It seemed like Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin pissed off just about everyone in her state when she delivered a taped speech to a white-nationalist conference in Orlando last Friday.
But fellow Republican Gov. Brad Little—with whom she has routinely clashed in cartoonish fashion in recent months—and the state GOP had been notably silent.
At least until now.
“It is extremely unfortunate anyone in elected office in Idaho must make statements like these, but let me be clear—I fully reject racism in all its forms,” Republican Gov. Brad Little said in a Tuesday statement posted on Twitter. “There is no place for racism and hate in the great State of Idaho. As Governor, I will continue to stand up for Idahoans’ values and work to make our state the place where our children and grandchildren choose to stay.”
While Little did not call out McGeachin by name, his statement came after Democrats, some former GOP officials, and advocates in the state called on him to condemn his no. 2 over her shameless appeal to professional racists.
With her speech at the American First Political Action Conference (AFPAC)—which also saw speeches from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and was organized by white nationalist Nick Fuentes—McGeachin leaned into an extremist vision for the modern GOP.
Since her appearance, the lieutenant governor has doubled and then tripled down on palling around with racists. The saga suggests she thinks her challenge to Little—she has declared herself a candidate for his job, even as he has not ruled out his own re-election bid—will benefit from extremist support, and that her fellow Republicans are leery of going after her.
After all, it took until Monday for McGeachin’s boss to comment—a move that was almost immediately followed by a painful statement from the Idaho Republican Party stating that AFPAC leadership does not represent their conservative values.
“White supremacy, antisemitism, bigotry, and neo-Nazism are reprehensible and have no place in the Idaho Republican Party," chairman Tom Luna said in a statement. “We always have and will continue to stand against these divisive ideologies.”
Bizarrely, however, even as the party appeared to be subtweeting her just like its incumbent governor did, the chair deferred to McGeachin’s Saturday statement, in which she blamed the media for a “guilt-by-association game.”
A spokesperson for Little did not explicitly confirm the governor was referring to McGeachin with his tweeted statement on Tuesday. A spokesperson for McGeachin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
For Idaho Republican State Rep. Greg Chaney, who has been openly critical of McGeachin’s past antics surrounding the state’s COVID-19 protocols, Little’s vague response is better late than never.
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“I think it’s a good statement,” Chaney told The Daily Beast on Tuesday via email. “Like his statement says, it should go without saying. Governor Little has avoided direct attacks on McGeachin (a courtesy that hasn’t been reciprocated) and I think the statement shows he took the time to evaluate reports, allow the Lt. Gov. to speak for herself, then made the appropriate statement in light of the facts without descending into direct criticisms.”
Chaney, however, admitted that his style in responding to McGeachin “is a bit more direct than the Governor’s.” In April, he posted a Facebook video with the caption: “WARNING: Beware of snake oil salesmen, political opportunists, and anyone else pretending to be concerned with your rights for their own selfish reasons. Looking at you Lt. Gov. McGeachin.”
Little and McGeachin have sparred routinely over the course of the pandemic, highlighted by her seizing power when he left the state to crack down on COVID safety measures, only for him to reverse it upon his return.
The pair did not exactly choose to serve together: Unlike many states, in Idaho, the governor and lieutenant governor are elected individually. In 2018, Little clinched Idaho’s Republican gubernatorial primary with 37 percent of the vote while McGeachin won 29 percent. Eventually, they were both voted into office with 60 percent of the vote in the general election.
For the Idaho Democratic Party, which previously released a statement calling on Little to condemn McGeachin, the governor’s vague condemnation was “too Little, too late.”
“It took over three days for him to release a statement, and nowhere does he openly condemn the event or Janice McGeachin,” a spokesperson for the party told The Daily Beast. “As we said in our open letter: It is not enough for us to denounce white nationalism in all its forms, we must also condemn those who openly associate and promote this unAmerican behavior.”