Republican Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona, who regularly ranks down there with Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert as a MAGA extremist, has really been on a tear lately. On February 25, he supplied video remarks to the America First Political Action Conference, a group closely linked to white supremacists and led by January 6 Capitol-riot enthusiast and Holocaust-denier Nick Fuentes. Maybe Greene, who appeared live at the conference, was ignorant about the group’s unsavory ties, as she claimed, but Gosar sure wasn’t — he keynoted the same event last year. Republicans are grumbling about them and threatening (perhaps insincerely) about sanctioning the two MAGA stalwarts. But both have already been stripped by Democrats of their committee assignments; Gosar also got censured by the House last November for tweeting a video-game image of his avatar murdering Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Now, Gosar, a dentist by trade, is adding to his list of offenses by promoting conspiracy theories about fluoridated public water.
As aficionados of right-wing extremism know, attacking fluoridation as a communist plot was a hardy perennial of John Birch Society members and their fellow travelers dating back to the introduction of fluoridated water in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1945. The mania over fluoride was most famously depicted and parodied in the movie Dr. Strangelove, in which a rogue general named Jack Ripper launched a preemptive nuclear strike on the Soviet Union to end communist contamination of “our precious bodily fluids” via fluoridation. Dentists (a profession to which a lot of very conservative people are drawn) were on both sides of the controversy, with some promoting fluoridation as a great way to prevent tooth decay and others opposing it, perhaps because it was perceived as undermining their livelihoods. The interesting thing about Gosar is that he was definitely in the pro-fluoridation ranks back in the day, as Hunter Walker of Rolling Stone recalls:
In 2001, Paul Gosar was a local dentist who passionately led a campaign to put fluoride in the drinking water in the Arizona city of Flagstaff. Faced with fierce opposition, Gosar called anti-fluoride conspiracy theories “disturbing,” suggested they could harm children, and vowed to “flood” the City Council chambers with people who supported fluoridation.
That was then. This is now:
Fast forward roughly 21 years and Gosar, now a Republican congressman in the state, made the exact opposite argument in a video posted on his Twitter page Monday night. In that clip, Gosar presented charts showing fluoridated water can cause a “loss of 6 IQ points” in children, and he suggested studies provide “some evidence that fluoride exposure during the early years of your life can damage a child’s developing brain.”
Without following Gosar down a rabbit hole, let’s just say that negative claims about fluoride have been circulating for many decades and have been definitively slapped down by medical and scientific experts, as science writer Jesse Hicks explained over a decade ago:
The scientific and medical consensus, represented by the American Medical Association, National Academy of Sciences, and World Health Organization declares fluoridation a perfectly safe method of cavity prevention. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention even named it one of the 10 great public-health achievements of the 20th century.
Ah, but that was back when even hard-core conservatives regarded organizations like the CDC as authoritative and “experts” as, well, experts. Now, they tend to view the medical and scientific Establishment as proto-tyrants determined to rob Americans of their priceless birthright of freedom. So it’s not surprising to find an all-purpose extremist like Gosar leaping into the anti-fluoridation camp. As Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts observes, the five-term House member from the state’s profoundly Republican 4th Congressional District is a man attracted to virtually every far-right cause he can find:
Gosar has long been known for camping out there on what used to be the party’s fringe. Used to be.
He’s the congressman who told us the 2017 “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., was really a left-wing plot masterminded by an Obama sympathizer to make Donald Trump look bad.
The congressman who promoted an astonishing number of baseless claims about a stolen election in 2020 – one who helped organize at least one “Stop the Steal” rally and helped lead the congressional drive to reject the election results from Arizona and other targeted states in order to deny Joe Biden the presidency.
Gosar is probably most famous nationally for how deeply his antics have embarrassed his own family. In 2018, six of his nine siblings cut an ad blasting him and endorsing his Democratic opponent. The representative responded by saying: “Stalin would be proud.”
So nothing this zany pol does should surprise us anymore. If it’s possible to make Greene and Boebert look vaguely respectable, he’s just the guy to pull it off.