Pressure is building for Republican presidential hopefuls to repudiate Rudy Giuliani's accusations that President Obama doesn't love America and harbors an "anti-colonial" worldview -- claims that, while extreme to moderate media consumers, have become commonplace in the far-right media circles that will help shape the GOP primary season leading up to the 2016 elections.
Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani sparked controversy this week when he told attendees at a fund-raising event for Wisconsin governor and 2016 presidential hopeful Scott Walker that Obama does not love America. Giuliani went on to defend his remarks in an interview with The New York Times, denying any racial element to his attack with the excuse that he merely believed Obama's worldview is symptomatic of "socialism or possibly anti-colonialism."
The comments have been condemned by many in the mainstream press. On the set of MSNBC's Morning Joe, Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson called on potential Republican presidential candidates to denounce Giuliani's stance, saying the comments were "racist and ...frankly kind of unhinged."
In contrast, conservative commentators like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh rushed to justify Giuliani's claims, a defense which foreshadows 2016 hopefuls' predicament -- GOP candidates who want to appeal to mainstream voters must now navigate a rhetorical minefield if they hope to avoid attacks from the right-wing pundits who will help shape the opinions of conservative primary voters.
Race-baiting attempts to link Obama to anti-colonialism (and along with it the utterly bizarre attempts to redefine anti-colonialism as a negative trait) have been commonplace in right-wing circles for the better part of a decade, popularized by disgraced filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza's use of the phrase as a means of suggesting Obama bears origins or philosophical allegiance to Kenya, his father's birthplace.
Current CNN contributor and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich took the baton from there, telling National Review in September 2010 that Obama pretends to be normal while actually being engaged in "Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior."
Conservative author, filmmaker, and Fox News darling Dinesh D'Souza attacked President Obama as a "boy out of the ghetto" and "vulgar man" following the president's recent appearance in a BuzzFeed video promoting health coverage through HealthCare.gov.
YOU CAN TAKE THE BOY OUT OF THE GHETTO...Watch this vulgar man show his stuff, while America cowers in embarrassment pic.twitter.com/C9yLG4QoOK-- Dinesh D'Souza (@DineshDSouza) February 18, 2015
I know Obama wasn't actually raised in a ghetto--I'm using the term metaphorically, to suggest his unpresidential conduct-- Dinesh D'Souza (@DineshDSouza) February 18, 2015
TRANSLATING FOR OBAMA GROUPIES: A guy without class doesn't become a classy guy, even when he's in the White House-- Dinesh D'Souza (@DineshDSouza) February 18, 2015
From the October 16 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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Continuing his years-long effort to smear President Obama's supposed anti-colonial mindset, conservative author and filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza is suggesting that the influence Obama's father had on his outlook is "more dangerous" than Ebola.
In a Facebook post, D'Souza asked, "Which is a more dangerous infection: #Ebola, or the dreams from his father?" The latest outbreak of Ebola has killed more than 3,400 people in four West African countries and has spread to Europe and the United States.
According to Reuters, right-wing media star Dinesh D'Souza "was sentenced on Tuesday to spend eight months in a community confinement center" as part of five years of probation for violating federal campaign finance laws.
In January, D'Souza was indicted for arranging excessive campaign contributions to the Senate campaign of his friend Wendy Long. After spending several months protesting the charges and claiming he was being unfairly targeted for his political beliefs, D'Souza pleaded guilty in May.
Reuters reports that a federal judge today declined to sentence D'Souza to jail time, opting for probation, time in a community confinement center, a fine, and community service:
The defendant, a frequent critic of President Barack Obama, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Richard Berman in Manhattan. He was also given a $30,000 fine and ordered to do one day of community service a week during his probation.
D'Souza, 53, admitted in May to illegally reimbursing two 'straw donors' who donated $10,000 each to the unsuccessful 2012 U.S. Senate campaign in New York of Wendy Long, a Republican he had known since attending Dartmouth College in the early 1980s.
"It was a crazy idea, it was a bad idea," D'Souza told Berman before being sentenced. "I regret breaking the law."
Since being indicted 8 months ago, D'Souza has found steady support from his allies in the media and Congress, who decried the charges as everything from "stifling political dissent" to something that might happen in "Nazi Germany."
UPDATE: Dinesh D'Souza used his September 23 appearance on The Kelly File to resuscitate the myth that his indictment was political retribution. D'Souza described his reaction to his sentence to host Megyn Kelly, saying "I've got a big smile on my face now," because "this was really an effort to put me out of business...and a federal judge said 'no.'" D'Souza added, "There seems to be a pattern of this administration using the instruments of the law, the IRS, and so on to go after its critics." Despite D'Souza's recently announced sentence and his guilty plea to a felony, Kelly continued her longstanding support for the right-wing media darling, declaring "Only you, Dinesh, could walk away from this kind of an experience where you admit you committed a felony, you were facing 16 months in jail, and now the whole process has restored your faith in America, the judicial system and it's made you love the country even more":
Conservative author Dinesh D'Souza compared unrest during the Ferguson protests to the beheadings carried out by the terrorist group that calls itself the Islamic State.
