Jan. 6 Rioter Candidate Hires Fringe Publisher to Boost Far-Right Cred

Will Price, West Virginia Legislative Photography via AP
Will Price, West Virginia Legislative Photography via AP
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During his insurgent campaign for a U.S. House seat, Derrick Evans has left no question that he’s a far-right firebrand. But since his primary opponent is a tried-and-true conservative incumbent in deep-red West Virginia, he’s sought some extra ammunition—and found it in one of the country’s most notorious right-wing political consultants and publishers.

That publisher—Noel Fritsch, of National File—happens to have a dismal election record. But Evans is getting more than his money’s worth in the bargain, as National File has released a torrent of online attacks against his MAGAfied rival, seemingly free of charge.

Evans certainly isn’t wanting for his own MAGA bona fides. He stormed the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 6, 2021, a decision that prompted his resignation from the West Virginia legislature days later and ultimately led to a three-month prison stint in 2022. And although Evans pleaded guilty, his campaign rhetoric two years later has doubled down on the lie that the 2020 election was stolen. His campaign has also scored support from the chairman of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, Rep. Bob Good (R-VA), along with a smattering of Trumpworld royalty, including Roger Stone. And lest voters think he’s a single-issue candidate, Evans has made a name for himself as a local anti-abortion protester, harassing women at clinics and live-streaming the confrontations.

But even those credentials might not move the needle. Evans’ primary opponent, Rep. Carol Miller (R-WV), is a red-meat Republican who voted to overturn the 2020 election results, sided with former President Donald Trump’s legislative agenda nearly 100 percent of the time, and has recently thrown support behind Trump in court.

Perhaps that’s why Evans added another bullet point to his hard-right résumé: hiring Fritsch, publisher of the ultraconservative website that released Ashley Biden’s stolen diary.

To date, Evans has paid around $75,000 to Fritsch’s consulting firm, Southern Pines Strategies, Federal Election Commission filings show. While most of the expenses are listed as “management consulting,” some major recent outlays are described as “fundraising fees”—including a nearly $20,000 payment in late March.

Evans has also seen peripheral support from Fritsch’s publication, with National File running a series of attacks on his opponent, including at least three pieces on the site’s homepage on Monday—the day before primary ballots are cast.

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While conspicuous, the National File’s attacks against Miller are likely not illegal. The “media exemption” in federal election laws generally permits unpaid press coverage without triggering the requirement to report an in-kind contribution.

Over the last decade or so, Fritsch has worked for more than two dozen federal political campaigns, almost none of them successful. He first rose to national prominence in 2016 as a spokesman for Wisconsin white supremacist Paul Nehlen during his failed primary challenge to then-House Speaker Paul Ryan. Since then, Fritsch has increasingly branched out into media, first at the far-right website Big League Politics, then moving on to National File.

National File was launched about five years ago, reportedly as the brainchild of fringe conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who has claimed to run the site as a quiet extension of his Infowars empire. Fritsch, however, is also sometimes cited as a National File founder, and has played the role of publisher since the site’s inception in August 2019, according to his LinkedIn page.

While the site is perhaps most notorious for publishing Ashley Biden’s stolen diary in October 2020, days before her father, Joe Biden, was elected president, National File has made national news with other salacious stories, including extramarital sexts from North Carolina Democratic Senate candidate Cal Cunningham, as well as Rep. Van Taylor’s (R-TX) affair with an ISIS widow, a revelation that forced the two-term congressman to drop his 2022 re-election bid.

National File has a history of publishing misinformation and fueling antisemitic viewpoints. In February 2022, for instance, the site ran a piece spotlighting the Nationalist Socialist Club 131, which the Southern Poverty Law Center deemed a Neo-Nazi group that same year. The site is also rife with COVID misinformation, featuring an entire tab titled “‘Rona” dedicated to unverified coronavirus claims, including that the Pfizer vaccine may cause Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.

