Republicans Set to Punish Ilhan Omar’s Antisemitism, Reward Marjorie Taylor Greene’s
Kevin McCarthy has made it clear that if chosen to be the next speaker of the House, he will do two things: take away from Ilhan Omar her committee assignment on the important Foreign Affairs Committee as punishment for her past antisemitic remarks while reinstating Marjorie Taylor Greene’s and Paul Gosar’s committee assignments despite their own consistent antisemitism.
That these pledges directly contradict one another is of no concern to many House Republicans. It does not matter that McCarthy himself has condemned Greene’s and Gosar’s conspiracy theories, antisemitic comments, and their associations with white supremacist Nick Fuentes.
Greene’s and Gosar’s mostly unrepentant history of antisemitism is of no consequence, Republicans told The Bulwark. Omar’s removal is retaliation for Democrats having barred the two GOP representatives from committees during the past two years.
Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), the incoming chairman of the House Oversight Committee, told The Bulwark that in regard to Greene receiving a spot on his committee, as has been reported, “that’s the Steering Committee’s decision. I’m not on the Steering Committee so it doesn’t matter.”
Comer acknowledged that removing Omar from her post is essentially retaliation for Gosar’s and Greene’s cases, but noted that Omar is not likely to be prevented from work outside the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
“With Gosar and Greene they’ve been removed from committees, so I think that’s the reason there’s support among the Republican conference to remove Omar from [the House Foreign Affairs Committee],” Comer said. “Now I don’t think, if the way I understand it, McCarthy has said she [can’t] be on other committees, just the Foreign Affairs Committee.”
Ronny Jackson, the White House doctor–turned–right-wing congressman, told The Bulwark he fully supports removing Omar.
“The Democrats did it,” he said. “They set the precedent. They set the standard.”
Omar’s 2019 comments prompted a House resolution condemning antisemitism, though it did not mention the Minnesota congresswoman by name. (She and two other Democrats who are Muslim actually endorsed the measure, which also targeted Islamophobia and racism, for marking “the first time we have voted on a resolution condemning Anti-Muslim bigotry in our nation’s history.”) The resolution at the time received only 23 opposition votes, all of which came from Republicans.
Omar ultimately apologized for the remarks after pressure mounted from Democratic leadership.
“Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes,” Omar said in a statement at the time. “We have to always be willing to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack me for my identity. This is why I unequivocally apologize.”
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told The Bulwark that House Democrats are most concerned about Omar, along with Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell, being removed from their committees. But from there, retaliation against more Democrats, including herself, could be on the way.
“I think I’m next on the chopping block if they felt like it,” she said.
Ocasio-Cortez added that Omar’s case “couldn’t be more different” than those of Gosar and Greene.
“You look at what Paul Gosar did, you look at what Marjorie Taylor Greene did, and these are people that were advancing things that were so explicit, so grotesque, so violent—without really any sort of true repentance for it or trying—really any authentic, true, deep apology that comes with any sort of commitment to change,” she said. “These people have been very consistent in their bigotry and very unapologetic about it. It just couldn’t be more different. These are different universes.”
Greene and Gosar both have long histories of antisemitism
McCarthy told reporters last week he does not think anyone “should associate or be a part of anything with Nick Fuentes.”
“It’d be wrong—I think as a whole, the conference would not put up with anybody associating with Nick Fuentes,” he added.
The reality is that the House Republican Conference very much tolerates associations with Fuentes. Gosar, Greene, and others have appeared alongside Fuentes, promoted antisemitic propaganda, and associated with other fringe groups and individuals.
Greene tweeted on Tuesday that she “of course” denounces Fuentes, offloading blame on the press for his outsized role in the news cycle.
But beyond her support for conspiracy theory groups closely tied to antisemitism and Facebook posts about Jewish space lasers igniting wildfires in California, Greene’s outbursts of antisemitism have continued throughout her tenure in Congress. Since being elected in 2020, she has posted videos of Joe Biden with Nazi imagery, compared mask mandates to the Holocaust, and attended a Feb. 2022 white-nationalist conference hosted by Fuentes.
Gosar, too, appeared (via video) at Fuentes’s America First Political Action Committee (AFPAC) conference in Feb. 2022 without any consequences, later blaming it on staff miscommunication. Gosar had previously been removed from his committees by House Democrats for posting an anime video that depicted him murdering Rep. Ocasio-Cortez.
Like Greene, Gosar has not slowed down following the backlash. He has continued to promote Fuentes and other antisemitic figures and outlets well into this year, according to examples compiled by Media Matters.
The only House Republican who has associated with Fuentes and faced any actual repercussions was former Iowa Rep. Steve King, whom McCarthy removed from committee assignments in 2019. However, King’s punishment was directly a result of his unapologetic praise for the term “white nationalist”; he wouldn’t publicly associate with Fuentes until 2021, when he spoke at the white supremacist’s AFPAC conference, a year before Greene and Gosar appeared there. (King lost his primary in 2020 and so was out of Congress by the time he spoke at the conference.)
Greene has been firm in her support of McCarthy’s speaker bid and in return he is more than likely to sign off on her return to committee work. Gosar, a member of a growing group of Republicans opposed to McCarthy’s speakership, has been uncharacteristically silent, while several of his Freedom Caucus colleagues pledged to vote against McCarthy.
Whether McCarthy will succeed in becoming speaker will be hashed out in the coming weeks. But it appears inevitable that at least one Democrat will be stripped of committee assignments for past remarks deemed antisemitic while two Republicans with ongoing antisemitic associations will get theirs back.