Actress Mary Lynn Rajskub played a counterintelligence expert in the spy drama “24,” but in her new memoir, she claims to have been duped into an unwanted kiss from late right-wing broadcaster Rush Limbaugh. According to Rajskub’s book that came out Tuesday, “FAME-ISH: My Life at the Edge of Stardom,” that forced kiss came in 2006 when she was invited to a conservative gathering in Washington, D.C., that was moderated by Limbaugh. The 50-year-old actress recalls being unsure why she was at the event, other than to promote “24,” which aired on Fox. She also remembers that when Limbaugh was intr...
Stories Chosen For You
'Thousand-year White Boy Summer': Amid all the gloating, anti-abortion right dreams of bigger wins — and possible violence
The news that the Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, allowing for immediate abortion bans in at least nine new states across the country by Friday afternoon, with the near certainty of many more to come, has led to an onslaught of celebratory statements from the right, ranging from the tepid and quasi-responsible to the gleeful and ghoulish to ominous warnings from extremists itching for violence. A warning: Some of this is really foul.
Starting from the head of the snake, Donald Trump sent an email blast claiming credit for the ruling. "Today's decision, which is the biggest WIN for LIFE in a generation, along with other decisions that have been announced recently, were only made possible because I delivered everything as promised."
Across Twitter, many leading conservatives enthusiastically agreed, with right-wing talk show host Michael Knowles tweeting that "Trump's victory in 2016 ended the constitutional 'right' to abortion. He has secured his place as one of the greatest and most consequential presidents in American history."
Ned Ryun, the CEO of American Majority, a right-wing activist training organization, concurred, writing that "not even Reagan could accomplish this. In my mind, Trump is easily one of the greatest, if not the greatest, Republican President ever. Lincoln ended slavery. Trump ended Roe."
Others used the moment to settle political scores, with multiple right-wing figures following the model of Federalist CEO Sean Davis, who tweeted at never-Trump Republican lawyer David French, "If you had gotten your way, today never would have happened."
Shortly after the decision was announced, Mike Pence undermined years of claims by the anti-abortion movement that it merely wanted to return the issue to the states. The former veep, treated as a hero by the Jan. 6 committee earlier this week, called for a nationwide ban on abortion: "Having been given this second chance for Life, we must not rest and must not relent until the sanctity of life is restored to the center of American law in every state in the land."
In Texas, Zach Despart reported at the Texas Tribune, 14 Republican members of the state House signed onto a letter to the ride-sharing company Lyft, vowing to introduce legislation that would ban companies whose health insurance policies cover abortions from operating in Texas, as well as opening company executives up to criminal prosecution under laws that predate Roe but were never repealed. Rep. Briscoe Cain, who led the group of lawmakers, warned Lyft's CEO that Texas would "take swift and decisive action" unless the company rescinded a pledge to pay for the travel expenses of employees who have to go out of state to seek an abortion, as well as to cover any legal costs for Lyft drivers targeted under Texas' "bounty-hunter" bill, which allows private citizens to sue anyone they believe was involved in procuring an abortion.
Also in Texas, Attorney General Ken Paxton announced he was closing his office for the day "and making it an annual holiday — as a memorial to the 70 million lives lost bc of abortion."
Some Republican politicians, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, announced plans to "introduce a proposal to support mothers and their babies so that every child has a real opportunity to pursue the promise of America." Among some professional anti-abortion organizations, there was similar talk.
But the predominant mood was the celebration of victory after decades of activism. Some, like Sidewalk Advocates for Life, declared that the fight wasn't fully won, and that activists who have protested outside abortion provider clinics for years would still be needed to intercept patients outside providers like Planned Parenthood that might refer women to abortion providers out of state.
Many, following Pence, vowed to go further. Catherine Glenn Foster, CEO of Americans United for Life, called for enshrining anti-abortion laws in all states and at the federal level, saying, "We must clarify, as a constitutional matter as much as a matter of fundamental justice, that abortion shall not exist in the United States of America." The Rev. Patrick Mahoney, of the crisis pregnancy center-affiliated Stanton Public Policy Center, likewise said, "The pro-life/human rights community will never rest or be silent until abortion is unthinkable and ends up on the scrapheap of history like chattel slavery and segregation."
Beyond the official responses, right-wing social media personalities reveled in the anguish of millions of Americans outraged by the decision — and counseled their fellow-travelers to join in the gloating.
"Don't be shy about delighting in the leftist tears today," tweeted right-wing podcaster Matt Walsh. "You deserve to feel this joy and they deserve to feel this despair. So rub it in their faces, by all means. Have fun with it."
Walsh certainly took his own advice, tweeting, "I could not think of a better way to end Pride Month." (In response, the prominent right-wing Twitter account Libs of TikTok, which observed Pride Month by directing far-right rage at LGBTQ events around the country, responded with a "100% emoji" and the "ok" hand gesture associated with white supremacists and the extremist right.)
On his father's struggling social media app, Truth Social, Donald Trump, Jr. posted a meme showing a man tipping the first of a series of oversize dominoes — labeled "Obama making fun of Trump at a dinner in 2011" — on the path to the final, largest domino to fall, labeled, "Roe v. Wade overruled." Junior captioned the meme, "Fuck around and find out!!!"
There were all flavors of slavery and civil rights analogies, reflecting, in their combined incoherence, the far right's unhinged desire to be both the "Party of Lincoln" and the party of white grievance. Dinesh D'Souza tweeted, "Democratic segregationists went berserk after the Brown decision and we can expect Democratic pro-abortion types to go berserk now. It's ok. Civil rights progress never comes without some reactionary resistance."
The Claremont Institute shared a picture of a Klansman and an abortion provider, standing side by side below a tree festooned with nooses. Former Trump administration and Turning Point USA staffer Collin Pruett responded to a tweet by Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, warning that the SCOTUS ruling "brings us back to the 1850s," by writing "Lol is this a threat?"
On Telegram, as NBC reporter Ben Collins noted, the largest Proud Boys channel competed to come up with the most ghoulish response. A sampling: "Whores are BIG mad." "Who wants to dig up RBG so we can tell her the good news?" "When leftists were putting coal miners out of work, they told them to 'Learn to Code.' When they complain that they can't get abortions, tell them 'LEARN TO SUCK DICK.'" And on incel forums, Collins added, posters were jubilant about the idea of women being raped.
Jeff Tischauser, a senior researcher at the Southern Poverty Law Center, similarly noted that on Telegram, far-right activists were discussing "how to use Dobbs to 'make life suck' for their left-leaning neighbors" — including by "stalking pregnant women to make sure they follow through" with their pregnancies, brandishing guns or burning crosses — as well as whether the decision merited declaring Justice Clarence Thomas "an 'honorary aryan.'"
Elsewhere on social media, accounts posted memes of frat boys throwing up "victory" signs in front of a grave marked Roe v. Wade, declared that "A thousand year White Boy Summer" — a term associated with the white nationalist groyper movement — "starts today" and proclaimed that the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had "lived, and died, for nothing."
Alongside the general ugliness, another theme emerged clearly on Friday afternoon: that the pro-choice left would imminently respond with violent riots. That narrative had been building from before the decision was announced.
On Thursday, far-right Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., wrote on Gab, "Upon hearing the news that the Supreme Court will release additional rulings tomorrow, I would like to ask all patriots to please consider watching your local churches and pregnancy centers. If you see vandals and arsonists, call the authorities and record what you can." On Fox News, one host predicted "a summer of historic violence," while former Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker expressed certainty that "Dems will use political violence."
One Catholic right media outlet, LifeSiteNews, warned that Friday would witness a "radical pro-abortion extremist" "Night of Rage." Another such outlet, Church Militant — which, as Salon has reported before, has significant ties to far-right extremists involved in aggressive protests against both abortion and LGBTQ rights — asked during its livestream coverage, "Now are Catholics supposed to be afraid of going to churches? Buckle up, because this is going to be a summer of rage and you are going to see violence out there."
But as Mollie O'Reilly of the liberal Catholic magazine Commonweal reported, the same suggestions came from more official sources: The New York Archdiocese Respect Life Office issued a press release speculating about "the loud, angry, potentially violent response of the pro-abortion movement."
Jared Holt, a researcher on domestic extremism and the internet at the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab, warned that all of this amounts to a familiar pattern. "I'm watching the far-right this morning lay down the same kind of prep work they did before violence in 2020 and the Capitol riot," Holt tweeted. "Claims that there are antifa infiltrators ready to make them look bad, that riots are a given, cops standing down, etc."
From the preemptive responses across right-wing Twitter to the supposed threat of a night, or summer, of rage, it wasn't hard to imagine how that might play out, as one high-profile conservative figure after another repeated the same joking threat: The Supreme Court had wisely ruled in favor of dramatically loosening gun restrictions just before its Roe decision.
Others, like Colton Duncan, a former Turning Point USA staffer turned political consultant for far-right Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, skipped the subtlety. He wrote in a long post that pro-choice protesters are "Nasty, ugly gender-confused animals" intent on "torch[ing] American cities" and doing "everything they can to tear down the fabric of America." Consequently, he continued, "They should be shot. …If you live in a big city, arm yourselves, Get ready to defend your homeland. Because the enemy is at the gate. If they threaten you or your livlihood [sic]…shoot to Kill."
