Erick Erickson's email list subscribers have received a bizarre array of pitches from conspiracy theorists and dubious practitioners warning of the impending death of millions of Americans and promising "cures" to cancer, Alzheimer's, and aging.
Politico's Ken Vogel recently reported how the conservative movement has been infected by "scam PACs," which "critics say exist mostly to pad the pockets of the consultants who run them." One of the favorite avenues for these sketchy schemes is the email list of Fox News contributor Erick Erickson's RedState.com.
Vogel wrote that Erickson is a frequent critic of dubious PACs, yet RedState's list has promoted many of their efforts. Erickson told Vogel he does not control who rents his list, "and it horrifies me that the list sometimes get rented to some of these guys."
In addition to dubious PAC emails, RedState has sent sponsored missives about "Reagan's Secret Victory Over Cancer," "Obama's Deadly FDA Secret," "1 Weird Trick to KILL old age," items to "hoard" to protect your family from starving, and the "Obama scandal" that "WILL KILL MILIONS [sic]."
RedState is owned by Salem Media company Townhall Media, which manages RedState's email list. According to them, the dedicated RedState emails reach 265,000 subscribers. Other Salem properties include Townhall.com, Human Events, and HotAir.com. Many emails sent to RedState's list also went to the lists of those sites.
Below are six shady products and pitches RedState has sent to Erickson's email list in recent months.
Conservative media are falsely claiming that Atlanta's anti-gay fire chief was fired from his job because of his Christian faith, ignoring the unprofessional behavior that actually led to his termination.
On January 6, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed terminated Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran, following a month-long suspension which began as a response to anti-gay comments Cochran made in a self-published 2013 religious book.
Cochran was suspended after employees complained about inflammatory remarks in his book, "Who Told You That You Were Naked?," which included calling homosexuality a "perversion" akin to bestiality and pederasty. Cochran had distributed copies of his book to employees at the fire department.
Cochran's suspension and eventual firing prompted a predictable reaction from right-wing commentators decrying alleged Christian persecution. Fox News contributor Erick Erickson claimed that Cochran had been fired for "being a Christian," while Fox News reporter Todd Starnes suggested that Cochran was being persecuted for his religious beliefs.
But in a January 6 press conference, Mayor Reed stressed that the decision to fire Cochran wasn't based on his religious beliefs:
The mayor said he decided to terminate Cochran not just because the fire chief didn't consult him before publishing the book, but also spoke out about his suspension despite being told to remain quiet during the investigation into his leadership. What's more, Reed said he believes Cochran opened up the city to the potential for litigation over future discrimination claims.
Reed stressed that his decision is not because of Cochran's faith: "His religious (beliefs) are not the basis of the problem. His judgment is the basis of the problem."
Numerous conservative media outlets are scamming their followers with paid promotions for dubious marijuana stocks. In one instance, a promoted stock had its trading temporarily halted and was part of an FBI-investigated pump-and-dump scheme. In another, fine print acknowledged the promoters had "a direct conflict of interest" that would "negatively" affect "your shares."
Erick Erickson's RedState, Dick Morris, Newsmax, Townhall, and Human Events have all recently pushed the shady investments.
Readers who took the financial advice would have made a bad call as the stocks have plummeted. For example, conservatives sent sponsored emails recommending a company called MediJane at an entry point of $0.85. The stock's closing price on December 2 was $0.03. Dick Morris sent a sponsored email promoting Cannabis-Rx, Inc. on April 14, when it was trading at around $1. The stock's closing price on December 2 was $0.17.
Politico recently reported that pot companies "are a new vehicle for stock scammers promising big returns," prompting federal and state agencies to investigate stock manipulations. Scrutiny is focusing "on pump-and-dump schemes, which involve attempts to inflate a company's share price and then sell, or dump, the stock before unsuspecting investors get wise to the scheme." The schemes are more likely to target "penny stocks," which the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) defines as "a very small company that trades at less than $5 per share." Penny stocks are traded over-the-counter instead of on formal exchanges such as the New York Stock Exchange.
The SEC issued an investor alert in May warning that "fraudsters" are using penny pot stocks "to lure investors with the promise of high returns." It cautioned that red flags include "E-mail and fax spam recommending a stock" and "SEC trading suspensions" -- both characteristics of the conservative-promoted stocks.
These shady stock promotions are part of a larger trend of conservatives scamming their followers for profit. Fox Business host Charles Payne was paid to promote now virtually worthless penny stocks. Tobin Smith sent paid promotions for stocks that ended up tanking; he was eventually fired from his position at Fox News for the practice. And Fox News host Mike Huckabee sent sponsored emails touting Smith's recommendation of Gray Fox Petroleum (GFOX); GFOX's price has since tanked and is now trading at a near 52-week low.
