Conservative commentator Candace Owens on Tuesday blasted a House hearing on white nationalism and hate crimes, claiming Democrats on the panel were focused on "fear-mongering, power and control" rather than on the issue of racism.
"We’re hearing [terms like 'white nationalism'] sent around today because what they want to say is that brown people want to be scared, which seems to be the narrative that we hear every four years ahead of a presidential election," Owens, communications director at conservative group Turning Point USA, said during her opening remarks.
Owens was invited to testify by GOP lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee in Tuesday's hearing.
Owens, whose 74-year-old grandfather sat behind her during the hearing, said he "grew up in an America where words like 'racism' and 'white nationalism' held real meaning under the Democratic Party’s Jim Crow laws."
The House Judiciary hearing was planned to "examine hate crimes, the impact white nationalist groups have on American communities and the spread of white identity ideology," according to a description of the event.
The panel's hearing comes after a number of mass shootings in recent months were carried out by alleged white supremacists, including a shooting at a Pittsburgh-area synagogue that killed 11 Jewish congregants and two mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, that killed 50 worshippers last month.
"The hearing today is not about white nationalism or hate crimes, it’s about fear-mongering, power and control," Owens said, casting doubt on whether hate crimes in the U.S. have risen in recent years.
"The goal here is to scare blacks, Hispanics, gays and Muslims, helping [Democrats] censor dissenting opinions … helping them regain control," Owens said at the hearing.
"White supremacy, racism, white nationalism, words that once held real meaning, have now become nothing more than election strategies," she claimed.
According to the FBI, hate crimes increased in the U.S. for the third year in a row in 2017, rising 17 percent from the previous year. The bulk of those hate crimes were committed against black, Jewish and Muslim Americans.
In her remarks, Owens also called talk of a GOP "southern strategy" in the 1960s, which critics say was an appeal to white southern voters over racial issues a "myth."
"We hear over and over again about black conservatives, who have the audacity to think for themselves and become educated about our history and the myth of things, like the southern switch and the southern strategy, which never happened."
Candace Owens calls the GOP’s Southern Strategy “a myth.” It’s not a myth. In 2005, RNC chairman Ken Mehlman even apologized for it to the NAACP national convention and said it was “wrong.” pic.twitter.com/gLVr68ySjK— Adam Best (@adamcbest) April 9, 2019
The issue has long been a controversial one. Many GOP leaders have said the party did try to use racial divisions to win white voters. In 2005, then Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman told NAACP leaders that the southern strategy was "wrong."
Owens was one of eight witnesses on the panel, alongside multiple civil rights advocates and representatives with Google and Facebook.
Updated at 1:30 p.m.