“Loony lies and conspiracy theories are cancer for the Republican Party and our country,” says Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Republican leader in the Senate, wants to know whether House Republicans “want to be the party of limited government ... or do they want to be the party of conspiracy theories and QAnon?” (He might not like the answer.) Sen. Todd C. Young (R-Ind.) thunders that he has “no tolerance” for “someone who indulges in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and all manner of other nonsense.”
Here’s a reminder of what all of these Republicans seem to have instantly forgotten: They spent the past four years tolerating and even supporting “loony lies and conspiracy theories” emanating not from a powerless House newcomer but from the most powerful man on the planet. Greene might be marginally kookier than former president Donald Trump — but only marginally. His whole political career was defined by his advocacy of insane conspiracy theories, and far from disavowing Greene’s “nonsense,” Trump praised QAnon believers as “people that love our country.”
Trump has espoused so many “loony lies” that it’s hard to remember them all. FactCheck.org has a handy guide. Trump, recall, first rose to political prominence by claiming to have evidence that then-President Barack Obama wasn’t really born in the United States. During the 2016 presidential campaign, he claimed that Ted Cruz’s father had helped to kill John F. Kennedy; that Obama had founded the Islamic State; that Muslims in Jersey City had celebrated the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks; and that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia may have been murdered.
Being in office — and getting access to the products of the U.S. intelligence community — did not sober up Trump. He claimed that Obama and his top aides “spied on my campaign and went for a coup,” that he had been framed on charges of colluding with Russia and that a Democratic National Committee server had ended up in Ukraine. He repeatedly suggested that TV anchor Joe Scarborough had murdered one of his staffers when he was a congressman. He retweeted a claim from a QAnon-linked account that Obama may have had SEAL Team Six killed and that Osama bin Laden was still alive. He also retweeted a suggestion that the Clintons had killed Jeffrey Epstein in jail. He suggested that Joe Biden was taking performance-enhancing drugs and being controlled by “people that are in the dark shadows.” He tweeted that a 75-year-old man who was hospitalized after being shoved by police was an “ANTIFA provocateur.” He argued that covid-19 death numbers were “exaggerated” by health authorities and that injecting bleach could cure the disease. And, of course, he continues to assert that he won the 2020 election “in a landslide.”
To see how far down the rabbit hole Trump went, read this gobsmacking Axios account of a bonkers White House meeting that Trump had on Dec. 18 with attorney Sidney Powell, his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne and other conspiracy mongers pushing wild tales of election fraud. For hours, the conspiracy crew spewed false allegations involving voting machines that supposedly flipped Trump votes to Biden. Trump was completely receptive, even though his aides tried to warn him that there was no factual basis for any of it. The only thing that seemed to annoy Trump was that the Powell team had included glaring spelling errors in their court filings. “That was very embarrassing. That shouldn’t have happened,” Trump reportedly said. But he wasn’t embarrassed by plots to overturn the election results.
The conspiracy theories that Trump endorsed about a “stolen” election led to a violent assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6 that resulted in five deaths and could have killed many more. It would be nice to think that this finally sobered up the GOP and alerted its leaders to the cost of indulging conspiracy mongers. But that would seem overoptimistic.
McConnell has laudably denounced Trump’s role in inciting this insurrection, but he voted with 90 percent of the Senate Republicans last week to dismiss the impeachment charges on the specious grounds that you can’t impeach a former president. Ninety-five percent of the House Republican caucus previously voted against impeaching Trump — and after the vote House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R.-Calif.) flew to Florida to meet with the disgraced former president.
None of the 147 Republican members of Congress (139 in the House, eight in the Senate) who voted to toss out electoral votes has apologized for aiding Trump’s assault on democracy. Many still refuse to acknowledge Biden won fairly. The entire Republican Party is complicit in Trump’s dangerous lunacy.
Yes, Marjorie Taylor Greene is awful. But Trump — who called Greene a “real WINNER” and, according to Greene, recently called to offer her support — is far worse. As long as Trump remains a force within the GOP, the cancer afflicting the party will continue to metastasize.