The Federal Bureau of Investigation was at Jim Worthington’s house and, he says, his girlfriend answered the door with a weapon in hand.
It was January 2021, and the Feds wanted to talk to Worthington, a fitness empresario in the Philadelphia suburbs, about his involvement in the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally that precipitated the storming of the U.S. Capitol building. While Worthington acknowledges he was in D.C. for the rally and that he helped bring busloads of people to the event, he has insisted “we never went to the Capitol.” Worthington, who reportedly founded and led the political action committee People4Trump and spent $30,000 of his own money to serve as a delegate to the Republican convention in 2016, had organized buses to carry hundreds of people to the rally. But he wasn’t available when the agents arrived at his house. He was in his office, on the phone with Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a sitting three term member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
How the War on Terror Gave Us Trump
Trump Thinks the General Who Lost the Civil War Definitely Would Have Won the Afghanistan War
How Guns N' Roses Formed
Muhammad Ali: 4 Ways He Changed America
Fitzpatrick is known as a moderate Republican who boasts of having an “all-time record in bipartisanship.” He represents a swing district that went against Donald Trump in last year’s election. In other words, he’s not one of the far right members of the GOP who have eagerly embraced Trump’s false narrative about his election loss. Nor has he publicly cozied up to the mob that fought to defend that lie on January 6. In a tweet that day, Fitzpatrick called it “nothing short of a coup attempt” and criticized Trump for “lying to his supporters with false information and false expectations.” He also spoke out against the riot and backed a resolution condemning Trump’s “reprehensible conduct.”
But that hasn’t stopped Fitzpatrick from maintaining a close relationship — personally and financially — with Worthington, a man who helped bus hundreds of people to Washington for a “Million MAGA March” on Jan. 6. New reporting from Rolling Stone reveals how Worthington has donated tens of thousands of dollars to Fitzpatrick and committees that support him. And, less than five months after Fitzpatrick counseled Worthington on his dealings with the FBI, Worthington hosted a fundraiser for the congressman in his home, according to posts on Worhtington’s Facebook page.
The event was also headlined by one of the Republican Party’s top potential candidates in the next presidential election, Mike Pompeo. In the photos of the event Worthington posted publicly on Facebook, Pompeo is seated next to him at dinner.
Like Fitzpatrick, Pompeo had spoken out against the January 6 attack, but their night with Worthington illustrates that GOP elected officials — including the self-styled moderates — are still embracing the people who backed Trump’s delusional and authoritarian refusal to concede the 2020 election.
Former Trump secretary of state Mike Pompeo (seated, left) seated next to MAGA megadonor Joe Worthington (seated, second from left)
Fitzpatrick’s office did not respond to a request for comment, nor did Pompeo. Worthington immediately hung up when asked for comment, but in a January 15 appearance on a local conservative talk radio show, he detailed his encounter with the FBI and his phone call that day with Fitzpatrick.
When Worthington’s girlfriend, Kim Levins, informed him that the law was on their doorstep, he was lucky to have Fitzpatrick — “a friend” and a former special agent — on the line. “Brian, you’re an FBI guy, what should I do?” Worthington says he asked, adding, “They’re at my house.”
Levins did not respond to a request for comment. In his radio interview, Worthington claimed she was armed when answering the door because of backlash he claimed they received for the January 6 bus trips. “They knocked on the door,” Worthington said of the FBI. “She’s smart. She said, ‘Hold on.’ She ran upstairs, got her … weapon, and came down to the door, said, ‘Show me your badge.’”
According to Worthington, Fitzpatrick encouraged him to get a lawyer as he faced the bureau’s questions about four buses that his group organized to ferry about 200 people from Bucks County, Pennsylvania to attend protests in Washington D.C. on January 6. “He said, ‘Well, you should probably get an attorney, just not because you need one, but that’s probably the right thing to do,” Worthington said of Fitzpatrick. “So, I called my attorney.”
