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  • Rep. Duncan Hunter ad features conspiracy theorist who claimed immigrants are diseased and Muslims are trying to secretly conquer America

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Rep. Duncan Hunter’s (R-CA) racist attack against Democratic opponent Ammar Campa-Najjar features a bigoted conspiracy theorist who has claimed that refugees and undocumented immigrants bring “diseases”; Muslim refugees entering the country represent a “stealth jihadi war of conquest and colonization of America”; and the Muslim Brotherhood has been “entrenched as a dangerous ‘Fifth Column’ throughout the US Government.”

    A federal grand jury recently indicted Hunter and his wife on “charges they used $250,000 in campaign funds for personal use and filed false campaign finance reports with the Federal Election Commission to mask their actions,” as the Los Angeles Times summarized. Hunter has remained in office and been running a racist campaign against Campa-Najjar, a Christian who is of Palestinian and Latino descent.

    Hunter recently released a bigoted ad calling Campa-Najjar a "security risk" and claiming that he’s trying to “infiltrate” Congress (Campa-Najjar passed multiple security clearances when he worked for the Obama administration). The ad includes video of Joseph R. John claiming on the conservative One America News Network (OANN) that the Democrat “is being supported by CAIR and the Muslim Brotherhood” and it is “a well-orchestrated plan.” The ad’s line of attack is a main theme pushed by Hunter’s campaign.

    The Washington Post’s Fact Checker section noted that “all the claims in the ad are false, misleading or devoid of evidence,” adding, “It’s worth mentioning that the OANN commentator quoted as saying ‘this is a well-orchestrated plan’ was not referring to Campa-Najjar’s candidacy but to the conspiracy theories that the Justice Department indicted Hunter for political reasons. A selective bit of editing, however, took this quote out of context.”

    John is a retired Navy Reserve captain and a right-wing pundit who writes online commentary pieces. He also co-founded the Combat Veterans For Congress PAC.

    He has a history of bigoted commentary, including about immigrants and Muslims. John has complained that American children have “to spend every day in public school rooms with refugees and Illegal Aliens” who have arrived from “unprincipled and undiscipled (sic) countries” and bring “communicable diseases” (that old trope is a myth). He's also written that allowing Muslim refugees into the country constitutes "the stealth jihadi war of conquest and colonization of America with a ‘peaceful’ invasion."

    He’s also a heavy promoter of the conspiracy theory that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the government. John has claimed that the Democratic Party placed "Muslim Brotherhood Terrorists into sensitive US Government security positions" and former President Barack Obama purposely tried to populate the country with "criminals and Radical Islamic Terrorists."

    Here are some of the worst remarks in his commentary pieces:

    John: The Democratic Party platform supports “the continued placement of the Muslim Brotherhood Terrorists into sensitive US Government security positions.” [10/17/16]

    John: “Obama has been filling the Washington bureaucracy ... with thousands of members of Muslim Brotherhood, and the Muslim Brotherhood front groups."

    Obama has been filling the Washington bureaucracy, including DHS, the CIA, the FBI, DOD, the National Security Council, the White House, the State Department, every Department of Government, every US Intelligence Agency, and the US Armed Forces, with thousands of members of Muslim Brotherhood, and the Muslim Brotherhood front groups. Some of those front groups are the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Muslim Political Action Committee (MPAC), and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA); a number of the members of the Muslim Brotherhood & their front groups have become a “Fifth Column.” [10/27/16]​

    John: “The Muslim Brotherhood is better entrenched as a dangerous ‘Fifth Column’ throughout the US Government.”

