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Eric Hananoki

Author ››› Eric Hananoki
  • Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) touted white nationalist website VDare's praise of his anti-immigrant amendment

    Republicans have a history with the toxic anti-immigrant website

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    When Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) wanted to tout news about an anti-immigrant amendment he proposed in 2015, he went to a toxic source: VDare.

    VDare is a white nationalist site that is dedicated to smearing immigrants. It has published such headlines as “One Problem With These Hispanic Immigrants Is Their Disgusting Behavior”; “Come Back, Stonewall Jackson! Hispanic Gangs Invade Shenandoah Valley”; “Indians Aren't That Intelligent (On Average)”; “America Does Not Need ANY Immigrants From Africa”; “Roll Over, JIHAD -- There’s Also HIJRA, Muslim Conquest By Immigration”; “National Data: Haitian Immigrants Pretty Useless -- But Haiti Still Needs Them More Than We Do.”

    The site has recently been in the news because of its connection to members of President Donald Trump’s White House. The Washington Post’s Robert Costa reported on August 21 that White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow has hosted VDare Editor Peter Brimelow at parties over the years, including at Kudlow’s birthday party last weekend.

    Kudlow told the Post that he doesn’t agree with Brimelow’s views on immigration and race and that he was unaware of Brimelow’s history. That explanation doesn’t make sense given that Brimelow runs one of the country’s leading white nationalist websites. Brimelow was also an editor for the National Review and wrote racist commentary back then as well (he was booted from the publication in 1997); Kudlow has been an editor and writer for the National Review, including when Brimelow was still employed by the publication.

    CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski also reported on August 19 that then-White House policy aide and speechwriter Darren Beattie spoke at the 2016 H.L. Mencken Club Conference alongside Brimelow. The White House fired Beattie as a result of his appearance.

    Republicans have repeatedly promoted VDare over the years.

    In a May 15, 2015, tweet, which hasn’t been previously reported, Brat promoted VDare’s praise of his “amendment to strip illegal immigrant ​recruitment language out of” the National Defense Authorization Act.

    Brat linked to a May 14 VDare piece by anti-immigrant writer Brenda Walker, who praised Brat for having “spoken against the military amnesty scheme." She also wrote: "It is pretty amazing that the military has been hit with extreme cuts to personnel but now the Republican-run House Armed Services Committee has voted in favor of putting illegal aliens in the front of the line to serve. ... [radio host Laura] Ingraham brought up the security angle because the backgrounds of the illegals cannot be determined. What’s to keep Mexican cartel gangsters from joining up and learning America’s effective military techniques? There have been reports of foreign gangsters in the US military for years, so this is not idle paranoia.”

    Shortly after promoting that VDare piece, Brat drew headlines for comparing undocumented immigrants who want to serve in the military to ISIS. Brat stated on a conservative radio program: “I wanted to stand up and shout, I mean, ISIS is willing to serve in our military as well.”

    Other Republican promotions of VDare include:

    • The Republican National Convention displayed a tweet from VDare in its convention hall in 2016.  
    • Rep. Steve King (R-IA) hosts a page on his congressional website about “illegal immigrant stories” that cites VDare. King also appeared on a Conservative Political Action Conference panel with Brimelow in 2012.
    • Former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO), who briefly ran for the GOP nomination for Colorado governor this election cycle, has been on VDare’s board and was scheduled to speak at its recent conferences but they were canceled by the venues because of VDare’s racism.
    • Seth Grossman, a Republican congressional nominee in New Jersey, promoted a VDare piece on the website of a conservative nonprofit group he founded. (National Republicans have withdrawn their support for Grossman because of his promotion of white nationalist propaganda.)
    • Jon Feere, who joined the Trump administration as a senior adviser with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, promoted VDare in a 2016 tweet.

    Brimelow has also contributed to The Daily Caller, most recently writing a September 2017 piece praising Trump on immigration. He attended Trump’s inauguration and gave a small campaign contribution to Trump in 2016.

  • Kris Kobach’s campaign website cites a white nationalist writer who’s been involved in the Holocaust denial movement

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    On his campaign website, Kansas gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach cites a made-up anti-immigrant statistic by white nationalist writer Peter Gemma, who worked for a group that opposes “all efforts to mix the races of mankind.” Gemma has also been involved in the Holocaust denial movement and reportedly praised a leading Holocaust denier for “uncovering documents and evidence some historians don't like to admit.”

