Before other members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted to strip Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of her committee assignments, the Congresswoman referenced an infamous event from South Forsyth High School.
On Thursday, Greene, a 1992 SFHS graduate who was recently sworn-in to represent Georgia’s 14th district in the northwest corner of the state, brought up a 1990 incident at the school involving a student, Randy Addis, bringing three guns to school and taking members of the class hostage.
Greene’s comments came after she had been spotlighted in the national media for Facebook posts and videos before she took office, including a recently recirculated 2019 video of her confronting David Hogg, a survivor of the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
The video shows Greene asking Hogg, as he is walking down the street, why he supported red flag laws, or legislation to allow police to temporarily take firearms from those deemed a threat to themselves and others. When Hogg did not respond, Greene said “he has nothing to say because he is paid to do this,” and .claimed he had received “major liberal funding” and called him a coward “because he can’t defend his stance.”
“You see, school shootings are absolutely real and every child that is lost, those families mourn it,” Greene said on Thursday. “I understand how terrible it is because when I was 16 years old in 11th grade, my school was a gun-free school zone, and one of my schoolmates brought guns to school and took our entire school hostage, and that happened right down the hall from my classroom.
“I know the fear that David Hogg had that day. I know the fear that these kids have, and this is why, and I say this sincerely with all my heart because I love our kids, every single one of your children, all our children,” Greene said, “I truly believe that children at school should never be left unprotected. I believe they should be just as protected as we are with 30,000 National Guardsmen.”
On Thursday, Sept. 3, 1990, Addis, a student at the school, held classmates hostage at gunpoint during a five-hour standoff before surrendering to police.
Coverage of the hostage situation dominated the Sunday, Sept. 9, 1990 edition of the Forsyth County News with stories detailing how Addis fired a gun in a classroom at the beginning of the standoff, a crowd of some 2,500 parents, members of the community and members of the media surrounded the school and student hostages were reportedly able to take a shotgun from Addis before police “assisted in his surrender.”
In May 1991, FCN reported Addis had been sentenced to serve 20 years: eight in jail and 12 on probation.
Jennifer Caracciolo, director of communications and community engagement said on Friday that Greene was a student at the time and “to our knowledge, she was not in the class that was held hostage.”
Greene’s comments came before the House’s near party-line 230-199 vote was the latest instance of conspiracy theories becoming pitched political battlefields, an increasingly familiar occurrence during Donald Trump’s presidency. He faces a Senate trial next week for his House impeachment for inciting insurrection after a mob he fueled with his false narrative of a stolen election attacked the Capitol.
Underscoring the political vise her inflammatory commentary has clamped her party into, all but 11 Republicans voted against the Democratic move on Thursday but none rose to defend her lengthy history of outrageous social media posts.
The freshman Republican from Georgia took to the House floor on her own behalf. She offered a mixture of backpedaling and finger-pointing as she wore a dark mask emblazoned with the words “FREE SPEECH.”
Thursday’s fight also underscored the uproar and political complexities that Greene has prompted since becoming a House candidate last year.
“I woke up early this morning literally laughing thinking about what a bunch of morons the Democrats (+11) are for giving some one like me free time,” she tweeted Friday.
At a news conference later outside the Capitol, Greene accused news organizations of “addicting our nation to hate.” She deflected a question about her past online suggestion that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could be executed for treason, and warned that Republicans opposing her should remember that Trump — with whom she is closely allied — controls the GOP.
“The party is his,” she said. “It doesn’t belong to anybody else.”
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A day earlier on the House floor, Greene tried to dissociate herself from her “words of the past.” Contradicting past social media posts, she said she believes the 9/11 attacks and mass school shootings were real and no longer believes QAnon conspiracy theories, which include lies about Democratic-run pedophile rings.
But she didn’t explicitly apologize for supportive online remarks she’s made on other subjects, as when she mulled Pelosi, D-Calif., being assassinated or the possibility of Jewish-controlled space rays causing wildfires. And she portrayed herself as the victim of unscrupulous “big media companies.”
News organizations “can take teeny, tiny pieces of words that I’ve said, that you have said, any of us, and can portray us as someone that we’re not,” she said. She added that “we’re in a real big problem” if the House punished her but tolerated “members that condone riots that have hurt American people” — a clear reference to last summer’s social justice protests that in some instances became violent.
Greene was on the Education and Labor Committee and the Budget Committee. Democrats were especially aghast about her assignment to the education panel, considering the past doubt she cast on school shootings in Florida and Connecticut.
The political imperative for Democrats was clear: Greene’s support for violence and fictions was dangerous and merited punishment. Democrats and researchers said there was no apparent precedent for the full House removing a lawmaker from a committee, a step usually taken by their party leaders.
The calculation was more complicated for Republicans.
Though Trump left the White House two weeks ago, his devoted followers are numerous among the party’s voters, and he and Greene are allies. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., hopes GOP victories in the 2022 elections will make him speaker. Republicans could undermine that scenario by alienating Trump’s and Greene’s passionate supporters, and McCarthy took no action to punish her.
“If any of our members threatened the safety of other members, we’d be the first ones to take them off a committee,” Pelosi angrily told reporters. She said she was “profoundly concerned” about GOP leaders’ acceptance of an “extreme conspiracy theorist.”
At one point, No. 2 Democratic leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland strode to the GOP side of the chamber carrying a poster of a Greene Facebook post from last year. “Squad’s Worst Nightmare,” Greene had written in the post, which showed her holding an AR-15 firearm next to pictures of three of the four Democratic lawmakers, all young women of color, who’ve been nicknamed “The Squad.”
“They are people. They are our colleagues,” Hoyer said. He mimicked Greene’s pose holding the weapon and said, “I have never, ever seen that before.”
Republicans tread carefully but found rallying points.
McCarthy said Greene’s past opinions “do not represent the views of my party.” But without naming the offenders, he said Pelosi hadn’t stripped committee memberships from Democrats who became embroiled in controversy. Among those he implicated was Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., who made anti-Israel insults for which she later apologized.
“If that’s the new standard,” he said of Democrats’ move against Greene, “we have a long list.”
Committee assignments are crucial for lawmakers for shaping legislation affecting their districts, creating a national reputation and raising campaign contributions. Even social media stars like Greene could find it harder to define themselves without the spotlights that committees provide.
Not all Republicans were in forgiving moods, especially in the Senate. There, fringe GOP candidates have lost winnable races in recent years and leaders worry a continued linkage with Trump and conspiracists will inflict more damage.
That chamber’s minority leader, Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., this week called Greene’s words a “cancer” on the GOP and country. On Thursday, No. 2 Senate GOP leader John Thune of South Dakota amplified that thinking.
Thune said House Republicans must stop “dabbling” in conspiracy theories, adding, “I don’t think that’s a productive course of action or one that’s going to lead to much prosperity politically in the future.”
News organizations have unearthed countless social media videos and “likes” in which Greene embraced absurd theories like suspicions that Hillary Clinton was behind the 1999 death of John F. Kennedy Jr.
Greene responded, “Stage is being set,” when someone posted a question about hanging Clinton and former President Barack Obama.
Alan Fram and Brian Slodysko with the Associated Press contributed to this report.