By Marquise Francis, Yahoo News | January 19, 2020
On the eve of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the combative Georgia Republican known for her association with the fantastical, cultlike QAnon conspiracy theory, was back on Twitter after a 12-hour suspension, and back to making waves and rocking the precarious boat that Republicans find themselves in, having lost the White House and both chambers of Congress.
“I’ve said this all along, it’s people over politicians, not the other way around,” Greene tweeted late Monday night, just hours after her Twitter account was reinstated after it was suspended for violating the social media giant’s policies. “It’s the people of this country that matter. That’s why I’m asking everyone to join me as a Citizen Cosponsor to #ImpeachBiden.”
A rising star among the far-right wing of the party because of her brash, outspoken pro-gun, anti-abortion, stridently conservative views, Greene has most recently found herself at odds with Republican officials, who are alarmed by her record of conspiracy-mongering, bigoted rhetoric and last-stand efforts to undo the election results in her own state.
On Tuesday, Media Matters for America uncovered Facebook posts by Greene from 2018 in which she accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton of encouraging school shootings to push for gun control, calling the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in which 17 people were killed and 17 others injured, a staged “false flag” operation.
“I am told that Nancy Pelosi tells Hillary Clinton several times a month that ‘we need another school shooting’ in order to persuade the public to want strict gun control,” Greene wrote.
GOP colleagues have gone out of their way to denounce what one called her “cuckoo” ways.
“She’ll keep making fools out of herself, her constituents, and the Republican Party,” Republican Sen. Ben Sasse from Nebraska wrote in a recent op-ed for the Atlantic, describing Greene as “cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.”
“If the GOP is to have a future outside the fever dreams of internet trolls, we have to call out falsehoods and conspiracy theories unequivocally. We have to repudiate people who peddle those lies,” he added.
Last summer Republican officials panicked after videos uploaded to Greene’s Facebook account emerged that showed the then candidate making a series of racist, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic comments. As thousands of Americans across the country were in the streets marching daily on behalf of racial justice in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd, Greene was spewing hate. GOP officials attempted to distance themselves from her campaign.
“The comments made by Ms. Greene are disgusting and don’t reflect the values of equality and decency that make our country great,” Republican House Minority Whip Steve Scalise said, throwing his support to Greene’s primary opponent, neurosurgeon John Cowan.
Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told Politico, through his spokesman, that the comments were “appalling” and he had “no tolerance for them.” But McCarthy stayed neutral in the race, choosing to let the primary play out. Greene and Cowan ended up in a runoff, which Greene won.
Some Republican lawmakers then were worried that not enough pushback by national GOP leaders on Greene’s actions would create a firestorm that would not be so easily put out in the months to come.
“This is the kind of race and kind of situation where you need those groups,” said Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga., who also supported Greene’s primary opponent. (Her Democratic opponent, who faced long odds in the overwhelmingly Republican district, withdrew before the Nov. 3 general election.) “So often, they only get involved when they have someone that they are trying to get in. But I think it’s just as important they get involved when there’s someone they’re trying to get out.”
Today they’re seeing their fears play out.
Greene, who became the first open supporter of QAnon elected to Congress in November, now uses her growing social media following and access to conservative media organizations like Newsmax and OANN to spread lies and push political propaganda. She plans to file an article of impeachment for Biden on his first full day in office because of “abuse of power,” citing Biden’s alleged family business connections with China and Ukraine, but she has not offered evidence of wrongdoing.
Greene has been somewhat of a loose cannon in recent weeks on Twitter, spreading lies about election integrity in her state and pushing for “all Americans” to “mobilize and make your voices heard in opposition to these attacks on our liberties” in a now deleted tweet archived by ProPublica.
She’s even come down on fellow Republican officials.
“Morons like you are responsible for losing GA’s 2 Republican Senate seats,” Greene tweeted in response to Georgia election official Gabriel Sterling’s assertion that she, former Rep. Doug Collins and President Trump were responsible for the substantial drop-off in Republican voter turnout in the Georgia Senate runoff elections. “You ran a Nov 3rd election that was stolen bc you idiots at the SOS mailed out millions of absentee ballots to any one and everyone while GA was an open state.”
On Sunday, Twitter suspended Greene’s account for 12 hours “for multiple violations of our civic integrity policy,” according to a Twitter spokesperson, which included lying about the elections’ validity.
