Right-wing Catholic moralists outed a Catholic official as gay

When news broke that Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill, the General Secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, resigned after revelations that he was connecting with men on the gay hookup app Grindr, it seemed like something that's become familiar, bubbling over with schadenfreude. Here was another hypocrite in power — the Catholic bishop's conference is an extremely anti-LGBTQ force in the American church — revealed by gay and bisexual men who'd connected with him.

We've come to revel in these kinds of stories, where gay men on gay hookup apps reveal the truth about a right-wing politician, or sometimes a conservative religious zealot, with whom they've engaging in sexually charged chats or even met with — a person aiding and abetting the harm done to LGBTQ people with religious condemnations that drive some LGBTQ youth take their own lives, or influencing lawmakers who are lobbied to strip away rights. The story often goes viral on social media, and we're all glad to see a homophobe fall from power.

But this story isn't anything familiar. It's actually something very new (or reborn from times past) and emanates from a sinister operation: Those who collected information on Burrill are Catholic extremists, right-wing journalists at a newsletter here on Substack called The Pillar, who claim to have gotten a hold of tracking information which many Grindr users assume is anonymous, and which, if obtained, would be difficult and expensive to get. It all points to a well-funded, well-coordinated organization.

When all is said and done — and this story is still playing out — this may well lead to Steven Bannon or any one of a number of dangerous players on the right and in Trump World who've both mastered data analytics and have an agenda to crush liberal reforms within the Catholic church and hobble Pope Francis.

The Pillar editors include former editors at the right-wing Catholic News Agency (owned by EWTN), J. D. Flynn and Ed Condon, who've written for publications like the historically anti-LGBTQ National Review, as well as other conservative outfits, like the Spectator, the New York Post and the Washington Examiner. They are also Catholic canon lawyers.

Another editor is a data analytics professional. It's not known who funds The Pillar, but with editors who are journalism professionals who left full-time jobs it's highly doubtful that Substack subscriptions are paying for their livelihoods, as well as the kind of nefarious and costly research needed to do this kind of work.

Holding up their kill

The way the Pillar went about the story is quite alarming. They appear to have collected all of their information on Burrill not by engaging in reporting in which they interviewed various individuals who interacted with Burrill, confirming what they may or may not know; rather they say they "obtained" geolocation data of Grindr interactions from his phone — even claiming to have located him in a bathhouse in Las Vegas at one point — over a period of time going back to 2018. (And they are thus making assumptions based on nothing but circumstantial, if surely suggestive, information.)

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And then they went to the Catholic bishops with the information — dates and times of Burrill allegedly connecting with various men on Grindr, and locations, including the bathhouse. Soon after, the USCCB announced Burrill had resigned because of "impending media reports alleging possible improper behavior."

But The Pillar didn't publish its story until the day after the resignation.

So, they held the resignation up as a trophy, a kill, waving it around as a threat to others in the future.

In their report, they couched their rationale for pursuing the story not only as one about exposing that Burrill was "engaged in serial and illicit sexual activity."; they grotesquely attempted to conflate the use of Grindr and hookup apps with predation of underage boys — though there was no evidence of Burrill having connected with anyone underage.

They promoted the vicious stereotype of gay men as pedophiles, which is actually what hardline conservatives in the church have done in recent years to try to excuse their own leadership's toleration of child rapists within their ranks — shuffling them around from parish to parish, not bringing the issue to law enforcement — by vilely blaming it on gay priests.

It's everything the church claimed under Pope Benedict — and investigations and studies have shown it to be absolutely false — and that may give us a clue as to their motives, as The Pillar appears to be an arm of the traditionalists in the church fighting against Pope Francis's more enlightened outlook and attempts at reform.

A Warning Shot

The story in fact comes a week after Francis rankled traditionalists again by imposing restrictions on the old Latin Mass, reversing Pope Benedict. But it could also be a warning shot to Francis and others that Burrill is just the beginning, and that they'll start going after many more powerful figures in the church hierarchy.

Burrill is a priest who came up through a Wisconsin diocese with has long had staunchly conservative, homophobic leadership, like most U.S. dioceses. And he's been working for the Bishop's conference, which has fought for decades against LGBTQ rights, including same-sex marriage and anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBTQ people, and continues to do so. Many of the American bishops themselves still defend the church's actions in the sex abuse scandals, and still propagate the lie conflating homosexuality with pedophilia. More recently, the USCCB was in the news for threatening to vote to withhold communion to President Biden, a devout church-going Catholic, because he supports abortion rights.

So it's doubtful Burrill was a secret liberal force for change within in the conference, and more clear he is every bit the hypocrite he appears to be. You don't get to be elected general secretary of USCCB without toeing the line. After reading a fair number of Catholic commentators on the story, and speaking with some observers and academics, I don't believe Burrill was targeted because he was doing anything to undermine traditionalists. I think he was a pawn — and probably an easy target because he may have had so much out there regarding his activities — taken down by a group sending a message that this is what they are capable of doing.

As as journalist known for revealing the sexual orientation of public figures who were often harming the LGBTQ community, I find myself in an interesting place in following this story. I was at the center of "outing" controversies many years ago when Time magazine coined the term based on my and others' work, around the time I revealed that the multimillionaire publishing tycoon Malcolm Forbes was gay after his death in 1990. So, I'm certainly not opposed to telling the truth about public figures who are working against LGBTQ rights while secretly gay themselves.

But this is about something far bigger, not in the service of helping LGBTQ people and very much in the service of seizing power within the Catholic church — ultimately in a way that harms LGBTQ people. And most alarming is the use of geolocation data that users believe is anonymous, something that tech privacy advocates have been warning about for years.

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The massive problem with Grindr

Grindr told the Washington Post "there is absolutely no evidence supporting the allegations of improper data collection or usage related to the Grindr app as purported" and said it was "infeasible from a technical standpoint and incredibly unlikely."

But Grindr has been slammed in the past for selling data to third parties — who can conceivably sell it to others — while still promising privacy to users. As Recode notes, "despite app developers' and data brokers' frequent assurances that the data they collect is 'anonymized' to protect people's privacy, this data can and does fall into the wrong hands." And there are ways to "de-anonymize" the data and track it to a particular phone, which is what happened in this case if The Pillar's claims are true.

As Recode explains:

While it's not known how Burrill's data was obtained from Grindr (assuming, again, that the Pillar's report is truthful), app developers usually send location data to third parties through software development kits, or SDKs, which are tools that add functions to their apps or serve ads…
…[Grindr] does say in its own privacy policy that it shared users' age, gender, and location with advertisers until April 2020. The Pillar said its data on Burrill is from 2018 to 2020.

All of this, however, requires sophisticated operators and, if data is being bought from third parties, lots of money. The Pillar — again, whose funders are unknown — hasn't been transparent about where and how it got the data, whether it paid for it or was given the data by someone else who might have paid for it. The Catholic News Agency, where the two top Pillar editors previously worked, published a piece the day before the resignation, warning of surveillance by tracking via apps and claiming they were offered information by an individual, which they turned down.

