John Gibbs, the former Trump administration official backed by the ex-President in his bid to unseat a Republican congressman who voted for impeachment, has a history of conspiratorial and inflammatory tweets and defended a notorious anti-Semitic troll banned by Twitter.
CNN’s KFile first reported on Gibbs’ statements in 2018, when he was appointed to a position within the Trump administration. He announced last week a primary bid against freshman GOP Rep. Peter Meijer of Michigan, who voted to impeach Trump earlier this year.
On Monday, Trump said he was backing Gibbs, who served in the Department of Housing and Urban Development and was later nominated to be director of the Office of Personnel Management.
CNN’s KFile’s past reporting on Gibbs’ statements ultimately stalled his nomination to be OPM director and his nomination was never voted out of committee. It was eventually returned to the president with the start of the new Congress in 2021.
Gibbs’ campaign pointed to his personal experience “as someone whose parents grew up under segregation in the deep south, and as someone who has lived overseas,” in a statement to CNN on Tuesday. “John knows more than anyone about repecting (sic) people of different cultures and religions, and about the absurdity of discrimination and prejudice. In Congress, John will carry that critical experience with him as he represents people of all backgrounds in Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District,” campaign communications director Don Smith said.
Gibbs sent several tweets promoting an unfounded conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign chairman John Podesta took part in a Satanic ritual — which was among the theories Republican Sen. Mitt Romney called “extreme, if not bizarre or nonsensical” at Gibbs’ confirmation hearing last year.
In an interview with the Washington Examiner prior to his hearing, Gibbs defended his comments, saying, “When I look back at this, I don’t really see anything to apologize for. I was a commentator at the time, I was commentating on popular issues at the time.” But speaking at his hearing, several months later in September 2020, he said, “I regret that it’s unfortunately become an issue.”
In 2016, Gibbs defended the alt-right Twitter account using the handle Ricky Vaughn when it was banned from the website. “#Twitter down big today because they banned Ricky? #FreeRicky,” wrote Gibbs. The Ricky Vaughn account regularly tweeted Nazi-era anti-Semitic propaganda, promoting claims that Jews control the world.
In a tweet, captured in an article by The Irish News in 2017, Gibbs also defended then-Rep. Steve King of Iowa over a widely condemned comment where King wrote, “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” King, who has since been defeated in a GOP primary, was expressing support in his tweet for far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who has predicted that “Europe will be entirely transformed within a half-century.”