Marjorie Taylor Greene’s influence surges; her fiery tactics remain the same

WASHINGTON — When U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene shouted “liar” at President Joe Biden during his State of the Union speech, she invited a deluge of criticism.

But it wouldn’t be the only time she made headlines last week.

The Georgia Republican rumbled with former Twitter executives the very next day, accusing them of unfairly targeting her and other conservatives by banning their accounts. And then on Thursday, she chewed out Biden administration officials during a closed-door briefing on the Chinese spy balloon.

These antics represent Greene’s roots as a far-right provocateur who promoted the Q-Anon conspiracy theory before her election to Congress. Upon her arrival, she was barred by Democrats from serving on committees because of past racist and antisemitic remarks, as well as her penchant to harass political enemies.

But when Greene aligned herself with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, and therefore the GOP establishment in the House, some wondered whether her political evolution would include a tamping down of fiery rhetoric.

Last week was the clearest evidence yet that Greene, who lives in Rome and represents a deeply Republican district in northwest Georgia, has no plans to change. She told reporters on Wednesday that Biden “got exactly what he deserved” in the booing and shouting during his prime-time address.

“I’m not sorry one bit,” Greene said. “And I don’t think Speaker McCarthy is upset at any of us for expressing our view of being unwilling to allow the president to lie. What am I going to do? Stand up and give golf claps? No, thank you. I don’t clap for liars.”

Greene’s loyalty to McCarthy represented a tactical break with other far-right members of the House Freedom Caucus, including frequent allies such as U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz. And it proved to be an astute political calculation. McCarthy rewarded her with an assignment to the House Oversight Committee, just as she requested. And he has told people that she has his allegiance forever.

“I will never leave that woman,” McCarthy reportedly told a friend, according to The New York Times.

But even as her political toolbox has expanded to include strategic calculations, Greene has not abandoned the tactics that brought her to national prominence. She is keenly aware of how to grab media attention and milk it in ways that delight conservatives and tick off Democrats, which only increases her profile further.

Fellow Republicans in Congress not only appear willing to let her behavior go unchecked, some of them are joining with Greene. Although she received the most attention for heckling Biden during Tuesday’s speech and may have been the loudest, she was not the only one.

Her outburst came despite the admonitions of McCarthy, who had asked Republicans earlier in the day to be mindful of the attention the speech would attract and avoid antagonizing the president. As Greene and others jeered during the address, McCarthy gestured for them to quiet down. It was to no avail.

The speaker did not answer most reporters’ questions about Greene in the days after, although he told a Fox News host that she and the others were just being “passionate.” He did not meet with Greene or signal that he did not approve of her outbursts.

To critics, it was more evidence that McCarthy in his bid to become speaker had ceded too much power to hard-right members. U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Texas Democrat, said she was dismayed by the behavior from Greene and others and was hoping that McCarthy would rein them in.

“He has to hold authority and control, if you will, over his conference, and he should address them,” she said.

But Republicans generally said there is no need. U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida said too much of an issue was made about Greene’s outburst during the State of the Union and about her antics in general. Too often she is held up as the poster child for the party and not one of more than 200 House GOP members, he said.

“We’re cool, but I’ve got my own mind,” Donalds said. “I’ve got my own opinions. I do my own thing. I don’t want the other members to be tied to me just like I don’t want to be tied to the other members.”

Greene doesn’t describe herself as the standard-bearer for the Republican Party, but she does hold herself up as a voice for conservative voters who are tired of business as usual in Washington and want someone to fight for them. She leans heavily into hard-right viewpoints: anti-transgender rights, pro-gun, anti-abortion and isolationist on foreign policy.

During Wednesday’s Oversight Committee hearing focused on Twitter’s decision to temporarily stop the spread of a news article about Hunter Biden’s laptop, Greene laid into former executives who shut down her personal account after she repeatedly posted misinformation about COVID-19. Her feed was restored after Elon Musk purchased the site last year.

“You abuse the power of a large corporation — big tech — to censor Americans,” she said. “And you want to know something? Guess what? I’m so glad that you’re censored now. I’m so glad you’ve lost your jobs.”

She told The Hill newspaper that she was just as biting toward Biden administration officials during the classified briefing on the spy balloon. Other lawmakers had left the meeting complaining that Greene had screamed and cursed at intelligence officials.

“I had to wait in line the whole time,” Greene said, referring to the seniority rules that would have made her among the last to get a chance to speak. “I was, I think, the second-to-last person, and I chewed them out just like the American people would’ve. I tore ‘em to pieces.”