Sacramento City Councilman Sean Loloee was sued by the federal government for threatening to deport employees who cooperated with investigators looking into his show.
"The lawsuit, filed April 1 in federal court in Sacramento by the U.S. Department of Labor, also claims Loloee underpaid employees, employed minors in hazardous occupations, and interfered with multiple federal investigations spanning over a decade," the Sacramento Bee reported.
On Wednesday, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg called for an investigation into whether Loloee actually lives where he claims he does.
"Labor officials sought the new suit against the business and Loloee, who is the sole shareholder, after having determined in other cases he had violated labor law. Officials made clear they were concerned past actions weren’t deterrents for the businessman, who also represents portions of North Sacramento on the council," the newspaper reported. "The lawsuit names 66 employees, and alleges violations at four Viva Supermarket stores: Rancho Cordova, Dixon and the two locations in the low-income North Sacramento district he represents — one in Del Paso Heights and one on Norwood Avenue."
Lolee is trying to have the lawsuit dismissed.
"Loloee has employed at least five workers under the age of 18 to load and operate an industrial cardboard baler, and to clean meat slicers and meat grinders, which are considered hazardous pieces of equipment, the lawsuit alleges. He’s also employed children under 16 and had them work more than three hours a day when school was in session, and in excess of 18 hours a week — another violation of federal labor laws, the lawsuit alleges," the newspaper reported. "When the coronavirus pandemic struck, Loloee failed to provide paid sick leave to employees who were experiencing COVID-19 symptoms — a violation of the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, the lawsuit alleges."
Read the full report.
In order to understand how we got here with the stripping of reproductive health care, we need to understand the people who made it happen. It's a journey through a pivotal year in the anti-abortion movement, seen through the eyes of three of its youthful female leaders. There's never been a documentary quite like "Battleground," which premiered recently at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Its Emmy-nominated director and producer, Cynthia Lowen, spoke to me on "Salon Talks" shortly before the overturning of Roe v. Wade about the women at the forefront of the anti-choice crusade, and where we go from here. Watch our episode here, or read a Q&A of our conversation below.
The following conversation has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
There is a moment early in the film that defines it. A bunch of young women from Students For Life are in a room. One of them says, "People think that it's all just old white men telling us what we can do with our bodies. It's not. This is about young people in the movement. This is about women." This is about even Democrats. What are we getting wrong when we think about the face of the anti-choice movement, Cynthia?
Going into making this film, I had a lot of those notions that the anti-abortion movement was – as the girls in the hotel room say – old white men. I was really surprised to learn in making this film that the anti-abortion movement, they're young women by and large. The movement has its eye very much on the next generation of anti-abortion activists. They're really cultivating young people to be at the vanguard of the next stage of the movement. You hear these young people saying a lot, "We are the post-Roe generation," and they're taking on this identity of coming of age in a post-Roe America.
"The anti-abortion movement, they're young women by and large"
Kristen Hawkins, one of the women in the film who's the president of Students for Life, says, "People used to say I was crazy when I was trying to tell people that I'm building a post-Roe organization." Here we are. We're on the absolute precipice of Roe being overturned. What we have is that the movement is building.
It's building its foot soldiers. It's building that next generation of people, because I think the movement tends to be forward-looking. They're very much trying to build up single issue voters. Something else that they say is, "Look, you don't have to be a conservative. You don't have to be a Republican. You just have to be a single issue voter for this."
One of the chilling shots of the film is where there's a sign from a Students for Life of America advocate who's saying, "I'm so pro-life that I'm going to vote for a candidate I don't like." Because I'm putting that anti-choice position ahead of actually what I think of a candidate.
That's what they're doing. They're really trying to build up this single issue voter block, as well as positioning themselves and appropriating a lot of the language from left-leaning social justice movements to appeal to young people.
Let's start with that single issue voter idea, because I think those of us on the more progressive side have really been bitten by that idea of, "If a candidate is not my perfect unicorn, if I don't like Hillary, then I'm not going to vote."
We see where that leads. Some of us on the progressive side have this idea the movement is old white men or guys in red caps who are storming the Capitol. It's not people who say, "You know what? I don't like Donald Trump. I didn't like him." And a lot of these people are saying that. How did that relationship evolve? Trump and the anti-choice movement made some kind of relationship happen that surprises everyone.
The film brings you behind the scenes into that actual transaction happening. The film opens with this meeting of leaders of the Christian right. Many of the people in that room have been featured in recent articles about how there's a real white evangelical nationalist movement that is under a lot of the dynamics that we're having come out now.
