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GOP Rep. Dan Crenshaw calls members of House Freedom Caucus ‘grifters,’ ‘performance artists’

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 12/7/2021 Mariana Alfaro

Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Tex.) called out members of the House’s conservative Freedom Caucus, decrying them as “grifters” and “performance artists” who failed to support much of President Donald Trump’s agenda when he was in office and Republicans controlled Congress.

Crenshaw made this assessment during an event this weekend with Republican congressional candidates in his hometown of Houston. According to video of the event shared by lawyer Ron Filipkowski on Twitter, Crenshaw said the conservative movement has “grifters in our midst, not here, not in this room. I mean in the conservative movement.”

“Lie after lie after lie, because they know something psychologically about the conservative heart: We’re worried about what people are going to do to us, what they’re going to infringe upon us — that’s the nature of conservatism,” Crenshaw said during the event, which was hosted by the Texas Liberty Alliance PAC.

Crenshaw said his criticism was directed at “everybody in the Freedom Caucus — all of them,” and did not single out any specific GOP lawmaker. Members of the caucus include Reps. Mo Brooks (Ala.), who is running for the Senate; Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Louie Gohmert (Tex.), Paul A. Gosar (Ariz.), and Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.).

All but Greene were in Congress during Trump’s tenure.

The Freedom Caucus was formed in 2015 by a group of conservative Republicans frustrated with their party leaders for making legislative compromises with Democrats and President Barack Obama. The caucus is currently led by Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), who will be replaced as chairman by Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) next month.

Crenshaw said there are two types of members of Congress: “There’s performance artists, there’s legislators.” Freedom Caucus members, he said, are performance artists because they’re the ones who “get all the attention.”

“They’re the ones you think are more conservative because they know how to say slogans real well,” he said. “They know how to recite the lines that they know our voters want to hear.”

[‘I kind of got forced to apologize’: Pete Davidson addresses Dan Crenshaw controversy in new comedy special]

Video: Republican Dan Crenshaw: The Left is ‘anti-science’ on climate change (The Washington Post)


Crenshaw, a former Navy SEAL, accused members of the caucus of not voting for many items in Trump’s agenda when he was in office. Instead, Crenshaw said, it was Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) who voted more often for Trump’s conservative measures. Kinzinger, Crenshaw noted, voted with Trump “almost 99 percent” of the time.

Kinzinger, who is retiring from Congress, is an outspoken Trump critic who voted to impeach the president on the charge of “inciting an insurrection” on Jan. 6. Kinzinger also is one of two Republicans on the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack by a pro-Trump mob.

Crenshaw, who was elected in November 2018, served for the last two years of Trump’s tenure.

Crenshaw, Biggs and Scott did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

On Twitter, Crenshaw also lashed out at a conservative anti-Trump group, the Lincoln Project, after its Twitter account shared a clip of the Houston event and tagged caucus members Gosar, Greene, and Reps. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). Boebert also was not in Congress when Trump was in office.

“I didn’t mention a single person by name,” Crenshaw said. “. . . You’re also a bunch of grifters, for the record.”

Crenshaw gained national attention after he appeared in a 2018 episode of “Saturday Night Live” next to cast member Pete Davidson, who in the previous week’s episode had mocked Crenshaw for wearing an eye patch. Crenshaw lost his eye in an IED explosion during his third tour in Afghanistan.

Davidson apologized to Crenshaw in their joint appearance, sitting next to him in a “Weekend Update” segment. While many at the time thought the apology was genuine, Davidson said in 2020 that he was “forced” to apologize to Crenshaw and said his words “were twisted so that a guy could be famous.”

Dan Crenshaw, then the Republican congressman-elect for Texas's 2nd Congressional District, posed for a portrait two days after his election victory made him a rising star for the GOP. © Dan Zak/The Washington Post Dan Crenshaw, then the Republican congressman-elect for Texas's 2nd Congressional District, posed for a portrait two days after his election victory made him a rising star for the GOP.

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