While that may be true, Mike Lewis, who founded the Catholic news siteWhere Peter Is and regularly covers the entities involved, wondered if CNA and The Pillar were actually working together:

The Pillar story also leaves many unanswered questions. For example, both the Pillar and Catholic News Agency (which ran a cryptic article on Monday that indicated something like this would be happening) withheld the name of the agency that provided the data. The Pillar didn't indicate who paid for the data set (note that their article said "obtained" rather than bought or purchased). For that matter, the Pillar has never disclosed their primary source(s) of funding. Did CNA and the Pillar work in tandem? Why did they target Msgr. Burrill, of all people?

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Who is behind this well-funded operation?

Dawn Eden Goldstein, a Catholic theology professor, author and journalist, dug into the story quite a bit, and in a Twitter thread offers up three people who could be behind this kind of operation and helping to fund it:

  1. Steve Bannon, who has joined ultra-conservatives in launching blistering attacks on Pope Francis (who's defended migrants and has spoken against nationalism), and certainly is familiar with data harvesting;
  2. Sean Fieler, "a multimillionaire hedge-fund manager and major GOP power player," who is also prominent in TrumpWorld or;
  3. Frank J. Hanna III, "a longtime Legion of Christ funder who made his millions selling subprime credit cards--and on his ownership of the Official Catholic Directory."
Twitter avatar for @DawnofMercyDawn Eden Goldstein: Get the Vaxx/Stop the Spread @DawnofMercyThe first possible source for The Pillar's Catholic data set is Steve Bannon. When the UK Catholic Herald launched its US publication, its directors consulted with Bannon, who advised them on collecting a mailing list of "Catholic influencers." ... A British Catholic Magazine Met With Steve Bannon To Come Up With A List Of "Catholic Influencers And Millionaires"One of Bannon's ideas was to create the "Catholic Spectator", a source said, adding that the magazine was on a "holy mission" to take on Pope Francis.buzzfeed.com

July 21st 2021

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Her thread is worth a read, as there's other illuminating information. She's speculating about who might be behind this affair, of course, but based on much knowledge of the players and the field. It might be one or more of them — or none of them. But it becomes clear that this kind of story couldn't be done without people who have the contacts, capabilities and resources.

Obviously there are so many issues raised by Burrill's forced resignation based on The Pillar's actions. Certainly, the U.S. needs more laws protecting data, as privacy experts have been stressing for years.

But one of the biggest takeaways here is how, amid what is becoming an epic battle inside the Catholic church, the traditionalists have shown they will stop at nothing. Personally, I think it's a sign of weakness, an act of desperation by people trying to retain power who know they're losing, as Catholics have changed with the world, many even leaving the church; it mirrors the larger political struggle in the United States.

I don't think they will ultimately win the war, but there will likely be more casualties.

Trump supporter hilariously flops after insisting the former president has shown 'an extreme amount of compassion'

In a discussion about how many Trump supporters and Republicans are still refusing to get vaccinated as coronavirus cases surge, Steve from Pennsylvania called in to my SiriusXM program.

This article was originally published at The Signorile Report

He said he was fully vaccinated, and, as a Trump supporter, he had a question:

Would you have the same opinion if Donald Trump was president. Would you still be supportive of the vaccine if Donald Trump were president?

The question itself was very curious. I explained we have no idea where we'd be and that we'd likely not even be vaccinated by now if the Trump administration was in charge. I explained a few other things about Trump's recklessness with which Steve was forced to somewhat agree, though he excused Trump, noting Trump's "messaging was sometimes way off base" because "he has shown time and time again that he is not a politician."

I was fascinated that, with regard to public health, these people think it's all about politics for all of us (because it is for them), and that refusing the Covid vaccine is somehow a legitimate way for "both sides" to respond if their candidate weren't president right now.

I explained to Steve that it's actually about science and about basic competence and compassion. Trump was reckless and couldn't get anything done. Biden is competent and cares about people. There is absolutely no reason — beyond irrationality and hatred — to distrust Biden on this, and every reason to be skeptical of Trump, no matter what your politics are.

And so, I put the question right to Steve, and he couldn't answer right away on whether Donald Trump was level-headed and showed any "care" for people compared to Joe Biden. Then he finally said Trump (and Biden) both did. When I asked again flat out if Donald Trump has shown "compassion" for people, he replied:

Yeah, I believe he has. He's, uh, you know, he has done a lot of things, that, um, shows an extreme amount of compassion and human kindness.

"What? You tell me." I asked. Steve then replied in a way that was meant to make it seem like a ridiculous question — because he couldn't come up with any answers.

"Oh, come now. Come on.

Then Steve tried to change the subject immediately. But I wouldn't let him and told him he had to list the compassionate things Donald Trump has done.

No, I don't, I don't sit here — I don't want to get into an argument with you.

Eventually, Steve said, "I've gotta go."

I find these interactions valuable because they reveal something about these people who are listening and feel compelled to call in and argue, yet have little to say. I believe they're really arguing with themselves, trying to convince themselves, truly unsure about their position. I'm not sure what happens when they get off the phone but they do prove how weak their own convictions are.

Listen here.

How Trumpist terrorism is becoming normalized

A very particular, cultish and dangerous brand of domestic terrorism has been honed, and we should call it what it is: Trumpist terrorism.

This article was originally published at The Signorile Report

We've rarely if ever experienced domestic terrorism organized not only in the service of an ideology — white supremacy — but in the name of one person, a cult figure for whom people will kill and die, devoted to his cause and taking perceived orders from him.

But that is what is happening now.

Last week the news broke that two California men were arrested for plotting to bomb Sacramento's Democratic headquarters in the name of Donald Trump, inspired by the Big Lie that the election was stolen by Joe Biden. One of the men is alleged to have had five live pipe bombs in his home and "between 45 and 50 firearms, including at least three fully automatic weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition."

That man, Ian Rogers, also wrote in text messages, before the January 20th inauguration of President Biden, which one agent said showed an attempt to try to stop the inauguration from proceeding:

I hope 45 goes to war if he doesn't I will…
…I want to blow up a Democrat building bad…
…Sad it's come to this but I'm not going down without a fight…
…These commies need to be told what's up…

The men were organizing both before and after the January 6th Capitol assault, and discussed other targets including California's governors mansion, the corporate offices of Facebook and Twitter and Democratic donor George Soros.

In a different time this would be wall to wall media coverage, with strong condemnations coming from the former president himself, and from the leaders of his party. But for much of the media, though they covered it, this was just another story in the blur of insurrection-related stories — including the story of a Virginia insurrectionist group exposed the week before, planning for a "revolution"and led by a man who stormed the Capitol on January 6th and now had the components for 50 homemade bombs.

Needless to say, there was no condemnation statement by the former president — who likely revels in these stories — nor from any Republican Party leader. Even Democratic leaders seemed too busy dealing with all the other assaults on democracy by Republicans to speak out forcefully about these cases.

Trumpist terrorism is becoming normalized.

It's now expected that people will engage in violence in the name of a former president of the United States. That's a blood-curdling reality, but in America right now it's not very shocking, nor surprising. And the greater danger is that if the outcry isn't loud enough — if we don't express outrage no matter how commonplace it now may appear — then it will not only be expected; it will be accepted. More and more extremists will be inspired to take up arms, to organize plots to cause massive violence in the name of Trump, hoping for bigger, more disruptive events to break through.

