Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, said he had "no apologies" after he made what appeared to be a pro-lynching remark during a congressional hearing on combatting anti-Asian American violence.
"The victims of race-based violence and their families deserve justice," Roy said in his opening statement at the House Judiciary subcommittee hearing, adding that he was concerned about the "thought police" stifling free speech.
"We believe in justice. There are old sayings in Texas about find all the rope in Texas and get a tall oak tree. We take justice very seriously. And we ought to do that. Round up the bad guys. That's what we believe," he said. "My concern about this hearing is that it seems to want to venture into the policing of rhetoric in a free society, free speech, and away from the rule of law and taking out bad guys."
Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., who testified at the hearing, became emotional when she addressed Roy and his comments at the end of her remarks, complaining that Republicans had helped incite violence against Asian Americans by using language like the "China virus" to describe the coronavirus.
"Your president and your party and your colleagues can talk about issues with any other country that you want, but you don't have to do it by putting a bull's-eye on the back of Asian Americans across this country, on our grandparents, on our kids. This hearing was to address the hurt and pain of our community, to find solutions, and we will not let you take our voice away from us," said Meng, who is first vice chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.
Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., focused on Roy's remarks about a rope and an oak tree on Twitter.
"Chip Roy glorified lynching at a hearing on violence against Asians. The largest mass lynching in US history was against Chinese immigrants," he tweeted, referring to the Chinese Massacre of 1871 in Los Angeles. At least 17 people were hanged.
"I served on active duty in the US military to defend @chiproytx's right to say stupid, racist stuff. I just wish he would stop saying it," Lieu added.
Others on social media said that the line wasn't a known saying in Texas — but that it was similar to a lyric from a 2003 song by country singers Toby Keith and Willie Nelson called "Beer for My Horses." The song includes the line "Take all the rope in Texas, find a tall oak tree, round up all of them bad boys, hang them high in the street."
Roy said in a statement to NBC News afterward that he had no regrets about his choice of words.
"Apparently some folks are freaking out that I used an old expression about finding all the rope in Texas and a tall oak tree about carrying out justice against bad guys. I meant it. We need more justice and less thought policing," Roy said. "We should restore order by tamping out evil actors, not turn America into an authoritarian state like the Chinese Communists who seek to destroy us. No apologies."