In an exclusive interview with Clark County Today, Jaime Herrera Beutler offers more context for her controversial language in The New York Times
Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler says she regrets language she used recently to describe constituents who are unhappy with her for voting to impeach former President Donald Trump.
In an exclusive, 30-minute interview with Clark County Today Saturday, Herrera Beutler responded to controversy surrounding comments she made in a March 12 story that appeared in The New York Times. One paragraph in the story about the six-term congresswoman from Washington’s Third Congressional District, read as follows:
She said she did not mind the judgment of “fringe-y people” whose whole political identity was tied to Mr. Trump, because “I’ve never been in that camp, and I’m not going to win them back,” she said. “I’m not exactly courting the white supremacy vote.”
Clark County Today Editor Ken Vance addressed Herrera Beutler’s comments in an opinion piece that was published Friday:
Herrera Beutler then offered to provide further context for her remarks in a phone interview Saturday.
“I’m sad I did, because it’s not in my heart in any way, shape or form,’’ Herrera Beutler said of using the terms “fringe-y’’ and “white supremacy vote.” “If I would have, in any way, thought I was calling good people, Republican or Democrat, but certainly Republicans, that I was suggesting or calling them that, I would not have said it. I would have never uttered that because I would never want to bring that accusation against good people.
“Clearly, I did not communicate well,’’ Herrera Beutler said. “If you were left feeling that way, certainly that was not my intent.’’
Herrera Beutler, who was one of 10 Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives to vote to impeach Trump in January, said she only agreed to do The New York Times story because it was supposed to be focused on parenting legislation, which she is passionate about.
“The only reason I agreed to do it was it was supposed to be on parenting legislation and on child care,’’ she said. “I’m not running to The New York Times to bare my soul. I’m still not taking a lot of national (media) stuff and that’s on purpose. If you read that piece, it looks like a profile on my vote and everything that has happened since and that’s not what it was supposed to be.
“I probably should have been less clumsy,’’ she said. “When I say ‘fringe-y’ people or ‘white nationals’ or ‘white supremacists,’ having grown up here (in Clark County) I didn’t even think about those types of groups existing. Since I’ve been in DC, I’ve seen more of the racial tension. They’re there and they’re very loud. I never thought I would talk to people who really do believe a plane never hit the Pentagon. My thoughts are those are not the people I will win back.’’
The vote to impeach
Herrera Beutler told Clark County Today that she realizes that her future is going to include continued questioning of her decision to vote in favor of impeachment. The Clark County Republican Party recently voted to censure the congresswoman.
“The majority of the people I serve with on the Republican side don’t agree with my vote on impeachment,’’ she said. “My goal is to try to have as many conversations as possible. I’m going to continue to engage them and listen to them.’’
Because of the reaction by some to the language she used in The New York Times article, Herrera Beutler said she will be careful not to feed the beast in terms of racially sensitive terms.
“On the white supremacy front, I don’t want to give quotes about some of the things people say,’’ she said. “I don’t want to be at the center of defining what that is. I just know those people are never going to come around. Those people are not the majority. I wouldn’t even necessarily put those people in the Republican camp. I wouldn’t even consider those people as conservatives.
“We all get lumped into, ‘if you’re a Republican, you’re a racist,’’’ she said. “The left has been doing that at an increased rate. I want to be sensitive to that and not in any way add to that. I’m a Republican, a conservative and I’m a Trump voter. I certainly don’t think anybody who is a Trump voter is a racist or white supremacist.
“I still think that somebody who thinks January 6th was a staged event; I’m not going to win those people back and I’m not going to even try to,’’ she said. “I’ve been called a white supremacist before. I kind of laughed at that because that’s not where my identity is at so I don’t need to be identified by that.’’
The congresswoman said she accepts the fact that her constituents won’t agree with her position on everything.
“The last couple of months, every single word I say has pretty much been scrutinized,’’ she said. “I’m always trying to say what is the truth, but not feed into the beat up on Republican things.’’
“I feel very strongly about what happened on the 6th (of January) and the president’s role in that,’’ she said. “I realize there are a lot of people here (in Clark County) who disagree with that. My goal is to make a case with them that we can disagree on this, respect each other and move forward.
“I don’t expect other people to agree with me on everything,’’ she said. “Fundamentally, we all agree on a large percentage of things. My hope is that will still be the case in coming years. I realize I’m not going to be changing anybody’s mind on impeachment and the days after.’’
Herrera Beutler told Clark County Today that prior to the beginning of the impeachment process, she approached House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer to suggest they wait.
“Do a bipartisan investigation and do it over time,’’ she said she told Hoyer. “There are 74 or 75 million Americans who voted for him. If you think there is something there to look at, explore it and take the time to do it right. He basically said, ‘I made the same case to my caucus and my caucus didn’t want to hear anything about it.’’’
Herrera Beutler said President Joe Biden should have stepped in and encouraged lawmakers to forgo Trump’s second impeachment in an attempt to help the nation heal from the strife that existed at the time.
“Not many elected leaders have the opportunity to be bigger than his party and he will never get that chance again,’’ she said.
Running for a seventh term
Three Republican candidates — Joe Kent, Heidi St. John and Wadi Yakhour — have already announced they will seek election to Herrera Beutler’s seat in the House. Officials from the Clark County Republican Party and the Cowlitz County Republican Party have expressed the desire to rally around one conservative candidate to win the seat in the next election. The Clark County Republican Women have already endorsed St. John.
Herrera Beutler said she will seek another term, and she dismissed any notion that she will run as anything other than a Republican.
“I’m definitely running,’’ she said. “I’m not going to switch parties. I’ve never heard of a pro-life, no tax-increase, limited-government Democrat. Those don’t exist. They don’t want someone who believes in free markets and all those things.
“I would never consider switching. I’m a conservative. None of that has changed,’’ she said. “My litmus test has never been whether or not I supported Donald Trump. My last two races were largely built around that. I voted for Donald Trump. I felt the Tax Cuts and the Jobs Act (of 2017) were really big for this region. I took a lot of arrows for that. My last two races were built around the fact that I voted for Donald Trump.
“None of my values have changed. I’ve never voted for a tax increase. I believe in free markets,’’ she said. “I believe in limited government and individual liberty is very important to me. None of those things have changed. I couldn’t abandon those values. I think the only difference for some people is that impeachment vote. That’s the only distinction. Maybe that’s too much for some people, maybe it’s not.’’
Herrera Beutler to hold telephone town hall
Herrera Beutler will host a live telephone town hall on Thursday (March 25) at 5:25 p.m. All residents of Southwest Washington’s Third Congressional District are invited to join the congresswoman as she gives an update on her work in Congress for Southwest Washington. Residents will also be invited to ask questions or share whatever is on their mind.
Southwest Washington residents can call in to join the live telephone town hall at any point during the event by calling 1-877-229-8493 and using the passcode 116365.
Those residents unable to participate in this event can send comments and questions to Herrera Beutler at JHB.house.gov/contact.
|Event:||Jaime Herrera Beutler live telephone town hall|
|Date & Time:||Thu., March 25, 5:25-6:25 p.m.|
|How to participate:||Residents can join the telephone town hall by calling 1-877-229-8493 and using the passcode 116365 at any point during the event.|