EFFINGHAM, Ill. – At the U.S. Capitol, Marjorie Taylor Greene told a downstate crowd Thursday night, she and fellow freshman Republican Congresswoman Mary Miller are “not the popular girls.”
In February, soon after she and Miller began their first terms in the U.S. House, Greene lost her committee posts. Then last month, Greene received a rare rebuke from GOP leaders for her comments equating mask mandates and the Holocaust.
Miller also immediately had to apologize for citing Adolf Hitler in a speech in Washington. And Miller’s husband, a state lawmaker from eastern Illinois, drew criticism for displaying a right-wing extremist logo on his truck when it was parked outside the Capitol on the day of the deadly insurrection there, on Jan. 6.
But here in Effingham, about 200 miles south of Chicago, Greene received a warm welcome from about 400 people as she made her first visit to Illinois – as the keynote speaker at a reelection fundraiser for Mary Miller.
“Donate directly to the people who are doing the job that you’re proud of, like your great congresswoman, Mary Miller,” Greene said. “I have not gone to anyone’s district and supported anybody yet, but I went to your congresswoman’s district first and supported your congresswoman because I’m thankful for her.”
“She needs your help,” Greene added. “We aren’t the popular girls in Washington.”
Since Jan. 6, Greene said, she and Miller are “not considered nice girls in the swamp” and are mistreated in Washington.
“They call us insurrectionists,” Greene said. “We are patriots. We’re actually proud American women. That’s exactly who we are. Real women – that’s right. But that’s not something that Washington, D.C., respects.”
Miller clearly calculated that Greene’s appearance here would aid her in what’s arguably the most conservative congressional district in a largely blue state. The two women embraced at the beginning and end of Greene’s remarks, and Miller stood silently behind her colleague from the South throughout her 50-minute speech.
But Democrats sought to blast the partnership even before they took the stage. In a statement Thursday in which they repeatedly misspelled Greene’s name, top Illinois Democrats said, “Mary Miller and Marjorie Taylor Green are two peas in a pod blindly following their dear failed leader Donald Trump … The Miller and Green show are now fundraising together in Illinois, continuing their grift and conspiracy theory partnership.”
About a half-dozen protesters stood on the sidewalk outside the convention center in Effingham before Greene’s appearance, with signs that read, “No M&Ms for me” and another that described Greene and Miller as “twisted sisters.”
After the fundraiser, organizers said Greene would not be available to take questions from the media. Miller and her husband, state Rep. Chris Miller, ignored questions from a WBEZ reporter as they walked straight to their truck after the event, accompanied by a man with “security” written on the back of his shirt.
It was the same truck Chris Miller had left outside the U.S. Capitol on the day of the insurrection. But the vehicle sticker for the Three Percenters extremists was no longer on the silver Ford as he drove away from Thursday’s fundraiser.
During her speech, Greene also said she was certain Trump had really won her home state – which he, in fact, lost – in last year’s presidential election.
And Greene sought to rekindle her now-infamous feud with Democratic Congresswoman Marie Newman of Illinois, again attacking Newman’s transgender daughter in her remarks in Effingham.
“Her so-called daughter is a trans, biological adult son, approximately close to the same age as my two, very much biological real girls – daughters,” Greene said of Newman, drawing laughter from many in the crowd. “I call her Marie Newperson. ‘Cause she doesn’t believe in gender! I don’t want to offend her, so I changed her name from Newman to Newperson…She is very confused. As a matter of fact, so is her son.”
Greene peppered her speech with other bigoted comments about “the great Chinese pandemic” and Muslim members of Congress and their allies, who she called “the jihad squad.”
Greene had apologized for her comments linking the Holocaust with mask mandates but again made a Nazi reference earlier this week, saying “brown shirts” from President Joe Biden’s administration would try to pressure people to vaccinate themselves against the coronavirus.
She did not make any such remarks here on Thursday, but Greene did praise Miller for joining her in supporting a proposal she said would “let you sue them for discrimination” if anybody tried to require the COVID-19 vaccine.
“I’m so thankful for her, and I love having Mary Miller as a friend,” Greene said.
Asked about the joint appearance Thursday of Greene and Miller, the Anti-Defamation League’s Midwest regional director, David Goldenberg, said, “We’re at a point right now where it’s critical that we reject the politics of hate. And politicians and elected officials who continue to tout conspiracy theories and bigotry and racism need to be rejected loudly, clearly, universally … It’s nuts.”
Before Greene’s speech, the crowd was treated to a video in which Miller said more about Chicago than about her own district in downstate Illinois. In the video, Miller said the state’s largest city is a “war zone” and that her largely rural part of Illinois is not “rundown” and “gang-infested,” unlike Chicago.
She said people in her district do not stand by when their businesses are attacked by rioters: “We shoot back.”
Dan Mihalopoulos is a reporter on WBEZ’s Government & Politics Team.