Far-right agitator Nick Fuentes was responsible for tanking the congressional campaign of Trump-endorsed candidate Joe Kent, a former U.S. Green Beret and Gold Star Spouse. Kent ran in a swing district in Washington State.
After tarnishing Kent’s reputation from the perspective of liberal voters by slapping him with his toxic endorsement, Fuentes worked to undermine MAGA support for the candidate by labeling him a CIA plant. Fuentes launched a website dedicated to smearing Kent that was even boosted by The New York Times.
Fuentes’ smear campaign coincided with a multi-million dollar dark money effort to sink Kent’s candidacy funded by the anti-Trump wing of the Republican Party. A total of five Super PACs, including at least two linked to then-House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, spent over $4 million to defeat Kent. One Super PAC appeared to be created solely for the purpose of boosting a spoiler candidate in his race.
A Fuentes loyalist named Greyson Arnold stalked Kent in order to record an interview with him that would later serve as the crux of a CNN report that sought to link the candidate to “white nationalists” despite his documented rebuke of such ideology.
Fuentes’ efforts led to the victory of the liberal Democrat, Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez, over Kent. The livestreamer celebrated Kent’s loss as a result of “the Fuentes effect.”
Read part one of The Grayzone’s investigation into Nick Fuentes here.
Read part two of The Grayzone’s investigation into Nick Fuentes here.
“You could say completely credibly, without any exaggeration, that we did that. You could say that we were responsible for that because probably without our stickers, and without the website, and without my show and everything else, and without our people going to his town halls, you could say that he probably could have won, you know, maybe a few 100 more votes. And so that will be the greatest thing that ‘America First’ has done.” – Nick Fuentes on Joe Kent’s electoral loss
“I hate Joe Kent,” declared 24 year old livestreamer and political operative Nick Fuentes during a February 12 phone call with The Grayzone. “I had to say look: disavowing me comes with a cost.”
Throughout his young career as a media influencer, Fuentes has amassed an impressive collection of scalps. As documented in the previous installments of this three-part investigative series, the provocative livestreamer has tarnished the reputations of some of the conservative movement’s most prominent personalities, including campus organizer Charlie Kirk, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, and, most recently, former President Donald Trump. Along the way, Fuentes also managed to attach himself to a cultural icon, securing the role of top advisor to hip-hop artist and fashion designer Kanye West as he explores an informal presidential run.
Fuentes’ political body count would leave even the most hardened Democratic Party-aligned operative red with envy. Yet Fuentes is not a Democrat; he is the leader of the self-described “Christian Nationalist” Groyper movement of radical right-wing zoomers. He currently presides over a miniature political empire complete with its own anonymously-funded foundation that hosts a flashy annual convention on par with the decades-old gathering of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). At the same time, his history of entanglement with federal authorities and uncanny ability to sabotage Trump’s “America First” movement from within have fueled speculation that he is, in fact, “controlled opposition.”
As the 2022 midterm election kicked into high gear, Fuentes set out to destroy one of the Democratic Party’s top targets: the former U.S. Special Forces officer-turned Trump-endorsed congressional candidate, Joe Kent. Shaped as an angry rebuke of the bipartisan military industrial complex, Kent’s candidacy posed a clear and present danger not just to the pro-war liberal class, but to its collaborators within the anti-Trump wing of the Republican Party.
As Kent’s campaign gained strength in a hotly contested swing district in Washington State, his opponents poured millions of dollars into defeating him, even tapping into the now-notorious crypto exchange, FTX, to fill their war chest. It was not until Fuentes and his “Groyper Army” arrived in Washington State’s third congressional district, however, that the establishment’s most inflammatory line of attack against Kent was truly cast.
Joe Kent, a Groyper? The politics of deception
Hours after Joe Kent made what would have otherwise been an ordinary March 9, 2022 campaign stop in a rural Washington town, a local paper blared out an incendiary headline. It read, “White Nationalists Dominate Discussion” at Town Hall in Onalaska. Accompanying a photograph of a riled up attendee waving his hands in the air, the paper declared, “Locals Respond With Outrage” to the presence of racist elements at the event.
The jarring title and photograph that splashed across the front page of South Puget Sound’s The Chronicle on March 11 would eventually provide Kent’s heavily funded Democratic challenger, Marie Glusenkamp Pérez, with her closing line of attack.