    Even though the head of the FBI said the Muslim Brotherhood is undermining democracy of the United States and supporting terrorism, for 8 years Obama appointed members of the Muslim Brotherhood Front Groups to highly sensitive leadership positions in US Intelligence, Federal Law Enforcement, National Security, and most Government Agencies creating a very dangerous “Fifth Column” in the US Government designed to destabilize the US Constitutional government. The Muslim Brotherhood is better entrenched as a dangerous “Fifth Column” throughout the US Government, than the Communist Party’s once was as an entrenched “Fifth Column” in the 1940s and 1950s. In addition, Obama and Clinton supported and assisted the Muslim Brotherhood in overthrowing friendly governments to the US in Egypt and Libya, and they established a gun running operation through Qatar to Syria via Turkey, in order to support the MB in deposing Assad and in Syria. [3/14/17]

    John on allowing Muslim refugees into the country: “This is the stealth jihadi war of conquest and colonization of America with a ‘peaceful’ invasion.”

    Those 10,000 Muslim refugees that Obama is dumping on the American people are mostly single young males, of the age where they can bear arms and mount attacks on American citizens and US facilities.

    These 10,000 Muslim refugees will immediately start clamoring to bring in their wives, children parents, siblings and so forth. The total will amount to thousands of mostly hostile Muslims, over and above the first 10,000 refugees. This is the stealth jihadi war of conquest and colonization of America with a “peaceful” invasion, that Obama has been forcing on the Republic for nearly 7 years. [9/21/15]

    John: Obama “is intentionally trying to create a society populated by lawlessness criminals and Radical Islamic Terrorists.”

    Obama intentions (sic) can no longer be misunderstood, when the above actions are coupled with his refusal to secure the wide open southern border for nearly 7 years, he is intentionally trying to create a society populated by lawlessness criminals and Radical Islamic Terrorists, and create unrest throughout the country. By these last ditch actions before his term of office is over, and Obama’s actions are endangering the lives of millions of American citizens, further violating his oath of office where he twice swore to protect and defend the lives of all American citizens? [10/7/15]

    John: Americans "would not want their children or grandchildren to spend every day in public school rooms with refugees and Illegal Aliens” who have arrived from “unprincipled and undiscipled (sic) countries” and carry "communicable diseases."

    Certain countries are dangerous to even walk around in---I have been in many of them. They have corrupt governments, fail to educate their youth, refuse to take care of their sick and dying, fail to properly feed their citizens, have many bad ideas about governing, have population involved in criminal activities with little concern about right or wrong, have broken cultures, have young males who don't respect women & rape them, in some countries young boys are sexual slaves, in some cultures male adults are engage in sexual activities with barn yard animals, some local water system are full of communicable diseases, in some countries roadside ditches are used as community latrines, some countries have populations who support terrorism, some cultures have extremely poor sanitary & personal hygiene standards, some countries support and promote the drug culture, some countries do not inoculate their citizens to prevent diseases, some countries are full of rubbish on the streets and in the water, some countries have diseased flies and mosquitos repeatedly infecting the population, etc.

    When refugees and illegal aliens arrive in the US they are not quarantined, which is required by US Federal Immigration Law and US Public Health Regulations, as immigrants once were at Ricker’s Island. Illegal Aliens have been introducing communicable diseases, that were once eliminated, back into the public school systems. Diseases that were once under control are being exposed to public school children, like ring worm, mumps, Scalia, polio, hepatitis, malaria, scarlet fever, typhus, small pox, yellow fever, etc. Illegal immigrants, without vaccinations, have not only infected school children, they have been infecting many US Border Patrolmen.  

    Law abiding and tax paying Americans would not want their children or grandchildren to spend every day in public school rooms with refugees and Illegal Aliens, who arrived from the above listed types of unprincipled and undiscipled (sic) countries, who have not been quarantined to detect and treat communicable diseases? The Progressives, elected members of Congress, the Washington elite, and the well-known TV anchors from the left of center liberal media establishment, send their children to private schools; they don’t have to worry about having their children get infected with communicable diseases, nor to be held back in their education in very slow moving public schools classes because the illegal aliens and refugees can’t speak, write, nor understand English. [1/16/18]

    John: “Criminal Illegal Aliens” have been “populating over 300 Sanctuary Cities, who have been stealing autos, burglarizing home (sic), robbing businesses, holding up individuals, dealing drugs, trafficking in white slavery, and killing thousands of Americans.”

