Georgians split on party lines to strip Marjorie Taylor Greene of committees

By: - February 5, 2021 7:53 am

Making his case to to strip Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of committee assignments, Democratic Congressman Steny Hoyer of Maryland furnished a since-deleted Facebook post image that shows her brandishing a gun next to U.S. House members who are women of color.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House in an extraordinary move voted Thursday to remove Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from her committee assignments, citing a series of violent, anti-Semitic comments and social media posts she made before being elected to Congress in November.

The 230-199 vote — with 11 Republicans joining with Democrats in support — came hours after the Georgia Republican walked back some of her most incendiary comments, saying she “was allowed to believe things that weren’t true.” Georgia’s delegation voted along party lines.

Greene’s removal from two committees was a rare rebuke that followed a growing outcry among Democrats. The action was most recently taken in 2019, when GOP leaders removed then-Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) after a news interview in which he questioned why white nationalism was considered offensive and racist. King was defeated in the 2020 primary.

In a 10-minute speech on the House floor Thursday afternoon, Greene offered an explanation for the conspiracy theories and misinformation in her social media posts.

She did not apologize, and the House proceeded to remove Greene from the Education and Labor panel, and the Budget Committee.

Greene, a Rome resident who represents the 14th Congressional District in northwest Georgia, said that she sought out information on the internet after losing trust in the government and the media, but later stopped believing the conspiracy theories circulated by fringe groups like QAnon.

“I was allowed to believe things that weren’t true, and I would ask questions about them and talk about them,” Greene said. “And that is absolutely what I regret, because if it weren’t for the Facebook posts and comments that I liked in 2018, I wouldn’t be standing here today and you couldn’t point a finger and accuse me of doing anything wrong, because I’ve lived a very good life that I’m proud of.”

Greene endorsed a range of conspiracy theories in social media, including that several deadly mass school shootings were staged, and she liked a post that called for putting a bullet in the head of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

She also questioned the veracity of the Sept. 11 attacks. In her floor remarks Thursday, Greene recanted some of her rhetoric, saying “school shootings are absolutely real,” and that the 9/11 attacks “absolutely happened.” She said that in late 2018, she began to identify “misinformation” in QAnon posts, and stopped believing what she had been reading.

During her remarks from the House floor Thursday, Georgia Rep. Lucy McBath said words matter and Greene’s words fanned flames of lies, conspiracy and violence. Screenshot of CSPAN video stream

U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, a Marietta Democrat, became a gun control activist after her son Jordan was shot to death in 2012. She has worked as an advocate for the 17 survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Three south Florida Republicans are among the 11 GOP members who voted to remove Greene from her committees.

During her remarks from the House floor, McBath said words matter and Greene’s words fanned the flames of lies, conspiracy and violence.

“This today is about a member’s words and actions that are beneath this body. Beneath the American people that we have sworn to protect,” McBath said.

Georgia Congresswoman Nikema Williams, an Atlanta Democrat, said “we can’t control what Rep. Greene does and says, but we can control how we operate as a governing body that holds its officials accountable.”

“I watched in horror at the footage of Rep. Greene berating a Parkland shooting survivor – a teenager who came to Capitol Hill seeking help from lawmakers to put an end to mass shootings and prevent other high school students from having to witness the senseless murder of their classmates and teachers,” she said.

Their GOP counterparts from Georgia, though, characterized the vote to remove Greene from her committee assignments as partisan overreach.

“If this was about the remarks our colleague made, you would put a resolution on the floor condemning those remarks,” said Austin Scott, a Tifton Republican. “But no matter what those remarks are or how bad they are, she and every other member of this body should be entitled to due process just as every other American is entitled to due process.”

Congressman Andrew Clyde, an Athens Republican, gun store owner and Greene’s fellow freshman, said “the past is past.”

Georgia Congressman Andrew Clyde said he believed any decision to punish Greene should be left to her constituents. Screenshot of CSPAN video stream

“I do not believe Congress has jurisdiction to relitigate what a member of this body said before they took their solemn oath of office. That is an issue to be adjudicated by her constituents at the ballot box in the 14th District of Georgia, not here in Congress,” Clyde said.

Drew Ferguson, a Newnan Republican, adopted a similar approach to his colleagues in a statement sent out after the vote, denouncing Greene’s anti-Semitic comments and conspiracy theories while criticizing the House Democrats as motivated by partisanship.

“As I have said before, I do not and cannot condone any of the previous statements made by Marjorie Taylor Greene on school shootings, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, or political violence,” Ferguson said in a statement. “They are indefensible and deeply troubling.”

Then he pivoted to a GOP message repeated throughout the afternoon by his Republican colleagues.

“Ultimately, I voted against (removing Greene) because this unprecedented effort is not only an abuse of power that undermines the integrity of this institution, it sets a dangerous precedent whereby the majority party eliminates power specifically designated to the minority party whenever one of its members does or says something objectionable.”

Greene spoke at the Jan. 6 rally with then-President Donald Trump that preceded a mob attack on the U.S. Capitol and she has helped fuel the baseless claim that the 2020 presidential election was rife with fraud. Hours after the attack she voted against certifying President Joe Biden as the winner of Georgia’s electoral votes. Still, her biggest donors in one of the most conservative congressional districts in the country vowed continued support even after the attack.

Greene blamed the media for the controversy around her posts, accusing reporters of using “teeny, tiny pieces of words that I’ve said” to misrepresent her views.
Some of her social media rhetoric, largely from 2018 and 2019, was publicly documented before her election. But after House Republican leaders tapped her for the Education and Labor Committee, Democrats expressed outrage at that assignment, citing her comments about school shootings.

The National Education Association, which represents public school teachers and support staff, also sent a letter to legislators in support of removing Greene from the education panel.

“If this is not the bottom, I don’t know what the hell is,” Rep. Jim McGovern, chairman of the House Rules Committee, said Wednesday, describing Greene’s past comments as violating the chamber’s standards of conduct.

During Thursday’s House debate, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who sponsored the resolution, said Greene’s rhetoric is the type of conduct “that fuels domestic terrorism.”

After Greene’s speech, McGovern (D-Mass.) responded that he was “still deeply, deeply troubled” by her comments and posts, noting that she did not denounce, or apologize for, liking the comment about attacking Pelosi, or for anti-Semitic, Islamophobic comments. He also said some of her posts were made in 2019, after she said she stopped believing in QAnon theories.

“The gentlewoman’s campaign has profited off of these hurtful remarks and these dangerous statements, so I just point that out,” McGovern added.
Big campaign donors have stuck by Greene throughout the controversy and she has encouraged campaign fundraising in her tweets.

Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) criticized Democrats as engaging in a “dangerous new standard” that he said would “deepen divisions” in Congress.
McCarthy also accused the majority party of ignoring “infractions” by Democrats. Without naming her, he cited Rep. Ilhan Omar ‘s comments critical of Israel and U.S. supporters of Israel.

Omar (D-Minn.) later apologized for those remarks, which were brought up again by Republicans who attempted to retaliate this week with an unsuccessful push to remove Omar from committees.

Georgia Recorder Editor John McCosh and Deputy Editor Jill Nolin contributed to this report.

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Laura Olson
Laura Olson

Laura covers the nation's capital as a senior reporter for States Newsroom, a network of nonprofit outlets that includes Georgia Recorder. Her areas of coverage include politics and policy, lobbying, elections, and campaign finance.