    Kobach, who is Kansas’ secretary of state and also writes a paid column for Breitbart.com, recently won the state’s Republican gubernatorial nomination.

    Media Matters documented last year that in an October 24 Breitbart column, Kobach claimed that “75 percent of those on the most wanted criminals lists in Los Angeles, Phoenix and Albuquerque are illegal aliens” and sourced the statistic to Gemma. The statistic itself is false and has made the rounds on message boards and comment sections over the years. (Gemma, meanwhile, sourced the statistic to a piece on the now-defunct Examiner.com website which, in turn, cited the late white nationalist writer Barbara Coe.)

    Kobach’s reliance on a white nationalist writer for a bogus statistic also appears on his campaign website, since he also posts his Breitbart columns there. The campaign has not corrected or removed the citation despite media outlets bringing attention to it starting last October. (The citation also remains on Breitbart.com.) 

    Kobach’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

    The Washington Post reported in April 2005 that Gemma organized an event for David Irving, “a well-known Holocaust denier who has claimed that Jews were not killed in gas chambers at Auschwitz”:

    Reston resident Peter Gemma, the event's organizer, said the dinner drew 95 attendees of a World War II study group he runs. Gemma is a former Arlington Republican activist who is now affiliated with the Council of Conservative Citizens, which has been described as a white supremacist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

    Irving, Gemma said, "has caused waves in the establishment by uncovering documents and evidence some historians don't like to admit."

    In 2004, as the Anti-Defamation League wrote, “Gemma introduced notorious Holocaust denier Mark Weber at a meeting of the Institute for Historical Review (IHR), once the leading Holocaust denial organization in the United States.” The IHR stated on its website that Weber, who is the group's director, spoke about the Iraq War and characterized it as “a war to further the interests of Israel and organized Jewry.”

    Gemma previously did work for the white supremacist group Council of Conservative Citizens, including as a member of the editorial advisory board for its Citizens Informer newsletter. The group explains in its “Statement of Principles” that it believes, among other things, that “the American people and government should remain European in their composition and character” and it opposes “all efforts to mix the races of mankind.”

    He also edited and wrote an introduction to a book collecting the work of the late white supremacist Sam Francis, who wrote the Council of Conservative Citizens’ “Statement of Principles.” In his introduction, Gemma referred to Francis as his “friend” and “mentor” and praised him for being “a revolutionary thinker -- in the best sense of those terms. His enthusiasm for what’s right with being white (see another previously unpublished speech, chapter 11, 'Equality as a Political Weapon' -- and about every third page of this book), caused him much professional pain.” Gemma concluded that he considered himself “blessed to have been conscripted into building new weaponry for our culture war, stamped with the prestigious Sam Francis brand.”

    Gemma also worked as the director of media relations for the white supremacist National Policy Institute. He has written for the white nationalist website VDare, the white nationalist journal The Occidental Quarterly, and he has appeared on the white nationalist radio program The Political Cesspool.

    He has also contributed to The Daily Caller, which has published white nationalists. 

    The Topeka Capital-Journal reported on August 3 that “Kobach’s gubernatorial campaign employs three men identified as members of a white nationalist group by two political consultants who have worked with Republicans in Kansas.”

  • GOP candidate paid to use Roger Stone's email list -- and then Stone praised that candidate on Facebook

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Roger Stone endorsed New York Republican congressional candidate Dan DeBono on Facebook shortly after his campaign paid to send a sponsored message to the dirty trickster's email list. It’s at least the second time that Stone has supported a Republican candidate after receiving sponsorship money.

    Stone is a longtime adviser to President Donald Trump and currently works as a host for conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ Infowars network. Stone is also a vicious racist, misogynist, liar, and conspiracy theorist who is currently caught up in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.

    On August 7, Stone forwarded a sponsored email to his list on behalf of DeBono, a Navy SEAL veteran and Huntington, NY, committeeman who is the Republican congressional nominee in New York’s 3rd District. A disclosure stated: “We are excited to share with you a special message from one of our sponsoring advertisers, DeBono For Congress. It is also sponsors like them that help fund Stone Cold Truth. Please note that the following message reflects the opinions and representations of our sponsor alone, and not necessarily the opinion of Roger Stone.”

    Stone also posted a link to a fundraising page for DeBono the following day on Facebook, writing: “Please support this Pro-Trump Navy Seal for Congress! #maga.” His post contained no language suggesting it was an advertisement.