Speaking on the August 21 edition Newsmax's The Steve Malzberg Show, D'Souza opined on the heated protests that have taken place in Ferguson, Missouri following the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a police officer. D'Souza likened the actions in Ferguson to the Islamic State terrorists who beheaded innocents. From BuzzFeed (emphasis added):
MALZBERG: I just want to concentrate on Holder for one more second and his going down there and his saying what he said, do you believe that that prejudices a grand jury -- could prejudice a jury? And could it result in the prevention of a fair trial for the officer?
D'SOUZA: I think this is a really -- this is a serious issue, because here you have guys like, you have Obama, you have Holder, and you have Al Sharpton. Now, can a cop acting under the exigencies of his job expect justice if those three guys were deciding the outcome? I mean, it seems really clear that they are fostering an atmosphere in Ferguson that basically goes, "Let's declare that this guy is probably guilty and let's see what we can do to put him up against the wall." The idea that he would get impartial justice is becoming highly questionable, so this has become a real problem.
Now, historically, blacks have faced this problem and it looks like what we're seeing is a kind of complete flip, so that we're going from one set of injustices to another. And that's, you know, what the common thread between ISIS and what's going on in Ferguson is you have these people who basically believe that to correct a perceived injustice, it's perfectly OK to inflict all kinds of new injustices. Behead guys who have nothing to do with it. Go and loot shops from business owners who are not part of the original problem whatsoever. And all of this is then licensed by the left and licensed to some degree by the media.
Dinesh D'Souza has been ridiculed for his conspiracy theories about President Obama and other progressives, but Republican elected officials have repeatedly rushed to his defense even when D'Souza has made absurd, unsupported allegations.
From the July 10 edition of MSNBC's The Ed Show:
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Media figures across the board have endorsed right-wing author Dinesh D'Souza's latest film, America: Imagine a World Without Her, despite the fact that the film is based on a book with extreme, racist rhetoric. Here are five media figures who have given D'Souza's works their stamp of approval.
A long-time supporter of Dinesh D'Souza, Megyn Kelly hosted the right-wing media darling after he pleaded guilty to campaign finance fraud to resuscitate the myth that his indictment was political payback.
D'Souza, who rose to right-wing media darling status after producing an anti-Barack Obama film rife with lies and outlandish claims, was indicted by federal prosecutors in January, charged with violating campaign finance laws by "arranging excessive campaign contributions to a candidate for the U.S. Senate," and allegedly reimbursing "people who he had directed to contribute $20,000" to the unnamed candidate.
After D'Souza's initial indictment, Fox host Megyn Kelly provided D'Souza a platform to push the myth that his indictment was political retribution. Kelly said the charges raised "red flags for some because D'Souza, who has pleaded not guilty, is behind the box office hit 2016: Obama's America, a film that is very critical of the president." D'Souza responded that he couldn't speak about the case specifically, but that he knows "for a fact" that Obama was personally unnerved by his film and said, "I am a public critic of the president, and I do recognize this has made me, to some degree, vulnerable to some forms of counter-attack."
Then, on May 20 D'Souza pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws and making false statements, and will be sentenced in September, facing up to two years in prison.
And still, Megyn Kelly continued to champion D'Souza, hosting him that evening to keep alive the myth that D'Souza's indictment was political retribution. Kelly asked D'Souza whether his guilty plea was what the Obama administration "wanted all along," and highlighted people who claimed that the prosecution was political, asking "is this about Dinesh D'Souza or is this about upholding campaign finance laws?" During the interview, Kelly again hid the fact that Fox News had aggressively pushed the myth that D'Souza's indictment was political payback for his criticism of Obama:
Dinesh D'Souza, the right-wing media darling who conservatives had claimed was targeted for prosecution because he is a critic of the Obama administration, has pleaded guilty to charges of campaign finance fraud.
D'Souza, famous for producing an anti-Barack Obama film rife with lies and outlandish claims, was indicted by the FBI in January and accused of violating campaign finance laws by "arranging excessive campaign contributions to a candidate for the U.S. Senate," and allegedly reimbursing "people who he had directed to contribute $20,000" to the unnamed candidate. On May 20 D'Souza pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws and making false statements. He will be sentenced in September and likely faces imprisonment of ten to 16 months.
Right-wing media figures -- many of whom went to bat for D'Souza's flawed film -- rallied to the filmmaker's defense following his initial indictment, claiming he was being prosecuted for his political beliefs. Fox News host Sean Hannity labeled D'Souza "the latest victim to be targeted by the Obama White House." Matt Drudge accused Attorney General Eric Holder of "unleashing the dog" on "Obama critics," and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones responded to the charges, saying, "This is like Nazi Germany ... once they're done with these guys, they're coming after you and I." Radio host Laura Ingraham characterized the indictment as being "more about stifling political dissent" than any serious allegations of wrongdoing, and Rush Limbaugh described it as an effort to "criminalize" conservatives.
During one such interview in February, Fox host Megyn Kelly said the charges "raised red flags for some because D'Souza, who has pleaded not guilty, is behind the box office hit 2016: Obama's America, a film that is very critical of the president." D'Souza responded that he couldn't speak about the case specifically, but that he knows "for a fact" that Obama was personally unnerved by his film and said, "I am a public critic of the president, and I do recognize this has made me, to some degree, vulnerable to some forms of counter-attack."
