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Eric Hananoki

Author ››› Eric Hananoki
  • The writer with ties to white nationalists who resigned from DHS donated to the RNC, Donald Trump, Kris Kobach, and Dave Brat

    Update: Ian Smith also donated to Corey Stewart's 2017 gubernatorial campaign

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Ian Smith, a writer who recently resigned from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) over his ties to white nationalists, donated thousands of dollars combined to the Republican National Committee (RNC) and the Republican campaigns of President Donald Trump, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, and Rep. Dave Brat from Virginia..

    The Atlantic’s Rosie Gray reported on August 28 that Smith, who had recently worked at DHS as a policy analyst on immigration issues, “had in the past been in contact with a group that included known white nationalists as they planned various events.” She added that the messages “provide a glimpse into how a group that included hard-core white nationalists was able to operate relatively incognito in the wider world, particularly in conservative circles.”

    The Washington Post’s Nick Miroff reported on August 30 that "Smith, a Department of Homeland Security analyst who resigned this week after he was confronted about his ties to white nationalist groups, attended multiple immigration policy meetings at the White House, according to government officials familiar with his work.”

    Additionally, as Miroff noted, “during the period he was in communication with white-supremacist groups, Smith wrote dozens of articles for publications including National Review, the Hill and the Daily Caller. Many of the pieces call for tighter immigration controls.” Mother Jones’ Noah Lanard reported more on Smith’s media career in an August 30 piece, writing that he has a “long history of radical anti-immigrant writings.”

    Media Matters found that Smith also donated a total of $8,150 to Republicans in recent years. He donated $540 to the Republican National Committee, $2,700 to Trump Make America Great Again Committee (a joint fundraising committee for Trump and the RNC), $2,160 to Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., and $250 to Friends of Dave Brat Inc., according to Federal Election Commission data. He also donated $2,000 to Kris Kobach’s gubernatorial campaign, according to Kansas Secretary of State data; and he donated $500 to Corey Stewart's 2017 campaign for Virginia governor, according to Virginia Department of Elections data accessed via the Virginia Public Access Project (Stewart, a neo-Confederate, is now running for U.S. Senate).

  • GOP congressional nominee Mark Harris signed statement claiming terrorism is the “very essence” of Islam

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Mark Harris, a Republican congressional nominee who has frequently appeared in right-wing media, signed a false and bigoted statement claiming that “all terror groups … have 100% Muslim membership” and “terrorist entities are not aberrations of Islam, they are the very essence of it.”

    Harris is the Republican nominee for North Carolina’s 9th District. As a pastor, he has worked with the anti-LGBTQ group Family Research Council and has appeared in its media productions.

    Harris has a long history of misogynistic and anti-LGBTQ comments. Media Matters previously documented that he favorably remembered when “homosexuality was once criminalized” and endorsed a Family Research Council pamphlet claiming that sexual orientation can sometimes be changed, including through the harmful practice of conversion therapy.

    President Donald Trump is scheduled to attend an August 31 fundraiser supporting Harris and incumbent Republican Rep. Ted Budd of North Carolina's 13th District.

    In his career, Harris has also supported bigotry against Muslims. In early 2016, Harris signed an anti-Muslim statement titled “Understanding Islam” that was organized by Dave Kistler, who heads the North Carolina Pastors’ Network. (In 2017, that group paid for a billboard that said, "Why support President Trump's immigration ban? 19 Muslim immigrants killed 2977 Americans. September 11, 2001.") The Harris-signed statement reportedly ran as an advertisement in the Hickory Daily Record (NC) and purported to address “inaccuracies” regarding the media’s portrayal of Islam. Among its claims was the blatantly false assertion that “all terror groups … have 100% Muslim membership. Tragically, these terrorist entities are not aberrations of Islam, they are the very essence of it.” From the statement:

    Also, frequently and erroneously stated is the claim that most acts of terror are committed by non-Muslims. The overwhelming number of recent terror attacks, in which the perpetrators all asserted Islam as their ideology, should thoroughly disprove those claims. All terror groups – Al Qaeda, Al Nusra, Hamas, Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah, Ansar al Islam, Ansar al Sharia, Al Shabaab, the Mujahedeen, Boko Haram and ISIS – have one thing in common. They all have 100% Muslim membership. Tragically, these terrorist entities are not aberrations of Islam, they are the very essence of it.

