GOP lawmaker reveals TikTok let death threat against committee chair stay up for a month

·2-min read

A Republican member of the House committee grilling TikTok’s CEO on Thursday drilled down on a death threat against the panel’s senior GOP member and sharply criticised the company for alllowing it to remain up.

Rep Kat Cammack was speaking as part of her alloted question time when she brought up the issue to TikTok’s CEO Shou Zi Chew. The panel’s chair (and apparent target of the threat), Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, then refused to allow him to respond because the Virginia Republican had not asked him a direct question.

"You couldn't take action after 41 days when a clear threat, a very violent threat, to the chairwoman of this committee and the members of this committee was posted on your platform,” said Ms Cammack.

"You damn well know you cannot protect the data and security of this committee or the 150 million [US] users of your app, because it is an extension of the [Chinese Communist Party],” she asserted.

According to Punchbowl News, the video in question depicted someone loading a handgun and directly threatening the committee and its chairwoman. It was taken down by TikTok admins after Rep Cammack’s comments during the hearing.

Thursday’s hearing was a clear political bruising for the company, whose CEO headed to Capitol Hill this week with even fewer allies than other social media giants like Facebook and Twitter enjoy and saw no friendly faces on the Energy and Commerce Committee.

It signifies a hard path ahead for TikTok, which is facing the prospect of seeing legislation passed that is specifically engineered to allow the US Department of Commerce to ban it from conducting transactions on US soil, or on servers governed by US data laws. A handful of progressive Democrats have signed on to the effort to prevent a ban, but none were present at the hearing on Thursday and their number is, at present, not enough to stop such legislation from passing the House.

A ban on TikTok was already attempted during the Trump administration under existing law, but it was never implemented due to a court challenge.

Most worryingly for the company’s executives, the White House issued a statement last week congratulating a bipartisan group of senators behind the ban legislation in the upper chamber of Congress, and stated that President Joe Biden would sign the bill if it reached his desk. Signing it would not ban the app outright, but immediately give the Commerce Department permission to do so, or to take lesser enforcement measures against the company.