The idea of the "paid protester" is one Donald Trump floated while he campaigned for President. Trump maintained anyone opposing him at his rallies were simply paid to be there.
It is a narrative adapted from conspiracy theorists who dismiss events that do not fit into their world view—like school shootings—as the work of paid actors. Rather than admit considerable numbers of people vocally opposing him, the President accuses them of being paid to protest.
The GOP adopted their party leader's coping mechanism as well. When protesters demonstrate against their policies or actions, Republican members of Congress and the Trump administration try to delegitimize their constituents' grievances by claiming they were paid protesters.
On Saturday, when the GOP pushed through the confirmation of Trump's SCOTUS nominee to a lifetime seat on the bench, many people protested in Washington DC and around the country. Senate Judiciary Committee member, Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas, tried to use the familiar tactic to dismiss the protests as not representing the views of millions of United States voters.
He took to Twitter and posted:
"Rollcall: 101 people were arrested at the Capitol, many paid and orchestrated to intimidate Senators and their staff."
Rollcall: 101 people were arrested at the Capitol, many paid and orchestrated to intimidate Senators and their staff.— Senator John Cornyn (@Senator John Cornyn)1538825877.0
But Chief Strategist/co-founder of A March for Our Lives, journalist and documentary filmmaker Matt Deitsch responded to Cornyn's tweet with a few facts of his own. He posted:
“Rollcall: Senator Cornyn is owned by…
AT&T - $137,000+
Exxon Mobile - $137,000+
JP Morgan - $116,000+
Goldman Sachs - $92,000+
NRA - $58,000+
Fossil Fuel Lobby - $3,000,000+
John, the only person paid and orchestrated to spread fear is you.”
Rollcall: Senator Cornyn is owned by... AT&T - $137,000+ Exxon Mobile - $137,000+ JP Morgan - $116,000+ Goldman Sa… https://t.co/j5FZBGWbxb— Matt Deitsch (@Matt Deitsch)1538926035.0
Deitsch's tweet refers to some of the lobbyists and corporate donors that contributed money to Senator Cornyn. Deitsch was not alone in his feedback for Cornyn.
Many people responded directly to Cornyn's tweet. Many called out his message for what it was.
@JohnCornyn “Paid.” Look at this sitting US Senator, using his platform to spread a baseless conspiracy theory.— Shower Cap (@Shower Cap)1538948967.0
@CapShower @JohnCornyn It’s the new normal in America. We even have a conspiracy-theorist on the Supreme Court. I… https://t.co/vcG7R7HVRw— Lori Ginsberg (@Lori Ginsberg)1538965173.0
@ltgins @mccunecicki @CapShower @JohnCornyn @GOP https://t.co/wajAs9NmRV— Jane's World (@Jane's World)1539000139.0
@JohnCornyn Yes, it’s called free speech. 😡 WE THE PEOPLE speak out against a partisan hack of a SCOTUS nominee who… https://t.co/f2H6DaiQVq— LatinaChic 🌊 (@LatinaChic 🌊)1538827722.0
@JohnCornyn It was the day of the McCain viewing. The REPUBLICAN STAFFERS, not Dems, sounded the alarm on… https://t.co/oYUItvSKiX— LatinaChic 🌊 (@LatinaChic 🌊)1538827981.0
@JohnCornyn They were “paid & orchestrated” huh? Where’s your corroborating evidence? Ya know, that whole “Innocent… https://t.co/D5SvpwrihP— Sophie Adler (@Sophie Adler)1538956463.0
@JohnCornyn Keep telling yourself that. I've never protested until Jan 2017, & I'm 50+. I've never contributed to p… https://t.co/EDXNEVys3R— AnonaMoose (@AnonaMoose)1538949062.0
@JohnCornyn Says the man who bows at Trump’s feet - the king of hiring actors to cheer for him. Get over yourself a… https://t.co/FhxhQkCpy5— Vicki Ringer (@Vicki Ringer)1538952141.0
@JohnCornyn "Okay here's your money. Hold this sign" https://t.co/CrvB4FmB2R— jon miwa (@jon miwa)1538949750.0
@JohnCornyn What proof do you have that the protesters are paid? That is a favorite charge of Trump - is there any… https://t.co/NPLZ2s4jF2— Patricia Foster (@Patricia Foster)1538957878.0
@JohnCornyn You should be made to provide proof of who you think were paid instead of throwing wild accusations aro… https://t.co/6gkooJSwXM— Darnell Moses (@Darnell Moses)1538946705.0
While others echoed Deitsch.
The March for Our Lives cofounder was not alone in looking at Cornyn's own payments received data.
@JohnCornyn John, $3,5 Million from just 6 donors? NRA, gun lobby's, Exxon, etc. none of whom have this country's best interests at heart.— Linda Roehrig (@Linda Roehrig)1538951323.0
@JohnCornyn You're lying and out of touch with 70% of America. We really think you're a bought and paid for fraud with zero integrity.— Radioactive Dinosaur (@Radioactive Dinosaur)1538955544.0
@JohnCornyn Looks like you’ve been owned. And not by the ppl of Texas— Jane (@Jane)1538950446.0
Some of those who protested also had a message for the Senior Senator from Texas.
@JohnCornyn Can you help me collect my check for protesting? I haven't been paid & need it as I'll likely go on wel… https://t.co/xBMJunlkY7— Nita Cosby (@Nita Cosby)1538959448.0
@JohnCornyn We weren’t paid and orchestrated. We are Pissed and Organized. You will have plenty of time to reflect… https://t.co/HBBY2P0jLl— Jan Porter (@Jan Porter)1538977454.0
And more than a few of Cornyn's constituents had a message for their Senator too.
@JohnCornyn I am so ready to help vote you out. https://t.co/UUb5S1B1f3— Lachelle Wolfe (@Lachelle Wolfe)1538948476.0
Senator Cornyn has yet to respond to Deitsch or any of his other critics regarding his claim.