Liz Cheney had to tell a colleague, ‘I’m not your girlfriend.’ Her new book tells us why

By Terri Rupar

Originally published by The 19th

Liz Cheney’s book, Oath and Honor, offers a lot of details about the effort to hold former President Donald Trump accountable after his attempt to overthrow the results of the 2020 election, as well as the many ways now-departing Rep. Kevin McCarthy tried to appease him.

It also sheds light on what it’s like to be a woman in Congress, at least on the Republican side.

When Cheney first joined the House in 2017, she writes, Rep. Jim Jordan told her she should join the far-right House Freedom Caucus. His pitch: “We don’t have any women, and we need one.”

Cheney, a staunch conservative from one of the reddest states in the country, passed.

The book, which was released Tuesday, has put in the spotlight the role of Cheney as she bucked most of the other elected members of her party, working to impeach Trump; collaborating with mostly Democrats to interview witnesses who could shed light on what happened on Jan. 6, 2021; and making sure those findings got in front of the American people.

Cheney, who has not ruled out a presidential run in 2024, was not one of the so-called “Never Trumpers” who emerged during the 2016 election. She has said she voted for Trump twice, telling NPR’s “Fresh Air” in an interview this week that she supported the work of his administration on energy, land use and other issues important to her constituents. Trump won Wyoming by more than 43 points in 2020.

The subtitle of her book, though, signals why she wrote it: “A Memoir and a Warning.” Cheney’s book repeatedly raises alarms about what Trump — who this week told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that he wouldn’t be a dictator in a second term “except for day one” — would do to hold on to power and punish those who want to check him.  

Cheney calls out some of her former colleagues in the GOP House conference.

She recounts how on January 6, Jordan, one of the members who voted to reject the 2020 election results, approached her as insurrectionists were entering the Rotunda of the Capitol.

“We need to get the ladies off the aisle,” he said.

Cheney said she swatted away his hand and said, “Get away from me. You f—-ing did this.”

After Cheney and nine other Republicans joined Democrats to impeach Trump a second time, she writes, a number of members in her party admonished her for her tone. It happened again on February 3, 2021, as the conference was preparing for a vote on whether to oust her from leadership. She specifically writes about the men of the party and how they treated her as a woman.

“You’ve just got such a defiant attitude!” she reports Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina told her.

Cheney writes of the conference meeting: “A couple of my male colleagues were so enraged by my unwillingness to apologize that they got themselves really worked up and seemed on the verge of tears as they lectured me.”

One, Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, said, “It’s like you’re playing in the biggest game of your life and you look up and see your girlfriend sitting on the opponent’s side!”

Women in the conference, Cheney writes, started yelling, “She’s not your girlfriend!”

Cheney said the same: “I’m not your girlfriend.”

The vote would ultimately fail. As it was happening, Rep. Mike Turner from Ohio said to Cheney, “Well, I just got to spend four hours listening to a bunch of men tell a woman that she wasn’t taking their feelings into account,” she writes.

A later effort to remove her from leadership was successful.

The Republican Party — whose de facto leader, Trump, has been found liable of sexual abuse — has a higher percentage of White men in elected office than the Democrats. At the time of the February 3, 2021, vote, there were 29 GOP women and 89 Democratic women in the narrowly divided House, according to the Center for American Women and Politics.

In the book, Cheney returns more than once to the legacy of her grandmother, the first woman to be deputy sheriff in Natrona County, Wyoming. She reflects on the legacy of the work of the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack — she was one of just two Republicans on the panel — and how even as she lost the primary in her reelection bid, she wanted to be clear that she saw Trump as a danger to the country.

After the committee’s initial hearing. Cheney writes, she happened to talk to some students from Miami University of Ohio who were outside the Capitol. A young woman, she recounts, said, “I don’t know if I agree with you on any policy issues, but I want to be part of fighting for our Constitution with you.”

Cheney writes, “It was a sentiment I’d hear over and over in the coming months, especially from young women.”

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