“This is the future Joe Kent wants for Southwest Washington,” Glussenkamp Pérez tweeted in the midst of the November 8, 2022 midterm election, alongside a photo of The Chronicle’s report.
“White Nationalists Dominate Discussion at Joe Kent Town Hall”
This is the future Joe Kent wants for Southwest Washington. It’s the world he’s already living in.
But the rest of us still have a choice. Today we must all say No to Joe Kent.
“Today we must all say No to Joe Kent,” the car repair shop owner-turned Democratic candidate continued. “Return your ballot by 8pm.”
Yet if Glussenkamp Pérez’s followers, or even the candidate herself, had bothered to read the actual content of the article in question, they would have discovered a far more complicated version of events in Onalaska.
The Chronicle’s headline appeared to imply that white nationalists had overrun the Town Hall in a frenzied show of support for Kent – a version of events his opponent was more than happy to accept. In reality, the article documented a bizarre scene in which impassioned fans of far-right agitator Nick Fuentes had crashed Kent’s event in order to lambast the candidate for refusing to endorse their extremist views.
Kent had renounced Fuentes’ endorsement just days before, characterizing the livestreamer’s focus on race and religion as contrary to his own political vision of “inclusive populism.” In response, Fuentes directed his mob of online followers, known as Groypers, to sabotage Kent’s ground game in Washington State.
“Now, Kent is facing backlash from Fuentes supporters, including five men from Idaho who drove five hours, despite soaring gas prices, to attend the Wednesday night event in Onalaska,” detailed The Chronicle, adding the group confirmed “they were there to support Fuentes.”
Though he had once described Kent as “the most promising primary challenger running against an anti-Trump Republican in 2022,” the tumultuous confrontation in Onalaska marked the first physical encounter in Fuentes’ rabid crusade to destroy the candidate. After failing to convince Kent to form an alliance with his shadowy America First Foundation, Fuentes channeled the pain of rejection into a vengeful campaign of political sabotage.
“Kent, a decorated retired Green Beret and House candidate in Washington State, is discovering just how far the modern far right will go,” the New York Times reported in its July 2022 review of Fuentes’ campaign of sabotage and subterfuge.
“In recent weeks, far-right figures led by [Fuentes], a white nationalist who has spoken admiringly of Adolf Hitler, have started an online drumbeat claiming that Kent, a retired Green Beret and CIA paramilitary officer who has a fistful of Bronze Stars, is actually a deep-state denizen himself,” the report continued.
Until his brush with Fuentes, Kent’s meteoric political rise had been entirely defined by his militant opposition to Washington’s national security establishment. Following over 20 years of army service capped by a brief stint in the intelligence sector, Kent resigned from his duties in January of 2019 after his wife, Shannon, a fellow elite military officer, was killed by an ISIS suicide bomber in northeastern Syria. Her death was the direct result of a campaign to sabotage President Donald Trump’s plan to withdraw from Syria the previous month, led entirely by ideologues in the Pentagon and media.
From that moment on, Kent waged what Mother Jones magazine described as a personal “forever war” against domestic targets in the U.S., including “the generals he blames for the deaths of family and friends” as well as “elites waging ‘hybrid warfare’ against middle-class Americans.”
When he entered the race to represent Washington State’s third district in February of 2021, Kent was by far the most outspoken critic of the entrenched military and intelligence bureaucracy running among the entire field of national congressional contenders. He was also close to the King of “America First” himself, having served as an informal advisor to President Trump during his final months in the White House.
Yet for some reason, despite having fashioned himself as the leader of America First’s rising generation, Fuentes dedicated the bulk of his energy throughout the 2022 midterm season to relentlessly attacking Kent.
“You’re not going to disavow Nick Fuentes and not pay a price,” the Groyper leader warned during a July 2022 stream celebrating the Times’ coverage of his anti-Kent crusade.
“Who else but the Groypers just does this kind of stuff all day long?” he added with a malevolent grin.
Indeed, between a targeted online harassment offensive and physical protests of Kent’s campaign events, the Groyper leader’s subversion effort knew no boundaries. His behavior played directly into the hands of Kent’s political rivals, including liberal media outlets like the New York Times. In one particularly freakish incident, a Fuentes loyalist with a documented criminal past stalked Kent as he campaigned in rural Washington State in order to record a short interview with the candidate. The brief encounter would later serve as the crux of a CNN report that sought to link Kent to “white nationalists,” despite his documented rebuke of such ideology.
