Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene came under fire for a series of racist and xenophobic comments at a 14th Congressional District debate Sunday as she tried to sidestep questions about her support for the discredited QAnon conspiracy theory.
At the Atlanta Press Club debate, Greene tried to downplay criticism of videos that showed her saying the 2018 midterm elections amounted to an “Islamic invasion of our government,” compared Black Lives Matter activists to neo-Nazis and said that Black voters should be “proud” to see Confederate monuments.
“When you’re a Republican, and you’re unapologetically conservative, you’ll get called a racist even if its unwarranted,” said Greene.
Greene, who recently moved to the northwest Georgia district to run for Congress, emerged as the top vote-getter in the crowded primary but she didn’t secure the majority-vote needed to win the nomination.
Since then, a wave of high-profile Republicans have endorsed Rome neurosurgeon John Cowan, worried she would embarrass the GOP and become a rallying cry for state Democrats.
A construction executive, Greene also drew scrutiny for her comments that QAnon was “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take this global cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles out.”
The FBI has labeled QAnon, a false pro-Donald Trump conspiracy theory, as a potential domestic terrorism threat. Greene didn’t distance herself from her support of the convoluted premise, instead saying she is among the Americans “disgusted by the deep state” that opposes the president.
Seeking to shift the focus, Greene accused Cowan of posing as a police officer when he hadn’t completed the required training.
Cowan scoffed at the attack, saying that the Floyd County sheriff had declared that he’s a reserve deputy. And he struck back, criticizing Greene for not voting in the 2016 presidential primary, a fact that she has acknowledged by saying she rarely voted in primaries.
The two are competing for the Republican-leaning seat northwest Georgia district vacated by U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, who announced last year he was retiring form the seat. The winner of the Aug. 11 runoff will face Democrat Kevin Van Ausdal in November.
Both rivals found common ground on the need to address the opioid crisis in the region, which has some of the highest overdose-related death rates in the state.
“It needs to be done at the local level. The federal government needs to provide resources and education, but it doesn’t need to be top-down. We need to empower local leaders and local officials to get on top of this problem,” Cowan said.
Greene said she would work with local officials to address the crisis, which she said has taken a toll on military veterans.