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Texas Republicans Heap Praise on Italy's Far-Right Giorgia Meloni

Giorgia Meloni is the latest European far rightist to catch the eye of American conservatives.
Giorgia Meloni is the latest European far rightist to catch the eye of American conservatives. Vox España, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Italy’s Giorgia Meloni spent much of her political life on the farthest fringe of the radical right. Although she now insists fascism is a thing of the past, in the early 1990s she joined the Youth Front of the Italian Social Movement, a party founded by a former chief of staff under fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

In fact, Meloni spoke highly of Mussolini in 1996, describing him as a “good politician.” Later, she helped found her current party, the ultra-right, anti-immigrant and anti-LGBTQ Brothers of Italy.

Now expected to become Italy’s next prime minister, Meloni’s found several high-profile fans among Texas Republicans, including former gubernatorial hopeful Don Huffines and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, to name a couple.

On Sunday night, Huffines issued a press release praising Meloni as a “culture warrior.”

Describing Meloni as “bold and courageous,” Huffines likened Meloni to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who recently attended the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas, and Brazil’s Jair Bolsanaro, an ultra-nationalist authoritarian.

(Meloni also attended a February CPAC gathering in Florida, where she lashed out at migrants in Italy for "crowding out the slums of our towns and our cities, undercutting the salaries of our own workers and in many instances engaging in crime.")

In his statement, Huffines celebrated that Italians have supposedly “unsheathed their swords of liberty,” adding that “the global elitists are truly scared.”

Texas GOP chairman Matt Rinaldi retweeted a clip of Meloni delivering a screed against the “LGBT lobby,” “mass immigration” and “the violence of Islam.” Rinaldi shared a trio of Italian flag emojis alongside the video.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz also retweeted a video of Meloni. In that clip, the Italian far rightist vowed to “defend God, country and family.” Cruz, who may or may not know that “God, country and family” was a Mussolini-era mantra, only added: “spectacular.” (John Huffman, the mayor of Southlake, retweeted the same clip. When journalist Bud Kennedy pointed it out on Twitter, Huffman described the speech "great" and complained that the "trolls" are "full of it as usual.") Italy, a country that lived under a fascist dictatorship for two decades and sent thousands of Jewish citizens to death camps during the Holocaust, has seen a resurgence of far-right parties in recent years.

Between June 2018 and September 2019, Matteo Salvini of the anti-migrant League party served as deputy prime minister and interior minister. Along with former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia, Salvini's party is part of the right-wing electoral bloc headed by Meloni.

"spectacular" – Ted Cruz

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In a January address, Michelle Bachelet, then United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, spoke to the Italian Parliament, lamenting an uptick in "hate speech and serious hate crimes against both Italians and non-nationals of many origins in recent years."

Heidi Beirich, cofounder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, said American conservatives' newfound love for Meloni and Italy’s far right is part and parcel of a "larger problem."

"Apparently, prominent Republicans have no problem working with anti-democratic, far-right leaders and movements, and are now celebrating a party in Italy with roots in fascism and that uses a fascist slogan," Beirich said by email. "This all symbolizes how far to the right the GOP has gone."

Citing how many Republicans have adopted the great replacement conspiracy theory, a worldview that claims migrants are supposedly part of a nefarious plot to undermine the West, Beirich added that she wasn't surprised that many in the GOP are now fawning over Meloni. "She's right up their alley," she said. 
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Patrick Strickland is the former news editor at the Dallas Observer. He's worked as a senior reporter at Al Jazeera English. His reporting has appeared in the New York Review of Books, The Guardian, Politico EU and The New Republic, among others.

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