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How The Murder Of A DNC Staffer Turned Into A Right-Wing Conspiracy

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

 

It started with a late night walk on July 10, 2016. Seth Rich was talking with his girlfriend while walking through the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Washington, D.C., when there was some sort of altercation. Rich was shot multiple times and died shortly thereafter.

Nearly a year later, his death has become a cause célèbre among right-wing media and the fringiest elements of pro-Trump media, simply because he worked as a staffer for the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

The conspiracy theories started immediately. The day after Rich was killed, a Twitter user connected the murder with a lawsuit filed by Bernie Sanders supporters against the DNC. (This lawsuit would later be the subject of right-wing conspiracy theories after the death of a process server that the coroner would later conclude was caused by accidental polypharmacy, or a combination of drugs.)

The first right-wing version of the conspiracy theory was about confirming right-wing allegations against the Clinton Foundation. On July 13, conspiracy theory website WhatDoesItMean.com (previously cited by pro-Trump media) ran a piece, sourced to the Kremlin, claiming that Rich thought he was on his way to meet with the FBI about the Clinton Foundation when a “hit team” put in place by the Clintons killed him. The article also linked the conspiracy theory with two Russian diplomats who were expelled by the United States two days before Rich’s murder, and it concluded by claiming the hit team was captured on July 12 in Washington, D.C. The actual police events of July 12 had nothing to do with any of this. On July 14, Snopes debunked this conspiracy theory.

Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

On July 22, WikiLeaks released 20,000 emails that had been stolen from the DNC, and Redditors immediately started guessing that Rich was the source of those emails. Heat Street, a News Corp. publication then run by Louise Mensch, ran a roundup of these rumors. In the post, Heat Street simply went through the “r/The_Donald” subreddit, listing different conspiracy theories that users had come up with, even comparing one theory to the work of mathematician John Nash and the movie A Beautiful Mind. Heat Street had also mentioned the FBI rumor in the bottom of a previous post about Rich’s murder, noting that there was no evidence to substantiate it.

The one entity that did claim to be the WikiLeaks source was Guccifer 2.0. As The New York Times explainedon July 27, while American intelligence services believed Guccifer 2.0 to be a front for Russian spies, the hacker claimed to be Romanian. In the report, the Times detailed evidence linking the emails to Russia, including “metadata hidden in the early documents indicating that they were edited on a computer with Russian language settings.”

Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

Notorious dirty trickster Roger Stone, a contributor to Alex Jones’ conspiracy theory website Infowars, and WikiLeaks began pushing the conspiracy theory in earnest in August. In an August 8 tweet, Stone included Rich in a group of four murdered people for whom he blamed the Clintons, referencing the FBI version of the conspiracy theory. A day later, WikiLeaks announced that it was offering $20,000 for information, and founder Julian Assange himself brought up Rich unprompted on a Dutch TV program, implying that Rich was a source. The host was taken aback by Assange’s suggestion and tried to push him on what he was implying, but Assange did not clarify his remark:

Pro-Trump media jumped on the interview. Mike Cernovich immediately promoted the interview while stating point-blank that Rich was the source — something that even Assange never said. On August 10, Hannity discussed the interview on his radio show, saying that it wasn’t the Russians who gave WikiLeaks the information. Later in the show, he discussed the matter with Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft and Townhall’s Rachel Alexander. Hoft was befuddled as to why the Rich family would not want the matter politicized, saying that it could only increase the information about the murder.

Also on August 10, Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson published a video about Assange’s implication, expressing concern that Assange could be assassinated:

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich also jumped on Assange’s interview on the same day, telling Mike Gallagher on August 10 that the conspiracy theory was “worth talking about.”

WikiLeaks also issued a similarly vague statement on August 10.

On August 11, WikiLeaks started sowing distrust in Rich’s family when it tweeted that the family’s spokesperson was a “professional Democrat” — even though the same could be said for Rich himself.

In the days that followed, Infowars ramped up its coverage. Watson cited a “source close to the Democratic party” who said his reporting was “on the money.” Infowars dutifully picked up Gingrich’s interview and used it to confirm its own assertions. The conspiracy theory site was particularly incensed that the Rich family would hire a spokesperson to quash conspiracy theories. And it went on to publish multiple pieces about Rich that included accounts of WikiLeaks’ assertions and implications about Rich.

