What Katie Britt’s misleading, melodramatic speech revealed about the Republican Party

Senator Katie Britt speaks at a news conference on border security at the U.S. Capitol on December 7, 2023 in Washington, DC. The group of Republican senators held a news conference calling for better border security. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
(Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

What Katie Britt’s misleading, melodramatic speech revealed about the Republican Party

Opinion piece, Elections 2024

LZ Granderson

March 11, 2024

The youngest Republican woman ever elected to the Senate, and the first from Alabama, opted for a long-sleeved shirt


green blouse for the biggest speech of her political career. The centerpiece was the crucifix pendant hanging from her necklace, which occasionally flickered as Senator Katie Britt shifted her weight. This was no coincidence: what better way to convey trustworthiness to evangelical voters than a cross?

Britt’s melodramatic portrayal of the State of the Union rebuttal last week was widely reported on social media and parodied on Saturday Night Live. And then of course there was Karla Jacinto.

When I first took office, I did something different, says Britt. I traveled to the Del Rio sector of Texas, where I spoke with a woman who shared her story with me. She was forced into sex trafficking by the cartels from the age of 12. The senator suggested this had happened in the United States, adding that President Biden’s border crisis is a shame. It’s despicable. And it’s almost completely preventable.

But Britt wasn’t completely honest about that 12-year-old girl’s story. Jacinto, an activist who shared her story long before Britt took office, said she met the Alabama senator in a group with other officials, and not individually. She said she was trafficked in Mexico, far from the U.S. border. And she said this happened between 2004 and 2008.

In other words, the woman sitting in the kitchen with the cross glittering on her neck is singing.

After the truth came to light, Britt went on Fox News to do damage control, while still looking like a live-action Hallmark card and apparently hoping that the appearance of sympathy could erase the traces of her political miscalculation .

Premiering her one-woman show just before Oscar weekend was a bold choice by the senator. But exploiting a woman’s personal horror as political primetime is beyond audacious; it is deeply disturbing.

The question for evangelical voters, who make up a large part of the Republican base, is how much more politics can trump morality in the name of whatever conservatism means. Politico reported Monday that an evangelical group is spending upwards of $60 million to get a twice-impeached and repeatedly indicted former president back into the White House, so maybe that’s our answer.

The whole moral majority movement in conservative politics has always had to do with theater and cosplay. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene took it to a new level by using Hunter Biden’s sexting photos during a House committee hearing. And now the future of the Republican Party lies in a kitchen that claims to speak honestly to voters of faith while telling a lurid lie for political purposes.

I work as a spokesperson for many victims who have no voice, Jacinto told CNN. I would really like all governors, all senators, to address the issue of human trafficking, because millions of girls and boys are disappearing all the time, people who are really trafficked and abused, like them [Britt] named. And I think she [Britt] must first take into account what is actually happening before telling a story of that magnitude.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was able to take repeated swigs from a bottle of water during another infamous rebuttal to the State of the Union because someone was about to deliver it to him. Manufacturers tell you what colors and patterns to wear. Camera operators remind you where to look. None of what happened during Britt’s rebuttal happened.

Jacinto’s story wasn’t hard to find. But it seems that everyone involved in the production of the Senators didn’t believe anyone would bother to look.

The consequences are an embarrassment and a setback for Britt, but ultimately unlikely to cause her any serious political damage. The leader of her party will soon be on trial for paying hush money to an adult film actress and has been found liable for sexual abuse, so yeah, Britt will probably be fine.

The same cannot be said of its parties’ claim to any form of genuine moral high ground.



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