    President Elect Trump developed a relationship and trust with

    ...

    16 Thousands of family members/friends who have been devastated by the estimated 3 million protected “convicted” criminal Illegal Aliens populating over 300 Sanctuary Cities, who have been stealing autos, burglarizing home (sic), robbing businesses, holding up individuals, dealing drugs, trafficking in white slavery, and killing thousands of Americans for 8 years. [12/5/16]​

    In reality, as The Washington Post reported, “Undocumented immigrants are considerably less likely to commit crime than native-born citizens, with immigrants legally in the United States even less likely to do so.

    John: The United States is being harmed by the “continued invasion of hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens." [4/9/18]

  • 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. Scott Taylor’s book is blurbed by a leading anti-Muslim writer

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    When Rep. Scott Taylor (R-VA) published his 2015 book, he included an endorsement from a writer who has built a career on anti-Muslim bigotry and was even banned from the United Kingdom for his toxic rhetoric.

    Taylor is a Republican congressman who began representing Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District in 2017. He previously authored the book Trust Betrayed: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and the Selling Out of America's National Security. The book contains a page of “praise” that includes a quote from Robert Spencer, who is identified as the “author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad.”

    Spencer states, in part, that "Taylor analyzes the contemporary situation with the keen eye of a man who has seen the disastrous effects of Obama’s policies up close, and provides a reasonable and realistic path back to national sanity. Not only should all candidates for national office be required to read this book -- they should be required to report on it, and explain how they intend to implement its recommendations.”

    Descriptions for both of those Spencer books (via Amazon) make clear that they are anti-Muslim. The promotional text for The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) claims that it “tackles Islam’s institutionalized mistreatment of non-Muslims, the stifling effect Islam has on science and free inquiry, the ghastly lure of Islam’s X-rated Paradise for suicide bombers and jihad terrorists, the brutal Islamic conquests of the Christian lands of the Middle East and North Africa, and more.”

    Likewise, The Truth About Muhammad’s extended title calls Islam “the World's Most Intolerant Religion,” and the book’s description states: “Recognizing the true nature of Islam, Spencer argues, is essential for judging the prospects for largescale Islamic reform, the effective prosecution of the War on Terror, the democracy project in Afghanistan and Iraq, and immigration and border control to protect the United States from terrorism.”

    Numerous media outlets such as CNNThe New York TimesThe Washington Post, and The Guardian have accurately noted that Spencer is "anti-Muslim."

    Spencer has a long history of using anti-Muslim rhetoric. He has claimed that:

    • “Islam is not a religion of peace. The Quran exhorts Muslims to wage war against and subjugate unbelievers. #ConfessYourUnpopularOpinion.” (8/6/17)
    • “As [anti-Muslim politician Geert] Wilders said yesterday, we also have to end immigration from Muslim countries into the United States. This is a simple matter of national security. It will of course be condemned as racism, but the harsh reality is that you cannot tell peaceful Muslims from Jihadis in any discernible manner. And so it is simply ridiculous and suicidal to continue to import whole communities of Muslims from hot Jihad areas like Somalia and Syria and Pakistan into the United States and drop them down into American communities. The strife has already begun in those communities and it's going to get worse.” (11/16/14)
    • “Of course, as I have pointed out many times, traditional Islam itself is not moderate or peaceful. It is the only major world religion with a developed doctrine and tradition of warfare against unbelievers.” (1/14/06)

    In June 2013, the British government banned Spencer and ally and fellow anti-Muslim writer Pamela Geller from entering the United Kingdom. A government spokesperson said at the time that their presence "is not conducive to the public good." James Brokenshire, a member of the British Conservative Party who served as the U.K.’s security minister, said in September 2013 that the government barred Spencer from entering the country because of his potential to “stir up hatred and provoke violence.”

