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- The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing Tuesday to examine hate crimes and the rise of white nationalism in the United States.
- Republicans on the committee largely ignored the agenda, instead focusing on other issues of discrimination and biases.
- Democrats mostly ignored the Republicans’ witness, the conservative personality Candace Owens.
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WASHINGTON – The House Judiciary Committee’s attempt Tuesday to examine hate crimes and the rise of white nationalism in the United States quickly split into two different hearings: one where Democrats stuck to the preset agenda and another in which Republicans focused on pet issues like what they described as “censorship” of conservative voices and “left-wing violence.”
One Democrat likened it to a hijacking, while others criticized the Republicans’ choice of witnesses for the hearing, which included the conservative commentator and activist Candace Owens.
Republican Rep. Tom McClintock of California used the bulk of his questioning time to deliver a statement about the dangers of “censoring” voices on social media.
“What we’re seeing across the world today is that it is a very slippery slope between banning hate speech and banning speech we just hate,” McClintock said while directing his statement toward representatives from Google and Facebook on the witness panel. “We’ve seen many examples even in our own country recently of legitimate speech being suppressed on college campuses, on social-media platforms, and even in public discourse.”
Several Republicans, including Reps. Andy Biggs and Louie Gohmert, mused about the concept of staged hate crimes and hoaxes, suggesting they are frequently at play in the United States.
When Rep. Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the committee, paused the hearing to note that YouTube had shut down comments on the hearing’s livestream after a wave of anti-Semitic and racist comments flooded the page, Gohmert questioned whether it was another “hate hoax.”
“Could that be another hate hoax?” Gohmert asked. “Just keep an open mind.”
Republicans’ primary witness was mostly ignored by Democrats
Democrats largely ignored Owens during the hearing, but at one point Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu of California played a portion of a clip in which the Turning Point USA communications director attempted to distinguish nationalism from Nazism in describing the actions of Adolf Hitler.
Owens then got into a back-and-forth with Nadler over Lieu’s comments.
“It is not proper to refer disparagingly to a member of the committee,” Nadler told Owens while banging his gavel. “The witness will not do that again.”
Owens slammed Lieu for not showing the entirety of the clip involving her comments on Hitler.
“He’s trying to present as if I was launching a defense of Hitler in Germany, when in fact the question that was asked of me was pertaining to whether or not I believed in nationalism and that nationalism was bad,” she said. “What I responded to was I do not believe that we should be characterizing Hitler nationalist. He was a homicidal, psychopathic maniac that killed his own people. A nationalist would not kill their own people.”
Owens received several questions from Republicans on the committee, who asked her to describe her treatment as a black conservative woman who opposed abortion.
During questioning from Republican Rep. Steve Chabot of Ohio, Owens said the Southern Strategy was a myth that “never happened.” The Southern Strategy was, in fact, a decades-long policy in Republican politics to boost turnout by appealing to white voters in the South as it related to racial divisions.
In 2005, the Republican National Committee’s chairman at the time, Ken Mehlman, issued an apology for the GOP policy to the NAACP.
Toward the end of Tuesday’s hearing, freshman Republican Rep. Greg Steube of Florida opted to not ask any questions at all, instead yielding his time to Owens to make a statement. When Owens finished, he gave his time to Mort Klein, the president of the Zionist Organization of America. When Klein finished, Steube continued with his choice to not ask questions and handed over his time to Gohmert.