The Virginia extremists organized a secret militia and used a "bible study group" as cover. They were planning to blow up jails and locations where January 6th attackers who were arrested were being held, and free them. Investigator recovered the bomb components and several weapons, including an AK 47, from the group's leader, Fi Duong, who was seen in the Capitol on January 6th yelling, "We're coming for you Nancy!" The group had been infiltrated by the FBI, and if not for that, as I wrote last week, who knows how far they'd be now? And what other plots are being organized as you read this?

In that case, a member of the white supremacist Three Percenters had been recruited by Duong into the faux bible study group. And the case of the two California men who discussed blowing up the Sacramento Democratic headquarters also has a connection to the Three Percenters:

Court papers said both Mr. Copeland and Mr. Rogers had been previously affiliated with the Three Percenters, whose name is based on the false premise that just 3 percent of American colonists fought the British in the Revolutionary War.
A photograph of a Three Percenters sticker on a vehicle said to belong to Mr. Rogers was included in the documents.

Prosecutors also said one of the men emailed the Proud Boys, another far right white supremacist group loyal to Trump and which was coordinating with others in leading the January 6th attack.

The FBI doesn't officially designate these groups as "domestic terrorist organizations" in the way it labels foreign terrorist groups, constrained by law, because it may be a First Amendment violation to designate Americans in groups based on their beliefs, even as it focuses on "domestic terrorist threats and actions." And there is no charge of "domestic terrorism" under federal law in and of itself, even if someone can be given an enhanced sentence for other crimes on that basis.

And yet, at this point, we should be even more precisely labeling these particular groups, "Trumpist terrorist organizations."

These are individuals and group sharing an affinity for Trump, whom they take orders from. By not condemning these actions, Trump is implicitly encouraging them. And many of his caustic speeches and attacks on his perceived enemies, including Democrats and the government, promote and incite them.

He of course incited the January 6th insurrection, but he also incited and inspired mass shootings over the past several years, such the El Paso shooting and the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. And he's inspiring these new plots, as much as any terrorist leader in ISIS inspired attacks in this country and elsewhere.

Trumpist terror groups are clearly organizing around the country, planning violence in the name of Trump and the cause of the Big Lie. They increasingly see Trump now out there giving speeches promoting the Big Lie, and encouraging the anger and the violence. It's hard to know how far and wide this organizing is, but from the the news of the last few months — and even the past three weeks — the danger is rising.

The goal is to make it commonplace to engage in violence, to spread the idea among the Trump minions that they must grasp power by any means necessary. And to make it just another part of the political landscape that the media and politicians view as inevitable.

But we must continually sound the alarm, doing everything we can to keep it from becoming the new normal.

Every Republican should be forced to answer whether they believe this deranged Trump conspiracy

Since January 6th Republicans have moved closer and closer toward embracing Trump-backed, QAnon-created, dangerous conspiracies that inspire violence. And Republican leaders, bowing to Donald Trump and the GOP base he inspires, continue to slough off the insurrection — a domestic terrorist attack — refusing to hold Trump responsible for it and only emboldening those who perpetrated it.

This article was originally published at The Signorile Report

Now the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI are warning of the possibility of domestic terror attacks this summer connected to a conspiracy that Trump will be reinstalled as president in August, something Trump himself has reportedly been promoting too. Per CNN:

The August theory is essentially a recycled version of other false narratives pushed by Trump and his allies leading up to and after January 6, prompting familiar rhetoric from those who remain in denial about his 2020 election loss. But the concern is significant enough that DHS issued two warnings in the past week about the potential for violence this summer.

And yet, I've not seen reporters asking Republicans every chance they get if Trump is going to be installed in August. Shouldn't Republican officials be condemning these conspiracies and shouldn't the media be sounding the alarm about how they're not? When more violence occurs will Republicans not be complicit?

The crackpot conspiracy hinges on the Arizona "fraudit." Promoters of the conspiracy, like MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, believe Arizona will be the beginning of overturning the election — once Arizona and other states are proven to have been won by Trump — and Joe Biden will be shown the door. This has no basis in fact — or the Constitution — but that hasn't stopped believers from promoting it nor stopped Trump from stoking it.

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This week we saw more horrifying video of January 6th from the New York Times after a six-month investigation. It included people talking about their intent to enter the building the night before, and others saying they were commanded to do so by Trump.

This comes as the GOP, bowing to Trump, has voted in lockstep against investigations of January 6th. After Republicans in the Senate filibustered a creation of a bipartisan commission, the House voted to create a select committee to investigate January 6th, and all but two Republicans voted against it.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is more "shocked" that Liz Cheney has decided to be on the select committee than he is about the possibility of another domestic terror attack incited by Trump loyalists. He's not rebuked those Republicans like Georgia Rep. Andrew Clyde who dismissed January 6th as something that looked like a "tourist" event.

And McCarthy has said nothing about those GOP House members who are courting the white supremacists behind the conspiracies, such as Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar, who is fundraising with a prominent white supremacist group. (Gosar denied he was doing so after it was reported, bizarrely after first promoting it in a tweet.)

An Ipsos poll found that over half of Republicans, 53%, believe Trump is the actual president — the "true" president — having absorbed the Big Lie, and they are ripe for the August conspiracy.

So reporters should be hounding GOP members of Congress, over and over again, asking them if Trump will be installed as president in August and if they in fact agree with the 53% of Republican voters who say that Trump is the "true president" of the United States.

Shouldn't those voters know where the leaders of their party stand? And shouldn't the rest of us?

Stonewall was a riot. The Capitol assault was a terrorist attack

We're coming upon the anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York, which began on June 28th, 1969, and are looked upon as a landmark moment in the LGBTQ rights movement. Queer bar patrons finally got fed up and fought the police, who'd been raiding bars and arresting them in brutally homophobic assaults for years.

There'd actually been uprisings elsewhere against police raids of gay bars years earlier, including in Los Angeles and San Francisco. So Stonewall wasn't the first, though it's become so in the American popular imagination.

But as we look back on Stonewall, it had me contemplating the media's having morphed the January 6th insurrection into a "riot" and the participants into "rioters," which is not only completely inaccurate; it both downplays the event and even allows those who were part of it to memorialize it in the future as some heroic act of rebellion. All we hear and read now is a reference to the "Capitol riot."

But the FBI director, Christopher Wray, called January 6th what it was: A domestic terror attack. Five people, including police officers, were left dead and dozens were wounded.

Words matter. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this week announced a select committee would be formed in Congress to investigate the assault on the Capitol, after Republicans in the Senate filibustered a vote to form a bipartisan commission to investigate. Surely it's important that the committee and any investigations look at the event the way the FBI director described it and not as the media now dubs it, as a "riot."

A riot is a spontaneous or random event. The synonyms for it are "brawl" and "melee." What happened at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village in 1969 fits the description. Queer people struck back at the violence of the police, who'd routinely raided Stonewall and other bars, after the police had knocked people to the ground who'd gathered outside, after they'd first rounded up patrons. And the crowd, with some yelling, "Gay Power!", surged and fought back. No one planned any of this — and nobody brought any weapons with them to fight the police. This was about an oppressed, brutalized group standing up in a moment of solidarity that none of them imagined would happen even an hour earlier. A protest movement emerged from it.