  • A GOP congressional candidate in California has been appearing on neo-Nazi podcasts

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    John Fitzgerald, an anti-Semite who is running as a Republican for California’s 11th Congressional District seat, has been appearing on neo-Nazi podcasts and falsely claiming that the Holocaust is a “lie.”

    Fitzgerald came in second with 23 percent of the total vote in the June 5 top-two primary and will face off against incumbent Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA) in the November election.

    Fitzgerald writes on his campaign site that the “911 attacks were used as the catalyst by Jewish elements within our Government and Israel’s, to implement the PNAC Doctrine (1999) which called for a 'catastrophic and catalyzing event-- like a new Pearl Harbor' to both galvanize support from the American people and to make regime changes” (italics in original) throughout the world. He also writes: “I hope all of you ask yourselves why JEWS are primarily behind the push of multiculturalism, diversity and inclusiveness throughout the United States, Europe and other once predominantly white nations of the world and WHY many of our politicians allowing them to do so has led to rape and crime epidemics in its aftermath.”

    The California Republican Party and the Republican Jewish Coalition released a statement in May condemning Fitzgerald and rejecting any support for him.

    Since advancing to the general election as a Republican, Fitzgerald has courted anti-Semitic media.

    He appeared on the June 23 edition of The Realist Report with host John Friend. Friend is a neo-Nazi who has said that the “Jews Did 9/11,” Adolf Hitler was “the greatest thing that's happened to Western civilization,” and the “alleged ‘Holocaust’ of 6 million Jews at the hands of Adolf Hitler and National Socialist Germany during WWII is one of the most egregious and outrageous falsehoods ever perpetrated.”

    During the interview, Fitzgerald complained about purported “Jewish control and supremacy” and praised Friend for claiming that Israel was behind the 9/11 attacks. Fitzgerald also said he’s dedicated to “exposing the truth about the Holocaust and how it’s an absolute fabricated lie.”

    Fitzgerald ran for Congress as a Democrat in the 2010 and 2012 primaries but got little traction, gaining just 15 percent and 7 percent of the vote, respectively. He said on Friend's program that though he ran as a Democrat in those elections, “I wasn’t really a Democrat. But I was just trying to get in the system, and so I did so.”

    Fitzgerald also appeared on the June 28 edition of The Andrew Carrington Hitchcock Show. Hitchcock has lionized Hitler and written numerous anti-Semitic screeds.

    During that program, Fitzgerald said, “I’ve really gone on an extreme journey from the standard material that everybody believed to what is considered a very taboo subject, taking on the entire Holocaust narrative and realizing that everything we’ve been told about the Holocaust is a lie. So my entire campaign, for the most part, is about exposing this lie.”

    Media outlets, for their part, have reported on similar candidates who are running for office across the country, including neo-Nazi and Illinois Republican U.S. congressional candidate Arthur Jones; white supremacist and Republican North Carolina General Assembly candidate Russell Walker; neo-Nazi and unsuccessful California Republican U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Little; and anti-Semite and Wisconsin Republican U.S. congressional candidate Paul Nehlen.

    Some media have also documented the racist rhetoric pushed by candidates including Rep. Steve King (R-IA), Prince William Board of County Supervisors at-large Chairman Corey Stewart (R-VA), and Republican commentator Seth Grossman of New Jersey.

  • Right-wing pundit and congressional candidate Seth Grossman posted bigoted commentaries about Black and Muslim people

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Seth Grossman, a Republican pundit who is running for Congress, repeatedly posted bigoted commentaries about Black and Muslim people online. Grossman claimed he knew “of many Africans who wish their ancestors had been taken to America as slaves,” promoted an anti-Black piece on a white nationalist website, and called Islam “a cancer" that has "already infected a billion people."

    Grossman is a lawyer who has also been a radio host and a newspaper columnist. He heads the nonprofit organization Liberty and Prosperity 1776 Inc. and writes commentaries on its website. Grossman won the Republican nomination for New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District on June 5.

