Liz Cheney calls out GOP leaders for enabling “white supremacy” after Buffalo shooting

Adam Kinzinger said the "Great Replacement" theory embraced by some Republican leaders is "getting people killed"

By Igor Derysh

Senior News Editor

Published May 16, 2022 9:31AM (EDT)

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., accused Republican leaders of enabling "white supremacy" after a shooter who espoused "Great Replacement" theory talking points embraced by some in the GOP killed 10 people at a Buffalo supermarket on Saturday.

Police say a white 18-year-old gunman livestreamed his attack on a Tops store in Buffalo, killing 10 and injuring three others. The suspect posted a so-called manifesto online detailing his plan to target a Black community and discussing his white supremacist ideology. The suspect wrote that he was motivated by the "Great Replacement" theory boosted by Republican lawmakers and Fox News hosts like Tucker Carlson, arguing that immigration is being used to replace and diminish the influence of white people.

Cheney, who served as the No. 3 Republican in the House before she was ousted by her party for criticizing former President Donald Trump, called out GOP leadership for boosting a conspiracy theory that inspired not only the Buffalo shooter but other mass shooters as well.

"The House GOP leadership has enabled white nationalism, white supremacy, and anti-semitism," Cheney wrote on Twitter. "History has taught us that what begins with words ends in far worse. @GOP leaders must renounce and reject these views and those who hold them."

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., the only other Republican who serves alongside Cheney on the House Jan. 6 committee, tweeted that his "replacement theory" is that "we need to replace" House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Reps. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y.; Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga.; and Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., among others.

"The replacement theory they are pushing/tolerating is getting people killed," Kinzinger wrote.

The congressman in another tweet again called out Stefanik for pushing the "white replacement theory" while serving as the No. 3 Republican in the House, a position Cheney was removed from for "demanding truth."

RELATED: Buffalo shooting comes eight months after Rep. Elise Stefanik called out over "Great Replacement"

Kinzinger linked to an article about Stefanik being called out by her hometown newspaper over a "despicable" Facebook ad it said echoed "Great Replacement" rhetoric. The ad showed images of migrants reflected in President Joe Biden's sunglasses while accusing Democrats of planning a "permanent election insurrection."

"Back in 2017, white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, Va., carrying torches and chanting, 'You will not replace us' and 'Jews will not replace us.' Decent Americans recoiled at the undeniable echo of Nazi Germany," the Times-Union editorial board wrote in September 2021. "That rhetoric has been resonating ever since in the right wing, repackaged lately in what's known as 'replacement theory,' espoused by conservative media figures like Fox News' Tucker Carlson. And it has seeped into the mainstream political discourse in the Capital Region, where Rep. Elise Stefanik has adapted this despicable tactic for campaign ads."

The editorial added that Stefanik "isn't so brazen to use the slogans themselves; rather, she couches the hate in alarmist anti-immigrant rhetoric that's become standard fare for the party of Donald Trump."

Stefanik made no mention of the role that racism played in the shooting but used her condolence tweet to highlight that it is National Police Week and "we must thank & honor our law enforcement & first responders who heroically face skyrocketing violent crimes."

Alex deGrasse, a Stefanik adviser, pushed back on the criticism of her ad.

"Any implication or attempt to blame the heinous shooting in Buffalo on the Congresswoman is a new disgusting low for the Left, their Never Trump allies, and the sycophant stenographers in the media," deGrasse told the Washington Post. "The shooting was an act of evil and the criminal should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Despite sickening and false reporting, [the] Congresswoman has never advocated for any racist position or made a racist statement."

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Stefanik is not the only prominent Republican to push the theory. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., last year accused the left of bringing in immigrants to "drown traditional, classic Americans with as many people as they can."

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Scott Perry, R-Pa., said during a committee hearing last year that many Americans believe "we're replacing national-born American — native-born Americans — to permanently transform the political landscape of this very nation."

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., defended Carlson's rants making the same points, tweeting last fall that the Fox host was "CORRECT about Replacement Theory as he explains what is happening in America."

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., in 2018 posted a video on Facebook that argues that Jews are orchestrating a mass migration to replace white people in "the biggest genocide in human history."

Lesser-known Trump allies like Arizona state Sen. Wendy Rogers, who suggested the Buffalo shooting was faked, have also claimed that "we are being replaced and invaded" by illegal immigrants, echoing similar rhetoric from Trump himself.

The ideology has quickly seeped in among the party's voter base. Nearly half of Republicans, and nearly one-third of the country, believe that "there is a group of people in this country who are trying to replace native-born Americans with immigrants who agree with their political views," according to an Associated Press/NORC poll conducted in December. Respondents who watched right-wing networks like OAN, Newsmax, and Fox News were far more likely to believe in the conspiracy theory, according to the survey.

No mainstream figure has been linked to pushing the conspiracy theory more than Carlson, who has pushed the idea that Democrats and elites are trying to force demographic change through immigration in more than 400 episodes of his show, according to a New York Times analysis.

Though there is no indication the Buffalo suspect watched Carlson but some of his rhetoric could have come directly from the host's scripts.

"Why is diversity said to be our greatest strength? Does anyone even ask why? It is spoken like a mantra and repeated ad infinitum," the suspect wrote in his manifesto.

The line is eerily similar to a talking point Carlson has pushed repeatedly.

"How, precisely, is diversity our strength?" he questioned in one 2018 segment highlighted by the Times out of many. "Since you've made this our new national motto, please be specific as you explain it."

Salon's Amanda Marcotte wrote on Sunday that it's doubtful the Buffalo shooting will have any effect on the host's or his fans' rhetoric since the conspiracy theory has only grown in popularity since other "great replacement"-inspired shootings in an El Paso Walmart and a Pittsburgh synagogue.

"We cannot legitimately hope that they will be chastened by this latest round of violence," Marcotte wrote, "but we can make clear that their hateful rhetoric helped to unleash it."

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By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's senior news editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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