Rep. Jasmine Crockett Confronted a Political ‘Bully’ Without Batting an Eyelash

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It was the alliteration heard ’round the nation. On May 16, an already tense House Oversight Committee hearing devolved into pandemonium after Republican congresswoman—and frequent instigator—Marjorie Taylor Greene asked the Democrats a question unrelated to the topic at hand. Democratic Rep. Jasmine Crockett, a freshman congresswoman from Texas, responded, “Do you know what we’re here for?” prompting Greene to snap back: “I don’t think you know what you’re here for. I think your fake eyelashes are messing up what you’re reading.”

Crockett remained quiet as the room erupted, but after Greene refused to apologize and committee chairman Rep. James Comer chose not to apply the committee’s decorum rules, Crockett asked Comer for clarification on his decision—and delivered a dig of her own. “I’m just curious,” Crockett said, “just to better understand your ruling: If someone on this committee then starts talking about somebody’s bleach blonde, bad-built, butch body, that would not be engaging in personalities, correct?”

The phrase—now in the running for Song of the Summer, thanks to the ensuing remixes—immediately went viral. “I was in the middle of the committee, and my pastor started calling me,” Crockett tells ELLE.com. “He texted me and was like, ‘The next time you say,’ and he put the words, ‘I just need a heads-up, so I don’t have water in my mouth.’” The following day, she says, “I definitely saw Nancy Pelosi, who was like, ‘Great job,’ like, high-fiving.” So far, Crockett has taken the attention in stride, launching a new “Crockett Clapback” merch collection to raise money for Democrats and insisting that she doesn’t regret standing up to Greene, whom she calls a “bully” and a “punk.”

“I’ve dealt with murderers,” says Crockett, a former criminal defense and civil rights attorney. “My toughness comes from my experience of who I’ve had to deal with. I’m not going to play with you.” Below, Crockett checks in about the hearing’s aftermath.

Before we get to The Moment, I would love to ask: What made you initially want to run for Congress?

I absolutely had no intention of being in politics, and every day, I question if this is really what I’m supposed to be doing. But as a lawyer, I became annoyed with the law in general, and so I thought, I need to change the laws. It’s not good enough to help just one person here and there; the laws, in general, need to change. Initially, it was about a lot of that, experiences in the courtroom or feeling as if there was no good answer for victims of police brutality and their families. Really just trying to be smarter about criminal justice overall to hopefully save some lives.

What do you mean when you say you question whether politics is what you’re supposed to be doing?

Walking into politics, especially at this point in time, it’s literally dangerous. We get the death threats. You’re trying to serve the people and to have people who want to harm you is a problem. Politics today is almost like a throwback to politics, I’m assuming, when Shirley Chisholm [the first Black congresswoman] was first getting in—this pushback and this resistance to a woman, especially a Black woman, ending up in this space. It’s like, we believe in representative government so long as the representatives are white men.

Every day, I question if this is really what I’m supposed to be doing.”

I miss the courtroom every single day. I loved practicing law. My life was a little bit easier in the sense that I had a better schedule, my friends never felt neglected, even though my friends are very understanding. My mom definitely got to see me more, even though she loves all of this. Also, [I] just didn’t have as many eyes, any cameras on [me]. But overall, I absolutely believe that God has me where He wants me and has me doing what He wants me to do, which is working for the people.

congresswoman jasmine crockett

Samuel Corum//Getty Images

You’ve gone viral a few times. When that happens, does the violence—the threats, etc.—increase?

I will tell you that the vitriol on social media absolutely goes up. The more people that come to know and love me, the more people that come to know and hate me. With this most recent situation, there’s been a million times more love. Marjorie has been a bully for a very long time, and no one had taken the time to punch her back. So even Republican colleagues, I’m getting thumbs up and winks and different Republican men [saying], “I love your lashes.” No one is defending her.

Even Republican colleagues, I’m getting thumbs up and winks.”

congresswoman jasmine crockett

Tom Williams//Getty Images

In response to this viral moment, Esquire published an essay arguing that Democrats need to utilize your approach more, especially this election year. The writer said: “Voters on the Right aren’t put off by the rudeness of MAGAverse acolytes; they like them because of it. Why should Democrats have to sit there and take it again and again?” Also: “We need more people like Rep. Crockett–elected officials willing to reach across the aisle and deliver a verbal backhand if necessary. Maybe that’s how we can get voters who have tuned out to sit up and pay attention again.” What do you think of that argument?

I think everybody is different. Not everybody can do it. There’s this perception that Democrats are weak, and I just want to be clear: Even if I hadn’t clapped back, it doesn’t mean I’m weak. So I think that [constituents] are looking for the fight, and I just want to say: We’ve got fighters, please believe, but not everyone believes in fighting the same way. Ultimately, you represent your district, and the people that are allowed to fight may not necessarily be the same people that are willing to put up that kind of fight.

For me, I was like, “If my district doesn’t re-elect me, okay.” I didn’t sign up for a job where I’ve got to sit there and be disrespected over and over and over; if that’s what my district wants to see, then it may be time for them to elect somebody else. Now, I have received countless text messages and emails and notes that are like, “You can stay forever.” My district is perfectly fine. But we do have different members that tread differently. And it takes all of us. It’s not just one person, it is a full team. We’ve got to win some of these seats that are really, really tight. And that may not be the type of posture that is okay for that particular member to take, even if they want to, because it may cause us to lose the seat.

But I think what you’re seeing right now is people feel relieved. They have seen [Greene] bully people over and over and over, and everybody just seemed to take it, and they could not really wrap their minds around why.

You’ve been consistently asked if you regret what you did, and you’ve emphatically said that you don’t. If you could go back, would you change your word choice at all?

I guess if you’ve got time to perfect something, maybe. I will say that the only word that is throwing some people off [is “butch”]. I think it’s a very small group of people, and maybe it’s because everybody knows that I have been a solid LGBTQIA warrior. It’s interesting, because I have friends who are butch who are like, “I need my shirt ASAP.” Everybody understood what it was, and that I’ve never done anything to disrespect the community. I’ve always been an advocate, and obviously, my background is in civil rights.

The only thing that has been explained to me was that somebody felt like it put an additional target on butch lesbians—which, clearly, I’m not going after butch lesbians. Nothing—any of the songs, nothing—has gone after the community at all. No one has tried to do that. In fact, I get so much love from the community. So I just don’t really get it. But because I never intended to hurt anybody in the community, if there was a word that I could’ve changed, that potentially would’ve been the word. But anybody that has a problem with the community, they had the problem with the community before I said that. These are people that were never going to love on the community at all anyway.

Is it frustrating that you’ve been asked whether you regret saying it, when you know Marjorie Taylor Greene is not being asked that question?

Of course, because as a Black woman, I’m always supposed to be the apologist. I’m always supposed to be the one that’s like, “I’m sorry I got out of line.” I think it is odd for some people when I stand my ground and say, “I have no regrets.” When is the last time y’all asked Trump if he regretted all the demeaning names that he makes up? Why would I ever feel any type of regret when she came for me, and I made sure that what I did also observed the rules?

As a Black woman, I’m always supposed to be the apologist.”

It wasn’t just my words, it was the fact that I was showing that, from an intellectual standpoint, I could cut you so much deeper without ever getting in trouble. That was what I wanted to communicate, not just in my words, but in my actions, and everybody wants to act like it’s all the same. It ain’t the same. She started it, and maybe it would’ve been the same if I would’ve immediately responded and said something demeaning in that moment. But I sat there and attempted to let the process work. We went through the process, and then, she refused to apologize. So the fact that she dug in deeper after she was wrong, and then y’all are still asking me if I regret [what I said]? Why? If she would’ve apologized, I wouldn’t have done it. But once I do something, I’m going to own it.

congresswoman jasmine crockett

Tom Williams//Getty Images

The actual insult she lobbed at you had do with your false eyelashes, and you’ve said in interviews that it was a racist comment. Can you talk about the politics of your beauty choices when you’re showing up to Congress as one of the few Black female representatives?

I do believe there’s an even larger microscope on women of color. I don’t feel like Marjorie gets challenged in the same ways about her looks, but everything about me has to be together. We have a makeshift makeup room right outside of my bathroom in my office, and I had to tell my team, “You all got to be thoughtful,” because they would be like, “Oh, such and such wants you on TV,” and I’m like, “Did I do my makeup today? Did you all schedule makeup time?” People will judge me, judge me, judge me. And it’s tough to go through all that, but I understand that is how people will determine how credible I am [initially]. They will look at me and then decide whether or not they will listen to me.

There’s power in the beauty choices we make every day, no matter what job you have. That being said, do you have any lash tips for our readers?

Find you a lash tech that you trust, who will make sure that your lashes are exactly what you need. Honestly, I’ve been struggling since my lash tech decided to retire. It just hurt my heart so bad, because she worked with my schedule, she was always ready, and she knew exactly what to do. Not every lash tech is giving people the lashes that actually fit their face. Also, don’t be afraid of them. Listen, eyebrows and lashes, you good to go. Maybe some lip gloss. You don’t need nothing else.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

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