The Republican Party lost whatever credibility it had as a sincere partner in curbing white nationalism when its delegates selected Donald Trump as the party’s nominee for president in 2016. That credibility, such that it was, continued to erode over the following two and a half years as Republican members of Congress coalesced behind President Trump’s immigration policies, which were designed by advisers like Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon, who describe Latin American immigrants as an invading criminal horde, and sold in Fox News segments drumming up white fears of a nonwhite majority. The GOP arguably hit rock bottom with its continued support of Steve King, a Republican congressman whose openly racist politics — including his denial of nonwhite contributions to Western civilization — were rebuked by his own party for the first time this year. (He remains in office.) But it continued to plumb the depths on Tuesday, when Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee called on Candace Owens to testify during a hearing about the threat of white nationalist violence following terrorist attacks in Charlottesville, Virginia, and Christchurch, New Zealand.
Owens is a black right-wing media personality, communications director for the conservative advocacy group Turning Point USA, and a favorite of the Infowars circuit. Predictably, she took Tuesday’s opportunity to deny that racism is a particular problem in the Republican Party or the conservative movement more broadly. She called the Southern strategy — which during the 1960s saw the GOP embrace an anti-civil-rights platform to attract bigoted white southern voters — a “myth,” and accused Representative Ted Lieu of believing that “black people are stupid” because he played footage of Owens tacitly endorsing Adolf Hitler’s nationalism. Her un-seriousness overshadowed the actual authorities who were invited to testify by Democrats, including Kristen Clarke, a civil-rights lawyer, and Mohammad Abu-Salha, whose two daughters and son-in-law were killed in 2015 in a suspected hate crime. There is an argument to be made that Owens was invited to distract the public from an issue that threatened to indict too many Republican legislators and voters regarding their complicity. But her presence had the unintended side effect of highlighting that complicity instead.