GOP leaders seek acceptance for Congress' new QAnon adherents

The Republican Party on Capitol Hill doesn't have to tolerate the QAnon candidates who won their elections. It's nevertheless choosing to do so.
Image: House Republican Leadership Speak To The Media
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy at a GOP news conference on Wednesday. Behind him, from left, Rep. Tom Cole, Minority Whip Steve Scalise and Rep. Kay Granger.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Over the summer, congressional Republican leaders confronted an awkward realization: if Georgia's Marjorie Taylor Greene prevailed in her GOP primary runoff, Congress would soon have a fringe proponent of the crackpot QAnon conspiracy theory as an elected federal lawmaker.

Given Greene's record of radicalism, Politico reported at the time that the House's highest-ranking Republicans were "racing to distance themselves" from the right-wing candidate. As regular readers may recall, the Washington Post quoted one GOP source soon after saying, "There are a lot of members livid at [House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy] for sitting back and doing nothing to stop this woman from being elected."

Last week, as expected, Greene won her seat, and as Roll Call noted, she wasn't alone.

QAnon is heading to Congress, as Marjorie Taylor Greene, a supporter of the baseless and complicated pro-Trump conspiracy theory, won a House seat in Georgia, and Lauren Boebert claimed a House seat in Colorado.... Greene and Boebert were among at least a dozen Republican congressional candidates who had endorsed or given credence to QAnon's unfounded belief that Trump is the last line of defense against a cabal of child-molesting Democrats who seek to dominate world power.

There may yet be another: In Utah's most competitive congressional race, Republican Burgess Owens recently suggested the QAnon conspiracy theory -- which the FBI has characterized as a possible domestic-terror threat -- deserves consideration because it's something "the left" is "trying to keep us away from." Owens' race is still too close to call.

Regardless, congressional leaders have options as to how best to deal with lawmakers whose views they consider excessively radical. Indeed, the Anti-Defamation League last week specifically requested that congressional leaders deny committee assignments to new members who've endorsed the QAnon garbage. It would be the same step GOP leaders took in response to Rep. Steve King's (R-Iowa) racist controversies.

"Such a decisive and meaningful action will make clear that the U.S. House of Representatives will not allow division to take hold under the banner of such conspiratorial belief systems," the civil rights group's CEO and national director, Jonathan A. Greenblatt, wrote. "Silence and inaction in the face of such unacceptable conduct allows the conspiracy to grow unchallenged."

The House Republican leadership doesn't appear to care. TPM reported yesterday:

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) brushed off concerns over two Republican QAnon supporters who were elected to the House last week during a Thursday news conference. When asked about whether he has concerns about QAnon-aligned Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert — who were both elected to the House GOP in Georgia and Colorado, respectively — McCarthy appeared unbothered by both House GOP-elects who've publicly backed the complicated pro-Trump conspiracy theory.

"Our party is very diverse and you mentioned two people who will join our party and both of them have denounced QAnon," McCarthy said, adding that everyone should "give them an opportunity."

To the extent that reality matters to the GOP leadership, Colorado's Lauren Boebert has taken modest steps to distance herself from the ridiculous movement, but as the Washington Post noted yesterday, "Greene has not denounced QAnon. She has called it 'a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take this global cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles out.'"

The Republican Party on Capitol Hill doesn't have to tolerate this. It's choosing to.

On "Meet the Press" last month, NBC News' Chuck Todd asked outgoing Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Va.) about the message the Republican Party is sending by supporting a congressional candidate accused of using racist and other offensive rhetoric.

The Virginia Republican lamented, in reference to his party, "We've lost our way." Riggleman added, "[W]hen we start to actually represent as a party that's part of this anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that believes there's some kind of pedophilic cabal on the Democratic side of the House, I think we're in for a rough ride."