From a near fistfight between Marco Rubio and Alex Jones to the presence of multiple alt-right figures and conspiracy theorists on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, it seemed as though congressional hearings with Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey couldn’t get any stranger. And then they did.
In the midst of Twitter CEO Dorsey’s hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday afternoon, activist Laura Loomer stood up and began shouting, accusing the executive of trying to influence the election and censoring conservatives online. (Loomer is often considered to be part of the alt-right, though she rejects that characterization and has distanced herself from the movement over anti-Semitism.) Rep. Billy Long (R-MO) began to talk over her to drown her out — in an auctioneer’s chant.
Loomer, along with conspiracy theorist Jones and internet troll Chuck Johnson, had also attended the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing with Dorsey and Sandberg that took place Wednesday morning, and apparently Loomer decided to show up at the House hearing as well.
She interrupted the hearing and began shouting. “Please help us, Mr. President, before it is too late, because Jack Dorsey is trying to influence the election, to sway the election, so that Democrats can steal the election!” Loomer said. “That is why he is censoring and shadow-banning conservatives!”
Members of Congress called for order in the room. Long, at first confused, said, “Eh? What’s she saying? I can’t understand her.”
He then broke out into an auctioneer’s chant, fast-talking over her as though at an auction.
It turns out that Long, a Republican who has been in the House since 2011 representing Missouri’s Seventh District, is actually a professional auctioneer. According to his congressional website, the former real estate broker is the owner of Billy Long Auctions in Springfield. He’s a member of the National Auctioneers Association and the Missouri Professional Auctioneers’ Hall of Fame.
The auctioneer’s chant is a tactic he’s employed in the past. In 2011, he did an auctioneering bit on the House floor to highlight the national debt and how quickly it could be “auctioned off.”
Loomer had also approached Dorsey outside the Capitol before the House hearing, asking when she could get her Twitter verification back. She lost her blue checkmark last November when Twitter stripped verification from users who advocated for white supremacy or identified as Nazis.
There was no auctioneer available to drown her out that time around.
In a phone call after the protest, Loomer told me she went to Capitol Hill on Wednesday because she’s unverified on Twitter wanted to exercise her First Amendment rights to speak out. She, Jones, and Johnson “have been the targets of this,” she said, referring to what she believes is Twitter’s censorship of conservative voices. “We have a right to be there,” she said.
Loomer called Dorsey a “liar” and Long’s interruption “disgusting,” “sexist,” and “low class.”
“If he were actually listening to his constituents, he would know that his constituents are being censored,” she said. “What he was signaling to the American people is that our free speech is up for auction.”
Update and correction: Updated with comments from Loomer. A previous version of this article described Loomer as “alt-right.” Loomer has distanced herself from parts of the alt-right movement over anti-Semitism, and can be considered part of what’s sometimes known as the “alt-light.