WASHINGTON – A fiery Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., declared Friday that the House’s decision to remove her from her committee assignments has liberated her to build a political network aimed at supporting former president Donald Trump and pushing the GOP further to the right.
Greene’s comments during a 20-minute news conference outside the Capitol demonstrated that – far from being cowed by the uproar over the various extremist remarks she made in the years leading up to her election in November – she has only been emboldened in her social-media-fueled campaign against Democrats, cultural elites and the media.
“Going forward, I’ve been freed,” she said. “I have a lot of free time on my hands, which means I can talk to a whole lot more people all over this country and . . . make connections and build a huge amount of support that I’ve already got started with.”
Asked about how she saw her role, Greene said she planned to “vote very conservative” and use her influence to cement Trump’s imprint on the GOP: “I’m going to be holding the Republican Party accountable and pushing them to the right.”
The House voted 230 to 199 Thursday to remove Greene from the Budget Committee and the Education and Labor Committee. Eleven of 211 Republicans voted with every Democrat to sideline Greene in a rebuke of her embrace of extremist ideology.
As recently as late last year, Greene had been an open adherent of the QAnon ideology – a sprawling web of false claims that have incited violence and that played a role in inspiring the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob. In addition, she made comments on social media suggesting that some mass shootings were staged by supporters of gun control, that the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were orchestrated by government forces and that a Jewish cabal had sparked a deadly wildfire with a laser beam from space.
Ahead of the vote Thursday, Greene renounced some of her most outrageous claims in a House floor speech. But she also lashed out at Democrats and the media – equating their reporting with QAnon’s falsehoods – while sidestepping many of her most troubling actions, including social media postings endorsing the assassinations of prominent Democrats and her harassment of a well-known gun-control advocate.
Many Democrats, and some Republicans, said they did not believe Greene was sufficiently contrite and had avoided a straightforward apology for her actions – including her promulgation of QAnon falsehoods, which she explained Thursday as, “I was allowed to believe things that weren’t true.”
At the news conference Thursday, a reporter asked her if she was truly sorry.
“I’m sorry for saying all those things that are wrong and offensive, and I sincerely mean that,” she said, before declining to tender an apology to the young gun-control activist, David Hogg, who had survived the 2018 mass shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school. Greene in 2019 shot a cellphone video of her peppering Hogg with questions as he walked around the Capitol grounds amid a lobbying push for new gun laws,
“I’m very opposed to those policies,” Greene said Friday. “My voice matters, too. And so, no, I’m not sorry for telling him he shouldn’t push for gun control.”
Stripped of her committees, Greene’s most important role inside Congress may be to serve as an avatar for a purely pro-Trump strain of conservatism that shows no sign of retreating after Trump’s November loss.
Greene is part of a growing strain of Republican lawmakers who view legislating as a less important task than communications, focused their messages on right-wing media while largely ignoring the more traditional local media outlets most new members of Congress have tended to in the past.
Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., also first elected in November, recently told lawmakers that he “built my staff around comms rather than legislation,” according to a Time magazine report last month. Just one month into office, Cawthorn’s communications focus has made him a regular on Fox News.
They are following a path blazed by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., first elected in 2016, who has focused his energy on political theatrics that command attention on cable news and social media. Last week, as conservatives erupted following Rep. Liz Cheney’s vote to impeach Trump, Gaetz flew to her state of Wyoming to attend a rally of her opponents.
This focus has left centrist lawmakers bewildered.
“We live in a political environment in which theatrics and division and hate are what elevates stars,” said Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., a second-term member of the Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group focused on legislating.
“I don’t want to give oxygen to someone who is not worthy of it,” Phillips said, frustrated by the attention Greene continues to consume. “And it saddens that any member that would want to come here and say that committee work doesn’t matter – then what are you doing here?”
These GOP theatrical stars are in part mimicking their political idol, Trump.
The former president has publicly praised Greene in the past, and Greene has suggested she intends to meet with Trump in the near future. On Friday, Greene offered Trump extensive praise and noted that “a record number of Republicans” voted for him.
“It’s because they loved his policies. They loved his fight. They love the fact that, for once, we had a president that stood up for America, stood up for American businesses and remembered the forgotten man,” she said, adding, “Republican voters support him still. The party is his, it doesn’t belong to anybody else.”
That proposition is debatable. While only 11 Republicans broke with party leaders and voted to marginalize Greene, Cheney survived another proxy battle to hold onto her position as the GOP conference chairwoman, No. 3 in leadership.
A push from Trump loyalists to remove Cheney from her leadership position failed in a secret-ballot vote where more than two-thirds of Republicans voted to keep her in place – heeding a call by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) for unity ahead of the 2022 midterms.
After Greene posted on Twitter Friday morning that Democrats were a “bunch of morons . . . for giving some one like me free time,” one of her sharpest GOP critics, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., responded that the sentiment proved her contrition was a facade: “There is no remorse here for her past comments. Just a huge desire to be famous.”
Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., who co-founded Problem Solvers, said Friday that he just met Greene this week for the first time and recently met Cawthorn, encouraging them to delve into more policy-focused practices.
“You need to have that substance upon which the communication is delivered,” he said. “I hope maybe we can show that you need to be able to do both and I encourage them to explore those options.”
Later on Friday, Greene accused her GOP critics of being the true traitors to the party, citing McCarthy’s efforts to retake the majority. “When you have Republicans in the ranks voting against one of their own . . . that really is a big betrayal,” she said.
But her sharpest comments were reserved for Democrats and the media, accusing them of operating in tandem to attack conservatives and sideline their views.
At one point she accused journalists of “addicting our nation to hate” and suggested conservatives were equally culpable for attacking figures such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. – just moments after Greene herself accused Ocasio-Cortez of orchestrating a “hoax” in describing her experience during the Jan. 6 Capitol siege.
She concluded her anti-media broadside with a nod to a new political reality, where a politician with fringe views from a politically homogenous part of the country can reach a national audience and quickly build a financial and ideological base of support. Greene claimed she had raised upward of $330,000 from 13,000 small donors over 48 hours this week.
“My district is thrilled with me. People are all over the country are thankful and supporting me,” she said. “And, for that, I’m grateful to them.”