Was Fuentes’ obsession with Kent purely personal reprisal for a bruised ego? Fuentes claims the campaign was an attempt to demonstrate that his vision for “Christian nationalism” represents the future of America First politics.Yet while the livestreamer’s benefactors remain unknown, his war on Kent directly coincided with a multi-million dollar dark money effort designed to sink the MAGA-aligned candidate’s run for office. Super PACs affiliated with the anti-Trump wing of the Republican Party dumped at least $4 million into defeating Kent throughout his primary battle – precisely the time that Fuentes inserted himself into the race.
Fuentes’ strategy was two-pronged: after tarnishing the candidate’s reputation in the eyes of liberal and even center-right voters by branding Kent with his toxic endorsement, he worked to depress MAGA turnout for the Trump-endorsed politician by smearing him as a CIA-controlled Trojan Horse.
Despite endorsements from Trump and former Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, as well a cast of political heavy-hitters in between, Kent ultimately lost to his Democratic opponent by fewer than just 3,000 votes. The demise of Kent’s campaign in such a pivotal swing district to a previously unknown challenger also spelled the failure of the widely expected populist “red wave,” a development broadly celebrated in establishment media.
Above all, it meant that one of the most credible and passionate opponents of the escalating Ukraine proxy war would be absent from upcoming congressional debates on U.S. military support for the conflict.
A “front row seat” to the permanent war state
Joe Kent’s bid for civic office was not born out of a conventional, lifelong pursuit of the political limelight, but instead the result of incredible personal woe. Before launching his congressional bid, Kent had built a successful military career spanning over two decades. Along the way he met his wife, Shannon, a naval cryptologist and former Special Services officer who was fluent in Arabic, Spanish, French, and Portuguese.
In 2018, the pair were enjoying life with their two young children when Shannon got the call of duty that would forever alter their family’s path: her cryptology skills and fluency in Arabic were needed in the U.S. military’s drawn out campaign against the Islamic State in Syria. Shortly after Thanksgiving that year, Shannon was deployed to the country’s northeastern city of Manbij, where she was “responsible for finding ISIS cells and their leaders, fixing their location in time and space, and then providing that intelligence to her peers.”
Shannon Kent was killed in action on January 16, 2019, when an ISIS suicide bomber detonated himself on her position. Three members of her team and eleven Syrian nationals also died in the attack, which targeted a crowded street in the heart of downtown Manbij.
Robbed of his life partner and left to raise their two young boys alone, Kent set out to avenge his wife’s killing. Yet he did not place ultimate blame for her death on the foreign terrorist group that had murdered her, but on the very military command structure to which he had dedicated his entire career.
“My wife was killed because members of Trump’s administration double crossed him and essentially left our troops in Syria as he tried to get them out,” Kent told The Grayzone. “I’ve been pretty outspoken about that.”
Recalling his “front row seat” to the developments that predicated Shannon’s killing, Kent described how her team achieved a rapid advance within weeks of their December 2018 arrival in Syria, leading to the capture of several villages that remained under ISIS control. By December 19, their swift advance inspired Trump to declare a mission accomplished in Syria and announce the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country, prompting a fierce and very public fight with his most senior advisors.
Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned in opposition to the withdrawal policy on December 20, 2018, while veteran national security operative and Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, Brett McGurk, quit in protest later that same week. Meanwhile, the New York Times paradoxically accused the Commander in Chief of “overruling his generals and civilian advisers” by committing to an exit from Syria, further denouncing Trump for “rattling” foreign partners such as Britain and Israel.
While Trump battled a mutiny within the ranks of his supposed allies in Washington and beyond, Kent maintained regular contact with Shannon as she awaited her ticket home.
“They were supposed to be out, they had orders,” he said of Shannon and her team in Manbij, describing how they even packed bags “to be out by Christmas Eve of 2018.”
With time, however, Kent realized the hope Trump’s Syria withdrawal effort had offered his family was too good to be true.
“I can see it all in slow motion,” he recalled. “I was like: ‘There’s no way in hell — between the generals, the Pentagon, the State Department, all the vested interests — they’re gonna do everything they can to stay there.’”
