Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican, has become a vocal critic of many members of his own party following the U.S. Capitol riot last January. He has often called them out on issues such as their unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud undermined the 2020 presidential election, and has also taken a more moderate position on abortion in recent months.
During an appearance on NBC News’ Meet the Press on Sunday, he condemned members of his own party for taking “cruel” stances during primaries, specifically with regards to abortion.
After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that previously guaranteed abortion-rights to women across the country, some Republicans have backed banning abortion in all cases, even in cases of rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is in danger.
“I’ve always taken the position of rape, incest, life of the mother and, you know, certain weeks up until 15 weeks or whatever, and that was actually a fairly common thing in the Republican Party. Even Donald Trump said rape, incest, life of the mother exceptions,” he said. “And now you’ve been seeing these Republicans go, ‘There is absolutely no exception.’”
Kinzinger is set to retire from Congress at the end of the year after declining to run for reelection. A staunch Trump critic, who voted to impeach the former president, Kinzinger has evoked the ire of his party’s conservative base and would have likely faced a difficult primary challenge if he decided to run. Most other pro-impeachment Republicans lost their primaries to Trump-supported candidates who staked more conservative stances on other issues, as well.
Kinzinger said Sunday that Republicans have embraced “cruel” rhetoric to help them win primaries.
“Somehow in the Republican Party, the crueler you are, the more likely you are to win a primary,” he said.
He called out Blake Masters, the Republican nominee in Arizona’s Senate race—one of the handful of highly competitive races that will decide control of the Senate. Masters faced criticism this week after appearing to alter his campaign website to include more moderate stances on abortion.
“Blake Masters, for instance, can erase his website all he wants and now pretend like he’s some soft on this, but he isn’t,” said Kinzinger. “He used it to win a primary.”
Newsweek reached out to Masters’ campaign for a response to Kinzinger’s remarks.
GOP leadership is partially to blame for why some candidates are staking out such stances, Kinzinger said, accusing them of trying to appeal to the most conservative members of their party. He has long criticized his party’s leadership. In July, he accused Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of “siding with insurrectionists” to help him become speaker if Republicans retake a majority in the House of Representatives.
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