Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Lies Are More than Loony - They’re Lethal
By Jessie Seigel / Washington, D.C.
Nancy Pelosi said the “enemy is within the House of Representatives.” The Speaker is right. The House is riddled with coup-mongers and their seditious supporters, who are threatening both the lives of their colleagues and our democracy. Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, promoter extraordinaire of QAnon conspiracy theories and practitioner of harassment and death threats—including language suggesting that Speaker Pelosi should be executed for treason—is supreme example No. 1.
This week, Greene’s actions caught up with her. Despite a last-minute speech stating—without apology—that she no longer believes the lies she’s promoted in the past, the full House voted yesterday to boot her from the two committees—Education and Labor, and Budget—to which she had been assigned. The vote was 230 (including 11 Republicans) to 199.
In her post-removal press conference on Friday, Greene swiveled at full tilt between playing the sweet, smiling suburban mother persecuted for old misunderstandings, the God-loving penitent, and the smugly defiant bully. At times her delivery sounded like she was a doppelgänger of Donald Trump, attacking reporters rather than answering their questions; suggesting, sour grapes-style, that because of the Democratic majority, being on the committees would have been wasting her time, while simultaneously claiming that being taken off the committees stripped her constituents of representation (untrue since Greene still can vote in the House); and interspersing her litany with barely disguised racist rhetoric.
Her most telling comment, though, was in a tweet preceding the conference: “I woke up this morning literally laughing, thinking about what a bunch of morons the Democrats (+11) are for giving someone like me free time…Oh this is going to be fun.” One could almost see Greene her rubbing her hands together in villainous glee.
Initially, when House Democrats demanded that House Republicans discipline Greene for her threatening behavior, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said only that he would talk to Greene privately about it. Whatever the feckless McCarthy said to Greene, it had no effect. She continued her belligerent stance. On Monday night, House Democrats gave Republicans an ultimatum: strip Greene of all her committee assignments within 72 hours or the Democrats would bring the issue to the House floor in a resolution.
Republicans met, and not only determined not to remove Greene, but after she had spoken to them, gave her a standing ovation. This, while they considered removing Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney from her leadership post for merely having the temerity and honesty to have voted for Trump’s impeachment. While Cheney was not removed, 61 of her Republican colleagues voted to do so. Furthermore, the vote on Cheney was by secret ballot. How brave the Republicans are when they can hide what they are doing.
Since the Republican caucus refused to take responsibility for disciplining Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Democratic majority was forced to bring a resolution to the full House. While Republicans argued that this action would set a precedent for House majorities to remove minority members from committees at will, the Democrats pointed out that the real precedent is that anyone who threatens violence to other members of Congress must be held accountable. Many added that if a Democrat advocated murder of another member of the House, they would be the first to vote to remove them from committees and even expel them from the House.
On Thursday, in a last-minute effort to sidestep the House vote, Greene presented a self-serving, self-pitying justification on the House floor, saying that the Democrats were planning to “crucify me in the public square for words that I said and regret, a few years ago.” She claimed that she had been misled by QAnon and stopped believing its lies in 2018. But Greene promoted such lies long after that, even posting on social media a photo of herself with an AR 15 assault rifle in front of images of Representatives Ilhan Omar, Alexandra Octavio Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, with a caption stating she was the “Squad’s worst nightmare” as a campaign ad in 2020.
Greene’s tepid attempt at a whitewash was further negated by her defiant tweet shortly before her appearance: “It’s not just me they want to cancel. They want to cancel every Republican. Don’t let the mob win.” Talk about projection.
In the House debate on Greene’s fate, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland emphasized the seriousness of the issue at stake, presenting a poster of Greene’s photo showing her posed with the assault rifle next to images of the House’s progressive “Squad.” Addressing his GOP colleagues, Hoyer said, “When you take this vote, imagine your faces on this poster…Imagine it’s a Democrat with an AR-15. Imagine what your response would be.”
Thursday evening, the House voted to remove Greene from all of her committees. The vote was 230 to 199. Only 11 Republicans voted with the Democrats for removal (Adam Kinzinger (Ill), Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa), John Katko (NY), Fred Upton (Mi), Nicole Malliotakis (NY), Carlos Gimenez (Fla), Chris Jacobs (NY), Young Kim (Calif.), Maria Elvira Salazar (Fla), Chris Smith (NJ), and Mario Diaz-Balart (Fla). Tellingly, Liz Cheney was not among them.