But Greene’s status among hard-core conservative voters in the party seems secure for the time being. She has gained popularity as a vocal supporter of Trump’s efforts to overturn the presidential election, and has risen to borderline conservative stardom by openly supporting QAnon, a baseless theory that Trump is fighting a cabal of “deep state” saboteurs who worship Satan and traffic children for sex. The FBI has deemed the conspiracy theory a domestic terrorism threat.
In recent months she’s tried to distance herself from QAnon, but in an earlier video posted to YouTube, which she has since made private, Greene expressed her admiration for the theory. “Q is a patriot,” she said. “He is someone that very much loves his country, and he’s on the same page as us, and he is very pro-Trump.”
Yahoo News reached out to Greene for comment, but she has not responded to the request.
Following the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, Twitter increased its efforts to purge misinformation and incitements to violence from its site. Last week it deleted more than 70,000 accounts that were used to share QAnon conspiracy theories.
But critics want more accountability.
A MoveOn petition to “Remove Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene” from Congress had garnered more than 40,000 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon.
Boebert is a freshman Republican lawmaker from Colorado who holds many of the same views as Greene, and has also dabbled in QAnon conspiracies. Rep. Steve Cohen, a Democrat from Tennessee, said Monday that he and Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., had both seen Boebert giving a tour of the Capitol to a “large” group ahead of the riot. Boebert denies this.
The petition accuses Greene and Boebert of “dereliction of duty” and “collusion” in the Capitol riot and occupation, which is under investigation by the House.
Some progressive activists are calling for Greene to be held accountable for spreading lies about election fraud.
“Leave aside the results of this latest big lie, that the president and his enablers won an election, leading to an assault of our Capitol. ... It’s extremely troubling and dangerous for the underpinnings of our democracy, [which] relies on the way we elect our leaders, and a peaceful transfer of power,” Robert Brandon, president and CEO of Fair Elections Center, a national, nonpartisan voting rights organization, told Yahoo News. “Certainly if there are folks who contributed to that, they should be held accountable.”
In a year that saw record voter turnout, Brandon warns about a rollback in voting rights in the coming months as a result.
“Voter fraud has been talked about for 20 years, but normally as a way to disenfranchise voters,” he added. “We just saw a loosening up of voting options, whether it be mail-in voting or early voting in this year’s elections, and I think we will have an attack on that, starting in states like Georgia.”
University of New Haven associate professor of national security and political science Matthew Schmidt believes Greene’s rhetoric heightens the danger from right-wing extremists.
“The No. 1 national security threat has been domestic extremist groups,” Schmidt told Yahoo News. “It’s not ISIS, it’s not al-Qaida, it’s not Russia, it’s not China. It’s white supremacists and whoever else is attaching themselves onto QAnon. Reps like Marjorie Greene incite these groups. When she repeats these conspiracy theories that have no basis, she gives them validity because she’s an elected official. It’s incredibly dangerous ... and has a long-term effect because this information is used to pass down to other generations that people with differing views are wrong and this is how you can act in response.”
Schmidt added that Congress ultimately has the power to hold Greene and others accountable for things they do and say, but acknowledged that it’s a slippery slope to push to limit any form of free speech.
“[The issue] is that this is the intersection of free speech and culpability of a criminal process,” Schmidt said. “Right now you don’t see enough evidence that she has incited a specific act, but ... Congress has the capability to set its own rules and its ethics violations. There could be a way Congress could censor its members ... using rules violations.”
But Republicans now have to ask themselves: Have they created a monster they can’t control? Greene has already announced her intention to file an article of impeachment against Biden on his first day in office, a stunt certain to get more attention than votes, but which can only enhance the impression of congressional Republicans as being more interested in showboating than in governing — and complicating McCarthy’s hopes of winning a majority in 2022 and becoming speaker of the House.
Republican leaders have faced this situation before — just last year, in fact, when, after years of tolerating the barely concealed racism and bigotry of Rep. Steve King of Iowa, they decided he went too far in an interview in which he questioned what was offensive about the phrase and concept of “white supremacist.”
Kicked off his committees and denied support by the national party, King lost to a primary challenger and is now out of Congress. It remains to be seen whether Greene and Boebert will take his example to heart.