Less than 48 hours after a deadly shooting by a White nationalist in Buffalo, New York, Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney minced no words in her assessment of where blame lies.
“The House GOP leadership has enabled white nationalism, white supremacy, and anti-semitism,” tweeted Cheney on Monday morning. “History has taught us that what begins with words ends in far worse. @GOP leaders must renounce and reject these views and those who hold them.”
Which is, well, pretty damning.
But, is it right?
That question doesn’t have an easy answer but there is some evidence to suggest that House GOP leaders – of which Cheney was one before being ousted last year for her willingness to criticize former President Donald Trump – have, at a minimum, been willing to look the other way as some of their rank and file have flirted with major figures in the white nationalist movement.
In February, Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Paul Gosar of Arizona addressed a conference organized by Nick Fuentes, a prominent White nationalist. (For Gosar, it was the latest in a series of episodes linking him to White nationalist leaders and rhetoric.)
While some Republicans – most notably Utah Sen. Mitt Romney – blasted Greene and Gosar for their attendance, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was largely mum.
This exchange, in early March, between the California Republican and Capitol Hill reporters on that topic is telling:
Reporter: Any update on your conversations with Congressman Gosar and Greene?
McCarthy: Yes, I’ve talked to Greene. I’m still waiting to talk to Gosar.
McCarthy: I’ve talked to them.
Reporter: But I think you told Jake and Manu [Raju] there’s no place for that?
McCarthy: There isn’t no place for that. There’s no place for what has gone on with that organization by far, and there never will be in this party, and it’ll never be tolerated.
Reporter: Will she go again?
McCarthy: No, she will not go again.
Reporter: Any repercussions for her?
McCarthy: Look, my conversations with my members are exactly that, and I appreciate you asking. … They have the ability to be able to get committees based upon that time when it comes.
Which, well, yeah.
Over the weekend, Illinois Republican Rep. Adam, Kinzinger suggested that New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, the number three Republican in House leadership who replaced Cheney last year, pushed “white replacement theory” – the idea that White people are being purposely replaced in America by minorities.
Kinzinger was referencing Facebook ads paid for by Stefanik’s campaign that used language echoing replacement theory. “Radical Democrats are planning their most aggressive move yet: a PERMANENT ELECTION INSURRECTION,” read the text of the ad, with an image of migrants crossing the border reflected in President Joe Biden’s sunglasses.
In a statement released Monday morning, Alex DeGrasse, a senior adviser to Stefanik, said that “any implication or attempt to blame the heinous shooting in Buffalo on the Congresswoman is a disgusting new low for the Left, their Never Trump allies and their sycophant stenographers in the media.”
Which, well, OK.
Here’s the thing: When you don’t condemn and punish members of your own party when they flirt with White nationalists and White nationalist ideology, you open the door for it to happen more often.
That fact doesn’t mean that the likes of McCarthy or Stefanik bear direct blame for what happened in Buffalo over the weekend. But, there is no question that Republican leaders have allowed intolerance – and noxious notions like White replacement theory – to fester within a part of their ranks over the past few years.
And, as Cheney rightly notes, those actions – or, more accurately, that inaction – have consequences.