Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland wears head coverings on the House floor to cover his hair loss while undergoing treatment for cancer. Social media posts falsely claim that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a Republican, refused to allow Raskin to wear his head covering. The posts misinterpret a joke Raskin made in response to a question.
Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland announced on Dec. 28 that he had been diagnosed with cancer. “After several days of tests, I have been diagnosed with diffuse large B cell lymphoma, which is a serious but curable form of cancer,” Raskin said.
Diffuse large B cell lymphoma is usually marked by growing tumors in the liver, spleen, lymph nodes, bone marrow or other organs, according to the National Cancer Institute. Three out of four people are disease free after treatment.
“I am about to embark on a course of chemo-immunotherapy on an outpatient basis at Med Star Georgetown University Hospital and Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. Prognosis for most people in my situation is excellent after four months of treatment,” Raskin said.
On Jan. 31, Raskin said he had gone through two of six rounds of chemotherapy. While undergoing treatment, Raskin has continued working with the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability as the lead Democrat in the group.
He has worn hats and bandanas to cover his head during recent committee meetings.
Raskin said the bandana look was inspired by guitarist and actor Steven Van Zandt.
“I give all honor to Little Steven for creating this look for American men going through something,” Raskin told HuffPost.
But posts on social media falsely claimed that Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy refused to allow Raskin to wear his head covering while he is undergoing chemotherapy.
“Representative Jamie Raskin has been diagnosed with cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy, which has caused his hair to fall out. Kevin McCarthy has refused to allow him to wear a covering on his head, and ordered him to remove the head covering,” one post said. “Tell me again how the Republican Party is the party of Christian Values!!!”
But the claim is not true. The social media posts have misinterpreted a joke Raskin reportedly made during a meeting with the Democratic Caucus, according to a reporter.
Punchbowl News managing editor Heather Caygle tweeted that Raskin, in response to a question on hypothetical efforts by Republicans to get him to remove his head covering, jokingly said: “And I will make them take off their toupees.”
“Rep. Jamie Raskin gets a standing ovation in Dem Caucus after saying he will push back on Republican efforts to make him take off the cap he’s been wearing as he undergoes chemotherapy. ‘And I will make them take off their toupees,’ Raskin said to Dem cheers,” Caygle tweeted on Jan. 31.
Caygle also tweeted that McCarthy said he hadn’t heard of any concerns about Raskin’s head covering when she asked him on Jan. 31.
Mark Bednar, a spokesperson for McCarthy, told us in an email that the claim on social media wasn’t true. “This is false,” Bednar said.
Jacob Wilson, a spokesperson for Raskin, also told us in an email that the claim is false and McCarthy has been supportive of Raskin.
“Along with Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and Minority Whip Katherine Clark and all of Jamie’s Democratic colleagues, Jamie’s GOP colleagues, including Speaker Kevin McCarthy … have been extremely supportive and encouraging during his medical journey,” Wilson said.
Raskin also said that his colleagues have been supportive.
“[T]he doctors are optimistic, and I’m feeling strong. And my colleagues have been uniformly supportive, Democrats and Republicans – and you know, that means a lot to me,” Raskin said.
Other Republicans, including Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, the chairman of the oversight committee, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, have also wished Raskin well with his treatment.
On Jan. 31, Raskin proposed an amendment to allow committee members to participate in meetings remotely for medical and other circumstances. The amendment was rejected by Republicans, who said it was unnecessary.
“I will do everything in my ability to work with you to make sure that we can accommodate anything with respect to committee work while you’re undergoing treatment. I’m very sympathetic to what you’re going through,” Comer said to Raskin in response to the amendment proposal.
In 2019, Democrats amended a 181-year-old House rule that previously prohibited wearing hats on the floor to accommodate Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who wears a Muslim headscarf.
This isn’t Raskin’s first bout with cancer. In 2010, he was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. He underwent cancer treatment including radiation, chemotherapy and surgery to successfully remove signs of colon cancer, Raskin has said.
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Full Committee on Oversight and Accountability. House Committee on Oversight and Reform. Accessed 15 Feb 2023.
“Statement of Congressman Jamie Rasking to the People of Maryland’s 8th District.” Raskin.house.gov. 28 Dec 2022.
Grayer, Annie. “Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin announces he has ‘serious but curable form of cancer’.” CNN. 28 Dec 2022.
Raskin, Jamie (@RepRaskin). “Thank you, Marjorie, for this touching message, which my youngest daughter showed me. I’m grateful for your concern and very sorry to learn that you lost your father to cancer. Wishing you happy holidays with loved ones.” Twitter. 29 Dec 2022.
Delaney, Arthur. “Jamie Raskin Credits Steven Van Zandt For Bandana Look As He Endures Chemotherapy.” HuffPost. 31 Jan 2023.
Folley, Aris. “Dems change House rules to allow lawmakers to wear religious headwear.” The Hill. 5 Jan 2019.
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Capital Digestive Care. “Congressman Jamie Raskin Talks To Us About Surviving Colon Cancer.” Accessed 15 Feb 2023.
The Recount (@therecount). “House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-KY) recognizes Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) for attending the hearing after being diagnosed with cancer: ‘We’re all rooting for you. We know that you’re gonna win this battle.’ Raskin then gets a round of applause at the hearing.” Twitter. 31 Jan 2023.
Hutzler, Alexandra. “Raskin dons headwear as he undergoes chemo, receives encouragement from GOP colleague.” ABC News. 1 Feb 2023.
C-Span. “House Oversight Committee Meets to Consider Its Rules.” 31 Jan 2023.
National Cancer Institute. “Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.” Accessed 15 Feb 2023.
Bednar, Mark. Spokesperson for Kevin McCarthy. Email to FactCheck.org. 15 Feb 2023.
Campbell, Jason (@JasonSCampbell). “Newsmax’s Greg Kelly: ‘Jamie Raskin is suffering. He’s being treated for cancer. We want him to get better, absolutely. I also think he should get a hat – that looks like a durag or a bandana. It’s totally inappropriate and weird.” Twitter. 9 Feb 2023.
Caygle, Heather (@heatherscope). “Rep. Jamie Raskin gets a standing ovation in Dem Caucus after saying he will push back on Republican efforts to make him take off the cap he’s been wearing as he undergoes chemotherapy. ‘And I will make them take off their toupees,’ Raskin said to Dem cheers.” Twitter. 31 Jan 2023.
American Association for Cancer Rsearch. “Representative Jamie Raskin: Surviving Colorectal Cancer and Working to Improve the Health of the Nation.” AACR Cancer Progress Report. 2017.