On January 6th, 2020, the opposite happened. (And no, standing up to the police outside a bar is not the same as attacking the Capitol building, the citadel of American democracy, and American political leaders.) Over 10,000 angry people who'd been fed the Big Lie gathered for Donald Trump's "Stop the Steal" rally, which was a well-planned and organized event, at which he and others told people to march to the Capitol to confront lawmakers who were about to certify the presidential election. Rudy Giuliani told the crowd to engage in "trial by combat." More than 800 people stormed the Capitol, and entered the building seeking out lawmakers and attempting to stop the certification of the presidential election.

While a few of these people might have spontaneously joined, the leaders of various right-wing extremist groups — including the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters — had well-planned the assault, in coordination, and are among the over 500 people who've been arrested. They had been organizing for weeks online, and brought weapons with them, as did many of those in the crowd, who also wore military gear.

These weapons included handguns, Tasers, bear mace, crowbars, fire extinguishers, tomahawk axes, crowbars, flagpoles, knives, ice picks and baseball bats.

The day after the Capitol siege, prosecutors said, [Cleveland] Meredith was arrested in D.C. with an assault-style rifle equipped with a telescopic sight, a Glock firearm with several high capacity magazines and over 2,500 rounds of ammunition — including at least 320 "armor-piercing" rounds. He arrived too late to attend the rally, but the following day, authorities said he sent a text threatening to shoot House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the head….
Police said in a criminal charging document that…33-year-old Christopher Alberts was slow to respond to police orders. An officer noticed a bulge on his hip and Alberts attempted to flee, but was ultimately caught with a loaded handgun and a spare magazine, along with a gas mask, pocket knife, a packaged military meal and a first aid kit. Authorities said there was one round in the handgun's chamber.

This was not a "riot." A gallows, built and brought to the event, was infamously stationed outside the event by these domestic terrorists, while the crowd chanted "Hang Mike Pence!" People had blueprints and maps of the inside of the building, seeking to find specific lawmakers, including Pelosi, to harm them.

It's enraging that much of the American media is calling the events of January 6th a "riot," because they simply would not be doing so if this weren't a group of white Americans on the far right.

They label much less organized violent events that have involved Muslim fundamentalists as "terrorism," including the San Bernadino mass shootings of 2015, in which 14 people were killed. According to the FBI, the two attackers were "homegrown violent extremists" who were "inspired" by terrorist leaders thousands of miles away, among jihadists in ISIS. They'd never made contact with those leaders and weren't directed by any groups and weren't part of any network, but rather were, per the FBI, driven by "poison on the internet."

It's bad enough that Republicans are downplaying January 6th, with one having infamously said it looked like a "tourist" event. A judge has rightly slammed such GOP House members in sentencing a woman who participated. "I'm especially troubled by the accounts of some members of Congress that January 6 was just a day of tourists walking through the Capitol," Judge Royce Lamberth stated this week. "I don't know what planet they were on. ... This was not a peaceful demonstration. It was not an accident that it turned violent; it was intended to halt the very functioning of our government."

The people who organized the insurrection and entered the building brought weapons and plotted harm against political leaders and attempted keep a function of democracy, the certification of the presidency, from happening. They, too, were inspired by "poison on the Internet," much of it driven by one man, Donald Trump, a man who promotes terrorism, and who promoted the lie that underpinned the well-planned Capitol assault.

To call January 6th a "riot" is a grave disservice to our country. Any investigation needs to begin by rightly calling it a terrorist attack.

Trumpian anti-LGBTQ haters are targeting Pride flags as they mount a resistance in Biden's America

I wrote a few weeks ago about several jarring incidents in which rainbow flags symbolizing queer Pride were vandalized or had triggered acts of violence against people, in addition to demands of removal from property.

This article was originally published at The Signorile Report

Now comes this story this week out of Eastland Cove, a condo development just north of gay-friendly Fort Lauderdale, in Broward County, Florida. A gay couple, Mike Ferrari and Bob Plominski, have lived there for over 10 years, and have hung Pride flags in the past. But this year they received a letter from the Eastland Cove Homeowners Association that they must remove their flag from their mailbox or be fined $50 and $10 additionally for each day they refuse to remove it. They're standing firm, and have taken their story nationally.

Sure, homeowners associations have wide discretion on decorations, including flags, and some are quite strict. But the key issue here is that Ferrari and Plominki have flown a rainbow flag for years. The association's rules state that only American flags, state flags or military flags may be flown, but no one complained in the past. Now, however, one or more people lodged a complaint and the board says it was compelled to demand the couple remove the flag.

Why didn't anyone care enough in the past to file a complaint, but now they have? It could be any of a number of reasons — including someone new moving in — but I'm betting, looking at what's happening all over the country, that it's more of an assertion of backlash by people who were emboldened by Donald Trump's expressions of hate. That included his administration's stripping LGBTQ rights and removing rainbow decorations and Pride flags from embassies around the world. The Trump White House had reversed course from the Obama White House, not marking Pride month with a proclamation, nor flying a rainbow flag or lighting the White House in rainbow colors.

But President Joe Biden, in rapid pace, reversed Trump's horrific executive orders that harmed LGBTQ people. And now the embrace of Pride by the White House is back — and the flags are flying at embassies around the world, including at the Vatican — while the haters are lashing out now in an act of resistance in Biden's America.

Certainly there have been hateful attacks on Pride flags since the time it was created by activist Gilbert Baker in 1978, through some of the most overtly homophobic times this country has seen, including during the escalation of the AIDS crisis. But in 2021 the attacks seem to have escalated in a way that shouldn't be happening at this point in time. It's like we're gong backwards — or there is a backlash by people who feel very threatened by the current reality, in which Trump lost the election but they believe it was stolen and their rightful place was taken away. As I wrote a few weeks ago:

A Sacramento church had its Pride flag burned last week. A student in Florida was brutally stomped on for bringing a Pride flag to a picnic. Boaters terrorized people in another boat on a lake in Washington state two weeks ago because they flew Pride flags on their boat (Ironically, the only harm came to the harassers, whose boat exploded, ignited by an engine fire during the altercation). Wisconsin homeowners were told by their association to remove Pride flags; they got creative and doused their home in rainbow floodlights.

Since then, a Pride flag was vandalized at a vintage shop in a town in Maine. A church outside of Cleveland reported its Pride flags were stolen two dozen times. Pride flags were stolen from the streets of Boise, Idaho. A teen at a Washington state university allegedly burned a Pride flag. A California city even refused to fly the flag at the request of residents.

And on social media people are reporting their flags stolen or vandalized.

This is obviously beyond complaints about the flag being flown, with some incidents resulting in violence. The student in Largo, Florida who carried a Pride flag, a 12-year-old named Leo Hoffman, who identifies as nonbinary, was "drug to the ground, stomped on, and covered in water" as students attempted to wrestle the Pride flag away. A relative posted a video of the violent incident on Twitter:

During the Trump administration a study commissioned by GLAAD showed how people became emboldened to express their animosity toward LGBTQ people, showing less acceptance publicly. I believe that just like everything else regarding the Trump base, there's resistance to and anger at the reality of the Biden era, and the embrace of LGBTQ rights.