"I was honestly surprised at the candor and the willingness of these anti-choice leaders to say, 'We don't like [Trump]. We know he's morally bankrupt. We know that, but this is our issue. This is our single issue.'"
You see in this meeting that was secretly recorded between Trump and leaders of the Christian right in the lead-up to the 2016 election. They are fully aware that he is not a conservative. He's not a Christian, he's not an anti-choice person. They say, "Look, if you come down hard on this, if you do what we want you to do, which is advance anti-choice policy and nominate anti-choice judges, we will get our people to the polls."
On the flip side, you have Steve Bannon saying, "Get your people to the polls and we will do your bidding." At the end of the film, it comes full circle where you have Marjorie Dannenfelser, the leader of the Susan B. Anthony List, one of the most powerful anti-choice lobbying organizations in the country saying, "Pence and I joke that Donald Trump fulfilled even more promises than he made."
He went so above and beyond what the anti-abortion movement expected of him. It was a very transactional relationship. As Marjorie says, "We didn't like him." I was honestly surprised at the candor and the willingness of these anti-choice leaders to say, "We don't like him. We know he's morally bankrupt. We know that, but this is our issue. This is our single issue. He's going to do what we want him to do. And it's a purely transactional kind of relationship."
It's important for those of us on any side of a conversation to understand what our opponents look like, what they think like, how they are strategizing. It is easy to turn on the news and think that it's just a guy in a Viking hat, storming the Capitol. That it's a cult. It's subtler and requires more thought to show a group of young women who look like they could be your neighbors, your friends, who are soft-spoken, who are polite, who are articulate, who are educated.
Do you think in that kind of space of understanding each other, is there room for us to have productive conversations? Is there a possibility of any kind of compromise in this, around this issue? When we look at the post-Roe generation and the progressive side, is there a space for us to come together?
What's interesting about the film is that it's kind of one of the only spaces that I think I've seen those two divergent perspectives kind of coexisting. In the majority of the pro-choice advocates that we filmed within the film, most of them come from communities and backgrounds that they were raised anti-abortion. They were raised by "pro-life communities."
They were in pro-life churches. Their families are very much anti-choice. I think they have a lot of understanding for how one would come to that position if you are a young person and your family's very involved in your church community. Your whole church community is anti-abortion. That's your social outlet. That's where you go after school. It's where you go on weekends.
It's how they organize. It's such a big part of so many Americans lives. [Rape survivor and advocate] Samantha Blakely, who was in the film, really came out of a community that was very conservative; the cost of speaking up was huge. The alienation you are likely to experience if you are the one person to raise your hand and say, "Hey, isn't that wrong to make women who don't want to be pregnant carry a child to term? Isn't that wrong?" can't be underestimated. That's why sharing stories and sharing life experience is so important. For many of the young women that you hear in that hotel room, they have come to their beliefs for a whole series of reasons, but not because I think they want to harm others.
It's part of just the worldview in which they were raised. They haven't had that life experience yet to understand why abortion access is so fundamental. Having people who come from those communities who say, "I get it. I get the world and the context you were raised in. But when life and pregnancy and unanticipated pregnancy and pregnancy complications come your way, it changes how you feel about this issue."
The opportunity with this film is to respect that people may come to an anti-abortion perspective for many reasons, but to be able to say, "Look, there are so, so, so many reasons why this just needs to be the choice of the pregnant person. Period. Let's talk about that."
I want to talk about something else also though. What is going on is that there are young people like you see in that hotel room who have come to their anti-choice perspectives for whatever reason. Then you have the politicians.
"Passing anti-abortion legislation ... in America is not leadership. It is betrayal of your constituents."
What you have here is politicians who are just using those people and using those perspectives and using those beliefs for their own political power and for their own political gain. I really separate out the people who have come to that personal perspective and those politicians who are just using those single issue voters to advance the will of the minority to consolidate minority rule and to deny their responsibility for governing on all the other elements that their citizens need good leadership on.
Passing anti-abortion legislation, being in the race to pass the most extreme anti-abortion legislation, in America is not leadership. It is betrayal of your constituents.
A vast majority of Americans support choice. How did we get to this place where such a tiny group on one issue is wielding so much power over the bodily autonomy of half of the citizens right now?
That was the question that really drove me to make this film. I was genuinely really curious to understand, how are they doing this? The vast majority of Americans support access to abortion. How is this minority of people imposing their will over the entire country at the Supreme Court?
What you see is this combination between using gerrymandering to undermine our democracy, then using these voters to tip the balance in certain places where it's very narrow to begin with, and then having so much stigma in these places that are passing these anti-abortion bills. The lawmakers in Texas, in Alabama, they're not paying the price politically locally because the stigma locally to come out and march against that and speak against is so high.