Assange would resurface and again hint that Rich was his source on the August 25 edition of The Kelly File, again declaring his interest in the case without actually saying anything about Rich himself. While Laura Ingraham and some others ran with what Assange said to Kelly File host Megyn Kelly, Fox host Greg Gutfeld hit Assange for pushing the conspiracy theory — to the distaste of fellow Fox host Eric Bolling:

The conspiracy theory machine would turn away from Rich for most of September and October, though during this time Hannity frequently talked with Assange on his radio show, eager for new leaks that could be damaging to Clinton. In September, Rich’s girlfriend and his family spoke with Chris Hansen of Crime Watch Daily about the case, condemning the claims. GOP lobbyist Jack Burkman also began working with the Rich family at this time, offering more than $100,000 in rewards for information. Burkman would later say that he could “rule out attempted robbery” based on his canvassing of the neighborhood.

On October 7, The Daily Beast reported that “Russia’s senior-most officials” ordered the DNC hack. On November 2, fake news purveyor DC Gazette published a post saying that WikiLeaks’ source was neither Russia nor Seth Rich, but instead dissatisfied government staffers. On December 9, The Washington Postreported on a CIA assessment that Russia was behind leaks targetting the DNC, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), and Clinton campaign manager John Podesta.

This Post story would touch off a new round of conspiracy theories about Rich, and once again they began with Louise Mensch’s Heat Street. On December 14, the site aggregated comments on Twitter saying that it was Seth Rich and not Russia that provided WikiLeaks with the emails. The piece offered no theory as to how Rich could have gotten access to DCCC or Podesta emails; indeed, it’s unclear from the story if the author even understood that there were multiple hacks, even though Mensch herself turned up in the hacked Podesta emails (which the piece did not disclose). Weeks after this post, it was announced that Mensch had left Heat Street in “mid-December.” There is no indication if Mensch was still at Heat Street when this post was published.

On December 15, Craig Murray, a “close associate” of Julian Assange, told the Daily Mail that he was a middleman for the leaks and that the handoff took place in D.C. in September. People immediately began tying Rich to Murray, even though Murray’s supposed handoff date (of which there was no evidence) took place months after Rich was murdered.

Later that day on the radio, Hannity would cite Murray’s account as evidence that Russians were not behind the hacking. Later in the program, Hannity brought up Fox contributor John Bolton’s conspiracy theory from December 12 that if something looked like it was the Russians hacking, it might actually be a false flag in which someone made it look like it was the Russians. Assange agreed with the theory on Hannity’s show:

Hannity also called Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) an “idiot” for saying that Russians were involved in hacking:

Weeks later, on January 3, Hannity returned to Rich, again saying that Rich may have been the source for Wikileaks:

On January 6, U.S. officials released a report saying that Russians were behind the hacking. Suddenly, Hannity admitted that Russians have been hacking Americans for years:

On January 12, Guccifer 2.0 denied the report that Russia was behind the hacking.

Once again, the conspiracy mill died down, with occasional posts on 4chan and Reddit keeping the conspiracy theory alive.

On February 27, Jack Burkman, the GOP lobbyist who at one point was allied with the Rich family, told theDaily Mail that he had evidence that the Russians killed Rich because Rich had evidence that they were the ones behind the hacking. Burkman’s only source was a “former U.S. intelligence officer” — “an older man, 65-70 years old, who claims to have been a contractor in Iraq in the 1970s.” None of Rich’s friends or family members have given any indication that Rich had such an explosive secret.

In mid-March, Stone admitted contact with Guccifer 2.0, but he claimed it was innocuous.

On March 23, Burkman talked to Sinclair station WJLA in Washington, D.C., about launching a new investigation. Claiming that the investigation would be launched out of “the Seth Rich Center for Investigations” in Arlington, VA, Burkman now claimed to have a team including “a forensic physiologist, a security specialist and George Washington grad students.” But the piece also noted that the Rich family had no part in this effort.