It's true Trump actually unfurled a rainbow flag during his 2016 campaign at an event, in an attempt to insinuate he supported LGBTQ rights while he made promises to enemies of equality. But by 2020 there was no such attempt to even fake it, as the religious right wouldn't tolerate it and he desperately needed them. Trump not only refused to acknowledge Pride; he banned Pride flags from flying at embassies around the world, and the Pentagon banned Pride flags from being displayed on military bases.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that those who Trump encouraged in their hatred of LGBTQ people would now be lashing out at displays of rainbow flags — whether by burning them, stealing them or engaging in violence against those who are carrying them.

A bright spot has been the powerful support the targets of these attacks have often received, in their communities and beyond. The couple in Broward County who hung a rainbow flag and received a notice from the homeowners association received support from many neighbors who have now put up their own rainbow flags. Their story has gone national and support has come from around the world.

And, in a related Pride story, it was amazing to see the first NFL player come out yesterday, marking Pride month. Las Vegas Raiders' Carl Nassib, announced he is gay and is celebrating his coming out by donating $100,000 to the Trevor Project, the group focused on prevention of suicide among LGBTQ youth. These actions show both how far we have to go — that it's even news that an NFL player came out — and how a moment like this, which underscores the importance of visibility, could really push back against the hate we're seeing as the Trumpian backlash unfolds.

Symbols like the Pride flag can be taken for granted or even scoffed at by some who just are not flag-wavers. But when the attacks on the flag are part of a backlash by people who feel empowered in this time, it's an attack on all of us who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

New evidence makes it clear that Trump's attempted coup is still playing out

There were so many terrible abuses of power that Donald Trump and the GOP succeeded at during the previous administration — from refusing to cooperate with investigations of wrong-doing to reappropriating funds to Trump's racist border wall — that we sometimes forget where they failed. The failures were often by sheer luck — or incompetence —and sometimes they were because someone in Trump's orbit chickened out and just wouldn't go that far.

This article was originally published at The Signorile Report

Republicans are making sure, however, that they get it right next time.

A newly-released trove of emails shows how far Trump went in trying to overturn the election of 2020. The House Oversight Committee yesterday released emails revealing further evidence of how Trump tried to use the Justice Department even after Attorney General Bill Barr was packing up and heading out the door, refusing to continue efforts to overturn the election.

Ten days before Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen began his job, Trump contacted him claiming Dominion Voting Systems machines in Michigan were rigged to hurt him and help Joe Biden. The email from Trump's assistant to Rosen, which went out on December 14th, claimed, "We believe it has happened everywhere." This occurred after courts had turned away several attempts to contest the election based on these conspiracy theories.

Trump also demanded the Justice Department challenge the election at the Supreme Court. At the same time, Mark Meadows, Trump's chief of staff and a still-dangerous true believer, was pressuring Rosen in emails to open an investigation into a completely ludicrous claim that people in Italy were using satellite technology to switch votes in machines in the United States from Trump to Biden, something Richard Donaghue, the then-acting deputy attorney general, said in an email was "pure insanity." The day before, Meadows sent an email asking Rosen to open an investigation into voter fraud in Georgia.

Rosen pushed back on these attempts, just as the Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger pushed back on Trump's attempt in a phone call to get him to "find" over 11,000 votes to put Trump over the top in the state — an action that has Reffesperger and his wife now the target of continued death threats by Trumpist extremists.

What is extraordinary to think about is if Barr — a Trump loyalist who corrupted the Justice Department for Trump — had gone along with Trump's plans, or if Rosen (whom Trump appointed as deputy attorney general in 2019 and who also protected Trump and his cronies in that position) had gone along, or if Raffensperger and number of other Republican officials in the states had done so, we truly could have seen complete chaos including the possible overturning of the election. And what if GOP-appointed and Trump-appointed judges had gone along?

So democracy was actually momentarily saved by some of the very corruptors of the Department of Justice whom Trump had put in place. Rosen was a loyal soldier until then. He'd moved to stop disbursements of money to Puerto Rico, stalled a probe of Trump Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke for his own corrupt actions and was, like Barr, doing Trump's dirty work throughout DOJ. As soon as he pushed back on Trump in the aftermath of the election, however, he faced an internal failed coup attempt at the DOJ himself, when Trump tried to replace him in the last days with a low-level official who had met with Trump and whom Trump was going to use to overturn the election.

That failed as others in the DOJ helped Rosen thwart it. If that attempt had succeeded, however, it's unsure what would have happened, just as if Barr, Rosen and others had been compliant with Trump even in those last desperate moments.

But now the GOP is ready to make sure that kind of pushback can't happen — including installing officials who won't turn out to be the yellow bellies that Barr, Rosen and others did in the end. Don't believe anyone who says the GOP is afraid of Trump and is quietly hoping Trump will go away, bowing to him only to placate him. That's a distortion of who and what the GOP has become — a neo-fascist movement that will use violence to get what it wants. That's not an exaggeration, and the proof is that the party refused to have a commission investigate the domestic terror attack — the insurrection — incited by Trump and led by his supporters, who killed and wounded police officers.

The political leaders left in the GOP created Trump, they see that the corruption and cheating works — and is the only way they believe they'll maintain power — and they've stripped of power those few (like Liz Cheney) who've spoken out. And there are now so many, in Congress and in the state legislatures, who are very loyal, making sure that even the paltry but critical pushback among some in the GOP we saw in 2020 can't happen again.

The voting restrictions states are putting in place are designed to overcome any obstacles, far beyond suppressing votes. Secretaries of state have seen their power taken away, local elections boards installed with Trumpists have been given more power and more power has been given to judges to overturn elections. If these actions help them win back Congress in '22 and the White House in '24 just imagine what they'll do to the Justice Department if they get control again.

They'll make sure that whoever takes over goes much farther than Bill Barr and Jeffrey Rosen — a frightening thought indeed — and is willing to stick it out to the bitter end, killing democracy as we know it and installing an authoritarian, whoever it may be (or a series of them), perhaps for the rest of all our lives.

Anti-vax caller gets shut down after claiming COVID-19 vaccines violate 'Nuremberg Code'

During a segment on my SiriusXM program in which we discussed a Houston hospital suspending employees until they get the vaccine, anti-vaxxer Anne from Washington called in.

She claimed that the vaccines are "experimental" and thus are a violation of the "Nuremberg Code." This is a dangerous conspiracy that's gained traction on social media.

While vaccines or any drug are technically considered in the experimental phrase when they still have emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration — pending full approval — there is nothing "experimental" about these vaccines. They've been tested for safety and efficacy in trials. Like all new — and older drugs — trials will continue. But the vaccines are safe and work.

More than that, the Nuremberg Code was about forcing experiments on people in concentration camps — brutal, terrible experiments on Jews and others who were tortured and died. Claiming this about the vaccines is an insult to all Holocaust victims, survivors and their families. It's an insult to the world. No one is being forced into any experiment.

These vaccines will soon have full approval. Businesses have a legal right to require vaccinations for employees. Actually, the federal and local governments, per a 1905 Supreme Court ruling, can require everyone to be vaccinated — which governments currently are not doing.

