Giorgia Meloni, leader of the Fratelli d'Italia (Brothers of Italy) reacts during a press conference at the party electoral headquarters overnight, on September 26, 2022 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Antonio Masiello/Getty Images)
On his Monday night show, Tucker Carlson asked Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake for her assessment of Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s new far-right prime minister whose Brothers of Italy party has direct links to Benito Mussolini's fascist movement.“This is someone I can relate to,” Lake responded to the Fox News host. Lake’s attitude toward Meloni is representative of much of the GOP’s response to the election of Italy’s most far-right leader since Mussolini. Meloni has built her political career by railing against immigration, abortion, LGBTQ rights, and the European Union.
Following last weekend’s election, her Brothers of Italy party is set to create a hard-right coalition with Matteo Salvini’s League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia.Lake told Carlson that Meloni only came to her attention last week, but when she went to look up the 45-year-old, she was unable to find any “straight-up” information.
“Everything was, ‘She’s a fascist, she’s a racist, she’s this, she’s that,” Lake said. But many of her colleagues in the GOP did find some information, in particular, a video of Meloni speaking in 2019 at the World Congress of Families, an umbrella group the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as “a massive network of interconnected organizations” designed to undermine LGBTQ rights.“Spectacular,” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz tweeted about the speech. “Beautifully said,” Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene added while congratulating Meloni on her victory. Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton tweeted his congratulations to Meloni and said he looks “forward to working with her and other Italian leaders to advance our shared interests. America is stronger when Italy is strong, sovereign, prosperous, and free.”Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, speaking on his War Room podcast, hailed Meloni’s victory as “the rise of Christian nationalism. You watch.” His guest on Monday’s show was the head of the American Conservative Union, Matt Schlapp, who called Meloni’s victory “a warning shot coming from Italy.”
Schlapp’s endorsement of Meloni is hardly surprising given that he entertained members of her party in Hungary this summer when his influential Conservative Political Action Conference held its first European edition in the home of authoritarian leader Viktor Orban. Meloni views Orban as an economic and moral inspiration, and the pair have met on multiple occasions in recent years.Meloni’s appeal extends beyond the political sphere in the U.S.: She has been embraced on pro-Trump and QAnon channels online too, thanks in part to her deft weaponization of social media, memes, and disinformation.Key to her soaring popularity in recent years has been her embrace of COVID-19 conspiracy theories and railing against Italy’s strict lockdown measures. Such opinions make her a natural hero to the conspiracy-laden channels on Telegram where her victory is being hailed as an inspiration for others in America to follow.“We need more people like Meloni running. I hope I am just as successful as her,” Tore Maras, a QAnon conspiracist who is running as an independent candidate for secretary of state in Ohio in November, wrote on her Telegram channel.The clip of Meloni speaking at the World Family Congress has also been shared widely, racking up hundreds of thousands of views and thousands of approving comments.However, because this is the internet, not everyone agrees on Meloni’s far right bonafides and a number of members of the conspiracy channels on Telegram have been pointing out that Meloni is a member of the Aspen Institute and at one time supported the EU’s digital green certificates to facilitate travel during the pandemic. Many are claiming that the new Italian prime minister is “controlled opposition.”“Phoney Meloni,” one member of a conspiracy channel on Telegram wrote. “As Globalist as they come.”