Republicans Need to Stop Falling for Media's 'Condemn the Politician' Games

AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

I knew next to nothing about Marjorie Taylor Greene before she was elected to serve Georgia’s 14th congressional district in Washington, D.C. And because so few Republicans talked or wrote much about her, I didn’t know much about her after she was elected – until the mainstream media and Democrats zeroed in on Greene’s past statements in order to paint all Republicans with the same brush.

While there’s no question that Greene does indeed have a troubling history of making highly inflammatory, despicable remarks and perpetuating baseless and bizarre conspiracy theories (including 9/11 trutherisms), what’s clear is that it’s the Usual Suspects on the left and in the media who in the absence of President Trump have turned to Greene in order to make her the face of the GOP, to use as supposed proof that the party is full of nothing but wacky loons.

As a result of this, all Republicans – especially those in the House and Senate – now face the “MTG litmus test.” Reporters who interview GOP members of Congress are rushing to get them on record as to where they stand on Rep. Greene.

Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has been the most powerful Republican to date to condemn Greene. In a statement made Monday, McConnell said that based on her prior statements, Greene was “not living in reality”:

“Somebody who’s suggested that perhaps no airplane hit the Pentagon on 9/11, that horrifying school shootings were pre-staged, and that the Clintons crashed JFK Jr.’s airplane is not living in reality,” McConnell said in a statement first shared with The Hill. “This has nothing to do with the challenges facing American families or the robust debates on substance that can strengthen our party.”

It was straightforward, no-nonsense, and got right to the point. But it should be no surprise to anyone who understands the duplicitous way the media often operates that making such an unequivocal statement would not be enough for them.

Case in point, CNN’s editor at large Chris Cillizza, who wrote an “analysis” piece today suggesting McConnell deserved no praise for what he said because he should have said something much sooner:

While McConnell is clearly trying to put his thumb on the scale for the Cheney version of the Republican Party versus the Greene version, let’s not be too quick to praise his timing here.

As I noted above, McConnell didn’t condemn Greene when she emerged as the Republican nominee in the summer of 2020 nor did he say anything when she was elected in November. McConnell allies will argue that he chose this moment to speak out because it carries the most weight due to the pending McCarthy-Greene meeting.

But it’s also worth noting that McConnell chose to speak out as even some of the more Trump-y elements within the GOP are turning on Greene — suggesting that she is a distraction that needs to be dealt with in order to effectively make the case against President Joe Biden and the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.

What Cillizza fails to mention there is that she is a “distraction” of the media’s and left’s making, not Republicans (outside of opportunistic Never Trumpers). Most Republicans understandably appear to want nothing to do with her, and that may include Trump, who we have not heard much from since his social media banning last month prior to Joe Biden’s inauguration.

Greene has maintained she still has Trump’s support, but right now we only have her word which is not a lot to go on.

Comparisons have been made on how Republicans focused on “Squad” members Rep. AOC, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley during their first two years in office, but that was largely because Democrats and the MSM treated the quartet like queenie rock stars who were the future of the Democratic party. Democrats also, by and large, glossed over the group’s anti-Semitic statements, with little pushback from the same media outlets that continue to shove microphones into the faces of Republicans on the issue of MTG:

Bingo.

Is there anything wrong with going on record and stating where you stand on controversial political figures? No. But Republicans need to understand that no matter how forceful and no matter how matter of fact their condemnations are that they will never, ever be enough for their critics in the press and on the left. Their condemnations will either be considered too tepid, too late, not often enough, missing the mark, etc.

The best way to navigate through the media’s “gotcha” games in these instances is to simply not play the game. As Bonchie wrote last week:

What Greene said before taking office may be nuts, but the voters chose her with that stuff in full view. Attempting to expel or force out members over past conspiracy theories is not a path anyone should venture down. That doesn’t mean I agree with or will waste one minute of my time defending Greene’s stupidity. It does mean I’m not going to get behind this idea that she needs to be the focus of the Republican Party and continually denounced. Don’t play the game. Ignore her and let the left stew.

Either that or issue your statement of condemnation and refer back to it anytime they ask. And then make a point of reminding reporters that there are issues before Congress that the American people expect to be sorted out, and that the voters in Greene’s district will sort her out at the ballot box one way or the other in 2022.