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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}


Far Right Pushing Lawsuits And Armed Protests Over Defeat In Arizona

Despite multiple media outlets – including Fox News – calling the Arizona governor’s race for Democratic nominee Katie Hobbs, Republican Kari Lake has refused to concede, with right-wing media figures pushing her to continue to question the results and possibly mount a legal challenge in court. What any eventual challenge might look like is unclear, but some of Lake’s advisers are reportedly hoping that the vote results could ultimately get close enough to trigger an automatic recount.

From The New York Times:

Election officials have said that despite scattered problems, there were no issues that prevented voters from casting ballots on Election Day.

Still, Ms. Lake has given no sign that she is preparing to concede. Her only public words so far have been to suggest, without evidence, that the vote was tainted. “Arizonans know BS when they see it,” she tweeted on Monday night, after The Associated Press called the race.

Lake is a close ally of former President Donald Trump and received significant support from those in his circle, including former senior strategist Steve Bannon. Both Trump and Bannon baselessly have now claimed the Arizona midterm elections were fraudulent, a clear echo of their denialist rhetoric following the 2020 election.

“Wow! They just took the election away from Kari Lake. It’s really bad out there!” Trump wrote on Truth Social.

Bannon, who appeared with Lake at a rally in early November and repeatedly interviewed her on his War Room podcast during the campaign, has reportedly been advising Lake behind the scenes since Election Day. According to The Washington Post, Bannon was “clear-eyed about the unfavorable numbers” she faced before losing her race. Despite this, he has used vague innuendo to tell his audience the results cannot be certified.

On the evening of November 15, after Fox and othermediaoutlets had declared Hobbs the winner, Bannon called the results “impossible,” saying that there was “zero possibility this thing can be certified.”

“Don't think that Kari Lake is not going to fight this one down to the bitter end because she is going to fight this one down to the bitter end,” Bannon said.

On November 16, Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk declared, “we need to have a new election in Arizona,” and partially blamed “fraud” for Lake’s defeat. He also pushed back on a response from a listener accusing him of “legitimizing” Hobbs’ win. “I’m the one that’s actually encouraging Kari Lake to file a lawsuit … asking for a new election in Arizona,” he said.

Turning Point Action activist Tyler Bowyer, who is also allegedly advising Lake and was instrumental in spreading early conspiracy theories about Arizona voting machines on Election Day, demanded that the statewide results be “fully litigated” in court.

Arizona secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem retweeted Bowyer’s post, then wrote, “Less tweets more lawsuits.” Finchem was a constant presence on Bannon’s War Room throughout his candidacy, and became one of the most prominent election deniers in the country, in addition to being a member of the extremist militia the Oath Keepers.

Right-wing operative Floyd Brown, the founder of conspiracy theory website the Western Journal and the man behind the infamously racist “Willie Horton” campaign ad, has been working with Lake as well. According to Brown, Lake will “not go quietly into the night. She intends to stand and fight.”

The Western Journal has a long history of pushing extremist ideas, including early misinformation about COVID-19 and anti-LGBTQ propaganda. Now, Floyd and his colleagues are working to sow doubt about the Arizona vote totals.

On Twitter, the Western Journal’s Olivia Brown asked her followers to send “testimonials” of potential election fraud they had witnessed, claiming, “All of these reports of #AZVoterSuppression occurred in heavy Republican areas.”

Western Journal senior staff writer Randy DeSoto called the Arizona results “irreparably tainted” and argued that the “only fair remedy to address the fiasco that occurred in Maricopa County on Election Day is a redo.”

Trump lawyer and former One America News host Christina Bobb echoed the point. “I think they need a new election,” Bobb said on Tuesday evening. “I mean, the only way to restore confidence in the election in Arizona is to redo it.”

The official Twitter account for Lake’s campaign also called for a do-over. “We don't care if this is unprecedented,” the account wrote. “The appropriate thing to do would be to let Maricopa County cast their votes again.”

Others on the right pushed for a more extreme response to Lake’s loss. Conservative radio show host Joe Oltmann responded to Hobbs’ win by engaging in his typical violent rhetoric.

“Shut it down,” Oltmann said. “I'm going to Arizona. I know a lot of people are going to Arizona. We shut it down. We shut down every road, we shut down everything. We shut it down. And if it takes a week, if it takes two weeks, if it takes five weeks, it takes two months, if it takes us through Christmas, it's OK.”

“We start by starving off those people who are institutionally enslaving us,” he declared, adding that this is “the Boston Tea Party moment — this is it.”

“You make sure that when you're out there and you shut it down, and you have 5,000 cars on the street, and you're all out there having a barbecue, you're well armed,” he continued, outlining suggested “rules of engagement” for election protests in Arizona. “But nobody sees you're well-armed. Nobody sees you’re well-armed until you're actually protecting someone else. ... And when they do something to one of us, you make sure they pay for it.”

“And that’s not violent — we’re peaceful and we’re going to remain peaceful,” he added, as a promotional crawl at the bottom of the screen advertised deals on guns and ammunition.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Carlson Eulogizes Hell’s Angel Sonny Barger, Violent Criminal And Drug Smuggler

Fox News star Tucker Carlson eulogized Ralph “Sonny” Barger over the weekend, effusively praising the founder of the vigilante biker gang Hells Angels just one month after telling Republicans to run on crime policies. Barger spent around 13 years in prison following convictions for assault with a deadly weapon and kidnapping, among other charges.

Carlson celebrated Barger in his remarks, presenting him as the type of person Carlson aspires to be. “Stand tall, stay loyal, remain free, and always value honor,” Carlson said in a clip shared to Twitter by right-wing conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec. Quoting Barger’s supposed philosophy, Carlson remarked, “If there is a phrase that sums up more perfectly what I want to be, what I aspire to be, and the kind of man I respect, I can’t think of a phrase.”

The Department of Justice considers the Hells Angels to be linked to organized criminal activities, including cross-border drug smuggling, as well as “assault, extortion, [and] homicide.”

Barger himself had a long history of criminal charges and convictions stemming from drug distribution and violence. In 1988, he and another member “were convicted of conspiracy to transport and receive explosives in interstate commerce with intent to kill and damage buildings” belonging to a rival motorcycle club, The Associated Press reported at the time. He was charged in 2002 with aggravated assault after allegedly breaking his wife’s ribs and lacerating her spleen, according to Tom Barker, a professor and expert on outlaw motorcycle gangs.

Carlson’s kind words for Barger come just weeks after he hyped a supposed increase in crime nationwide and instructed Republicans to campaign on it. “If every Republican office-seeker, every Republican candidate in the United States focused on law and order and equality under the law, there would be a red wave” in the November midterms, Carlson said in his August 19 monologue. The next day, Carlson stated that “suddenly, there is a huge amount of stealing in the United States. It’s everywhere.” He offered no evidence for his claim.

Carlson’s simultaneous endorsement of Barger and the Hells Angels on the one hand, and propagandizing about a supposed crime wave on the other, is obviously superficially hypocritical. But beneath the hypocrisy lies a consistent political ideology. For reactionaries like Carlson, criminal activity isn’t — and can’t be — an objective, neutrally applied description of behavior.

The classical music composer Frank Wilhoit offered a pithy summary of conservatism that aptly resolves Carlson’s seemingly contradictory positions. “Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect,” Wilhoit wrote in 2018.

For Carlson, shoplifting is a crime, but conspiring to overturn the 2020 election and engaging in an attempted fascist insurrection isn’t. In his analysis, whether someone counts as a criminal is a post hoc determination based on the identity of the person in question. Poor people, Black people, and immigrants can all be criminals, whereas conservatives who rioted on January 6 are being persecuted by a tyrannical government for their political beliefs.

For all of his supposed outlaw status, Barger had an alternately antagonistic and cooperative relationship with law enforcement, which typifies the symbiotic relationship between vigilante gangs and cops throughout the 20th century in the United States. In the late 1960s and early ‘70s, Barger regularly served as an informant to Oakland police, offering tips about weapons caches in exchange for leniency for arrested Angels, according to testimony Sgt. Ted Hilliard offered at the time.

“Mr. Barger would load them in the back of my car—automatic rifles and dynamite, for example,” Hilliard said, according to The New York Times. The Oakland police preferred to work with the Angels and “let the Angels operate,” as Rolling Stone reported at the time, rather than risk the weapons falling into the hands of leftist groups like the Weathermen or the Black Panthers.

That’s the history that Carlson was embracing at Barger’s service. While the hypocrisy on the surface is glaring, the underlying belief structure is entirely coherent. The law is a tool to punish out-groups that have been criminalized, while vigilante gangs that reinforce the dominant social order — whether Hells Angels or the Oathkeepers — must be celebrated and defended.

“I’m honored to be here,” Carlson concluded his weekend remarks. “Thank you for having me.” The applause from the assembled Hells Angels made clear that the admiration was mutual.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Christian Nationalists Want 'Ideological Purity' Tests For Federal Employees

Christian nationalist Russ Vought recently appeared on Turning Point USA co-founder Charlie Kirk’s radio show to discuss plans to purge at least 10% of federal career staffers under a new Trump administration. Vought described that portion of the federal workforce as “the roots of the problem” that prevented former President Donald Trump from fully implementing his agenda. During the interview, Kirk suggested that the next Republican administration subject civil servants to “ideological purity tests.”

Vought ran the powerful Office of Management and Budget under Trump and now heads up a right-wing think tank called the Center for Renewing America, whose mission is to “renew a consensus of America as a nation under God.” While at OMB, Vought helped develop a policy called “Schedule F” as a tool that would allow a new conservative administration to circumvent job protections typically enjoyed by federal workers who aren’t politically appointed.

Speaking on the September 23 edition of The Charlie Kirk Show, Vought claimed to have reclassified 90% of the workers in his own office under that job category.

“Schedule F is an authority that we discovered and developed at the end of the Trump administration to give the president the ability to reclassify career civil servants, who normally have permanency within the bureaucracy, to turn them into essentially at-will employees,” Vought told Kirk.

When asked by Kirk how many career employees he’d like to potentially sack using this authority, Vought set the floor at 10% of current workers, but suggested that he considers as much as 80% of the federal workforce to be ideological opponents.

“I would say that within my agency, we had, you know, 80% of it was left-leaning,” Vought said. “Their paradigms were all rooted in this permanent class, ruling class that defines the milieu of Washington, D.C.”

“And you can reason and work with that crowd, but there is about a 10% of activists that are animated by the wokeism, the anti-racist movement, to be able to come into these agencies and they're just activists,” Vought added.

Vought then told Kirk that someone in the human resources department at OMB described themselves and their colleagues as “committed anti-racists.”

Kirk responded by calling that person the leader of “a sleeper cell of a woke communist ideology who's just right there within our federal government.”

“You're going to have to figure out how to solve that, I don’t know,” Kirk continued. “But ideological purity tests are an interesting approach, but let's break up the federal government first and then we'll go from there.”

In July, Axios reported on discussions Trump allies were having about staffing their next administration, with the Schedule F being central to the framework. Vought reportedly has been a leader in these efforts: As Media Matters reported a week prior to Axios’ story, Vought stated publicly that he wants to build an “army” of hard-right activists with “Biblical worldview” to run the federal agencies that he can’t outright destroy. He’s been very clear that the goal is to get “ideologically committed individuals up and down the agencies,” and he’s been similarly clear that Schedule F is the way to do it.

Right-wing propagandist Christopher Rufo – known for launching bad-faith attacks on critical race theory and targeting children’s hospitals that provide care to trans youth – has pushed for a similar course of action.

“The idea is to centralize ideological control over the federal agencies in the White House and create a team at the Office of Management and Budget to enforce it,” Rufo said in an interview with conservative website IM-1776 in July.

In furtherance of those shared goals, Vought has attempted to turn the Center for Renewing America into a shadow government-in-waiting for Trump or another conservative president. In June, Vought brought on Jeffrey Clark, a former Department of Justice environmental lawyer and Trump’s top coup architect, as senior fellow at CRA. Kash Patel, another key figure in Trump’s attempt to subvert the 2020 election, is a CRA senior fellow as well.

In the recent interview with Kirk, Vought expressed a commonregret among former Trump officials that the administration wasted precious time in its first years adjusting to the steep learning curve of running the government.

“My hope is that we don’t have to do that again because we're laying the groundwork now,” Vought said, later adding, “We want to make sure that can never happen again and make sure that from day one, we can ensure that the agenda is being done.”

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Warning Of 'War On Republicans," Fox Stokes Next Insurrection

On Monday evening, Fox News stars Tucker Carlson and Jesse Watters each used the 21st anniversary of 9/11 to tell their millions of viewers that the Biden administration has declared war on conservatives for their political beliefs.

