Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene “expected a hit job” when she decided to open her doors to CBS’ 60 Minutes, which gave her a star turn in their opening segment on Sunday. It’s a program known for its sometimes strained relationship with Republicans.
But before it even aired, she was already tweeting out a tribute to “legendary icon” Lesley Stahl, who interviewed her, and calling it an “honor” to participate. And when she saw the results, she was more than satisfied.
“It wasn’t bad!” she told Semafor on Sunday night. “I thought it was pretty good. And I’ve gotten nonstop text messages from, golly, so many people in my district and my family and my friends.”
MTG: Friend of the press. It’s not the look she’s known for, but one she’s been trying out more in recent months.
“I don’t call you guys ‘fake news.’ I used to,” she said. Her last tweet using the term was in November.
Greene gave her full participation to 60 Minutes, the crown jewel of TV profiles. The resulting episode mixed human interest — the Congresswoman showed off her weightlifting skills — and hardball questions, with Stahl bringing up some of her most incendiary social media posts and Greene defending her use of “party of pedophiles” to describe Democrats.
Some in the press are wary of greenlighting more deep-dive stories just because she’s amassed more relevance — she’s “deranged as ever,” Roll Call columnist Walter Shapiro warned earlier this year, despite “ludicrous narratives of change and growth” in recent features. The 60 Minutes segment was not without similar critics.
But Greene, who said she’s “definitely open to more mainstream media interviews,” swears her latest turn is not part of some broader scheme or master plan. She’s just had a change of heart.
To find out what was behind Greene’s recent media push, I decided to join it. We agreed to a series of interviews before and after her 60 Minutes appearance.
By the time I entered Greene’s office last Tuesday, she and her communications director Nick Dyer were already constructing a quote tweet in response to being banned by Twitter for a post referencing a “TRANS DAY OF VENGEANCE,” a radical left wing protest (later canceled) that had gone viral on the right. A separate tweet, in which she had speculated immediately after the shooting at a Nashville Christian school about whether the attacker’s transgender identity was responsible, was drawing far more heat outside the office.
For her follow-up, she and Dyer tagged Elon Musk for an explanation as to why her government account was blocked for violating the app’s violent speech terms. She was banned again. And then a third time before the interview was over.
“Can you call Tucker Carlson?” she asked her staff. Not frantically, but like someone who had been through this several times before. Greene was locked out permanently at one point, before Musk let her back. Dyer paced as she texted a contact in Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s office who she had called on before to step in after getting booted off the app.
Behind her loomed an oversized American flag made of painted and stained two-by-fours gifted by a friend’s daughter. She sat in one of two upholstered wingback chairs she purchased for her newly renovated office. And to her right, atop a marble coaster, a 16 oz. can of Monster Energy Ultra, sugar-free.
When our conversation began, she was inviting and didn’t shy away from questions that, in the past, might have prompted a fierce response. Greene did not take offense to being asked whether her plan for a “national divorce” between red and blue areas was inspired by her own recent divorce from her husband. She knows other people are making the connection, but says her “personal life” was not a factor.
“I didn’t want to say ‘secession’ because that’s not what I’m talking about,” she said. “And to me, divorce, of course, is settled in the court. So that’s legal and lawful. That’s why I use that term.”
The idea, which Greene relentlessly promoted during a February House recess, got enough attention that Axios polled it (only 20% of Americans liked the concept). Few Republicans seemed eager to follow her lead. Utah Governor Spencer Cox called her rhetoric “evil.”
Greene frequently lashed out at Congressional reporters in her first months in office, a period in which pro-Trump rioters attacked the Capitol and Democrats — with some Republican backing — stripped her of her committee assignments over social media activity discussing violence against political opponents, like then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Many profiles mentioned her old posts rallying against a “global cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles” and calling Q, the anonymous figure behind the conspiracy theory, a “patriot.”
Since then, Greene has gone from pariah to power broker, with plum committee assignments, a political mentor in McCarthy, and the ongoing support of Donald Trump, who recently suggested she run for Senate. President Biden, who initially ignored her, has also raised her up as a foil in speeches and tweets denouncing “MAGA Republicans.”
When she took office, Greene said she had renounced the Qanon-infused social media diet that made her infamous when she won her first primary. She’s since played it off as a relatable failing — one that happens to “a lot of people” before they figure things out.
“I started seeing things and I was like ‘um, no,’” she told me. “JFK, Jr. is not alive. Can we just be real?”
Asked where she gets her information now, Greene said she relies on staff briefings, but has also become more confident in her ability to “verify” things she sees online before sharing.
Her mood towards the press has mellowed as her influence has grown. She cites a number of factors that contributed to the change.
“Well, I turned a corner sometime last year,” she said. “It took time. It was just a shift in my thinking, just by being here and observing everything.”
One key moment came after meeting with the father and brother of Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder who was indicted in 2019 for his alleged role in acquiring and leaking military documents from former Army analyst Chelsea Manning. Some news organizations, including The New York Times, have denounced the charges as setting a dangerous precedent.
“That weighed heavy on me and I thought, ‘Gosh, what kind of country are we going to become if the press can’t tell the truth?’” she said. “Seeing Julian Assange be extradited by the U.S. government must be pretty scary if you’re a person working in the press because you’re like: ‘Oh, what if you come across a big story?’”
