Though there are many politicians on the Right that rely on fear and paranoia to mobilize their base, perhaps none is more consistently provocative than U.S. Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas. Throughout his eight years in Congress, Gohmert has repeatedly used misleading, and in many cases entirely hypothesized, claims to push forward his agenda, even when it puts him to the right of the increasingly polarized House GOP. There is a hardly a current political issue that Gohmert has not laced with his accusatory rhetoric, making him disliked by many of his Congressional colleagues, but highly popular among Tea Party groups and Conservative pundits.
Gohmert is considered one of the most Conservative politicians in Congress, and one of the first official members of the Tea Party Caucus. He received a 100 percent pro-life voting score from the National Right to Life Council, and has co-sponsored numerous bills aimed at restricting abortion access across the country. During the debate over the federal budget in the summer of 2011, Gohmert adamantly opposed the final draft of the bill—arguing that the billions in cuts did not go far enough to cut the national debt. Feeding the Far-Right sentiment that President Obama is not a U.S citizen, Gohmert co-sponsored the bill H.R 1503 in 2009, which would require Presidential candidates to provide a valid birth certificate in order to run for office. During the 2013 vote for Speaker of the House, Gohmert voted for Allen West, even though he was no longer in Congress after losing his reelection campaign. He has little regard for both Democrats and moderate Republicans, once even claiming that Republican Senator and two-time presidential candidate John McCain “Supported Al Qaeda” by traveling to Syria. He is also a firm believer that most mainstream media outlets have a hidden liberal agenda, accusing the non-partisan group Politifact of being ran by “Democratic operatives.”
During the Congressional debates and subsequent shutdown of the federal government in September of 2013, Gohmert put the blame entirely on Democrats, claiming it was their refusal to compromise that led to the shutdown, rather than House GOP’s refusal to support a budget unless it defunded the Affordable Care Act. Without any hint of irony, Gohmert visited the closed World War 2 memorial and demanded they reopen the gates, telling uber-conservative television personality Glenn Beck that “all you can figure is that somebody intentionally did this to make it difficult for World War II veterans… Just to create pain. Just for political gain.”
Gohmert claimed in September, 2013, that Obamacare would result in people being refused pacemakers. Later that year, he directly contradicted his claim that Democrats caused the government shutdown when he told a group of nursing home residents that Republicans had no choice but to halt Obamacare because “when you know how dramatically people are adversely affected, do you want to let people suffer and potentially die?” He noted the misleading and completely debunked Conservative talking point that Obamacare will “cut $716 billion from Medicare” as proof the bill would result in Americans suffering. Only a few days later, Gohmert promoted a conspiracy by a Right Wing blogger claiming the Ready Reserve Corps created under Obamacare are actually a secretive security force. When asked to clarify his comments, he said he was only “asking questions,” adding “do they using weapons to train or are they being taught to use syringes and health care items? But we’ve got no clear answers on that .” He then claimed there was only one way to get the federal government’s attention, and that is cutting Obamacare funding “until you get answers.”
On gun violence, Gohmert puts the blame not on the perpetrators, but what he believes is a continued assault on religious beliefs in America. In the wake of the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado in the summer of 2012, he linked the horrific act of violence to the “ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs,” and how our society supposedly ‘no longer fears God’s retribution.’ He asks “where was God? What have we done with God? We don’t want him around. I kind of like his protective hand being present.” He also wondered “with all those people in the theater, was there nobody that was carrying a gun that could have stopped this guy more quickly?”
During a conference call with Tea Party Unity, a new organization formed by anti-LGBTQ activist Rick Scarborough, Gohmert managed to link his opposition to gun control with his objection to same-sex marriage, arguing that limiting the amount of ammunition can be held in a magazine is dangerous because “once you draw that limit, it’s kind of like marriage when you say it’s not a man and a woman any more, then why not have three men and one woman, or four women and one man, or why not somebody has a love for an animal?”
Gohmert most commonly uses his method of conspiracy-laced accusations when talking about national security and terrorism. In August of 2013, he not only claimed that Iraq once had weapons of mass destruction (despite the U.S investigation proving otherwise), but suggested that the weapons had left Iraq and were now being stockpiled in Syria. In a speech on the House floor in 2010, he claimed terror organizations were using pregnant women to infiltrate the United States by having them give birth on U.S soil, using supposedly weak immigration laws to gain easy access into America. After these “terror babies” were born, they would then return to the terrorist’s home country, where they “could be raised and coddled as future terrorists”, and in “twenty, thirty years down the road, they can be sent in to help destroy our way of life.” His source was a woman he spoke to on an airplane, and an unnamed retired FBI agent, though there has never been an FBI report indicating any such plan, and former FBI agent Tom Fuentes even called Gohmert’s claim “ludicrous.” When pressured by CNN’s Anderson Cooper to present proof of the “terror baby” plot, Gohmert was unable to provide any evidence to back up his conspiracy. In what can be described as one of the most bizarre yet entertaining interview in network cable news history, Gohmert gets increasingly irrational and repeatedly accuses Cooper of having lost his journalistic integrity, even though Cooper simply asks him to provide any evidence to show the terror plot existed.
In July 2012, Gohmert and five other Republican Congressmen sent letters to every major government agency, calling for them to investigate what they claimed was direct ties between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Federal Government. The letter called for the agencies to investigate “policies and activities that appear to be the result of influence operations conducted by individuals and organizations associated with the Muslim Brotherhood.” It also claimed the family of Huma Abedin, an aide to former 1st Lady and Senator Hillary Clinton, was associated with the Brotherhood, despite lacking any proof of affiliation. The request was met with criticisms within their own party, with McCain, Lindsey Graham, and House Speaker John Boehner all publicly denouncing the letters and their accusations.
Despite the public backlash, Gohmert continued to promote the idea that the federal government was tied to the Muslim Brotherhood, claiming in April, 2013, that the Obama administration “has so many Muslim Brotherhood members that have influence that they just are making wrong decisions for America.” Later that year, Gohmert traveled to Egypt with fellow Tea Party Caucus members Steve King and Michele Bachmann to hold a press conference where they “thanked the Egyptian military for overthrowing former President Mohammed Morsi and cracking down against the “great evil” and “common enemy” of the Muslim Brotherhood.”
While it would be easy to dismiss Gohmert as nothing more than a conspiracy theorist, his past points to a long history prior to entering Congress. He is well educated, having received his J.D. from the Baylor University Law School. He is also a former Captain in the U.S. Army, and prior to becoming a Congressman he was a Chief Justice in the state court system of Texas. He is widely popular in his Congressional district, having won every reelection campaign through 2013 by at least 68 percent. He is also a member of the House Judiciary committee, and despite his numerous false claims about terrorism, is the Vice Chair of the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations.