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Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Fighting fierce criticism over his handling of a high-profile sex trafficking case from 2008, Labor Secretary Alex Acosta took to a lectern before cameras Wednesday to field questions from the press.

He has come under scrutiny for the extraordinary non-prosecution deal given to Jeffrey Epstein, a financier accused of trafficking dozens of underage girls and sexually abusing them. In 2008, rather than pressing federal sex trafficking charges as a U.S. attorney in Florida, Acosta oversaw an agreement with Epstein that resulted in his pleading guilty to a lesser state charge. He served only 13 months in a local jail and scored a work release program that allowed him to go to his office 12 hours a day, six days a week. A judge has since ruled that the prosecutors violated the law in the agreement by not informing the victims about the deal.

During the press conference on Wednesday, Acosta defended his actions and refused to apologize to the victims despite multiple opportunities. Acosta placed the blame for the light sentence on state prosecutors and suggested that he only care about putting Epstein in jail. He said he was only concerned with avoiding letting a sex offender walk free.

But while he spoke forcefully in his own defense, he remained light on the details of the case at crucial points. And he didn’t explain why the state prosecutor’s inclination to go easy on Epstein would have prevented him from bringing more serious federal charges and or forced him to accept such a lax plea deal.

Ken White, a former federal prosecutor and current defense attorney, said Epstein’s non-prosecution agreement was “the deal of the millennium, one utterly unlike anything else I’ve seen in 25 years of practicing federal criminal law.”

In perhaps the most revealing moment of the press conference, a reporter asked about one particular charge — which is now part of the case being brought by the Southern District of New York against Epstein — that Acosta didn’t bring: obstruction of justice.

“Are you aware of alleged obstruction of justice by Jeffrey Epstein?” a Daily Mail reporter asked. “It seemed to be mentioned in a bail memo by New York prosecutors. Did he take efforts to intimidate prosecutors, and if he did — or harass witnesses, tamper with witnesses — why would he get what’s been called a sweetheart deal?”

“I can’t comment on the New York case, that would not be appropriate,” Acosta said.

“But were you aware of that in Florida?” the reporter asked. “I’m talking about in Florida — ”

“Sir, there’s a pending case in New York, I can’t talk about that,” Acosta shot back.

It was an odd response since he spent the whole hour-long press conference talking about charges against Epstein. It suggested that this was a line of inquiry Acosta is not inclined to go down, even while he talked extensively about other aspects of the case. So why won’t he address the potential obstruction of justice that went uncharged?

He also offered similarly obfuscatory answers when pressed on why Epstein’s agreement included a provision that said prosecutors would not pursue charges against any potential “co-conspirators.” Acosta gave vague references suggesting this was necessary to get Epstein in jail, but it’s far from clear why this would be the case. He also indicated that there wasn’t evidence of co-conspirators who were themselves abusing girls, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t others involved in the trafficking itself.

And if there weren’t any other people involved in the trafficking, why would it have been necessary to include this provision in the non-prosecution agreement?

Acosta’s press conference did little to allay doubts about his credibility or answer these remaining questions about the case.

Blake Neff

Twitter screenshot

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

On July 10, CNN's Oliver Darcy reported that Blake Neff, the top writer for Tucker Carlson's prime-time Fox News show, had been anonymously posting racist, misogynistic, homophobic, and other offensive content on an online forum for five years. Neff used racist and homophobic slurs, referred to women in a derogatory manner, and pushed white supremacist content while writing for Carlson's show. Neff resigned after CNN contacted him for comment.

As Darcy reported, in an interview with the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine, Neff claimed anything Carlson read during his show was initially drafted by him. Darcy also found instances where there was "some overlap between the forum and the show," as sometimes the "material Neff encountered on the forum found its way on to Carlson's show."

During a 2018 appearance on Fox's The Five to promote his book Ship of Fools, Carlson mentioned Neff by name, calling him a "wonderful writer." Carlson also included Neff in the acknowledgments of the book.


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Before joining Fox News, Neff worked at The Daily Caller, a conservative news outlet that Carlson co-founded. The outlet has published a number of white supremacists, anti-Semites, and bigots.


Carlson has a long history of promoting white supremacist content on his show. His show has featured many guests who have connections to white supremacy and far-right extremism. Carlson has regularly been praised by Neo-Nazis and various far-right extremist figures, and he's been a hero on many white supremacist podcasts. Users of the extremist online message boards 4chan and 8chan have repeatedly praised Carlson.

The manifesto released by the gunman who killed 20 people in El Paso, Texas, in 2019 was strewn with content that echoed talking points from Carlson's show. Days after the shooting, Carlson declared that calling white supremacy a serious issue is a "hoax" as it is "actually not a real problem in America."

Carlson has been hemorrhaging advertisers following his racist coverage of the Black Lives Matters movement and the recent protests against police brutality. Now that we know his top writer was using content from white supremacist online message boards for Carlson's show, it is more imperative than ever that advertisers distance their brands away from this toxicity.