On April 8, a new conspiracy theory emerged alleging that Guccifer 2.0 was the middleman between RIch and WikiLeaks. Model Robbin Young published screenshots on her website of a purported direct message conversation she had with Guccifer 2.0 from August 25. In it, Guccifer 2.0 claimed that the DNC leak came from someone named “Seth” and responded affirmatively when Young talked about Rich’s murder. WikiLeaks, the subreddit “r/The Donald,” Gateway PunditHeat Street, and others immediately ran with the claim.

Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

The conspiracy theory came to its most public stage on May 15. That was a week after Obama intelligence chief James Clapper and former acting attorney general Sally Yates testified before the Senate partially on issues relating to Russian hacking, days after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey as a result of the Russian investigation, and hours after The Washington Post reported that Trump gave highly classified information to Russian diplomats in the Oval Office that compromised a valuable intelligence source.

On that day, Fox News contributor Rod Wheeler told Fox 5 DC, a station owned and operated by Fox News’ parent company, that he had evidence that Rich was in contact with WikiLeaks.

Sean Hannity pushed the story on his Twitter account shortly after midnight, including by quote-tweeting a vague allegedly hacked email of Podesta’s:

 

After retweeting a video of the Fox 5 segment, Hannity affirmatively quote-tweeted someone claiming that Assange had previously said that Rich was his source (which, again, Assange had never actually said).

The story exploded as conservatives latched onto a tale that ostensibly showed that the focus on Russia was misplaced. Drudge put the story on the top of the site. The subreddit “r/The Donald” went crazy. Pro-Trump media pushed the story hard. Fox News joined in on Tuesday morning. By 10 a.m., Hannity was lashing out at CNN’s Oliver Darcy for noticing the trend.

Hannity then quote-tweeted Robbin Young, whose story about Seth Rich was different from the one Wheeler was pushing and that Hannity was touting. (Guccifer 2.0 claimed that they served as the middleman between Rich and Wikileaks; Assange had implied and Wheeler had stated that Rich was in touch with WikiLeaks directly.) At no point then or later did Hannity ever seem to notice the discrepancy.

At one point, Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson even claimed that the Washington Post story about Trump giving highly classified information to the Russians was a hoax intended to cover up the Rich story — a claim based on Watson completely misreading time stamps on the stories (the Post’s went up before the Fox 5 piece did).

But soon, the Rich story fell completely apart. The Fox station admitted on May 16 that D.C. police said that Wheeler’s claim was false. Wheeler’s contact with the Rich family turned out to be frequent Fox News guest and Breitbart author Ed Butowsky. Wheeler himself admitted to CNN that he actually had no evidence. Wheeler instead claimed that his comments were reflective of the FoxNews.com piece that ran. Fox News’ piece, by Malia Zimmerman, cited Wheeler as the source of the claim.

And yet, the transparent bullshit was still enough for pro-Trump media. On May 16, echoing Benghazi conspiracy theories, Gateway Pundit claimed there was a “stand down” order given to police regarding the Rich investigation. An “alt-right” troll asked Trump himself about Rich in the White House, getting no response. Anonymous posts on 4chan linked Rich to Pizzagate, Antonin Scalia’s deathMichael Hastings’ death, and even Media Matters. An anonymous post on 8chan even suggested that Rich was illegally surveilled and then improperly unmasked by former national security adviser Susan Rice.

Lou Dobbs on Fox Business picked up the line of attack on Rich’s family that had previously begun with WikiLeaks and Infowars, saying there was “a partisan shroud” on Rich’s family:

Later on May 16, Hannity even declared that Rich’s murder “could become one of the biggest scandals in American history”:

Later in the show, Hannity talked with American Center for Law and Justice’s Jay Sekulow and former Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie, focusing on the media being wrong about Russia. Hannity continually brought Rich into the conversation:

Hannity then had Wheeler himself on the show. Wheeler continued pushing the conspiracy theory, even while admitting that he never had seen the evidence.

The next day, even more claims collapsed. Newsweek reported that the FBI is not investigating Rich’s death, contra Wheeler’s claims, and a family spokesperson confirmed that D.C. police found no evidence of stolen emails ever being on Rich’s laptop. Fox 5 added an editor’s note that Wheeler had backtracked from claims that he made, but it did not retract the story. The story was in shambles. The Rich family demanded full retractions from Fox 5 and Fox News.

