House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy is tired of fielding questions about Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.
That frustration was obvious during Tuesday’s Republican leadership press conference, when a reporter asked McCarthy about Greene’s decision to speak last weekend at the America First Political Action Conference (AFPAC), organized by white nationalist activist Nick Fuentes. Fuentes has denied the Holocaust took place and described the Taliban as a “conservative, religious force” while cheering Afghanistan’s fall to the Taliban last year. GOP Rep. Paul Gosar, another member of the House Freedom Caucus, spoke to AFPAC over video this year.
“I commented on that yesterday,” McCarthy said Tuesday morning during a House GOP press conference. The day before he told reporters Greene and Gosar’s appearances at the conference were “appalling and wrong.”
But McCarthy dodged repeatedly when pressed on whether Greene and Gosar will face any repercussions. He said on Monday that he would meet with the two members this week.
“I understand your job,” McCarthy said at Tuesday’s press conference. “I understand what you’re trying to do, but I’ve already commented on that. We’ve got a war in Europe that we have not seen since World War II.”
McCarthy’s Monday statement slamming the event was a departure from his silence last year when Gosar spoke at the same conference. But for now, McCarthy is leaving important questions unanswered: Will he support both House Republicans’ reelection campaigns or endorse their Republican primary challengers, as he did in Wyoming GOP Rep. Liz Cheney’s race? Do Greene and Gosar have a place in the House GOP conference? Is he still planning to reinstate Gosar and Greene to their committee seats in the next Congress if Republicans take the House—and is he still considering giving them better committee assignments than they had before, as he has said publicly?
The Dispatch pressed McCarthy Tuesday afternoon whether he’d support Republican primary challengers. “I made my statement yesterday,” he said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi doesn’t seem poised to inflict any kind of punishment—House Democrats already removed Greene and Gosar from their committee seats last year in two different votes prompted by their extreme rhetoric. Pelosi told The Dispatch on Tuesday that any further consequences should come from House GOP leadership.
“That’s up to the Republicans to take care—discipline their own members,” Pelosi said in a brief interview Tuesday afternoon. “It’s not up to us. I think one of the senators said it best: ‘They have morons on their team.’”
She was referring to remarks by Utah Sen. Mitt Romney over the weekend on CNN. Romney, when asked by HuffPost on Tuesday if Greene and Gosar should be kicked out of the party, responded that they should be “laughed out.”
On the same day as Greene’s AFPAC appearance, video of Fuentes praising Russian President Vladimir Putin for his violent war of aggression in Ukraine rocketed around the internet. He also suggested that comparisons of Putin to Hitler aren’t a bad thing and led the crowd in a pro-Russia chant, all of which heightened scrutiny on the conference and Greene’s participation.
Indiana Rep. Jim Banks, who chairs the Republican Study Committee, deflected questions Tuesday about whether Greene and Gosar should face any consequences. In two separate interactions, Banks repeatedly asked for a Dispatch reporter’s opinion instead of answering what he thought should be done. He pointed to a statement he made last year about Gosar’s attendance at the AFPAC conference.
Banks said earlier this week it is “unbecoming” for a member of Congress to speak at the event. “This is an event that no Republican should attend,” he told NBC News. “And it’s unfortunate that she did.”
Rep. Tom Rice, a South Carolina Republican who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump after Jan. 6 last year, said that he thinks the “vast majority” of congressional Republicans found both members’ attendance at AFPAC “appalling and reprehensible.”
“As you know, I have a lot of disagreements with Kevin McCarthy. But this is one time when I agree with him,” Rice said of McCarthy’s condemnation of their appearances at the conference. “What steps he takes past this, I don’t know.”
Greene defended her attendance at AFPAC in an interview with CBS News’ Robert Costa on Saturday by claiming she wasn’t aware of Fuentes’ views ahead of the conference, where she shook hands with Fuentes onstage. “I don’t know what his views are, so I’m not aligned with anything that may be controversial,” Greene said. “I went to his event last night to address his very large following because that is a young, very young, following and a generation I am extremely concerned about.”
Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas, a House Republican who has previously feuded with Greene on social media, isn’t convinced. “You should know better than to go to Nick Fuentes-led events,” Crenshaw said in a brief interview on Tuesday. “Marjorie tried to insinuate that she didn’t know what she was getting into. That’s a lie. Everybody knows Fuentes is a psychopath.”
Other congressional Republicans have directed ire at Fuentes. Texas Rep. Chip Roy, for instance, called Fuentes an “a–hole” in an interview with Politico this week and said he is “frustrated by colleagues who have chosen to associate in this situation.”