The promise of Christmas Eve came and went, yet Shannon and her team remained stranded in Syria. When she was killed less than one month later, Kent officially resigned from his service career in order to, in his words, “focus on my kids and get back to my life.”
Kent’s first formal encounter with the MAGA political network came in the days immediately following Shannon’s death. As he waited at Dover Air Force Base to receive his wife’s remains on an afternoon in late January of 2019, President Trump arrived to offer official condolences to the newfound Gold Star spouse.
“I thought it was going to be me, Trump, and like, 15 others,” Kent recalled. “But it was actually me and Trump alone in the room together. And I was just like: ‘hey, you’ve got no idea who I am. But I’ve been fighting these wars since they started, and you’re getting it right. But you’re being sorted.’”
Kent went on to tell the president about his own firsthand experience within the national security establishment. He explained how after joining the military in 1998 and taking an oath to obey the orders of the U.S. president, he watched with dismay as the Pentagon and intelligence apparatus ultimately functioned according to their own interests — not according to a policy dictated by the Commander in Chief.
Kent’s candor appeared to register with the president, as Trump’s team proceeded to solicit the former Special Forces officer’s perspective on matters of foreign policy throughout the remainder of his time in the White House. In turn, Kent campaigned for Trump’s 2020 reelection effort.
Following Trump’s defeat, Kent announced his own candidacy for the seat of Washington State’s third congressional district on February 18, 2021. In doing so, he lodged an official MAGA-approved challenge to incumbent Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler, one of just ten congressional Republicans who had voted to certify Trump’s impeachment the previous month.
As he embarked on the perilous path from Washington State to the Beltway swamp, Kent’s greatest obstacles would not come in the form of predictable partisan hurdles thrown up by Democratic Party rivals, but an expensive campaign to stifle his candidacy funded by the establishment wing of his very own party.
Welcome to “the jungle”: the dark money dump
To secure his place in the November 2022 election, Kent would first have to survive what is known as a “jungle” primary — a system through which all congressional candidates in a given district compete on a single, nonpartisan ballot, with the top two vote earners advancing to the midterm regardless of party affiliation. Though billed as an effort to curb partisan influence in primaries, the process ultimately places insurgent candidates at a disadvantage by forcing them to confront the political force of both the Republican and Democratic establishments at the same time.
While the Democrats in his district successfully coalesced around a single contestant for the jungle vote, Kent’s presence on the ballot sent the Republican Party’s strategy into meltdown. A united Democratic front all but guaranteed their candidate’s position at the top of the “jungle” pack, leaving Kent to duke it out with Herrera Beutler for the second place slot. His chances were further undermined by the presence of three additional Republican candidates on the ballot, including a conservative Christian social media influencer named Heidi St. John, who remained in the race despite vowing to drop out if she failed to secure Trump’s endorsement.
As the primary season fell upon Washington State’s third congressional district (WA 03), the Republican Party establishment did its best to tank Kent’s candidacy. The most obvious evidence of their effort is the money trail left behind by the Congressional Leadership Fund, a GOP super PAC controlled by then-House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy.
Shortly after receiving a sizable donation from McCarthy’s PAC, the conservative WFW Action Fund poured over $2 million into Kent’s district. According to Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings, WFW spent the bulk of that cash — $1.7 million — on producing content to oppose Kent, while the rest ($623,315) wound up in the campaign coffers of incumbent Herrera Beutler.
Alongside the Congressional Leadership Fund, the pro-McCarthy billionaire investment banker Charles Schwab made a $100,000 donation to WFW shortly before the PAC turned its attention to Kent’s district.
The McCarthy-controlled Take Back the House 2022 PAC piled on, contributing a hefty $197,755 worth of donations to Herrera Beutler in the months following Kent’s foray into the race.
Then there is the curious case of Conservatives for a Stronger America, a murky PAC that invested $723,943 into St. John’s campaign just weeks before the August 3 primary, despite the fact polls showed she had virtually no chance of qualifying as a top two vote earner.
Conservatives for a Stronger America filed its Statement of Organization with the FEC on July 13, just two days before primary ballots were mailed out in Kent’s district. According to FEC data, the PAC proceeded to spend a total of $1.4 million during the 2022 election season, the entirety of which it spent on the WA 03 primary. The PAC reported donating a total of $931,924 to St. John’s campaign, while investing $524,117 to produce content directly opposed to Kent.
