The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw told supporters Trump lost to Biden. The Republican was heckled and called a RINO.

In a video posted to his YouTube, Republican Senate candidate Bobby Piton interrupted Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Tex.) at a fundraiser in Rosemont, Ill., on Aug. 11. (Video: Bobby Piton)
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Few would criticize Republican Rep. Dan Crenshaw for not being conservative enough.

The second-term Texas congressman opposes abortion, trumpets his pro-gun stances and defended President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. In May, he launched a website inviting service members to blow the whistle on the military’s diversity and inclusion programs.

“Enough is enough,” he wrote in a May 28 Twitter post. “We won’t let our military fall to woke ideology.”

But at a GOP fundraiser in Illinois on Wednesday night, the Texan clashed with a fellow Republican after Crenshaw told the crowd the 2020 election was not stolen and the results would not be overturned. Trump falsely claimed he won the race long after the electoral college backed the winner, President Biden, and dozens of judges rejected claims of election fraud.

“Don’t kid yourself into believing that’s why we lost. It’s not,” Crenshaw told the crowd.

Bobby Piton, a Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Illinois, disagreed. In a 54-second clip posted to his campaign’s YouTube account, Piton can be seen interrupting Crenshaw, saying he has “plenty of proof” the presidential election was stolen and the outcome would be reversed.

“You’re wrong,” Piton said repeatedly, talking over Crenshaw. “You watch … you’re going to see firsthand.”

“I’m not wrong,” the congressman responded. “Five different states? Hundreds of thousands of votes? You’re kidding yourself.”

Crenshaw’s office did not respond to a request for comment Thursday night about the exchange.

The heart of Piton’s campaign are the baseless claims that the presidency was stolen from Trump in a rigged election. After losing, the former president spent weeks attacking the results, leading to the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally and riot at the Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters.

More than seven months later, the false claims — often packaged as “election integrity” — continue to affect the Republican political landscape. As things gear up for the 2022 midterms, Piton is one of dozens of candidates echoing those claims.

In Piton’s video description section on YouTube, his campaign called Crenshaw a RINO, meaning a Republican in name only, a political slur used against GOP officials not considered conservative enough. The campaign lumped in Crenshaw with others Piton considers RINOs: Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), two Republican members of Congress who voted to impeach Trump because of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

“Crenshaw … represents one of many intellectually dishonest Congressmen in our party who don’t care about FREEDOM LOVING PATRIOTS,” Piton’s campaign wrote in the video’s description.

Rep. Dan Crenshaw’s search for ‘woke military’ complaints draws ridicule — and war movie quotes

The campaign, which did not respond to a Thursday night email from The Washington Post, also encouraged conservatives in Texas to defeat Crenshaw in the Republican primary when he is up for reelection next year.

On Twitter, Piton went further, saying Crenshaw — who served as a Navy SEAL and lost an eye in a bomb explosion in Afghanistan — seemed to be “crossing over to traitor status.”

“I’m grateful I could expose yet another corrupt politician,” Piton said on Twitter.

Piton is a managing partner at a financial planning and investment firm. After the 2020 election, he emerged as a key figure in the audit of ballots in Arizona, part of a campaign to amplify baseless claims of election fraud.

His campaign website claims his “stunning testimony” exposed “the fraudulent election results in Arizona.” Piton also prides himself on participating in the production of “The Deep Rig,” a movie about the supposed fraud.

What’s Become of QAnon Since Trump’s Defeat?

Piton has also been linked to QAnon, the baseless theory that claims Trump is fighting Satan-worshipping pedophiles — including celebrities and prominent Democrats, though the candidate told the Daily Beast “he didn’t know much” about the movement.

He is one of five Republicans running for the Senate seat held by Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat.