Turning Point USA | Media Matters for America

Turning Point USA

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  • A short history of Turning Point USA's racism

    These incidents of racism just keep happening

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Turning Point USA is often associated with the time its members wore diapers in an attempt at “triggering” liberals, but this should not be the only public failure the group is remembered for. The conservative organization, which focuses on increasing right-wing political influence on college campuses, has a long history of involvement in racist incidents that are now permanently linked to its name.

    TPUSA’s founder and executive director, Charlie Kirk, has repeatedly denied that his organization is racist, yet the incidents of blatant bigotry involving members of TPUSA keep happening, even as leaks show white nationalists plotting to infiltrate it. Kirk, the right-wing “boy wonder” who has used Fox News to turn fearmongering about left-wing ideology on college campuses into a profitable grift, has also successfully leveraged his “perfectly incoherent” sycophancy for the Trump administration into a cozy relationship with the president’s family -- a relationship seemingly unaffected by TPUSA’s pattern of racism.

    Here are incidents of racism involving TPUSA:

    • Former TPUSA National Field Director Crystal Clanton sent text messages to another TPUSA employee that said “I HATE BLACK PEOPLE. Like fuck them all . . . I hate blacks. End of story.” Kirk had previously said about Clanton: “Turning Point needs more Crystals; so does America.”

    • After firing Clanton when her racist text message became public, Kirk hired Shialee Grooman and Troy Meeker. HuffPost reported that Grooman had written several anti-gay and racist tweets that included the n-word and Meeker had also tweeted an anti-Black slur. HuffPost also reported that former TPUSA Midwest regional manager Timon Prax was pushed out because of his record of using “bigoted language in tweets and texts,” including racist jokes and messages that “made fun of black people and referred to them as slaves.”

    • A former TPUSA field director recalled watching speakers at one of the organization’s annual student summits who “spoke badly about black women having all these babies out of wedlock. It was really offensive.” Speaking to The New Yorker in 2017, the former employee said that “looking back, I think it was racist.”

    • TPUSA defended Florida Atlantic University professor and TPUSA chapter faculty adviser Marshall DeRosa after The Nation reported his ties to white nationalist group League of the South.

    • In her resignation letter addressed to TPUSA field director Frankie O’Laughlin and regional manager Alana Mastrangelo following the group’s disastrous diaper protest, far-right Infowars personality Kaitlin Bennett pointed out that O’Laughlin had “liked” tweets from white supremacist YouTuber James Allsup.

    • Kirk’s own Twitter feed has featured anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim tweets, and he once tweeted a flawed statistic that minimized police brutality against Black people: “Fact: A police officer is 18.5 times more likely to be killed by a black male, than an unarmed black man is to be killed by a police officer.”

    • At a December 2017 TPUSA conference, attendee Juan Pablo Andrade was recorded telling several other conference attendees, “The only thing the Nazis didn’t get right is they didn’t keep fucking going!”

    • Members of the TPUSA chapter at Florida International University shared “racist memes and rape jokes” in the group’s chat messages. According to the Miami New Times, a prominent chapter member had to tell other TPUSA members to “avoid using the n word and don't reference Richard Spencer too much and don't Jew hate ... all the time.”

    • TPUSA Director of Urban Engagement Brandon Tatum told anti-Semitic YouTuber Bryan “Hotep Jesus” Sharpe that Sharpe was banned from TPUSA events because of “the optics of the anti-Semitic rhetoric.” Tatum summarized TPUSA’s position as being “between a rock and a hard place” because while “personally, none of us have a problem with you -- we want you here. It’s the optics. The media.”

    • TPUSA originally listed Gab, a white supremacist-friendly social media platform, as a sponsor for its 2018 Student Action Summit but “quietly dropped the company” shortly before the event.

    • TPUSA’s Iowa State University chapter reportedly invited white nationalist YouTuber Nick Fuentes to speak on campus.

    • Speaking at the December 11 launch of Turning Point UK, then-TPUSA Communications Director Candace Owens said, "If Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well, OK, fine. ... I have no problems with nationalism."

    • TPUSA Chief Creative Officer Benny Johnson kicked off a TPUSA event by saying, “Oh my God, I've never seen so many white people in one room. This is incredible!”

    • Riley Grisar, president of TPUSA’s University of Nevada chapter, praised white supremacy, saying, “We’re going to rule the country! White power!” and using the n-word in a video uncovered by the anti-fascist website It’s Going Down News.