    The DeBono campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

    Other campaigns have rented Stone’s email list, including Republican Senate candidate Geoff Diehl in Massachusetts. Similar to the DeBono situation, Stone endorsed Diehl in a Facebook post shortly after the rental. In response to Media Matters’ article about the endorsement, Stone said that his “company did rent some lists to Mr. Diehl” and “during that process I examined his campaign and his credentials and frankly I became very impressed.”

    Media Matters documented last month that Stone forwarded a July 26 message from Republican Rick Scott’s Senate campaign to his email list, along with the same disclosure statement that the email reflected “the opinions and representations of our sponsor alone, and not necessarily the opinion of Roger Stone.” The Scott campaign subsequently told The Associated Press that the email “was a vendor mistake - they are not advertising with Stone or paying him to send out emails on their behalf.” (Stone has publicly criticized Scott and has not endorsed him.)

    UPDATE: Newsday reported on August 24 that DeBono said he "has not paid Stone or Stone Cold Truth for advertising. DeBono speculated that Stone Cold Truth may have used his letter on their own because 'they need content.'" His response is strange: as Media Matters noted, Stone wrote that "DeBono for Congress" was "one of our sponsoring advertisers." The message Stone forwarded also stated at the footer it was "authorized and paid for by DeBono for Congress." 

    DeBono said he has an email campaign underway, but has not paid Stone or Stone Cold Truth for advertising. DeBono speculated that Stone Cold Truth may have used his letter on their own because “they need content.” Stone did not return calls for comment.

    DeBono said he briefly met Stone once last February at a Queens GOP event headlined by Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley).

    “I really don’t know who he is; he’s of another generation,” said DeBono, 49, of Northport, now an investor.

    But “if he’s a Republican strategist I’m not surprised he wants to support a Republican candidate who wants to make the world a better place.”

  • GOP-backed congressional nominee promoted pamphlet that pushes harmful conversion therapy

    Mark Harris-endorsed guide falsely claims that sexual orientation can sometimes be changed “as a result of therapeutic interventions”

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Mark Harris, a Republican-backed congressional nominee in North Carolina, previously endorsed a pamphlet claiming that sexual orientation can be forcibly changed, including through the debunked and harmful practice of conversion therapy.

    Harris is the Republican nominee in North Carolina’s 9th District. The National Republican Congressional Committee selected Harris for its “Young Guns” program, which “identifies candidates across the country who embody the principles of the House Republican Conference and show promise of running a successful campaign.”

    He has been heavily involved in fighting against LGBTQ equality in North Carolina, where he used to be the pastor of First Baptist Charlotte. While in that position, Harris appeared in anti-LGBTQ media outlets such as Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network and American Family Association’s American Family Radio

    He has also been a go-to pastor for the Family Research Council (FRC), an extreme anti-LGBTQ organization that produces its own media content and policy papers. Harris has spoken at numerous FRC events and has been a member of Watchmen on the Wall, FRC’s ministry program. FRC is one of the most influential and extreme anti-LGBTQ groups in the country; it claims that “homosexual conduct is harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large” and “is by definition unnatural.”

    Harris has been integral in promoting FRC’s Culture Impact Team program, which aims to get churches more involved with political matters such as registering voters and distributing policy information.

    Harris appeared in a 2016 training video for the Culture Impact Team program in which he said he loved that FRC-produced documents “like the Top Ten Myths About Homosexuality” help “equip” Christians to have conversations with others. He later encouraged church leaders to put those types of material “in the hands of our people” so that “we're able to share the truth.”

    MARK HARRIS: Today Christians are somehow stepping back from the water coolers where we work and those other places that I mentioned and there's a good reason why -- because our people no longer feel equipped and confident in what they're saying. You see, the Culture Impact Team serves a very important role in helping to equip our people, and we have a partner in the Family Research Council that produces documents.

    In an earlier session you heard about all of the things that you could have in a Culture Impact Center. Well, what I love about that is the things that you're able to provide to your congregation will help them be equipped on the issues facing us. Documents like The Top Ten Myths About Homosexuality; documents like Why Christians Should Seek To Influence Government For Good; documents like Modern Slavery: How To Fight Human Trafficking In Your Community; documents like Is Common Core Good For America's Students?; or The Bible's Teaching On Marriage And Family; The Best Pro-Life Arguments For Secular Audiences; and yes, The Top Ten Myths About Abortion.

