On Jan. 6, Nevada personal injury attorney Joey Gilbert stood on the Capitol steps leading to the U.S. Senate and implored far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to join him above the sea of rioters.
“Alex! Come up here!” Gilbert shouted, bundled in a peacoat and purple scarf.
A video of the violent protest then shows Gilbert worming his way after Jones, chanting “1776!” and angling for attention among the bodyguards surrounding the internet entertainer.
He didn’t get it. After asking the crowd to be peaceful and leading a brief “U-S-A!” chant, Jones and Jan. 6 organizer Ali Alexander moved elsewhere. Soon, a group of Oath Keepers militia members ascended the East steps in military “stack” formation. And the crowd pounded on the Capitol doors.
But now, as he announced last week, Gilbert is running for governor of Nevada.
“The most important message I can leave today for all of you is that, if you sat on your hands and you censored the truth, and you peddled the fear—you’re out,” Gilbert said in his June 12 announcement speech.
“If election integrity isn’t the No. 1 issue of these guys running, then they’re either lost, confused, or too stupid to be running,” he said, falsely claiming that Donald Trump—the “real” president—won Nevada by 44,000 votes. From there Gilbert went on to accuse Dr. Anthony Fauci of “murder,” telling the crowd that the nation’s top infectious disease specialist was a “psychopath” who “should be in prison.” The crowd responded with whistles and cheers.
Gilbert—a former cagefighter and boxing champion and current Reno-based lawyer and conspiracy theorist—made headlines throughout 2020 for his fringe right-wing activity and COVID-19 denialism.
Gilbert brought two failed lockdown lawsuits against the state of Nevada last year before scoring a victory in December, when he convinced the Ninth Circuit court of appeals that the state could not regulate churches more tightly than businesses and casinos.
In October 2020, he began working with America’s Frontline Doctors, a group of discredited conspiracy theorists and anti-mask advocates whose founder, Simone Gold, was arrested in January for her role in the Capitol riot. He represents the group in a new anti-vaccine lawsuit targeting a range of federal public health officials and agencies.
Gilbert did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment for this article.
Gilbert earned his JD from Thomas Jefferson Law School, which temporarily lost its accreditation in 2019. He passed the Nevada state bar in 2004, and he entered public life that same year as a champion MMA fighter, appearing on the reality TV show The Contender, where he trained with Sylvester Stallone and Sugar Ray Leonard.
In 2007, the Nevada Athletic Commission hit Gilbert with a $10,000 fine and one-year suspension after he tested positive for several illegal substances, including steroids and meth. Three years later, he retired and went into private practice. His branding draws on his former career—“The Fighter”—and his firm specializes in DUI and personal injury law. (The firm’s website also plugs his gubernatorial campaign.)
Gilbert also defends cannabis industry clients and took up an array of anti-lockdown lawsuits against the state during the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s those invented 2020 election controversies that catapulted Gilbert into Nevada state GOP politics. In November, he supported litigation to overturn Joe Biden’s victory, and his gubernatorial platform hinges largely on “election integrity.” He continues to push the lie that the election was stolen from Trump.
In an interview last month, Gilbert claimed that, after the election, he took “dozens and dozens of phone calls from people whose dead parents voted in this election who weren’t alive.” Those allegations made it into a number of the post-election lawsuits brought by the Trump campaign and auxiliary lawyers, but were summarily dismissed.
At a May 15 Freedom Rally commemorating Lander County’s entry into the far-right Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, Gilbert declared that Trump is “still our president.” And, with Three Percenter militia members among the hundreds of people in attendance, he called for the crowd to “get in the fight.” The phrase was also emblazoned on the red T-shirts Gilbert was hawking to “raise money and awareness.”
Long an apostle of the hard right, Gilbert has routinely expressed Islamophobic sentiments online. But he has built his gubernatorial platform around the cause of the moment: baseless challenges to the state’s pandemic regulations—restrictions that are now easing in the wake of widespread vaccinations.
“Fauci said there would be a pandemic during President Trump’s tenure & he absolutely made sure it happened, just as planned, right before the election,” he tweeted on May 8. “All for a power grab, all for mail in ballots, all to throw the country into crisis & usher in a puppet & now poison/kill w/ 💉.”
Last month, Gilbert claimed that Fauci is profiting off the pandemic, and will be ultimately responsible for possibly “millions” of global deaths from a “garbage” vaccine.
In a recent interview, Gilbert falsely declared that “masks don’t work,” adding that the pandemic scare was “nonsense.” The America’s Frontline Doctors complaint he joined last week seeks to block the federal authorization for the COVID vaccine in children.
But Gilbert’s fringe activism hasn’t deterred some Nevada GOP officials. Since the election, a faction of high-profile state Republicans have shifted their politics to accommodate the anti-government groundswell on the far right. That faction is backed by state party chair Mike McDonald, who last month enlisted the Proud Boys in a successful effort to censure a fellow Republican state official for refusing to go along with a statewide audit of votes cast in the 2020 election.
While Gilbert’s pugnacity has drawn sizable crowds of like-minded Nevadans and helped him create new allegiances in the state party’s far-right circles, the Republican gubernatorial field is still nascent. Former Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) has been assembling a campaign that is sure to test Gilbert’s viability, and a number of former GOP officials, including former Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) and former Nevada attorney general Adam Laxalt, have also expressed interest.