Republican Launches Personal Attack Against Keystone XL Activist At Congressional Hearing

On Thursday, a House of Representatives subcommittee hearing on the Keystone XL pipeline ended with an ugly exchange between a Republican congressman and a Nebraska grassroots organizer. The GOP hearing turned personal when Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) began firing accusations at the witness, Bold Nebraska Director Jane Kleeb.

While interrogating the anti-Keystone XL activist over the source of her organization’s funding, Johnson became angry, questioned her qualifications, and warned her not to interrupt beyond yes or no answers as he threw questions out about her husband’s “woman-owned business.” His final attack, that Kleeb had no qualifications to even discuss the pipeline, led Democratic member Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL) to interrupt and apologize.

Another member, Rep. Billy Long (R-MO) also described Kleeb as being fairly combative. She replied, “My mom would call it assertive or independent.’”

Watch a clip of what happened:

Schakowsky allowed the witness to finish her point, after describing Johnson’s speech as an “inappropriate harangue, which included suggesting that […] somehow she brought it on herself.” But the congressman wasn’t even around to hear it, since he left the room.


Later, Kleeb told ThinkProgress she was surprised by the sexist and personal attacks, but it’s a sign of how weak the case is in favor of Keystone. “If you’re attacking me as an individual it’s because we have a strong fight,” she said.

Kleeb has become a powerful voice for Keystone protesters, but that reputation has earned the ire of some Republicans, which played out at a hearing where pro-Keystone XL testimonials outnumbered those opposed. Likewise, the Republican majority on the committee receive substantial encouragement from the oil and gas industry. For example, oil and gas is one of Johnson’s top industry donors providing him with more than $100,000 in career contributions.

When she was permitted to speak today, the witness challenged Republicans’ overestimated jobs and economic benefits. Asked about the couple hundred temporary jobs the pipeline may create, Kleeb replied, “Yes, let’s put them to work! You don’t have to wait five years for this project, put them to work on the backlog of infrastructure jobs that you guys continue to block as the Republican Party!”

Kleeb is now headed back to Nebraska to participate in the next stage of the Keystone XL fight — this weekend, Nebraskans plan to build a clean energy-powered barn inside the Keystone XL’s proposed route.

ThinkProgress intern Chris Butterfield contributed.