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Transgender Bay Staters have shared their thoughts about Question 3, which could dismantle the state's trans-inclusive nondiscrimination law
Massachusetts print and TV outlets lifted up the voices of transgender folks and their loved ones, who explained how dismantling the state’s trans-inclusive public accomodations nondiscrimination law would personally affect them and their community. Media often fail to feature the people who would be most impacted by the policies they cover.
On November 6, Massachusetts residents will vote on Question 3, a ballot referendum to determine the fate of the state’s trans-inclusive nondiscrimination law. In 2016, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker signed a law that expanded the state’s existing nondiscrimination protections for transgender people to include public accommodations such as bathrooms and locker rooms. The state’s existing law had already protected transgender residents from discrimination in housing and the workplace. Earlier this year, Anchorage residents defeated a similar anti-transgender referendum.
A recent poll by University of Massachusetts Lowell and The Boston Globe estimated that 74 percent of likely voters want to uphold the state’s current law but also found that voters have widespread confusion around the wording of ballot Question 3. Even though the referendum was created to dismantle trans rights protections, a “yes vote” actually supports the existing protections and a “no vote” repeals them. According to CBS Boston, researchers found that “many voters had trouble understanding the ballot question and what their vote would mean.” Anti-LGBTQ opponents in favor of a “no” vote have relied on the thoroughly debunked "bathroom predator" myth, baselessly fearmongering that allowing transgender people access to public accommodations that align with their gender identity poses a threat to safety and privacy in bathrooms and locker rooms, especially that of women and girls.
Media often fail to include members of impacted communities when talking about issues that are important to them. A Media Matters report of coverage of trans issues on Fox News found that the network didn’t host a single openly transgender guest over nine months. Additionally, networks often exclude the Muslim and Hispanic communities in related coverage, and news coverage discussing the GOP’s health care rollback regularly ignored people of color and the LGBTQ community. As Massachusetts residents consider their vote next month, local outlets are featuring the stories of transgender Bay Staters and their families to explain why the existing law is important to their community.
Cape Cod newspaper The Sandwich Enterprise featured an October 10 op-ed by Eric Nelson, a Massachusetts resident and father of a transgender son, urging voters to support the current protections by voting “yes on Question 3.” Nelson acknowledged that at first he had trouble understanding his son’s gender identity but noted that he “saw the remarkable change in his self-confidence and happiness after he finally shared” his identity with his family and friends. He also pointed to disparities faced by transgender people, including a 41 percent attempted suicide rate “compared to 1.6 percent of the general population,” and highlighted how trans students often suffer “harassment from fellow students, teachers, medical personnel, strangers in public areas, even parents and other family members.” In addition, Nelson shined a light on the scourge of anti-transgender violence and homicides, writing, “In 2017, there were 28 documented victims in the US.” Media Matters found that major national cable and TV news outlets generally ignore stories about that violence. From the op-ed:
I want both of my children to be safe from all threats, and would do anything — anything — to protect them. But there are too many legitimate threats out there for me to be concerned about false ones like the claim that male predators will masquerade as transgender women to access women’s bathrooms.
Anti-discrimination laws that include gender identity have been around for years in 19 states and 200 municipalities, and there is no evidence to support this claim.
No, what I fear most are those who would harm or harass my son, or deny him basic rights like using a public restroom, simply because he’s transgender. If anything, he’s the one at risk.
Mariel Addis, a transgender Bay Stater, wrote an October 10 op-ed for the Daily Hampshire Gazette, which stressed that many people who fear or oppose transgender rights likely do not even know a transgender person. She wrote that while some opponents “believe that the negative stories put forth by the opponents of Ballot Question 3 are true -- in reality, they don’t hold water.” Addis shared that she underwent her gender transition “alone, without the support of much of my family,” calling it “the best thing I have ever done for myself.” She continued, “I don’t regard my transition as a choice, but as a necessity,” also writing that it was “the most difficult challenge I have ever encountered, but I have been rewarded for taking it on.” After sharing her story, she urged readers to protect her rights because transgender “people deserve your respect and the same rights to live as every other citizen in the Commonwealth."
The Daily Hampshire Gazette published a separate piece featuring others who would be disproportionately affected by Question 3. “Western Massachusetts Parents of Transgender Adults” wrote a September 26 op-ed that said, “We care about the safety of our children, and we worry about the dangers when society legalizes discrimination.” The group pointed to a study which revealed “that 65% of transgender people in Massachusetts faced discrimination in a public place in the prior year.” The op-ed went on to note that “this is not just an issue for us, the parents. We believe that our community — all of you — care. In a world of growing hate and fear, voting to uphold these vital protections for all is something you can do.”
Sabrina Renaud, a caregiver for a transgender child, wrote an October 9 letter to the editor to local outlet the Reading Patch, saying that the state’s current law “makes for a safer and more welcoming community for everyone.” She said that a repeal of trans-inclusive protections would be “disheartening and terrifying.” She continued: “All people, but children especially, need to feel validated and supported in order to thrive and it worries me to think of the message that will be sent if the current law is not upheld when voters go to the ballot this November.”
WGBH News, Boston’s NPR station, aired a debate on its show Greater Boston on September 27 between “Yes on 3” representative Mimi Lemay, the mother of a transgender child, and Massachusetts Family Institute (MFI) president Andrew Beckwith of the “No on 3” campaign. Lemay discussed the impact the upcoming vote will have on her family and pushed back against Beckwith’s claims that the current law risks the safety and privacy of women and girls. Beckwith repeatedly pushed the “bathroom predator” myth, which Lemay debunked by citing the Williams Institute’s recent study which found “no uptick at all” in cases of sexual misconduct due to Massachusetts’ law. She also highlighted that a majority of transgender residents in the state have reported harassment in public accommodations. From the September 27 edition of WBGH News’ Greater Boston:
Transgender people, like my son Jacob, they live in this state. They have a right to go about and enjoy everything this state has to offer -- restaurants, bookstores, cafes, hospitals -- without fear of being harassed. The harm that is done to them on a daily basis is real. What you [Beckwith] are creating, this fear, is not real, and as a mother, this concerns me.
In addition to outlets in Massachusetts lifting up the voices of transgender folks and their loved ones, Teen Vogue published an October 12 op-ed by Nicole Talbot, a transgender Massachusetts teen, continuing in its trend of high-quality political coverage. Talbot wrote that though she is not old enough to vote, she is sharing her story to encourage voters to protect her rights and uphold the state’s law. She also noted that “a small group of opponents forced the issue to a ballot referendum” by depicting transgender people as “criminals in restrooms” and “airing scary, misleading ads that claim protecting people like me harms the safety of others.” From the op-ed:
This law has been in place for two years and there has been no increase in incidents that opponents claim will happen. A crime is still a crime and harassment in restrooms remains illegal. In fact, police associations and women's organizations publicly support this law. It is making us all more safe, not less.
I encourage Massachusetts voters to get the facts. Transgender people are people just trying to live their lives. When voters see Question 3 through this lens, the answer is simple: Yes to uphold the current law. Yes to ensure transgender people have the same protections as everyone else. Yes to set the example of equality for the rest of the nation.
Beckwith’s anti-LGBTQ state organization, Massachusetts Family Institute (MFI), is associated with several extreme anti-LGBTQ groups at the national level: It is a state ally of the Family Policy Alliance, and it is also partnered with Focus on the Family, Family Research Council, and Alliance Defending Freedom.
MFI has opposed the existing trans-inclusive law since it was first introduced in 2016. Within weeks of the bill becoming law, the group launched its “Keep Massachusetts Safe” campaign to garner signatures for the ballot referendum that seeks to repeal the law.
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Conservative media used an out-of-context video to falsely claim that Senate candidate Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) called all Arizonans "crazy." As local journalists explained, the full context of her remarks shows that Sinema was clearly referring only to Republican lawmakers in Arizona who were promoting extremist legislation, such as the state’s racially discriminatory SB 1070 "papers please" law.