    You see, these documents, put in the hands of our people, give them the sense of confidence and the sense of boldness to have those conversations once again that they are backing away from having because they do not feel equipped. You see, I think our pastors need and would look to a Culture Impact Team to help them put this kind of material in the hands of our people. At First Baptist Charlotte, we have a Culture Impact Center where we're able to provide these as long -- as well as other documents alongside them, that we're able to share the truth in the real story. And by the way, I'll tell you one of the things I love about all of these documents -- the last several pages of every one of them are filled with endnotes and filled with footnotes which just remind me these documents aren't written by just some average political hack; these are documents that are written by some of the sharpest minds and greatest scholars in American politics as well as biblical worldviews that are guiding them in their thought.


    Harris holding “The Top Ten Myths About Homosexuality” pamphlet

    “The Top Ten Myths About Homosexuality” is a virulently anti-LGBTQ guide that was written by anti-LGBTQ commentator and FRC senior fellow for policy studies Peter Sprigg. The pamphlet promotes the lie that sexual orientation can sometimes be changed and that harmful conversion therapy is a solution. It falsely claims that “research confirms that such change does occur -- sometimes spontaneously, and sometimes as a result of therapeutic interventions” and “there is no scientific evidence that change efforts create greater harm than the homosexual lifestyle itself.”

    From the pamphlet:

    Myth No. 2: Sexual orientation can never change.

    Fact: Thousands of men and women have testified to experiencing a change in their sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual. Research confirms that such change does occur -- sometimes spontaneously, and sometimes as a result of therapeutic interventions.

    Myth No. 3: Efforts to change someone’s sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual are harmful and unethical.

    Fact: There is no scientific evidence that change efforts create greater harm than the homosexual lifestyle itself. The real ethical violation is when clients are denied the opportunity to set their own goals for therapy.

    The guide’s claims are lies. As Media Matters’ Brianna January has noted, conversion therapy “has been debunked and rejected by all major medical associations as ineffective, harmful, and unscientific.”

    Reporters covering efforts to protect LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy should always include that the practice has been debunked and rejected by all major medical associations as ineffective, harmful, and unscientific and that sexuality and gender identity cannot be forcibly changed.

    The American Psychiatric Association’s official 2000 position statement on conversion therapy reaffirmed its 1998 position that “there is no published scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of ‘reparative therapy’ as a treatment to change one’s sexual orientation.” In addition, the organization wrote that it “opposes any psychiatric treatment, such as ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapy, that is based on the assumption … that the patient should change his or her homosexual orientation.” Similarly, the American Psychological Association released a 2009 resolution saying, “The APA concludes that there is insufficient evidence to support the use of psychological interventions to change sexual orientation.” A division of the American Counseling Association known as the Association for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues in Counseling also found that attempts “to alter or change gender identities and/or the sexual orientation of transgender clients across the lifespan may be detrimental, life-threatening, and are not empirically supported.” International organizations also recognize the junk science behind conversion therapy; according to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Therapies aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation have been deemed outside the scope of ethical practice.”

    The anti-LGBTQ pamphlet also claims to debunk such facts as “Children raised by homosexuals are no different from children raised by heterosexuals, nor do they suffer harm” and “Homosexuals are no more likely to molest children than heterosexuals,” though both of those are accurate statements.

    Media Matters previously reported that in 2015, Harris claimed that the country had descended into “moral decay” and cited as one of several examples that “we have watched in one generation where homosexuality was once criminalized to now we see the criminalization of Christianity.”

  • Right-wing media pastor and GOP-backed congressional nominee favorably remembered when “homosexuality was once criminalized”

    Mark Harris: “We have watched in one generation where homosexuality was once criminalized to now we see the criminalization of Christianity”

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Mark Harris is a pastor and GOP-backed congressional nominee who has regularly appeared in right-wing media outlets and worked with a notorious anti-LGBTQ group. In previously unreported comments, Harris said in 2015 that the country had descended into “moral decay” and cited as one of several examples that “we have watched in one generation where homosexuality was once criminalized to now we see the criminalization of Christianity.”

    Harris won the Republican nomination in North Carolina’s 9th District by defeating sitting Rep. Robert Pittenger in the state’s May GOP primary.

    Harris, who has been heavily involved in fighting against LGBTQ equality in North Carolina, was previously the pastor of First Baptist Charlotte. His sermons were streamed online and distributed through podcasts. He has regularly appeared in anti-LGBTQ media, making appearances on outlets such as Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network and anti-LGBTQ group American Family Association’s American Family Radio.