Carlson and Watters argued, as the network has for months, that President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice is a tyrannical force bent on persecuting Fox News viewers, and that it’s only a matter of time before Democrats criminalize all political dissent.

Both defended the election denialism that has become core to the Republican Party after Trump’s loss in 2020, reinforcing the idea not only that the election was stolen, but also that those who say the election wasn’t rigged are jackbooted authoritarians.

Carlson approached the topic by playing a clip of Chuck Todd’s interview of Vice President Kamala Harris, in which she described how dangerous it is to have at least 11 election deniers running for secretary of state positions throughout the country. Typically the top statewide election official, the office is incredibly powerful, and those races have been flooded with cash as Republicans seek to install denialists to oversee upcoming elections.

Todd framed the interview, which was pegged to the anniversary of 9/11, as a discussion of how national security issues had evolved from external dangers to “the threat within.”

“Who is this threat?” Carlson responded. “Well, of course, it's you and anyone else in the way of the Biden administration.”

“And especially, as the vice president just said, and you saw it, anyone who questions the legitimacy of the last election,” he continued.

Carlson then added his own election conspiracism, arguing without evidence that “there are reasons not to believe” the final vote count, and that if a conservative voices that belief, under Biden, “you need to be pursued by law enforcement.”

Minutes later, Carlson brought up the Department of Justice issuance of roughly 40 subpoenas to top aides to former President Donald Trump, including white nationalist Stephen Miller.

Carlson argued that the Biden Department of Justice was trying to “suppress political dissent, to hobble an entire political party and to keep these people from ever participating in American politics again.”

One hour earlier, Watters had made a similar point. “This war on Republicans -- it's a war of choice,” he said. “It's a preemptive war so the Republican Party never wins another election. And that is the real threat to democracy.”

Fox News’ business model relies on stoking its viewers’ fears, and Monday’s segments come on the heels of months of similar coverage.

In late June, Carlson devoted an entire opening monologue to a lengthy mischaracterization of the legal cases of 14 conservatives, nearly all of whom were involved in some effort to overturn the 2020 election. “The signature tactic of the Biden administration … has been the criminalizing of American politics,” Carlson said at the time.

Carlson and others at Fox also spent part of the summer pushing a preposterous theory that Biden was hiring 87,000 new IRS agents to act as a paramilitary force against conservatives. A Media Matters study found that the network had pushed the bogus theory more than 200 times by the end of August.

Following the search of Trump’s residence and golf resort at Mar-a-Lago, Fox and other right-wing outlets and pundits characterized the DOJ’s actions as additional evidence that Biden was persecuting regular conservatives. “But the real target of this investigation isn't Trump,” Laura Ingraham said. “The real target of this investigation is you or anyone who dares to call out and take on the rank corruption of the D.C. establishment.”

Watters responded to the search by arguing that any attempt to hold Trump accountable was in reality an attack on Fox viewers. “These are bloodthirsty savages who want to see you humiliated and violated,” he said. “This is a threat to anybody who opposes them. Look what we can do to you. We can even storm into your president's home and take whatever we want.”

“They don’t need evidence,” Watters said in July, speaking broadly about various DOJ investigations into Trump. “Their goal is to scare you into submission.”

The overall implication of these arguments — that conservatives are being persecuted, and that the January 6 insurrection was really just about asking questions about vote totals — is not hard to understand. Fox News is laying the groundwork for future fascist violence, including but not limited to violence in response to elections won by Democrats.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Was Zeldin 'Keychain Assault' Incident A Republican Set-Up?

Mainstream media outlets have largely followed conservative media’s framing after a man allegedly attempted to injure Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) with a small self-defense-style keychain tool at a July 21 speech. Right-wing media, often quoting Zeldin or people associated with his campaign, have used the event to attack New York state’s modest bail reform laws. Several mainstream outlets adopted this basic template, further spreading the incorrect idea that the reforms were to blame for the alleged assailant’s release from custody.

There are two key pieces of information that have been almost entirely ignored in the mainstream national press but were reported in local media. First, the initial prosecutor in the case, Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley, was listed publicly as Zeldin’s campaign co-chair as recently as July 25. The Albany Times Unionreported Doorley’s connection with the campaign in its coverage, but was given conflicting responses by the various parties as to whether Doorley was in fact an active campaign co-chair. (Doorley has recused herself from the case.)

Second, as the Times Union also reported, Doorley’s office charged the alleged perpetrator, David G. Jakubonis, with second degree attempted assault on Friday, July 22. That nonviolent charge – which was not eligible for bail – was a surprise to many, the Times Union reported, because “law enforcement in Monroe County is known for pressing heavier charges than prosecutors in many other counties.” The previous year, Monroe prosecutors had only brought that charge one time, instead usually pursuing far harsher penalties that would include bail. (Jakubonis was separately arrested and charged in federal court, and is in custody pending a hearing scheduled for July 27.)

Initial reporting from The Washington Post, The Associated Press, Politico, and CNN all failed to mention Doorley’s close ties to the Zeldin campaign. However, each one similarly mentioned New York’s bail reform laws, either implicitly or explicitly in a negative light. The AP, for example, twice referenced calls to “toughen” the laws. None of those stories included direct quotes from any proponents of bail reform.

Additionally, Politico included an absurd quote from GOP congressional candidate and New York state Assembly member Mike Lawler, who said the bail reforms had an “Attempted Assassination Loophole.” The piece’s headline adopted conservative talking points wholesale.

A follow-up story from CNN had only one subheading, capturing the tenor of almost all the mainstream coverage:

The New York Timesdidn’t mention Doorley’s links to Zeldin until the 24th paragraph of its story. Instead, the paper foregrounded Zeldin’s position in the second paragraph, paraphrasing his argument “that the episode viscerally drove home the need to increase policing and tighten New York’s bail laws to make it easier for judges to hold people charged with certain crimes.”

The unusually lenient charge from an office known for pursuing harsher penalties led some bail reform advocates to speculate whether Doorley’s office’s decision virtually to ensure that Jakubonis would be released quickly was deliberate.

New York lawmakers passed a bill in 2019 eliminating cash bail “for most misdemeanors and some nonviolent felony charges,” according to the NYCLU, which argued the change was “an overdue recognition that a person’s wealth should not determine their liberty.”