This smear originated with an October 11 tweet from the Twitter account “The Reagan Battalion,” described by The Associated Press as “an anonymous conservative group,” which published a 65 second-long video with clear edits at the 23 and 30 second marks, stripping Sinema's remarks of necessary context. According to the tweet, Sinema mocked “Arizonans as 'Crazy' and calls Arizona the 'crazy' state."
— The Reagan Battalion (@ReaganBattalion) October 11, 2018
As of 11 a.m. EDT today, that crudely edited video had roughly 240,000 views. The Reagan Battalion later posted a full 5 minute 23 second version on its YouTube account, suggesting it had the full context all along. The original, uncut video had only 3,129 views as of 11 a.m.
Fox News host Sean Hannity ran with this false framing, citing The Reagan Battalion and saying the video showed Sinema "calling Arizonans, the people she wants to vote for her, crazy."
Conservative outlet Independent Journal Review (IJR) embedded the deceptively edited Reagan Battalion video and tweet in a piece that falsely blared in its headline: “Leaked Video Shows Arizona Dem Senate Candidate Mocking Arizonans as ‘Crazy’ While in Texas.” Talk radio host and MSNBC contributor Hugh Hewitt tweeted: “Wow: ‘Sinema Called Arizonans “Crazy” at Texas Democratic Event in 2011,’” linking to a Washington Free Beacon story with a similarly misleading headline, despite the body of the piece acknowledging that she was referring to Republican lawmakers. Fox & Friends also aired an edited version of Sinema’s remarks which included her reference to Republicans lawmakers, yet the show still falsely claimed in an on-air graphic that “Sinema mocked Arizonans as ‘crazy’ in 2011.”
But local journalists quickly made clear that conservatives were wrong to claim Sinema was referring to all Arizonans as “crazy.” Arizona Capitol Times editor Luige del Puerto called out The Reagan Battalion in a tweet, pointing out the clear edits and demanding it “show the unedited version so we can hear her whole speech.” He also told IJR that it was wrong to promote the misleadingly edited video. And The Arizona Republic published an article on Sinema’s full remarks with the correct context and a factually correct headline: “Kyrsten Sinema in 2011: 'There’s something wrong with the people in public office in Arizona.’” The lede of the article stated: “Rep. Kyrsten Sinema seven years ago ridiculed as ‘crazy’ the Republican elected officials leading the state at the time, and the anti-illegal immigration legislation that began in Arizona and was being replicated in state Capitols across the nation.”
And Sinema was absolutely correct about the extremist nature of the Republican legislators in Arizona. The 2010 Arizona anti-immigrant bill SB 1070, known as the “papers please” law because it required police to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect of being in the country without authorization, was so extreme that the Supreme Court struck down three out of four provisions of the law in 2012. The remaining provision that required officers to question people’s immigration status and demand immigration documents was largely rendered moot in 2016 when the state settled a lawsuit brought by immigrants’ rights groups. The Arizona Republic explained that the law “sparked a national outcry” and “led to a torrent of canceled trips to Arizona by would-be tourists and conventioneers, and travel bans by cities and organizations around the country who deemed the legislation discriminatory and in violation of federal law.” The same article pointed out other extreme legislation introduced by Republicans in the state legislature that year:
In 2011, the year of Sinema’s remarks, Republicans at the Arizona Capitol had introduced other legislation targeting undocumented immigrants.
One bill would have required hospitals to check a person’s legal status and notify law enforcement if they suspected the person was in the United States illegally. Another would have banned illegal immigrants from going to state universities and community colleges, and from getting federal benefits.
A third targeted the issue of birthright citizenship.
All of the bills failed.
Russell Pearce, who was singled out in Sinema’s remarks and authored the SB 1070 legislation, was forced into a recall election over the bill and lost to another Republican the year after it was signed into law.
Fox News, ABC, and NBC have completely ignored the news that Georgia's secretary of state, a GOP gubernatorial candidate, is sitting on tens of thousands of voter applications, while CNN and CBS just began covering it today
Georgia’s secretary of state and Republican gubernatorial candidate, Brian Kemp, is blocking the voter registrations of tens of thousands of people in his state, potentially keeping them away from the polls on November 6 in his face-off against Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams. His voter suppression tactics, which disproportionately affect Black voters, aren't new, but they are a direct assault on voting rights, and most national TV news stations have completely ignored the story.
On October 9, The Associated Press reported that Kemp has “cancelled over 1.4 million voter registrations since 2012” through purges of voter rolls, including almost 670,000 registrations in 2017 alone. Additionally, the AP found that Kemp is currently holding up 53,000 new voter registration applications; nearly 70 percent of those applications come from Black citizens, in a state that is 32 percent Black. The applications are ostensibly being held because the information on them does not exactly match state or federal records, but these disparities could be as minor as a missing hyphen or a typo.
Many Georgians may be unaware that their applications have been put on hold or that they’ve been purged from the voter rolls, and now that the October 9 deadline to register to vote has passed, Kemp may have successfully suppressed their vote come November. Voters whose applications are being held up may still be able to vote if they present the right form of ID at their polling place, but this fact has been poorly publicized and could result in confusion for poll workers. This is just the latest episode in a well-established pattern of Republicans employing voter suppression tactics. Blocking people -- and especially minorities -- from voting is an obvious attack on democracy that deserves widespread media coverage. Unfortunately, most of TV news has turned a blind eye to Kemp’s suppressive tactics.
Fox News, NBC, and ABC all completely ignored the story this week, making no mention of Kemp’s voter suppression since the AP report dropped on October 9. CBS made one attempt to cover the story, a quick report on its morning news show on October 12. CNN also failed to cover the story this week until October 12, when its programs finally began including packaged reports and other segments.
MSNBC is the only network to adequately cover the story, with mentions of Kemp’s voter suppression starting on Tuesday and reports on details of the story beginning on Wednesday. On October 11 alone, MSNBC discussed the story on seven of its programs and dedicated over half an hour of coverage total, and the network has continued its reporting today. The coverage has been quick to condemn Kemp’s actions, offer details about the AP report, and effectively explain the craven and political motivations behind Republican voter suppression:
This isn’t Kemp’s first foray into widespread voter suppression, nor is it the media’s first time botching coverage on important stories about voting rights. Fox News has long served as an ally in Republican attempts to stop voters from making it to the polls, but by failing to report on these efforts, mainstream media are also complicit in the destruction of voting rights.
Media Matters searched the Snapstream video database’s transcript and closed-captioning archive for any instances of the words “Georgia,” “Kemp,” “Abrams,” “exact match, "exact matching,” any iterations of the words “purge” or “suppress,” or any use of the word “vote” within 10 words of “purge” or “roll” between October 9, when the story broke, and October 12 on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, ABC, NBC, and CBS.
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Pro-Trump media figures smear Sinema, a Senate candidate, as “an actual Islamic terrorist”
The Republican Party and pro-Trump media figures are smearing Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) as either a terrorist supporter or “an actual Islamic terrorist” over two 2003 events at Arizona State University she promoted that featured controversial criminal defense attorney Lynne Stewart. Stewart, who represented terror group leader Omar Abdel Rahman, known as “the blind sheikh,” was convicted two years after these events for conspiracy to provide material support of terrorism.
Following publication of an October 10 FoxNews.com article headlined “Senate Dem hopeful Kyrsten Sinema promoted events featuring convicted terror lawyer,” the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) quickly issued a press release smearing Sinema for supposedly having “promoted terrorists.” (The FoxNews.com headline itself is misleading as the article notes that, at the time, Stewart had been charged but not yet convicted.) The NRSC press release inaccurately stated that Sinema was “sympathizing with convicted terrorists.” It also claimed that she “fervently defended the attorney who was convicted of providing material support to a terrorist organization, and promoted her on campus, saying she was ‘emphatically not guilty’ and blamed the ‘hastily enacted PATRIOT Act’ for her conviction.” The quotes are from 2003, before Stewart was convicted. Stewart died in 2017, but her conviction remains controversial in legal circles.
NRSC communications staffer Calvin Moore leaped beyond this smear in a tweet claiming Sinema has “ties to the mastermind behind the first World Trade Center bombing,” which is patently absurd and false.
Two far-right media personalities helped push the Republican smear about Sinema. Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft falsely declared in an October 11 blog post that “Democrat Kyrsten Sinema is a terrorist supporter.” Hoft pulled this description from Mike Cernovich, who at first tweeted that Sinema “worked with an actual Islamic terrorist,” then descended further into absurdity by eventually calling Sinema “an actual Islamic terrorist” and saying she’s “an actual terrorist supporter, a literal f-cking terrorist.”
OK we live in heated times.
And rhetoric often doesn't match reality.
Arizona Democratic Senate Candidate @kyrstensinema worked with an actual Islamic terrorist.
— Mike Cernovich 🇺🇸 (@Cernovich) October 11, 2018
Arizona Democrats are running an actual Islamic terrorist for Senate.
How the f-ck did this happen!https://t.co/88QhELVcby
— Mike Cernovich 🇺🇸 (@Cernovich) October 11, 2018
This is absolutely terrifying.
Half of Arizona is supporting an actual terrorist supporter, a literal f-cking terrorist.https://t.co/88QhELVcby
— Mike Cernovich 🇺🇸 (@Cernovich) October 11, 2018
Hoft is no stranger to inviting people under indictment to speak. Former national security adviser Mike Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, recently spoke and received an award at an event sponsored by Hoft’s Gateway Pundit. His website also has a history of supporting controversial speakers who are invited to college campuses. For his part, Cernovich is accustomed to drawing opposition to his controversial campus appearances, and he has even accompanied a neo-Nazi to a campus rally. Yet they are nevertheless suggesting that by inviting people to a campus event to hear from a defense attorney, Sinema is either supporting terrorists or acting as one herself.
Recent reporting has revealed indisputable voter suppression efforts in North Dakota and Georgia that appear to specifically target Native and Black communities. While these racist disenfranchisement efforts are obviously notable in the lead-up to next month’s midterm elections, media fail the public when they simply focus on the impact in the short-term and turn the story into another horse-race conversation. The real story here is the long-term, conservative-led effort to systematically dismantle voting rights for people of color -- and it won’t go away after November.
On October 9, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to suspend a lower federal court ruling that requires North Dakota voters to show identification with a residential address in order to vote. This requirement effectively disenfranchises Native American tribal residents, as many do not have the acceptable identification or don’t list residential addresses on their IDs. As the plaintiffs in the original court case explained, the U.S. Postal Service doesn’t deliver to residences in rural tribal communities so residents instead list P.O. boxes on tribal IDs. In her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted that “the risk of disfranchisement is large” in clearing the way for the state to enforce this voter ID requirement after it had previously been blocked during primary voting.
On the same day, The Associated Press reported that Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp (who is also currently running for governor on the Republican ticket) has actively purged “over 1.4 million voter registrations since 2012,” and currently has “over 53,000 registrations sitting on hold.” AP’s analysis revealed that nearly 70 percent of the 53,000 “on hold” registrations were those of Black voters, an astonishing statistic when the state population is only 32 percent Black. The reasons for holding a registration vary, and can include simple errors in entry or “a dropped hyphen in a last name, for example.”
Both of these efforts began well before the current election cycle. Mother Jones reports that North Dakota Republicans began tightening state voter ID laws after Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp was first elected in 2012. Kemp was first elected secretary of state in 2010, but his office began its purge as early as 2012 as well. It’s not even the only move Kemp has made to suppress votes in Georgia in recent months. Both fit into the broader systemic dismantling of voting rights in America, signaled by the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act in the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder case, and subsequent rulings granting states greater freedom to dictate their own election maps and voting requirements -- tools that some states have used to create stricter barriers to voting access for communities of color.
Right-wing media have been cheering on the conservative voter suppression campaign for as long as it has been underway, helpfully propping up bogus claims of widespread voter fraud to justify this clear and targeted racist disenfranchisement.
Media silence about the systemic dismantling of voting rights -- as was the case for coverage of the 2016 races -- should not be an option. Instead, media’s responsibility is to present the full context and actively counter the decades-long trend in voter suppression perpetrated by the right-wing political and media ecosystem.
Coverage ought to focus on conveying the message that instances of voter suppression are both far from isolated, and far from random in the communities they affect. And even summing up in-depth reports that do provide this context with narrow midterms-focused headlines, like these, is itself a disservice:
[New York, 10/10/18]
It’s just one step above a headline that tells readers nothing at all.
Framing the latest voter purges from Georgia and North Dakota as purely horse-race developments effectively erases the opportunity to address the racist erosion of voting rights. This is not simply about a red or blue wave, or about polling numbers, or campaign strategy. This is not a matter of being bad for Democrats or good for Republicans. And this will not go away after next month.
Black and Native people are being robbed of their voices at the polls in service of a conservative structure that will only work to systematically reinforce and further these voter suppression efforts in the future. Racism is a feature of this system, not a bug.
Every time we see a headline about one specific and seemingly isolated disenfranchisement effort, we are deprived of the chance to make larger connections; to understand the rot at the core of our electoral system; and to fight it.
"When they go low, we kick them” doesn’t mean to actually kick someone
Speaking to a group of Democrats in support of Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Adams, former Attorney General Eric Holder riffed on Michelle Obama’s “when they go low, we go high” line from the 2016 Democratic National Convention to comment on the need for Democrats to fight back against voter suppression efforts -- a legitimate concern, especially in that state.
“Michelle always says, ‘When they go low, we go high,'” said Holder at last weekend’s event. “No. No. When they go low, we kick them. That’s what this new Democratic Party is about. We’re proud as hell to be Democrats. We’re willing to fight for the ideals of the Democratic Party.”
Just from that quote, it should be obvious that Holder wasn’t talking about physically kicking anybody, but lest someone misinterpret his comment as a call to violence, he clarified:
“Now, when I say, you know, ‘we kick ‘em,’ I don’t mean we do anything inappropriate. We don’t do anything illegal. But we’ve got to be tough and we’ve got to fight for the very things that John Lewis, Martin Luther King, Whitney Young, you know, all those folks gave to us. That stuff can be taken away. That’s what they want to do.”
On Wednesday’s edition of Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight, the host called Holder an “illustrious thug” after playing the context-free version of Holder’s comments.
“You know, when I think what we’ve just gone through and when I think of what Justice [Brett] Kavanaugh and his family have gone through, and I think of the ignorance of the radical Dems on that committee and in that party and what they’re saying, and watching Eric Holder in Georgia, talking big like he’s some sort of street thug, I can’t imagine what it would take to infuriate, to motivate Republicans to get to the polls and take five others with them,” Dobbs said later in the program.
On Thursday’s Fox & Friends, Holder’s comments racked up a number of mentions. Yet again, the latter half of his statement, where he explicitly said that he’s not referring to committing acts of violence, was omitted.
“Wow, that's the new Democratic Party? Just start kicking people? That's the former head of the Justice Department, keep that in mind,” said co-host Ainsley Earhardt.
President Donald Trump later called in to the show. Asked about what Holder said, Trump replied, “He better be careful what he is wishing for,” adding, “That is a disgusting statement for him to make.”
He went on to call it a “dangerous statement,” saying, “They talk about us. We are exactly opposite.” He then described his rallies as “really calm and well-run and packed with people. We don't have problems at our rallies, but they used to send in -- they don't do it anymore, they haven't, they probably, maybe they will try starting again -- but they used to send in protesters, paid protesters. The Democrats and Soros and they came from all over.”
Trump’s rallies during the 2016 campaign, however, were not the peaceful utopia he described on Thursday. There’s a stark contrast between the way Fox & Friends discussed these relatively harmless comments by Holder and how the show reacted when then-candidate Trump called in on November 22, 2015, to say of one protester who claimed to have been assaulted at one of his rallies: “Maybe he should have been roughed up.”
And as goes Fox News, so goes the rest of conservative media.
At RedState, Andrea Ruth wrote that “advocating physical violence … is really not the best look or direction for a party that got members worked up because people at a Trump rally chanted lock her up. … Let’s just hope no one gets hurt because they feel emboldened by Holder’s careless words,” she said, continuing the distortion.
Hot Air’s John Sexton wrote, “Of course, I think we all know what will happen the moment someone does this to Hillary or Eric Holder. Suddenly they’ll be shocked and appalled and claim they never had this in mind. They were only speaking metaphorically, etc., etc. Don’t believe it for a minute. They see what is happening out there. They know what kind of behavior they are encouraging.” In his update, he backpedalled, adding the additional comments and writing: “People on the left are pointing to this as evidence that Holder wasn’t endorsing violence or illegal behavior. Fair enough but if you read the post above you may have noticed I never said or even suggested he was recommending violence.”
Yeah, but you kind of did suggest that, John.
Violence, of course, is bad, and so is rhetoric that can incite it. But pretending that Holder meant “kick” opponents literally, that Sen. Tim Kaine’s (D-VA) “fight in the streets” comment were actually about throwing punches, or that Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) calling on supporters to “push back” on the Trump administration was an actual instruction to shove government officials (in fairness, she did say to confront them in public, but that’s hardly inciting language), it gets harder to take these claims seriously. Surely, those framing these messages as calls to violence in media know that it’s deceptive to do so.
Harrison Smith, a contributor to Alex Jones’ Infowars outlet, said that he is going to vote in a district he doesn’t live in because he failed to update his voter registration before Texas’ deadline. The comment came during a segment in which Smith introduced himself as one of the co-hosts of a new Infowars show focused on 2018 midterm election coverage and accused Democrats of breaking election laws.
Smith announced the new show during the October 9 edition of Infowars’ weekday afternoon show War Room, which is broadcast on Facebook, Infowars.com, and through terrestrial radio. War Room host Owen Shroyer and Jones will join Smith in hosting the show, which will air for two hours every weeknight until the November 6 elections under the banner “Banned 2018 Midterm Election Coverage.” Disturbingly, Infowars’ claims about elections have been previously promoted by the president: Trump’s lie that he “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally” originated with the outlet.
Speaking to Shroyer, Smith encouraged listeners to register to vote before deadlines to “match these numbers that the Democrats are talking about,” and then said, “Don’t put it off until the last day like I admit I did. I was on my way to the post office to mail my voter registration when I get a call saying, ‘Hey, can you host the War Room today?’ So I will have to go back to my old district to vote this year.” Shroyer responded, “Oh, my gosh. I cost you a vote.”
Texas law requires that individuals who move from one county to another submit a new voter registration application in person or via mail. Smith, who is based in Austin, TX, where Infowars’ studios are located, does not appear in public records of voters registered in Travis County, where Austin is located. He does, however, have an active voter registration in a different Texas county located more than 150 miles from Austin that started on January 1 and runs through 2019. Texas has been hypervigilant in prosecuting illegal voting cases, even in instances where the person being prosecuted didn’t realize they were violating voting laws.
Moments later, Shroyer accused Democrats of violating election laws. Shroyer said that Democrats are trying to “rig” the upcoming elections by eliminating the Electoral College, advocating for 16-year-olds to vote, and “obviously the old story, the non-citizen vote, the illegal immigrant vote.”
Shroyer told Infowars supporters, “Go to a Democrat event in your town where they’re registering people to vote and you watch them politicize it and force their hand, make them admit they’re politicizing it, make them admit they’re out there recruiting for Democrats, catch them on camera, then say, ‘Guess what, buddy? I just caught you breaking the law.’”
Shroyer suggested reporting election law violations to Texas officials and said, “Better watch out, Democrats, your desperation is leading you down a long, dark pathway of illegal criminal behavior that’s going to catch up with you.” Smith responded, “If only law applied to Democrats like it does to conservatives.”
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