    Harris has also been a go-to pastor for the Family Research Council (FRC), an extreme anti-LGBTQ organization that produces its own media content and policy papers. He has been a member of FRC’s ministry arm Watchmen on the Wall. He has also spoken at numerous FRC-affiliated events, including several that have been broadcasted nationwide by the group. FRC is one of the most influential anti-LGBTQ groups in the country and its official position is that “homosexual conduct is harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large” and “is by definition unnatural.”

    FRC Action, the political arm of FRC, endorsed Harris in April. FRC President Tony Perkins wrote in May that Harris is “one of FRC's Watchmen pastors who was critical in FRC Action’s highly successful effort in the 2016 general election.”

    Harris and FRC are a perfect fit when it comes to anti-LGBTQ activity.

    In a 2015, Harris spoke at an event in Jomeokee, NC, and complained that the nation is “floundering in moral decay,” explaining in part that “we have watched in one generation where homosexuality was once criminalized to now we see the criminalization of Christianity.” From his speech:

    MARK HARRIS: We are a nation that is so out of balance in our economy, in our foreign policy, in our treatment of the Constitution. But I want to leave you this afternoon as I wrap up with truly the most detrimental imbalance which many will argue is the root to all the others and that is, ladies and gentlemen, I've come here today to declare to you that we are a nation which is spiritually out of balance in every way.

    In one generation you and I have witnessed this country sliding from a nation who once shared a moral vision based on Judeo-Christian ethic to a nation floundering in moral decay. In one generation we have watched our nation who once believed in lifelong marriages to the same spouse to a divorce rate now well over 50 percent. We have watched in one generation where homosexuality was once criminalized to now we see the criminalization of Christianity. And I could go on and on with the entertainment, with the education, with the life issue.

    In 2013, as then-Right Wing Watch writer Brian Tashman documented, Harris said: “I’ve yet to buy in, as there is not the medical evidence, that an individual that chooses the homosexual lifestyle is born that way. That is a choice.” In a recent interview with Roll Call, Harris stood by those remarks. 

    Roll Call also reported that Harris said that women should submit to their husbands. The Washington, D.C.-based publication added that Harris said in an interview “that a wife submitting to her husband does not mean that they are not equal. He said he regularly mentions that in counseling sessions and when he presides at weddings.”

  • Republican Party officials in Illinois withdraw support for GOP congressional nominee after Media Matters' reporting

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Republican Party officials in Illinois have withdrawn their support for congressional candidate and conspiracy theorist Bill Fawell.

    Fawell is a real estate broker and writer who is challenging incumbent Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos. He won the Republican primary in March after running unopposed.

    Media Matters has documented in recent days that Fawell has frequently pushed toxic conspiracy theories:

    • Fawell promoted material claiming that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a false flag. He also smeared late Sandy Hook Elementary Principal Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung, who died trying to protect students during the shooting.
    • Fawell has pushed conspiracy theories about mass shootings in Orlando, FL; San Bernardino, CA; and Aurora, CO.
    • Fawell has promoted the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, which falsely holds that prominent politicians have trafficked children through the Washington, D.C., restaurant Comet Ping Pong.
    • Fawell has written that “9/11's masterminds” were “our CIA and Israel's Mossad”; 9/11 was an “obvious false flag attack whose work was farmed out to Israel’s Mossad by elements high up in our government"; and if “there is another” 9/11-type attack, “you can bet … they’ll [the CIA and Mossad] have made it too.”
    • Fawell has claimed that late Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was assassinated for “giving 44,000 DNC emails to Wikileaks” and that former Hillary Clinton presidential campaign chair John Podesta “ordered the hit.”

    CNN’s Nathan McDermott and Andrew Kaczynski reported on May 25 that Fawell “pushed a conspiracy theory that 7 World Trade Center collapsed as part of a controlled demolition and the attacks were a plot to destroy documents” and “singer Beyonce Knowles has ties to the Illuminati.”

    The Dispatch/The Rock Island Argus reported last night that “Republican party officials are withdrawing support for 17th Congressional District candidate Bill Fawell after reviewing alleged conspiracy theories posted by Fawell on social media.”

    State Republican party chairman Tim Schneider, Rock Island County Republican party central committee chair Drue Mielke, and Republican state central committeeman for the 17th Congressional District, Jan Weber, removed their support of Fawell on Tuesday.

    ...

