EFFINGHAM, Ill. (NEXSTAR) — Marjorie Taylor Greene is mad at China for not containing Covid-19.
“I don’t want anybody in this country to depend on our enemy, China, who sent a Chinese virus that was made in a lab, that is a bio weapon, not only to our country, but all over the world,” Greene, a freshman member of Congress from Georgia, said. “And people died.”
However, speaking at a political fundraising event on Thursday night, Greene encouraged hundreds of older voters to resist the life-saving vaccines that have proven to be society’s best weapon at fighting Coronavirus infection, hospitalization, and death.
It would not be her last contradiction of the evening.
On Tuesday, speaking about the country’s ongoing efforts to recover from the pandemic, President Biden said, “Now we need to go to community by community, neighborhood by neighborhood, and oft times door to door – literally knocking on doors – to get help to the remaining people protected from the virus.”
Before Biden made those remarks, local public health departments and community groups had already begun deploying similar public awareness campaigns to combat misinformation about the vaccines.
Still, Greene seized on Biden’s comment to scare people in the audience that federal agents, not local public health officials or volunteers, might arrive at their door if they didn’t take the vaccine. She said her ‘We Will Not Comply Act,’ which she filed in April, would offer wary citizens protection against federal overreach.
“It gives you permission to tell Biden’s little posse that’s gonna show up at your door, you know, that intimidate you — they probably they probably work for Antifa by night, and then they come and intimidate you to take the vaccine by day — Well, you get to tell them to get the hell off of your lawn,” she said to a room of about 500 people.
Of course, you don’t need permission from Congress to tell someone to get off of your private property. But Greene said her legislation would also allow people who refuse the vaccine to sue their employers for discrimination if the company makes vaccination mandatory.
One of the men in the audience, 72-year-old Dennis Johnson, showed up to hear Greene speak at a fundraiser for his Congresswoman, U.S. Rep. Mary Miller, who co-sponsored the “We Will Not Comply Act.”
Johnson said he didn’t know much about Greene or Miller’s politics. He just liked that they vigorously and publicly opposed Democrats.
“The thing of it is, my family used to be Democrats,” Johnson said. “The Johnsons were Democrats. The whole Strasburg area was strong Democrat. Now, it’s all switched over Republican.”
Johnson had come prepared to tell a remarkable story of his own. He carried laminated newspaper clippings with him that showed evidence of his prowess on the mound from his days pitching for the Stewardson-Strasburg high school baseball team in the late 1960s.
Johnson’s glory days were somewhat of a miracle. And not just for the shut-outs and no-hitters.
“I had polio at four years old,” he said. “Couldn’t walk. Crawled. Doctor used to come give me 15 to 20 shots at a time.”
Today, Johnson walks with a noticeable limp, though he disguises it with cowboy boots with different size heels. He says his left leg is several inches shorter than his right leg due to muscle loss he suffered during his bout with polio in the early 1950s.
“It’s almost completely gone worldwide,” he said. “They’ve really fought it with shots.”
“I think they’re great,” Johnson said of the Coronavirus vaccines. “Great.”
What would he tell his neighbors who had concerns or hesitations about vaccinations?
“Get ’em. Get ’em. I’m a firm believer in that,” he said. “I don’t know what else to tell you.”
Despite his disagreements with Greene about vaccinations, Johnson still felt the pro-Trump Republican offered him a political home that he couldn’t find in the other party.
“It’s just the way Democrats are trying to run — or ruin — this country,” he said. “You can’t have open borders. You can’t want to take away people’s guns. The Midwest is down-to-earth, common people. But then you get the West Coast and East Coast. Wow. Wow.”
Other attendees expressed similar disillusion with the direction of the Democratic party.
“The Democrat candidates is basically all stuff we’ve heard before and it’s not good,” Effingham native Phil Kiser said.
Debbie Ledbetter from Saint Elmo, Illinois, said she drove to the event “For the Republicans,” because Miller “stands for the values that I stand for.”
Cheryl Kroeger from Effingham said she liked Miller’s stance on “the term limit thing and American jobs, keeping things in America.”
Terry Stevenson, another Effingham native, appreciated Miller’s stance as “a fighter.”
“I like the push back that she does with the Democrats and the current administration,” he said.
If the crowd packed the Thelma Keller Convention Center to hear Republicans attack Democrats, they did not leave disappointed.
“The Democrats, Nancy Pelosi, Biden and his administration, they have a plot to change our country,” Miller warned, before rattling off a list of hyperbolic exaggerations and token conservative buzzwords. “They’re out to abolish faith, family, freedom, economic opportunities and private property ownership.”
Before long, Miller and Greene would go on to rail against Critical Race Theory, electric vehicles, transgender people, and defunding police.
At one point, Miller, a typically soft-spoken, polite mother and grandmother, appeared to surprise herself with her own rhetoric.
“I never used to use that word ‘outrageous,'” Miller mused. “I use it all the time now.”
Effingham is the epicenter of a billboard battle over Miller’s political rhetoric. The day before the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol, Miller invoked Adolf Hitler in a speech to mothers who were rallying in support of former President Trump.
“Hitler was right on one thing,” Miller said at the time. “He said, ‘Whoever has the youth has the future.'”
