Tag: josh hawley
The Children's Hour: Why So Many Proto-Fascists Are Also Pedophiles

The Children's Hour: Why So Many Proto-Fascists Are Also Pedophiles

Ladies and gentlemen, please follow me to a corner of the American Freakshow tent where a group of tubby white guys who got into politics as family values Republicans hang their heads in shame. Faith-based to a thinning hair, while sipping Diet Cokes at local Trump campaign strategy meetings, or representing conservatives in Congress and state legislatures, they were apparently lining up sex with teens and children or -- eek -- flicking through child porn.

If you hang out in right-wing social media silos, you have no problem believing that the Democratic Party is teeming with baby-abusing demons and witches, fanged affiliates of the George Soros global elite pedophile cabal. You have seen Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene shrieking about liberal groomers whenever a TV camera points her way. Perhaps you even belong to QAnon, the fascist movement/religion that holds Donald Trump was sent to Earth to rescue trafficked children. As of last year a majority -- 52 percent -- of Republicans believed in its central tenet, that top Democrats are involved in sex trafficking rings.

Out here, outside the silos, we find this obsession baffling. Why do our proto-fascists see pedophiles under every proverbial bed?

Quite possibly, it’s because they do see them all the time - in broad daylight, in their own ranks.

I’ve always believed that if you prick a rock-ribbed conservative, the kink oozes out. Bullwhips and dominatrices, shoe fetishes, latex, all of it, smashed back in the closet. But what I didn’t see coming was the simultaneous emergence of men whose craving for juvenile flesh is on display and sometimes leads them to prison, belonging to a political party devoted to fanning the flames of a moral panic about the other side trafficking children.

The recent news of Stop The Steal organizer Ali Alexander’s habit of grooming teenage boys for sex -- he solicited dick pics from a number of them by text — got me thinking about this crazy confluence of desire and denial among the hard right herd.

A casual search hauls up an astonishing number of rightist characters from Dixie to DC to the Dakotas who have quite recently, many within the last five years, resigned from office or political jobs, or pled guilty, or been convicted, and are in prison. I’ll flip thorough the rogue’s galley quickly and then discuss what this is. Details are lurid. If you really want more, links are in the resource list at the end.

In Washington, last April, a jury convicted anti-abortion activists and former Republican National Committee staff member, Ruben Verastigui, was caught in a federal sting of a ring of men that traded child porn, including of babies. He admitted to possession of 152 videos and 50 images of child pornography and to receiving and distributing sexual depictions of children. He is serving a 12 and a half year prison sentence.

Two months ago, in Minnesota, a jury convicted Republican political operative Anton Lazzaro of seven counts involving child sex trafficking of 15 and 16 year old girls. Lazzaro “conspired with others to recruit and solicit six people under the age of 18 to engage in commercial sex” between May and December of 2020. Some of the victims testified that he would take them to his luxury Minneapolis condo and feed them Everclear, a 190 proof booze. Each of the seven counts carries a ten year mandatory sentence.

In Oklahoma, former Republican state senator Ralph Shortey was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison in 2018, on a child sex trafficking charge. Shortey was a county campaign coordinator for Trump in 2016. He pled guilty to child sex trafficking after being accused of soliciting sex from a 17-year-old boy in March. Shortey had voted for a measure the Oklahoma legislature passed that would allow business owners to discriminate against gay people.

Clockwise from top left: Folmer, Neal, Lazzaro, Pressler, Moore, Verastigui, Shortey, Koskan. Center: Trump kissing a teen.Image from American Political Freakshow

In Pennsylvania in 2019, Republican state senator Mike Folmer resigned after being arrested and charged with possession of child porn for uploading images to a Tumblr account in 2019. He spent a year in prison and now must keep authorities apprised of his whereabouts.

In Tennessee last May, federal prosecutors charged Putnam County Commissioner Jimmy Ray Neal with possession and distribution of child pornography. He allegedly went by the handle “Tennesseemaster” on an app used to share pictures of pre-pubescent children.