Still, conservative media persisted.

On May 18, after Mediaite published a post highlighting people mocking Hannity, Hannity again tweeted his belief in the conspiracy.

Hannity then discussed the case at length on his show, re-airing Assange’s Dutch TV interview and previous radio interviews.

On May 19, the Rich family sent a cease-and-desist letter to Rod Wheeler.

The Russian Embassy in the U.K. trolled everyone when it stated as a fact that Rich was WikiLeaks’ source. Meanwhile, Infowars claimed that The Washington Post was reporting on the Comey memos only as a distraction from the Rich story.

May 19 is also when Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom inserted himself into the story. Dotcom alleged that he had bombshell information on the case. As Dotcom, who lives in New Zealand, is fighting extradition to the United States to avoid trial for charges including conspiracy to commit racketeering, nearly everyone on the planet saw through the ruse, save for Sean Hannity.

Hannity brought up the conspiracy theory again that night on his show with Jay Sekulow, apparently just for the purpose of saying that it is important because if true, it would clear Russia entirely.

Over the weekend, it got even stranger.

Stone escalated attacks on Rich’s parents, claiming on his radio show Stone Cold Truth they were engaging in “suspicious” behavior.

Stone also told obvious lies. For instance, he claimed that Craig Murray said Rich was his source. First, Murray did not mention Rich in his comments about serving as a middleman for the emails. Second, Murray said he met his source in September, months after Rich had already been murdered. Third, nothing about what Murray actually did say is credible in the least — there’s no evidence and nothing has been corroborated. There were other factual errors as well, though “Roger Stone says something factually incorrect” is the rule, not the exception.

“Dumbest man on the internet” Jim Hoft jumped head-first into the Dotcom conspiracy, even one-upping Hannity by picking up an anonymous 4chan poster whose only claim to knowledge is “I work in D.C.” The post claimed there’s a “panic” in D.C. over the Rich conspiracy theory that right-wing media had been pressing.

The following day, Hannity would echo this post:

Hannity even admitted that it was about the Russia story:

Also on Sunday, Newt Gingrich joined Fox & Friends Sunday and stated outright that Rich was WikiLeaks’ source for DNC emails, even though he had avoided that conclusion in August. Pro-Trump media jumped to promote the interview.

Another Gateway Pundit post took a video that the Rich family did thanking donors to a GoFundMe campaign and stated that it was actually done to thank conservative media for pushing the conspiracy.

Elsewhere, self-described “rogue journalist” Caitlin Johnstone said that someone had edited Rich’s Reddit posts. Soon after, she added a “retraction” note to the post following a statement from the Pandas For Bernie Facebook group.

Early on May 22, Assange was still playing coy about Rich and WikiLeaks

But by this point, the story was getting attention in the mainstream media — but only as a conspiracy theory run amok in right-wing media. As Hannity’s conspiracy-mongering had drawn attention, he became a focal point of criticism. The Daily Beast ran a story about Fox News personalities embarrassed by Hannity’s actions.

Hannity was undeterred:

On his radio show, Hannity said that he was right about Rich because he had been right about Trayvon Martin, the black teenager shot and killed while walking through a Florida neighborhood:

(He wasn’t right about Trayvon Martin, by the way.)

Geraldo Rivera, a perpetual gadfly when it comes to pushing terrible things, also jumped on the conspiracy.

Elsewhere, the subreddit “r/The Donald” announced plans for a march on D.C. about Rich’s death on its anniversary, claiming 1.1 million people could show up.

Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

On May 23, everything came to a head. Rich’s brother personally asked Hannity to stop pushing the conspiracy theories. Shortly thereafter, Fox News retracted its story about Rich, the one that Rod Wheeler originally cited as the basis for his story. A statement from Fox News said that the story did not meet the site’s editorial standards.

And yet after all of this, Hannity continued to push the story on his radio show.

On Twitter, Hannity ecstatically promoted Kim Dotcom’s “revelation,” which was a big nothingburger.

The Rich family then published an op-ed in The Washington Post begging commentators to stop pushing conspiracy theories about their son.

Hannity then tweeted about the op-ed as if it wasn’t just about him

Shortly before his television show, Hannity tweeted that he still stood behind everything he had said on the topic, but also that he just was on a call with three of his attorneys:

On his show, Hannity said that he was stopping talking about the matter “for now” at the request of the Rich family:

And yet before his show was over, Hannity hinted on Twitter that he was still looking at the story.

He even retweeted gratuitous praise from Kim Dotcom.

Meanwhile, Oliver Darcy, who followed the story closely from the beginning, had a list of good unanswered questions for Fox News about Hannity’s despicable and ghoulish actions.

Hannity then begged for fans to spread the conspiracy theory.

By morning, a Republican congressman was echoing Hannity.

Newt Gingrich, after pushing the conspiracy both in August and again on May 21, suddenly said that he didn’t know anything about it, telling The Washington Post, “I don’t know anything about it. … I know exactly what has been said on the various blog sites. … I think it is worth looking at.”

The retractions and hedging were much too little and far too late. In the bowels of pro-Trump media, Hannity had become a martyr and the Seth Rich conspiracy theory was gospel.

The enduring tragedy of the episode is that the Rich family will likely have to live with this delusion bubbling up for a very long time. Even worse, pro-Trump media will say that they are part of it.

No family deserves that.

Research assistance provided by Bobby Lewis

Trump Meets With Italian Far-Right Leader In Pennsylvania

Republican frontrunner Donald Trump has spent much of his campaign trying to convince the American public that all of the racists and white nationalists supporting him must have done so by mistake. But a meeting on Monday with an Italian far-right political leader known for his xenophobic remarks has shown that Trump’s casual racism is anything but.

While the contents of their 20-minute discussion were not publicized, Trump and Matteo Salvini, leader of the xenophobic Italian Lega Nord and member of the European Parliament, are natural allies. They’re bombastic in their rhetoric, represent a resurgent right wing in their respective countries and have praised — or in Trump’s case, retweeted — Italian fascist Benito Mussolini.

In addition leaving Italy on the eve of its Liberation Day celebrations, which mark the end of Italy’s fascist government, Salvini one-upped Trump in his praise of Il Duce.

“Mussolini did many good things in the twenty years before the racial laws and the alliance with Hitler,” said Salvini during a radio interview in February. Among the “good things” Mussolini did before allying himself with Adolf Hitler was crush political dissent, severely curtail press freedom, outlaw labor strikes and established a police state to reinforce his dominance over the country.

The Philadelphia meeting was organized by Amato Berardi, president of the National Italian-American PAC and a former Italian parliamentarian who represented Silvio Berlusconi’s The People for Freedom Party (PdL), now part of the Forza Italia party. Since Berlusconi’s final exit as Italy’s prime minister in 2011, Salvini has sought to become the next undisputed leader of the Italian right.

Towards the end of their meeting, Trump wished Salvini well. “Matteo, I hope you become prime minister soon,” Trump told him, according Italian news agency ANSA.

The Lega Nord head has been dubbed “the most dangerous man in Italy” by The Daily Beast. He has often invoked the same anti-establishment language used by Trump, but aimed at what many perceive to be Europe’s establishment, the European Union itself. “The problem isn’t [Italian Prime Minister Matteo] Renzi,” said Salvini during a rally in March 2015 in Rome. “Renzi is a pawn. Renzi is a dumb slave at the disposal of nameless people who want to control all of our lives from Brussels.”

And the party’s xenophobia isn’t relegated to the eccentricities of its outspoken leader. In a 2010 U.S. State Department report, it noted that despite encouraging engagement with all of Italy’s parties, regardless of their political stances, Lega Nord party members disqualified themselves several times from taking part in those initiatives.

The embassy had rescinded one nomination [to the International Leadership Visitor Program] after the candidate was convicted for an incident of racial incitement and froze another after a prospective nongov­ernmental host discovered prejudicial information about the candidate online.

Similarly, Freedom House reports going back as far as 2004 have warned that “The Lega Nord party continues to inject intolerance into national politics by organizing anti-Islamic campaigns, protesting, for example, the building of mosques.”

It is notable, though, that not all of Europe’s far right leaders support Trump, even if they risk becoming a minority in their own movements. Marine Le Pen, the most recognizable face of Europe’s new, younger far right leaders, has been decidedly cool about the racist businessman’s rhetoric, even towards Muslims, a demographic she constantly attacks at home. “Seriously, have you ever heard me say something like that?” said Le Pen in response to Trump’s plan to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. “I defend all the French people in France, regardless of their origin, regardless of their religion.”