    The Republican commentator has been under scrutiny this week because of recently released remarks he made at an April forum in which he said, “The whole idea of diversity is a bunch of crap and un-American.” That remark was captured by American Bridge 21st Century PAC (American Bridge founder David Brock is also the founder of Media Matters).

    Before he started running for Congress, Grossman also frequently posted bigoted and racist remarks about Black and Muslim people in commentary pieces and on social media, according to a Media Matters review. Here are numerous examples:

    “Blacks were not enslaved by whites. They were enslaved by other blacks and then sold to whites. … I do know of many Africans who wish their ancestors had been taken to America as slaves.” From a March 7, 2017, post on Grossman’s Facebook page:

    Fifty years of welfare programs, public and college ‘education’, and media and Hollywood pop culture run by ‘progressive’ Democrats did far more long term damage to blacks in America than 230 years of slavery.” From a July 17, 2016, post on Grossman’s Facebook page:


    “Democrats today constantly talk of wrongs done by some whites to some blacks more than a hundred years ago. The purpose is for blacks to blame whites for their problems instead of the liberal officials and policies that are truly responsible.” From an April 4, 2012, piece by Grossman in the Current and Gazette newspapers of Atlantic and Cape May counties, which was also posted on libertyandprosperity.com:

    As I got older, I paid attention to the conversations of the adults at the Passover dinner. My grandmother was always amazed at how much our family enjoyed both holidays, and how lucky we were to live in America.

    In bits and pieces I learned how my experiences with these holidays were so different from hers. To my grandmother who lived in Moldavia, a Romanian-speaking province in the old Russian Empire, Passover and Easter were holidays of fear and death.

    There was no First Amendment in Russia. The government and the churches were run by a dictator called the Czar. His officials used the churches to get people angry at Jews, rather than the corruption and incompetence of the government.

    What they did was like how Democrats today constantly talk of wrongs done by some whites to some blacks more than a hundred years ago. The purpose is for blacks to blame whites for their problems instead of the liberal officials and policies that are truly responsible.

    Grossman promoted a piece from a white nationalist site that claimed Black people “are a threat to all who cross their paths, black and non-black alike.” On December 30, 2014, Grossman posted a link to a piece on the white nationalist website American Renaissance. The piece’s author wrote that he is “a public defender in a large southern metropolitan area” and his “experience” has taught him “that blacks are different by almost any measure to all other people. They cannot reason as well. They cannot communicate as well. They cannot control their impulses as well. They are a threat to all who cross their paths, black and non-black alike.”

    “Islam has nothing in common with other modern world religions like Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, or Hinduism.” Grossman wrote a July 18, 2016, piece on libertyandprosperity.com that purported to explain why Muslims “attack and kill us” by listing “12 simple facts about Islam.”

    Grossman’s list including virulently anti-Muslim claims, including that the religion has “nothing in common with other modern world religions”; “Islam is stuck in the barbaric, cut-throat world of Arabia 1,400 years ago”; and “Good Muslims who believe and support these principles of Islam cannot be good Americans. Only ‘bad’ Muslims who reject their religion can be good Americans.”

    "Islam is a cancer. The fact that it already infected a billion people is even more reason to fight it every way we can.” From a March 27, 2016, post on Grossman’s Facebook page:

    “Why are we inviting thousands of Muslim immigrants to our towns and neighborhoods when we are in the middle of a war with Islam?” From a February 28, 2015, post on Grossman’s Facebook page:


    Grossman shared a graphic that attacked then-President Barack Obama for having “flooded our cities with Muslims.” From a January 10, 2016, post on Grossman’s Facebook page:

    Note: Grossman took down his Facebook page Grossman4NJ after the publication of this piece. Media Matters has replaced those links with archived links. 

  • Trump's newest national security staffer spread anti-Muslim sentiments and wrote that Bush was vindicated about Iraq having WMD

    John Bolton hired Fred Fleitz at the NSC. Here's what you need to know about him.

