The Slatest

A Necessary Explainer on How Lauren Boebert’s Smear Sent the House Into Chaos

A close-up of Boebert wearing glasses and looking off into the distance.
It all started with Rep. Lauren Boebert … Alex Wong/Getty Images

Congress returned from Thanksgiving break this week with a loaded to-do list before the end of the year. We’re talkin’ annual defense bill, funding the government, extending the debt limit, passing (or blocking) Biden’s signature Build Back Better legislation in the Senate, maybe doing something on that major tech and manufacturing bill that’s been sitting in the House for months.

The House, which returned Tuesday, is laser-focused on getting its work done for the people, who insist on a sizable defense spending boost following the cessation of America’s involvement in Afghanistan.

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Just kidding. The House is, as of Tuesday afternoon, consumed by another one of its insult spirals, one that’s getting pretty hard to follow. Which is why we’re here to explain.

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Who did the first racist thing?

That’s an impossibly deep question; we’d refer you to your local public library. In the context of this latest House foofaraw, though, the spat dates to a couple of weeks ago, when the House was debating censure of Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar for tweeting an edited anime video depicting him stabbing New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the neck. During the debate, Rep. Lauren Boebert, winner of the 2020 local bozo raffle to represent western Colorado in Congress, was attempting to explain that it was hypocritical to strip Gosar of his committee assignments while Democrats’ transgressions went unpunished. In doing so, she described Rep. Ilhan Omar as “the Jihad Squad member from Minnesota” who is “allowed on the Foreign Affairs Committee while praising terrorists.”

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Why did she call Ilhan Omar a member of the “Jihad Squad”?

Because Omar is Muslim, and Boebert is straightforwardly Islamophobic. She, along with other members to be discussed later, believe that “Jihad Squad” is a cute riff on “the Squad,” the prevailing nickname for a left-wing bloc of House members. Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, another member of the Squad, is also Muslim.

It seems like Boebert, having been clever enough to come up with “Jihad Squad,” might have any number of additional risible jokes, straight out of 2002, where the joke is that someone who is Muslim is maybe a terrorist. Does she?

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We know of at least one more. A couple of days after the floor remarks, on Nov. 20, Boebert told a story at an event in her district.

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“So the other night on the House floor was not my first Jihad Squad moment,” Boebert said. “I was getting into an elevator with one of my staffers, and he and I were leaving the Capitol, we’re going back to my office and we get in the elevator and I see a Capitol Police officer running hurriedly to the elevator. I see fret all over his face. And he’s reaching. The door is shutting. I can’t open it.

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“What’s happening? I look to my left and there she is, Ilhan Omar, and I said, ‘Well she doesn’t have a backpack, we should be fine.’ ”

Did this really happen?

Not according to Omar.

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Is this a regular bit for Boebert?

Does twice, that we know of, count as a bit? CNN reporter Andrew Kaczynski this week dug up another instance of Boebert telling the story in September, though this time without the flourish of the rushing Capitol Police officer. Boebert also referred, at this earlier event, to Omar and Tlaib as “just blackhearted, evil women.”

Did Boebert apologize once this became public?

Kinda-sorta. After a chitchat with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who simply wants his lunatic members to shut the fuck up so Republicans can smoothly take back the House as they are poised to do, Boebert tweeted an apology last Friday “to anyone in the Muslim community I offended with my comment about Rep. Omar. I have reached out to her office to speak with her directly. There are plenty of policy differences to focus on without this unnecessary distraction.”

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So … no apology to Omar directly? 

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Correct.

Did Boebert and Omar end up speaking?

Yes, on Monday.

How’d it go? 

Poorly. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said he warned McCarthy that connecting the two might not be a great idea, and sure enough, it wasn’t. In a statement after the call, Omar said that she agreed to talk “in the hope of receiving a direct apology for falsely claiming she met me in an elevator, suggesting I was a terrorist, and for a history of anti-Muslim hate.” Boebert, instead, “refused to publicly acknowledge her hurtful and dangerous comments. She instead doubled down on her rhetoric and I decided to end the unproductive call.” Unlike the elevator story, Boebert’s and Omar’s recollections of their Monday call were roughly similar, although takeaways vary. To Boebert, Omar’s refusal to continue the conversation was part of “cancel culture 101.”

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How did Boebert’s fellow House Republicans receive Boebert’s jokes about how she was scared Omar was a terrorist who might carry a backpack bomb?

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Mostly, we have no idea, because people stayed mum. But South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace did address it.

Mace, a freshman GOP member, has had an interesting first year in Congress. She’s taken a couple of stands that haven’t gone over well with the GOP base, like arguing against those in her party who refused to certify Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory, and voting to hold Steve Bannon in criminal contempt for ignoring a congressional subpoena. Members who take stands against the GOP base like that, though, often look for opportunities for make-up calls, in which they overcompensate on something separate to restore trust with the base. Mace, in one such make-up call, made fun of AOC for being scared during the Jan. 6 insurrection.

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So Mace, speaking to CNN on Sunday when asked about Boebert’s remarks, offered a fairly gentle reproach. “I have time after time condemned my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for racist tropes and remarks that I find disgusting and this is no different than any others.”

And is this the part of the saga when Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene does her Kool-Aid-Man-busts-through-the-wall entrance to make herself the center of the story?
 
Oh yeah!!

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And did it kind of just go from there, throughout Tuesday?

Oh yeah!!

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What was Greene’s biggest missed opportunity here?

Well, as you saw in this series of tweets, Mace parried early with a classic dunk template: the spelling correction, in this case of Greene writing the possessive your instead of the contraction you’re. Mace made this her pinned tweet. But then, later in the feud, Mace left herself critically vulnerable: She used principle instead of principal.

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Greene had 14 minutes to destroy Mace for this spelling error. She wasted them, as Mace was able to correct herself first.

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Is this still a developing situation?

We guess? There will be more tweets, more characters, more calls, more statements, more bigotry. There will always be more. There has never not been more.

Should I continue to follow this developing situation, or would my time be better spent doing absolutely anything else? Should I perform community service, or clean up around the house, do my job, take care of my kids, watch the Beatles thing, stare at the wall, eat dinner, etc., or continue to follow this—a bunch of House members taking shots at one another on Twitter?

You should definitely keep following this.

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