WASHINGTON – Controversial conservative Candace Owens said Tuesday during testimony before the House Judiciary Committee that Democrats’ concerns about white nationalism are actually meant to send a message that “brown people need to be scared” ahead of the upcoming presidential election.
“Let me be clear, the hearing today is not about white nationalism or hate crimes, it’s about fear-mongering, power and control,” Owens said in her opening remarks at the hearing titled, “Hate Crimes and the Rise of White Nationalism.”
She said the hearing was a “preview of a Democrat 2020 election strategy.”
Last week, FBI Director Christopher Wray called white supremacist violence “a persistent, pervasive threat” during testimony before the House Appropriations Committee.
In November, the FBI released a report that showed a 17% increase in hate crimes from 2016 to 2017, although the bureau pointed out the number of law enforcement agencies reporting the data had also increased.
There were 1,020 known hate groups in the country in 2018, the fourth straight year of growth, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors extremism in the U.S. Hate crimes, meanwhile, rose 30 percent in the three-year period ending in 2017, the organization said, citing FBI figures.
Owens said Democrats had “simply changed the data set points by widening the definition of hate crimes.”
“What I mean to say, is they are manipulating statistics,” she said.
Owens is the communications director for Turning Point USA, a conservative organization that aims to organize college students. She has pushed for more African-Americans to vote Republican, arguing Democratic policies have hindered, rather than helped, their community. She was invited to testify at the hearing by Judiciary Committee Republicans.
In her opening statement, Owens said many journalists had appeared confused about why she was speaking at the hearing. She said she was there because she had been the victim of a hate crime when she was in high school.
She said few people knew that about her because the news media and journalists “on the left are not interested in telling the truth about me because I don’t fit the stereotype of what they like to see in black people.”
Owens’ grandfather, 75, sat behind her at the hearing. She said he was a sharecropper who “grew up in an America where words like racism and white nationalism held real meaning under the Democrat party’s Jim Crow laws.”
She also called the Ku Klux Klan a “Democrat terrorist organization.”
“There isn’t a single adult today that in good conscience would make the argument that America is a more racist or white nationalist society than it was when my grandfather was growing up,” she said. “And yet we’re hearing these terms sent around today because what they want to say is that brown people need to be scared, which seems to be the narrative that we hear every four years right ahead of a presidential election.”
Democrats on the committee pushed back against Owens’ remarks.
Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., called Owen’s opening statement “despicable” and accused her of “desecrating the lives” of those who had been murdered in hate crimes.
“In congressional hearings, the minority party gets to select its own witnesses. And of all the people Republicans could have selected, they picked Candace Owens,” Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., said.
“I don’t know Ms. Owens, I’m not going to characterize her, I’m going to let her own words do the talking,” Lieu said, before using his smartphone to play a clip of remarks Owens made about Adolph Hitler.
“If Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well, okay fine. Problem is he had dreams outside of Germany. He wanted to globalize,” Owens said in the clip. In the excerpt, she explains why she thinks “nationalism” is good and “globalism” is bad.
In response, Owen said Lieu “purposely presented an extracted clip” of her comments and she said it was apparent that Lieu “believes that black people are stupid and will not pursue the full clip.”
Her comment prompted a rebuke from Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y.
In February, Owens explained that she considered Hitler “a homicidal, psychotic maniac” and that her point was that he was not a nationalist. “I stand by my statements and that is that,” she said.
A YouTube livestream of the hearing was shut down because of a barrage of what the social media company called “hateful comments.”
Nadler was handed a news report that included the hateful comments on YouTube during the hearing. He read them aloud, along with the users’ screen names, as the room quieted.
“This just illustrates part of the problem we’re dealing with,” Nadler said
Contributing: The Associated Press
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