The reclusive heiress of the Publix supermarket chain helped finance former president Donald Trump's Jan. 6 rally after she became obsessed with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, according to a report from the Washington Post.
Julie Fancelli, 72, contributed $650,000 to three organizations that helped stage and promote the "Stop the Steal" rally that preceeded the Capitol insurrection, making her the largest publicly known donor to the event.
"In the weeks leading up to the rally, Fancelli frequently emailed to her relatives and friends links to Jones's talk show, according to two people with knowledge of the emails who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private communications," the Post reports. "Jones was a leading proponent of false claims that Trump's reelection had been foiled by election fraud and that Congress could refuse to certify Biden's victory."
Fancelli, who reportedly splits her time between Florida and Tuscan, Italy, had planned to attend the Stop the Steal rally and stay at the Willard hotel in Washington, but ultimately opted not to travel due to COVID-19.
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"Fancelli was a regular listener to Jones's show and had an assistant make contact with him at his office in Austin to find out how she could support Trump's attempt to undermine Biden's victory, the person said," the Post reports. "She and Jones talked by phone at least once between Dec. 27 and Jan. 1, the person said."
Jones, who did attend the rally, has received a subpoena from the House select committee investigating the Captiol insurrection.
Fancelli's brother-in-law Barney Barnett, a retired Publix executive who describes himself as a conservative Republican, told the newspaper: "I am not tantalized by that fellow (Jones), but apparently she is, and a lot of other people are addicted, to the detriment of the country. Julie is one of the finest people I know, and I am sorry she got tied up with this guy."
Fancelli's sister, Nancy Jenkins, added: "He's kind of a rabble rouser, and I don't listen to that. I listen to the regular news. That guy is crazy. Everybody knows Trump lost."
With some shoppers threatening boycotts, Publix has tried to distance itself from Fancelli, saying in statement that the company is "deeply troubled" by her involvement in Jan. 6.
Fancelli, who rarely speaks to the media, previously told the Post in a statement: "I am a proud conservative and have real concerns associated with election integrity, yet I would never support any violence, particularly the tragic and horrific events that unfolded on January 6th."
One prominent Republican fundraiser from Florida questioned whether Fancelli even knew she was "writing checks for Jan. 6." But the narrative of an innocent grandmother who unwittingly bankrolled an insurrection is undercut by Fancelli's continued donations to far-right causes this year.
"In September, she gave $5,800 to Rep. Matthew M. Rosendale of Montana, who was among 21 House Republicans who opposed awarding the congressional gold medal to police officers who defended the U.S. Capitol on Jan 6," the Post reports. "In July, Fancelli gave $1,000 to an unsuccessful candidate for mayor of Lakeland, Fla., who thanked the right-wing One America News for 'correctly' referring to Trump as the president after Biden's inauguration."