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GOP leadership has enabled white nationalism, Liz Cheney says

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) speaks during a Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol business meeting on Capitol Hill March 28, 2022 in Washington, DC.
Drew Angerer
Getty Images
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) speaks during a Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol business meeting on Capitol Hill March 28, 2022 in Washington, DC.

In the wake of the Buffalo supermarket shooting, Republican Rep. Liz Cheney is accusing her party's leaders of enabling white nationalism, white supremacy and antisemitism.

"History has taught us that what begins with words ends in far worse," she tweeted Monday morning.

Cheney then went a step further, calling on Republican leaders to "renounce and reject these views and those who hold them."

The FBI is investigating Saturday's attack as a racially motivated hate crime, and federal authorities are also considering a potential terrorism charge.

The suspected shooter, who is white, is believed to have written a 180-page screed detailing his white supremacist ideologies and his plan to attack a Black community.

He is allegedly a proponent of "replacement theory," a conspiracy theory that claims non-white individuals are being brought into the U.S. and other Western countries to "replace" white voters to achieve a political agenda.

The idea is popular among white supremacist and anti-immigration groups, and appears to be gaining traction among the broader public, according to a recent poll. One in three U.S. adults believes an effort is underway to replace U.S.-born Americans with immigrants for electoral purposes, the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found in a poll conducted in December.

Several Republican lawmakers came under scrutiny over the weekend for their perceived embrace of elements of the theory. Among them was New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, who last May replaced Cheney — ousted from party leadership over her criticism of former President Donald Trump following the Jan. 6 riot — as the No. 3 House Republican.

Stefanik's campaign committee ran a series of ads in Sept. 2021 accusing Democrats of allowing undocumented immigrants into the U.S. as a play to outnumber Republican voters, as The Washington Postreported.

Her office released a statement on Monday morning decrying what it called "the Disgraceful, Dishonest and Dangerous Media Smears."

Her senior adviser, Alex DeGrasse, said Stefanik "has never advocated for any racist position or made a racist statement," adding that she opposes mass amnesty for undocumented immigrants and advocates for stronger border control.

"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," he wrote. "The shooting was an act of evil and the criminal should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who like Cheney has broken with his party publicly, tweeted about Stefanik's ads on Saturday night, and wrote that Cheney "got removed for demanding truth."

He added that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy "should be asked about this."

This story originally appeared on the Morning Edition live blog.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.