Then, in 2020, police, prosecutors, and reactionary politicians from both parties used misleading data and deliberate misinformation campaigns to blame the reforms for the increase in some – but not all – categories of crime. There is in fact no evidence linking these issues. Nonetheless, the reforms were rolled back and “two dozen crimes [were added] to the list of serious charges for which a judge could impose cash bail,” according to the New York Times. “They included sex trafficking, grand larceny, second-degree burglary, vehicular assault and any crime that results in a death.”

Conservative media outlets are pushing to weaken the reforms even further. Mainstream media shouldn’t adopt their misleading framing to help them in that campaign.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Running In 2024? Tucker Carlson Delivers Bizarre, Banal Speech In Iowa

As the media speculates whether Carlson is mulling a 2024 presidential run, he’s milking his audience for all they’re worth and enriching the corporate overlords he pretends to hate

The Tucker Carlson merch booth at the Family Leadership Summit in downtown Des Moines, Iowa, sits between a recumbent bicycle vendor and a table with a suitcase full of plastic fetuses. It’s obvious why the anti-abortion activists at fetus-table are here, even if the bike company’s decision to attend the conference is more opaque. Carlson’s presence, like his stand full of cheap hats and water bottles branded with his name, similarly splits the difference.

This annual event, organized by the conservative religious organization known as The FAMiLY Leadership Council, has played host to the biggest names in conservative politics and media, including former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, and former Vice President Mike Pence. It was at the Family Leadership Summit in 2015 that Donald Trump famously took a shot at the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), saying he preferred war heroes who didn’t get captured.

So when The FAMiLY Leader announced Carlson would be its keynote speaker this year, it predictably triggered a wave of speculation about whether the cable news host was contemplating a presidential run in 2024 – rumors he has consistently denied. If Carlson is considering a run, this is exactly the type of event he would attend. If he’s not, then maybe he’s just here to stoke his already substantial ego.

His keynote address on Friday didn’t offer any clues one way or the other. Instead, it was mostly a rehash of a stump speech he’s given before: a lazy, phoned-in polemic about the importance of the family and the moral bankruptcy of the political establishment in both parties. Even as he trained his ire against Republican leaders – he singled out former South Carolina Gov. and Trump cabinet member Nikki Haley for comments she made after the police killing of George Floyd – he made it clear that, despite the summit’s pretenses to be nonpartisan for tax avoidance’s sake, everyone there was a Republican voter.

“The other side is so menacing, so scary at this point, a combination of fully embraced delusion and extremely high levels of aggression,” Carlson said. “That, you know, sometimes I think to myself, if this person – I don't want to single anyone out or attack anyone – but if this person had absolute power, what would happen? You know, people would get hurt.”

“If you can look directly into a camera and claim not simply that a man is a woman, but that anyone who won’t follow you in saying something obviously untrue must be hurt – if you’re capable of doing that, like what aren’t you capable of?” Carlson asked.

Carlson’s speech was hateful in predictable ways. Like many of the speakers, he made repeated anti-trans statements under the guise of protecting “girls sports,” the favored euphemism of the moment. He referred to George Floyd as a “convicted felon.” Then he made more anti-trans comments, arguing that gender-affirming health care was “sterilizing children.”

But in front of this audience, he eschewed some of the open racism and xenophobia that he indulges in on his prime-time Fox show. Rather than ranting about the “great replacement” conspiracy theory or other white nationalist ideas, his speech was more abstract and philosophical.

“America is a physical place. No, it's not an idea,” he said, his voice dripping with incredulity that anyone would think otherwise. “I get out of bed and there's like a ground underneath me. There's, like, soil and trees.”

As is always the case with Carlson, there’s more going on here than is immediately apparent. Rejecting the common liberal claim that America is an idea is a not-so-subtle rejection of what that implicit idea is, at least in theory: namely a pluralistic, multiracial democracy. And although close readings and searching for dog whistles can sometimes go too far, Carlson’s history of advancing eco-fascistic ideas makes any mention of “soil” uncomfortably reminiscent of the fascist slogan “blood and soil.”

Carlson is also obsessed with what he claims is the God-given natural order of things.

“The positive, the good, the calm, the placid, the orderly, the natural – that's what needs to be affirmed,” Carlson told the crowd.

After attacking the environmentalist movement for its supposed hypocrisy, Carlson indulged in a riff on the nature of beauty, a bizarre but telling tangent.

“Is a wind turbine beautiful? No,” Carlson said. “Rivers are beautiful. Gardenias are beautiful. Springer spaniel faces are beautiful. Children are beautiful. The sky is beautiful. These are not things that people make. These are things that God made, and the Republican Party must defend them.”

These statements are banal on their own, and from almost anyone else wouldn’t deserve a second thought. But Carlson is doing something here that shouldn’t be ignored. In speaking about beauty and nature, God and the family, he’s putting forward a politics that’s facially uncontroversial but inherently oppressive. And even if Carlson isn’t planning to run for office, he’s almost certainly providing a template and set of talking points for far-right candidates who are.

To Carlson and the other speakers and attendees here, God’s order has no room for LGBTQ people – and especially trans people. They simply cannot exist if society is to be beautiful.

“The Republican Party should be about nature in human relationships” the Fox host thundered, pivoting off his rant about how wind turbines are, to him, similarly against nature. “The most basic desire of most people – not every single person, but of most people, the overwhelming majority of people – is to mate and have children and perpetuate the species.”

“‘I’m not really sure if I’m a boy or a girl.’ OK, that’s kind of the last thing that needs positive affirmation,” Carlson said. The same is true for gay and bi people.

Order, for Carlson, also means that the mass movement to fight racist oppression at the hands of the police in the summer of 2020 must be demonized.

“Our cities burned down,” Carlson said. “A lot of people died. And I thought, ‘Why should what happened between a cop and George Floyd outside a convenience store in Minneapolis be personal and painful to anyone else?’”

When Carlson talks about the importance of family, it’s not some feel-good truism. He’s talking about a particular type of family, based on patriarchal dominance, that will be forced on people who can get pregnant and are forced to carry the pregnancy to term. In this way, he transforms his anti-abortion views, which are designed to harm women economically and socially, into a vision of liberation.

To Carlson, companies like Citibank and Nike, which are supposedly “paying their female employees to have abortions,” have tricked people into believing that economic autonomy is a prerequisite to happiness, rather than raising a family.

“They're really saying it is more important to serve us than to have a family,” he said. “You'll be happier as you rise within our company than you would be if you had your own children.”

It’s worth noting that roughly a quarter of the display booths at this event were for “crisis pregnancy centers,” anti-abortion spaces that masquerade as health care providers.

That evening, Carlson taped a live episode of his prime-time show from Iowa. He directed his viewers to watch footage of his speech on Fox News’ streaming platform, Fox Nation, twice. Selling cheap hats is one thing, but convincing his viewers to give Lachlan Murdoch $5.99 per month is much more lucrative. By Murdoch’s own admission, Fox Nation helps to insulate Carlson from the typical pressures of selling ads because he can point to subscription revenue as his value to the network. (Blue-chip advertisers have long sinceabandoned Carlson’s Fox News show for his lengthy history of bigoted remarks.)

Carlson is 53. Let’s say he wants to work for another 12 years, maybe more, maybe less. Whenever he quits broadcasting, he definitely doesn’t want to get fired, and his best protection against that – against any external pressure from boycotts at all – is Fox Nation. So after spending 41 minutes that afternoon preaching the word of God to the true believers, he ended his day as he ends all days: As a company man, singing for his supper, dancing for the corporate overlords he pretends to detest.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

In Lying Rant, Carlson Denounces Prosecution Of Coup Plotters And Rioters

Fox News’ top star Tucker Carlson devoted his opening monologue on June 29 to mischaracterizing a wide array of criminal investigations into far-right figures, arguing that the Department of Justice is targeting political opponents for speech and acts protected by the Constitution. “The signature tactic of the Biden administration … has been the criminalizing of American politics,” Carlson said.

The segment was filled with overt lies and deliberately misleading sleights of hand, and it omitted important information and context from each supposed case of persecution. Carlson’s objective was to paint President Joe Biden as a totalitarian who had unleashed his private state militia on his enemies. Crucially, nearly every person Carlson defended in the process is connected in some way to the attempted coup on January 6, and his segment needs to be understood in that context. He’s notopposed to draconian law enforcement per se, he’s opposed to any attempts to prevent another fascist insurrection.

It’s worth underlining at the outset that claims by the DOJ, FBI, and police should be treated with skepticism in all cases, including those below. But that’s not what Carlson was doing in his Wednesday segment. He was manufacturing a narrative out of whole cloth that the DOJ is in reality a secret police force bent on repressing and persecuting conservatives. Both historically and currently, the opposite is true. Police at the local and federal level are far more likely to infiltrate, investigate, and prosecute leftist activists than conservatives. But Carlson wants to convince his viewers they’re a persecuted, oppressed group to justify their grievances and stoke election denialism.

Carlson’s first example of political persecution was Douglass Mackey, known online by the pseudonym Ricky Vaughn. “He was arrested. For what? A crime? No, for creating internet memes that made fun of Hillary Clinton,” said Carlson. “But according to the Justice Department, those memes, quote, ‘deprived individuals of their constitutional right to vote,’ so he went to jail.”

In reality, Mackey engaged in a prolific online disinformation campaign in 2016 “designed to encourage supporters” of Clinton “to ‘vote’ via text message or social media, a legally invalid method of voting,” according to the Justice Department. Mackey’s stated goal, as detailed in the complaint, was to “limit black turnout."

Carlson then moved on to Russell Taylor and Alan Hostetter. “What did they do wrong? Well, they organized a lawful political rally on January 6. They even had a permit for the rally,” Carlson said. "Taylor also committed the grave offense of being seen with Roger Stone in the days before January 6. That is now a crime, too.”

It’s not clear what rally Carlson is referring to, but the idea that Taylor and Hostetter were arrested simply for holding a permitted event and standing next to Roger Stone is absurd. They're both facing charges related to their activities during the insurrection on January 6. Hostetter was charged with “conspiracy, obstructing an official proceeding and unlawful entry on restricted building or grounds,” and Taylor was charged “with obstructing law enforcement during a civil disorder and unlawful possession of a dangerous weapon on Capitol grounds.”

The two are being charged alongside four members of the far-right Three Percenters militia, whom they coordinated with prior to the insurrection, though Hostetter is trying to get an individual trial. (Hostetter has accused Taylor of being a “government operative of some sort,” though there’s no public evidence to support that claim.)

Carlson’s next subject was former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, one of the architects of Trump’s attempted coup.

“On April 28, 2021, the Feds seized the cell phones and computers belonging to the president's former lawyer Rudy Giuliani. That didn’t used to be allowed. You can’t seize the records of someone's attorney. Those are confidential lawyer-client communication. Now at the time, we are told that Rudy Giuliani had done something illegal in Ukraine — the walls were closing in. He was never charged with anything like that, because it was all fake. But they got his privileged communications anyway.”

Carlson left out one crucial bit of information here. The court appointed a former federal judge to oversee a privilege review of the devices and files to ensure that protected information was kept confidential. Privilege review is common, and Giuliani’s lawyer agreed to the judge’s appointment at the time. So the idea that “they” — an amorphous, all-powerful government — got all of Giuliani’s “privileged communications” is completely misleading.

Next was Giuliani associate George Dickson. “The FBI never explained the purpose of that raid but Dickson was working on a documentary about Joe Biden and Hunter Biden and their business dealings in Ukraine, and that is no longer allowed,” said Carlson. Little is known about the FBI’s interest in Dickson, but the “investigation appears tied to an ongoing federal probe into whether Giuliani violated foreign lobbying laws by working on behalf of a Ukrainian prosecutor,” according to Mother Jones, who broke the story.

Carlson then moved on to Infowars provocateur Owen Shroyer. “According to the federal complaint, Shroyer told the crowd on January 6, quote, ‘Today, we March for the Capitol because on this historic January 6, 2021, we have to let our congressmen and women know and we have to let Mike Pence know that they stole the election,’ end quote. Now you may not agree with that or maybe you do, it doesn’t matter. That is protected speech under our Constitution,” Carlson said. “But under Joe Biden, it is a crime."

Contrary to the deliberately misleading impression that Carlson left his viewers with, Shroyer was not charged with a crime for what he said, like incitement to riot. He is instead facing two misdemeanor counts for his actions during the riot, one for “knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority” and one for “violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.";

Next, Carlson went to right-wing propagandist James O’Keefe and his colleagues at disinformation hub Project Veritas. Carlson claimed the FBI raided their houses because “they reported on a diary written by Joe Biden's daughter Ashley. And in that diary, Biden’s daughter writes, [and] reveals to the rest of us, that Joe Biden showered with her in a way that she described as inappropriate and that she blames for making her sexually compulsive in later life."

