Win by QAnon believer creates new headaches for House GOP
House Republicans are raising concerns that a controversial candidate’s primary win in Georgia could hurt the party in other races, with some saying GOP leaders should have done more to defeat Marjorie Taylor Greene.
Greene handily won a runoff Tuesday against neurosurgeon John Cowan, taking 60 percent of the vote, and is now poised to succeed outgoing Rep. Tom Graves (R) in the GOP-leaning district.
She has a history of offensive remarks about Blacks, Jews and Muslims, including a statement that if she were Black, she’d be “proud” to see a Confederate monument because it would show the progress since the Civil War.
Greene has compared Democratic donor George Soros to a Nazi, asserted that African Americans “are held slaves to the Democratic Party,” likened the 2018 midterms that flipped the House to Democratic control as being like an “Islamic invasion of our government” and most recently fundraised over her remarks calling House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) a “bitch” who should be kicked out of Congress.
She has also embraced the QAnon conspiracy theory involving a global cabal of government officials and celebrities controlling the government and other institutions and running a child sex-trafficking ring. “Q is a patriot,” Green said in a video posted to YouTube, referring to the purported anonymous government official who posts information about the supposed conspiracy.
To many House Republicans, Greene is a liability whose remarks will be used against other GOP candidates, according to multiple GOP House lawmakers and aides.
“It is a really ugly outcome — an embarrassment for our party. And [it is] unfortunate our party leadership did not address that issue,” one GOP lawmaker told The Hill.
GOP leaders denounced Greene’s public remarks earlier this year, with a spokesman for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) calling them appalling.
Yet while House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) actively backed Cowan by holding a fundraiser and maxing out his contribution, McCarthy and other leaders didn’t take stronger actions.
Some say that was a big mistake.
“McCarthy is clearly so paranoid about not having the support of the far right for his own Speaker race that he was willing to throw the rest of the conference under the bus by backing this woman and now making everyone else have to answer for her,” one GOP aide said.
GOP lawmakers were much less scathing in their remarks, even while speaking anonymously.
“[I] would agree with that about leadership [needing to do more] but ultimately it is up to the people to decide and for individual candidates to either step up or be held to account,” one GOP lawmaker said.
President Trump is now offering Greene support, further complicating matters for House Republicans.
“Congratulations to future Republican Star Marjorie Taylor Greene on a big Congressional primary win in Georgia against a very tough and smart opponent,” the president tweeted Wednesday morning. “Marjorie is strong on everything and never gives up – a real WINNER!”
Later on Wednesday, a Trump campaign official called out Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) for criticizing Greene in an implicit signal to the rest of the conference.
“When will @RepKinzinger condemn the Steele Dossier fabrications and conspiracy theories pushed by Democrats?” Matt Wolking, deputy communications director for the Trump campaign, wrote, adding, “That actually WAS Russian propaganda.”
Some Republicans said they were particularly frustrated with McCarthy, both because he is the leader of the conference and because they said he assured Cowan “help is on the way” and that he was “100 percent behind” him during a phone call on July 29.
The promised resources never arrived, according to two sources familiar with the discussion.
“Two weeks ago he told Dr. Cowan, ‘I’m solidly with you,’” one source familiar with the call said. “There was follow up with his staff the next day that didn’t go anywhere. … He went neutral.”
McCarthy’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the call.
Earlier, a spokesman for McCarthy said the leader looked forward to Greene and other GOP candidates “winning in November so that we can enact policies to renew the American dream, restore our way of life, and rebuild the greatest economy in the world.”
A handful of members and aides raised concerns that Greene’s rhetoric will lead to similar scandals the conference previously faced with outgoing Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who was removed from committees following racist remarks.
Some Republicans did back Greene during the primary.
She received campaign donations from Reps. Jim Jordan (Ohio) and Andy Biggs (Ariz.), both members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. Koch Industries donated to Greene’s campaign but asked for the money to be returned after her controversial remarks.
“Marjorie may not be the candidate of the establishment or the press but she created a tidal wave among the voters. She’s got my congratulations and support,” said Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), who is running for Senate.
Democrats are certain to try to tie Greene to other Republicans, especially with presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden running neck and neck with Trump in polls of Georgia.
“Georgia Republicans, and Republican candidates running across the country, will have to answer for her hateful views in their own campaigns,” said Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), the chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Republicans are waiting to see how Greene acts once she is in the House.
“I hope she evolves away from such hateful commentary,” said one GOP lawmaker. “Either way, many of us are cautiously watching how she handles her new position.”
This story was updated at 9:01 p.m.
The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.