I think that's changing. Samantha Blakely, a pro-choice advocate who lives in Alabama, has been saying that since the Alito leak and the ramping up of the anti-abortion, she's been seeing more actions, more marches, more people speaking out.
That's what it's going to take, because the policy makers are taking advantage of the enormous stigma to escape any kind of accountability for passing laws that are just horrifyingly harmful to their constituents.
"There's a scene in the film where Students for Life does a 'Black Pre-Born Lives Matter' rally ... It's grotesque because the anti-abortion movement targets and harms women of color so disproportionately."
This movement has also been able to co-opt the rhetoric of progressive movements — Black Lives Matter, feminism. What does that strategy look like? How are you seeing that then play out in these populations, and particularly in these young people's groups?
It's really part of this attempt to mainstream what is a minority rule movement. To mainstream this anti-choice perspective, which is certainly not what the majority of people believe, and to co-opt the language of left-leaning progressive social justice movements. There's a scene in the film where Students for Life does a "Black Pre-Born Lives Matter" rally. It's grotesque. It's grotesque because the anti-abortion movement targets and harms women of color so disproportionately.
It's this shameless co-opting of other progressive social justice movements. The theme at the 2020 March for Life that we filmed was "Pro-Life is Pro-Woman," trying to parse being pro-life as being feminist.
What's happening is normalizing and mainstreaming what is and has been an extremist position and appealing to young people who see themselves as fighting for the right thing. There's a scene with a young man canvassing in Arizona with a young woman for the Susan B. Anthony List. They're going door to door and they're trying to get people to vote anti-choice.
He says, "There was World War I, World War II, and this is the fight of my generation." When you get people who have a mindset like that, who have absorbed this false narrative that they're fighting for justice and they're fighting for the right thing and the equality of all life — equality meaning fetal equality — they see themselves as doing the right thing.
The hope for this film is to educate people that think they're doing the right thing and to expose them to the ramifications of these actions and that this is not justice. This is not equality. It's the opposite.
These are hard things for me as a viewer to witness, to hear. I can't even imagine what it must have been like for you as a filmmaker to be in those spaces, and yet have them clearly feel that they were safe with you and that you were going to be fair to them. I want to know how you were able to create that trust and to create a film that really is honorable in its execution in that way.
My impetus to make this film was just really, I'm genuinely curious. How is this happening and who are you? And what do you believe? What's going on here? What I said to the anti-choice subjects was that I felt like the influence of the anti-abortion movement on American policy, legislation, and culture was a fact. It is what it is.
Putting aside one's personal perspectives on abortion, the influence of the anti-abortion movement on American politics is something that's worth understanding and I would depict their perspectives and their work and their goals accurately, and as completely as I could. That was the pledge that I made in filming with these subjects. That's the film that has emerged from that approach.
Since the completion of the film, a lot has changed in our country. It's hard to feel hopeful. It's hard to continue to feel motivated. You end the film with an invitation for us to get involved. It feels like a juggernaut at this point that everything is going to get taken away. What would you recommend we do next?
"It impacts every single American if Roe is overturned. All of us need to understand that no one is safe."
We had our world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival and were joined by Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She was saying that they were up against the believability gap, that so many people just didn't believe that it was possible that Roe would be overturned. I still hear that. I still hear from people all the time and this decision's coming down any day.
Really? You really think that's going to happen? Really? It's happening. The other thing that I hear after that often is, "Oh, well we live in New York. It's not going to affect us here."
We live in the United States of America. It impacts every single American if Roe is overturned. All of us need to understand that no one is safe. No one is safe from Roe being overturned. It's not only about Roe being overturned, but it's about anti-abortion, extremist and dangerous anti-abortion policy being used and leveraged to consolidate minority rule.
We need to get out and vote on issues of abortion, issues of women's rights. We need to get involved. What you see here is a level of involvement. There's many levels of involvement. There's involvement in protests. There's involvement in legislation. There's involvement in school boards, sex education, who is advertising.
I get emails from Students for Life saying, "This college campus lists Planned Parenthood as one of their resources. We need to go out there and shame them and get them to remove it." We need to be out there saying that we support abortion, and particularly supporting those voices who are seeing it in places where the stigma is so high.
We need to acknowledge that you know or love or are somebody who has had an abortion, and many people who had life-threatening complications during pregnancy wouldn't be here had they not been able to access abortion care. Those stories are being shared and the stigma is being broken in places where politicians have used the fear and silence of populations around this issue to pass these extremist policies. We need to talk about it.