For the second time in as many months, Congress convened a hearing on the rise of white supremacist violence, in an apparent bid to brainstorm solutions. But for the second time, Congress derailed its own hearing by inviting a bad-faith witness who denied that hate and white supremacy pose a threat at all.
On Wednesday, the House Oversight Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties had the opportunity to draw from the fountain of knowledge in front of them: a panel of experts on and victims of white supremacy that included Susan Bro, mother of Heather Heyer, the lone fatality during the deadly 2017 Unite the Right neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Bro’s testimony followed the hearing’s stated goals and even included suggestions for actually doing something about white supremacist violence ― namely by drafting legislation that addresses law enforcement’s inconsistent reporting of hate crimes and domestic terrorism, especially when white Americans commit them.
However, Congress placed across from Bro a witness who denied white supremacy was a threat. Subcommittee Chairman Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), at the behest of the panel’s GOP minority, had invited Reason editor Robby Soave, who spent his testimony casting doubt on the need for such a hearing in the first place.
“It is an indisputable fact that white nationalism and white supremacy are pernicious ideologies with a long history of terrorizing communities of color,” Soave said. “However … I would urge us not to overestimate the current threat posed by white nationalism. It is all too easy to give them more attention than they deserve.”
It’s unclear why Congress would need a dissenting opinion during a hearing titled “Confronting White Supremacy: The Consequences of Inaction” and predicated on the notion that extremist violence is indeed a problem. And yet here lawmakers were, again hearing arguments that perhaps the rising body count in the name of white supremacy isn’t a big issue at all.
More embarrassing for the committee was the fact that this exact scene played out previously: In April, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on white supremacist violence, which was promptly derailed by witness Candace Owens, a Trump-supporting Infowars and Fox News contributor who spent the day denying a rise in hate crimes and declaring the hearing a leftist plot to target conservatives.
The only member of Congress able to get the conversation back on track Wednesday was Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who spent her time questioning authorities about the designation of some atrocities ― the ones committed by brown Americans ― as domestic terrorist incidents, but not those committed by white Americans:
The story has been updated to clarify that the GOP minority on the subcommittee invited Soave through Chairman Raskin.