But, what is a “witch hunt” anyway?
With the news that the five GOP Congressmen who have been subpoenaed by the January 6th Committee characterizing the subpoenas as a “witch hunt,” I thought it appropriate to take a quick look at what a witch hunt is.
Oxford, which naturally uses the English spelling of the word, “witch-hunt,” defines it, historically as, “a search for and subsequent persecution of a supposed witch.” Collins, which agrees with Oxford on the English spelling, takes a somewhat more contemporary approach: “A witch-hunt is an attempt to find and punish a particular group of people who are being blamed for something, often simply because of their opinions and not because they have actually done anything wrong. And Merriam-Webster? They hedge the bet, using the American spelling, witch hunt, and both an historical and contemporary definition: ” 1) a searching out for persecution of persons accused of witchcraft; and 2) the searching out and deliberate harassment of those (such as political opponents) with unpopular views.
Whatever the definition, I can almost guarantee that the term has been uttered or written more often in the last several years than in all the time since it’s original use in the 19th century. (While “witch hunting” dates back to the 17th century, the use of the noun describing the act was documented significantly later, according to Merriam-Webster).
- Trump used the term 84 times in describing the Mueller probe, according to The Atlantic. (Vox puts it at “more than 120…, but who’s counting?)
- The Guardian reported that Trump used the term “…approximately once every three days on average during his presidency and not only in connection with his impeachment trial. He continued to use it later in the year to describe accusations that he mismanaged America’s Covid-19 response, inquiries into his tax returns, an investigation into alleged criminal conduct at the Trump Organization and other controversies.”
- No mathematician I, but a quick calculation of “once every three days” resulted in 486 uses during his time in office. And, we all know he didn’t stop after that.
But it’s not just Trump. Just about every GOP politician who faces scrutiny has used the term. Even Trump’s favorite Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has invoked it. Of course he probably said it this way: צַיִד מְכַשֵׁפוֹת.
The term has been so overused even witches are up in arms! Back in 2018, The Daily Beast headlined a story, Witches to Trump: Stop Calling the Mueller Investigation a ‘Witch Hunt’ going on to report, “The witch community is tired of the president invoking the worst moment in their history to serve his political needs.”
With that witch hunting perspective, let’s get back to our most current witch hunt, using Heather Cox Richardson’s excellent summary as our guide.
Today the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol issued subpoenas for testimony to five members of Congress: Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Representatives Scott Perry (R-PA), Jim Jordan (R-OH), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), and Mo Brooks (R-AL). The committee previously invited them to cooperate voluntarily, and they refused. The committee has evidence that these five, in particular, know crucial things about the events of January 6 and activities surrounding the attempt to overturn President Joe Biden’s election.
McCarthy communicated with Trump before, during, and after the attack on January 6th. A recently released tape shows McCarthy claiming that Trump admitted some guilt over the attack.
Perry tried to install Trump loyalist Jeffrey Clark as acting attorney general to overturn the election.
Jordan was part of meetings and discussions after the election to overturn its results. He also communicated with Trump on January 6th, including in the morning, before the attack took place.
Biggs was part of the planning for January 6, including the plan to bring protesters to Washington, D.C. He also worked to convince state officials that the election was stolen. Former White House officials say Biggs sought a presidential pardon in connection with the attempt to overturn the election results.
Wearing body armor, Brooks spoke at the January 6 rally, where he told rioters to “start taking down names and kicking ass.” Since then, he has said Trump tried to get him to help “rescind the election of 2020” and put Trump back in the White House.
Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) said: “We urge our colleagues to comply with the law, do their patriotic duty, and cooperate with our investigation as hundreds of other witnesses have done.”
In my mind, these five elected officials, who, remember, took an Oath of Office in which they swore to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…” are giving witches a bad name.
But, you be the judge. Is the Committee’s effort to receive testimony from five Congressmen who not only might have inside knowledge of the planning of the January 6 insurrection but. may in fact, been part of that planning and even, particularly in the case of Brooks, its execution, a witch hunt or a legitimate inquiry into the facts that led to the great number of “domestic enemies” who attempted to overturn an election and the legal and legitimate transfer of government from one president to another?
This, my friends is not a difficult question to answer.
(One definitional point before I sign off. Since almost all the GOP “witches” being hunted are men, isn’t the use of the term, “witch hunt,” not only an affront to their sense of “justice,” but also to their manhood? Given that, and if only for their self-esteem, I would hope that these Republicans who believe they are being unjustifiably “persecuted,” use the more appropriate term, “warlock hunt,” to describe future hunts.)