Is Far-Right QAnon Conspiracy Theorist Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene the New Face of the GOP?

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Image Credit: Facebook: Marjorie Taylor Greene

Republicans face increasing pressure to strip Georgia Congressmember Marjorie Taylor Greene of her post on the House Education Committee. Greene was elected in November 2020 and is a far-right conspiracy theorist who has promoted QAnon, supported the execution of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and claimed the school shootings in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, and Parkland, Florida, were staged — as was the September 11 attack on the Pentagon. She also has a history of racist, anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic comments. Bee Nguyen, a Democratic state representative in Georgia, recently joined other lawmakers in signing a resolution that calls on Greene to resign. “The congresswoman has proven to be dangerous, not just to our state, but to our country,” says Nguyen. We also speak with Michael Edison Hayden, senior reporter for the Southern Poverty Law Center, who says media discussions of QAnon and other far-right conspiracy theories tend to focus on how outlandish they are rather than on their hateful content. “While some of these ideas are crazy-sounding to people, I think it’s very, very helpful to start reframing it in your mind as something that is part of this drift toward anti-democratic, hard-right, authoritarian tendencies in the Republican Party,” says Hayden.

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Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: In Washington, D.C., Republicans are facing increasing pressure to strip newly elected Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene from her new post on the Education Committee. Greene is the far-right conspiracy theorist who supported the execution of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and has claimed the school shootings at Sandy Hook, Connecticut, and Parkland, Florida, were staged, as was the September 11th attack on the Pentagon. She also has a history of making racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic comments. At least 50 House Democrats have backed a resolution to remove her from office. Congressmember Greene was elected in November after Donald Trump called her a, quote, “future Republican star.”

Recently resurfaced video shows Greene confronted one of the Parkland survivors, the teenager David Hogg, when he visited Capitol Hill in 2019 to lobby lawmakers to enact gun control.

MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE: Look, I’m an American citizen. I’m a gun owner. I have a concealed carry permit. I carry a gun for protection for myself. And you are using your lobby and the money behind it and the kids to try to take away my Second Amendment rights.

AMY GOODMAN: Greene has claimed the massacre at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School that David Hogg survived was a false flag operation. In 2019, she liked a comment on social media that said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should be taken out and that a, quote, “bullet to the head would be quicker,” unquote. Greene has also publicly called for Pelosi’s execution.

MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE: She’s a traitor to our country. She’s guilty of treason. … It’s a crime punishable by death, is what treason is. Nancy Pelosi is guilty of treason, and we want her out of our government.

AMY GOODMAN: CNN reports Marjorie Taylor Greene recently removed that video from her Facebook page. In another resurfaced video, Greene talks about the QAnon conspiracy theory.

MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE: Is it going to be true that the child pedophilia and the elites in the Washington, D.C. — is that what we’re really going to see come out? Is it true — is the type of corruption we’re going to see come out — is it going to be satanic worship that possibly all these people are involved in? … Maybe that all these scary things that people talk about on what’s considered conspiracy sites and conspiracy theories really may be true. But that’s what Q has been telling everyone.

AMY GOODMAN: In 2018, Marjorie Taylor Greene also claimed a laser beam from outer space started the deadly Camp Fire in California. Greene cited “Rothschild Inc” — a common anti-Semitic trope — as being responsible. In fact, Pacific Gas & Electric has pleaded guilty in the deaths of 84 people killed in the wildfire.

Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rebuked House Republicans for putting the far-right conspiracy theorist on the Education Committee.

SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI: Assigning her to the Education Committee, when she has mocked the killing of little children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, when she has mocked the killing of teenagers in high school at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, what could they be thinking? Or is “thinking” too generous a word for what they might be doing? It’s absolutely appalling.

AMY GOODMAN: On Friday, newly elected Democratic Congressmember Cori Bush of Missouri said she’s moving her office away from Marjorie Taylor Greene’s office. Bush said the move was needed, quote, “for my team’s safety.”

To talk more about Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, we’re joined by two guests. Michael Edison Hayden, senior investigative reporter and spokesperson for the Southern Poverty Law Center, is joining us. And Bee Nguyen is with us, Democratic state representative in Georgia. Her district includes Atlanta. She’s joined other lawmakers signing a resolution calling on Greene to resign.

