Kansas Republican pushes back against Trump’s caustic attack on Cheney

Freshman House member discourages personal assault on rivals

By: - May 12, 2021 3:23 pm
State Rep. Steven Howe, R-Salina, issued a statement condemning the rhetoric of former President Donald Trump, who issued an acidic attack on U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, the Wyoming Republican who has challenged Trump's political claims. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

State Rep. Steven Howe, R-Salina, issued a statement condemning the rhetoric of former President Donald Trump, who issued an acidic attack on U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, the Wyoming Republican who has challenged Trump’s political claims. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — State Rep. Steven Howe took an unusual incursion into national politics Wednesday by denouncing Donald Trump’s bitter condemnation of Congresswoman Liz Cheney for accusing the former president for inspiring the January assault on the U.S. Capitol and stirring controversy with unsubstantiated claims about a stolen election.

Howe, a first-term Republican from Salina and former staff member for two GOP members of Congress, said he was appalled at divisiveness and disrespect exhibited by Trump in reference to Cheney.

Republicans in the U.S. House voted behind closed doors Wednesday to purge Cheney from a House leadership position in response to Wyoming representative’s comments about the danger of Trump leading the party into the 2022 election cycle and beyond.

Trump, who contends loyalists of President Joe Biden engaged in election fraud, said in a statement Cheney was a “bitter, horrible human being” with “no personality or anything good having to do with politics or our country.”

There is no reason to publicly defame someone’s character,” Howe said. “This type of inflammatory rhetoric is childish, beneath the office of the president and it does nothing to further the cause of freedom, liberty or the well-being of our country.”

Howe said that when he ran for the Kansas House in 2020 he vowed to listen to people, encourage civility and work with others to find solutions to the state’s challenges.

During the 2021 session, Howe has supported a resolution opposing moves by the Biden administration to expand the U.S. Supreme Court. On the state level, he’s embraced the proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution declaring the state’s Bill of Rights didn’t contain a right to abortion.

He’s also been critical of the Kansas Department of Labor’s handling of unemployment benefits during the pandemic and objected to Gov. Laura Kelly’s imposition of a statewide mask mandate.

“I challenge all citizens to keep engaged in the political process by having thoughtful dialogue and avoiding personal attacks. We can do better,” Howe said.

Cheney was ousted as House Republican Conference chairwoman, which is the No. 3 spot in the House apparatus. The job involves messaging on behalf of GOP House members. After the GOP vote, Cheney said the party had to fight for conservative principles and counter “very dangerous lies of a former president.”

The Trump statement declared Cheney a “talking point for Democrats, whether that means the border, the gas lines, inflation or destroying our economy.”

The former president asserted Cheney was a warmonger whose family “stupidly pushed us into the never-ending Middle East disaster, draining our wealth and depleting our great military.”

Cheney’s father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, was part of the effort in the administration of President George W. Bush to build public support for invasion of Iraq based on claims the regime of Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.