Yet as shocking as that was, Greene never emerged as a top national news story — until now. And it has prompted a debate in media and political circles about the kind of attention she is receiving.
Just weeks after a violent mob’s invasion of the U.S. Capitol and Donald Trump’s exit from the White House and Twitter, it is Greene, a freshman congresswoman, who has become the central figure in political coverage.
The focus on Greene began last month after CNN investigative outfit K-File and liberal media watchdog Media Matters unearthed Greene's social media activity from 2018 and 2019, in which she endorsed other people’s posts calling for the execution of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and falsely claimed the Parkland, Fla., high school mass shooting was a staged event. (Greene told CNN that many people have managed her social media pages over the years and some posts “did not represent my views. Especially the ones that CNN is about to spread across the Internet.”)
Now these stories have prompted a response on Capitol Hill, where Democrats forced a vote Thursday that stripped Greene of her committee assignments after the top House Republican, Kevin McCarthy, declined to do so. The 230 to 199 vote included 11 Republicans who joined Democrats.
Reporters who used to ask Republicans in the hallways of the Capitol for their reaction to Trump’s tweets are now asking them to comment about Greene’s Facebook posts. Major newspapers have published front-page stories about the drama, including a Washington Post report on how key Republicans aided her political ascent. Since Election Day through midweek, Greene's name was mentioned about 400 times on MSNBC and 200 times on CNN, though just about 30 on Fox News — with mentions starting to rise last week, according to a review using media monitoring service Critical Mention.
All of that coverage has some wondering whether the media is devoting too much of a spotlight on a freshman lawmaker in a minority party — and, as a result, turning her into a star.
“Reporting that a politician believes in/flirts with conspiracy theories is legit, but the attention they get should be proportional to their ability to influence actual public policy,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) tweeted Wednesday. “Don’t make them famous, help them raise money or elevate conspiracy theories.”
CNN host Brianna Keilar took issue with Rubio’s assessment on air. “It was Republicans who elevated this dangerous nonsense,” not the media, she said. “Despite knowing [about] Taylor Greene’s embrace of quackery, some high-profile Republicans endorsed her candidacy anyway,” including Trump.
The debate about Marjorie Taylor Greene comes at a time when journalists have become “more aggressive in calling out disinformation and calling out lies,” and less deferential to powerful officeholders who spout them, said Mark Lukasiewicz, dean of Hofstra University's School of Communication and a former NBC News executive.
Now, though, they are grappling with the question of “how do you cover someone with the abhorrent views that Marjorie Taylor Greene has espoused over the course of time, without amplifying those views?”
Greene, whose office did not reply to The Post’s inquiry, noted on Wednesday that “everyone is talking about me” in a tweet that included links she claimed “the media refuses to share.” One of them was a Fox News interview from August in which the candidate tried to distance herself from her past QAnon commentary, saying she had stopped sharing posts about the ideology “once I started finding misinformation.”
She has also recently deleted old social media posts. In a speech on the House floor Thursday, she clarified that she does believe the 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred, contrary to some of her old statements on social media.
“I was allowed to believe things that weren’t true. I would ask questions about them and talk about them and that is absolutely what I regret,” Greene said. “If it weren’t for the Facebook post 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 anything wrong.”
But she has mostly reacted to the attention to her controversial statements by lashing out at the news media, which she said “is just as guilty as QAnon at presenting lies.”
Greene’s attacks on the media mirror the approach of another politician: Trump, who spent four years casting journalists as “the enemy of the people.”
“It is very obvious in some of her appearances that being ‘hated by the media,’ as she would put it, is the basis to her appeal,” said press critic and New York University professor Jay Rosen, who sees no easy answer for journalists in this paradox. “Therefore critical coverage is not actually accomplishing what we think of it as doing: accountability. It’s actually building her résumé.”
And Greene has turned all those negative headlines into a fundraising opportunity; she told her supporters last week that she has raised more than $1.6 million since the CNN and Media Matters reports last month.
It can be confounding for journalists to see a politician benefit from scandalous stories, Lukasiewicz acknowledged. “Is the answer to that, well, we just won’t cover these stories? For journalists to start to calculate the further consequences of doing that job and somehow calculate what the end result should be is not really our role.”
Media critic Maria Bustillos argued that the Greene story could be better served by more sophisticated presentation of the facts, including her fundraising bonanza. News outlets have a responsibility “to inform readers in an ethical way, and not to take the shiniest bait,” she said. “The quality of information you’re handing out to them so they can make important decisions about how to live their lives should take precedence over some scandalous thing that gets attention.”
Greene has managed to stay in the spotlight despite not appearing on any major broadcast or cable news networks lately — though whether that’s through her decision or theirs is unclear. While Fox News has interviewed her in the past, she has recently lashed out at the network, like many of Trump’s most avid supporters.
Instead, she has been making the rounds on platforms more friendly to her message, appearing as a guest on Newsmax in mid-January where she was interviewed by the network’s biggest star, Greg Kelly, who called the congresswoman a “big hit.”
And in an appearance on One America News, another small cable network that has tried to outflank Fox News from the right, Greene declared “the bloodthirsty media” is “bringing out little pieces of things” and “twisting them into the story that they want the public to believe about me” by highlighting past social media posts that advocated killing top Democrats.
She also went on a podcast hosted by conservative provocateur Dinesh D’Souza on Wednesday to complain that she is “being crucified” for “reading about things, posting about them and asking questions” on Facebook.
And she has been using Trump’s favored platform, Twitter, to put out her message unfiltered.
“I woke up early this morning literally laughing thinking about what a bunch of morons the Democrats (+11)” — referencing the 11 Republicans who voted to strip her of committee assignments — “are for giving some one like me free time,” she tweeted Friday.
(Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., as Parkland High School. This version has been updated.)
Jeremy Barr contributed to this report.