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Marjorie Taylor Greene shows her white nationalist cards — again

Greene rolls out racist tropes in a desperate bid to paint herself as a victim.
Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., left, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., argue on the steps of the Capitol after Bowman shouted down Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., who was speaking to reporters following an effort to expel him from the House, in Washington, Wednesday, May 17, 2023. Santos has been charged with embezzling money from his campaign, falsely receiving unemployment funds and lying to Congress about his finances. He has denied the charges and has pleaded not guilty.
Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., left, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., argue on the steps of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.J. Scott Applewhite / AP

I thought MAGA true believer Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., had exhausted her capacity to shock me. But she left me slack-jawed with her latest response to a theatrical feud with Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., in which she accused him of calling her the equivalent of the N-word, described him as physically threatening, and manufactured a new set of lies. Ms. Greene, I’m almost impressed.

The clash began Wednesday evening, when Bowman and fellow progressive firebrand Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., reportedly began to heckle Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., on the steps of the U.S. Capitol as he took questions from reporters, calling on him to resign in light of his recent federal indictment. Then Greene began to chant “impeach Biden,” presumably in some kind of bid to divert attention from Bowman and Ocasio-Cortez. (Greene, by the way, introduced articles of impeachment against President Joe Biden on Thursday.) Eventually Bowman and Greene got caught up in an extended back-and-forth during which they chanted at each other in a manner that was less a dialogue than an exchange of miscellaneous talking points. 

It should not go unnoticed that Greene’s exaggeration of the “threatening” nature of Bowman is racialized.

“The party’s hanging by a thread!” Bowman repeatedly cried out.

“Impeach Biden!” Greene said in response at one point. 

At another point, Bowman demanded, “No more QAnon,” and Greene replied, “No more CNN.” 

Later Bowman pleaded, “Do something about guns!” Greene retorted, “Right, so close the border!”

If you’re looking for a real point to this exchange, you’re unlikely to find any. Both of them were playing for the cameras, repeatedly smiling as they made a minor scene.

But the next day, Greene’s comments about the exchange with Bowman suggested that something terrible had happened. At a news conference, she said Bowman was “yelling, shouting, raising his voice, he was aggressive, his physical mannerisms are aggressive,” and she added that “I feel threatened by him.”

However, video of the incident exposes Greene’s insincerity: Both of them were speaking at roughly the same volume, chanting, at times even playful. Was Bowman heckling her? Yes. Was he being annoying? Yes. Was he behaving aggressively toward her or trying to physically intimidate her? No.

During her conference, Greene claimed Bowman had a “history” of aggression toward her, but the main example she cited was Bowman allegedly leading a “mob” to chase her out of a New York rally where she spoke on behalf of former President Donald Trump the day he was arraigned in Manhattan in April. I was reporting at that rally, and I can attest to how absurd Greene’s claim is. Greene wasn’t chased by a dangerous mob; she was simply taunted by counterprotesters who drowned out her extremely poorly attended speech. And Bowman was not leading the counterprotesters, who arrived well before him and stayed after him; he was simply following behind her as she got in her car to leave. Video of Greene’s departure does not show him behaving aggressively or inappropriately toward her.

It should not go unnoticed that Greene’s exaggeration of the “threatening” nature of Bowman is racialized. There is, of course, a long history of painting people of color, and Black people in particular, as dangerous as a pretext for visiting violence upon them or dehumanizing them.

At the news conference, Greene also made this amazing statement: “I will tell you what’s on video is Jamaal Bowman shouting at the top of his lungs, cursing, calling me a horrible — calling me a white supremacist, which I take great offense to,” she said. “That’s like calling a person of color the N-word, which should never happen. Calling me a white supremacist is equal to that. That is wrong.”

It’s not clear what Greene is referring to, but there is video showing that after Greene left her disastrous Manhattan rally, Bowman told reporters that he condemned “any rhetoric that uplifts white supremacy.”

It should be obvious why Greene's comparison is offensive. The N-word is the most heinous slur in American English, the ultimate linguistic symbol of white domination of Black Americans that has no equivalent because there is no comparable history in this country of any other group of people being systematically treated as property, as subhuman, as an underclass for exploitation and undeserving of rights. And the reason it remains so potent today is that racial prejudice and vast racial inequality still prevail across the nation.

By contrast, “white supremacist” is not a slur but a descriptive term. It certainly can be abused to tar someone’s character or make false accusations, but it does not carry the weight or venom of any racial slur, let alone the most abominable one that exists. Moreover, Bowman’s condemnation of rhetoric that “uplifts white supremacy” was fair, considering that Greene has a documented history of subscribing to antisemitic conspiracy theories, associating with Holocaust-denying white nationalists like Nick Fuentes, and is one of the most prominent Trump-aligned politicians in the country. 

If Greene wanted to say she found Bowman annoying, she could’ve said that. Instead in her desperation to portray herself as the victim of a nonincident, she showed her white nationalist cards.