The O’Keefe raid is a complicated, confusing story, but Carlson is wrong on basic facts. Crucially, Project Veritas did not report on the diary. Its contents were instead published by an obscure, right-wing blog and went almost entirely unnoticed at the time. Carlson’s decision to repeat the alleged contents of the diary on his show betrays his true motivation: to disseminate information he thinks will be damaging to Biden as widely as possible.

There is still a significant amount of information about this case that remains unknown to the public. In general, the DOJ is prohibited from targeting reporters, including for publishing stolen information, unless the journalist was actively involved in committing the illegal acts. In the immediate aftermath of the raid, the Committee to Protect Journalists “expressed concern” over the DOJ’s actions, and the ACLU urged the court to appoint a “special master” to determine whether the raid was justified. In the following months, however, the New York Timesreported that a Project Veritas employee attempted to verify the authenticity of the diary by misrepresenting themselves, which may harm the group’s claims that it acted in accordance with standard journalistic practices and ethics.

Carlson then moved on to former Trump adviser Steve Bannon. “Bannon's crime was that he didn’t bend the knee for the January 6 committee. He cited executive privilege,” Carlson said. “According to Nancy Pelosi, that means Steve Bannon belongs in jail.”

Although the House did find Bannon in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena for records related to the attempted coup, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) does not determine who goes to jail. Shortly after the House vote, the DOJ issued a two-count indictment against him for his failure to comply with a subpoena issued by the January 6 committee.

Carlson then described the cases of Tina Peters, a Colorado elections clerk, and her associate Sherronna Bishop, former campaign manager to the far-right Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO). The FBI executed searches on both women’s houses on November 16, 2021. Carlson said “the FBI gave no reason” for the Bishop raid, and that the “DOJ said Peters raised doubts about the legitimacy of the last election.”

Again, Carlson is deliberately misleading his viewers here. Both raids appear to stem from an incident in May 2020, during which election data Peters was in charge of was leaked to far-right extremist Ron Watkins, according to the Daily Beast. Watkins is the founder of the extremist QAnon-hosting site 8Kun, where he posted the stolen data. In March, Peters was indicted on 10 felony and misdemeanor charges related to those events — the kind of election breach that she claimed to be fighting against.

Next was Peter Navarro, Trump’s former top trade adviser. “He sued the January 6 committee. He claimed executive privilege with his communications with the president,” Carlson said, by way of explaining why Navarro was arrested. “And rather than go to court, the January 6 committee simply had him arrested at the airport and sent to jail in irons."

Like Bannon, Navarro was charged with contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena for materials related to the January 6 attempted coup. The idea that he was arrested as a shortcut — or in retaliation for suing the committee — is totally unsubstantiated.

Moving on to Michigan Republican gubernatorial candidate Ryan Kelley, Carlson played a clip of Kelley explaining his arrest, in which he claimed, “There was no crime committed, Tucker, no; never entered the Capitol building, exercising my First Amendment.” According to Carlson, this was indicative of a pattern that if you “speak up against Joe Biden, dare to organize other people to speak up against Joe Biden, dare to run for office against Joe Biden, … you raise your chances of the FBI showing up at your house exponentially.”

In reality, according to NPR, Kelley was charged with four misdemeanors related to his activity at the Capitol on January 6 that allege that he “knowingly entered and engaged in disorderly conduct in restricted buildings or grounds and engaged in an act of physical violence against a person or property."

Carlson then moved to former Trump lawyer John Eastman. “On June 22 of this month, the feds cornered former Trump attorney John Eastman in a parking lot and seized his phone. They didn’t even provide a warrant before they did that.” After showing the clip of Eastman being given the warrant immediately after his phone was seized, Carlson gave his own recap: “Put your hands up, no warrant for you. What’d that man do wrong? We still don’t know."

Exact details on why Eastman’s phone was confiscated have not been released, but it is clear that Eastman was heavily involved in helping Trump engineer preposterous, pseudo-legal mechanisms with the goal of “disrupting the congressional certification of the election’s outcome,” according to the New York Times. Carlson’s claim that “we still don’t know” what Eastman did wrong is blatantly incorrect. In March, a federal judge determined “that Eastman and Trump ‘likely’ entered into a criminal conspiracy to obstruct Congress,” calling it “a coup in search of a legal theory."

Carlson’s final example was former Trump DOJ official Jeffrey Clark. “There’s no suggestion he committed any crime of anything, that he did anything wrong,” Carlson said. “What he did was say things that Joe Biden and Joe Biden’s Justice Department didn’t like, so he was hauled out of his home in his pajamas for maximum public humiliation."

While it is still unclear what investigators were looking for in Clark’s home, the New York Timesreported that the raid was likely related to his role in trying to subvert the results of the 2020 election, specifically, his “proposing to send a letter to state officials in Georgia falsely stating that the department had evidence that could lead Georgia to rescind its certification of Mr. Biden’s victory in that key swing state."

Again, approaching DOJ and FBI claims with skepticism is good practice; pretending that they’re a secret police force persecuting conservatives is not. Such rhetoric just serves as groundwork for the next coup, insurrection, or other form of reactionary lawlessness.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Why Do Mainstream Media Pretend Conservatives Care About Children?

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade, ending the constitutional right to an abortion after almost 50 years, some conservatives and mainstream media outlets have suggested that anti-abortionists may be willing to support more generous family welfare programs to offset the financial burden of forced birth. These suggestions, whether made in bad faith or ignorance, completely misunderstand the social function of prohibiting abortion, which is to exert control over women and all people who can get pregnant.

In adopting or replicating the right’s framing of anti-abortionists as “pro-life,” these outlets mystify the conservative movement’s history and current goals. Conservatives have sought to dismantle the United State’s limited safety net since the passage of the New Deal. Expecting the movement to reverse course now is absurd, and suggesting so serves primarily to obfuscate the economic hardship the end of Roe will inflict on people forced to carry a pregnancy to term.

At The Atlantic, staff writer Elaine Godfrey profiled anti-abortion activists who purport to pay some pregnant people not to have an abortion. “Nathan Berning is one of many abortion opponents who wants, more than anything, to see a substantial expansion of the social safety net,” Godfrey writes.