    “Bill Fawell has a problem with the truth and his statements have done a disservice to the individuals who lost their lives from terrible acts of violence,” Schneider said. “As chairman of the Illinois Republican party, I disagree with his misguided views and cannot support his candidacy for Congress in the 17th Congressional District.”

    Mielke voiced his support for Fawell to the Dispatch-Argus in July, but said he changed his mind after viewing some of the social media posts.

    Doug House, president of the Illinois Democratic County Chairs’ Association and chair of the Rock Island County Democrats, had also recently criticized Republican leaders for supporting a "bizarre conspiracy theorist."

    In July, the National Republican Congressional Committee withdrew its support for New Jersey congressional candidate Seth Grossman shortly after Media Matters documented that he promoted white nationalist propaganda.

  • Writer and GOP congressional nominee Bill Fawell: Israel helped carry out 9/11

    Fawell said 9/11 was an “obvious false flag attack whose work was farmed out to Israel’s Mossad by elements high up in our government”

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Right-wing writer Bill Fawell, a congressional nominee in Illinois who has received support from several Republican groups, has repeatedly claimed that Israel helped carry out 9/11.

    Fawell is a real estate broker and author who has frequently posted right-wing commentaries online. He ran unopposed in the March 20 Illinois GOP primary to represent District 17 in the U.S. House of Representatives and is now challenging incumbent Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos.

    Media Matters previously examined Fawell’s main Facebook page and found that he pushed conspiracy theories about mass shootings in Newtown, CT; Orlando, FL; San Bernardino, CA; and Aurora, CO. He also claimed that there’s “nothing fake about Pizzagate” and said late Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was assassinated for “giving 44,000 DNC emails to Wikileaks.”

    Several local Republican Party organizations have suggested people vote for Fawell. The Rock Island County Republican Party, for instance, has repeatedly pushed his candidacy on Facebook and chair Drue Mielke told The Dispatch/The Rock Island Argus in July, “We support Fawell.”

    CNN's Nathan McDermott and Andrew Kaczynski reported in May that Fawell previously “pushed a conspiracy theory that 7 World Trade Center collapsed as part of a controlled demolition and the attacks were a plot to destroy documents.” CNN also wrote that Fawell "said Beyonce had ties to the Illuminati." CNN asked the state party at the time for comment but did not receive a response.

    Media Matters found in a new review of Fawell's writings that he claimed “9/11's masterminds” were “our CIA and Israel's Mossad”; 9/11 was an “obvious false flag attack whose work was farmed out to Israel’s Mossad by elements high up in our government"; and if “there is another” 9/11-type attack, “you can bet … they’ll [the CIA and Mossad] have made it too.”

    The Israel-9/11 claim has been a popular conspiracy theory among anti-Semitic media figures. Anti-semite John Fitzgerald, a Republican congressional nominee in California, has also claimed that Israel was involved in the 9/11 attacks.

    A Media Matters request for comment to the Illinois Republican Party and its chair, Tim Schneider, was not returned. (Update: Republican Party officials in Illinois have withdrawn their support for Fawell.) 

    Here are four posts from Fawell in which he connected Israel to the 9/11 attacks.

    [8/22/17]

    [1/30/17]

    [4/26/16]

    [4/21/16]

  • GOP congressional nominee in Illinois is a Sandy Hook and Pizzagate conspiracy theorist

    Bill Fawell is backed by several county parties and is participating in numerous GOP events

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Right-wing writer Bill Fawell, a Republican-backed congressional nominee in Illinois, has pushed conspiracy theories about tragedies such as the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and claimed that there’s “nothing fake about Pizzagate.”

    Fawell is a real estate broker and author who ran unopposed in Illinois’ March 20 Republican primary to represent District 17 in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is now facing incumbent Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos.

    Several Republican committees in that district have suggested people vote for Fawell, including organizations in Jo Daviess, Peoria, Rock Island, Tazewell, and Whiteside counties. He has also been participating in numerous Republican events and is scheduled to appear at two GOP fundraisers in September, according to his website.

    Rock Island County GOP chair Drue Mielke told The Dispatch/The Rock Island Argus last month, “We support Fawell. ... I know he’s a Constitutionalist. In talking to him, I’ve heard him focusing on the issues of our district. There are a lot of things Bill Fawell could do for our district Cheri Bustos is choosing not to.” (Update: Republican Party officials in Illinois have withdrawn their support for Fawell.) 

