Trump names Kinzinger, others, as ‘grandstanders’ in public appearance

‘Proud to be named among those other heroes,’ Kinzinger replied

In Donald Trump’s first public appearance Sunday since his presidency, he listed U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, and others in the GOP who have spoken out against his politics as “grandstanders.”

The speech was given at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida.

Kinzinger was one of 10 Republicans who joined all House Democrats in voting to impeach Trump in January. The Channahon Republican started the “Country First” campaign and has been outspoken the GOP needs to move away from Trump’s politics and accept that Trump lost the election.

“Instead of attacking me and, more importantly, the voters of our movement,” Trump said, “top establishment Republicans in Washington should be spending their energy in opposing [President Joe] Biden, [Speaker of the House Nancy] Pelosi, [Senate Majority Leader Chuck] Schumer and the Democrats.

Among those Trump listed as “grandstanders” were Republican Sens. Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse, Richard Burr, Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Pat Toomey and Reps. Tom Rice, Liz Cheney and others. When Trump reached Kinzinger on the list, he paused slightly on each syllable of the Channahon representative’s name, drawing boos from the crowd.

During the speech, Trump said “get rid of them all,” referring to the lawmakers he listed as “party hacks” and “RINOs,” an acronym meaning Republicans in name only.

“I’ll be actively working to elect strong, tough and smart Republican leaders,” Trump said. “We will take back the House, win the Senate, and then a Republican president will make a triumphant return to the White House, and I wonder who that will be.”

Kinzinger reacted immediately Sunday on social media.

“Proud to be named among those other hero[es] in Trump’s speech!” Kinzinger wrote on Twitter.

He also tweeted that congressional candidates performed better in their districts than Trump.

“Case in point: I got 65%, Trump got 56%,” Kinzinger said on Twitter.

During Sunday’s speech, Trump said the Republican Party is united.

“We’re not starting new parties. They kept saying ‘he’s going to start a brand-new party,’ we have the Republican Party, it’s going to unite and be stronger than ever before, I am not starting a new party,” Trump said.

Kinzinger disagreed Sunday morning in an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” After he was asked about the party’s unity, he said the Republican Party may unite on disagreements it has with President Joe Biden’s administration, but in terms of what the party’s vision is for the future, it is “certainly not united.”

“I think we are a party that’s been for too long peddling in fear, using fear as a compelling way to get votes, and fear does motivate, but after a while fear can destroy a country and destroy narrative and destroy a democracy, and we have to quit peddling that,” Kinzinger said.

Before Trump’s CPAC speech, Kinzinger released a video for his Country First campaign titled “No Fear.”

“We must reject the politics of fear and all who practice it,” Kinzinger said in the video, saying Americans should choose “faith over fear.”

Kinzinger was critical Sunday of Trump’s speech. Before it, he tweeted for viewers to look for Trump to use a theme based on fear.

He also criticized Trump’s speech, which lasted for an hour and a half, as “boring.”

“We can’t win the presidency with this boring, low energy, stream of [consciousness], weak, has been, choke artist. Just my [two cents].”

Kinzinger’s comment drew the attention of U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., a QAnon and conspiracy theory supporter who Kinzinger voted to remove from committee posts. Greene replied, “yet you are watching it.”

“You know who can’t win? You. All you do is attack Republicans, while our real enemy is Biden and the communists Democrats who are ripping our country apart,” Greene tweeted in reply to Kinzinger’s statement. “Stop being such a jerk all the time and remember the people who voted for you!”

Kinzinger has been censured by the Republican central committees of La Salle, Will and Iroquois counties. The Grundy County GOP voted not to censure him. A censure is a formal act of disapproval.

During his appearance on CBS, Kinzinger was asked how he responds to Republican leadership calling on Trump to have the former president help win back supporters.

“I think he’s got a number of people who follow him and are motivated by him and compelled by him because there’s been no competing alternative vision,” Kinzinger said. “To win a narrative in a party, you have to present a competing alternative narrative when you only hear from Donald Trump. And when people walk around in fear of his tweets or his comments or they use his fear to win reelection, of course he’s going to motivate people.”

“How do we go forward from here? I tell you, reaching out to Donald Trump and more of the same is not going to do that.”

James Marter, Jack Lombardi and Catalina Lauf have said they will run against Kinzinger for the Republican nomination in 2022.

How did they react?

On Sunday, Marter reshared a tweet that said “President Trump is only getting stronger” with the caption “That is right!”

Lauf said Kinzinger is trending on Twitter “because the same people that support the Lincoln Project are supporting a new pro Adam PAC to defend him from me!”

Lombardi responded “Hero?” to Kinzinger’s tweet that he was “proud to be among the hero[es] named in Trump’s speech.”

Derek Barichello

Derek is a Streator High and University of Illinois graduate. He worked at the Albany-Herald in Albany, Ga., and for Sauk Valley Media in Sterling, before returning to his hometown paper. He's now news editor for both the NewsTribune and The Times.