Ocasio-Cortez decries 'KKK Caucus' after GOP lawmakers speak at white nationalist conference

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., criticized House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Monday for his record of defending members of his caucus who have engaged in white supremacy and antisemitism.

Over the weekend, Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Paul Gosar of Arizona appeared at the America First Political Action Conference, which was organized by white nationalist Nick Fuentes. Greene appeared in person, while Gosar sent a prerecorded video after speaking in person last year.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at a news conference in San Antonio on Feb. 12. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Speaking to reporters on Monday, McCarthy called the appearance “appalling and wrong,” noting the “Putin” chants that Fuentes led at the conference. McCarthy added, “There’s no place in our party for any of this,” and said Greene should have walked off the stage following her introduction, in which Fuentes said, “Now they’re going on about Russia and Vladimir Putin is Hitler — they say that’s not a good thing.” When McCarthy was asked about it at a Tuesday morning press conference, he referred to his prior statements.

The New York congresswoman retweeted McCarthy’s comments and criticized him for his previous defenses of extremist members of his caucus.

“McCarthy has been protecting his little KKK Caucus for years with these toothless statements and meetings,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted on Monday. “It’s how he covers for them. He’s now helped them for so long they’ve escalated their open antisemitism & collaboration w/ white nationalist groups. He’s just as culpable.”

“McCarthy stood on the House floor and passionately defended Rep. Gosar, who also headlined fundraisers for white nationalist orgs & escalated into inciting violence in the House,” Ocasio-Cortez continued. “He made it fair game. It’s not an exaggeration in the slightest to say he works to protect them.”

Greene defended her appearance in a string of tweets on Sunday, referring to the attendees as “1,200 young conservatives who feel cast aside and marginalized by society” and stating she wouldn’t “cancel others in the conservative movement, even if I find some of their statements tasteless, misguided or even repulsive at times.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy at the National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 3. (Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images) (Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said there was no room for “white supremacists or antisemitism” in the party, while Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said he had “morons” on his team. Herschel Walker, the top Republican candidate for Georgia’s U.S. Senate seat this fall, pulled out of an event with Greene following her remarks.

In November, Gosar was censured and stripped of committee assignments after he posted an animated video depicting him attacking President Biden and killing Ocasio-Cortez. Only two Republicans, Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, voted to punish Gosar. Cheney and Kinzinger themselves have faced more scorn from McCarthy and the GOP caucus for their participation in the investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Greene was removed from her committee assignments by the House in February 2021 after McCarthy declined to punish her embrace of bizarre conspiracy theories and endorsement of violence against Democrats, including Ocasio-Cortez. In social media posts she made prior to her election in 2020, Greene appeared to endorse the execution of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, promoted the idea that school shootings were false flag events and espoused both antisemitic and Islamophobic views. Greene has repeatedly compared those promoting mask and vaccine usage to Nazis. In May of last year, McCarthy said her comments comparing a rule on face coverings to the Holocaust were “appalling.”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando on Saturday. (Paul Hennessy/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) (Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Yet if Republicans take control of the House this fall, McCarthy has pledged that he would not just restore Greene and Gosar to committee seats but potentially give them more powerful positions.

“They’ll have committees,” McCarthy said during a news conference in November. “They may have other committee assignments. They may have better committee assignments.”

In 2019, McCarthy and GOP leaders voted to strip then-Rep. Steve King of his committee assignments after he asked, when speaking to the New York Times, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”

The Iowa congressman had a long history of racist rhetoric and had attempted to defend his association with international far-right groups by saying, “If they were in America pushing the platform that they push, they would be Republicans.” King lost his Republican primary the following year, but had said he would be restored to his committee assignments if he won. McCarthy said at the time that he would wait to let King formally make his case.