Republican U.S. Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz took aim at mask and vaccine mandates, critical race theory and members of their own political party who support a federal infrastructure bill Thursday in front of a Des Moines crowd that included fervent supporters of former President Donald Trump.
In nearly 90 minutes of remarks, the two also attacked Democrats, the media and big tech companies.
Greene, of Georgia, said there is a “civil war going on in the GOP” between those who want to say Trump was “just a blip on the radar” and those who support his core values.
One of the largest applause lines of the night came when Gaetz, of Florida, falsely said that Trump won the 2020 election.
“Will you caucus for Donald Trump in 2024?” he then said, to more loud cheers.
Trump has teased at another run for the White House but has not formally announced a campaign.
The two criticized the Biden administration over the Taliban’s swift takeover of Afghanistan as U.S. troops withdrew over the weekend and panned the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package the Senate passed last week.
Greene said she is supporting primary candidates to oppose Republicans who voted for the package. She did not specifically name U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who voted for the bill when it passed the Senate last week, but she encouraged those in attendants to reach out to their members of Congress.
Greene also said she planned to file articles of impeachment against President Joe Biden on Friday — an act of political theater given Democrats control Congress that she has performed before.
“We have a national security crisis at our southern border, ladies and gentlemen, and Joe Biden left Americans behind in Afghanistan at the mercy of the Taliban,” she said. “That is not a president representing the United States of America.”
Greene and Gaetz are political lightning rods in Congress, who have taken their agenda on the road. Their “America First” rally at the Iowa Events Center is among numerous stops the two Trump allies have made around the country together.
Back in Washington, Greene’s remarks have drawn criticism from both sides of the aisle. U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, criticized Greene earlier this year, saying that “she doesn’t represent the party.” And the Democratic-led House in February voted to remove Greene from her committee assignments over past remarks, including “likes” on social media posts calling for violence against prominent Democrats.
Greene has promoted conspiracy theories and false claims, including some about the 2020 election and the coronavirus. Twitter last week suspended her account for seven days after the social media company said she had violated the platform’s rules by tweeting misleading information about the COVID-19 vaccine.
She called the suspension “a badge of honor” on Thursday.
Federal investigators are looking into Gaetz as part of a sex trafficking investigation that includes allegations that he had sex with a 17-year-old girl. Gaetz has denied the allegations.
Greene referred briefly to the allegations Thursday, saying people “have said awful things about him, things that are not true.” Gaetz also jokingly referred to them while telling a story of a visit to a detention facility where he was not allowed in.
“I have half the government trying to lock me in jail and the other half locking me out,” he said.
Iowa Democrats criticized the lawmakers’ visit ahead of Thursday’s rally. Rep. Ross Wilburn, D-Ames and chairperson of the Iowa Democratic Party, said Greene has a history of racist and homophobic comments and called on Republican leaders in Iowa to condemn her views.
“We’ve heard nothing from our Republican colleagues, leadership to denounce those hateful views or to separate themselves from them,” he said.
Pat Garrett, a spokesperson for Gov. Kim Reynolds, declined to comment on the rally Thursday afternoon.
Attendees at the rally, many of them decked in red, white and blue and wearing Donald Trump baseball caps, said they liked Greene and Gaetz’s approaches and their stances on issues.
“We came because Marjorie Taylor Greene is a spitfire,” said Dennis Eggenburg, of Muscatine, who wore a blue “Trump 2024” hat to the rally and carried a baseball card of Greene in his pocket. “Love her gumption. She gets after people.”
Eggenburg said he wondered if Greene would run for president in 2024 and that he believes she could make a good vice president. He said he supports the stances Greene and Gaetz take on opposing mask and vaccine requirements and banning the teaching of critical race theory.
He said she should “keep doing what she’s doing” and not pay attention to the “haters and the RINOs” — or Republicans in name only — who oppose her.
Brad Boustead, of Urbandale, also said that “maybe she’s a little too outspoken” for some people, but he said he likes a “spicy Republican.” Nicer approaches aren’t always the best approach to addressing the “swamp problems” in Washington, he said.
“It’s going to need somebody kind of spunky that can clean some of that out, which I’m in favor of,” he said.