Loomer win creates bigger problem for House GOP

House Republicans have a growing conspiracy theorist problem.

Laura Loomer, well known for her offensive remarks about Muslims and her embrace of conspiracy theories, became the latest far-right activist to win a primary on Tuesday night, one week after Marjorie Taylor Greene’s win in Georgia.

President Trump has embraced both candidates, but some in the House GOP conference see them as threats if Republicans are to reverse 2018 defeats in the suburbs that plunged them into the minority.

Multiple GOP lawmakers dismissed Loomer as a fringe candidate who’s unlikely to win against a four-term Democratic incumbent, but acknowledged her victory on Tuesday in the district that includes Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club doesn’t help efforts to expand their base.

“It’s not a serious seat, it’s not a GOP seat. So you didn’t really have a legitimate Republican candidate running for it,” Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Va.), who lost a GOP primary earlier this summer to a far-right candidate, told The Hill. 

“The thing is, I’ve always said we need a big tent party. I just didn’t think it would turn into a carnival tent,” Riggleman said.

Greene is on track to ultimately win election to represent a deep-red district in Georgia, while Loomer is a long shot to defeat Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) in what’s long been a safe Democratic district.

Complicating matters for Republicans is Trump’s embrace of both, which makes it difficult to stiff-arm them.

“Great going Laura. You have a great chance against a Pelosi puppet!” Trump tweeted Tuesday night, referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Greene and Loomer have also received endorsements from a handful of GOP lawmakers closely allied with Trump. Greene was endorsed by House Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), while Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) expressed support for Loomer.

Few rank-and-file GOP lawmakers have disavowed Greene or Loomer on the record. Those who did, like Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), have drawn the wrath of Trump allies.

House GOP leaders, reluctant to break with Trump, have not given any sign that they would refuse to include Greene or Loomer in the party ranks.

A spokesperson for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) did not respond when asked if Loomer would be welcomed into the GOP conference or granted committee seats if she were elected.

But in an interview on Wednesday hosted by the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, McCarthy pointed to Greene’s comments last week after winning her primary, claiming that videos of her praising the QAnon conspiracy theory don’t represent her current stance. 

“She’s a small business owner and she’ll be given an opportunity,” McCarthy said, while noting he stripped Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) from committee assignments last year for controversial remarks.

McCarthy had previously condemned Greene’s inflammatory comments about Muslims and other minorities and privately offered support for her primary opponent. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) was the only member of leadership to endorse, max out donations and hold a fundraiser for Greene’s primary opponent. Other GOP lawmakers were dismissive of Loomer on Wednesday.

“She’s an irrelevant nut job. She ain’t gonna win. All this does is provide her a revenue stream so she doesn’t have to have a real job,” one GOP lawmaker said. 

“Don’t both parties have their share of whack jobs who run every cycle?” another GOP lawmaker asked.

Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-Mich.), who is retiring, said that inflammatory views like Loomer’s may have helped her win a six-way primary and raise more than $1 million but wouldn’t help the GOP as a governing party.

“Apparently you can win a primary, you can win an election spouting conspiracy theories and attacking ethnic groups, but I don’t think it certainly doesn’t help you govern,” Mitchell said.

Loomer has been banned from numerous social media and technology platforms for making Islamophobic comments. 

“Someone needs to create a non-Islamic form of @uber or @lyft because I never want to support another Islamic immigrant driver,” Loomer tweeted in 2017.

That same year, Loomer retweeted a headline from The Nation stating that more than 2,000 migrants had died crossing the Mediterranean. “Good. Here’s to 2,000 more,” Loomer wrote with an applause emoji.

Greene, meanwhile, visited the Capitol Hill offices of Reps. Ilhan Omar (Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) — the first Muslim women elected to Congress — and falsely claimed they were illegitimate because they took their oaths of office on the Quran instead of the Bible. 

Greene also previously posted videos on YouTube talking about QAnon, the baseless conspiracy theory which claims that government officials and celebrities are controlling the government to undermine Trump and run a child sex-trafficking ring. Greene said in a Fox News interview last week that she longer associates with it after finding “misinformation.”

Some other House GOP candidates have also expressed openness to the QAnon theory despite the lack of evidence, including Lauren Boebert in Colorado, Mike Cargile and Erin Cruz in California, and Illinois’s Theresa Raborn. Boebert has since walked back her remarks about QAnon.

Loomer, meanwhile, accused the student survivors of the 2018 shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., of “reading a screen or notes someone else wrote for them” and interrupted a House hearing in 2018 to accuse Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey of trying to tilt the midterm elections toward the Democrats. 

Riggleman said that he believes the attention garnered by candidates vocalizing conspiracy theories overshadows the work being done by others in the party.

“We have other fantastic people out there that are running and doing great work, and I’m working with them on the China Task Force. Those are the people that are really representing the GOP,” Riggleman said. 

“Candidates like this really actually hurt our profile, because it overshadows the great work that’s being done by legitimate members.”

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Wednesday defended Trump’s praise for Greene and Loomer despite their records of racist remarks.

“The president routinely congratulates people who officially get the Republican nomination for Congress, so he does that as a matter of course,” McEnany said at a press briefing.

“He hasn’t done a deep dive into the statements by these two particular women,” McEnany continued. “I don’t know if he’s even seen that, but he supports the Muslim community. He supports the community of faith more broadly in this country.”

Al Weaver contributed.

Tags Adam Kinzinger Denver Riggleman Donald Trump Florida House Republicans Ilhan Omar Jim Jordan Keven McCarthy Kevin McCarthy Laura Loomer Lois Frankel Marjorie Taylor Greene Matt Gaetz Nancy Pelosi Paul Gosar Paul Mitchell QAnon Rashida Tlaib Steve King Steve Scalise

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