Last November, Joel Koskan, running for the third time as a Republican candidate for the South Dakota legislature, was charged with felony child abuse, after a family member reported that he groomed, molested, and raped her for years, starting when she was 12.

One state closer to Canada, in North Dakota, last spring, the state’s longest serving state senator, Ray Holmberg, resigned after reports that he exchanged a stream of text messages with a man jailed on child porn charges. Holmberg exchanged 72 text messages with Nicholas James Morgan-Derosier, who prosecutors say possessed several thousand images and videos depicting sexually abused children and took two children under the age of 10 from Minnesota to his Grand Forks home, with the intent of sexually abusing them. Holmberg said he couldn’t recall, but thought the texts exchanges were about a patio.

In Texas, anti-gay activist and one-time chairman of the Houston area Republican Party, Jared Woodfill, conceded in a deposition that he ignored complaints about the behavior of his law partner, the Baptist preacher Paul Pressler, with young men. A young man accused Pressler of repeatedly raping him in a church youth group. Woodfill had been informed that the preacher was a predator, who liked to tell young men lewd stories about men “naked on beaches” trying to lure them to skinny dip at his ranch.

In 2020, Trump campaign operative George Nader pled guilty to child porn and sex trafficking and was sentenced to ten years in prison. Prosecutors accused him of possessing pornographic images of children including some featuring toddler-age boys, baby goats, and other farm animals, and of arranging to transport a 14-year-old boy from the Czech Republic to his Washington home.

Trumpworld was creepy with men who had a thing for teens, starting with 45 himself. Alabama’s 2018 U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, was a notorious teen-girl harasser. Six women accused him of pursuing sex with them when they were as young as 14. Moore was so aggressive toward high school girls that a local mall actually banned him, according to the New York Times.

The revelations did not lose him Trump’s endorsement.

An Uncle Fester getting gnarled hands on a nubile is nothing new in conservative circles. The OG of Republican perviness was the late U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-SC), whose sex with a 15-year-old produced a child when he was in his 20s, and who went on to marry women one half and one third his age. Former Rep. Dennis Hastert, the longest serving Republican House Speaker, pled guilty to trying to pay a almost a million dollars in hush money to a teen wrestler he sexually abused while a wrestling coach in Illinois between 1965 bands 1981. At least six Republican Congressmen pleaded with the judge to give him leniency.

Is it just a coincidence that the rash of recent arrests and revelations about Republicans came in the wake of the election of a man who has bragged about walking in on half-naked Miss Teen USA’s getting dressed when they were in his pageants? Might there be something in the MAGA water?

Fascist author and pseudonymous Twitter personality Bronze Age Pervert, intellectual leader of young rightists, in his book Bronze Age Mindset, classifies humanity into three categories: superior men who "desire one thing above all, ever-flowing eternal fame among mortals," natural “bugmen,” dullards and serfs who make up the majority of men, and an intermediate class who alternate between serving the natural aristocracy and enforcing the hierarchy. In the Bronze Age Mindset, women “drain” men of their vitality and are responsible for all the world’s problems.

In the actual Bronze Age, slavery was common, girls were marriageable at 12 and probably younger, first cousins married each other, and females had little agency about who they had sex with. BAP, as he’s known, doesn’t explicitly say it, but an element of the Bronze Age Mindset’s vital male is that he be free to do what he wants with and to the bodies of “lesser” people - usually women, but also, perhaps, children, male or female.

This fantasy appeals beyond incel circles. As feminism empowered adult women, it has become more difficult to carry them off into proverbial caves. Are these self-considered superior men - -the Matt Gaetzes of the world, say -- turning to younger and younger girls?

The right studiously ignores this flaw in their project of elevating the neolithic male model. They blame liberals for a supposed epidemic of child sexualization, while in their ranks, sex criminals are going to prison.