After getting Fitzpatrick’s advice, Worthington said he arranged an interview that day where the FBI spoke to him for nearly two hours. According to Worthington, they asked about his “whereabouts” on January 6. Worthington, who took a separate car to Washington, attended the speech on the national mall on January 6 where Trump urged the crowd to “fight like hell” just before many of his supporters stormed the Capitol building. That riot led to over 100 police officers injured and more than 600 arrests.
“It’s bizarre the questions they ask you. I mean, not bizarre because they’re just doing their job and they were, you know, honestly the FBI, they were great guys,” Worthington said, adding, “But one of the questions at the very end is, ‘Were there weapons on the bus?’ And I just looked at the guy and started laughing. I said, ‘You’re kidding me.’”
The Department of Justice did not respond to requests for comment about the interview with Worthington or whether their interest in him is ongoing. On Wednesday, another Pennsylvania man who organized buses to D.C. on January 6 pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge related to demonstrating inside the Capitol building. The FBI probe into the events of that day, in which hundreds of people stormed the Capitol in a failed attempt to stop Trump’s election loss to President Joe Biden from being certified, has resulted in hundreds of arrests.
Worthington has said he only went to the speech and did not go to the Capitol building. He has also expressed confidence that none of the hundreds of people he helped bring to Washington took part in the riot. In a Facebook post written on January 9 as he was beginning to face backlash for the bus trips, Worthington suggested all criticism should be reserved for “the individuals who penetrated the sacred walls of the Capitol” while defending the nearly 200 people who took the People4Trump buses.
“Not one of them was near the Capitol entrance when the rioting took place nor were most of them aware of any activities at the Capitol until after they got on the bus,” Worthington wrote, adding, “These folks are not seditionists, nor do they break the law.”
People4Trump’s advertisement for the trip, which has since been deleted, indicated it would include more than just attending Trump’s speech. That ad declared, “March will start at the National Mall and proceed to the Capitol for the Electoral Votes.” There’s no public report of anyone taking the People4Trump buses to the rally and later storming the Capitol.
Worthington’s association with the January 6 rally was well-known and made headlines before Fitzpatrick and Pompeo joined him at his home in June. His Newtown Athletic Club has made him a high profile and controversial figure in the Philadelphia suburbs. Worthington has also increasingly promoted himself as a pundit and activist. He regularly gives interviews on politics. People4Trump, the committee he led, promoted Worthington’s appearances and also staged events including a pro-Trump re-enactment of George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River that took place two days before the election in November of last year. The local news outlet Levittown Now reported on Worthington’s radio interview about interacting with the FBI. People4Trump’s January 6 buses also made headlines in April after Worthington announced that he was filing a defamation lawsuit over a MoveOn.org petition that encouraged businesses to cut ties with his fitness center because he allegedly “sponsored and organized” the buses for people “to participate in what became the January 6th shameful riot and insurgency.”
In that suit, Worthington’s lawyer said his client has an outstanding reputation locally, “nationally and globally.” The lawyer argued that the petition was “utterly false, malicious and defamatory” because, the lawyer argues, Worthington did not go the “Capitol Building” and since the bus trip was planned to allow people to “attend the rally” and hear Trump speak.
Worthington’s fitness center, a sprawling complex that he describes as “a country club without a golf course,” has been central to his political involvement. The facility, Newtown Athletic Club, includes an “elite outdoor club” with four pools and a “medical spa” where members can book filler injections, played host to “a full blown Trump rally” for over 4,000 people during the 2016 election. People4Trump held meetings inside the club. After Trump took office in 2017, Worthington was named to the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition. According to the Department of Health website, he was reappointed to a two-year term in December of last year. The White House did not respond to a request for comment about the council.
On Facebook, Worthington’s page is filled with photos indicating he attended several Trump campaign rallies, personally met the former president multiple times, and visited the White House for events during Trump’s tenure. On June 9, Worthington also made a post showing Pompeo attending the fundraiser for Fizpatrick in his home that evening. According to local journalist Tom Scofield, who was first to report the fundraiser, the event at Worthington’s house was one of two Fitzpatrick fundraisers Pompeo participated in. Worthington alluded to Pompeo’s potential presidential aspirations in his post, which contained several typos.