    • Update (5/23): Former TPUSA high school outreach director Kyle Kashuv apologized on May 22 for his use of racial slurs while in high school. Kashuv joined TPUSA after becoming a prominent pro-gun activist following a deadly shooting at the school he attended, Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. On April 26, Kashuv spoke at the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting, and as of May 16, he stepped down from his position at TPUSA. As reported by The Daily Beast, right-wing activists and Parkland students circulated a Google Doc and screenshots of texts attributed to Kashuv in which he had used the n-word repeatedly.

    Media Matters is updating this piece as more incidents of racism linked to TPUSA come to light.

    Alex Kaplan contributed research for this list.

  • Questioner at Fox town hall with Sen. Bernie Sanders has unstated ties to Turning Point USA

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    At Fox's town hall with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the first question went to Joe Basrawi, who asked a question about Sanders' becoming a millionaire as a result of his best-selling book.

    On Twitter, Jordan Uhl noted that Basrawi is listed on LinkedIn as a a campus coordinator with far-right campus group Turning Point USA. Uhl also noted that Basrawi's twitter is full of far right rhetoric.

    None of this was mentioned by Fox's on screen graphics or the anchors of the town hall, Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum.

  • Right-wing media exploit the death of an NFL player-turned-soldier to rebuke Colin Kaepernick

    Pat Tillman, however, was a critic of the Iraq War and his family has asked that his death not be politicized

    Blog ››› ››› TALIA LAVIN


    Melissa Joskow/Media Matters

    When Nike announced Sunday that Colin Kaepernick -- the former San Francisco 49ers player who initiated a peaceful protest for racial justice and against police brutality during the national anthem and ignited a firestorm of controversy -- was the new face of its “Just Do It” ad campaign, conservatives initiated a vicious backlash against the company. Social media lit up with videos of disgruntled customers burning their sneakers and cutting the company’s iconic swoosh logo out of their shorts and socks.

    But another motif quickly began to emerge out of the backlash against Nike.

    The company’s ad features a close-up shot of Kaepernick in black and white, with the slogan “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” (Kaepernick’s protest, which spread to other players in the NFL, is widely believed to have led to his exclusion from NFL rosters after the 2016 season; he is suing over alleged collusion between team owners to prevent him from being signed.) Overnight, conservatives began to use the slogan to rebuke Kaepernick -- by comparing him to Pat Tillman, a former NFL player who quit the league to enlist in the U.S. Army after 9/11 and was killed in Afghanistan in 2004.  

    Tweets lauding Tillman at Kaepernick’s expense received thousands of likes and were shared by conservative provocateurs including TPUSA’s Charlie Kirk, Fox News’ Stephen Miller, and the conservative YouTuber who goes by keemstar.

    Similar tweets were issued by Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) and Rep.  Doug Collins (R-GA):

     

    Similar memes on Facebook garnered tens of thousands of shares:

    Fox News also participated in the Kaepernick-Tillman comparison, airing commentary on the subject on its live-streaming “Fox News Update” program on Facebook:

    The NFL protests have become a hot-button issue in the midterms, most recently surfacing in dueling videos from the campaigns of Democratic nominee for Texas Senate seat Beto O’Rourke and his opponent Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). The comparison between Tillman and Kaepernick fits into a broader conservative pattern of positioning peaceful civilian protest as a rebuke to the sacrifice of soldiers and veterans.

    But it also fundamentally misrepresents Pat Tillman.

    Tillman left professional sports to enlist in the military in 2002. By 2003, after participating in the invasion of Iraq, according to family members and friends, Tillman had become a critic of the war and of President George W. Bush. According to former comrades-in-arms, he described the war in Iraq as “fucking illegal.” He planned to meet with anti-war author Noam Chomsky upon his return in 2004 -- but never made it, gunned down by friendly fire. The fact that Tillman had been killed by others in his platoon was not revealed to his family until five weeks after his funeral. The circumstances of his death -- and an elaborate cover-up involving changing stories, burned body armor, and medical examiner’s reports that conflicted with soldiers’ testimony -- was the subject of lengthy inquiry by Congress.

    In addition, Tillman’s family has directly asked the public not to politicize Pat’s death.

    When President Donald Trump shared a tweet directed against the protesting NFL players that featured Tillman’s name and face, Tillman’s widow, Marie, released a statement to CNN asking that her husband’s service not be “politicized in a way that divides us.”

    Defying the wishes of Tillman’s widow to score points against a Nike ad campaign seems, however, to not be beneath the dignity of right-wing commentators.