State Legislator Nguyen, why don’t we begin with you? Explain exactly what you’re calling for. Marjorie Taylor Greene was popularly elected in your state of Georgia.

REP. BEE NGUYEN: Yes. My Democratic colleagues and I have signed an urging resolution to ask members of Congress to ask Marjorie Greene to resign. The congresswoman has proven to be dangerous, not just to our state, but to our country. And she continues, as you mentioned before, to continue to spread conspiracy theories. She continues to state her allegiance to the former president. And she has continued to incite violence on Democratic members and her colleagues.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, state Representative, you’re from Georgia, as she is. Could you tell us a little bit about the district that she represents and her constituents, and what led them to elect her?

REP. BEE NGUYEN: She represents northwest Georgia. And she was able to win in November of 2020 without any opposition from a Democrat. It is a heavily Republican district, but the Democratic nominee dropped out before the general election because of personal reasons, so voters did not have a choice in terms of voting for somebody besides her, though she was popularly elected in that specific district. Her allegiance to the president has been something that she has used to continue her popularity in northwest Georgia, but the majority of Georgians did not vote for the former president. They voted for President Biden, they voted for Jon Ossoff, and they voted for Raphael Warnock.

AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about gerrymandering and how that affected her district?

REP. BEE NGUYEN: Yes. In the state of Georgia, we suffer from gerrymandering. It is a heavily Republican district. And so, there is no opportunity in the future to potentially unseat her in 2022. The numbers there are challenging. So, even if Democrats coalesced around a candidate, we know it’s going to be an uphill battle.

On the other hand, with gerrymandering, what it causes is it causes extremism in the Republican Party. So, anybody running against her may feel that they have to run to the right of her. And that is what many Republicans struggle with in the state of Georgia: How far right do they go during a primary election? And then, once they go that far right, how do you begin to walk yourself back from that? And from somebody like her, it is hard to see that somebody would go to the right of her.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Democratic state Legislator Bee Nguyen, we thank you so much for being with us.

We want to turn to freshman Democratic Congressmember Cori Bush, who tweeted, quote, “A maskless Marjorie Taylor Greene & her staff berated me in a hallway. She targeted me & others on social media. I’m moving my office away from hers for my team’s safety. I’ve called for the expulsion of members who incited the insurrection from Day 1. Bring H.Res 25 to a vote,” she said.

We want to bring in Michael Edison Hayden into this conversation. You are senior investigative reporter and spokesperson for the Southern Poverty Law Center. Can you talk about what Marjorie Taylor Greene represents, starting on the issue of QAnon? Talk about her calling for the execution, a bullet to the head, of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. And put it in the context of what we saw January 6th, the insurrection at the Capitol.

MICHAEL EDISON HAYDEN: Thanks, Amy.

So, I think the easiest way for the audience to understand how we got here with somebody like Marjorie Taylor Greene is to understand that she started sort of as a social media performer, who filled the vacuum left behind by the sort of intellectual rot of conservative media. Greene started to get likes and shares and so forth for promoting these kind of unhinged conspiracy theories, which are inherently hateful.

And I think one thing that people misunderstand when they talk about QAnon and stuff like that is that I think the media kind of gets on this topic of discussion about just like how crazy it is, that this is like, oh, you know, these nutjobs or whatever, something like that. And understand, this is really hateful stuff that we’re talking about here. Marjorie Taylor Greene has embraced explicitly anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. She once claimed that the Christchurch terror attack was a false flag. You can’t get more anti-Muslim than that. And she aligns herself with anti-LGBTQ groups.

So, you know, while some of these ideas are crazy-sounding to people, I think it’s very, very helpful to start reframing it in your mind as something that is just part of this drift toward anti-democratic, hard-right, authoritarian tendencies in the Republican Party, that is something we need to take very, very seriously and something that’s very concerning for me.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: You’ve mentioned the impact of an algorithm-driven ecosystem of online right-wing commentary as helping to build a following for Marjorie Taylor Greene. Could you explain?