“Incredible night hosting the 70th Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at our home … in support of Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick,” Worthington wrote. “Hands down President Trumps choice to endorse for President if he decides not to run. Count me in the same camp.”
Pompeo has expressed openness to a presidential bid while making appearances in key swing and primary states. While the former secretary of state called the storming of the Capitol “unacceptable” in a tweet, he earned the ire of fellow diplomats for not doing more to condemn the attack. Pompeo also repeatedly echoed Trump’s false conspiracy theories about his election loss.
Fitzpatrick, the beneficiary of Worthington’s fundraiser, has been a top target of Democrats thanks to his deeply purple district. And even though the district backed Joe Biden last year, it’s a hotbed of fervent Trump support. Bucks County, is home to six different people who were arrested in conjunction with January 6. According to data collected by George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, as of Sunday, only three other counties in the nation had more residents face charges stemming from the attack.
With his seat in the crosshairs, the congressman has tried to have it both ways when it comes to the January 6 attack. Despite his early condemnations, he voted against impeaching Trump in the aftermath of January 6. Fitzpatrick also voted against establishing a bipartisan committee to investigate the attack.
In the radio interview where he discussed speaking with the FBI, Worthington noted he has some disagreements with Fitzpatrick while also underscoring their close friendship.
“People know my relationship with Fitzpatrick, the congressman. This is where, you know, people can agree to have different thoughts, but we’re all Americans,” Worthington said.
Worthington described Fitzpatrick as “a friend” and said the congressman called him the day he was visited by the FBI to get “input” on a vote. The pair have worked together multiple times. In 2018, Worthington traveled to Washington to support healthcare legislation backed by Fitzpatrick. Last year, Fitzpatrick’s office put out a statement that said Worthington helped the congressman “draft” a bill to create a $30 billion fund to provide grants for health and fitness facilities affected by the pandemic. Fitzpatrick has co-sponsored a version of that legislation that is currently working its way through Congress. In a Facebook post written in July, Worthington indicated the bill could provide “support” to his Newtown Athletic Club.
Fitzpatrick has also benefited from his ties to Worthington. In a 2017 interview, Worthington claimed he repeatedly defended the relatively moderate congressmen when he angered pro-Trump conservatives in the district. And Worthington has given tens of thousands of dollars to support Fitzpatrick. According to campaign finance records, since 2016, Worthington has donated at least $77,900 to committees that back Fitzpatrick and Republican organizations in his district. A pair of top executives at Worthington’s gym, Linda Mitchell and Eve Krieger, also gave $18,000 during that time to committees that support Fitzpatrick. Levins, Worthington’s girlfriend, gave committees that support Fitzpatrick $12,700 in the same period.
Records show that Worthington gave $20,000 to Fitzpatrick’s campaign, a political action committee that backs the congressman, and one that supports Republicans in his district within days of the fundraiser that featured Pompeo. Matthew Hurni, a friend of Worthington who accompanied him to Washington for the January 6 rally also gave $10,000 to Fitzgerald’s campaign and a committee that supports the congressman at the same time. Hurni and Mitchell did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Krieger passed away last year.
When Rolling Stone called to ask Worthington about the fundraiser and his January 6 buses, Chris Barron, a conservative communications consultant, quickly called back. Barron immediately brought up the fact Worthington sued the author of the petition that referenced the bus trips.
“I handle P.R. for Jim Worthington,” Barron said, adding, “I’ll tell you two things right off the bat, one, if you don’t know there is ongoing litigation that Jim has been pursuing against individuals who have printed things about him that have been defamatory about January 6. … You can understand any questions about January 6 are going to raise concerns immediately off the bat.”
Barron asked Rolling Stone for a written list of “specific questions for Jim.” We sent Worthington a list including queries about whether he stood by the version of events he described on the radio show and whether he had any regret about his actions on January 6. Barron ultimately responded with an angry email on Friday morning. It answered none of the questions.
“Your questions make it clear that you have a political agenda at work here and aren’t at all interested in getting the facts correct,” Barron wrote. “Finally, our legal team will be reviewing whatever rushed error-riddled hatchet job you intend to publish.”
Source: Read Full Article