WASHINGTON - Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene apologized Monday for affronting people with recent comments comparing the required wearing of safety masks in the House to the horrors of the Holocaust.
"I'm truly sorry for offending people with remarks about the Holocaust," the Georgia Republican told reporters outside the Capitol, saying she had visited Washington's U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum earlier in the day. "There's no comparison and there never ever will be."
Greene's comments were a rare expression of regret by the conservative agitator, a freshman whose career has included the embrace of violent and offensive conspiracy theories and angry confrontations with progressive colleagues.
Her apology came more than three weeks after appearing on a conservative podcast and comparing COVID-19 safety requirements adopted by Democrats controlling the House to "a time and history where people were told to wear a gold star." She said they were "put in trains and taken to gas chambers in Nazi Germany. This is exactly the type of abuse that Nancy Pelosi is talking about." Pelosi, D-Calif., is House speaker.
One advocate for the Jewish community in Georgia said Greene’s apology and visit to the museum came better late than never.
"I thought it was very important to hear Congresswoman Taylor Greene‘s apology," said Dov Wilker, regional director of the American Jewish Committee. "It took her some time to be able to apologize but I believe the visit to Holocaust Museum is important, I hope she will continue to learn more about the holocaust, perhaps even visit some of the sites that we have in the memorials we have in the Metro Atlanta area."
Greene's comments were condemned by Republican leaders, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who called the comparison "appalling."
GOP leaders have often been reluctant to castigate Greene, a close ally of former President Donald Trump. After social media posts were unearthed in which Greene suggested support for executing some Democratic leaders, McCarthy and most Republicans stood by her when the House took the unusual step of stripping her of her committee assignments in February.
But as House members returned to the Capitol on Monday after a three-week break, Greene was contrite.
"Anti-Semitism is true hate," she said. "And I saw that today at the Holocaust Museum."
In 2018, two years before her election to Congress, she speculated on Facebook that California wildfires may have been caused by "lasers or blue beams of light" controlled by a left-wing cabal tied to a powerful Jewish family.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., holds a news conference to apologize for her recent remarks equating mask mandates with the Holocaust in Washington. (Photo by Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
Wilker, who initially called the congresswoman’s comments "outrageous and frightening," hopes her apology represents the turning of a new leaf for her.
"She has a very large platform and one of my hopes is that the people that follow her will hear her apology and will perhaps understand a little more about the rise of anti-Semitism in America," Wilker said.
On Monday, she told reporters that when she was 19, she visited the site of the Auschwitz concentration camp in what during World War II was Nazi-occupied Poland. "It isn't like I learned about it today," she said of the Holocaust, in which 6 million Jews and huge numbers of other people were killed. "I went today because I thought it was important," she said, and wanted to talk about it as she apologized.
House leaders have recently said vaccinated people no longer must wear masks in the chamber.
Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., said he would introduce a resolution in the House this week to censure Greene.
Wilker said Greene’s actions will speak louder than words.
"It’s important to see how she follows up on this," he said. "What type of language does she use, what type of rhetoric, you know how does she influence her constituents, her followers."
In addition, Republicans may try forcing a vote to punish Rep. Ilhan Omar. The Minnesota Democrat recently made remarks criticized by top House Democrats and Jewish lawmakers for seeming to compare the U.S. and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban. Omar said she didn't mean to draw that parallel.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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