The Gongwer Blog

HD-74 GOP Primary Winner Regan Pushing Ukraine Conspiracy Theories

By Jordyn Hermani
Staff Writer
Posted: March 7, 2022 9:34 AM

No less than 24-hours after his win in the 74th House district primary election, Robert Regan is already being scrutinized for posts on both his Facebook and Twitter pages where he appears to back the Russian invasion of Ukraine, calling the situation at large a "hoax."

Mr. Regan, a professional recruiter for larger companies, won the 74th House district primary on Tuesday by 81 votes. He was one of two candidates considered to be outsiders by the party who won their elections by a narrow margin (See Gongwer Michigan Report, March 1, 2022).

What this means for Republicans in the primaries remains to be seen, but conspiracy of this level is nothing new for Mr. Regan, who gained a small amount of traction while running in 2020 for his belief that the COVID-19 pandemic was an attempt by Democratic lawmakers to stymie the reelection of former President Donald Trump.

He also insisted at that time that hospitals were inflating the COVID-19 death toll.

Now, however, it appears Mr. Regan has turned his attentions eastward – to Ukraine – where he insisted three times on Tuesday that the Ukrainian-Russian conflict is a hoax. It was on that same day that House Republicans introduced, and the body at large overwhelmingly adopted, a resolution condemning the attack on Ukraine.

In one Twitter post around 4 p.m. Tuesday, Mr. Regan writes that because the billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros is sympathetic to the violence occurring in Ukraine then it was "the right thing to do" to support the "opposite."

To criticize Mr. Soros (who is Jewish) is not inherently antisemitic, however a large portion of far-right outcry over his actions are couched in anti-Jewish stereotypes, including the belief that Jewish individuals have control over what media outlets write or over financial institutions like banks.

His other post is on Facebook, a screen recording of another Facebook post that features both a tweet and a video. The video shows a behind-the-scenes look of the making of a 2019 science-fiction movie "Invasion Planet Earth," which – as the title suggests – is about an alien invasion.

Though the scene is shot in England, it is being presented as a genuine look into the crisis in Ukraine and "proof" that those involved are crisis actors. The videoed Facebook post also appears to suggest that media outlets are uncritically presenting the sci-fi footage as reality.

A quick fact check shows the only account to be circulating this is a now-deleted Twitter with no outwardly apparent connection to any credible news outlet.

Mr. Regan made a third post on his personal Twitter account as well which linked to a video on the alt-right social media platform Gab, with the caption "fake war in Ukraine exposed via citizen livestream."

The video is from an account called "Morpheus MAGA" and features a man walking through an area crowded by cameras and reporters, while the individual recording loudly remarks "look at all the corporate media … having a good old time on the dime of their corporate masters" while saying the media is responsible for drumming up "hysteria based on fake news."

Speaking with Mr. Regan on Wednesday, he doubled down when asked if he thought that the war in Ukraine was a hoax, saying: "The only difference between a conspiracy theory and the truth is about six to 12 months."

He maintained that there was a continued push to blame Russia for global happenings, speaking at length of the Russian disinformation campaign launched in 2016 to help Mr. Trump get elected. He also redoubled debunked theories that masks are a detriment to human health and that COVID-19 has always been no worse than the flu.

"We now have consistently, years, seen how the fake news media reported on things. … What I'm telling people is, yes, we understand that the mainstream media is presenting this particular narrative this way, but this isn't my first rodeo and I understand, and can smell, bullcrap a mile away," Mr. Regan said. "Because if time has taught us anything, it's to not trust the mainstream media. This is going to be no difference at all."

He added that he wanted to "let the truth play out, just like we saw with COVID, just like we saw with election fraud," and was clear that he would not delete the posts off his accounts. When confronted with the fact that his Facebook post had been debunked and proven to come from a movie, Mr. Regan said he fact checks "about as much as Facebook fact checks their posts."

As to if he thought this could work against him, mobilizing Democratic voters against him, Mr. Regan said he was already cognizant of the fact Democratic candidate Carol Glanville would be "one tough competitor" and that the only thing he could do is continue to knock doors and run radio ads over the next few weeks.

Sources within the district say that it is very possible Democrats could see some sort of fire in the run up to the general special election but these types of post will not make a difference when it comes to the May contest for two reasons: party loyalty and voter apathy.

With the election being on May 3, turnout is already anticipated to be low. It also is a strongly Republican district. Those same sources say it's equally as unlikely that traditional Republican voters will be switching over to vote for Ms. Glanville, due to them more than likely not digging into a candidate's social media presence.

With the strong Republican backing in the area, Ms. Glanville will more than likely be beaten unless a strong anti-Regan campaign is mounted within the area. Whether that will happen remains to be seen.

Rob VerHeulen, Kent County Republican chair, said he was "very optimistic" Mr. Regan would go on to win in the May primary election.

However, he seemed taken aback when asked what he thought of Mr. Regan's social media posts, saying he hadn't seen them or had been made aware of them prior to Gongwer's call. He did say, though, that he wanted to talk to Mr. Regan about the post and see "exactly what he said and what his focus was" on social media.

"I think, generally speaking, the public is very supportive of Ukraine," Mr. VerHeulen said. "So, in that sense, I think if you're not supportive of the Ukrainian people, I think that's not a positive."

Both Rep. Greg VanWoerkom (R-Norton Shores) and Rep. Sarah Lightner (R-Springport), co-chairs of the House Republican Campaign Committee, said that it was clear the House stands with the people of Ukraine when asked if they would comment on the party supporting Mr. Regan's general election bid.

Should they choose not to, it wouldn't be the first time the party declined to support a candidate despite being a Republican. In 2020, 25th House District Republican candidate Paul Smith was completely disavowed by the Michigan Republican Party for scoffing at charges brought against a handful of men that planned to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer (See Gongwer Michigan Report, October 12, 2020).

Those close to the situation, however, say the situation between Mr. Regan and Mr. Smith is different and that the caucus will likely want to meet with Mr. Regan and outline priorities and expectations prior to making such a drastic move. Even still, it seemed unlikely the HRCC or MIGOP would make any sort of move against Mr. Regan ahead of the May election

Among those congratulating Mr. Regan Wednesday was Michigan Republican Party Chair Ron Weiser.

Mr. Regan will face a much different map when he runs for the full term later this year. The conservative areas in northwest Kent County will be replaced by far more liberal areas of Grand Rapids.

Speaking with Walker Mayor Pro Tem Steven Gilbert, who came in second in the 74th House district primary on Tuesday, he said he was "taking some time, taking a step back, evaluating where we are and trying to catch my breath a little bit."

Should he choose to run again come August, the new map should play to his advantage. What is currently the 74th House district will become the 84th House district, which will see the area go from deeply conservative to much more of a toss-up for the general election.

Mr. Noordhoek won Grandville by 300 more votes than Mr. Regan and 404 more votes than Mr. Gilbert. Conversely, Mr. Gilbert won Walker by 142 more votes than Mr. Regan and 375 more votes than Mr. Noordhoek. Where Mr. Regan bested the other Republicans in the race – in the townships of Algoma Solon and Sparta, as well as the cities of Rockford and Cedar Springs – will shift to the new 90th House district. Rep. Bryan Posthumus (R-Cannon Township) will be seeking reelection from that district.

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