'Unforgivable': Why Rep. Upton voted to expel Georgia's Greene from committees

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News
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Washington — West Michigan U.S. Rep. Fred Upton was among 11 Republicans who voted to expel one of his GOP colleagues from her committee roles over past inflammatory comments, saying her harassment of a Parkland shooting survivor was "unforgivable."

Prior to the Thursday vote against Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, she tried to distance herself from her previous embrace of violence against liberals and conspiracy theories about the Sept. 11 terror attacks and mass school shootings being hoaxes. 

U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph

But the last straw for Upton, he said, was Greene's failure to apologize for her "accosting" David Hogg, a student who survived the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018 that left 17 dead in Parkland, Florida, and is now a gun-control activist. 

"I met with the Parkland students, and those moments are so traumatic," said Upton, who used to serve on the House Education panel from which Greene was removed. "For her to accost a teen survivor the way that she did without an apology is unforgivable."

Upton was referencing a March 2019 video in which Greene followed Hogg across the grounds of the U.S. Capitol as she makes false claims about the attack on his school and tells him that she carried a gun. She then called Hogg a "coward" as he walked away without responding. 

"I mean, in his face and even telling him that she had a gun on her. How frightening is that? Anyone who went through that — so fragile," Upton told The Detroit News. "That was my deciding factor." 

Greene, an ardent supporter of former President Donald Trump, on Friday blasted the Republicans who joined Democrats to strip her of her committee assignments.

“There were 11 that voted against me yesterday, and that's something that our leaders should be very upset about,” Greene told reporters on Capitol Hill.

“When you have Republicans in the ranks voting against one of their own, opening the door for Democrats to go after every single Republican next, that really is a big betrayal and that could cost us the majority in '22," she added.

"People are very angry. That's all I've heard from people all morning — furious about that. So, I hope that my Republican colleagues really think about what they've done. I'm sure they're going to hear from their voters at home because the base is loyal to President Trump and the base has been very loyal to me."

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., goes back to her office after speaking on the floor of the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021.

Greene stated that the GOP is completely under the power of Trump, whom Upton voted to impeach last month.

“The party is his. It doesn’t belong to anyone else,” Greene said.

Upton has since been censured by two of the county parties in southwest Michigan, which he's represented in Congress since 1987.

Greene was dismissive of losing her committee seats. “If I was on a committee, I'd be wasting my time because my conservative values wouldn't be heard, and neither would my district's," Greene argued, blasting President Joe Biden’s executive orders and Democrats' control of the House. 

“I'm sorry for saying all those things that are wrong and offensive. And I sincerely mean that. And I'm happy to say that," Greene said. 

She said she would not apologize for approaching Hogg. “David Hogg was an adult when I talked to him. I don't think any of you have realized that,” Greene said. "No, I'm not sorry for telling him he shouldn't push for gun control."

Greene said she could sympathize with what Hogg experienced after an incident that happened when she was 16: A classmate took her school hostage for five hours with a gun he brought into the building, a "Gun-free zone."

“I want you to know I know that fear that David Hogg felt. It's terrifying. It's terrifying when the only person in the building with a gun is very upset and is there to do evil, and there's no good guy with any guns to protect us,” Greene said.

Upton said Greene's personal experience with a school lockdown makes the situation even more outrageous. 

"For her to have been in a lockdown, man, she sure should have known what it was like to face that traumatic day in her own life, let alone to accost someone and claim it didn't happen — that it was a setup," Upton said. "I mean, what a bunch of garbage."

Upton said he would have preferred that House Republicans had yanked Greene from the education panel, which would have allowed GOP lawmakers to argue Thursday that they'd already punished Greene. 

"Republicans should have done this on our own," said Upton, who sits on the GOP Steering Committee that determines committee assignments.  

He noted the GOP conference had done so as recently as 2019 with Iowa Rep. Steve King over racist comments. The party also kicked former Michigan Rep. Justin Amash off the Budget Committee in 2012 for voting against the party line on a budget measure. 

"This is dirty laundry, and it is best resolved within the conference itself, and it wasn’t, which would have prevented the vote," Upton said. 

He did credit Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy for offering to reassign Greene from the education panel, but Democrats reportedly declined and went ahead with the floor vote. 

The day before the Parkland shooting, Upton recalled that he visited Portage Central High School in his district and the building went into lockdown for an active-shooter drill. 

After that, he co-sponsored a so-called "red flag" bill that would allow law enforcement to temporarily confiscate firearms from people at risk of harming themselves or others. The legislation was modeled after an Indiana statute but was opposed by the National Rifle Association and never passed. 

"I would note that Florida Governor (Ron) DeSantis — not exactly a flaming liberal — signed one into law, following Parkland," Upton said. 

He cited the arguments from opponents who claimed it would allow for weapon seizures without due process. 

"No, it won't, but it provides some safety element," Upton said. "And it clearly would have prevented Parkland from happening."

mburke@detroitnews.com

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