The risks of a Trump presidency go far beyond American shores. His victory would undoubtedly buoy the hopes of politicians like Salvini, who are jumping on the Trump anti-establishment, anti-immigrant bandwagon in the hopes that his victory would present them with a roadmap to their own victories back home. The below photo of the insignia of the neo-Nazi Greek party, Golden Dawn, superimposed over Trump’s face is just one sign of growing support for his ideas and rhetoric on the other side of the Atlantic.

Electoral victory for these parties isn’t unthinkable, especially not for Salvini. Polls last summer put his popularity at a few points below Italy’s current prime minister, a truly dangerous prospect in this dangerous time.

Photo: European Union 2015 – European Parliament/Flickr

This Week In Crazy: Twisted Logic And Right-Wing Blame Games

Just when you thought the far-right fringe couldn’t possibly connect abortion with the stock market, or equate the LGBT Pride flag with a white supremacist symbol, they just, well, go ahead and do that. It’s “This Week In Crazy,” The National Memo’s weekly update on the shameful, racist, and hateful speech of the increasingly illogical right wing. Starting with one of our regulars:

5. Pat Robertson

PatRobertsonScreenshotSure, Pat Robertson, an organization that provides women’s reproductive health services is to blame for the recent stock market slide. The conservative televangelist said this week that “Black Monday” was God’s punishment for legal abortion and the federal government’s funding of Planned Parenthood. As anyone who watches Robertson’s The 700 Club (or who reads “This Week In Crazy”) knows, the host typically blames any negative incident, natural disaster, or preventable tragedy on abortion, same-sex marriage, or the LGBT community in general. In his usual fire-and-brimstone style, Robertson said:

We will pay dearly as a nation for this thing going on…. And possibly if we were to stop all this slaughter the judgment of God might be lifted from us. But it’s coming, ladies and gentlemen. We just had a little taste of it in terms of the financial system, but it’s going to be shaken to its core in the next few months, years or however long it takes and it will hurt every one of us.


I’m no economist, but I’m pretty sure Monday’s selloff had something to do with the cyclical nature of capitalism and China’s devaluing of its currency, which caused instability in global markets. Planned Parenthood has been accused of some vile things, but manipulating currency is not one of them.

No matter to Robertson, who likes to play financial advisor, warning viewers that troubled times are ahead. “You don’t know where to go, there is no place to hide financially except in the Lord,” he said. “The Lord is the ultimate refuge.”

Via Right Wing Watch

Next: Donald Trump

4. Donald Trump

Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump's greets the crowd during his

Continuing his heated rivalry with Spanish-language news network Univision, Donald Trump had reporter Jorge Ramos booted from a campaign event in Iowa on Tuesday. The reason? Ramos asked Trump a question about immigration — out of turn.

The Donald’s reply: “Go back to Univision.”

Putting aside the fact that this is far from Trump’s first press conference, so he should be used to pushy reporters firing questions at him, his comment about Ramos showed the Republican presidential candidate’s true bigoted colors. (“Go back to Univision.” = “Go back to Mexico.”)

After the incident, Trump tried to portray Ramos as hysterical. “Certainly he was not chosen … he just stands up and starts screaming, so maybe he’s at fault also,” Trump said, adding, “He’s obviously a very emotional person.”

This coming from the man running for President of the United States, yet has a fit every time a reporter asks a challenging question, has gotten to second base with a flagpole, and has people touch his hair to show it’s his own.

Trump is not just “emotional” and vain, but he can be a bully, especially when provoked on his core campaign issue, and God forbid, asked to answer a direct question directly. At the campaign event, he repeatedly tells Ramos to “sit down” as the reporter continues speaking and reminding Trump that he has the right to ask a question.

The legendary Univision broadcaster is still hoping to land an interview with Trump.

Via Raw Story

Continue reading: Keith Ablow

3. Keith Ablow

Keith_AblowFox News commentator and psychiatrist Dr. Keith Ablow sounds like the last person who should be sharing “expertise” on gun control and mental health issues. In a Fox segment this week, Ablow charged President Obama with “inflaming racial discord.”