Below is a look at two recent marijuana stocks that conservative media promoted to followers.
Charles and David Koch, brothers and the oil barons who are already shaping the 2014 midterm elections according to recently leaked audio recordings, are often portrayed as environmentally responsible advocates of the free-market that are unfairly targeted by Democrats. However, their political influence, which benefits the fossil fuel industry and their own bottom line, is unparalleled.
Right-wing media personalities took victory laps following the Supreme Court's decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, in which the Court ruled that closely held corporations cannot be required to provide health coverage for employees that includes contraception if the employer has a religious objection.
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson suggested that people might not be born gay, compared homosexuality to alcoholism and adultery, and warned that gay people who don't repent won't be "saved on the last day."
In a June 20 blog post for RedState.com, Erickson expressed his support for Republican Texas Governor Rick Perry, who was criticized last week after comparing homosexuality to alcoholism. In his post, Erickson claimed that the science around sexual orientation wasn't settled, warning gay people not to "give in" to their temptations and repent for their homosexuality in order to be "saved":
So, again, fewer and fewer voices are willing to speak up. Those of us who can, should speak up. So I will say it - I largely agree with Governor Rick Perry and appreciate him speaking up.
While most of my generation is pretty accepting of the idea that a person can be born gay, there is no settled science on the matter. There certainly is no settled science on pick your own gender adventures. But to say so is apostasy in this secular world. It really does not matter though. Whether one is born gay or not does not mean God made a person gay. And whether it is the unrepentant alcoholic, homosexual, adulterer, liar, or any of the others the Duck Commander listed, none are going to be saved on the last day without repenting.
No one said life was easy, but too many are too ready to give in instead of repenting. Too many tire of the struggle and decide the struggle is just another form of normal. And frankly, it is apart from God. That too is why so many want to drive God out of the public square. God gives us Hope to overcome the struggles of this world, including the flesh. Left to our own devices, Romans 1 tell us we get exactly what we are getting. But we are not creatures of this world -- none of us. We are passing through to eternity. YOLO is a lie and if it feels good it does not mean we should do it. The zeitgeist of the present age tells us otherwise, but the Holy Spirit calls us to a higher and better and more eternal purpose.
Gertrude Himmelfarb wrote, "What was once stigmatized as deviant behavior is now tolerated and even sanctioned; what was once regarded as abnormal has been normalized . . . .As deviancy is normalized, so what was once normal becomes deviant. The kind of family that has been regarded for centuries as natural and moral - the 'bourgeois' family as it is invidiously called - is now seen as pathological" [emphasis added]
Right-wing media outlets ran misleading headlines about Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's recent move against Common Core, erroneously claiming that he has withdrawn the state from the education standards. Jindal may be able to block a standardized test connected to Common Core, but he can't eliminate the standards entirely without help from the state legislature or the state school board.
On June 18, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that Jindal announced plans "to try and roll back Louisiana" from the Common Core State Standards, a set of education standards adopted in 2010 by 45 states and the District of Columbia. Recent "political turbulence," fueled by misplaced conservative media outrage, has led a few states to withdraw from Common Core.
The Times-Picayune noted that the Louisiana legislature, the state school board, and "almost all other high-ranking state education officials" have said they want to keep Common Core. It also reported that while Jindal may be able to block the standardized test, developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), Jindal himself acknowledged he can't unilaterally abandon Common Core.
Nevertheless, conservative media outlets, many of whom have been leading the anti-Common Core rage machine, deceptively spun Jindal's announcement as "withdrawing" Louisiana from the standards. The Washington Times, for example, ran a headline that read, "Bobby Jindal pulls Louisiana out of Common Core." A post at Erick Erickson's RedState.com also claimed that Jindal was "pull[ing] Louisiana out of Common Core," while Michelle Malkin's Twitchy posted "Jindal withdraws La. from Common Core standards."
The Times-Picayune also reported that "Jindal also notified the National Governors Association that he was removing Louisiana from the Common Core development group. That does not end the use of the standards but is more of a symbolic gesture."
Jindal's announcement was especially notable given that he was initially considered a "staunch supporter when Louisiana signed on [to Common Core] four years ago." As the New America Foundation's Anne Hyslop pointed out, "most of Jindal's objections appear to stem not from the quality of the standards or tests or from the bidding process, but from concerns over federal overreach."
Right-wing media are seizing on the story of a lesbian "throuple" to falsely suggest that legalizing same-sex marriage inevitably leads to the acceptance and legalization of polygamy.
On April 23, the New York Post reported that Doll, Kitten, and Brynn Young, three Massachusetts women in a polyamorous relationship, were expecting their first child after uniting in an August 2013 commitment ceremony. Conservatives pounced on the story as evidence that once the institution of marriage is made available to gay couples, polygamy is a logical consequence.