Conservatives for a Stronger America listed a single PAC, the Houston-based Eighteen Fifty Four Fund, as having supplied the entirety of its $1.5 million budget.
The Eighteen Fifty Four Fund’s FEC filings reveal yet another list of mysterious PAC donors, making it virtually impossible to determine who directed the last minute anti-Kent cash injection into WA 03.
In total, five Super PACs spent approximately $4.1 million on the WA 03 primary, with 82 percent of the funding directed towards producing ads, mailers, and other material designed to oppose Kent’s candidacy. The rest went directly to the campaign coffers of his challengers. Along with the PAC money, McCarthy funneled untold sums of cash through the now-bankrupt FTX crypto exchange in order to defeat GOP candidates he opposed in the midterm, including Kent.
Conservatives for a Stronger America’s support for St. John nearly doubled her campaign’s previous fundraising efforts, prompting her own team to tell local media that even they were “pleasantly surprised” by the anonymous financial boost. Kent, on the other hand, denounced the money dump as part of a mainstream ploy to “prop up a spoiler candidate and split the vote so they can re-elect the Establishment’s RINO incumbent,” Herrera Beutler.
If the anti-Trump wing of the Republican Party was indeed conspiring to sabotage Kent, it would take more than dark money to defeat him. Polls demonstrated the former Green Beret posed a viable threat to Herrera Beutler, suggesting he could actually pull off an upset win against the GOP incumbent. What’s more, Kent was lapping up national media attention, including from the conservative movement’s most influential news host, Tucker Carlson.
“I’m calling for lawmakers to be pragmatic, to recognize the world as it is — Ukraine has always been a buffer state — let’s try to cut a deal that stops the bloodshed,” Kent declared during a March 10 interview on Tucker Carlson Tonight.
His call for direct, diplomatic engagement with Moscow came amidst a fervent, bipartisan push on Capitol Hill to send more weapons and cash to the Ukrainian military following Russia’s February 24 invasion of the country. During that same Tucker Carlson appearance, Kent denounced members of his own party for adopting what he called a “reckless” posture towards the Russian government, undoubtedly enraging the belligerent Republican leadership bloc.
As the GOP establishment threw the weight of its entire political machine against Kent, an unlikely helper arrived to grease the gears of media controversy. The multi-million dollar anti-Kent crusade’s newfound ally was not some ace oppo researcher, however, but a 23-year-old political arsonist who had emerged from the heart of the America First movement that also claimed Kent as one of its own.
Fuentes and a fantasy shattered
Whether he was driven by genuine support for Kent or an inability to resist the political thrill of a “jungle” primary battle, Fuentes injected himself and his army of supporters into the race for Washington State’s third congressional seat in March of 2022. His toxic behavior became the immediate focus of unyielding media intrigue, eventually metastasizing into a force devoted to sapping the life from Kent’s campaign by any means necessary.
The livestreamer’s name first surfaced in connection to the race on March 2, after Republican candidate Heidi St. John uncovered a year-old tweet in which Fuentes praised Kent as “the most promising primary challenger running against an anti-Trump Republican in 2022.” St. John promptly demanded Kent renounce the unofficial endorsement from Fuentes, whom she characterized as “a pro-Putin activist and Hitler enthusiast.”
Kent issued an official reply the following day, “strongly condemn[ing]” the livestreamer’s politics and contending Fuentes’ obsession with race and religion ran counter to his own “message of inclusive populism.”
I stand by this. No one be should de-platformed or put on a no fly list for their political ideas.
I don’t want Fuentes’s endorsement due his focus on race/religion, the fights he’s picking are counter productive, this is not my message of inclusive populism. https://t.co/FyQvSAeLoa
Rather than squash the controversy enveloping Kent’s campaign — one which he once purported to support — Fuentes proceeded to do everything in his power to make the candidate’s life miserable. On March 4, Fuentes convened a livestream in order to suggest that he had previously consulted for Kent’s campaign, plunging the candidate deeper into a noxious bed of political quicksand.
During the stream, Fuentes revealed that he set up a phone call with Kent shortly following the launch of his congressional bid in February of 2021. According to Fuentes, he used the conversation to offer Kent’s campaign assistance from his America First Foundation.
“We’ve got a lot of resources at our disposal,” Fuentes recalled his pitch to Kent.