As strange as the allegation was, delivered as an afterthought that sounded more like a rehearsed jab at the president, Ablow’s comment was typical of the right’s urge to blame the guy in the White House, with little evidence, for everything. Ablow echoed a conservative meme: The problem isn’t guns but lack of mental health care — which means “hands off our guns; blame the crazies.”

Sensible people can agree that individuals with mental health problems, as well as many others, should not have access to firearms. But Ablow’s claim that mentally ill people are the problem and guns are not is rebutted by many studies that show people living with mental illness are more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators.

More ridiculous is how Ablow concluded the segment, seeming to place blame on the president because a black man who protested against alleged job discrimination just killed two white people: “There are some people who are unhinged out there who actually think [Obama is] right when he’s just trying to fan the flames of racial disharmony,” Ablow said.

What does Ablow mean when he says Obama has inflamed racial discord? Perhaps that the president has spoken in support of civil rights, voting rights and, repeatedly, about gun violence.

According to Ablow, that’s the real problem: “It would be helpful if President Obama, frankly, would stop tweeting … about gun control and get serious about attacking mental health care.” Again, the pundit blames a small segment of the population of people who commit violent crimes, instead of the policies and lawmakers that allow guns into the hands of far too many unstable people.

Via Media Matters

Next: Casey Davis

2. Casey Davis

CaseyDavis_Kentucky_clerkThe county clerk from Kentucky who continues to defy the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage is apparently willing to allow his homophobia to take him to an early grave. Casey Davis, no relation to his fellow “religious freedom fighter” Kim Davis, said this week that marriage equality is “a war on Christianity” and that he is willing to fight, even if it kills him. He told a West Virginia radio show:

If it takes it, I will go to jail over — if it takes my life, I will die for because I believe I owe that to the people that fought so I can have the freedom that I have, I owe that to them today, and you do, we all do. They fought and died so we could have this freedom and I’m going to fight and die [so] my kids and your kids can keep it.

Incoherent and manic as he is, Davis continues to argue that issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples would violate his right to religious freedom. He talks a lot about God, freedom, and fighting for what he believes in, but says much less about his responsibilities as a government employee, the freedom of LGBT people to marry, and the long struggle of gay people to legally marry those they love. Then there is his misunderstanding of the U.S. Constitution:

There is a travesty taking place with that Supreme Court ruling was completely unconstitutional, completely unconstitutional. They have no right to tell us, the state of Kentucky, that our law that was voted with what was 70 percent of the people that it was wrong; they had no right.

Actually, as the Supreme Court, they have every right under the Constitution to find state laws in violation of constitutional rights. That’s part of the High Court’s mandate. Davis, on the other hand, has no right to deny LGBT people their right to marry. To borrow a semantic framework that conservatives love, if Davis doesn’t like same-sex marriage, he should move to Russia.

Via Right Wing Watch

Next: Dinesh D’Souza

1. Dinesh D’Souza

dinesh-dsouza-facebook-640We’ve saved the worst for last. Following the tragic televised killing of two journalists in Virginia this week, D’Souza took to Twitter to point out supposed progressive hypocrisy on gun violence, race and ideology.

D’Souza suggested that because the murderer was a gay black man, officials should demand the removal of the LGBT pride flag from public spaces, as occurred with the Confederate flag following the killing of nine black people in a Charleston, South Carolina, church by a white supremacist.

The key difference, of course, is what each flag represents and the killers’ motives in the shootings. The Confederate flag symbolizes white supremacy, or as its defenders argue, Southern “heritage not hate.” Except that the heritage of the South involves a long history of slavery, KKK lynchings, voter disenfranchisement, and other human rights violations perpetrated against black people. The rainbow flag’s history has no such violent or hateful meaning.

Consider D’Souza’s latest odious, trolling tweets, in which he blames President Obama for what is yet another example of gun violence resulting from unregulated access to firearms, illogically equates love with hate, and confuses healthy pride in your culture with dangerous pride in a racist ideology.

Via Mediaite

Photo illustration above: Confederate flag, Pride flag via Flickr, Edited Matt Surrusco