Republicans set aside past concerns over controversial Georgia candidate as they urge her to join ‘team’

Rep. Steve Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican, said in mid-June that congressional candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene had made “disgusting” comments regarding Black people, George Soros and Muslims, and threw his support behind her primary opponent, neurosurgeon John Cowan.

But in August, Greene — who had also promoted the QAnon conspiracy theory — beat Cowan in the GOP runoff for a US House seat in conservative northwest Georgia. Last week, the Democrat in the race dropped out.

And since she won the GOP nod, Scalise, like the rest of Greene’s Republican critics, has changed his tune.

Scalise told CNN this week that he wants to sit down with Greene, a first-time candidate and the owner of a commercial construction company, and talk about her goals, noting repeatedly he’s been told she’s “very strongly” against abortion.

“The people that know her say her real drives and passions are fighting for life and battling socialism,” said Scalise. “Those are things that a lot of people are very interested in fighting for.”

“You got to respect every district, and I think I owe it to her to have a real good candid conversation,” he added.

Despite Greene espousing views that many see as racist, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic, Republicans are working to bring her into the fold — and are insisting they expect her to be a team player if she comes to Washington next year. Many are happy about comments Greene made last month backing away from promoting “Q,” an anonymous central character in a conspiracy theory that claims that President Donald Trump secretly fights to bring down a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles. The FBI has warned such fringe conspiracy views amount to a domestic terror threat.

Greene has called “Q” a “patriot” who is “worth listening to.” But in August, she told Fox News that QAnon “wasn’t part of my campaign” and that once she “started finding misinformation,” she “chose another path.” CNN asked Greene campaign manager Isaiah Wartman whether she is denouncing QAnon; Wartman referred CNN to their press office, which did not respond to a request for comment.

While Greene distanced herself from the fringe movement, she stopped short of disavowing it.

But top Republicans believe her comments to Fox News were sufficient.

“Marjorie also came out and denounced QAnon,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told CNN on Wednesday. When asked about her past offensive and racist comments, McCarthy said as he walked into his office: “I raised my concerns about those.”

Rep. Liz Cheney, a member of the House GOP leadership, was satisfied with Greene’s comments on Fox News and added that she backs her candidacy.

“We’ve got to make sure we get every Republican elected — she’s fighting hard and that’s an important seat for us to keep,” Cheney said.

Yet the leadership’s embrace of Greene has worried some Republicans.

“QAnon is a dangerous thing,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican, said in an interview. “It undermines a whole belief in representative democracy. Everybody has a right to elect whoever they want, so she has a right to be here, but I don’t think we have to embrace that.”

“In my mind, I think members of Congress, especially of the Republican Party, need to denounce it and make it clear,” Kinzinger added.

But Kinzinger is in the House Republican conference’s minority — and behind the scenes, GOP lawmakers including those from her home state have been working to welcome Greene.

Rep. Buddy Carter, a Georgia Republican, acknowledged to CNN that Greene has said some controversial things in the past but has met with her, talked with her about half a dozen times on the phone, and come away “very impressed.”

“She has disavowed any advocacy to QAnon,” Carter said. “I’ve had an opportunity to get to know her here over the last few weeks, and I’ve been very impressed. I think she’s coming in with the right attitude and that is one of learning and of working together.”

Carter said he’s spoken to members of the House leadership team about her.

“We’re all trying to reach out to her and make sure that she gets up here and that she’s a team player and we all work towards our common goals of conservativism,” Carter said.

Rep. Barry Loudermilk, another Georgia Republican, took Greene’s recent comments about the conspiracy as a positive sign.

“She went on Fox News and disavowed it,” Loudermilk told CNN. “So I give her the benefit of the doubt.”

“Especially in the time that we live in, there’s a huge distrust of government, and a distrust of mainstream media, and so it’s easy for people, even from the pretty smart people out there, to listen to some conspiracy theories out there,” he added.

After Greene won her primary, Trump called her a “future Republican star” on Twitter, and Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Republican Rep. Doug Collins, who is running against Loeffler, congratulated her. Loeffler told CNN this week she backs Greene’s candidacy. The other Georgia Republican senator in a tough race, David Perdue, did not answer a question about Greene in the Capitol last week.

Georgia Republican Rep. Drew Ferguson said that he and Greene have since had “a good conversation” and that he shared with her examples of how to succeed in Congress. He said she had “clarified” her views on QAnon. Ferguson did not say whether he was concerned about some of her other controversial statements.

“Every person that is elected to Congress has an opportunity to prove themselves up here,” he said. “I think Marjorie is going to be given a fair shot to earn her way and to be a productive member of Congress.”

In June, Politico reported on some of Greene’s Facebook videos, apparently taped between late 2017 and early 2019. Greene said that “there is an Islamic invasion into our government offices right now” and urged adherents of Islam and Sharia law to “stay over there in the Middle East.” She spread an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that Soros, a Holocaust survivor, collaborated with Nazis. And she said that Black people “are held slaves to the Democratic Party,” while White males are “the most mistreated group of people in the United States today.”

CNN has also reported that Greene spread other conspiracy theories, including that the deadly White supremacist rally held in 2017 in Charlottesville was an “inside job” to “further the agenda of the elites.”

When asked whether her Islamophobic and anti-Semitic comments concerned him, Carter said, “Well, certainly I don’t agree with comments like that but at the same time, I think it’s only fair to give her the opportunity to explain what she was trying to say at that time.”

The day after Politico published its report, Rep. Jody Hice, another Georgia Republican, wrote on Facebook that he could no longer support her, calling Greene’s comments “appalling” and “deeply troubling.”

“In the midst of these difficult times, it is more important than ever before that we have leaders in Washington who can heal our nation, not divide it further,” wrote Hice.

But this week, Hice told CNN that he had a “very pleasant” conversation “welcoming” Greene.

“She’s been elected by the 14th District and she’s on her way to Congress,” Hice said. “I look forward to working with her as a member of the party and the delegation.”

When asked about her past promotion of the QAnon theory, Hice said, “That kind of stuff is a non-issue to me.”