“I love what you're doing”: Pundit and candidate Burgess Owens helped raise money for allegedly fraudulent We Build the Wall

Burgess Owens helps raise money for We Build the Wall

The Department of Justice recently charged organizers of the group We Build the Wall with defrauding people who donated to them. Right-wing pundit and congressional candidate Burgess Owens was an enthusiastic supporter of the project who appeared at a 2019 “Wall-A-Thon” fundraiser and said, “I love what you're doing. … I just applaud you in a big way.” 

Owens is a former NFL player who is running for Congress in Utah’s 4th Congressional District. He is also a commentator who has frequently appeared in outlets like Fox News. 

The DOJ unsealed an indictment yesterday accusing former Trump campaign CEO Stephen Bannon, decorated veteran Brian Kolfage, entrepreneur Andrew Badolato, and businessman Timothy Shea of allegedly defrauding “hundreds of thousands of donors in connection with an online crowdfunding campaign known as ‘We Build the Wall’ that raised more than $25 million” since the project started in December 2018. 

We Build the Wall gained publicity and support through help from numerous right-wing outlets and personalities. Group officials also cozied up to Trump allies and the Trump family. 

Owens was one of the people who helped promote and raise money for We Build the Wall. The organization held a “Wall-A-Thon” during the summer of 2019 to raise money, and Owens appeared remotely on June 26, 2019, which was prior to the start of his campaign. 

Video file

Citation From the June 26, 2019, edition of We Build the Wall's Wall-A-Thon

He was interviewed by right-wing commentator DeAnna Lorraine, a former congressional candidate who has expressed support for QAnon, and radio host Edwards Woodson. QAnon is a violence-linked conspiracy theory that the FBI has said is a potential domestic terror threat.

Like a typical telethon, We Build the Wall displayed text asking for donations during Owens’ segment. 

Owens began by stating: “Thanks for the invite. I'm so glad that, first of all, what you guys are doing is so important not only for our overall country but as a Black American, what’s happening at the border impacts my community in a big, big way. … I’m so thankful in many ways for you guys bringing attention to this, for sure.” 

He went on to criticize undocumented immigration and said that “we have an elitist class, Black elitists, the Black Caucus, the NAACP” who supposedly “see the misery that this brings to our race and they care more about that sorry party of theirs than they care about their own race.” 

Owens theorized that the left knows that it “cannot depend on the Black vote en masse [to] vote for them like they have in the past. So they want to keep the borders open so that they can gain more power, gain more prestige. And that's not the American way.”

The right-wing commentator also criticized the character of undocumented immigrants, stating that the left is “trying to bring in a whole new group of people, people who could care less about our country, do not understand the American way, have not learned our language, our culture. And they will come here and vote for Democrats. And that's what these people do.” 

At the conclusion of the interview, Owens said: “I love what you're doing, the fact that you’re getting out there in front of the people and saying this is what we're all about. So just count me in, in the cause. Count me in and let me know anything I can do to help you guys. I just, I just applaud you in a big way for getting out there.” 

Media Matters previously reported that Owens asked for money and support on a program that’s dedicated to QAnon, the violence-linked conspiracy theory that the FBI has said is a potential domestic terror threat. While Owens did not directly talk about the conspiracy theory on that QAnon program, he claimed that Democrats “want misery” and they have “an evil leadership that will use, abuse, and discard anyone for their power, even people within their own race.”