WASHINGTON — The U.S. House in an extraordinary move voted Thursday to remove Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from her committee assignments, citing a series of violent, anti-Semitic comments and social media posts she made before being elected to Congress in November.
The 230-199 vote — with 11 Republicans joining with Democrats in support — came hours after the Georgia Republican walked back some of her most incendiary comments, saying she “was allowed to believe things that weren’t true.” The 11 Republicans were Mario Diaz-Balart, Carlos Gimenez and Maria Salazar of Florida; Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania; Fred Upton of Michigan; Chris Jacobs, Nicole Malliotakis and John Katko of New York; Young Kim of California; Adam Kinzinger of Illinois; and Christopher Smith of New Jersey.
Greene’s removal from two committees was a rare rebuke that followed a growing outcry among Democrats. The action was most recently taken in 2019, when GOP leaders removed then-Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) after a news interview in which he questioned why white nationalism was considered offensive and racist. King was defeated in the 2020 primary.
In a 10-minute speech on the House floor Thursday afternoon, Greene offered an explanation for the conspiracy theories and misinformation in her social media posts.
She did not apologize, and the House continued toward the vote on removing Greene from the Education and Labor panel, and the Budget Committee.
Greene, who represents the 14th Congressional District in northwest Georgia, said that she sought out information on the Internet after losing trust in the government and the media, but later stopped believing the conspiracy theories circulated by fringe groups like QAnon.
“I was allowed to believe things that weren’t true, and I would ask questions about them and talk about them,” Greene said. “And that is absolutely what I regret, because if it weren’t for the Facebook posts and comments that I liked in 2018, I wouldn’t be standing here today and you couldn’t point a finger and accuse me of doing anything wrong, because I’ve lived a very good life that I’m proud of.”
The controversy has stemmed from the posts Greene made before she was elected to Congress in November.
In those posts, she endorsed a range of conspiracy theories, including that several deadly mass school shootings were staged, and liked a post that called for putting a bullet in the head of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat.
She also questioned the veracity of the Sept. 11 attacks.
In her floor remarks Thursday, Greene recanted some of her rhetoric, saying “school shootings are absolutely real,” and that the 9/11 attacks “absolutely happened.” She said that in late 2018, she began to identify “misinformation” in QAnon posts, and stopped believing what she had been reading.
Greene blamed the media for the controversy around her posts, accusing reporters of using “teeny, tiny pieces of words that I’ve said” to misrepresent her views.
Some of her social media rhetoric, largely from 2018 and 2019, was publicly documented before her election. But after House Republican leaders tapped her for the Education and Labor Committee, Democrats expressed outrage at that assignment, citing her comments about school shootings.
The National Education Association, which represents public school teachers and support staff, also sent a letter to legislators in support of removing Greene from the education panel.
“If this is not the bottom, I don’t know what the hell is,” Rep. Jim McGovern, chairman of the House Rules Committee, said Wednesday, describing Greene’s past comments as violating the chamber’s standards of conduct.
After Greene’s speech Thursday, McGovern (D-Mass.) responded that he was “still deeply, deeply troubled” by her comments and posts, noting that she did not denounce, or apologize for, liking the comment about attacking Pelosi, or for anti-Semitic, Islamophobic comments.
He also said some of her posts were made in 2019, after she said she stopped believing in QAnon theories.
“The gentlewoman’s campaign has profited off of these hurtful remarks and these dangerous statements, so I just point that out,” McGovern added.
House Republicans have largely declined to defend Greene’s comments, but caucus leaders also have declined to undo her committee assignments. GOP legislators also questioned the precedent of punishing lawmakers for comments made before they were elected.
Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) criticized Democrats as engaging in a “dangerous new standard” that he said would “deepen divisions” in Congress.
McCarthy also accused the majority party of ignoring “infractions” by Democrats. Without naming her, he cited Rep. Ilhan Omar’s comments critical of Israel and U.S. supporters of Israel.
Omar (D-Minn.) later apologized for those remarks, which were brought up again by Republicans who attempted to retaliate this week with an unsuccessful push to remove Omar from committees.
Editor’s note: The story and headline was updated at 5:15 p.m., Feb. 4, 2021, to include information about the vote to remove Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from her committee assignments.