The lies and misinformation have to be combatted, and people like Anne are pushing conspiracies that we have to take on. I eventually had to shut her down when she claimed vaccines cause autism, which has been shown to be absolutely false.

Listen here.

January 6th was just the beginning -- as 'second civil war' is being plotted by MAGA

One of the interesting ways in my job that I sometimes gauge what's happening is by the email I get. Radio hosts get pitches by publicists regarding placing their clients on shows, and I get pitches from across the political spectrum. One I received over the weekend reveals a lot about what the GOP and its white supremacist base is doing.

Jim Hanson is a far-right commentator—a Fox News pundit, a contributor to the ultra-conservative Federalist, and an insurrection denialist. He's president of the nefarious-looking Security Studies Group, and touts his having served in the U.S. Army Special Forces.

His new book is titled, "How To Win The Second Civil War." The subhead, in very small print on the book, states, "without firing a single shot." It's curious that the book cover would downplay that violence isn't necessary for winning this "Second Civil War." But more curious is the pitch I received from Hanson's p.r guy for the book. The pitch letter from publicist Dan Draznin begins like this:

Dear Michelangelo,
"This is not a joke. This is not a myth. This is not a drill. According to a survey last year, a majority of Republicans agreed with the statement: 'The traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it.'"—From Michael Gerson's Opinion piece last week in the Washington Post.
"This is a significant number of people and they are not all conspiracy theorists," says Jim Hanson, U.S. Army Special Forces veteran.

Gerson, a Washington Post columnist and long-time conservative who is a never Trumper, indeed wrote, "American politics is being conducted under the threat of violence," in a piece on Liz Cheney's ouster from the leadership and her warning that Donald Trump will "incite violence again."

Gerson rightly noted, in talking about Trump's threat of violence as a "tool of intimidation," that "election officials around the country — Republican and Democratic — can attest to the results: Death threats. Racist harassment. Armed protesters at their homes."

What's extraordinary, telling and horrifying is Hanson's publicist using this stark reality as a threat in and of itself.

Draznin, in the pitch, quotes Hanson right after quoting Gerson: "Michael Gerson is correct—this is not a drill—and if the Left wants the Republic to survive, they need to admit that there are legitimate concerns on the Right. They can't simply mock tens of millions of people as 'crazies,' which only fuels the fire."

He's saying that, yes, the majority of Republicans believe the American way of life may need to be saved "by force" and that Democrats had better bow to Republicans — no matter how insane and fraudulent their claims are — if they want to "survive." There's really no other way to interpret it.

Draznin continues in his pitch: "According to Hanson, much of the discontent on the Right is driven by identity politics and the 'woke' agenda."

So, this "second civil war," being stoked by extremists, can supposedly be accomplished "without firing a shot," but only if the "Left" capitulates to them. Otherwise, these "identity-politics"-obsessed "woke" people — which seems pretty clearly to translate to "Black people and others on the left" — better watch out because most Republicans believe it has to be done "by force" if they don't bend.

As Gerson notes, many of the threats of violence from extremists are being experienced by election officials who don't support the Big Lie. The Arizona Secretary of State, Democrat Katie Hobbs, who has spoken against the outrageous "fraudit" in Maricopa County, has received death threats and had to get extra security, as is the case with many Democrats in Congress.

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But even Republicans who've stood against the Big Lie, like Georgia's Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, received death threats. And according to Washington Post reporter Dan Zak, Republicans fearful of physical violence from Trump supporters if they cross Trump have a name for this: being "Mike Pence'd." It's obviously an allusion to Vice President Mike Pence being targeted by Trump supporters — after Trump lashed out at him at the "Stop the Steal" rally — during the insurrection, who chanted "Hang Mike Pence!" and even brought a gallows to the event.

Covering the Arizona "fraudit" up close — "The Maricopa Mess" — Zak reports:

This is just a race to the bottom, according to current and former officials, who say some Arizona Republicans are worried about getting "Mike Pence'd" — facing political or possibly physical danger — if they don't support Trump's continuing attack on democracy. The Maricopa supervisors have been harassed outside their homes, assigned police protection and decamped to Airbnbs to avoid threats.
"My colleagues across the country in Georgia and Michigan and many other states have protection details because their lives have been threatened" since the election, says Kim Wyman, the Washington secretary of state. "It's frightening."

Even Mike Pence's own brother, Indiana Republican Congressman Greg Pence. is fearful of being Mike Pence'd, having voted against an independent commission to investigate the insurrection — a domestic terror attack on the United States.

So the talk of a "Second Civil War," as red states are passing more laws allowing access to guns, and as GOP officials do all they can to protect the violent insurrections who beat and stomped police, is clearly a signal that there is more to come.

Democrats must understand the gravity of this — and progressives should be turning up the heat if they're not.

McConnell is being crystal clear. What don't Democrats get about 'no'?

Democrats seem to be operating in two worlds at the same time: There's a real energy, driven by the base, to move ahead with bold plans, knowing that big majorities of Americans support them.

This article was originally published at The Signorile Report

Then there's the lurch back to a mythical past, to seek "bipartisanship," implying compromise and not-so-bold plans.

Despite his history, President Biden seems to know the limits of the latter now. He and the administration continually describe bipartisanship as bringing in as many voters as possible of whatever party — rather than bowing to politicians in Washington from the obstructionist GOP — and talk about how voters support his agenda in big majorities.

And yet, we saw an almost sacred quest in recent weeks by Democrats in Congress to create a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6th insurrection. I get that it was a worthy effort. But the way it was pursued just smacked of being stuck in the past.

The effort had Democrats bowing to Republicans in Congress just like the old days — think the Affordable Care Act — making concessions, giving them equal representation on the panel and veto power over subpoenas.

Rep.John Katko, a New York Republican in a vulnerable seat (especially after the coming redistricting in New York), managed to get Republicans enough power to impede the commission's work.

It was risky for Democrats, potentially creating a sham, since House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, doing Donald Trump's bidding and promoting the Big Lie, and Mitch McConnell, who's excused Trump while faking that he's not, would be choosing the Republicans who would be on the panel.

But just as in the past, even as Democrats caved Republican leaders said no, with McConnell putting the nail in the coffin by saying he opposed the commission, making the 60 votes necessary in the Senate likely unattainable. The GOP realizes any upside to the concessions were outweighed by the downside, which might be the implication of many of them in the January 6th actions if the commission actually did its job. As HuffPost succinctly put it in a headline, "GOP Lies Fueled The Capitol Riot. Of Course They Don't Want A Panel To Expose That."

The idea here was to have something like the 9/11 commission, which the George W. Bush administration quietly tried to stop or limit, but which ultimately was created. It exposed deep flaws in the FBI's and CIA's response, and highlighted the Bush administration's arrogance and its failures in handling of information. But while some have hyped the 9/11 commission as the gold standard, it wasn't all it was cracked up to be.

And even if one could claim that having a bipartisan commission did give the investigation and the findings more legitimacy with many Republicans and GOP-leaning independents almost two decades ago, that era is long gone. Today, any investigation of January 6th, whether by the Department of Justice, Congressional committees or by a a so-called independent commission would be labeled a "witch hunt" by Trump and rejected by every one of his supporters — which is the majority of the Republican Party.

