Written by Frank Lockwood
Published by Arkansas Democrat Gazette
WASHINGTON — Members of the all-Republican Arkansas congressional delegation this week are denouncing the conspiracy theories and extremist rhetoric espoused by U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga.
Several have also voiced support for U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., despite her support for impeaching former President Donald Trump.
Greene, a freshman lawmaker, was recently appointed to the House Committee on Education and Labor by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. She also claims to have Trump’s backing.
But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell condemned Greene’s views Monday evening, portraying them as malignant.
“Loony lies and conspiracy theories are cancer for the Republican Party and our country,” McConnell said in a written statement. “Somebody who’s suggested that perhaps no airplane hit the Pentagon on 9/11, that horrifying school shootings were pre-staged, and that the Clintons crashed JFK Jr.’s airplane is not living in reality. This has nothing to do with the challenges facing American families or the robust debates on substance that can strengthen our party.”
Democratic lawmakers are attempting to have Greene stripped of her committee assignments. Some are seeking to have her expelled from Congress.
In an interview Tuesday, U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., portrayed Greene’s comments as troubling.
“I think the stuff that she’s said is outlandish; just crazy statements. And that’s how I would describe some of the stuff that she’s come up with,” the lawmaker from Rogers said.
“I think it’s very harmful to the Republican Party,” he said. “When a Republican makes those kinds of statements, it reflects on all of us.”
It’s not a problem the Senate can resolve, he suggested.
“The House is going to have to figure out how to deal with that,” he said.
Asked to respond, Greene’s press office pointed to a tweet from earlier in the day:
“Too bad a few Republican Senators are obsessing over me, instead of preparing to defend President Trump from the rabid radical left,” she posted on Twitter. “Focus on ending the witch hunt. Do your job!”
Doubts about Greene aren’t limited to Republican senators, however.
House members from Arkansas have also expressed concern.
U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford of Jonesboro was the first.
“Rep. Greene has made many controversial comments before her campaign for elected office and some during [the campaign] that are both ignorant and indefensible,” Crawford said in a written statement Friday. “Much like former Congressman Steve King, I expect House Republican Leadership to fully address and resolve this matter, which they have said as much in recent days.”
King, an Iowa Republican, was stripped of his committee assignments after comments he made about white supremacy and white nationalism.
Monday, U.S. Rep. Steve Womack of Rogers raised objections as well.
“There is no place in American politics for the kind of vitriolic rhetoric — and the chasing and professing of conspiracy theories — we have seen. It further divides and distracts us from the innumerable challenges we face, not the least of which is defeating the coronavirus. We can’t afford to be sidetracked,” he said in a written statement.
Asked about Greene’s comments, U.S. Rep. French Hill of Little Rock expressed concerns Tuesday.
“Sowing hate and spreading fear has no place in the Republican Party or in the halls of Congress. I call on all of my colleagues, Democrat and Republican, to dispense with the toxic rhetoric and pushing and condoning discredited conspiracy theories,” he said in a written statement.
U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman of Hot Springs said lawmakers ultimately answer to voters in their home states.
“Representatives [Greene] and Cheney are accountable to their constituents. I am focused on the issues affecting Arkansans the most and making sure Republicans win the majority back in 2022, not conspiracies and partisan attacks designed to divide the Republican Conference,” he said in a written statement.
U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton of Little Rock declined to comment.
While some members of the Republican conference want to strip Cheney of her leadership position (she is third behind McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana), she has defenders in the Arkansas delegation.
Removing Cheney “would be a mistake,” said Boozman, who has voiced opposition to further impeachment proceedings.
“I think the impeachment vote is a vote of conscience,” he said. “She felt like she was doing the right thing. Ultimately her voters will decide whether or not they agree with that, but I think she has every right to vote the way she did.”
“Liz Cheney is a close friend and respected colleague. Our friendship transcends politics – and always will,” Womack said.
Hill also voiced support for his colleague from Wyoming.
“The nation needs strong conservative leaders like Liz Cheney and less political brinkmanship. I have known Congresswoman Cheney for more than two decades. She is devoted to our nation and votes for her convictions. Liz is a valued member of the House Republican Conference, and I support her continued role as Conference Chair,” he said.
“I invite my Republican colleagues to hash out our internal differences expeditiously and get focused on the work at hand: leading this nation in fighting against higher taxes, job-killing regulations, and overreach from the Executive Branch. To be successful in this mission, conservatives must be united,” he added.