WASHINGTON – Congressional Republicans have a real dilemma on their hands: What to do about Marjorie Taylor Greene.
Less than a month after being sworn into office, the ultra-right, conspiracy-spouting congresswoman from northwest Georgia has turned what should have been a GOP celebration over congressional gains in the Nov. 3 election into how to address the unapologetically outspoken freshman’s past controversial remarks.
Do they formally reprimand her or strip her of committee assignments – as they did two years ago with Steve King of Iowa after he made comments about white nationalism. Or do they continue to stay silent on the controversy – hoping it dies down. Either choice risks alienating parts of their caucus.
It’s a conundrum for top House GOP members, particularly Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who plans to meet with Greene next week.
Despite some initial reservations, Republican leaders helped Greene win the seat she holds and, this week, rewarded her with an appointment to the House Education and Labor Committee. At the same time, McCarthy, through a spokesman, indicated his displeasure with Greene following newly unearthed social media posts before she came to Congress, but he and other Republican leaders have largely remained silent on the worsening controversy over Greene’s past remarks and conduct.
The furor over Greene has grown each day as new social media posts from Greene’s past have become headlines, everything from “liking” posts that called for violence against prominent Democrats to outlining wild conspiracies that a space laser may have been to blame for deadly wildfires in California.
And all the while, congressional Republicans remained mostly mum while Democrats called for Greene to be censured, removed from her committee and even ousted from Congress.
CNN recently published an in-depth look at Greene’s Facebook before she ran for office, finding she “liked” a comment in January 2019 that said Pelosi should be taken out with a “bullet to the head.” In a video around that time, Greene said Pelosi was “a traitor to our country, she’s guilty of treason,” saying it was “a crime punishable by death.”
Democrats were already upset about her previously known support of the QAnon conspiracy movement, the far-right fringe movement that baselessly claims a “deep-state” cabal of pedophiles tried to bring down then-President Donald Trump.
But the latest revelations as well as her insistent claims – without merit – that Trump won the presidential election even after his supporters stormed the Capitol have prompted calls by Democrats for Green’s censure and even expulsion. That only intensified after her appointment to the education panel given the revelation in social media posts that she viewed shooting massacres at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut (2012) and Marjorie Stoneman Douglas in Florida (2018) as staged events designed to help Democrats promote gun control.
“This woman should be on a watch list. Not in Congress,” Hillary Clinton tweeted.
But it’s Republicans, so far mostly silent, who will decide Greene’s fate in the House.
On Friday, Greene remained resolute in the face of increasing criticism and even offered a warning to her fellow conservatives.
“I will never back down. I will never give up. Because I am one of you. And I will always represent you,” she said in a statement posted to her nearly 300,000 Twitter followers. “If Republicans cower to the mob, and let Democrats and the Fake News media take me out, they’re opening the door to come after every single Republican until there’s none left.”
Denver Riggleman, a former Virginia congressman, doesn’t expect she’ll pay much of a price given the party’s continued loyalty to Trump and the anger many GOP voters feel over an election they falsely believe was stolen from him – and them.
“She’s a conduit to what some people are still believing on stop the steal,” Riggleman, a former Air Force officer and National Security Agency contractor who writes about extreme belief systems in his new book “Bigfoot … It’s complicated,” told MSNBC Friday. “I really did think we had some time where we could purge this out of the system or out of the GOP completely, but right now you’re seeing a really quiet rage, almost a double down on some of these ‘stop the steal’ conspiracy theories.”
Greene, who has been a congresswoman for nearly four weeks, has not apologized for the remarks. But in a statement Tuesday on Twitter, she said others helped manage her account over the years.
“Many posts have been liked. Many posts have been shared. Some did not represent my views,” she wrote.
Mark Bednar, a spokesman for McCarthy, told Axios that Greene’s comments were “deeply disturbing and Leader McCarthy plans to have a conversation with the Congresswoman about them.”
That conversation is scheduled to happen in person next week before McCarthy examines any possible reprimands for Greene, according to a source with knowledge of the meeting who couldn’t discuss plans publicly.
McCarthy visited Trump Thursday at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, an indication the former president still holds sway in the party despite low approval ratings in national polls.
The ex-president supported Greene’s candidacy, calling her “a real WINNER” in a tweet after she won her GOP primary last year in Georgia’s deeply red District 14 seat. She not only continues to be a leading voice in Congress challenging the presidential results, she filed impeachment papers against Joe Biden the day after he was inaugurated.
Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, one of 10 GOP lawmakers who voted recently to impeach Trump on an article of inciting the Jan. 6 riot on the Capitol, said Republicans need to take stock of their party.
“We’ve got to quit being a party of personality and get back to a party of principles first,” said Kinzinger when asked about Greene on CNN Thursday. It means “going back to the American people and to the Republican party and reminding folks of where we came from, which we’ve lost.”
McCarthy’s predicament has evoked comparisons to his handling of King, the long-time Iowa Republican House member who was stripped of his committee assignments in 2019 following statements he made about white nationalism and white supremacy. King had been rebuked previously as well for making other statements deemed racially insensitive.
“His comments call into question whether he will treat all Americans equally, without regard for race and ethnicity,” McCarthy said in a statement explaining the decision to punish King. “House Republicans are clear: We are all in this together, as fellow citizens equal before God and the law.”
Contributing: David Jackson