Three prominent Orange County Republicans were in Israel at the same time as a controversial trip to the country for members of the Republican National Committee that drew concerns because it was sponsored by far-right Christian groups known for hate speech against Muslims, Mormons and gays.
Former Orange County Republican Party Chairman Scott Baugh, Costa Mesa Councilman Jim Righeimer, and FlashReport blog publisher Jon Fleischman were in the middle-eastern country earlier this month, with Fleischman sharing their experiences on Facebook.
According to an article in Politico, the American Family Association and the American Renewal Project sponsored a nine-day foray to the middle-eastern country to learn about Israeli history and “issues of religious liberty.”
Right-leaning groups have criticized the national committee for associating with the groups, which they called “extremists.” And the Jewish Anti-Defamation League warned the RNC that it would be “inappropriate” for committee members to travel to Israel with groups that engage in “incendiary and bigoted” commentary, Politico reported.
Nonetheless, the trip went ahead as planned.
Baugh, Righeimer, and Fleischman apparently decided to tag along.
It’s unclear if the three went as sponsored guests of the groups, or if they were just in Israel at the same time as the committee trip. Fleischman declined to comment, and Righeimer and Baugh didn’t return phone calls seeking comment.
But Fleischman did post a Facebook photo of himself and Baugh floating in the Dead Sea and another photo showing the three of them dining at a hotel in Israel, among other images of himself in the country.
Individuals with close ties to the groups have a history of remarks that many have criticized as bigoted.
David Lane, founder of the American Renewal Project, wrote that homosexual desires and marriage are “unnatural” and “a symptom of advanced cultural decay and precursor to the collapse of the Republican Party and nation,” according to Politico.
Bryan Frischer, former spokesperson and director for the American Family Association, has compared LGBT activists to Nazis, the news website reported.