“We’ve got money, we’ve got man power, we’ve got talent,” he continued, describing his crew as “the best” social media team in the game.
St. John’s campaign picked up on the podcaster’s proclamations with impressive haste, tweeting clips from the stream within hours of its conclusion. Yet by then, it was clear that Kent’s team had no interest in pursuing an alliance with Fuentes and his America First spinoff. Kent had not only personally disavowed Fuentes days before, but over a year had passed since their phone call and no agreement between the two camps had ever materialized.
“Once I announced, I got hit up by a lot of different vendors, like political consultants, and people who do media specifically,” Kent explained during a March 5 interview with local media.
“They come at you with a package like, ‘Hey we can get you more followers on social media, more amplification on social media … so it was one of those calls that he was on,” he added.
But as with most of Fuentes’ high-profile encounters, even the most superficial interaction with the Groyper leader was enough to permanently scar Kent’s reputation. Fuentes’ disclosure inspired a local news cycle dedicated to linking Kent with the livestreamer’s online army of extremist trolls, effectively accusing the Gold Star spouse of pandering to “white nationalists.”
Meanwhile, having previously attacked Kent as a “Bernie Bro” over his vote for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in the 2020 Democratic primary, St. John’s campaign quickly rolled out a borderline defamatory ad in which she accused her rival of “coordinating with a fringe activist who praised Hitler.”
The smear campaign juxtaposed Kent’s face next to images of Sanders and Nazi Fuhrer Adolph Hitler, along with the text: “Democratic Socialist, National Socialist, Just a Socialist.”
The obvious implication — that Kent was a closet Nazi — laid the groundwork for attacks later adopted by his Democratic rival, Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez.
Once again Joe Kent shows his true colors. There’s no excuse for associating with a white nationalist, Nazi sympathizer. It’s shameful — though not surprising. 1/2https://t.co/cakYWwTK4y
St. John tweeted the ad on the afternoon of March 4, hours before Fuentes went public with claims he consulted for Kent. Though Fuentes insisted to The Grayzone that he did not directly coordinate with St. John’s campaign, he apparently took the ad as his cue to kick his war against Kent into overdrive.
As the candidate would soon learn, hell hath no fury like a Groyper scorned.
“A small project on the side” for Fuentes
Kent felt the force of Fuentes’ “Groyper Army” for the first time just days after denouncing the livestreamer, when six Groyper loyalists suddenly materialized to crash his March 9 Town Hall event in Onalaska, Washington. Just as they dominated campus events organized by conservative activist Charlie Kirk throughout the fall of 2019, the Groypers used their numbers to take control of Kent’s question and answer session, hitting the candidate with one controversy-laden question after another.
While decrying the “decline of Western civilization,” the Groypers repeatedly attempted to pressure Kent into endorsing absurd policies such as “a complete shutdown on all immigration for the next 20 years.”
Kent’s supporters ultimately shouted down the Groyper saboteurs after they refused to relent the floor, yet the showdown had already set the stage for a wave of media attacks on the candidate. In one egregious example of deceit, The Chronicle reported Kent had endorsed a Groyper’s call for a complete immigration shutdown “because of the demographic replacement that’s happening in this country.”
While Kent is heard uttering an affirmative “yeah” amidst his prolonged exchange with the Groyper, the candidate insisted he was replying to a supporter in the front row who simply asked whether or not he would move on from the Groypers to take other questions. Though Kent lodged an official request that The Chronicle correct its report, he never received a reply. In fact, though he stayed late to record an interview with the paper that evening, it never published the contents of their discussion.
As Kent pushed along with his campaign, individual Groypers continued to pop up at events to accuse the MAGA-aligned candidate of being a “deep state plant.” The new line of attack had been personally crafted by Fuentes, who formed the narrative in order to explain away Kent’s decision to reject his endorsement.
Around this time, stickers directing locals to visit a slick new website called “JoeKentisCIA.com” began appearing around the candidate’s district. Though Kent made no secret of his prior work for the Central Intelligence Agency, touting his service as proof he was uniquely positioned to challenge the national security establishment, the site argued he remained a deep state “puppet.” Offering little more than strongly-worded innuendo to support its claims, it presented a series of slides asserting Kent was everything from a “CIA-controlled opposition candidate” to a secret, Democratic Party-aligned Marxist.
