Marjorie Taylor Greene: How QAnon conspiracist spouting hateful views came to hold sway over Republicans

Drama over Georgia congresswoman indicative of debate that will dominate GOP as it decides its future

Andrew Buncombe
Thursday 04 February 2021 22:03 GMT
Marjorie Taylor Greene says she is 'very regular American' ahead of House removal vote
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When Marjorie Taylor Greene rose to speak to fellow members of the House of Representatives, she started with a long list of people she wanted to acknowledge. 

“Thank you madam speaker,” she said. “My Democratic colleagues, Republican colleagues, my district back home in Georgia 14, to the American people, to my mom and dad, and my husband and my children.”

Ms Greene said she had been in the job just a month and a day, and while she had the opportunity get to know some of the Democrats in the chamber, she had not yet spoken to them.

“You only know me by how Media Matters, CNN, MSNBC, and the rest of the mainstream media is portraying me. What you don't know about me is that I'm a very proud wife of almost 25 years that I'm a mother of three children, and I consider being a mother the greatest blessing of my life, and the greatest thing that I'll ever achieve,” she said. 

She added: “What you need to know about me is I'm a very regular American. Just like the people I represent in my district, and most people across the country.”

Ms Greene, 46, spoke amid a firestorm of controversy over her previous association with wild conspiracy theories, often associated with QAnon, that allege Donald Trump is engaged in a lone attempt to disrupt and uncover a satanic child abuse ring operated by senior Democrats. There is absolutely no evidence of such a network, but the Georgia Republican is far from being the only American to believe it does exist. 

Many of Mr Trump’s supporters who stormed the US Capitol on 6 January, believing his false claim that the election was rigged and that Joe Biden was not the rightful victor, wore QAnon paraphernalia or carried banners indicating such ideas.

House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy pretends he is unfamiliar with QAnon despite denouncing it last year

Ms Greene has previously gone even further, suggesting the attacks of 9/11 did not happen, and that a number of school shootings had been “staged”. In making such claims she echoed the assertions of Alex Jones, a notorious conspiracist  who has been banned from many social media platforms.

Ms Greene has not just simply voiced such claims. Recently uncovered video showed her in March 2019 confronting David Hogg, a survivor of the February 2018 Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 people were killed.

Since the shooting, Mr Hogg and other students have become activists for gun control and regulation. Ms Greene confronted him as he went to testify before the Senate. He refused to engage with her.

“He's a coward,” Ms Greene says, as Mr Hogg walks away. She clams his activism was funded by billionaire philanthropist George Soros, who is often the subject of far-right conspiracy theories. “He can't say one word because he can't defend his stance.”

Ms Greene represents Georgia’s 14th congressional district in a northwest part of the state. Her district voted overwhelmingly for Mr Trump in both 2016 and 2020. 

In the spring of 2020, having decided to run for Congress, Ms Greene, who is the owner of a number of businesses, came first in the Republican primary, and beat John Cowan in the runoff. On the day after her runoff victory, Mr Trump tweeted his support for her, calling her a “future Republican Star who is strong on everything and never gives up – a real WINNER!”.

She was to have faced Democrat Kevin Van Ausdal, an IT specialist, but he withdrew from the race on 11 September, 2020. This left her unopposed for the general election.

An article in the New Yorker last year suggested Ms Greene had originally intended to run for Congress in the more competitive Sixth District, which is closer to Atlanta and where she lived until recently. After Republican Tom Graves stood down, Ms Greene moved to Rome, where she owned a CrossFit gym and co-owned a construction business started by her father. She had never previously run for office. Her district is more than 85 per cent white and only 15 per cent of residents have graduated from college, according to Ballotpedia.

After winning election, Ms Greene has thrown herself into efforts to overturn Mr Biden’s victory, and appeared on stage with Mr Trump when he travelled to Georgia.

“As a matter of fact, I wasn't a political person, until I found a candidate that I really liked and his name is Donald J Trump,” she said on Thursday, in her speech from the floor of the House. “When he ran for president, to me he was someone I could relate to, someone that I enjoyed his plain talk. Not, not the offensive things, but just the way he talked normally.”

While Ms Greene’s affiliation with QAnon beliefs was known as she was running for election and before – in 2018 she reportedly claimed California wildfires were caused by “space lasers” controlled by powerful Jewish families, something she says she does not recall – there has been much greater focus on them since the attacks on the US Capitol.

Marjorie Taylor Greene

This period included the impeachment of Mr Trump by the House, his imminent trial by the Senate, and some degree of soul searching by Republicans over the future of the party, and the role the former president may or may not have in it.

While Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell belatedly described Ms Greene’s "loony tunes" views as “a cancer” on the party, House minority leader Kevin McCarthy has declined to punish her or remove her from her committee positions.

On Wednesday, after a five-hour meeting of House Republicans during which Ms Greene apologised to members and reportedly got a standing ovation, they voted not to censure her. At the same time, in a move that represented something of a careful jugging act, the party also decided not to punish congresswoman Liz Cheney, the third-ranking official in the House, who had been under fire after being one of 10 Republicans who voted with Democrats to impeach Mr Trump.

In many ways, the drama playing out over Ms Greene and her comments is likely indicative of the debates that will dominate the party as it decides its future. Figures such as Mr McCarthy and Mr McConnell, will be keen to avoid allowing Democrats portray Ms Greene as the face of the Republican Party - something they tried to do with the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other progressives - while also not angering the most loyal supporters of Mr Trump.

While Ms Greene has said she no longer believes the conspiracy theories that she learned about on the internet, journalists and others have uncovered many earlier comments she will struggle to explain – in 2019  she “liked” a Facebook comment that said “a bullet to the head would be quicker” to remove Nancys Pelosi as speaker. Elsewhere, she liked comments about executing FBI agents who she said were part of the “deep state” and working against Mr Trump.

Another post from April 2018 involved a commenter asking, “Now do we get to hang them?” when speaking about Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Ms Greene responded: “Stage is being set. Players are being put in place. We must be patient. This must be done perfectly or liberal judges would let them off.”

She has also claimed there is an "Islamic invasion into our government offices right now" and that after the midterm elections "we saw so many Muslims elected ... they want to put their hand on the Quran and be sworn in? No”.

More recently she sought to force congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, who are Muslim, to swear their oaths of office on the Bible.

“We’re going to explain about how you can’t swear in on the Quran,” Ms Greene said in footage that emerged. “We’re going to have the Bible and ask them if they would swear in on the Bible…I think that’s important.”

Ms Greene has also been accused of making numerous antisemitic comments, claims she has denied.

Last week, Ms Greene issued a statement suggesting people other than her had access to her social media accounts. “Over the years, I’ve had teams of people manage my pages,” she wrote.

She added that Facebook posts from “random users” were being used “to try and cancel me and silence my voice”. (When a reporter from The Independent sought comment, they were told: “No foreign media. Thanks!”)

Yet, there has been no public apology for having promoted such false beliefs, and she did not offer one on Thursday. Indeed, she sought to compare compare the conspiracies she once pushed, to the media saying it was "just as guilty as QAnon at presenting truth and lies to divide us".

She concluded her comments by saying she was “a passionate person”, a competitor and a fighter. 

“I will work with you for good things for the people of this country. But the things I will not stand for is abortion, I think it's the worst thing in this country has ever committed, and if we were to say In God We Trust, how do we murder God's creation in the womb,” she said

“Another thing I will say to this body is I want to work with all of you, for our people. It should be America first always, always, and there's nothing wrong with that.” 

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