    CNN’s Nathan McDermott and Andrew Kaczynski reported on May 25 that they examined Fawell’s blog posts and 2012 book New American Revolution and found that he “said the September 11 terrorist attacks were an inside job and that singer Beyonce Knowles has ties to the Illuminati.”

    CNN added that the “Illinois Republican Party did not respond to a request for comment. Another Illinois Republican nominee for a House seat, neo-Nazi Arthur Jones, has been rejected by national Republicans and the state party for denying the Holocaust.”

    Media Matters reviewed Fawell's main Facebook page and found that he also pushed conspiracy theories about mass shootings in Newtown, CT; Orlando, FL; San Bernardino, CA; and Aurora, CO. He has also promoted the Pizzagate conspiracy theory and claimed late Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was assassinated "for giving 44,000 DNC emails to Wikileaks."

    The mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT

    Fawell has repeatedly pushed conspiracy theories about the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. Fawell has promoted material that claimed the shooting was a false flag and smeared late Sandy Hook Elementary Principal Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung, who died trying to protect students during the shooting.

    (The person pictured above is Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung.) [4/17/13]

    [3/7/17]

    (The page that Fawell linked to, which is no longer available, cited Sandy Hook conspiracy theorist Wolfgang Halbig to claim that the Sandy Hook shooting is “another false flag.”) [1/6/16]

    Mass shootings in Orlando, San Bernardino, and Aurora

    Fawell has pushed conspiracy theories about tragedies including the June 2016 shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, FL; the December 2015 shooting in San Bernardino, CA; and the 2012 shooting in Aurora, CO.

    [6/12/16]

    [6/12/16]

    [6/21/16]

    Pizzagate

    Fawell has repeatedly pushed the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, which falsely holds that prominent politicians have trafficked children through the Washington, D.C., restaurant Comet Ping Pong. In December 2016, Edgar Maddison Welch went to the restaurant and fired a shot inside; he was later sentenced to four years in prison.

    Fawell has said that there’s “nothing fake about Pizzagate” and the shooting at Comet was an “inside false flag job on a real live (sic) story the MSM is trying to cover up.”

    [11/24/16]

    [12/9/16]

    [12/10/16]

    [12/11/16]

    Seth Rich

    Fawell has claimed that late Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was assassinated for “giving 44,000 DNC emails to Wikileaks” and that former Hillary Clinton presidential campaign chair John Podesta “ordered the hit.” (Those claims, of course, are false.)

    [8/10/16]

    [5/17/17]

    [7/12/17]

  • Right-wing conspiracy theorist Ximena Barreto finally leaves HHS after outlets document her toxic rhetoric

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters
     

    Ximena Barreto, a right-wing commentator with a history of pushing conspiracy theories and bigoted rhetoric, has finally resigned from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

    Barreto joined HHS in December 2017 as a deputy communications director. Media Matters first reported on April 9 that Barreto (who also goes by the surname Barreto-Rice) frequently made toxic remarks as a conservative pundit. She promoted the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, claimed that “African-Americans are way more racist than white people,” and labeled Islam “a fucking cult” that has “no place” in the United States, among other remarks.

    Here is a video from Media Matters’ John Kerr of some of her worst remarks:

    Hours after Media Matters’ report, HHS issued a statement saying Barreto “has been placed on administrative leave while the matter is reviewed.”

    Media Matters originally found out about Barreto’s federal employment because ProPublica added her name to Trump Town, its database of Trump administration political appointees.

    CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski, Chris Massie, and Nathan McDermott reported on April 13 that Barreto “shared an image in 2017 that said ‘our forefathers would have hung’ Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for treason,” “repeatedly used the hashtag #BanIslam and twice shared conspiracy theories about the death of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich,” among other conspiracy theories.

    The Trump administration decided to allow Barreto back to work in early May but said she would “not to return to the public affairs department and will serve in a different role where she will work to complete several projects.”

    On June 21, Mediaite’s Caleb Ecarma reported that Barreto attacked CNN for purportedly conducting a “smear campaign” against her (CNN did not smear Barreto). Mediaite also “conducted an extensive review of her social media posts and found that the HHS appointee pushed the baseless Pizzagate conspiracy theory even more than previously reported,” finding that she tweeted variations of the conspiracy theory “at least 17 times.”

    On June 22, CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski reported that a copy of Barreto’s resume -- which was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request -- showed that “she listed her previous conspiratorial work on her resume as a qualification for the communication position.”

