The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

GOP candidate poses with rifle, says she’s targeting ‘socialist’ congresswomen

Construction executive Marjorie Taylor Greene, third from left, with supporters at a primiary election watch party on Aug. 11, 2020, in Rome, Ga. (Mike Stewart/AP)

A House candidate whom President Trump recently called “a future Republican Star” posted an image of herself holding a rifle with photos of three liberal congresswomen of color and the vow to “go on the offense” against members of the “Squad,” an unprecedented threat against lawmakers from a probable future colleague.

Marjorie Taylor Greene, the GOP candidate for a Georgia congressional seat in a heavily Republican district and a professed QAnon conspiracy believer, posted the photoshopped image Thursday on Facebook. The image includes Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.). On Friday, the post had been taken down.

Before it was removed, the caption under the gun-toting Greene read: “Squad’s worst nightmare.”

“Hate America leftists want to take this country down,” Greene wrote. “Our country is on the line. America needs fighters who speak the truth. We need strong conservative Christians to go on the offense against these socialists who want to rip our country apart. Americans must take our country back. SAVE AMERICA. STOP SOCIALISM. DEFEAT THE DEMOCRATS!”

Greene, in a separate post, said she was raffling off an AR-15 firearm.

She did not respond to a request for comment.

House Republican leaders had no immediate comment on the post, an apparent call to arms as Trump has spoken out against lawlessness and warned that a Joe Biden presidency would plunge the nation into violence and chaos.

Omar, however, called on Facebook to remove the post immediately.

“Posting a photo with an assault rifle next to the faces of three women of color is not advertising. It’s incitement,” Omar wrote on Twitter. “There are already death threats in response to this post. Facebook should remove this violent provocation.”

Tlaib also weighed in on Twitter, writing: “It’s dangerous in a time of rising political violence openly encouraged by this fascist President that a soon-to-be member of Congress thinks a post threatening women’s lives is acceptable. Take it down. P.S. Imagine it was me w/ a rifle. The post would have been down in seconds.”

It was unclear whether the U.S. Capitol Police, which is tasked with ensuring the safety of members of Congress, would investigate. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called on Republicans to “immediately condemn this dangerous threat of violence against Democratic Congresswomen.”

GOP leaders silent on QAnon-believing candidate now distancing themselves

Greene has already created problems for Republicans. As an adherent of the QAnon conspiracy, she backs the baseless theory that Trump is battling a cabal of “deep state” saboteurs that worships Satan and traffics children for sex. The FBI has labeled the group a domestic terrorism threat.

Greene won a Republican primary runoff in Georgia’s 14th Congressional District last month. Her victory in a northwestern swath of the state that has favored Republicans by wide margins sets her up to become QAnon’s first open devotee in Congress.

Greene has been caught on camera calling Black voters “slaves” to the Democratic Party and likening the election of Muslim lawmakers to an “Islamic invasion” of the U.S. government.

The day after the runoff, Trump hailed Greene as a “future Republican Star,” tweeting that she is “strong on everything and never gives up — a real WINNER!” He did not endorse in the runoff.

Last week, Greene attended Trump’s White House speech in which he accepted the Republican presidential nomination.

Trump, House Republicans embrace candidate who has made racist statements, drawing attention to party’s tolerance of bigotry

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has said he would seat Greene if she is elected to Congress, but the post drastically escalates the challenge for GOP leaders as many rank-and-file members worry about how to respond to her.

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney (Wyo.) distanced themselves from Greene after videos of her making racist, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic comments were revealed.

A group of Republicans had tried to convince McCarthy to support her primary opponent to ensure she was not seated, but McCarthy refused and in an apparent peace accord made an overture to her before her victory.

Traditionally, members who engage in questionable behavior are punished. Last year, McCarthy removed Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) from a committee for a string of racist comments.

In a recent interview, Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), the centrist leader of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, voiced his own concern about what such rhetoric would mean for the institution. He said he hopes candidates like Greene change their language — if not their views as well — when they are elected to the House.

“I’ve watched these candidates who have sort of embraced that hard-right rhetoric and I would encourage them to look at the rhetoric. You are a member of the House and those extreme positions are very troublesome positions,” he said. “If you believe in those positions, there’s no place in the Republican Party, that I believe in, for those.”

Greene’s posts, however, suggest she has no intention of muting herself.

Former representative Charles W. Boustany Jr. (R-La.) said that he has been “deeply concerned” by the actions of some of the incoming GOP candidates — and that some of his former colleagues appear to be “cowed into silence” instead of pushing back on the direction the party has taken. It is up to the House GOP leadership, he said, to set candidates using this type of rhetoric on track — otherwise, “the party is headed for a really bad place and permanent minority status.”

“I’m deeply concerned at the extent to which the president has fomented these kinds of divisions within our party and has fomented some of the more violent extremist type of activity out there, and I think that’s wrong,” Boustany said. “So, in my view, I hope these trends reverse, but I don’t see them reversing without very principled and strong leadership emerging from those who have the responsibility to step forward and say enough is enough.” 

Several lawmakers of color say they are starting to fear for their safety amid an apparent call to arms by some on the right. This week, Facebook removed two posts by Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) in which the former police officer wrote of protesters, “One way ticket fellas. Have your affairs in order. Me? . . . I wouldn’t even spill my beer. I’d drop any 10 of you where you stand.”

“I don’t mind when people have political or ideological differences with me and my other colleagues who are Black and Brown . . . but when people begin to question my humanity based on my race, it becomes increasingly difficult to work with them,” Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II (D-Mo.) said in an interview before Greene’s post.

The move to incite armed groups, he added, is even more worrisome: “If this is tolerated, we’re going to go downhill.”