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Fred Fleitz, the new chief of staff for national security advisor John Bolton, comes from an anti-Muslim hate group and has fearmongered about Muslims during his numerous appearances on right-wing media outlets. He also repeatedly questioned the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to support Donald Trump and claimed former President George W. Bush was vindicated in his lie that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction in the lead-up to the Iraq War.

    Fleitz worked as Bolton’s chief of staff when Bolton was serving as undersecretary of state during the George W. Bush administration, and he was a CIA analyst prior to that. But more recently, Fleitz was a senior vice president at the right-wing Center for Security Policy, which the Southern Poverty Law Center designated an anti-Muslim hate group in 2015, describing it as “a conspiracy-oriented mouthpiece for the growing anti-Muslim movement in the United States.”

    Fleitz is in good company with Bolton, who chaired the Gatestone Institute -- which NBC News described as “a nonprofit that has promoted misleading and false anti-Muslim news” -- from 2013 till March of this year, just before Trump appointed him as national security adviser.

    In a December 2015 Fox News appearance, Fleitz echoed a baseless right-wing media narrative that neighbors of the terrorists who shot and killed 14 people and wounded numerous others in San Bernardino, CA, saw suspicious activity by the shooters but didn’t alert law enforcement over fears of “racial profiling,” saying, “If someone had spoken up and said they saw this suspicious activity, … 14 people would be alive today.” During a March 2016 appearance on Fox, Fleitz helped host Neil Cavuto push the debunked right-wing myth of Muslim “no-go zones,” referring to them as “safe havens in Europe.”

    And in a June 2017 Breitbart News Daily radio appearance, Fleitz fearmongered about Muslims in the United Kingdom, saying some communities of British Muslims “are deliberately not assimilating, are being taught to hate British society,” and claimed, “We may have generations of radical Islamists in the U.K., until the British government wakes up and stops the situation.” Fleitz also said that “there are enclaves of Muslim communities in Michigan and Minnesota that concern me,” blaming them for a measles outbreak in Minnesota that year. Conspiracy theory website WND (formerly known as WorldNetDaily) had previously pushed this smear, blaming the low rate of immunizations of Somali Muslims in the area on the Quran. But The Independent explained that the Somali Americans in Minnesota used to vaccinate their children more than other Minnesotans” until the mid-2000s, when the rate began dropping because anti-vaccine activists repeatedly visited the area to convince the community of the debunked claim that vaccines can cause autism.

    Fleitz’s public anti-Muslim attitude and his senior position in a hate group aren’t the only problems with his appointment to the National Security Council. In several op-eds posted to right-wing media websites, Fleitz repeatedly questioned the intelligence community assessment from early 2017 that Russia meddled in the presidential election to help Trump -- an assessment recently backed up by the Senate intelligence committee -- calling it “rigged” and a “politicized analysis to sabotage an incoming president from a different political party.” Fleitz also said in a December Fox Business appearance that “the collusion thing” between Trump’s team and Russia “is just such nonsense,” citing the Trump administration’s sale of arms to Ukraine as proof.

    Fleitz also incorrectly argued in an October 2014 column on the Center for Security Policy’s website that a New York Times report on old chemical weapons found in Iraq proved that Bush was right about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq:

    Revelations last week by the New York Times that U.S. troops found chemical weapons in Iraq – about 5,000 CW warheads, shells and aviation bombs – but the size of this find and injuries from these weapons to American soldiers were covered up by the Bush administration has caused experts on both sides of the political spectrum to scramble to answer one question: does this prove President Bush was right that there were undeclared weapons of mass destruction in Iraq prior to the 2003 war?

    I believe the answer to this question clearly is yes.