State and federal laws apparently haven’t caught up with the Neanderthal trend.

I am not the first to point out that moral panics, like QAnon’s about children, erupt regularly in response to threatening social change. I recommend terrific discussions about how women going to work gave rise to Satanic panic hysteria in day care centers during the 1980s on the Conspirituality podcast. There are also many great essays, including one in Mother Jones, from which I excerpt:

With Pizzagate and QAnon, the molesters have changed from day-care workers to the liberal elite, and the politics behind the theories now are more explicitly spelled out. But the general context is more or less the same: conservative retrenchment after a period of progressive social gains. If women’s entry into the workplace in the latter half of the 20th century triggered deep anxieties about the decay of traditional gender roles and the family unit, in the 21st century it was same-sex marriage, growing acceptance of transgender rights, and the seeming cultural hegemony of a social justice agenda.

The twisted reality of conservative attitudes toward sex, women and children means that even as their ranks are infiltrated with pervs, they consistently use supposed dangers to women and children as a political cudgel against the other side. “I’ve noticed an alarming pattern when it comes to Judge Jackson’s treatment of sex offenders, especially those preying on children,” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) tweeted before the Ketanji Brown Jackson Supreme Court confirmation hearings. “Judge Jackson has a pattern of letting child porn offenders off the hook for their appalling crimes, both as a judge and as a policymaker.”

In fact that was a lie.

Republicans are the strongest defenders of Lolita-loving state laws allowing child marriage. Between 2000 and 2018, 300,000 girls between age 15 and 17 were married in the U.S. A significant portion of them -- 60,000 -- were under the age of sexual consent in their states. “Run Josh Run” Hawley hails from the great state of Missouri, which just happens to be a “destination wedding spot for 15-year-old brides,” per the Kansas City Star.

Hawley’s Deliverance home state had such lax laws about girl-man marriage that between 2000 and 2014, thousands of children were legally married there, many of them impregnated teens. The state recently increased its legal marriage age to 16, against the objections of legislators who openly supported child marriage. During recent debate about anti-transgender care legislation, one of them, Sen. Mike Moon, doubled down again apropos of parents’ rights to marry off (heterosexually of course) their children, whenever they want. Moon, who had voted no on the bill to raise the marriage age from 15 to 16, asked the legislature, “Do you know any kids who have been married at age 12?” When one of his colleagues replied, “I don’t need to.,” Moon -- a Republican, of course -- replied: “I do, and guess what, they’re still married.”

Related resources

Mike Folmer

Ruben Verastigui

Ralph Shortey

Woodfill and Pressler

Joel Koskan

George Nader

Jimmy Ray Neal

Ray Holmberg

Ali Alexander

Rep. Mike Moon

Conspirituality podcast (I recommend the episodes on “Michelle Remembers” and recovered memory connections to Satanic panics.

Strom Thurmond’s Lolita

Mother Jonesessay on moral panics

Child marriage in America

Nina Burleigh is a a journalist, author, documentary producer, and publisher ofAmerican Political Freakshow, a Substack on politics. Her journalism has been published in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Airmail, and New York. She is the author of seven books including most recently Virus: Vaccinations, the CDC, and the Hijacking of America's Response to the Pandemic and an adjunct professor at New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.

Please consider subscribing to American Political Freakshow, from which this is reprinted with permission.

Josh Hawley

On Carlson Show, Hawley Joins Republican Party's Pro-Putin Faction

For the first few weeks after Russian forces rolled into Ukraine last year, it was only the most extreme of reality-opposing members of the Republican Party who raised their hands in support of dictator Vladimir Putin. In fact, that pool was barely larger than Marjorie Taylor Greene, Fox host Tucker Carlson, and perennial occupant of Putin’s pocket, Ron Johnson.

