By Kaia Hubbard
Republican House leaders are under criticism in the aftermath of a Buffalo shooting over the weekend that officials called a racist attack by a gunman who killed 10 people and wounded three after reportedly writing and sharing a document online promoting far-right conspiracy theories.
Rep. Liz Cheney, Wyoming Republican, did not mince words on Monday, accusing GOP leadership of enabling “white nationalism, white supremacy and anti-semitism,” while urging GOP leaders to “renounce and reject these views and those who hold them.”
“The House GOP leadership has enabled white nationalism, white supremacy, and anti-semitism,” Cheney wrote in a tweet on Monday. “History has taught us that what begins with words ends in far worse.”
The comment comes after the suspect in the shooting, identified as 18-year-old Payton Gendron, who is white, shot 13 people, 11 of whom are Black, authorities say, calling the incident “racially motivated violent extremism.” It is being investigated as a hate crime.
In the 180-page document tied to the suspect, officials say he promoted the “great replacement theory,” a far-right idea arguing that immigration and interracial marriage are destroying or threatening white values. The theory has been touted, although in many cases not by name, by far-right figures such as Fox News host Tucker Carlson and some GOP lawmakers and others seeking election, who have made the theory’s main components key parts of their immigration rhetoric.
Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, a staunch critic of former President Donald Trump, called out his GOP colleague Rep. Elise Stefanik in a tweet on Saturday saying that she “pushes white replacement theory,” citing a September Facebook advertisement that claimed Democrats were granting amnesty to “illegal immigrants” in a “permanent election insurrection.”
Kinzinger wrote that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California should be asked about Stefanik’s views. The New York Republican replaced Cheney as the GOP conference chair after, Kinzinger noted, Cheney “got removed for demanding truth” for rebuking Trump. Kinzinger also called out Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina in another tweet saying they should be replaced along with McCarthy and Stefanik because “the replacement theory they are pushing/tolerating is getting people killed.”
Stefanik said in a statement that “our nation is heartbroken and saddened to hear the tragic news of the horrific loss of life in Buffalo, NY.” One of her senior advisers later shared another statement, blasting those who tied the lawmaker to the shooting.
“Any implication or attempt to blame the heinous shooting in Buffalo on the Congresswoman is a new disgusting low for the Left, their Never Trump allies, and the sycophant stenographers in the media,” the statement from Alex DeGrasse said. “The shooting was an act of evil and the criminal should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
The theory also appears to have become significantly ingrained in the public. According to an AP-NORC poll released last week, nearly 1 in 3 adults agree that a group of people is trying “to replace native-born Americans with immigrants for electoral gains,” one of the theory’s central beliefs. Americans who predominantly watched ring-wing media outlets such as Fox News were more likely to subscribe to replacement theory than those who watched outlets like MSNBC.
The shooting is also sparking some renewed calls from Democrats to take another look at gun control and hate crime legislation, although previous efforts have been fruitless due to holding only a slim majority in the Senate that has squandered attempts to pass even modest gun control proposals.
The White House announced that President Joe Biden and the first lady will visit Buffalo on Tuesday to pay tribute to the victims of the shooting. In a statement on Saturday, Biden said that “a racially motivated hate crime is abhorrent to the very fabric of this nation,” adding that “any act of domestic terrorism, including an act perpetrated in the name of a repugnant white nationalist ideology, is antithetical to everything we stand for in America.”
“Hate must have no safe harbor,” Biden said. “We must do everything in our power to end hate-fueled domestic terrorism.”