    Others in right-wing media also spread this fantasy. But as the Times article noted, “the discoveries of these chemical weapons did not support the government’s invasion rationale,” because they had all been manufactured prior to 1991 and were “filthy, rusty or corroded,” thus not backing up Bush’s claim that Iraq “was hiding an active weapons of mass destruction program.” The Washington Post’s Fact Checker also explained that the Bush administration “staked its WMD claims on an active, on-going program that was restarted after the Kuwait conflict," and stated: “Anyone who claims that the New York Times story vindicates George W. Bush-era claims of Iraq WMD automatically earns Four Pinocchios.”

  • Get a load of this wild Sinclair town hall discussion on “youth & morality” 

    Sinclair says such discussions are a “significant public interest benefit” for stations it buys

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Last night, Sinclair Broadcast Group station WJLA hosted a “town hall” discussion on "youth & morality" featuring morally bankrupt media personality Armstrong Williams, young conservative talking heads Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens, a campus carry activist, and a Daily Caller reporter (among others) -- and Sinclair wants you to believe it’s for the public good.

    The town hall was branded as both an episode of Sinclair-linked commentator Armstrong Williams’ show and a part of Sinclair’s ongoing town hall discussion series. The town hall does not appear to have yet aired on WJLA and it’s not clear if it has aired or will air on the WJLA-operated local Washington, D.C., cable channel News Channel 8, but it’s posted in full on WJLA’s website.

    Sinclair touts its “Your Voice, Your Future” local town halls as a public service and an opportunity to “alert, inform, empower and engage our audience.” Here’s a quick clip to give you an idea of how that went:

    For this event, “morality” actually meant Christianity specifically

    Though the panel was titled “Youth & Morality,” it was advertised as largely focusing on one study that showed dwindling millennial identification with Christianity, which WJLA characterized as a sign of “unprecedented moral decline.” The panel discussion was filmed at the Museum of the Bible.  

    Two minutes into the town hall, host Armstrong Williams asked the audience to raise their hands if they believe in God. (Williams also asked for audience members to raise their hands if they were atheist; one person did and panelists grimaced.) Williams’ first question for the panelists followed from there: “Can you be moral and good and not believe in God?” (Most of the panelists agreed that it was possible but not as easy.) Within eight minutes, panelists were equating “objective truth” with a belief in a Christian god and arguing that the inability to identify objective truths was “cultural Marxist.”

    At one point during a commercial break, Williams can be heard joking on a live mic, “Don’t fall asleep on me!” The panel returned from that break to listen to Charlie Kirk talk about “the distinction between Christianity and other religions.”  

    The “morality” panel was hosted by the notoriously morally challenged Armstrong Williams

    The town hall was hosted by conservative pundit Armstrong Williams, who has significant ties to Sinclair. Williams hosts a weekly show that airs on the Sinclair-owned News Channel 8 in the D.C. area and is syndicated on other Sinclair local TV stations across the country. Williams also owns several local TV stations through his holding company, Howard Stirk Holdings, which in turn sends business back to Sinclair through operations agreements.

    Williams is a close confidante of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Ben Carson, even doing public relations work on behalf of Carson while continuing to also work as a media figure. (He also served as a Carson presidential campaign adviser while maintaining his weekly hosting duties.) Recently, Williams has aligned himself with other members of the Trump administration, joining Sinclair CEO David Smith in meeting with Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai -- who was then a commissioner -- to advocate for pro-industry policies the day before Trump’s inauguration. About two months later, Williams hosted Pai on his show for a friendly interview.

    Back in 2005, Williams used an earlier version of his syndicated show to promote Bush administration education policies, failing to note he was paid $240,000 by the administration to do so. The Government Accountability Office subsequently found that the Bush Department of Education had violated federal laws about covert government propaganda by paying Williams for the promotion.

    Williams has also settled at least two sexual harassment suits -- one in 1997 involving reports that he “repeatedly kissed and fondled” a former producer for his now-defunct radio show over the course of nearly two years, and another in 2017 alleging that he groped and sought sexual favors from a former employee and later retaliated against the man.

    During the panel, Williams talked about his daily prayer routine and decision not to “use profane language” at work because he is the “moral leader” in his office.

