ZUMBRO FALLS, Minn. -- A dinner hosted by the Wabasha County Republican Party last month featured keynote speaker Trevor Loudon, a far-right conspiracy theorist who told the GOP faithful that more than a hundred members of Congress should be investigated for espionage, that the killing of George Floyd and the unrest that followed "was planned since 2016," and suggested that voting machines were rigged in last year's presidential election.
Loudon spoke at a GOP "Wabasha County BPOU: Minnesota On the Rise" banquet held March 27 at the Zumbro Community Church. It was attended by an estimated 400 people, according to a YouTube comment beneath a video of Loudon's speech.
Described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a "far-right conspiracy theorist," Loudon has a history of making toxic statements. He is a "birther" who has spread the discredited notion that President Barack Obama is not a U.S. citizen.
The event was promoted on Facebook by Beverly C. Roche-Snow, Wabasha County GOP chairwoman. When contacted by Forum News Service, she hung up the phone.
Rep. Steve Drazkowski, a Republican from Mazeppa whose district covers parts of Wabasha County, did not attend the event. But he was dismissive of the Southern Poverty Law Center's labeling of Loudon as "far right-wing."
"The Southern Poverty Law Center is a left-wing group, very far left," Drazkowski said. "If they have problems with this Trevor Loudon guy, I will tell you that Republicans, conservatives have equal problems with the Southern Poverty Law Center."
GOP state Sen. Michael Goggin of Red Wing attended the banquet, and a video showed him posing for a photograph with Loudon. Goggin did not return email or a call seeking comment.
This isn't the first time the Wabasha GOP has cozied up to extremist views and has been used as a vehicle for incendiary statements.
Last year, the party was condemned by Jewish organizations after an image comparing mask mandates to Nazi Germany's persecution of Jewish people was posted on Wabasha County GOP's Facebook Page.
A Wabasha County GOP official initially claimed that its Facebook page had been hacked. But later, Minnesota Republican Party Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan said the picture was posted by a county GOP board member, who resigned at the party's request.
Loudon has likened Obama to Hitler and Stalin, saying that Obama loves his county "in the same way that Adolph Hitler loved Germany and Stalin loved Russia. You know, he wants to transform it into a new vision," Loudon said in a 2015 interview, according to Right Wing Watch.
Attempts to contact Loudon were not successful.
A New Zealand author, speaker and blogger, Loudon talked about America being the "last, best hope for mankind. Ronald Reagan had it right" at the Wabasha event.
But these commonly held GOP views were mixed with a running conspiracy-laden commentary that perceived Marxists and communists lurking throughout Congress and the Democratic Party. He called the late Sen. Paul Wellstone a "full-on Marxist" and said the Democratic Party is "completely communist" at this time.
In his remarks to the 400 gathered at the GOP event, Loudon said that:
- More than 100 members of Congress should be investigated for working for foreign governments. "We need to investigate about 100 of your Democratic colleagues for working for foreign governments and the communist and Islamic movements."
- Offered a conspiracy theory that the killing of Floyd and the subsequent civil unrest was planned since 2016. "This was planned since 2016, folks. This was all organized by a group headquartered in Minnesota called the 'Freedom Road Socialist Organization.'"
- Pushed a conspiracy theory that the pandemic was a planned effort by the Chinese government so President Trump would lose the 2020 election. "The People's War (Chinese government) is biological weaponry. The COVID was deliberately spread to this country. It was timed for an election year to destroy your economy, destroy Trump and an even worse purpose."
- Called into question the accuracy of voting machines, and said that their use may serve to depress election participation among Republican voters. "Second, no more voting machines. None. Now, there are probably voting machines out there that are perfectly reliable. There probably are. The fact is, most of our base doesn't trust them because we've been lied to and scammed."
- Advocated that conservative states and counties band together to defy legislation passed by a democratically elected government. He said he was not advocating secession, but his proposal would have the same effect. "I don't mean to leave the union. I want to go back to that people, so you can join together and you tell a federal government we will not implement any unconstitutional directives in our states."
While the GOP chairwoman declined to comment, the Wabasha County Republicans hailed the evening on its Facebook page as an "amazing night with so many of our conservative friends from across southeast Minnesota!"
"Trevor Loudon ... did an amazing job talking about the future of America and our Republican Party," it said.