However, as time has gone on, things have changed. Carlson, completely unembarrassed by how his show has become one of the most popular features on Russian state media, continued to cheer on the massacre of civilians and destruction of cities. Greene, Johnson, and others have shown that opposing the side of justice and common sense continues to be a winning strategy with GOP voters.

Republicans like Josh Hawley have gone from saying Russia’s invasion was a “brutal assault” that “must be met with strong American resolve” a year ago to saying, “You can either be the party of Ukraine and the globalists, or you can be the party of East Palestine and the working people of America” precisely one year later. You might say that Hawley is running away from his previous positions.

Unsurprisingly, Hawley made his statement of Russian appeasement on an appearance on Carlson’s show. Now Carlson is turning support for Putin into a touchstone for any Republican seeking the 2024 nomination. On Monday night's program, Carlson rolled out the results of a questionnaire he had handed to a series of potential Republican candidates. As might be expected, Carlson jumped straight to the question about cutting off support for Ukraine.

Just as predictably, almost no one who stands a chance of actually being nominated answered the question, though some of the levels of word salad included more cheese than the storeroom at a Domino’s.

Donald Trump, for example, spent his time bloviating about how Putin would never have dared to attack Ukraine on his watch, declared that Russia needs to pay back the U.S. for all the money we’ve spent on NATO, and finished with this nonsensical statement:

“Next, tell Ukraine that there will be little more money coming from us, unless Russia continues to prosecute the war. The president must meet with each side, then both sides together, and quickly work out a deal.”

So no more Ukraine assistance … unless Russia doesn’t stop fighting, in this case … what? More assistance? It’s hard to parse anything out of this beyond the massive wall of ego.

Like Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gives an answer that is not an answer at all. He uses the opportunity to talk about the border, the Chinese Communist Party, and a supposed “readiness crisis” in the U.S. military before coming down in a position that says “I support Putin” without making it quite as explicit as Carlson does every evening.

“Without question, peace should be the objective. The U.S. should not provide assistance that could require the deployment of American troops or enable Ukraine to engage in offensive operations beyond its borders. F-16s and long-range missiles should therefore be off the table.”

That boils down to a position of reassuring Russia that he’d never think of giving Ukraine what it needs to actually bring the war to a conclusion on its own terms. It’s Chamberlain-lite.

DeSantis finishes by accusing President Joe Biden of “driving Russia into an alliance with China” (history and sequence of events are never challenges to Republicans trying to set a narrative) and saying that Biden has empowered “Putin’s war machine” by … helping Ukraine to destroy more than half of Russia’s armor and military supplies. DeSantis won’t empower Putin by helping Ukraine! Something like that.

As might be expected, former Vice President Mike Pence has the most grounded-in-reality take on Ukraine, or at least the one that most clearly fails to call for outright capitulation to Putin: “There is no room for Putin apologists in the Republican Party,” says Pence. Except there appears to be plenty of room. Nothing but room.

“This is not America’s war, but if Putin is not stopped and the sovereign nation of Ukraine is not restored quickly, he will continue to move toward our NATO allies, and America would then be called upon to send our own. Vladimir Putin has revealed his true nature, a dictator-consumed [by] conquest and willing to spend thousands of lives for his commitment to reestablish the Greater Russian Empire. Anyone who thinks Putin will stop at Ukraine’s border is not owning up to the reality of who Putin is.” … “Ukraine’s victory should be an unmistakable, undeniable defeat for Russia and its allies.”

Pence, in fact, goes on to take such an opposite view from the other candidates that he ends up complaining that Biden has moved too slowly in giving new military systems to Ukraine and has not done enough to sanction Russia. But at least he found a reason to complain about Biden.

Pence goes on at enough length that it appears he may think he’s applying for college rather than filling in a square for a guy who clearly wants the opposite answer. But really, there’s little here that isn’t admirable, even if Pence does name-drop Reagan and repeat the future possibilities of Russian expansion to the point where it sounds like he’s firmly grounded in Domino Theory.