There's no one on the fence who needs "bipartisanship" to be convinced about what happened on January 6th. And damning testimony is damning testimony, whether it's coming from a commission or from a House investigation. Everything that happened will be very public in televised hearings no matter what, further exposing the authoritarian grip of Trump, his incitement of those white supremacist groups that the led the insurrection and the Big Lie underlying it.

The Department of Justice, which Attorney General Merrick Garland has continually re-defined as it has been in the past — independent and not as a tool of the White House — can carry out a deep investigation, as can several Congressional committees.

Both the House and Senate should look at every aspect of the insurrection, via several committees, and call as many witnesses as possible — including subpoenas for Trump, Mike Pence, McCarthy — who spoke with Trump from inside the Capitol that day, pleading with him to stop the assault — and other Trump administration officials and GOP House members who helped organize the "Stop the Steal" event.

The most important lesson Democrats can learn from this is that McConnell actually isn't lying. He's being crystal clear: He said — in responding to a question two weeks ago about the purging of Liz Cheney from GOP leadership — he's not focusing on that but rather is focused "100 percent" on "stopping" Joe Biden and the Democrats from getting anything done.

What don't Democrats understand about the word "no"? Why were they still bending over backwards for a bipartisan commission when McConnell had said out loud that everything he's doing is to help the GOP — and that means taking orders from Trump — and not anything Biden and the Democrats are trying to do?

Republicans couldn't be making it easier for Democrats to act. The only answer is to end or reform the filibuster. And both the White House and Democrats in the Senate should be squeezing Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, letting them know the ride will soon be over and they'll be out of power unless they act. If Democrats lose the Senate (and House) in 2022, American democracy heads further toward doom.

That is not an exaggeration by any stretch. And those two senators will be responsible. They should be pressured every single day by members of the caucus and by the White House.

If that were happening we would likely hear about it. Instead, the bipartisan dance continues — with only one partner — as the GOP makes clear its intent to thwart everything from immigration reform to voting rights legislation.

Even the much-heralded talks over a "bipartisan" infrastructure bill are falling apart — if they ever really were anything substantial to begin with.

The infrastructure bill could be passed via budget reconciliation with just 51 votes from Democrats, and there's been talk of including immigration reform in that bill if the parliamentarian will allow it — a big if. But most of the big ideas that Biden and the Democrats are promoting can't become law via budget reconciliation, and won't pass without the filibuster being fundamentally changed.

If McConnell's "100 percent" comment wasn't enough proof of that, his torpedoing the January 6th commission was a loud announcement that Democrats had better take "no" for an answer. And then do what they have to do.

Biden's polling should scare the daylights out of the GOP

The ousting of Congresswoman Liz Cheney from the GOP leadership is upon us. And we now know one big reason why Cheney — who is not someone with a history of being principled — took a stand: She saw polling data that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy hid from House Republicans, and which looked alarming for the GOP.

This article was originally published at The Signorile Report

That polling, conducted for the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, had been presented by GOP leaders at two different GOP members' meetings, with missing components. What was kept hidden was Joe Biden's strength in key battleground districts, and Donald Trump's abysmal weaknesses among the same voters heading into '22, which show that embracing him will be a disaster for the GOP.

Just yesterday an Associated Press poll showed Biden with an overall approval rating nationwide of 63%, with just 36% disapproval. This was in line with other recent polls showing his approval at 60% or in the high 50s, and it means that even some Trump supporters are happy with the president. On his response to the coronavirus pandemic Biden gets 71% approval, with almost half of Republican voters — a smaller, shrunken party, now representing only 25% of the electorate, per Pew Research — approving.

Meanwhile, in the state of Texas Biden is as popular or edges out statewide elected officials, according to a University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. While Biden has a 44% approval, Governor Greg Abbott is at 43% and Senator John Cornyn is only at 31% , while Senator Ted Cruz is at 43% and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick is at 35%.

Of course, the sets of voters backing them are different — Biden gets overwhelming support from Democrats, while the the GOP officials are drawing the bulk of their support from Republicans. But it does show the strength of the president in a red state and the weaknesses there of GOP officials, who are losing the support of independents.

Sure, it's still very early, and much could happen. But Biden is showing a consistency in his polling that was true even during the Democratic nomination process and then during the election. He deals with a crisis head on, admits when he's wrong and changes course when his own base makes the case. It wouldn't be shocking, absent some major screw up or unforeseen event, to see this polling continue for a while.

Per the Washington Post, which was leaked the full data of the polling Liz Cheney was alarmed by and which McCarthy hid from his GOP House colleagues:

When staff from the National Republican Congressional Committee rose to explain the party's latest polling in core battleground districts, they left out a key finding about Trump's weakness, declining to divulge the information even when directly questioned about Trump's support by a member of Congress, according to two people familiar with what transpired.
Trump's unfavorable ratings were 15 points higher than his favorable ones in the core districts, according to the full polling results, which were later obtained by The Washington Post. Nearly twice as many voters had a strongly unfavorable view of the former president as had a strongly favorable one.

Cheney, the Post reported, was very concerned, "she later told others, in part because Republican campaign officials had also left out bad Trump polling news at a March retreat for ranking committee chairs." The polling data indicated, as HuffPost noted, that Joe Biden is "perilously" popular in key districts the GOP took back in '20 and needs to keep, and others where GOP House members are vulnerable.

Perilously popular. I love that.

Obviously Cheney sees why this is very bad for the GOP not only in the long-term but even in the short term. McCarthy and others are worried about losing their own seats in a primary if they don't embrace Trump and he then backs a Trumpist primary challenger against them.

This is actually not party over country, as we've been saying for the past few years. It's now, more precisely, personal ambition over party. They know that embracing Trump will likely be a disaster for their own party but they don't want to lose their own seats. So the risky strategy they're going with is to hug Trump, promote ugly culture wars such as attacking immigrants and transgender people, and push voter restrictions in the states, hoping to keep Democrats from voting.

Just because it's risky doesn't mean it won't work. The GOP is now truly intent on stealing elections, desperate and willing to do whatever it takes. While it's good to know about this secret polling, and see Biden's popularity soar nationally and even in red states, none of us should for a minute think Democrats don't need to take aggressive action.

Precisely because Republicans are willing to go this far — knowing how bad the polling is — is why it's a do or die moment for Democrats, who must reform the filibuster, pass voting rights legislation (and much other legislation) and blunt the GOP's blatant attempt to subvert democracy.

Tucker Carlson's pathological obsession with homosexuality, exposed

Last week, social media lit up with screen grabs of Tucker Carlson's yearbook entry from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut in 1991, which was confirmed by the college, listing the "Dan White Society" as a club to which Carlson stated he belonged.

This article was originally published at The Signorile Report

It was a grotesque, homophobic and violent display, as Dan White was the anti-gay killer of gay civil rights leader and San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk and San Francisco Mayor George Mascone, both of whom White assassinated in 1978 at City Hall in a horrendous act of gun violence and a homophobic hate crime.