She credits her communications director for coordinating a press bus tour in the district as the start of her being more open to other outlets. Among the journalists who visited were Molly Ball of TIME, Robert Draper of the New York Times and The Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Patricia Murphy.
“I thought, as painful as it might be, okay, I’m going to open the door and I’m just going to be myself,” she said.
Greene has also been dating Brian Glenn, program director for the site Right Side Broadcasting Network, since late last year and admits he has also had an influence on her outlook towards the press.
“He’s from the industry, so he is a great resource,” she said. “He’s explained a lot, like how things work and yeah, it’s great. So maybe I’m falling in love with the press. Is that what’s happening, Kadia?”
She even had some advice for Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who’s expected to launch a presidential campaign but has largely shunned national media outside the conservative movement.
“I think journalism is really important,” she said. “And I think our First Amendment and freedom of the press is something that we have to protect and we also have to respect it. So if I could give him advice, I would say: Talk to all the press.”
It’s all just the latest transition for Greene, the construction company owner, turned Crossfit competitor, turned Crossfit gym owner, turned member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Some see her newfound media tour as part of an audition to join Trump’s ticket. She’s certainly absorbed his ability to set news cycles on fire and bait opponents into a response, which has continued unabated. In recent weeks, she’s shouted “Liar!” at President Biden during the State of the Union, brought a mock Chinese spy balloon to Congress, and promoted her “national divorce” between red and blue areas.
Most recently, she called for protests (“lawfully and peacefully,” she said) in response to Trump’s indictment — something Republicans, including McCarthy, have been very reluctant to encourage after his supporters rioted on January 6th. Even Greene initially shot down the idea when Trump first floated it.
“Well, I changed my mind because we — it’s our First Amendment right,” she said. “And we have a right to protest. And it’s so absolutely horrible what Alvin Bragg has done, and he’s truly crossed the line with our justice system.”
The pro-Trump rally, which is scheduled for Tuesday in New York, is being organized by the New York Young Republican Club, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has condemned for hosting “white nationalists” and other extremist figures.
“If anyone shows up and tries to dress like a Trump supporter, or dresses in MAGA, and they are breaking the law or inciting or committing violence, or doing anything wrong, I will reject those people so hard and fast,” she said. “It’s not even funny.”
Greene’s self-confessed tumble down an online rabbit hole also has not kept her from associating with the kinds of dark figures currently residing at its bottom. Before Trump dined with Nazi sympathizer Nick Fuentes, Greene spoke to a conference organized by him last year alongside conservative gathering CPAC, whose organizers have banned him.
That drew a rare rebuke from McCarthy, but Greene stood her ground, saying she was not aware of Fuentes’ views, but wanted to reach his young followers.
“I’m not inviting anybody into my home or my personal life or befriending them,” she told Semafor when asked about the episode. “I want to spread the right message to anyone that’s willing to listen to me.”
Greene added she’s against “canceling anybody” and that people who made “mistakes” can be redeemed. In her eyes, she’s putting them on a track toward more productive roles in society. But by refusing to put any guardrails on who’s allowed on the right, it means Republican leaders also have to answer for them when they praise Adolf Hitler — something they have been less than pleased to do. And anti-hate groups worry that giving them attention expands their reach into more mainstream corners, raising the risk they infect Greene’s audience with antisemitic and white supremacist ideas rather than Greene converting them into something else.
Even as many Democrats and moderate Republicans react in horror to Greene’s rise, she finds herself at odds lately with yet a different faction of her Congressional colleagues. Hard right members like Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo. have clashed with her over her support for McCarthy.
Greene believes she was misled by some close conservative allies in the House early in her first term who tried to use her “kind of like a weapon in some way” by convincing her that McCarthy supported taking away her committee seats. After she determined the claim was false, the incident left her more skeptical about the rebels who would go on to oppose him for speaker.
“Think about it, if the people that you trust and align yourself with told you something that you found out was a lie, and wasn’t true, but they were constantly telling it to you,” she said. “I knew I was a victim of manipulation in another way.”
Room for Disagreement
I spoke to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., another very online member of Congress who has been intensely critical of Greene, to get her thoughts. She politely suggested the media be deliberate in deciding where to put its spotlight.
“We’ve been at a point where these kinds of extreme and really just unprecedented and dangerous notions are getting platforms, without much pushback or real kind of critical analysis,” she told Semafor.
Matt Gertz, who tracks conservatives for the progressive group Media Matters, also condemned 60 Minutes for their “credulous” profile.
“Anyone who believes that the congresswoman from QAnon is serious about renouncing far-right radicalism and conspiracy theories should make me an offer on my Jewish space laser,” he said in an email. “Less than 48 hours after CBS News gives her a mainstream platform to airbrush her image, Marjorie Taylor Greene will be rallying with Jack Posobiec of Pizzagate fame and the quasifascists of the New York Young Republican Club to defend Donald Trump from what she calls the ‘political persecution’ of a ‘Soros-backed’ district attorney. I haven’t seen a right-wing extremist use a credulous mainstream press outlet this successfully since Glenn Beck was ever-so-briefly ‘Sorry About All That.’”
- The New York Times looked at Greene’s evolving relationship with McCarthy in January. The piece quoted McCarthy telling a friend “I will never leave that woman” after she helped rally support during his speaker’s race.
- The Atlantic profiled Greene without her participation, focusing on her early life in Fosryth County, Georgia.