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- The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing to examine hate crimes and the rise of white nationalism in the United States on Tuesday.
- Republicans on the committee largely ignored the agenda, instead focusing on other issues of discrimination and biases.
- Democrats mostly ignored the Republicans’ witness, conservative personality Candace Owens.
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WASHINGTON — When the House Judiciary Committee attempted to examine hate crimes and the rise of white nationalism in the United States on Tuesday, it quickly split into two different hearings: One where Democrats stuck to the preset agenda and another in which Republicans focused on pet issues like alleged "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 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 shutdown comments on their livestream over a wave of anti-Semitic and racists 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, California Rep. Ted Lieu, who played a portion of 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 said to 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."
But Owens received a fair amount of questions from Republicans on committee, who probed into how she has been treated for being a conservative and pro-life African-American.
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, Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman issued an apology for the GOP policy to the NAACP.
Towards the end of the hearing, freshman 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 current 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.
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