From there, the answers go pretty much off a cliff into candidates too cowardly to have a position other than that they don’t like Joe Biden.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott repeats what every candidate claims about “President Biden’s blank check foreign policy … throwing money at Ukraine with no accountability,” and then, of course, talks about “the border.”

South Carolina’s Sen. Tim Scott wanders around the horn to produce a lot of nothing with statements like, “China is a risk that continues to rise, an adversarial position they have taken against the American people. We should hear what they're telling us. Believe them and act accordingly.” Which has absolutely no meaning and, of course, no consequences if Scott decides to take a more in-or-out position later.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gives what seems to be a pro-Ukraine answer, but it’s one that’s been dulled down to the point where it’s hard to tell: “Our objective is to assist Ukraine sufficiently to enable them to defeat Russian forces and restore their sovereignty. This effort is not about regime change in Russia; it is about respecting the sovereignty of free nations.” Uh-huh. Does that mean we give Ukraine more? Less? Just enough that they can’t possibly win. Christie isn’t content with leaving it there–he finishes with this doozy:

“Also, this is a proxy war being waged by Russia’s ally China against the United States.”

The only thing China has done for Russia in this war is take oil off their hands at fire sale prices, but China comes up in every Republican response because all of them are much more comfortable slamming the current Republican boogeyman—the Chinese Communist Party—than they are saying something about Putin that they may end up walking back if they want that Republican nomination.

It all depends on where Tucker pushes the party by then. By the time debates roll around, every Republican candidate could be sporting a “Z” pin.

It might be interesting to ask all of these candidates how it’s possible that Biden can both be on the side of the Chinese communists and, at the same time, fight a proxy war against them. Don’t expect a logical answer.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Russian State TV Applauds Boebert And Gaetz For Insulting Zelensky

Russian State TV Applauds Boebert And Gaetz For Insulting Zelensky

Russia’s Kremlin state TV is lauding Lauren Boebert as “brave” after she declined to join in a standing ovation for Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky during his address to Congress while visiting the U.S., Huffpost reports.

In addition to Boebert, who is known to be an extremist and election denier, the Russian TV station also praised GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz and Fox News conservative host Tucker Carlson for insulting the Ukrainian leader.

During a segment following Zelensky’s address, Carlson said to his viewers, “As far as we know, no one’s ever addressed the United States Congress in a sweatshirt before, but they love him much more than they love you.”

After the far-right talking head likened Zelensky’s attire during his speech to something “the manager of a strip club” would wear, Kremlin state TV eagerly mocked him as "a man in cargo pants.” The broadcast proceeded to show a clip of Carlson imitating congressional leaders as if they were “clapping like seals” for Zelensky.

Julia Davis, a columnist at The Daily Beast, tweeted, “Russian state TV relies on Tucker Carlson, Josh Hawley, Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert to promote their talking points that America is sick and tired of supporting Ukraine,” along with a clip from the Kremlin state TV segment.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

McConnell, McCarthy Challenged As Hill Republicans Bicker Over Wreckage

McConnell, McCarthy Challenged As Hill Republicans Bicker Over Wreckage

Calls are growing from within the GOP for their Congressional caucus to hold off on leadership elections in light of the party’s underwhelming midterm performance and narrowing path to victory in both chambers.

As things stand, the partisan breakdown of the forthcoming 118th Congress remains unclear: Major networks called the Arizona Senate race for Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) late Friday, putting Democrats in a prime position to grasp a 51 - 49 majority in the U.S. Senate, with incumbent Democratic senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Raphael Warnock (D-GA) favored to outdo their Republican challengers.

NBC News currently projects a slim GOP House majority of “220-215” in the next Congress, with a “+/- 7” margin of error, positing — regardless of insurrectionist Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO)’s sudden lead in Colorado’s third Congressional district race — the slight but real possibility Democrats could hold the House, albeit by a tiny margin.