    The statement additionally claimed that Islam is a fundamentally violent religion:

    Regrettably, most Americans know nothing substantive about Islam. Hence, they read/listen to the seemingly peaceful remarks of Islam’s professed followers and accept them at face value, not knowing that Islam’s 1400 years of advancement has always been via the sword. Seldom is reference made to the first nine chapters (surahs) of the Koran, in which the most overt statements about treatment of infidels, or unbelievers (the kufar), are made.

    The statement was also signed by numerous other North Carolina pastors and Act for America, an anti-Muslim group with a long history of bigotry. 

    Such anti-Muslim rhetoric has been a staple of right-wing media and Republican politicians like Trump.

  • Rep. Jason Lewis repeatedly endorsed a shady gold company connected to Alex Jones

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    “You need to talk to my friends at Midas Resources. … Tell them Jason sent you.” -- Jason Lewis

    As a radio host, Rep. Jason Lewis (R-MN) repeatedly touted Midas Resources, a precious metals company connected to conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Lewis endorsed Midas on air, partnered with it to help sell his book, and even joined a radio syndicator that was started in order to publicize the company.

    People who followed Lewis’ financial advice might have been sorely disappointed. In the year after Lewis ended his radio show, the state of Minnesota revoked Midas’ license, alleging that the company engaged “in acts and practices that demonstrate they are incompetent, financially irresponsible, and otherwise unqualified.” The families of six victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting have also sued the Lewis-backed company for defamation related to its close ties with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

    Lewis, who has been dubbed Minnesota’s “mini-Trump,” is serving his first term in Congress. During his media career, he frequently made anti-LGBTQ, misogynistic, and racist remarks.

    Many of those remarks came via the radio syndicator Genesis Communications Network (GCN), which Lewis joined in July 2011 after he left Premiere Radio Networks (Lewis left his show in July 2014). Theodore (Ted) Anderson created GCN in 1998 as a publicity vehicle to sell products from Midas Resources, which he founded two years prior.

    GCN’s main personality is Alex Jones, the widely discredited conspiracy theorist who has pushed toxic conspiracy theories about 9/11, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, and the Boston Marathon bombing, among many other tragedies. His use of hate speech and bullying has recently gotten him banned from several platforms.

    Jones is inextricably linked to GCN and Midas Resources. GCN has been Jones’ national syndicator for roughly two decades, encompassing his rise from a local Austin, TX, personality to a leading media ally of President Donald Trump. Jones and his Infowars network have frequently endorsed Midas Resources products and hosted Anderson on their programming. And the company’s promotional material has heavily relied on “special” offers related to Jones. As Anderson told Bloomberg News in 2013, “We do a lot of business with Alex Jones’ listeners.”

    New York magazine’s Seth Brown reported on GCN’s reliance on Jones last year, writing that the network “uses what is called the barter model. GCN offers the content for no cost, and in exchange, GCN reserves the right to sell national advertising against the programs. … GCN itself seems to depend very heavily on advertising revenue from Alex Jones’s show. An advertising rate sheet that the network shared with me indicates that advertising on Infowars specifically is 32 times more expensive than advertising generally on GCN.” (Jones himself largely makes money by selling "his own dietary supplements" and “doesn’t get syndication fees from GCN. He doesn’t get a cut of the advertising that GCN sells.”)

    For roughly three years, Lewis broadcast on a radio network whose top personality was Alex Jones and purpose was to sell Midas products. And he made good on being a pitchman for Midas.

    Here’s an example of him from January 2013 telling listeners that if they “want the ultimate inflation hedge, you need to talk to my friends at Midas Resources. … Tell them Jason sent you.” (Lewis also noted that “commodities fluctuate in price; they can go up and down. Very volatile. There’s no guarantee.”)

    He also teamed up with Midas to offer his 2011 book for “FREE when you purchase a silver dollar from Midas Resources.” Advertisements for his book via Midas also ran on his now-defunct JasonLewisShow.com website in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.

