the Identitarian Movement. Breitbart, a far-right news site spearheaded previously by President Donald Trump’s former adviser, Steve Bannon, has repeatedly given the group extremely positive coverage. Lauren Southern, a Canadian YouTuber who remains a popular figure within the U.S. far-right ecosystem, also helpedcrowdfund nearly $75,000 in 2016 so that the Identitarian Movement could rent a boat to disrupt migrant rescues during the height of the refugee crisis.

Southern has been a frequent advocate of the “Great Replacement” conspiracy, although after the New Zealand attack, she took to Twitter to disparage the idea that she played any part in alleged gunman’s radicalization.

“Never will the solution be to shoot innocent people begging for their lives in the streets,” Southern tweeted. “To act as though this was the logical conclusion of anyone’s peaceful rhetoric or political criticism is utter insanity.”