Fox News' Todd Starnes set the tone for the right-wing reaction to the story with an April 23 Facebook post declaring that "[w]hen you redefine marriage - it's anything goes":
Erick Erickson's RedState.com offered a similar take, with contributor streiff calling polygamy "the logical and foreseeable consequence" of the push for marriage equality, which the post argued made marriage "a means for satisfying the libido." Likewise, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) predicted a rash of similar stories "in the wake of same-sex 'marriage.'"
Writing for First Things, NOM co-founder Robert George asserted that seeing marriage as a "sexual-romantic companionship" rather than a "conjugal bond" formed to produce children left no good reason to oppose "polyamorous sexual ensembles of three or more persons." Similarly, right-wing website LifeSiteNews wondered whether the throuple's story portended "the next marriage redefinition."
Right-wing media are making sexist and outrageous claims in an attempt to smear Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis over her divorces.
The Dallas Morning News reported January 18th that Davis had been 21, not 19, by the time she got a divorce, a seemingly-minor contradiction to previous statements in which she had described herself as a teenage-single mother. In a statement to Buzzfeed, Davis explained that she had been separated from her first husband "on [her] way to a divorce" by 19, living alone with her daughter in a trailer for a time.
Exactly how young Davis was when she took care of her daughter on her own while facing economic hardship is a small, but understandable, question. Conservative media, however, are blowing the legitimate questions about Davis' backstory out of proportion while making sexist attacks on Davis' character and implying she is not fit for public office.
On January 20, Rush Limbaugh called Davis a "babe" and a "genuine head case," and claimed the new details proved she needed a man to be successful, as her second husband helped pay for her law school. Limbaugh concluded that her life story was full of "fraud and deceit ... her entire biography has been embellished and falsified by her."
Radio host Mark Levin also suggested that Davis was a "good Democrat gubernatorial candidate" because she is a "liar" and because there were "allegations -- I stress, allegations -- of adultery."
In two posts on his blog, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson used the divorce in an attempt to portray Davis as an unstable and unreliable mother, with two posts headlined, "Documents Show A Texas Court Ordered Wendy Davis to Stay Away From Drugs and Alcohol" and "Wendy Davis' Ex Asked a Court to Order Her Not to Use Drugs Before Seeing Her Kids."
But Erickson conveniently ignored that a temporary restraining order, or TRO, is common practice in divorce cases involving children, and can include restrictions on alcohol and drug consumption. Tommy Christopher at Mediaite effectively laid out how Davis' restraining order was typical, and an example of a petition form for the TRO is available on the Texas Law Help website, showing that drug and alcohol provisions are included on the form.
Erickson has repeatedly attempted to smear Davis, whom he demeaningly refers to as "Abortion Barbie." Last November, Erickson absurdly suggested that Davis was unfit for public office because she had claimed "mental health issues" in a 1996 lawsuit. Erickson once again showed his unfamiliarity with the law; the language he cited is required boilerplate for the Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED) claim Davis brought against a Texas newspaper.
These attacks on Davis are extreme, but they also follow a predictable pattern. The Barbara Lee Family Foundation has studied every female candidate for governor in the past, and found that women running for executive office often are placed on an "Ethical Pedestal," which perpetuates the myth that women are more innately honest than men -- allowing male opponents to undermine them by simply questioning their integrity:
To distract from what really matters -- the policies, priorities, and platforms of each candidate -- male opponents often strike early with attacks questioning a woman's integrity. It's a well-worn strategy.
We saw this happen in Senator Elizabeth Warren's race against then-Senator Scott Brown in 2012, when he repeatedly questioned her integrity, and we're already seeing it in State Senator Wendy Davis's race against Attorney General Greg Abbott in Texas.
Media Matters looks back at the best of the worst of right-wing media's treatment of women in 2013.
Conservative media figures have attacked House Speaker John Boehner for accusing tea party groups of undercutting Republican Party interests, claiming that Boehner did so to facilitate passage of "amnesty" in 2014. But the "amnesty" label that right-wing figures affix to immigration reform has been disputed even by Republican lawmakers opposed to reform.
Indeed, the comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the Senate imposes severe hurdles and makes undocumented immigrants wait 13 years before they can even begin to apply for citizenship.
As the Washington Post explained:
One of the weaknesses of the public conversation about immigration is that any proposal under which the final result for some undocumented immigrants is citizenship gets labeled "amnesty." But in reality, most proposals put a ton of hurdles between such immigrants' current status and that goal.
