Republicans Twist White Nationalism Hearing Into Islamophobic Forum

A long overdue congressional hearing on white nationalism and technological platforms on Tuesday turned into an ugly forum for Islamophobia and right-wing denialism of hate violence. The Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee hearing could have offered a powerful rejoinder to the growing problem of white supremacist violence in the wake of the New Zealand shooting as well as the suspected arson by white supremacists of three churches in Louisiana and the historic Highlander Center in Tennessee. Instead, Republican Congress members and conservative panelists used the hearing to push Islamophobic narratives.

Throughout the hearing, anti-Semitic and racist comments flooded the comments section of the event’s live stream. Meanwhile, in the chamber itself, powerful lawmakers went about echoing many of the myths that fuel the persistence of hate violence. In his opening comments, Ranking Member Doug Collins (R-Georgia) laid out Republicans’ pre-emptive defense against accusations that GOP Congress members are implicitly or explicitly supporting white supremacist and far-right groups. There were two key components to this defense: reviving the outrage over Rep. Ilhan Omar’s comments on Israel and shielding far-right language behind free speech. Collins and his colleagues attempted to equate Omar’s comments with the growing problem of white supremacist violence that spurred the hearing.

The Republicans relied on two witnesses to bring this strategy to life, both equally provocative figures in their respective circles. One was conservative commentator Candace Owens, who gained notoriety through the social media channels at issue. Even though Owens experienced anti-Black death threats in high school, she proved an invaluable guest to question hate violence, accusing Democrats of “fear-mongering, power and control” and calling the well-documented Republican Southern strategy a “myth.” Her inclusion at the hearing demonstrated the Republicans’ “free speech”…

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