“Abortion opponents who oppose a social safety net may come around to the idea that more social spending is the best way to reduce abortions,” Godfrey adds toward the end of the piece. “Restricting the supply of abortion doesn’t stop the demand for it, as studies have shown.”

The piece is sprinkled with caveats, meant to offer balance to its central claim. “If all of this sounds a little too rosy, that’s because it probably is,” Godfrey writes. As Godfrey herself admits, the people she’s profiling “are minority voices in the broader anti-abortion tent,” and “abortion opponents have hitched their wagon to a party that has fought tirelessly against state expansion.”

At best, these admissions leave the piece almost incoherent. At worst, they provide cover for the entire anti-abortion movement, leaving the impression that it may one day come around to supporting paid family leave, child allowances, universal childcare, or any of the other welfare programs being discussed. It’s also preposterous to claim a movement that has spent decades attempting to prohibit abortion rights is “against state expansion.” To the contrary, the criminalization of abortion is predicated on a massive expansion of police power, potentially including surveillance and other forms of state-backed coercion.

Ross Douthat makes a similar claim in his column at The New York Times about the end of Roe. After acknowledging that if “anti-abortion laws are permanently linked to a punitive and stingy politics,” they’ll be viable only in deeply conservative states, he argues that “there are other possible futures.”

The pro-life impulse could control and improve conservative governance rather than being undermined by it, making the G.O.P. more serious about family policy and public health. Well-governed conservative states like Utah could model new approaches to family policy; states in the Deep South could be prodded into more generous policy by pro-life activists; big red states like Texas could remain magnets for internal migration even with restrictive abortion laws.

Douthat offers no evidence to support these claims, because there is none. States “with the most restrictive abortion policies also show the weakest maternal and child health outcomes and are least likely to invest in at-risk populations,” according to research from The Commonwealth Fund. As Mother Jonespoints out, “Many of these states have roundly and repeatedly rejected badly-needed Medicaid expansions that would have vastly improved such disastrous outcomes.” And as the ACLU’s Gillian Branstetter noted on Twitter, Republicans who voted against the Women’s Health Protection Act previously voted against paid family leave and child care.

On Meet the Press, The Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan said the Republican Party should use the end of Roe to “change itself and become a party that helps women.” The panel, to their limited credit, began laughing at her suggestion before she finished it. Powering through, she continued that the party should “change its reputation, become a party that helps women and children, becomes responsible and supportive.” Her co-panelists continued to guffaw, a much more appropriate response than the one taken by more credulous reporters and outlets.

On the day of the decision, Politicowrote that conservative enthusiasm for economic policies to support people after they give birth is “an emerging theme in the Republican Party,” citing statements from Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Rick Scott (R-FL). (Hawley’s wife is a prominent anti-abortion activist and lawyer.) Temporary populist rhetoric notwithstanding, there is no reason to believe Republican senators are even remotely interested in addressing and alleviating poverty and economic precarity in the United States.

Nevertheless, these kinds of stories have circulated for weeks following the leakedRoe opinion in early May. “With Roe at risk, GOP faces pressure to support families after a birth,” read a headline in The Washington Post’s news section shortly after the leak. Just days before the final decision was handed down, National Review editor Ramesh Ponnuru wrote a column jointly published by The Washington Post and Bloomberg arguing for “A Conservative Plan to Strengthen Families, Post-Roe.” Ponnuru expressed optimism that Republicans may soon begin to support policies like a child allowance – which, crucially, would not apply to people without a job.

One need only look at the existing anti-abortion movement’s reaction to the Roe ruling to see where its actual energy is going – and it’s not to providing economic aid for pregnant poor people. In a piece published two days after the decision, The New York Times captures the movement’s post-Roe priorities well:

In Florida, where the Legislature recently passed a ban on abortion after 15 weeks, lawmakers pushed Gov. Ron DeSantis to call a special session to consider a ban after six weeks.

The National Right to Life Committee promoted model legislation for state bans and renewed calls toward its original, bigger goal of a constitutional amendment banning abortion nationwide. It and other anti-abortion groups also pledged to punish prosecutors who have said they would not enforce abortion bans.

They promised other steps to limit access to abortion, including pushing for legislation prohibiting people from crossing state lines to get abortions or obtaining abortion pills.

Kristan Hawkins, president of the anti-abortion group Students for Life of America, said its primary focus would now be on preventing pregnant women from getting abortion pills as a workaround to bans. It had also discussed proposed legislation, modeled along the lines of a Texas law that since September has banned abortion after six weeks, that would allow ordinary citizens to sue anyone who provided abortion services across state lines.

The anti-abortion movement is organized around punishing pregnant women and those who provide them with health care. It has been that way from its inception. There is no reason to believe it will change now, and every reason to believe it will become more radical.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Fox Hypes Bogus ‘Experts’ And Ineffective Responses To School Shootings

Fox News responded to the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, by interviewing experts who pushed controversial, counterproductive models to reduce gun violence in schools. One of these experts advocated for introducing more weapons into schools through arming teachers and staff, a policy firmly rejected by teachers unions and researchers. Another called for increased active shooter response trainings-- a service his company provides -- which have also been found to be ineffective at preventing casualties.

As news out of Uvalde was still developing, Fox News’ Jesse Watters invited Laura Carno -- the executive director of FASTER Colorado, which advocates for arming school staff -- on his show, where she compared arming teachers and other school personnel to arming pilots. “We all feel really comfortable with the armed pilot program, where some pilots are armed on some flights,” Carno said. “We don't know which ones, and we feel pretty good about that. It's a very similar kind of thing to armed school staff programs.”

Whatever the relative merits of arming pilots, it’s patently obvious that a classroom is fundamentally different from a locked and sealed cockpit. There is a litany of examples of guns being mishandled in schools, both by on-grounds cops — known as security resource officers — as well as teachers and staff, according to the Giffords Law Center. The center also found that an overwhelming percentage of students, teachers, and parents oppose arming school staff.

Both major teachers unions, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA), also oppose the idea. There’s also a strong argument to be made that Black and Latino students would be put at increased risk with the introduction of more guns, as they are the students who are more likely to be punished than white students for the same behavior.

