Trump-backed challenger to Cheney decried him as 'racist,' 'xenophobic' in 2016: report

Harriet Hageman resisted former President Trump's 2016 presidential efforts before receiving an endorsement from Trump in her bid to unseat Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.).

Hageman, Cheney's onetime ally, called Trump "the weakest candidate" in the 2016 Republican primary and referred to him as "somebody who is racist and xenophobic," according to The New York Times.  

Yet Trump offered his full-throated endorsement of Hageman earlier this month in her campaign to unseat one of his highest-profile critics in the Republican party. 

"Unlike RINO Liz Cheney, Harriet is all in for America First," Trump said in a Sept. 9 endorsement statement, using an acronym for "Republican in name only." "Harriet has my Complete and Total Endorsement in replacing the Democrats number one provider of sound bites, Liz Cheney."

In a statement to the Times, Hageman said she has come to realize since 2016 that the claims Cheney and others were making about Trump were untrue. 

"I heard and believed the lies the Democrats and Liz Cheney's friends in the media were telling at the time, but that is ancient history as I quickly realized that their allegations against President Trump were untrue," Hageman said in the statement.

"He was the greatest president of my lifetime, and I am proud to have been able to renominate him in 2020. And I'm proud to strongly support him today," she added.

Cheney drew Trump's wrath when she voted to impeach him following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. In a statement explaining her vote, she said Trump "summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack."

"There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution," she added. 

Cheney served as chairwoman of the House Republican Conference until Republicans ousted her from that position in May following her vote to impeach Trump. 

Hageman is one of several Republicans, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), two presidential candidates in 2016, who were once outspoken against Trump but fell in line behind the former president when it was "politically advantageous," the Times said. 

Dean Heller, a former Republican senator from Nevada now running for governor, is another previous Trump critic who flipped to a supporter of the former president as his clout in the party swelled. 

Cheney endorsed Trump in 2016, even emphasizing her support following a the circulation of the "Access Hollywood" recording in which Trump was heard boasting about groping women.

In response to Trump's endorsement of her opponent in the 2022 race, she tweeted, "Bring it."