Fox News’ Sean Hannity is pushing yet another lie seeking to derail the nomination of Vanita Gupta, President Joe Biden’s nominee for associate attorney general, a new fever dream concocted by the smear outfit Judicial Crisis Network aimed at influencing Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) vote on her nomination.
The convoluted lie Hannity adopted is absurdly attenuated: Manchin should vote against the nominee because while West Virginia is in the throes of an opioid epidemic, according to Hannity and the Judicial Crisis Network (JCN), Gupta supports the decriminalization of all drugs in order to profit off of stock in a company connected to her father that formerly produced an essential chemical for the production of heroin and methamphetamine in Mexico.
This Glenn Beck-esque conspiracy theory mongering ignores the facts presented at Gupta’s recent Senate hearing. Contrary to the smear, just last week Gupta made it clear that she supports decriminalization only of marijuana, consistent with her commitment to President Joe Biden’s positions.
Fresh off of a thoroughly debunked and baseless attack that the overwhelming law enforcement support for Gupta was the result of a mysterious quid pro quo, the right-wing smear campaign against Gupta has now turned to a new ad produced by JCN. Whereas JCN’s previous sleazy ad buy focused on the Washington, D.C., market prior to the hearing in an attempt to lie about Gupta’s position on police reform, the new ad directly targets Manchin -- presumably because he might break with Democrats, despite his indication he won’t.
On March 17, Sean Hannity hosted JCN’s chief counsel and policy director, Carrie Severino, on his radio show to repeat this new line of attack on Gupta. Both Severino and the new ad (which Hannity played on air) use a Bloomberg Businessweek report from August 26, 2020, that did indeed confirm U.S. chemical company Avantor, whose board Gupta’s father chairs and in which she owns stocks, sold a precursor of heroin and methamphetamine in Latin America but stopped after the Bloomberg report apparently spurred a Mexican investigation into its distribution. For Gupta’s part, a spokesperson for Biden’s transition explained, “Vanita Gupta has never had any role whatsoever with Avantor” and “as she emphasized in her confirmation hearing, she will divest from stocks she controls and fully recuse herself from any matters concerning the company. She would have no involvement in any issues related to the company if they were to arise. And she will respond directly to the senators on the committee.”
Severino and Hannity, however, took the story a step further on the March 17 show with the false suggestion that Gupta currently supports the decriminalization of all drugs in order to profit off of these Avantor stocks. Severino added, “Coincidence? I think not.” But as Gupta explained at her March 9 hearing, the article she co-authored in 2012 as an ACLU attorney, which argued for criminal justice reform that includes decriminalization of small amounts of all drugs, no longer represents her current position. As reported by The Washington Post:
She said that while she agrees with Biden’s position on decriminalizing marijuana, she no longer believes in a broader effort to relax drug laws, a position she had supported in a 2012 op-ed. Gupta cited her time overseeing the Justice Department’s civil rights division from 2014 to 2017 and personal family experiences for the evolution in her views.
Gupta said it would be up to the Biden White House to set the administration’s policy, while her job would be to help enforce the law with input from local police and community groups.
Manchin might not appreciate Severino and Hannity hiding this fact as they callously use the overdose of West Virginians to yet again push a lie about Gupta.