    Politico’s Dan Diamond reported on July 27 that she “was escorted from Health and Human Services Department headquarters Friday, according to an individual with knowledge of the situation. Barreto resigned, the individual said.”

    There are numerous other people who have served in the Trump administration and have pushed toxic conspiracy theories and/or bigoted rhetoric.

  • UPDATED: Rick Scott’s Senate campaign rented Roger Stone’s email list

    Stone previously criticized Scott for being personally responsible for fraud

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Update: A spokesperson for Scott's campaign claimed that the Stone email "was a vendor mistake - they are not advertising with Stone or paying him to send out emails on their behalf," according to Associated Press reporter Gary Fineout. Regardless of the campaign's explanation, as Media Matters documented below, Stone's website sent a sponsored message that contained a fundraising pitch for Scott; Stone's website identified "Rick Scott For Senate" as "one of our sponsoring advertisers"; and Scott's message contained the text: "Paid for by Rick Scott for Florida."

    Gov. Rick Scott’s (R-FL) U.S. Senate campaign rented Roger Stone’s email list for a fundraising pitch.

    Stone is a vicious racist, misogynist, liar, and conspiracy theorist. He is caught up in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe; was disinvited from a Florida GOP event because he called former first lady Barbara Bush a “nasty drunk” after she died; and tried to recruit wrestler Hulk Hogan to challenge Scott because of “his personal responsibility for $1 billion in Medicaid fraud" (Scott's company previously paid a $1.7 billion fine for Medicare fraud). 

    Stone is a right-wing operative and commentator who describes himself as “a 40-year friend and advisor of Donald Trump.” Mueller is examining the activities of Stone and his associates with regard to Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Stone has repeatedly lied or contradicted himself on issues related to Mueller’s probe.

    Stone has also frequently targeted Republicans and conservatives with typical Stone-level rhetoric. For instance:

    • Stone called former Rep. Allen West (R-FL) an "arrogant know-it-all negro"; commentator Herman Cain “mandingo”; and Education Secretary Ben Carson an “Uncle Tom.”
    • Stone mocked the late Charles Krauthammer for being paralyzed, tweeting: “Hey Krauthammer--stand the fuck up!”
    • Stone called CNN commentator and former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) aide Ana Navarro a media “quota hire” and tweeted that “black beans and rice didn't miss her.” He has stood by his remarks, saying that he “fat-shamed her.”
    • Stone has claimed that Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) father is connected to the assassination of former President John F. Kennedy and that the "Bush Crime Family" had “tried to kill” President Ronald Reagan and was involved in murders and drug-running with the Clintons.
    • Stone said that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) will “die in disgrace as his antics are exposed for the American people. He’s not a hero, he’s a traitor. It’s very sad.”
    • Stone called former first lady Barbara Bush a “nasty drunk” after she died, and added that she “drank so much booze, if they cremated her ... her body would burn for three days.”

    Stone’s remarks about Barbara Bush caused the Okaloosa Republican Executive Committee in Florida to uninvite Stone from headlining its annual fundraising dinner. (Stone had used similar rhetoric about Bush prior to her death.) 

    Stone’s website Stone Cold Truth forwarded its followers a July 26 message from Scott’s campaign with the statement: “We are excited to share with you a special message from one of our sponsoring advertisers, Rick Scott For Senate. It is also sponsors like them that help fund Stone Cold Truth. Please note that the following message reflects the opinions and representations of our sponsor alone, and not necessarily the opinion of Roger Stone.”

    Scott’s email asked for donations and ended with a picture of Scott with President Donald Trump.

    The Scott campaign’s decision to pay Stone is even more odd given that Stone has publicly rebuked him. In January, Stone said that he was “focused on persuading Hulk Hogan” to challenge Scott in the Republican primary, adding that at “a minimum, I hope to convince Hogan to body-slam Scott in every debate. If the governor is under the impression that his personal responsibility for $1 billion in Medicaid fraud is no longer an issue, he’s wrong."

    Other campaigns have rented Stone’s email list, including House candidate Omar Navarro in California; unsuccessful House candidate Richard Mack in Arizona; and Senate candidate Geoff Diehl in Massachusetts.

    Shortly after Diehl’s campaign rented his list, Stone endorsed Diehl’s campaign. In response to Media Matters’ article about the endorsement, Stone stated on Newsmax TV that his “company did rent some lists to Mr. Diehl” and “during that process I examined his campaign and his credentials and frankly I became very impressed.”