Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) briefly derailed a hearing of the U.S. House Committee on Veterans Affairs by ranting about eating hamburgers.
The Indiana Republican accused Democrats of insulting the intelligence of veterans by holding a hearing on the factors that drive some of them toward violent extremism, and he also attacked one of the expert witnesses by mischaracterizing a months-old tweet she posted.
"I hope every veteran in America is watching this hearing today and hearing from you and the majority in control of this committee that our veterans are so stupid and susceptible to becoming domestic terrorists that you and the Democrats have to save them from it," Banks began. "It's widely offensive and dangerous. I wish we're talking about a lot of other issues like the rise in veteran suicide and other issues affecting our veterans but here we go again. "
Banks attacked the definition of extremism -- specifically, a propensity for violence -- offered by committee chairman Mark Takano (D-CA) at the start of the hearing, and then challenged one of the witnesses to explain what steps the White House had taken to combat Black Lives Matter and Antifa, which he described as far-left extremist organizations.
"I don't work at the White House," explained the witness, Jamie Butler. "I run the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, so my focus is on our members, our constituents and veterans throughout the country."
That's when Banks bit into a series of tweets posted in February by Cynthia Miller-Idriss, director of the Polarization and Extremism Research & Innovation Lab at American University, who commented on some right-wing figures bragging about how much red meat they eat as a form of performative masculinity.
"Dr. Cynthia Miller-Idriss you have presented numerous concerning statements that may lead people to question your credibility," Banks said.
The lawmaker quoted the researcher's tweet, noting that "meat-eating is used to evoke both pro-American & anti-government sentiments all at once" and that "red meat consumption is championed by the far right as a celebration of manliness."
"You've also stated that, quote, 'far-right pod casters have claimed that veggie burgers are part of a Jewish capitalist plot against white people in industrialized society,'" Banks said. "In another tweet you stated that, quote, 'far-right soup kitchens put pork and lentils in their soup to exclude Muslims and Jews."
"Dr. Miller-Idriss, I had hamburger last night -- do you believe that I am an extremist?" Banks added "Does eating red meat make someone an extremist?"
The professor seemed amused by the lawmaker's question.
"Of course not, eating red meat does not make someone an extremist any more than being a service member or veteran make someone an extremist," Miller-Idriss said.
Banks interrupted her answer to keep chewing on his line of questioning.
"Do you think you're able to provide impartial testimony to a committee that's mostly made up of red meat-eating members, like many on this committee?" Banks said.
"Thank you for the question," Miller-Idriss said, "although it's a distraction, I think, for for the purpose of this hearing. I'm a red meat eater myself, so I fully appreciate that question. It's a part of my book that points to the absurdity of the kinds of manipulative tactics that some of these extremist groups use, but the point of today's hearing is to talk about the vulnerability of veterans and not to talk about my tweets from last summer."
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