White supremacists are a growing threat in America, according to the FBI, National Counterterrorism Center, and Department of Homeland Security. But the Republicans Raw Story spoke to on Capitol Hill see a different story.
In the wake of this weekend’s deadly Buffalo shooting – by an alleged gunman who said on social media he was targeting Blacks – most Republicans we spoke with deny there’s a trend.
“I think it's tragic. I don't know if you could call it a trend or not,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) told Raw Story on his way to a closed-door intelligence briefing in the underbelly of the Capitol.
The close ally of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell represents El Paso, which is still healing from the 2019 attack that left 23 dead – and another 23 injured – at the hands of a racist who released a manifesto before his act. But to Cornyn, whether it’s El Paso, Charleston, Charlottesville, or the Jan. 6 attack – where Black officers were repeatedly called the N-word as they fought to protect Cornyn and others – there’s no white supremacy to see in America.
“It's just a cop out, trying to blame this on – I mean, it's violence committed by either criminal people or people who are deranged,” Cornyn said. “And if people want to put that in a pigeonhole or category – whether it's ‘hate crime’ or whatever – it doesn't make it any less evil.”
“I think it's awful. I think it's grotesquely divisive,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) told Raw Story while riding up an elevator just off the Senate floor. “What it is is the media's showing themselves for who they are, which are advocates for the radical left. And they're just trying to cover up for Biden now.”
Recently, Johnson served as chair of the Senate’s Homeland Security Committee.
“We see gangs. We see cyber threats. I mean, I think there's actually more threatening threats,” Johnson continued, “I mean, there's more serious threats facing this nation than what's posed by white supremacists. Now again, I condemn it. Obviously.”
The Wisconsin senator then pointed to Chicago and 'Black on Black' crime.
“Now, I'd be concerned about that. Again, I'm concerned about all violence. But I mean, I would focus my attention on where the murders are actually occurring,” Johnson said on Tuesday, three days after 10 people were killed in Buffalo. “And I'd be focusing my attention on what can we do to start preventing overdose deaths.”
Down in Indiana, there may be white supremacists – more than 15 white supremacist hate groups are being tracked by the Southern Poverty Law Center in the Hoosier State alone – but the state’s senior senator says constituents aren't worried about that.
“Oh gosh,” Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) told Raw Story while heading into a Republican-only lunch at the Capitol. “I'll tell you, what's on most Hoosier’s minds is inflation, border security, war in Europe. I think the president and our national Democratic leaders would be well served by finding some solutions to our most pressing challenges.”
Other Republicans Raw Story spoke to are not sure anything can be done to stop white domestic extremists.
“The question is: can you find a lone actor?” Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) told Raw Story, before stepping in to buy lunch in the Capitol basement.
The former Senate Intelligence Committee chair helped ramp up domestic and foreign surveillance in the wake of 9-11, but says these cases – involving angry, homegrown white men – are different.
“Unless you're going to surveil somebody 24/7 – and it didn't sound like it raised to a level to do that – there's that vulnerability in a free society,” Burr said, explaining U.S. law now makes it easier to surveil foreign terrorists. “We have different tools to surveil them versus domestic. I think you get into some very big constitutional questions pretty quickly.”
Current Senate Intelligence Vice-Chair Marco Rubio (R-FL) argued that domestic terrorism is ubiquitous across America's sub-cultures and ideologies.
“Sadly, there isn't an ideology – or, frankly, religion – in the world that doesn't have adherents that commit horrifying atrocities. These deranged people can justify it anywhere they want, but we've had Black nationalist shootings in America. We had a Chinese immigrant go after Taiwanese immigrants in California the day after that shooting in Buffalo. We've had a congressional shooting here targeted by a socialist,” Rubio continued, “So once people make up their mind about some ideology or some belief system, they can justify it. You know, radical Islam. History has been replete with people that justify violence with Christianity. So it's a terrible part of the human condition.”
“Oh my God,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said, her voice dropping, after Raw Story relayed what her Republican colleagues have been saying about white supremacists in the wake of the Buffalo shooting.
“That continues the false narrative that Fox News puts out,” Gillibrand continued, “White supremacy is a scourge. It’s something that we have to address head on. It is proliferating evil and hate and division in this country, and we all have to stand up and fight against it.”