IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.
Rep. Dan Crenshaw
Rep. Dan Crenshaw speaks during a news conference outside of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. in 2021.Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images file

Crenshaw: Election deniers tell the truth ‘behind closed doors’

Do Republicans who push election lies actually believe their own nonsense? According to Dan Crenshaw, the answer, at least in some cases, is no.


For a conservative Republican congressman who voted with Donald Trump’s White House more than 90% of the time, Rep. Dan Crenshaw is occasionally unpopular in far-right circles. Some in the party have gone so far as to label him “the new John McCain” or “Eyepatch McCain“ — and they don’t mean that in a good way.

As Politico noted over the summer, Crenshaw has been “criticized by MAGA world,” in large part because he’s taken aim at “what he calls a general group of ‘grifters’ and ‘performance artists’ in Congress.”

Follow our 2022 midterm elections live blog at for the latest results, news and expert analysis in real time.

The pushback has occasionally been intense. In June, for example, at a Texas Republican Party gathering, the conservative congressman was accosted by far-right activists, including a man in a “45” hat who screamed, “Dan Crenshaw is a traitor! He needs to be hung for treason!”

His comments late last week were welcome, though they’ll probably make his intra-party critics quite a bit angrier. HuffPost reported that the Texas lawmaker shared what he’s heard GOP election deniers say behind closed doors.

“[W]e have a lot of people in the political world that are just willing to say things they know aren’t true, they know aren’t true. It’s a huge manipulation.”

In the same episode of the “Hold These Truths” podcast, Crenshaw added, in reference to his party’s election conspiracy theory, “It was always a lie. The whole thing was always a lie. And it was a lie meant to rile people up.”

It’s worth emphasizing for context that he’s an imperfect messenger for this message. In December 2020, 126 House Republicans signed onto a brief that effectively asked the U.S. Supreme Court to help overturn the presidential election. It was bonkers, but that didn’t stop Crenshaw from joining his party’s misguided crusade.

As we discussed at the time, these GOP lawmakers — representing roughly 64% of the House Republican conference — signed on to a legal filing, insisting that millions of American ballots should be ignored, lies should be believed, wild-eyed conspiracy theories should be believed, and the loser of the election should be handed illegitimate power.

Crenshaw now concedes, “It was always a lie.” The acknowledgement is reassuring, though I’d be interested in learning more about when, exactly, he decided to accept reality.

But putting aside the Texan’s record, his peek behind the curtain is notable, if for no other reason than it helps answer a longtime question: Do Republicans who push these lies actually believe their own nonsense? According to Crenshaw, the answer, at least in some cases, is no.

Whether this is reassuring or discouraging is a matter of perspective. To hear the GOP congressman tell it, some of his colleagues aren’t crackpots, so much as they’re cowards. These members are aware of reality, but they’re afraid to embrace it, preferring to go along with a lie for partisan purposes.

I’m glad that these Republicans privately realize the election lies aren’t true, but that clears the lowest of low bars.