Since her election to Congress in November, Republican representative Marjorie Taylor Greene has been no stranger to controversy. The congresswoman's espousal of conspiracy theories, including support for the QAnon movement, led to her ousting from the House education and budget committee within weeks of her arrival in Washington. Eleven Republicans voted with Democrats to support a resolution in the House of Representatives censuring her.
Greene disavowed some of her most offensive past statements in a speech in the House ahead of the vote to remove her from House committee positions in February. But the contrition didn’t last long.
Instead the 46-year-old representative from Georgia has continued to rail against some of the basic norms of political discourse.
This week a new Rubicon was crossed when Greene repeatedly compared the wearing of face masks to the persecution of Jews during the Holocaust.
She first made the remarks during a podcast interview last week. Referring to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as "mentally ill", she denounced Pelosi's decision to make face masks mandatory on the House floor.
"You know, we can look back in a time and history where people were told to wear a gold star. And they were definitely treated like second-class citizens, so much so that they were put in trains and taken to gas chambers in Nazi Germany, " Greene said on the podcast. "This is exactly the type of abuse that Nancy Pelosi is talking about."
Despite a backlash, Greene then doubled down on the comments. Tweeting about a grocery store that will allow vaccinated employees to wear a special logo, she posted: “Vaccinated employees get a vaccination logo just like the Nazi’s forced Jewish people to wear a gold star.”
After days of silence, the Republican Party finally spoke out on Tuesday. "Marjorie is wrong, and her intentional decision to compare the horrors of the Holocaust with wearing masks is appalling," House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said. "The fact that this needs to be stated today is deeply troubling."
Others swiftly followed suit. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said Greene’s comments were just one of her “frequent outbursts that are absolutely outrageous and reprehensible”.
Elise Stefanik, who replaced Liz Cheney as the third-ranking Republican in the House last week, said that "equating mask-wearing and vaccines to the Holocaust" minimised "the most significant human atrocities ever committed". However, she stopped short of naming Greene directly. McCarthy too received immediate pushback for not formally censuring Greene, or even removing her from the Republican caucus.
But the reality for Republicans is that they are wary of alienating Greene or her supporters. Though she may be considered by many as a fringe element within the party, she commands significant support among grassroots Republican supporters. She raised $3.2 million (about €2.6 million) in donations in the first quarter of the year – an astonishing figure for someone in their first few months in office. Greene has evidently calculated that her subversive statements can motivate supporters. In particular, she has singled out for attack Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a familiar foil for Republican commentators.
She aggressively confronted the New York congresswoman in the halls of Capitol Hill earlier this month, shouting: “Why do you support terrorists and antifa?” Video has also surfaced of Greene taunting Ocasio-Cortez’s staff outside her office in February 2019 before Greene’s election to Congress, while she was on a visit to Capitol Hill.
But while video clips of her accosting Ocasio-Cortez may help rile supporters, her alliance with former president Donald Trump is her main calling card. Greene has positioned herself as the heir to Donald Trump and keeper of the "America First" flame – still important currency in the post-Trump Republican era.
With reports that the Manhattan district attorney has convened a grand jury as part of a criminal investigation into Mr Trump's business affairs, Republicans may have difficult questions to answer in the coming months if the president's legal difficulties intensify.
For Trump, however, he can be sure that the new congresswoman from Georgia will remain a steadfast supporter, whatever the future holds for the former president.