But Fritsch has supplemented his reporting on politicians with a side gig—getting them elected. Or trying to, and almost always failing.

Fritsch has collected more than $1 million from federal conservative candidates and political committees, Federal Election Commission records show—more than $750,000 of it since he took over National File—with most of that money flowing to his North Carolina-based consulting firm, Southern Pines Strategies. His clients have included some of the most extreme right-wingers in the country, such as Arizona Reps. Paul Gosar and Louie Gohmert—though those appear to be the only two clients who have actually won a federal election.

In addition to the white supremacist Nehlen, Fritsch’s client list includes disgraced former Alabama Senate hopeful Roy Moore, QAnon contenders Lauren Witzke and Deanna Lorraine, “wildly homophobic” Arkansas congressional aspirant Neil Kumar, former Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. and domestic protective order recipient Teddy Daniels, and Jarome Bell, who is currently making a House run in Idaho after his 2022 bid in Virginia was marred by his calls to execute people convicted of election fraud.

Fritsch also brought home more than $60,000 on payroll for Chris McDaniel’s failed 2014 Senate campaign in Mississippi, a bitter affair which culminated in the arrest of four supporters who posted nursing home photos of McDaniels’ opponent’s wife.

(One Noel Fritsch also received $626.73 for “event consulting” on Mitt Romney’s failed 2012 presidential campaign.)

But one of Fritsch’s biggest cash cows today is Derrick Evans’ campaign, which has so far shelled out over $60,000 to Southern Pines Strategies, according to FEC records.

National File’s ties to Evans are hardly surprising given the candidate’s unflinching conservative record. Yet it’s notable that Evans is seeking counsel from the man behind the conspiracy theory peddling outlet as he fights to oust a three-term GOP incumbent in Miller.

National File appears to be giving Evans a boost in the run-up to voting day. As of Monday evening, the National File homepage featured not one but three negative stories about Miller—including one with a homophobic headline that hits her for averting a government shutdown by voting for a spending package that “funds childhood transgenderism and LGBT groomers.”

National File, however, seems to be relishing its media exception, dubbing Evans an “unprecedented grassroots” challenger and “J6 Patriot” in another current story—which also alleges that a “Bill Gates-aligned” Miller has been deploying “desperate” and “untrue” campaign tactics.

In response to questions, Evans provided a statement attacking The Daily Beast’s coverage of Ashley Biden’s diary, which was stolen (a prison sentence was handed down last month to the woman who took it). The statement also falsely claimed that The Daily Beast and other news outlets—including Fox News—were owned by “Chinese Communists and their Commie Bolshevik counterparts.”

(The National File reporter who broke the diary story was temporarily suspended from X in May 2022 after The Daily Beast reported on his history of racist and antisemitic posts.)

The winner of Tuesday’s Republican primary is likely on a glide path to Congress in the deep red district. Neither candidate, however, is in danger of alienating the MAGA base. Miller boasted a voting record nearly 100 percent in line with former President Donald Trump’s legislative agenda, and objected to the 2020 election results. Still, Evans has attacked his rival as a “commie RINO” who “refused to stand and fight with President Trump.”

Evans is banking on support from right-wingers who have grown frustrated with Miller’s more mainstream record as a leader of the Republican Main Street Committee. That gambit may cost him, however, as Miller comfortably won re-election last cycle with 66 percent of the vote.

Still, Evans has some firepower. He has nearly matched his incumbent opponent in fundraising, and has won endorsements from Good and Stone, along with pillow maven Mike Lindell, and Trump’s first National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.

ABC News reported on Monday that, while the race hasn’t seen any public polls, Miller “appears to be looking over her shoulder.” Recently, she unleashed a round of attack ads targeting Evans—for secretly being a pro-transgender, anti-police Democrat.

(Editor's Note: This story has been corrected to reflect the fact that Fritsch did not consult for a super PAC tied to McDaniels' lieutenant governor re-election campaign in 2023.)

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