WASHINGTON -- The new Democratic House majority held a hearing Tuesday on the rise of white nationalism, following the mosques massacre in New Zealand, the Pittsburgh synagogue killings and the deadly neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville.
Republicans invited Candace Owens to testify.
That would be the Candace Owens whom the alleged perpetrator of the New Zealand atrocity called "the person who has influenced me above all." It's not clear whether he was sincere in saying that, but perfectly clear was Owens' glib dismissal of the notion that her words could have encouraged such evil: "LOL!" and "HAHA." She said the American left tied her to the carnage because it feared her "Blexit" plan to have black people quit the Democratic Party.
That's also the same Candace Owens who in December said "if Hitler had just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well, OK, fine. The problem is that he wanted -- he had dreams outside of Germany. He wanted to globalize." She later clarified that it was not "fine" that Adolf Hitler was "a homicidal, psychotic maniac."
Owens, a 29-year-old African American provocateur, first ran an anti-Trump website that made fun of Donald Trump's genitals, then became a conservative favorite on the Infowars conspiracy website. In recent months, she erroneously claimed that bombs sent to prominent Democrats by a Trump supporter had actually come from leftists; told France to "defend your culture" against Muslims; said "Europe will fall" to Islam and sharia law by 2050; and mused whether "something biochemically happens" to women who do not marry or have children.
President Trump praised Owens in a tweet last year, and the white nationalist Richard Spencer called her "the last stand of implicit white identity, a creation of conservative white people who want to socially signal just how not racist they are."
If Republicans were hoping to sabotage the Judiciary Committee's hearing, they got what they wanted. Owens' presence turned a serious inquiry -- there were representatives from civil rights groups, social media and a Muslim man whose daughters were killed in a hate crime -- into farce.
Owens said the Republicans' Southern strategy "never happened." She said the rise in hate crimes was fake, from "manipulating statistics." She called the Ku Klux Klan a "Democrat terrorist organization." She mocked Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.; proclaimed that "the Russian collusion hoax has fallen apart"; declared that Trump is "bringing everybody together"; and said the real "family separation" crisis is "black babies separated from the wombs of black mothers."
Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., played the clip of Owens' remarks about Hitler.
Owens responded: "I think it's pretty apparent that Mr. Lieu believes that black people are stupid" because he didn't play "the full clip in its entirety."
The chairman, Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., told her not to "refer disparagingly to a member of the committee."
"Sure, even though I was called 'despicable,'" retorted Owens, who also said Nadler had an "anti-black bias."
The "despicable" remark that offended Owens came from Rep. David N. Cicilline, D-R.I.: "I regret that there are some on this panel that have tried to hijack this hearing and desecrate the lives lost to the hate crimes and violence of white supremacists … I think that is despicable."
Attempted hijacking was a fair description of what Republicans did Tuesday. They also invited to testify Morton Klein of the far-right Zionist Organization of America, who used the pulpit to denounce the "vicious anti-Semitic remarks" of Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.. He said verses from the Koran inspire "constant murder of Jews in Israel." Klein was invited to testify even though he recently wrote of "evil murders by your filthy Arab Islamist despicable brethren."
Owens was more flamboyant. She declared that "I'm adamantly against victimhood," then repeatedly portrayed herself as a victim. (Antifa "threw water at me" and "threw eggs at me.") She decried "name calling" -- while calling Democrats "disgusting," "cowardly" and "unbelievably dishonest."
Even if Republicans wanted a provocateur, couldn't they have found somebody else?
Whatever their motives, Republicans frequently sought validation Tuesday from Owens, who has spoken about the need to overcome "white guilt."
Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, for example, asked Owens to describe the "hate you experienced" for being a conservative. She obliged.
And Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., asked whether her pro-life views "trigger people" (answer: yes). He coaxed: "Tell me a little about how the president has helped the black community." Answer: "He's getting us off our feet," and conservatives are "so supportive."
"Thank God we have you," Buck remarked.
Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.
(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group