The backlash was fierce. Miller later apologized. The Illinois Democratic County Chairs Association plastered her quote in big letters on a billboard across the street from the Effingham High School.
Greene made similar remarks in recent days, comparing wearing masks during a pandemic to the Holocaust. Republican leaders Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy called her comments “outrageous,” “reprehensible,” and “appalling.” Later, Greene apologized and backtracked her remarks. Though she followed it up with another Nazi reference, comparing canvassers who promote vaccine education to “brown shirts.”
In a joint statement issued ahead of Greene’s appearance on Thursday, Democratic Party of Illinois Executive Director Abby Witt and Illinois Democratic County Chairs Association Executive Director Dan Kovats suggested the controversial comments from Miller and Greene were not an accident, but were engineered to shock and awe in order to raise their profile and attract political donations.
“Miller and Green both purposely spew hate concerning statements referencing Hitler, the Holocaust, and Nazi ‘Brown Shirts’ into their remarks,” the Democrats said. “The Miller and Green show are now fundraising together in Illinois, continuing their grift and conspiracy theory partnership. If they are the Republican Party, they don’t represent the majority of middle Americans and they don’t belong in Congress spewing hate and division.”
“That was just stupid,” Kroeger said. “It’s just stupid political junk that people throw at each other wanting to smear the other person. She was just making a comparison and didn’t think about you know how Hitler was considered very bad.”
A new billboard has since been installed in its place. This time, it reads, “Mary Miller is Correct,” and asks, “Why are Leftists lying about Mary Miller?”
Illinois Family Action, a religious political activism group, paid for the new billboard to defend Miller. David Smith, its Executive Director, said in a blog post that Miller and her family was “targeted because of their strong Christian faith which forms their conservative positions.”
“She’s going to be working against this CRT nonsense, defunding our schools who promote and teach this stuff,” Smith said at Thursday’s event. “No more federal dollars for schools that teach critical race theory.”
“They’re wasting precious time with these stupid subjects,” Miller said, before revealing details about a conversation she recently had with Dr. Ben Carson, who led the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development under the Trump administration.
“I asked him what he thought was the greatest threat to our country, and we all know there’s a lot of choices he had,” Miller said. “And he said division. He said a house divided against itself cannot stand.”
Within seconds of Miller giving a nod to unity, she accused teachers of “indoctrinating our children with perversion, to hate our country, and even to hate their own skin.” Her keynote speaker labeled Democrats as “the enemy,” and Republicans who reach across the aisle to vote with Democrats as traitors to the party.
“There is no working across the aisle with socialism,” Greene said, before deploying a disparaging insult that Illinois Republican party officials have previously labeled as racist and bigoted. “And there is no working across the aisle with the communists and the ‘Jihad squad.’ So we should be voting no every single time.”
“We need to turn the GOP and the Republican Party into fighters, not spineless cowards that back down whenever the fake news media sticks a microphone right in their face,” Greene said. “They get real worried about the news media might give them a bad article.”
Greene and Miller both refused to answer questions from reporters who covered the event. Hired security guards and volunteers shared duties blocking the hotel conference room doors where she and Miller hid from TV cameras before they escaped out a side door.
Had Miller taken questions, she might have had to answer why she described immigrants as some sort of an enemy force.
“It is the first time in the history of our country that we’ve had a president that is advertising, incentivizing, and facilitating a literal invasion,” Miller said. Her own daughter married an immigrant.
Or perhaps she would have had to explain why she wouldn’t vote to honor the police officers who defended the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, or why she wouldn’t vote to remove Confederate statues from the U.S. Capitol grounds.
If Miller or Greene had sincere questions about who was storming the Capitol during the procedural vote to certify the election results, then why wouldn’t either of them vote to investigate the January 6th attack further?
More than eight months after the election, Greene repeated a tired lie to the crowd, and said, “I can tell you for a fact Joe Biden did not win Georgia.” In avoiding reporters, she never had to explain former Attorney General Bill Barr’s confession that, “There had been no discrepancy reported anywhere, and I’m still not aware of any discrepancy.”
Had Greene not ducked reporters minutes after accusing other Republicans of fearing the press, she could have clarified which political traditions she believes are “uniquely Anglo-Saxon,” in accordance with the charter documents of the ‘America First’ Caucus she joined three months ago.
Greene says elected officials should be held accountable for their actions in office.
“I want you to look up voting records,” Greene said, admonishing the public to acquaint themselves with how their elected officials represent them on key issues in Congress. “Look up their records,” Greene said. “That’s where it matters: job performance, not social media, or what you see on the news.”
Once the curtain closes on the outrage theater, how will voters rate Miller’s job performance?
Miller represents counties with some of the highest rates of chronic unemployment in Illinois, a problem that long pre-dates the pandemic. Since she offered no solutions during her speech, she could’ve answered questions from reporters about how she plans to fix it.
Most members of Congress hope to improve their districts and enhance the quality of life for their voters back home. Had Miller taken questions from reporters, more people in her district might have heard her explain why she would refuse to apply for earmarked federal funds to upgrade roads, bridges, parks, fire stations, or police stations.
“I believe that I’m going to give account to God for how I handle this opportunity,” Miller said of her new seat in Congress.