Iowa Republican Senator Joni Ernst had a tense exchange with a Biden administration nominee who called her “hideous” in a tweet in 2015.
At a meeting of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Wednesday, Ernst questioned Beth Prichard Geer, one of President Joe Biden’s nominees to the board of directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority, a federally-owned electric utility corporation serving the state of Tennessee and parts of several other southern states.
“As you stated in your written testimony, you believe one reason you should be confirmed to serve in the TVA, the Tennessee Valley, is because of your ability to ‘build relationships and work together,’ is that correct?” Ernst asked.
“Yes, that is correct,” Geer responded.
“And you believe civility is a fundamental aspect of your role on the Tennessee Valley board, if confirmed?” Ernst asked.
“I absolutely do, Senator,” Geer replied.
“Yes, and thank you for answering those questions honestly,” Ernst said. “And I think it appears to be a recent sentiment, if you’ll take a look at the tweet that we also found.” A staffer pulled up a posterboard which showed a tweet from Greer, replying to a tweet from Fox News asking viewers to comment on Ernst’s response to former President Barack Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address. “What did you think of @SenJoniErnst‘s #GOPresponse to #SOTU?” the tweet asked. “Hideous,” Geer replied, tagging both Ernst and Fox News. Geer has since locked her Twitter account.
“Hideous,” Ernst read aloud. “Can you explain that tweet?”
Geer said she could not read the text on the poster, adding that she was not trying to evade the question. Ernst read her the quote, after which Geer apologized. “Well, I apologize if I offended you, and I appreciate you bringing it to my attention,” she said. “And I do, in fact, believe that civility is key, and I’m sorry that I did not demonstrate that, in your opinion, with that tweet.”
Committee Chairman Ed Markey (D-MA) had cut in earlier, noting that the time Ernst had been given by one of her colleagues yielding had expired, but he said that she could return to the questions during her time. She did return to the tweet during her allotted question time. “Ms. Geer, when you called me hideous, were you referring to my appearance, or to the views that I held and are held by many Americans across this country?” she pressed.
“Obviously, [I] was not calling you personally hideous and certainly not your appearance. And again, I apologize if it came across that way. I mean no disrespect,” Geer replied.
Ernst cut her off. “How else could this come across? The word hideous to me only has one meaning. And the views I expressed in my State of the Union response were personal experiences,” she said. “So maybe you didn’t appreciate that I grew up on a small, rural farm in an economically disadvantaged area of Iowa. Maybe you didn’t like that my mother had to put bread bags on my shoes when I went to school. Maybe you didn’t like that, but a lot of Americans have had the same experiences that I have had. And so, to call my personal views as hideous is an affront to half of America. So, I have no further questions for you, but I appreciate your time and attention today, but I think in a world that is begging for civility, we should give them that civility, and I don’t know that you can bring that to this Tennessee Valley board.” She told her colleagues that she would not support Geer’s confirmation.
“I think it’s important that we all work together, but when you’re starting off on a foot like this, it’s really hard for us all to work together,” she concluded.