    Several participants also seem to struggle with morals

    The panel featured eight participants in addition to Williams, the majority of whom were young conservative media figures who fall at various points on the spectrum from extreme or blatantly racist to embarrassing or just boring.

    TPUSA’s Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens both participated in parts of the town hall. Frequent Fox News guest and conservative “boy wonder” Kirk is the founder of TPUSA, a group best known for a misguided 2017 protest in which its members wore adult diapers to “trigger the libs,” but whose stated mission is to “identify, educate, train, and organize students to promote the principles of freedom, free markets, and limited government.” Kirk, Owens, and TPUSA frequently fearmonger about suppression of conservative speech on college campuses while themselves leading a McCarthyist doxxing effort against liberal professors. Meanwhile, TPUSA has defended at least one professor with ties to a white nationalist group and several of its leading members have been outed for expressing patently racist sentiments, e.g. the group’s former national field director making the statement “I HATE BLACK PEOPLE.”

    Owens, TPUSA’s communications director, is another Fox News regular and “a far-right vlogger and conspiracy theorist” who has lately garnered media attention after rapper Kanye West praised “the way Candace Owens thinks.” Owens gained attention from far-right MAGA trolls after she posted a video in the wake of the deadly Charlottesville, VA, “Unite the Right” rally in which she dismissed white supremacy as a narrative pushed by the media, leading to her appearance on conspiracy theory outlet Infowars. Owens has also called for all DREAMers to be deported and has argued that immigrants directly harm the black community.

    During the town hall discussion, Owens lamented that conservatives were allowing themselves to be “silenced by liberal outrage” and said that younger conservatives and Christians ought to “punch back.”

    The Daily Caller’s Amber Athey also participated in the discussion. The Daily Caller is Tucker Carlson’s sexist and racist brainchild, which frequently dabbles in anti-Semitism, anti-trans rhetoric, far-right conspiracy theories, and celebrity bikini photo slideshows, and makes light of sexual assault. Athey herself has tweeted anti-Semitic jokes, and repeatedly used the slurs “fag” and ”faggot,” and, in one case, “nigga$.” (Athey has since deleted the tweets, but they are available via archive.is.)

    During the town hall discussion, Athey complained, “There are a lot of ideas on college campuses that -- if they’re conservative or they’re religious, they’re considered taboo and you’re not allowed to say it. Otherwise you’re considered a bigot.”  

    Town hall participant Antonia Okafor describes herself as “one of the country’s foremost advocates of concealed carry on campus” and has previously appeared in NRA media. Okafor makes regular media appearances pushing NRA-backed myths about campus carry, arguing that carrying concealed firearms would make young black women safer. In reality, the presence of firearms in domestic violence situations, for example, puts women’s lives -- and especially black women’s lives -- at significantly greater risk. And household gun ownership in general only increases the risk of death due to homicide, suicide, or accident; Okafor’s agenda would put women in greater danger.

    Rounding out the participant list are right-wing media figures Jason Russell, an editor at the conservative Washington Examiner, and Shermichael Singleton, an aspiring conservative pundit who briefly worked at Carson’s HUD before he was fired for anti-Trump writings. Preacher and lobbyist Quadricos Driskell and American Legislative Exchange Council-affiliated conservative attorney Shelby Emmett also participated.

    Sinclair cites town halls like this as evidence its expansion would benefit the public

    Sinclair has used its “Your Voice, Your Future” town halls -- also the platform former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka used to decry “black African gun crime” last fall -- to argue that Sinclair-owned and -operated local TV stations are providing greater services to the public. In one Federal Communications Commission (FCC) filing, Sinclair pointed to the discussion series as evidence that its planned acquisition of Tribune Media would create a “significant public interest benefit.”

    The FCC is currently reviewing the Sinclair-Tribune deal specifically to ensure it would benefit the public and has signaled it will make a decision following a comment period that ends on July 12.

    Eric Hananoki contributed research to this post.