Amid backlash from pro-Trump voters and calls to rebuke two legislators, Republican Party faces choice over its future.
Embattled Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene apologised for past comments but shifted focus to Democratic opponents during a Friday press conference after being stripped of her committee appointments the previous night.
“Free speech matters”, Greene told reporters gathered outside the US Capitol. “Yesterday, when the Democrats and 11 of my Republican colleagues” removed her from committees, they “stripped my voters of representation to work for them for the budget.”
The House voted 230 to 199 to remove Greene from the budget and education committees after mounting evidence of her support for an array of unfounded conspiracy theories including a “QAnon” one that holds that elite Democrats are part of a cabal of Satan-worshipping paedophiles and cannibals, and that school shootings were “false flag” events meant to foster increased gun control, among others.
The embattled representative related a story about a classmate bringing guns to her school, which she called a “gun-free school zone” created by President Joe Biden during his Senate career, when she was a teenager.
“It’s terrifying … when there’s no good guy with a gun to protect us”, she said, echoing Republican talking points on allowing guns inside schools to protect from shootings.
The incident was the September 1990 standoff at South Forsyth County High School, which saw two classrooms held hostage by an armed student.
Greene also mentioned the standoff on Thursday on the House floor before she was stripped of her committee positions.
A Forsyth County Schools spokesperson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the embattled legislator was not known to have been present “in either classroom”.
Biden did author the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990, but it did not take effect until November 29, 1990, after the Forsyth standoff.
A social media account linked to Greene “liked” posts calling for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s execution for treason.
After being repeatedly asked if she was sorry for those comments, Greene said: “I’m sorry for saying all those things that are wrong. I’m happy to say that.”
Greene did not apologise for comments on the House floor ahead of the vote, marking a change in tone.
Greene, who is also accused of saying Jewish space lasers started the California wildfires, did walk back on her conspiracy beliefs on Thursday: “In 2018 when I started finding misinformation, lies, things that were not true in these QAnon posts, I stopped believing it.”
The press conference also featured Greene railing against “tyrannical” Democratic governance, including accusations of “communism” against progressive legislator Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Biden’s use of executive orders.
Greene said being stripped of her appointments will give her time to speak with her constituents, who maintain their support for her and former President Donald Trump.