By Dave Williams
Capitol Beat News Service
ATLANTA - U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene Thursday walked back many of the controversial remarks and social media postings that have made the freshman Republican from Northwest Georgia a political lightning rod.
But Greene’s 10-minute speech on the House floor didn’t stop majority Democrats from passing a resolution 218-210 along party lines stripping her of assignments to serve on the House Budget and Education and Labor committees.
Greene, R-Rome, described herself to her new colleagues as a wife, mother and successful business owner who didn’t get involved in politics until the election of former President Donald Trump.
She said her belief that Trump would act to curb abortion and illegal immigration and get the U.S. out of foreign wars led her to begin researching the internet, where she stumbled upon QAnon, a far-right group that traffics in baseless conspiracy theories.
Greene said she has since learned that QAnon spreads lies, that the 9-11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon did happen and that the school shootings in Connecticut and Florida were real.
In previous remarks and social media postings, she has praised QAnon for patriotism, questioned whether a jet plane flew into the Pentagon and stated the school shootings were staged to create momentum for gun control legislation.
But on Thursday, Greene said she made those comments before she decided to run for Congress and blamed “big media companies” for using them to mischaracterize her.
“I never once said during my entire campaign … any of the things I’m being accused of saying today,” she said. “These were words of the past. These things do not represent me, my district or my values.”
But Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., chairman of the House Rules Committee, which brought the resolution to the House floor, said Greene’s “disgusting rhetoric” cannot be tolerated if the House is to maintain a “standard of decency.”
He pointed particularly to Greene’s “liking” of a tweet in 2018 advocating the assassination of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“Serving on a committee is not a right but a privilege,” McGovern said. “When someone encourages violence against a member, they should lose that privilege.”
Greene’s Republican defenders said stripping her of her committee assignments would mark an unwise precedent, the first time one party has moved to take away the assignments of a member of the other party.
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., the Rules Committee’s ranking Republican, warned Democrats could get a taste of the same medicine the next time Republicans capture a majority in the House.
“I find the comments made by the representative in question before she was elected to Congress to be deeply offensive,” he said. [But] if we open this Pandora’s Box … it runs the risk of getting into a tit-for-tat exchange that could cripple the operations of this House now and in the future.”
Cole and other Republicans also argued Greene was being punished without the benefit of a hearing before the House Ethics Committee.
“She and every other member of this body should be entitled to due process,” said Rep. Austin Scott, R-Tifton.
But McGovern said a hearing into whether what Greene did merits punishment is unnecessary.
“Look at her social media posts. It’s all there,” he said. “They go well beyond anything we’ve ever seen from a member in this body.”
McGovern also pointed to Greene’s fundraising activities since taking office last month as evidence that she is not apologizing for what she has said and posted. Last month, Greene said she had raised $1.6 million due to the media publicity surrounding her controversial remarks.
Greene trounced Democrat Kevin Van Ausdal in Georgia’s heavily Republican 14th Congressional District last fall after he had dropped out of the race. She defeated neurosurgeon John Cowan for the GOP nomination in August by a margin of 57% to 43%.