The Jolt: Jody Hice, in pitch to become secretary of state, spreads election falsehoods

U.S. Representative Jody Hice, R-Ga., speaks at a House Freedom Caucus press conference about the Equality Act on Feb. 25, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA/TNS)
Caption
U.S. Representative Jody Hice, R-Ga., speaks at a House Freedom Caucus press conference about the Equality Act on Feb. 25, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA/TNS)

Credit: TNS

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Andrew Clyde isn’t the only Georgia Republican member of Congress testing the limits of fact-checkers this week. (See more about his controversy below.)

His colleague, U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, sent out a three-page letter to Georgia conservatives promoting his challenge to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

He opened with lies that the 2020 election was beset by “systemic voting irregularities and fraud.” He called Raffensperger a “back-stabbing” Republican for refusing Donald Trump’s demand to overturn the results.

And he falsely claimed Raffensperger worked “arm and arm with Stacey Abrams to deliver the presidency and Senate to the radical left.”

“That’s why I’m giving up a safe seat in Congress to run for Georgia Secretary of State,” he wrote, “to stop Democrats before they rig and ruin our democracy forever.”

There was no widespread fraud in Georgia’s election, and the results were upheld in three separate tallies and defended by state and federal elections officials.

Hice was one of six Republican U.S. House members who sought to invalidate the will of millions of Georgia voters in Congress even after the Jan. 6 insurrection spurred by Trump’s lies about a “rigged” election.

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Now, back to Andrew Clyde. He is catching heat for comments he made during a House hearing on Wednesday denying that the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol was an insurrection.

Clyde, R-Athens, noted that there was an “undisciplined mob,” “some rioters” and “some who committed acts of vandalism” that day. But an insurrection that does not make, he said.

He noted that no firearms were confiscated by law enforcement that day. Dozens of people have since been charged with crimes related to their possession of weapons during the incident.

Clyde said he helped barricade the House chamber, and no breach occurred there. Rioters did break into the Senate chamber though, and senators were evacuated with just minutes to spare.

The most surprising statement came when Clyde described the Capitol invasion as mostly orderly, essentially no more than a bunch of tourists who just happened to show up while a joint session of Congress was underway to confirm Donald Trump had lost the presidency.

That helped draw a Twitter rebuke from Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan. Beyond him, however, we haven’t seen much yet from elected officials on either side of the aisle criticizing Clyde. Late-night TV host Jimmy Kimmel did get in on the action during his opening monologue for Wednesday’s show, using video comparisons similar to what set Duncan off.

“That was Andrew Clyde, an elected official,” Kimmel said, “who doesn’t know the difference between terrorism and tourism.”

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Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene angrily confronted Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the Capitol Wednesday, according to a report in the Washington Post.

Two Washington Post reporters witnessed Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) exit the House chamber late Wednesday afternoon ahead of Greene (Ga.), who shouted “Hey Alexandria” twice in an effort to get her attention. When Ocasio-Cortez did not stop walking, Greene picked up her pace and began shouting at her and asking why she supports antifa, a loosely knit group of far-left activists, and Black Lives Matter, falsely labeling them “terrorist” groups. Greene also shouted that Ocasio-Cortez was failing to defend her “radical socialist” beliefs by declining to publicly debate the freshman from Georgia.

“You don’t care about the American people,” Greene shouted. “Why do you support terrorists and antifa?”

Ocasio-Cortez did not stop to answer Greene, only turning around once and throwing her hands in the air in an exasperated motion. The two reporters were not close enough to hear what the New York congresswoman said, and her office declined to discuss her specific response.

Greene later accused Ocasio-Cortez of refusing to engage in debate on her Green New Deal proposal. The Post reported that the congresswoman from New York has since asked House leaders to ensure that the safety of lawmakers and staff is protected.

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U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk is among three Republican House members asking for an ethics investigation of 34 Democrats related to the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Loudermilk, R-Cassville, and his colleagues accuse the group of Democrats of spreading unconfirmed rumors that GOP members gave guided tours to people who later participated in the Capitol breach. The trio say the accusations were made without evidence and have never been confirmed.

Georgia Rep. Nikema Williams is among the 34 Democrats who signed a letter a week after the attack requesting that law enforcement investigate whether these tours occurred. Many of those same lawmakers have since said they never received much of a response and are still looking for answers.

Various inquiries related to the Capitol riot are still underway, and members of Congress have yet to decide whether to assemble a bipartisan commission to study the attack.

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It’s not often that the Georgia House dabbles in international policy. But the growing Gaza-Israel conflict prompted Speaker David Ralston and other GOP leaders to release a statement expressing support for Israel.