Despite this remarkable outcome on the horizon, which has stunned lawmakers of both parties, Senate GOP leaders reportedly plan to hold leadership elections next week, inciting the ire of other right-wing lawmakers demanding a delay and posing a direct challenge to McConnell.

Senators Cynthia M. Lummis (R-WY), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Mike Lee (R-UT), Rick Scott (R-FL), and Ted Cruz (R-TX) have publicly demanded the postponement of next week’s secret election, in which McConnell is expected to win re-election, the Washington Postreported Friday.

Hawley and Cruz have called for a stay in GOP Senate election proceedings until after the Georgia Senate runoff on December 6, the Post noted in its report.

“We are all disappointed that a Red Wave failed to materialize, and there are multiple reasons it did not,” Johnson, Lee, and Scott wrote in a letter circulated to other GOP senators, according to Politico.

“Holding leadership elections without hearing from the candidates as to how they will perform their leadership duties and before we know whether we will be in the majority or even who all our members are violates the most basic principles of a democratic process,” the senators added.

Rubio tweeted Friday that leadership elections should not hold until the party is “sure that those who want to lead us are genuinely committed to fighting for the priorities & values of the working Americans,” a sentiment Hawley quickly agreed with.

A Rubio advisor told the Post that the senator wants “Senate Republicans to figure out ‘what in the world happened’ before they elect their next leaders” and didn’t rule out Rubio, who won his race by a large margin, going for a leadership spot.

According to CNN, the internal back-biting may have been incited, to some extent, by the beleaguered former President, Donald Trump, who is seeking to shift blame for the GOP’s devastating midterm losses to McConnell, presenting a new headache for the Senate minority leader.

Representatives for McConnell didn’t return the Post’s request for comment. However, Senate GOP leaders are moving forward with plans to hold the election despite the bubbling dissension, reports Politico.

“After presentations from candidates, and there is every opportunity to address questions from every member, we will complete leadership elections,” Sen. John Barrasso, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, wrote to his colleagues on Friday afternoon in a letter, an excerpt of which Politico published.

Tough Reality For House Republicans

Republican lawmakers in the U.S. House, who — like their Senate counterparts — believed they would cruise to a smashing victory, are finally contending with the reality that the GOP might fall short of a large majority, if they win at all, quashing their prospects of enacting pre-planned legislation and leadership maneuvers.

The Post reported that House Republicans understand Democratic votes would be crucial in a lower chamber narrowly dominated by the Republican Party.

“It’s an unworkable majority. Nothing meaningful will get passed,” a senior House Republican told the Post on the condition of anonymity.

In a statement to the Post, outgoing Rep. Peter Meijer (R-MI) blamed the Republican party’s grim outlook on the extremism perpetuated by its conspiratorial far-right caucus, which culminated in the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters.

“By midnight on January 6, it was obvious that if we continued to sleepwalk down the path of crazy we’d face a rude awakening,” Meijer said.

“Instead of facing those facts, the GOP spent the last two years heading in the same direction and actively avoiding any internal reckoning. After Tuesday, we have no choice but to heed voters when they say that ‘the grass is green, the sky is blue, and by the way, you just got your ass handed to you.’ But waking up to that reality is going to be rough,” he added.

Like McConnell, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has pushed on with his speakership bid, defying opposition from factions of House Republicans opposing his efforts.

On Friday, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) said in a tweet that the House GOP ought to “put our star players in a position to shine brightest so that we can attract more people to our policies and ideas” and denounced McCarthy and his allies as the “C-team.”

“There are people who swear upon firstborn children that they’ll never vote for McCarthy,” an aide to a senior Republican lawmaker told the Post, anonymously discussing internal party consternations.

Members of the House's far-right pro-Trump faction, the Freedom Caucus, have also reportedly withheld their support for McCarthy’s drive until its laundry list of demands is met, per reporting by the Post and CNN.