U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) blasted members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus as "grifters" and "performance artists" at an event with Houston-area Republican congressional candidates on Sunday.
"I've been in Congress for almost three years now. There's two types of members in Congress: There's performance artists, there's legislators," Crenshaw told the audience at a campaign event featuring GOP candidates Wesley Hunt and Morgan Luttrell, a retired Navy SEAL and the twin brother of Marcus Luttrell.
"Now, the performance artists are the ones that get all the attention, the ones you think are more 'conservative' because they know how to say slogans real well. They know how to recite the lines that they know that our voters want to hear," he continued.
Without naming anyone specifically, Crenshaw criticized Freedom Caucus conservatives for voting against some bills that former President Donald Trump and a majority of the House GOP conference supported. He also defended Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), a vocal Trump critic, as a House member that "voted with Trump almost 99%. He was number 2."
"You know who was at the bottom? Everybody in the Freedom Caucus. All of them," Crenshaw said.
"We have grifters in our midst ... I mean in the conservative movement. Lie after lie after lie, because they know something psychologically about the conservative heart — we’re worried about what people are going to do to us, what they’re going to infringe upon us,” Crenshaw said.
Crenshaw's comments drew returning fire from at least one Freedom Caucus member, Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), who called Crenshaw a "Neo-Conservative" and criticized the Texas Republican's voting record.
"Every actual conservative scorecard exposes these lies. Actual conservatives oppose bankrupting America, spying on Americans, and crony surveillance capitalism," Davidson tweeted.
The Freedom Caucus is a group of GOP lawmakers in the House of Representatives who are generally considered to be among the most conservative Republicans. The group was formed in January 2015 by several members who were first elected in the 2010 Tea Party wave, in response to the perception that more mainstream Republicans weren't keeping the promises made to voters. Its members include several controversial and headline-making lawmakers including Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.), and Louie Gohmert (R-Texas).
The group played a key role in opposing former House Speaker John Boehner in 2015, leading multiple efforts to oust him from leadership. The Freedom Caucus also initially opposed the House Republican bill to repeal Obamacare in 2017, whic former President Donald Trump supported, arguing it left too much of the Affordable Care Act intact. Their opposition to the Obamacare repeal bill led Trump to publicly rebuke the caucus on Twitter, going as far to declare "war" on Freedom Caucus members who wouldn't be team players.
But the group became considerably more Trump-friendly after Republicans failed to repeal Obamacare. Former House Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows went on to serve as Trump's chief of staff, and the group was described as "Trump's main defender" by the Wall Street Journal during the first impeachment proceedings against Trump.