Notorious alt-right figure and accused Holocaust denier Chuck Johnson met with two Republican lawmakers in Congress on Wednesday.
Johnson’s visit was first noted by a HuffPost reporter, who tweeted a picture of Reps. Andy Harris (R-MD) and Phil Roe (R-TN) walking with Johnson.
Both waited for him to get through security.
Johnson, a former Breitbart reporter, has denied the magnitude of the Holocaust, expressing doubt that gas chambers were real and questioning whether six million Jews were really killed—a figure that has been well documented by scholars and historians.
“I do not and never have believed the six million figure,” Johnson posted on Reddit in 2017. “I think the Red Cross numbers of 250,000 dead in the camps from typhus are more realistic. I think the Allied bombing of Germany was a war crime. I agree with David Cole about Auschwitz and the gas chambers not being real.”
Johnson later wrote in a February 2018 Facebook post that he believes the the Holocaust occurred, and only made the Reddit remarks to see what would get him banned from the site and test “the various tech companies and their commitments to free speech against fake hate speech."
"I am not now nor have I ever been a Holocaust denier,” Johnson wrote. “I unambiguously believe the Holocaust happened, that 6 millions Jews died, that some of those Jews who died in labor camps, gas chambers, ovens, and in all manner of dehumanizing ways."
While he now professes to believe in the Holocaust, Johnson also has run crowdfunding efforts for white-supremacist causes, including the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer. Despite his protestations, the Anti-Defamation League describes Johnson as a “Holocaust denier.”
Johnson has also appeared on the alt-right “Fash the Nation” podcast, pushing the idea that racial inequities can be explained by the idea that black people are “dumber.”
In statements, Poe and Harris confirmed they had met with Johnson to discuss genetic testing and DNA, but claimed they weren’t aware of Johnson’s controversial history. The meeting came on the same day the House held off on a vote to censure Rep. Steve King (R-IA) for comments defending white supremacists.
Harris said in a statement that he was “unaware of [Johnson’s] previous associations.”
“Of course I disavow and condemn white supremacy and anti-Semitism,” the statement reads.
Johnson used his meeting with the congressmen to push for “increasing the number of sequenced genomes for research,” according to a statement provided by a Roe staffer.
“Congressman Roe was not aware of this individual’s viewpoints nor were they discussed during their brief meeting, and had the congressman been aware he would not have agreed to take the meeting,” the statement reads. “White supremacist and anti-Semitic views are abhorrent and have no place in our society.”
Johnson did not respond to requests for comment that was sent to an email address that he has used to comment before. After the publication of this story, he accused The Daily Beast of not reaching out to him and requested that a line be added to the article reflecting that no attempt at outreach was made. He also asked for the inclusion of a statement from him saying “I have already previously explained that this was a free speech test of reddit and that I do not deny that Auschwitz is real.”
Despite his unsavory past—which includes posting such provocative material on Twitter that he was banned from the site—Johnson has had access to other members of Congress before. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) invited Johnson to the 2018 State of the Union address, and Johnson once arranged a meeting between then-Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
UPDATE 1:45 PM: This story has been updated with a statement from Johnson and additional information about his views on the Holocaust.