Unfortunately, the problem here runs deeper than that of a deranged congresswoman. It is the unhinged, morally bankrupt and chronically dishonest behavior of many of the party’s leading voices.
Georgia’s Marjorie Taylor Greene is no stranger to outrageous, offensive, and downright weird behavior. And on Monday she did it again, tweeting: “Murkowski, Collins and Romney are pro-pedophiles” because they “simply voted for #KBJ
“- a reference to Ketanji Brown Jackson, a federal judge set to become the next Supreme Court justice, and three moderate Republican senators who say they will vote to confirm her.
The accusation is ugly, but Greene isn’t the only Republican making it, or at least hinting at it. During Jackson’s confirmation hearings, several Republicans misrepresented her record and obscured the facts to suggest that she was soft on pedophiles.
“Judge Jackson is in the habit of letting child pornography offenders off the hook for their heinous crimes,” said Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri. “He also has a consistent pattern of giving lighter sentences to child pornography offenders,” said Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee. Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah tweeted
, “We Need Real Answers” on “Judge Jackson’s Very Real Record on Child Porn Cases.” Justice Jackson “apparently believes that the mandatory minimums for child pornography are too strict,” Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas said on Fox News. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas told Jackson, “I also see a history of activism and advocacy when it comes to sexual predators going back decades.”
Of course, this doesn’t make sense. Jackson is not soft on pedophiles, and her record is not out of line with the rest of the federal judiciary, a point reinforced by a group of retired federal judges, two of whom were Republican appointees. Accusations that Jackson is somehow soft on pedophiles are so false that even a writer for the conservative National Review condemned them as meritless libel.
And of course Greene ran with them.
Unlike her colleagues, Greene doesn’t seem particularly sophisticated when it comes to laying out outlandish false accusations in the kind of polite language that goes straight to the line but doesn’t provoke the backlash it deserves. Instead, Greene says flatly what her fellow Republicans have hinted for weeks: that a sitting federal judge and future Supreme Court justice is “pro-pedophile,” and so is anyone who supports her confirmation.
Greene’s comments, as well as false accusations from members of his party, do additional damage beyond simply ripping apart a superlative nominee like Jackson. They also fuel the QAnon conspiracy theory that has bolstered support for former President Donald Trump and gripped the right-wing fringe years ago, and appears to be widening its reach.
QAnon followers believe that the government is controlled by a Deep State cabal of pedophiles. None of that is true, of course, but several members of the GOP seem to think that QAnon believers vote, and are more likely to vote Republican if the party can convince them that they are siding with Trump, fighting the secret network. of pedophilia at the heart of the United States government.
And now, with his tweet, Greene has put members of his own party in the crosshairs of QAnon. It’s so absurd that it might be funny if it weren’t so dangerous, and if so many elected Republicans weren’t so willing to toy with conspiracy theorists whose ideas only further destabilize American democracy and have already led to repeated violence.
The Republican Party must take responsibility for its party members. It is abhorrent that a sitting congresswoman can accuse her colleagues of being “pro-pedophiles” with little consequence. This is a repeated pattern of egregious behavior and damaging lies from Greene, and it’s been a long time since the Republican leadership stepped in.
But the party also needs to look at how, exactly, someone like Greene ended up in its ranks in the first place, and why she is so often on the hook for saying in crude terms what so many other Republicans are implying in more codified terms. language.
Fueling QAnon talking points while formally denying any involvement with QAnon is one way to garner support from pro-Trump conservatives. But Republicans must remember that there are more important things than building power and winning elections: American democracy, stability and cohesion among them.