If you got caught red-handed trying to explicitly build a formal movement in Congress around “Anglo-Saxon political traditions,” you might be inclined to deny it, too—and then blame your staff.
After a memo circulated last week promoting an “America First” caucus reportedly involving Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar and based around demonizing “post-1965 immigrants,” plans for the caucus were abruptly abandoned after it sparked major backlash.
“The Congresswoman wants to make clear that she is not launching anything,” Greene spokesperson Nick Dyer told CNN over the weekend. “This was an early planning proposal and nothing was agreed to or approved.” This was a day after Dyer had told multiple outlets including CNN and Punchbowl News, which first reported the memo, to “be on the lookout for the release of the America First Caucus platform when it’s announced to the public very soon.”
But despite the fact that her office promoted the release of the caucus’s platform and at least two other Republicans confirmed Greene’s involvement in the caucus, she took to Twitter to throw her staff under the bus and describe the entire caucus thing as a “fake story” aimed at the House Freedom Caucus, the established arm of the far-right in the House of which Greene is a member.
“I don’t need another caucus & this is an attack on HFC, and we won’t allow the media or anyone else control us or our dedication to our founding principles and our God-given freedoms,” Greene said.
“I have dealt with the staff that had discussions that took place without me or my approval, during the time I was home for my father’s funeral,” she later tweeted at a reporter for Punchbowl News. “People own their own words. Those were not mine.” (Dyer also told CNN that Greene hadn’t approved the language.)
Apparently, Rep. Matt Gaetz didn’t get the message last week that Greene had no involvement in the planning of the caucus. After Punchbowl’s report, Gaetz tweeted that he was “proud to join @mtgreenee in the #AmericaFirst Caucus.”
Rep. Louie Gohmert also confirmed Greene’s connection with the caucus to NBC News and said he had considered joining the caucus but that his understanding prior to seeing the memo and its emphasis on “Anglo-Saxon” traditions was that it was “not supposed to be about race at all.”
Gosar, an Arizona Republican with connections to the far-right, had been mentioned in connection with the memo and the caucus along with Greene, but he denied involvement over the weekend.
“The liberal media have recklessly claimed I am the author of a document,” Gosar told the Arizona Republic in a statement. “Let me be perfectly clear: I did not author this paper. In fact, I first became aware of it by reading about it in the news yesterday, like everyone else.”
It’s understandable why Greene and Gosar now want to distance themselves from the planned caucus, considering its explicitly nativist language was a step too far even for many Republicans in Congress.
One senior House GOP staffer told VICE News last week that they and other staffers “were all pretty shocked” by the language in the memo, and sitting House Republicans including the leadership released varying shades of condemnations ranging from milquetoast and indirect to calling for members’ expulsion from committees, as the Hill reported Tuesday. (Greene has already been stripped of her committee assignments in response to past internet posts in which Greene backed violence against political opponents and endorsed myriad conspiracy theories.)
“I believe anyone that joins this caucus should have their committees stripped, and the Republican conference should expel them from conference participation,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican who has frequently clashed with the Trump wing of the party, tweeted last Friday. “While we can’t prevent someone from calling themselves Republican, we can loudly say they don’t belong to us.”