“Elise has a complete record,” said Rep. Mario Diaz Balart (R-Fla.), a key party voice on immigration. “When things like that are said about Elise, it falls flat. It really is.
Yet even as House Republicans publicly rallied around Stefanik, who indirectly addressed some of the feedback she received, one of her colleagues openly cautioned her against using words that can be easily deformed. It was a warning that reflected a broader realization within the conference about her messaging leader: She has greater leadership aspirations and has moved to the right to help achieve them.
“She’s not racist, but you have to be careful with your statements,” Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), which represents a purple quarter. “I think you need to…stay on message.”
Stefanik spoke about the shooting that killed 10 people, including a majority of black people, calling it an act of “pure evil” during a press conference on Tuesday marking the launch of the Hispanic Leadership Trust, a committee of political action intended to support Latino candidates. And she nodded at the criticism against her specifically, arguing that now was not the time to politicize events in the wake of the tragedy.
In digital ads last year, Stefanik claimed that “radical Democrats” were plotting a “permanent election insurrection” by seeking to “grant amnesty” to millions of immigrants living illegally in the United States. the current electorate and create a permanent liberal majority in Washington.
Democrats and some Republicans also pointed this week to a tweet from Stefanik that reads, “Democrats desperately want open borders and a massive amnesty for illegals to vote.”
Stefanik denied that his remarks were racist.
“I’ve never made a racist comment, and I’m known nationally for expanding the Republican Party by supporting black candidates and Hispanic candidates,” Stefanik said in an interview on CNN Monday.
“Any involvement or attempt to blame the heinous shooting in Buffalo on the congresswoman is a disgusting new low for the left, their Never Trump allies and the sycophant stenographers in the media,” Stefanik’s senior adviser Alex deGrasse said in a statement. communicated. . “Despite the disgust and misinformation, Congresswoman Stefanik has never taken a racist stance or made a racist statement.”
Diaz-Balart noted that Democrats and other left-wing groups have made similar remarks to Stefanik’s comments, including a 2013 Center for American Progress article that argued that a path to citizenship for “all 11 million of the nation’s undocumented immigrants is the only way [for Democrats] to maintain electoral strength in the future.
representing Gary Palm (R-Ala.) predicted the criticism would have virtually no impact on Stefanik’s standing in the conference at a key time for the ambitious 37-year-old, who is seen as likely to try her hand at a party whiplash if Republicans return home in November.
“This isn’t just one of the most dishonest attacks I’ve ever seen…by Democrats, this is one of the dumbest attacks I’ve ever seen,” Palmer told POLITICO .
“No one in their right mind believes that Elise Stefanik is racist. It’s insulting to everybody’s intelligence,” Palmer added, calling the impact of criticism within the House GOP conference “null of the day.” everything “.
But across the aisle, Democrats are ridiculing Stefanik, using his comments and others to argue that Republicans are comfortable embracing extremist ideologies.
“House Republicans are fanning the flames of hate and embracing a racist conspiracy theory advanced by a white supremacist,” the House Democratic Caucus chairman said. Hakeem Jeffries (DN.Y.) told reporters Tuesday. “We are still waiting for a single House Republican leader to denounce the replacement theory.”
Others have sought to link his rhetoric directly to violence.
“The Republican conference speaker is running ads pushing this theory,” Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-California). “Not only is this kind of rhetoric wrong, but it’s beneath the dignity of our offices and getting people killed. But this broken ideology drives the Republican Party today.
The attacks on Stefanik in the aftermath of the shooting didn’t come from Democrats — it was a few of his GOP colleagues who struck first.
representing Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) initially slammed Stefanik and other Republicans over the weekend, saying the No. 3 House Republican is “pushing the white replacement theory.” He added in a later tweet that GOP lawmakers should replace a number of their own members, including Stefanik, because “the replacement theory they’re pushing/tolerating is to get people killed.”
But Kinzinger and Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) — outcasts in their own conference — may be the only voices criticizing Stefanik. Others felt it was an effort by Democrats to shift the blame onto Republicans to distract from their own woes, such as inflation, formula shortages, the border, etc. .
“Really? Does anyone think Elise is problematic? said Diaz-Balart.
Be p. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), who admitted he wasn’t following Stefanik’s rhetoric or Democratic critics, accused Democrats of mounting a “pathetic, overblown response…about everything to change the subject of their own failures.
“It’s just another stretch from the Democrats,” Banks said, citing the border as a prime example of why “voters are going to kick Democrats out of office in November.”
Nicholas Wu contributed to this report.