Turning Point USA founder and right-wing podcaster Charlie Kirk painted a lurid conspiracy in which he alleged the federal government was deliberately failing to respond to devastating wildfires in Hawaii. In fact, Kirk’s attempt to exploit this humanitarian catastrophe only demonstrated his utter failure to do basic fact-checking, as he was unable to find the federal disaster declaration online live on the air, nor was he aware of any of the government’s extensive responses to the fires over the past week.
President Joe Biden issued a major disaster declaration on Thursday for the fires, which unexpectedly swept through the town of Lahaina and across the island of Maui last Tuesday. Biden also spoke publicly about the fires on Thursday, declaring, “Our prayers are with the people of Hawaii, but not just our prayers: every asset that we have will be available to them.”
Additionally, FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell is visiting the state, along with more than 250 FEMA personnel who have deployed there. U.S. Indo-Pacific Command is also headquartered in Honolulu and has been mobilizing personnel, equipment, and aircraft from nearby U.S. military bases to assist the state National Guard with rescue efforts and fire suppression.
But in Kirk’s telling Monday, none of that has happened at all. “So, here’s another interesting thing. One of our largest military bases, with quick reaction forces, were just 100 miles away, but no aid nor rescue was deployed,” Kirk said. “That’s really strange, isn’t it?” (In fact, the exact opposite is true.)
Later in the show, Kirk sketched out his conspiracy theory in which the Biden administration was deliberately attempting to drag out the disaster in order to force a discussion over climate change. Kirk zeroed in on a brief moment from the weekend in which Biden may have responded “No comment” to questions shouted by reporters regarding the disaster response in Hawaii, which right-wing media have latched onto as a means to wrongly assert that Biden had shown “silence” about the entire event.
To be clear, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported last week that climate change is contributing to the severity of wildfires, producing drier wild vegetation as well as stronger wind systems.
The program then returned to Kirk looking through FEMA’s website to try to find out information about the government response — after he falsely stated there wasn’t any.
“So, I went to FEMA’s website. They have a Hawaii wildfire response, you can apply for help there. They also have a Hawaii rumor control, this is FEMA.gov,” Kirk said, appearing to be thinking out loud. “However, I’m reading through this, on August 12, a couple days ago, Joe Biden approved a declaration of disaster for Mississippi. I do not see a declaration of disaster for Hawaii, so maybe it’s been done and I’m missing it.” (The link for the Hawaii disaster declaration is right here, on FEMA’s website.)
Kirk then imagined a scenario in which the fires could serve as a pretense for “the oligarchs” to take over Hawaii’s ranch land. Then after playing a clip of Maui police chief John Pelletier asking for public assistance in identifying the bodies of people killed in the disaster, Kirk returned to his claim that the federal government did not care.
“I mean, this is not ordinary,” Kirk said. “The locals are talking as if a terror attack was just executed on Maui — and I’m not suggesting that it was,” Kirk said. “But our federal leaders have no comment, no concern. Why? I don't know, but I have suspicions. … For a regime that is over-eager to jump into every possible crisis to make themselves more powerful, in this particular instance, when there’s a thousand people missing and potentially a thousand people dead, and at least 96 people dead, and one of the crown jewels of America burning, there is intentional indifference.”
What this entire shameful on-air display really demonstrated, however, was Kirk’s “intentional indifference” to any facts, or even the basic notion that his political propaganda should line up in some way with real-world events.