Some have said that Marjorie Taylor Greene is a lunatic and an outlier. Because McCarthy did not rein her in, during the week before the vote, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell uncharacteristically weighed in, saying that her “loony lies and conspiracy theories are a cancer for the Republican Party and our country” and that she is “not living in reality.” He suggested that her behavior interferes with the “robust debate on substance that can strengthen our party.”
Of course, McConnell’s own contribution to “robust debate” is to squelch it when it comes from Democrats. The mainstream GOP’s real concern is optics. They don’t want the Marjorie Taylor Greenes to be the face of their party. They want them to stay hidden behind more respectable faces.
In reply to McConnell, Greene posted on Twitter, “The real cancer for the Republican Party is weak Republicans who only know how to lose gracefully. This is why we are losing our country.”
Greene is neither a lunatic nor an outlier. She is a cynical political operative who most likely does not believe any of the conspiracy theories she spouts, but is a natural at using The Big Lie, the same tactic used by Trump and fascists the world over. It does not matter how ridiculous the lie is so long as you repeat it over and over; the bigger the lie, the better. And if you are taken to task for the consequences of your lies, lie about your lying—and play the victim.
Greene is not an anomaly either. She is emblematic of what the Republican party has become. Her response to the overture of Linda Beigel Schulman exposes Greene’s game.
Schulman is the mother of Scott Beigel, a teacher who died protecting his students in 2018 against a mass shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla,
In an interview last week on Weekends with Alex Witt, Schulman said that she had recently talked with Greene by Zoom. In their conversation, Schulman said she asked Greene, “Do you really believe that Parkland and Sandy Hook were false flags and staged?” (A “false flag,” a popular conspiracy term, is an act committed supposedly for one purpose, with intent to hide its true purpose and source.) Schulman reported that Greene’s unequivocal response was “No. I do not.” Schulman then asked Greene if she would come on air with her and make that statement publicly. Greene would not.
Soon after, under pressure, Greene did an interview on the right-wing One America News Network, acknowledging that the murders were not false flags. Greene’s statement was clearly an effort to mitigate the damage Schulman’s account had done.
In 2018 and 2019, before ever becoming a member of Congress, Greene endorsed the manufactured conspiracy theory of QAnon that the Democrats are part of a secret clique of child traffickers. Greene expressed support for the execution of prominent Democratic politicians, and “liked” a comment on her Facebook page suggesting a “bullet to the head” to remove House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. And in a speech she posted on Facebook Live before going to Congress, Greene said Pelosi was “guilty of treason…a crime punishable by death.”
In 2019, Greene also harassed David Hogg, a student survivor of the Parkland massacre. When Hogg, only 18 years old at the time, was in Washington, D.C., to advocate for gun control, a video showed that Greene followed him down a Capitol Hill street, calling to him that she carried a gun in her purse for her protection and accusing him of trying to take away her Second Amendment rights.
Greene has claimed that the 2012 mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut and at Hogg’s high school in Florida in 2018, as well as the 2017 killing of 58 people in Las Vegas, were hoaxes staged to turn people against Second Amendment rights. These denials of mass murder place Marjorie Taylor Greene in a league with Holocaust deniers.
But that mindset should be of no surprise since Greene has also engaged in anti-Semitic slanders. The Jewish Journal reported in January that in 2018, Greene shared a video on Facebook that “advanced the ‘great replacement’ theory, which falsely alleges that Jews are conspiring to undermine white countries by bringing in nonwhite immigrants.” She has also used serpentine logic to advance the bizarre claim that a vice-chairman of Rothschild Inc. used Pacific Gas and Electric’s technology to beam down solar energy—a Rothschild-funded space laser—in order to cause the destructive California wildfires. Suggesting that the Rothschild family commits nefarious acts for profit is one of the traditional lies used to defame Jews.
Furthermore, not only is Greene not an aberration, but her election was strongly supported by members of the Republican House Freedom Caucus, including right-wing Ohio Representative Jim Jordan, one of the Freedom Caucus’s founding members. In fact, if one puts the bizarre quality of Greene’s’ provocative rhetoric to one side, Jim Jordan and Marjorie Taylor Greene share exactly the same goal—upending fair election results.