Despite federal election law requiring that material produced in order to attack an individual candidate disclose who authorized and paid for it, the “JoeKentisCIA.com” stickers provided no such information. Fuentes later took credit for producing the stickers during a livestream.
Meanwhile, the website listed a Delaware-based PAC called “Republicans Against RINOs” as its sponsor. However, a quick search reveals no such organization has ever registered with the FEC.
Regardless, Fuentes’ “Joe Kent is CIA” trope eventually made it onto the pages of the New York Times. On July 25, just days before WA 03’s August 3 primary vote, the political establishment’s newspaper of record amplified the covert smear effort, declaring that Kent had been “outflanked” by the extremist right. While the Times failed to unearth the site’s financial roots, it credited Fuentes with spearheading the “Joe Kent is CIA” whisper campaign.
Fuentes celebrated the Time’s coverage of his subversion effort hours later, characterizing the article as a “huge victory” for his Groyper movement.
“We did this! We put this on the map!” the Groyper leader exclaimed during a livestream. He was overcome with exuberance: “Here we are a week before the primary election, and the New York Times is running an article about this website and about the Groypers outflanking [Kent] on the right! And so I think it’s a total success because that was our mission from the beginning.”
Fuentes proceeded to acknowledge his offensive in WA 03 was part of “a small project on the side” he had been working on “since the first week of March.” That happened to be the same week that fringe Republican candidate Heidi St. John spun out attacks linking Kent to Fuentes, and shortly before her hopeless campaign received an injection of hundreds of thousands of dollars from an anonymous PAC created solely for the purpose of opposing the Gold Star spouse.
“I did a lot of the ideas and I’ve been working a little bit on the side,” he added, divulging he had “assigned a total Groyper schizo” to the task of digging up dirt on Kent.
The benefactors of Fuentes’ “work” remain anonymous, just like the eleventh-hour donors to St. John’s seemingly futile candidacy. Considering the political makeup of Kent’s jungle primary, however, it is obvious who benefitted from the Groyper leader’s obsessive antics.
As the August 3 primary wound to a close, it seemed the effort to defeat Kent had been successful. Democratic candidate Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez picked up just over a third of votes cast throughout the day, easily securing her place on the midterm election ballot. GOP incumbent Herrera Beutler ended election night in second place, leading Kent by roughly 5,000 votes.
Yet as vote tallying continued, Kent surged ahead. By August 9, he had surpassed Herrera Beutler by a knife’s edge, forcing the anti-Trump Republican to concede by a margin of just over 1,000 votes.
St. John, meanwhile, trailed Herrera Beutler by over 13,000 ballots. Despite finishing in 4th place, her ability to attract 16 percent of votes cast shattered polling expectations — perhaps thanks to her last minute hoist from anonymous PAC donors.
“Our top priority in 2023 is dismantling the administrative state and bringing the national security state to heel,” Kent tweeted on the morning of his shock primary win. “To accomplish this we have to win in November; to do that we must unify.”
Greyson the Groyper stalks the Kent campaign
While the “Joe Kent is CIA” campaign fizzled out after Kent’s primary victory, the Groyper network’s crusade to destroy the outsider candidate persisted and intensified. On August 31, an obscure Instagram account called “american_greyson” posted a short interview with Kent filmed on the streets of Yelm, Washington, exploring the candidate’s views on immigration, energy policy, and his vision of “America First.” Within weeks of its publication, the video was the subject of a CNN report that accused Kent of maintaining “ties to White Nationalists” and “Nazi sympathizers,” despite the candidate’s repeated denunciations of extremist ideology.
According to CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski, whose K File investigation unit provides a reliable dumping ground for opposition research from the establishment wings of both parties, the interview had been conducted by Greyson Arnold, a little-known Groyper-aligned internet activist with “a well-documented history of making White nationalist, racist, antisemitic and pro-Nazi statements.” In addition to his interview with Kent, Arnold posted selfies with the candidate as well as photos in which he claimed to be canvassing for the Gold Star spouse alongside the Washington State Young Republican organization.
For its part, Kent’s campaign insisted it had no formal relationship with Arnold and asserted they had no idea who he was. They said that Arnold had simply approached the candidate on the street during a campaign stop in Yelm and requested an impromptu interview.