Watters also invited Chad Ayers, vice president of the Proactive Response Group, to discuss the shooting. Proactive provides active shooter response trainings to “workplaces, religious establishments, and schools,” which it calls “the true first line of defense.” Ayers used the occasion to suggest students are not doing enough to identify “early warning signs” to stop such shootings, arguing that “kids are afraid of being the school snitch.”

“We have to do a better job training,” Ayers added, implicitly advocating for more active shooter response trainings. “Showing a 5-minute video at the beginning of the school year to the teachers is not getting the job done.”

A recent study conducted by Everytown, an anti-gun violence organization, alongside the AFT and NEA, “concluded that there is almost no research affirming the value of active shooter drills for preventing school shootings or protecting the school community when shootings do occur.”

Other research has found that “anxiety, stress, and depression increased by 39–42% following the drills.” This study concluded that the findings, “paired with the lack of strong evidence that drills save lives, suggests that proactive school safety strategies may be both more effective, and less detrimental to mental health, than drills.” The nation’s largest for-profit active shooter training provider, ALICE Training Institute, regularly overstated its program’s efficacy, according to an investigation from The Trace.

Although there’s little evidence to show that active shooter response trainings are effective, there’s plenty of incentives for cops and former cops to push them as the primary response. The school safety industry was reportedly a $2.7 billion market in 2018, with some training programs running as high as $56,000 for the initial round and $25,000 for training renewals.

Fox News has a history of advocating flawed responses to school shootings. In 2015, a Fox & Friends segment demonstrated how students should rush a shooter, without making it clear that such an action should only be taken as a last resort.

Fox News wasn’t the only example of right-wing media pushing these flawed responses. Fox News competitor Newsmax interviewed at least one active shooter response trainer as well, and conservative pundit Erick Erickson endorsed FASTER in a tweet.

The United States accounts for about 40 percent of the world’s civilian-owned guns, even though it has about five percent of the global population. In 2019, the United States spent $123 billion on police. More guns and more funding to law enforcement and their private contractor partners is not the answer. Effective measures, such as early intervention, decreasing access to guns, and increasing the number of counselors and mental health professionals in schools, would likely do far more to reduce gun violence at school than doubling down on security theater.

In the longer term, the most effective way to reduce this kind of violence is to take aim at the root, which would mean radically lessening the number of guns on the streets, including those carried by police officers.

But don’t expect to hear any of that on Fox News.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Bullying Los Angeles Sheriff Menaces Reporter -- Then Backs Down

LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva this week targeted – and then backed off – a Los Angeles Times reporter in a criminal investigation, but Villanueva’s threats against the media don’t extend to his favorite extremist networks. The hard-right sheriff has appeared on Fox News at least 32 times, including four appearances on Tucker Carlson Tonight, according to an internal Media Matters database.

Villanueva is also a central figure in the two-part Suicide of Los Angeles, the season two premiere of Fox Nation’s documentary series Tucker Carlson Originals. Not content to limit himself to Murdoch-owned media, Villanueva has also appeared on fledgling Fox News competitor One America News, and on Newsmax’s questionably named The Gorka Reality Check.

Villanueva’s appearances on Fox programs often follow a well-worn template. In the wake of either a real or perceived crisis regarding law enforcement, he shows up to fearmonger about the dangers of defunding the police, investigating prosecutorial misconduct, or other moderate approaches to reform of the criminal punishment system. He demonizes unhoused people and drugusers, all while doubling down on the carceral policies that are at the root of so much poverty and immiseration in Los Angeles and other cities in the United States.

An illustrative example is from February 22 of this year. When asked by Guy Benson on Fox Business about the effect a COVID-19 vaccine mandate would have on his department, Villanueva reached for apocalyptic analogies. “Well, just think of any dystopian – future movie,” Villanueva responded. “Think of Beyond Thunderdome, Mad Max, anything like that, it would be applicable. We have the desert environment, there would be an absolute lack of cops on the street, in the jails. We’d have to close jails.” To ensure he hit his talking point, Villanueva then said the “defunding” board that oversees his department wants to “even further” defund it.

When Villanueva isn’t citing post-apocalyptic movies to talk about LA’s supposed slide into chaos, he’s often setting his sights on his favorite target: Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón. The DA is a moderate reformer, but to hear it from Villanueva in Suicide of Los Angeles, Gascón’s politics fall somewhere to the left of prison abolitionist Ruth Wilson Gilmore.

“The problem is here in LA, in city and county government, they occupy every single seat,” Villanueva says, without specifying exactly whom he’s referencing. “There is no other point of view other than that ‘woke’ ideology.” He adds that Gascón and other liberal reformers are “funded by Soros and company,” a narrative frequentlyfeatured on Fox News.

Appearing in a promo for the film alongside Carlson, Villanueva made it clear who he thinks is getting preferential treatment from Gascón’s office. “Unless you come from the public defender's office, you are a Black Lives Matter activist – those are about the only people he’s speaking to. Everyone else just doesn't exist in his world.”

Villanueva’s regular presence on right-wing media only underscores how inappropriate his comments about the Los Angeles Times were. The investigation into staff writer Alene Tchekmedyian arose from a story she’d written about a departmental cover-up of a deputy’s assault of a person in their custody. The Times obtained a “surveillance video from a lockup area of the San Fernando Courthouse that captured the deputy kneeling on the inmate’s head for three minutes after handcuffing him,” according to Tchekmedyian’s reporting. At a press conference on Tuesday, Villanueva accused two political rivals, in addition to Tchekmedyian, of being responsible for the tape’s release. When asked if the reporter was specifically under threat of prosecution, Villanueva responded, “All parties to the act are subjects of the investigation,” according to the Times.

By that evening, facing intense criticism, the sheriff backed down. “I must clarify at no time today did I state an L.A. Times reporter was a suspect in a criminal investigation,” he said, according to the Times. “We have no interest in pursuing, nor are we pursuing, criminal charges against any reporter.”

Far-right views within sheriff’s departments are alarmingly common, and they are regularly aired on Fox. The far-right movement known as “constitutional sheriffs” holds that local sheriffs are the highest legitimate legal jurisdiction in the country. Although Villanueva is not known to be a follower of that philosophy, Fox News has a documented history of embracing those who are.

Villanueva’s walk-back notwithstanding, it’s ridiculous for him to claim Tchekmedyian was never a subject in his investigation. His comments were filmed and posted to his own department’s Facebook page. Just don’t expect to see that footage on Fox News any time soon.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters