Democrat Jamaal Bowman walks back comments branding GOP ‘Nazis’ after fire alarm row

‘It is important to specify the term Nazi to refer to members of the Nazi party & neo-Nazis,’ New York rep says

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Tuesday 03 October 2023 17:22 BST
Related video: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defends Jamal Bowman over fire alarm

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Rep Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) walked back memo comments from his office calling Republicans “Nazis” after several members of the GOP pushed for motions to expel and censure him after he was seen in surveillance footage pulling a fire alarm in a House office building ahead of the deadline to shut down the government on 30 September.

The memo was laying out a strategy for Democratic staffers for how to defend the congressman against attacks from the GOP.

“I just became aware that in our messaging guidance, there was inappropriate use of the term Nazi without my consent. I condemn the use of the term Nazi out of its precise definition. It is important to specify the term Nazi to refer to members of the Nazi party & neo-Nazis,” Mr Bowman wrote on X on Monday.

The memo from the office bears the title “Messaging Guidance: Supporting Congressman Jamaal Bowman After Accidental Fire Alarm” and argues that Republicans “need to instead focus their energy on the Nazi members of their party before anything else”.

The memo outlines the defence against the GOP’s claim that he pulled the fire alarm to delay a vote on the bill to fund the government for another 45 days on Saturday night. The memo restates the argument that Mr Bowman unintentionally triggered the alarm, prompting an evacuation, as he was trying to open a door while he was “rushing to the House floor” to vote, the memo states. The memo was obtained by Axios.

“Suggested talking points” advises other Democrats to back up Mr Bowman, a former school principal, by noting that “there’s only one or two ways to get in and out” of the Cannon House Office Building, and adding that the incident “didn’t interrupt ... business on the floor in the slightest”.

The memo argues that it was the Republicans’ fault that Mr Bowman was in such a rush, arguing that they put forward “the bill text 15 minutes before the vote”.

The memo also states that “the signage on the doors is unnecessarily confusing”.

Capitol Police said in a press release on Monday that “officers had previously placed signs with clear language that explained the door was secured and marked as an emergency exit only”.

One talking point in the memo says that “it is an extreme reach on the part of MAGA Republicans to assert that Rep. Bowman intended to harm or destruct anyone or thing. The exact opposite is true: he was trying to do his job”.

Mr Bowman is now the subject of a House probe into the incident and a number of Republicans have called for him to be expelled from the House.

Several Republicans have said they’re drafting censure motions, including Reps Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY), Harriet Hageman (R-WY) and Lisa McClain (R-MI). Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who could lose his job on Tuesday after a motion to vacate was filed by Rep Matt Gaetz (R-FL), has argued that the Ethics Committee should investigate Mr Bowman.

Donald Trump called for Mr Bowman to be put in jail. The former president bizarrely claimed that Mr Bowman’s behaviour was worse than that of the rioters who attacked the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

“Will Congressman [Jamaal] Bowman be prosecuted and imprisoned for very dangerously pulling and setting off the main fire alarm system in order to stop a Congressional vote that was going on in D.C.,” Mr Trump wrote on Truth Social on Sunday.

“His egregious act is covered on tape, a horrible display of nerve and criminality. It was a very dangerous ‘Obstruction of an Official Proceeding,’ the same as used against our J-6 prisoners. Actually, his act may have been worse. HE MUST SUFFER THEIR SAME FATE. WHEN WILL HIS TRIAL BEGIN???” he added.

Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) slammed Republicans for pushing for motions to expel Mr Bowman.

“What I do think is important to raise is the fact that Republicans ... immediately moved to file motions to censure, motions to expel before there have even been conversations ... to even see if there was a misunderstanding here,” she told CNN on Sunday morning.

“What they did not do was to commit to the same when George Santos was actually found guilty after a thorough investigation of 13 federal charges,” she added. “He’s indicted on everything from wire fraud to actual lying [to] House investigators, and they have been buddying up and giggling with him on the House floor and they are protecting someone who has lied to the American people, lied to the United States House of Representatives, lied to congressional investigators, but they’re ... filing a motion to expel a member who in a moment of panic was trying to escape a vestibule. Give me a break!”

“And so the idea that there is somehow any kind of equivalence to someone who is actively trying to clear up a situation that he himself admits he’s embarrassed [by], he released a statement last night, he apologised and they are protecting someone who has not only committed wire fraud, not only defrauded veterans, not only lied to congressional investigators but is openly gloating about it,” she noted.

She argued that it’s “absolutely humiliating to the Republican caucus and I think that they should really check their own values”.

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