From the statement:

“In the last two days, more than 1,000 rockets have been fired at innocent men, women and children in Israel. The Israeli people are being attacked by Hamas terrorists bent on killing as many civilians as possible. It is appalling, and it must end.

“We send our love and prayers to our friends in Israel — a nation that remains one of the most loyal and important allies the United States has ever known. May God protect them and keep them safe.

“We call on the White House to denounce these barbaric acts of terrorism and to rally the peace-loving nations of the world in defense of Israel and its people.”

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A group of 44 state attorneys general wrote a lengthy letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Monday urging him to abandon plans to create an Instagram platform for children under 13. (Children are currently banned from hosting their own accounts on the main site.)

The AGs’ concerns cited research that demonstrates that Facebook and Instagram can be harmful to the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of adolescents. They also warned of the potential for children to be exposed to cyberbullying, exploitation and predators. Finally, they also accused Facebook of failing to follow existing privacy laws to protect children.

Missing from the group of 44 was Georgia’s Attorney General Chris Carr. In a statement to the AJC, Carr’s office explained his reasons for not signing the letter:

“We have a strong interest in protecting children and their privacy, and we have questions about the newly announced platform. At the same time, we do not believe it is the role of government to tell Facebook to abandon the creation of such a platform or to tell parents and guardians what is appropriate for their own children.

Any Facebook product that targets children below the age of 13 not only must comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and all other laws in place to protect children and deter criminal activity, but it should also meet the highest standards for user privacy and safety. As Facebook works to meet those high, non-negotiable standards needed to deploy a platform like this, we will continue to do all in our power to enforce the laws of our state, protect our children and hold accountable those who violate our laws.”

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Former Atlanta City Council president Cathy Woolard has taken herself out of contention for the Atlanta mayor’s race after a brief flirtation with the idea.

“Needless to say, the last of the embers of my burning desire to be Mayor roared up again for a minute with your encouragement,” Woolard wrote in a note to supporters on Facebook. “But after an excess of birthday cake, I have returned to my right mind and confirmed to myself (and Karen Geney) that my best move right now is to weigh in from the sidelines and continue working to make Atlanta and Georgia a better place with my clients and colleagues.”

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We recently told you about a report from Military.com that the U.S. Department of Defense has launched an investigation into 6th District candidate Harold Earls over his campaign launch video.

The Republican’s video prominently features images of Earls in uniform as a former Army officer, as well as footage of Arlington National Cemetery, grieving military families and servicemembers’ headstones. Military policy limits the use of imagery that could imply an endorsement by the Armed Services.

Earls is taking strong exception to Military.com’s report, particularly on details of his time at West Point and anonymous quotes from fellow cadets and officers. He called the reporting “flippant,” misleading and biased.

As to the substance of his campaign video, which included the graves of servicemembers and video of grieving families, Earls told the AJC, “I have the utmost respect for their sacrifice. And frankly they will never be forgotten. My heart is burdened with their pain daily. I will not let the left change this narrative and I’ll never back down from this fight.”

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The state Democratic Party tapped Sara Tindall Ghazal to serve as its representative on the five-member State Election Board.

Ghazal, once the party’s voter protection specialist, will succeed David Worley, who served in the role for 17 years.

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In endorsement news: A prominent left-leaning coalition promised to put its weight behind Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock’s re-election campaign.

End Citizens United and Let America Vote each endorsed Warnock’s 2022 bid and praised his decision not to accept corporate PAC funding. The coalition’s president also highlighted Warnock’s support for anti-corruption measures and the For the People Act election bill.

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Stacey Abrams said she didn’t mind a question about her love life posed during an interview with CBS morning anchor Gayle King, despite a viral tweet that appeared to frame the question as shady.

Journalist Victoria Brownworth wrote this after watching the interview:

Gayle King, CBS news anchor: “Tell us about your dating situation.”

Stacey Abrams, Nobel Peace Prize nominee: “I haven’t been focused on that this month. I’ve been focused on saving democracy.”

Abrams followed up with a tweet of her own to provide context to King’s inquiry:

“While I appreciate the concerns, today @GayleKing asked about my romance novels, and, w/kindness, my romantic life. Wasn’t the first time it’s been asked & won’t be the last. She’s also asked about my new book, #WhileJusticeSleeps, voter suppression + civic engagement. I’m good.”

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As always, remember that Jolt readers are also some of our favorite tipsters. Send your very best political tips, scoops and gossip our way to patricia.murphy@ajc.com.