“None of the questions gave Joe any indications that the individual had any racist or antisemitic views and, if he had, Joe would have cancelled the interview immediately,” Kent campaign spokesperson, Matt Braynard, told CNN. Similarly, Fuentes told The Grayzone that he did not have a significant relationship with Arnold, characterizing the Groyper as a stalker.
Meanwhile, a thorough review of Arnold’s social media revealed a puzzling pattern of behavior that appeared to track closely with the tactics familiar to Fuentes. Throughout 2022, Arnold posted a variety of photos alongside a who’s-who of MAGA-aligned celebrities, including Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, TPUSA Founder Charlie Kirk, and former Trump advisor Carter Page.
Arnold’s pursuit of MAGA spanned the entire country, and even included an October 1 stop at a Trump campaign rally in Warren, Michigan.
“Here at President Trumps [sic] rally in Michigan representing my friend Joe Kent,” read the post’s caption, below an image of Arnold proudly sporting an unofficial “Joe Kent for Congress” t-shirt.
Oddly, CNN’s report on Kent was not even the first time the media outlet attempted to weaponize Arnold’s name against a Trump-aligned politician. In June of 2021, Kaczynski attacked a local Republican in Oregon for appearing on Arnold’s barely-watched YouTube channel. Months later, K File blasted Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake for posing “with Nazi sympathizer and QAnon-linked activists” based on the fact she had posed for photos with Arnold at a campaign event.
Taken together, the three scoops represent an almost miraculous journalistic feat for Kaczynski. At the time of this report’s publication, Arnold’s Instagram account had attracted fewer than 700 hundred followers and his YouTube channel had just 590 subscribers. Yet somehow, Kaczynski was able to dig up the virtually unknown account’s “links” to high-profile, Trump aligned candidates.
Were CNN’s reports a testament to Kaczynski’s expert sleuthing abilities, or had someone with extremely intimate contact with Arnold fed him the social media posts?
Despite his active social media presence, Arnold’s profiles offer no clue as to where he is based or what he does for a living. The Grayzone was able to confirm, however, that Arnold has a criminal record dating back to 2010.
His most recent run-in with the law occurred in December of 2021, when authorities in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, charged Arnold with disorderly conduct, property damage, and intentionally placing a person in fear of immediate physical danger. Arnold ultimately pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, while the other two charges were dropped.
According to the police report, the charges stemmed from a domestic incident during which Arnold physically assaulted his girlfriend after she refused to prepare him a meal and raised questions about his overdrawn bank account. Details of his prior crimes are not publicly available due to the fact he committed them while he was a minor.
Arnold’s criminal background adds a layer of intrigue to his already curious national campaign to secure photo-ops with MAGA movement stars. Had he been somehow compromised to the point where he could be controlled by actors with a malign, ulterior agenda, or was he just another troubled young man attracted to the polarizing energy of extremist politics?
Whatever the case, the charismatic livestreamer who drew Arnold and droves of others into the far-right fold was about to score his most decisive blow against an America First-aligned politician yet.
The Fuentes effect
After successfully linking his fringe offshoot of “America First” to Kent’s campaign, Fuentes pivoted to a cynical and vengeful attempt to brand the candidate as a CIA-controlled, deep state spoiler. Together, the seemingly contradictory lines of attack served a combined purpose: sullying Kent’s name in the eyes of liberal voters while discrediting him from the perspective of his once-guaranteed MAGA-aligned base.
For a candidate running in the rural, narrowly Trump-leaning suburbs of Portland, a bastion of U.S. liberalism, the pincer-style assault proved lethal, though just barely. Kent officially conceded the midterm race to his Democratic party opponent on December 21, 2022, after an official recount of the November 8 vote placed his challenger ahead by a razor thin, .83 percent margin.
“That was the biggest upset in the midterms, and he lost by like 1 percent” Fuentes gleefully remarked during a January 2023 livestream celebrating Kent’s defeat. “That was the Groyper curse, that was the Groyper effect.”
When contacted by The Grayzone, Fuentes argued his actions against Kent were justified even if it meant that a hyper-liberal, “woke” candidate who stood for everything the livestreamer opposed won instead. But had it been excessively cruel to smear a former Green Beret who dedicated his life to fighting the military establishment after losing the mother of his children in a foreign war as a CIA plant?
“Politics is a mean business, he should have thought about all that before denouncing me,” Fuentes remarked, before adding, “I’ve made my sacrifice.”