This right-wing media defense was reportedly part of a deliberate plan by D'Souza. The New York Times reported in April that, in a conversation with one of his alleged straw donors, D'Souza said that if he were charged "he might plead guilty, but would initially plead not guilty because that 'gives him a window of opportunity to get his story out there.'"
Conservative pundits were more than happy to oblige this desire. Now will those who championed D'Souza's virtuousness finally condemn his crimes?
For her part, Ingraham will not. She responded immediately to news of the plea by downplaying the seriousness of the crime and doubling down on her claim that D'Souza was prosecuted for political reasons.
Dinesh D'Souza, the conservative filmmaker and author charged this January with violating federal campaign finance laws, allegedly said that while he might eventually admit his guilt, he would initially plead innocent because it would give "him a window of opportunity to get his story out there." Conservative media have been happy to lend him a hand in doing so.
In January, federal prosecutors announced that D'Souza was being charged with filtering excessive campaign donations through straw donors to Republican Wendy Long, a friend of his who lost her 2012 campaign to unseat Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. D'Souza pleaded not guilty to the charges.
According to The New York Times, D'Souza's lawyer is claiming that the conservative pundit is being "targeted...because of his consistently caustic and highly publicized criticism" of President Obama. (The prosecution has called these claims "entirely without merit.") The Times also reports that prosecutors claim to have a recording made by the husband of a woman D'Souza was "involved with romantically" who was "one of the alleged straw donors." According to the woman, D'Souza said that if he were eventually charged, he might plead not guilty to help "get his story out there":
Prosecutors also said they had obtained a copy of a recording made surreptitiously last October by the husband of a woman Mr. D'Souza was involved with romantically around the time of the donations, when Mr. D'Souza was separated from his wife. In making the recording, the husband was not acting at the government's direction, prosecutors said. The woman, Denise Joseph, was one of the alleged straw donors.
Ms. Joseph was recorded as saying that Mr. D'Souza had told her that if he were charged he might plead guilty, but would initially plead not guilty because that "gives him a window of opportunity to get his story out there," the government said. Ms. Joseph had no comment, her lawyer said.
Conservative media have been crucial in helping D'Souza "get his story out there" -- his allies on Fox News, talk radio, and right-wing online outlets have loudly and repeatedly claimed that D'Souza is a victim of persecution because of his political beliefs.
Fox News host Megyn Kelly hid the fact that her colleagues pushed baseless claims that conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza was politically targeted by the FBI after he was indicted for breaking campaign finance laws.
On February 21, Kelly hosted D'Souza to defend himself from a recent FBI indictment that charged him with campaign finance fraud and to promote his latest anti-Obama film. Kelly reported on a letter sent by four Republican senator to the FBI claiming there is a perception that D'Souza "may have been targeted because of his outspoken criticisms" of President Obama. Kelly then went on to list only Alan Dershowitz as among those who questioned the motivation behind the charges, saying the charges "immediately rais[ed] red flags for some because D'Souza, who has pleaded not guilty, is behind the box office hit 2016: Obama's America, a film that is very critical of the president":
Fox News hosts were among those that claimed the charges were politically motivated, a fact that Kelly failed to mention. While interviewing D'Souza on January 31, Sean Hannity said he was the "latest victim to be targeted" and that he was placed on the president's "enemies list." Hosts of The Five joined in by saying they believed the charges were "politically motivated" and that they are an example of liberals "rediscovering their inner Stalin." Others on Fox have criticized the indictment as an example of "conservatives under attack."
From the January 31 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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Scrambling to mitigate news that conservative filmmaker and Fox News darling Dinesh D'Souza was indicted for felony federal campaign finance violations, the network suggested that Democrat Pierce O'Donnell's 2012 misdemeanor convictions for the same crime is evidence that the Obama administration is targeting political enemies -- but O'Donnell was originally charged with even more felony counts than D'Souza.
D'Souza, known for his conspiratorial film 2016: Obama's America, was indicted this week "by a federal grand jury for arranging excessive campaign contributions to a candidate for the U.S. Senate," according to Reuters. D'Souza allegedly repaid people who, at his direction, contributed $20,000 to New York Republican senate candidate Wendy Long, well beyond the legal contribution limit.
His allies in the conservative media handled news of the indictment by accusing the Department of Justice of seeking to silence people on President Obama's "enemies list" in the custom of "Nazi Germany" and "Stalin."
Fox's evening news show Special Report attempted to further this conspiracy theory by pointing to the case of Pierce O'Donnell, an attorney who pled guilty to making approximately $26,000 in illegal campaign contributions to disgraced former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards' 2004 campaign. The program repeatedly suggested political retribution was at play because O'Donnell "faced only a misdemeanor conviction" for a near identical crime to D'Souza's, who is charged with a felony. Correspondent Doug McKelway and contributor Charles Krauthammer raised these claims in different segments during the program.
But there is a fatal flaw in Fox's argument: O'Donnell was actually indicted for three felonies, more serious charges than D'Souza faces.