The Post included this graph from the Center for American Progress, which drives home the absurdity of calling what basically amounts to a 13-year wait -- that may or may not result in citizenship -- an "amnesty":
As the Post reported on December 12, Boehner criticized tea party and ultra-conservative groups who came out against a recently passed bi-partisan budget deal, calling them "misleading" and without "credibility," and saying they are "working against the interests of the Republican Party."
The latest development in the never-ending soap opera of congressional budget negotiations is that Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) are close to reaching a limited deal to partially replace spending cuts imposed earlier this year (the much-maligned sequestration). The details of the deal are not known, but that hasn't stopped conservative activist groups and pundits from denouncing Ryan -- a long-time conservative hero for his austere budget proposals -- as a sellout.
The Washington Post laid out what little is known about the emerging deal:
Senior aides familiar with the talks say the emerging agreement aims to partially repeal the sequester and raise agency spending to roughly $1.015 trillion in fiscal 2014 and 2015. That would bring agency budgets up to the target already in place for fiscal 2016. To cover the cost, Ryan and Murray are haggling over roughly $65 billion in alternative policies, including cuts to federal worker pensions and higher security fees for the nation's airline passengers.
Salon's Brian Beutler notes that if the deal ends up looking like this rough outline, then there's no real reason for conservatives to be all that upset: "If inked, it wouldn't raise revenue through the tax code, and would protect the Defense Department from sequestration's most severe cuts. At the same time, some of the savings in the deal would likely come out of the hide of federal workers."
And yet, the outcry from activists was swift. Groups like Heritage Action, Americans for Prosperity, and FreedomWorks are urging conservative members of Congress to vote against the budget deal, even though they don't know what the deal actually looks like.
Appearing on Fox News on December 10, Stuart Varney trashed the deal, calling it "a handshake deal. It does absolutely nothing to resolve the basic problems which we're facing. It does not tackle entitlement reform, it does not tackle tax reform, and it does nothing to drastically reduce the debt."
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson lashed out at gay rights activists for fighting against anti-LGBT business discrimination, suggesting that they are "evil" and that their effort to ensure equal treatment for LGBT customers is an intolerant campaign to "silence good."
In a December 9 post for his RedState.com blog, Erickson responded to a Colorado judge's recent ruling that a Denver baker violated the state's anti-discrimination law when he refused to serve a same-sex couple. Erickson endorsed anti-gay discrimination on the basis of religious views, writing that the ruling further imperils religious liberty and provides yet another example of how "your sexual preference instead of your faith" matters more in modern society (emphasis added):
Surely there are plenty of bakers who would bake a cake for David Mullins and Charlie Craig, the gay men who wanted the cake. But they went to Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Denver, CO. When Phillips declined because of his religious beliefs, Mullins and Craig went to the ACLU, which in turn complained to the state that Phillips was discriminating.
There will be no accommodation between gay rights activists and those seeking religious freedom to opt out of the gay rights movement. Gay rights activists demand tolerance for their lifestyle, but will not tolerate those who choose to adhere to their religious beliefs.
Increasingly, courts around the country are siding with the gay rights movement against those relying on the first freedoms of the country. While many would prefer to sit this out, they will be made to care.
Evil preaches tolerance until it is dominate and then it seeks to silence good. We are more and more rapidly arriving at a point in this country where Christians are being forced from the public square unless they abandon the tenets of their faith. In our secular society, Christianity is something you do on a Sunday and who you sleep with defines you.
For Christians defined by their faith, this paradigm of being defined by your sexual preference instead of your faith is deeply troublesome and will see more and more of these stories crop up.
Legal experts have already debunked Erickson's claim that anti-discrimination laws pose a threat to private religious views. As University of Pennsylvania law professor Tobias B. Wolff and Slate's Mark Joseph Stern have noted, there's a clear difference between holding anti-gay views personally and operating a business in the public marketplace that discriminates against people because of who they are.
Erickson professes his dislike for the notion that "who you sleep with defines you," but it's Erickson himself who's obsessed with denying people rights simply on the basis of their sexual orientation. Would Erickson feel as comfortable telling an interracial couple that "there are plenty of bakers who would bake a cake for them," but that racist bakers should have the right not to provide them one?
That Erickson sees nothing wrong with subjecting same-sex couples to the whims of business owners' personal views underscores the right-wing media's apparent belief that "who you sleep with" is perfectly legitimate grounds for public discrimination.
For Erickson to cloak his defense of anti-gay discrimination in a purported concern for "tolerance" is particularly rich, given his willingness to solicit donations for the extremist Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization working internationally to criminalize homosexuality.
Conservative media are applauding House Speaker John Boehner's (R-OH) decision to refuse negotiations on immigration reform between the House and Senate, which likely means the end of comprehensive immigration reform this year. This decision comes after months of right-wing media telling Republicans to obstruct any and all action to pass comprehensive immigration legislation.