MICHAEL EDISON HAYDEN: Yeah, Juan. So, basically, these social media companies have — you know, almost like the tobacco industry — created these algorithms that are meant to make you addicted to their apps and their websites. And these things, like if you look at Twitter and stuff like that, it really serves as a radicalization engine for extremists. And you look around you, and you say, like, “Oh my god. Like, I don’t remember things being like this 10 years ago or 15 years ago.” Some of it has to do with the lies being pumped in by the Republican Party for years about things that we don’t even cover, like climate change and stuff like that. But a lot of it has to do with this just radicalization engine on people’s phones.

And again, Marjorie Taylor Greene is receiving likes and upvotes and so forth for giving voice to these grievances that people in the Republican Party have, or at least their base of support has. You look at where they get their news from. I mean, Jack Posobiec of One America News is — you know, his rise as a public figure is tied to the white supremacist movement. He has collaborated with neo-Nazis. These are the type of people they’re getting their news from. And it has to do with these figures taking advantage of the infrastructure of social media to get people addicted and to continue to feed this radicalization engine on people’s phones.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Michael Edison Hayden, if you can talk about the Republican leadership facilitation of Marjorie Taylor Greene? She believes what she believes, but not all congressmembers are put on committees. She has been elevated, even as Liz Cheney, number three in the leadership, is being attacked roundly for supporting the impeachment of President Trump. But what does this mean? And what do you think the Republican leadership needs to do? Apparently, Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, is going to be meeting with Greene this week, after he just went down to Mar-a-Lago to spend time with Donald Trump.

MICHAEL EDISON HAYDEN: Well, I mean, if you look at the Republican Party right now, they have this inability to disavow people. And if you recall, Southern Poverty Law Center published a very large investigation about Stephen Miller’s private emails, showed him connected to groups like VDARE. And it used to be, in the past, that these types of investigations, Republicans didn’t want anything to do with it, because it was too toxic. But as we got closer and closer to the 2020 election, we saw this total unwillingness to disavow.

And Marjorie Taylor Greene, I think, is going to be the most extreme test of this thought. They’re going to — the issue is that she is of the base — right? — now that the base is now in power. And she’s really a very — like a post-Trump extremist congresswoman, in the sense that — if you remember Steve King from Iowa, who espoused these kind of white nationalist ideas and was associated with extremist groups, he kept trying to cage his beliefs in ideas that would sound acceptable to what he perceived to be mainstream conservatives. Greene is extremely outspoken about her — the things that she hates, about her anti-democratic, hard-right, authoritarian views. I’m talking about executing politicians and so forth.

This is a new world. And the fact that they’re unwilling to disavow, it’s almost like there are kind of like these soft barriers that exist between violent, far-right extremists and your sort of mainstream, tea party type, you know, or at least your image of that sort of person. And these soft barriers eroded over the course of the Trump era, and eroded and eroded. And they really snapped on January 6th. And then you had these people who look like grandmothers or whatever standing with people wearing these “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt or whatever. I mean, this is really dark stuff. And I’m not particularly optimistic, to be honest with you, that McCarthy or anybody else is going to take a strong public stance and disavow, because this is what the Republican Party has become, unfortunately.

AMY GOODMAN: They stripped King of his appointments, and ultimately he would lose in Iowa, when he didn’t have the clout that the people of Iowa in his district needed.

MICHAEL EDISON HAYDEN: That’s correct.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you see anything like that happening with Congressmember Greene?

MICHAEL EDISON HAYDEN: I mean, it’s theoretically possible. But the fact that Trump incited this insurrection — and, I mean, I think that’s pretty clear; that’s my perception of it — and they are still willing to kind of go to bed with Trump, I think, says something about their fear of the base, that the base is actually in control of the Republican Party in some ways.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Michael Edison Hayden, we’re going to leave it there. We want to thank you so much for being with us, senior investigative reporter with the Southern Poverty Law Center.

When we come back, well, Black History Month has begun. We look back at the assassination of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton in Chicago 51 years ago. New documents suggest J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, was involved with Fred Hampton’s murder. And we’ll speak to the director of a film that’s premiering at Sundance called Judas and the Black Messiah. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: “Have You Been to Jail for Justice?” by the renowned folksinger Anne Feeney. Anne has been hospitalized with pneumonia related to COVID-19.

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