Though the loss of her committee memberships has, for the moment, deprived Marjorie Taylor Greene of one of her platforms, she is not the only dangerous Republican insurrectionist in the House. At Trump’s infamous Save America Rally on January 6, the very day electoral votes were being counted, Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama incited the crowd of thousands with the words, “Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass…Are you willing to do what it takes to fight for America? Louder! Will you fight for America?”
Likewise, Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona traveled around the country for weeks after the election, promoting the coming Trump rally and other such events at least a dozen times, repeatedly calling Biden an “illegitimate usurper” and claiming that Trump was the victim of an attempted “coup.” (Republicans never seem to tire of accusing their opponents of what they themselves are actually doing.) At one rally in Phoenix, Gosar had delivered a call for action, telling the crowd that they planned to “conquer the Hill” to save Trump’s presidency. By some reports, Gosar has had connections to the Arizona chapter of the Oath Keepers, a right-wing extremist organization, which claims, based on conspiracy theories, that the federal government is trying to destroy Americans’ liberties.
Moreover, the New York Times reported that Representative Lauren Boebert of Colorado also has close connections to militia groups, including the Three Percenters, an anti-government militia movement that advocates gun ownership and resistance to the federal government. On the day of the Capitol attack, Boebert encouraged the mob by posting, “Today is 1776” on her Twitter feed, a clear call for rebellion. She also reportedly tweeted about Speaker Pelosi’s movements during the attack.
When, after the failed insurrection, metal detectors were installed outside the House chamber and Boebert set off one of them, she refused to let her bag be searched. Given that she had previously advertised her plan to carry a Glock in the District, this was threatening behavior.
While House Republicans continue to side with these extremists actively, by silence, or by trying to dismiss their actions and “move on,” House Democrats are taking these anti-democratic dangers seriously. On MSNBC’s Politics Nation, several days before the vote on Greene, Representative Hakeem Jeffries, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said that if House Minority Leader McCarthy did not change course (which clearly McCarthy did not) the House would “look at the actions of every single one of these House Republican seditionists who are responsible for providing aid and comfort to the insurrection.” Dealing with Greene was a good start. The rest must be investigated and held accountable as well.
The Senate also seems to have its share of Republican seditionists. Seven Senate Democrats have filed a complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee requesting an investigation of Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley under the Senate Code of Official Conduct. That Code states senators must “put loyalty to the highest moral principles and to country above loyalty to persons, party, or Government department.”
Cruz and Hawley not only objected to the counting of Electoral College votes, but maintained those objections even after the attack on the Capitol, thus perpetuating the stolen election lie and adding to a perception that the insurrectionist cause was legitimate. The complaint emphasizes that Cruz and Hawley likely knew the stolen election claims were false even while they were publicly legitimizing them.
The complaint also states that Cruz and Hawley not only raised funds based on their efforts to challenge the count of electoral votes within the few days and even hours before the vote—they solicited funds during and after the insurrection. Hawley’s campaign even sent a text message after the Capitol had been breached stating he was “leading the charge to fight for freedom and fair elections.” Although objections to the counting were within a senator’s rights, the other actions of Cruz and Hawley raise disturbing questions about their possible connection to the attacks.
It is heartening that both House and Senate Democrats are taking action. But the public statements of many Democratic lawmakers, particularly those in the Senate, as well as some liberal commentators, have still too often sounded like they were pleading with Republicans to do the right thing, framing the situation as one in which the Republicans need to make a choice about what and who they are. However, with very few exceptions, it is clear that the Republicans have already made that choice a thousand times over during the last four years. The Democrats need to stop behaving publicly like they are in denial about it.
The effort to upend democracy is well in progress. A war is being waged here on numerous fronts. And though action—legal, nonviolent action—is of the greatest importance, words and their tone are also a necessary form of battle. For truth to prevail and democracy to survive, the public needs less reticent decorum and more straight talk. Our leaders need to call out fascism wherever it shows its ugly, dangerous face, and expose it however it tries to hide.
Jessie Seigel is a fiction writer, an associate editor at the Potomac Review, a reviewer for The Washington Independent Review of Books, and a dabbler in political cartoons at Daily Kos. She has twice received an Artist’s Fellowship from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities for her work. But, Seigel also had a long career as a government attorney, in which she honed her analytic skills. Of this double career, Seigel would say, “I guess my right and left brains are well balanced.” More on and from Seigel can be found at The Adventurous Writer, https://www.jessieseigel.com.