    Anderson was apparently appreciative of Lewis’ help. According to Federal Election Commission records, he donated a total of $5,300 to Lewis’ 2016 congressional campaign.

    Midas’ shady practices eventually caught up with the company. In September 2015, the Minnesota Department of Commerce alleged that Midas:

    • “engaged in acts and practices that demonstrate they are incompetent, financially irresponsible, and otherwise unqualified to act under the authority of the Commissioner in violation of” a Minnesota statute;
    • “regularly misappropriated money received in the course of buying, selling, soliciting, or marketing bullion coins or investments in bullion coins to consumers in violation of” a Minnesota statute; and
    • “routinely failed without prior agreement to deliver bullion coins to its customers within 30 days of payment and otherwise misrepresented to consumers the terms of sale and delivery date of bullion coins in violation of” a Minnesota statute.

    The department revoked Midas Resources’ bullion coin dealer registration and required the company to pay restitution to its customers and a potential civil penalty to the state depending on whether it completed restitution.

    Midas’ bullion registration is currently inactive and its website now sells “meats” and “supplements.”

    In May, the families of six people who were killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting filed a defamation lawsuit against Jones and others, including Genesis Communications Network and Midas Resources. The complaint noted that Midas "has sold precious metals, dietary supplements, and other items as advertised by and in cooperation with defendant Genesis Communications and the Jones defendants." 

    Media Matters sent a request for comment to an address listed on Midas Resource's website but it was bounced back; another email sent to an address associated with Ted Anderson at GCNLive.com garnered no response.*

    *This paragraph was updated with additional information.

  • Florida Republican had “wonderful” event with white nationalist writer who’s been involved in Holocaust denial movement

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Peter Gemma, a white nationalist writer who has been involved in the Holocaust denial movement, recently held an event for Tommy Gregory, the presumptive Republican nominee for a Florida state House seat.

    Gregory is running for the Florida House of Representatives. His primary opponent, Melissa Howard, dropped out of the race after she lied about graduating from Miami University in Ohio then tried to cover it up by posing with a fake degree.

    In a recent Facebook post, Gregory thanked Gemma for organizing “a wonderful meet & greet event” on August 12 that covered “the erosion of Constitutional Rights, Establishment/Swamp Politics, the lack of American Civics classes, and Illegal Immigration.” Gemma replied in the post's comments section that it was his "pleasure being of service in this very important campaign." (Gregory removed his Facebook post after this piece was published; a link to an archive page of it has been added.)

    Gemma has a long history of extremism, as Media Matters has documented.

    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.” Gemma told the Post that Irving "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. According to its “Statement of Principles,” the group 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 lionizing the late white nationalist writer Sam Francis, who wrote the Council of Conservative Citizens’ “Statement of Principles.”

    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.

    Gregory did not respond to a request for comment.

    Media Matters previously documented that Kansas gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach cited a made-up anti-immigrant statistic by Gemma in a column posted on Breitbart.com and his campaign website.

    UPDATE (8/27): Following the publication of this piece, Liv Coleman, Gemma's Democratic opponent, issued a press release criticizing Gregory for "associating with a known White Nationalist."

    Gregory deleted his Facebook post about the event and issued a new post lashing out at "the liberal media." He wrote, in part, that he does "not know what Peter Gemma believes, but I know he denies the allegations made by the liberal media and claims to have served as a staff member in four presidential campaigns." (As the Anti-Defamation League noted, in 2000, "Gemma worked as a senior staffer on racist Pat Buchanan’s Presidential campaign.") Gregory added: "I am disgusted by racism and holocaust denials."

    Lourdes Ramirez, a Republican who is running for Sarasota County Commission, District 4, wrote in the comments section for Gregory's post that she "also had a Meet & Greet at Peter B. Gemma house. It is disgusting to see people with an obvious agenda try to paint the event as anything but our meeting voters of the area. Heck, I’ve been subjected to racists remarks as recently as last week when someone on Facebook wanted to call ICE on me which is ridiculous. So I’m very sensitive about racism. So I believe that this so called story is just a smear campaign. I’ll be happy to join you to fight this."

    This piece has been updated for clarity and with additional information.

  • 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.