Controversy puts spotlight on Georgia congressional runoff
DALLAS, Ga. (AP) — Marjorie Taylor Greene is running for Congress - and is unrepentant about her racist rhetoric and support for the QAnon conspiracy theory.
With the runoff for the Republican nomination in the conservative district approaching, some voters seem unaware of Greene’s controversial views, or shrug it off.
Greene received the most votes in the June 9 Republican primary for Georgia’s 14th Congressional District but failed to win outright. She now faces fellow Republican John Cowan, a neurosurgeon, in a runoff election Tuesday for the open seat.
The district, which stretches from the outskirts of metro Atlanta to the largely rural northwest corner of the state, is heavily conservative, and the winner of the runoff will likely earn a ticket to Washington.
Greene often communicates with supporters through stream-of-consciousness style videos posted to social media.
Shortly after the initial primary, Politico revealed a series of videos where Greene, who is white, expresses racist, anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim views. In one of the videos she claims there’s an “Islamic invasion” into government offices. In another, she says Black and Hispanic men are being held back by “gangs and dealing drugs,” later adding, “it’s not white people.” She also has touted an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros, who is Jewish, collaborated with the Nazis.
Greene’s campaign did not respond to multiple interview requests from The Associated Press. But she previously addressed the criticism on Twitter. “The Fake News Media, the DC Swamp, and their radical leftist allies see me as a very serious threat. I will not let them whip me into submission,” she said without backing away from the remarks.
The unearthed videos led several high-profile Republicans to denounce her campaign. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana released a statement calling Greene’s comments “disgusting” and threw his support behind Cowan. Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia clawed back his endorsement of Greene, saying her statements are “appalling and deeply troubling.”
But many other Republican officials have remained on the sidelines.
Greene is also part of a growing list of candidates who have expressed support for QAnon, the far-right U.S. conspiracy theory popular among some supporters of President Donald Trump. Lauren Boebert, another candidate who has expressed support for QAnon, recently upset a five-term congressman in a Republican primary in Colorado.
Cowan has expressed staunch support for Trump, touting a pro-gun and pro-border wall message. He says he’ll use his experience as a doctor to improve the health care system and will push to repeal the Affordable Care Act, though he supports keeping protections for pre-existing conditions.
He has also strongly pushed back on Greene’s rhetoric.
“She loves saying inflammatory, incendiary things to get attention and to get likes and to make news, but then when she’s questioned about it, she just folds,” Cowan said in an interview. “You can’t challenge anything she’s said without being accused of being part of the ‘swamp’ or ‘fake news.’”
While Greene’s comments have caused a stir in Washington, some in her district seemed unaware or unfazed by them while casting ballots during early voting.
Kris Young, who voted for Greene at a polling site in Dallas, Georgia, on Thursday, said he hadn’t heard the criticism.
“I don’t even know if I’d buy into that,” Young said. “She’s just pro-American is what I see.”
Larry Silker, a 72-year-old retiree who cast a ballot at the same location, said he saw Greene as a “go-getter” and voted for her. Reports of Greene’s racist remarks didn’t dissuade him.
“Well yeah, you know, you see it,” he said. “But do you put faith in it?”
There were critics of Greene voting as well.
“Don’t like her. Don’t care for some of the things I’ve read about her and heard about her,” said Gene Melton, a 53-year-old truck driver.
Kerwin Swint, director of the School of Government and International Affairs at Kennesaw State University, said Greene initially appealed to many conservatives who want a firebrand in the seat, but that her chances of winning have been complicated as more information comes to light.
“She is not just a conservative, she is literally on the fringe of some very troubling beliefs,” Swint said.
“This is the kind of candidate that a lot of Republicans, and really I’m talking about Republican officials who are elected and appointed, sort of cringe when they hear what she says or they look at what she believes in,” he said.
Greene has also expressed strong views on the removal of Confederate monuments.
“Whether I see a statue that may be something I would fully disagree with, like Adolf Hitler, maybe a statue of Satan himself, I would not want to say, ‘take it down,’” Greene said at a city council meeting in Dalton, Georgia, in mid-June. “But again, it’s so that I could tell my children and teach others about who these people are, what they did, and what they may be about.”