There is no Dan White Society, at least not any that any other student at Trinity listed as having been a member. Carlson also listed membership in the "Jesse Helms Foundation," referring to the late Republican senator from North Carolina who led a crusade against queer people in the 80s and 90s, exploiting fear and whipping up hate as AIDS came into the forefront of American society, preventing LGBTQ people from attaining protections amid rampant discrimination. The fact-checking site Snopes found no other reference in the yearbook to a "Jesse Helms Foundation" either.

Jeet Heer did an instructive deep dive last week that is worth a read, looking at why a 22-year-old college student in 1991 would be paying tribute to a homophobic hate crime over a decade earlier, noting the intense homophobia on the right at that time.

Indeed, Carlson seems to have been obsessed with homosexuality going way back, having co-written a letter in the college paper in 1990 stating that homosexuality is "unnatural and unhealthy," responding to an article in the paper that had detailed homophobia at Trinity College.

I've written in the past about stories that surfaced in which Carlson expressed revulsion at homosexuality — and one incident in which he reveled in a violent response.

In 2007 Carlson told Dan Abrams on MSNBC that he smashed a man's head "against the stall" in a public rest room, claiming the man had "bothered" him, though not at first saying he was responding to a sexual advance — just that he was "bothered." In hindsight, it was stated with the zeal we've come to learn is a mark of heterosexual men who are insecure about their own masculinity and sometimes their own sexuality.

The discussion had been focused on Republican Senator Larry Craig of Idaho — a vocal homophobe, and a senator who voted consistently anti-gay — who was arrested for soliciting sex at an airport rest room from a male undercover cop in Minneapolis that year. And Carlson, with bravado, decided to go off on this tangent, heralding the gay-bashing he'd once committed. It seemed to be a way of normalizing a violent response by straight men to homosexuality to send a threat to gay men.

Even if it was a sexual advance that Carlson experienced — Carlson claimed the following day, in an email he sent out to the press after a lot of online criticism, that he was "assaulted" by the man — his action still was not an act of self-defense: Carlson said he left the rest room after the man had "bothered" him, and then went back with a friend, explaining that they then "grabbed" the man and "hit him against the stall with his head." (Interestingly, after Abrams challenged Carlson's action, Carlson went on to say, in what appeared to be a strange joke, "Let me be clear, I am not gay.")

In 2019, Media Matters released audio clips of Carlson making racist and homophobic comments, including using an anti-gay slur, telling shock jock host Bubba the Love Sponge in 2006, "I like you too...but I actually mean it in a completely f----t way."

Last year Carlson's top writer was exposed by CNN as having written bloodcurdlingly racist, misogynistic, homophobic comments in online forums for years, and resigned from Carlson's show and Fox News. Carlson had in the past publicly lauded Blake Neff for his contributions to Carlson's show, while Neff had told the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine regarding Carlson that "anything he is reading off the teleprompter, the first draft was written by me." All the while, and right up until he resigned, Neff was posting vile slurs and promoting hate against women, Black people, queer people and others, actively involved in ongoing discussions with white supremacists.

While Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott and President Jay Wallace put out a statement at the time claiming that, "Fox News Media strongly condemns this horrific racist, misogynistic and homophobic behavior," Carlson, after stating on the air that Neff's online comments were "wrong" and that Neff was "ashamed," defiantly defended Neff as if he was someone who made a minor mistake (at which he got caught) and was now being unfairly targeted: "We should also point out, to the ghouls now beating their chests in triumph at the destruction of a young man, that self-righteousness also has its costs. We are all human."

Carlson's many attacks on transgender people also further reveal how threatened he is by sexual and gender identity. Last year he said that it's "grotesque" for kids to identify as transgender, and just last month he stated that trans people "threaten the perpetuation of the species." With murders against transgender people in 2020 surging — and violence against transgender people reaching the highest level in five years, following the election of Donald Trump and his vicious anti-trans presidency — there's no question Carlson's words embolden those who engage in violence.

Carlson's defenders might say that Carlson's words are no different than many public figures who once made homophobic or transphobic comments, or promoted anti-LGBTQ polices, but "evolved" over time. But Carlson's comments on transgender people alone are coming in just recent weeks, and he's not apologized for past statements on gays or stated any changed positions on homosexuality. In fact, he refused in 2019 to apologize for the comments he made on Bubba the Love Sponge, responding on his show that he would "never bow to the mob."

And last week's revelation about Carlson's yearbook, coupled with his sick 2007 bragging about beating up a gay man in a rest room, sets Carlson apart as a pundit who has promoted and reveled in violence against queer people. In the case of the murders of Harvey Milk and Mayor Mascone, he celebrated assassinations motivated by homophobia. It doesn't get more hateful — or more dangerous — than that.

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Kevin McCarthy continues to promote a delusional fantasy with his laughable defense of the GOP

Suddenly unnerved, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy absurdly responded over the weekend to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's and other MAGA-loyal House members' proposed "America First Caucus," by tweeting, "The Republican Party is the party of Lincoln & the party of more opportunity for all Americans—not nativist dog whistles."

This article was originally published at The Signorile Report

What planet has he been living on?

This is the same Kevin McCarthy who crawled back to Mar-a-Lago to bow to the Insurrectionist-in-Chief, the former president who inspired an attack on the Capitol by militias, conspiracists and white supremacists groups — groups that agree with his views that Mexicans are murderers and rapists, that Muslims should be banned from the entry to the country and that too many people from "shithole" countries are coming to the United States.

This is the same Kevin McCarthy who leads a party that is now fighting against having a commission to investigate that siege on our democracy. It's the same Kevin McCarthy whose party is openly and vigorously attempting to stop Black people from voting, is defending police terrorizing communities of color and is demonizing transgender Americans.

And even in this moment, McCarthy refused to call out his colleagues by name —Greene, Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Paul Gosar of Arizona and others who warmed up to idea of the America First Caucus and its racist overtones — because he's too cowardly to take on the MAGA crowd.

The party of Lincoln? No, the GOP is the party of Trump. The chance to make it anything but that was lost when McCarthy and the vast majority of Republicans in the House and Senate refused to impeach Trump for inciting an insurrection — and when McCarthy and others voted to overturn the presidential election.

And Trump for four years promoted nativism more openly and loudly than any modern president. Forget the "dog whistles." He used a bullhorn.

The truth is, McCarthy actually would rather the GOP go back to the days of the more subtle dog whistles, before the party had a president who ranted about dangerous migrant "caravans," inspiring mass-shootings as well as losing elections for the GOP, such as what happened in 2018's blue wave.

So when McCarthy saw the report of a leaked document describing the organizing platform of Greene's American First Caucus, with it's promotion of "Anglo-Saxon political traditions," surely he began fretting about those suburban voters the GOP has lost and the supercharged turnout among Democrats of the past few years:

America is a nation with a border, and a culture, strengthened by a common respect for uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions," the draft caucus platform says. "History has shown that societal trust and political unity are threatened when foreign citizens are imported en-masse into a country, particularly without institutional support for assimilation and an expansive welfare state to bail them out should they fail to contribute positively to the country.

Holy crap. The platform also attacks birthright citizenship and claims that immigrants coming to the United States before 1965, "were more educated, earned higher wages, and did not have an expansive welfare state to fall back on when they could not make it in America and thus did not stay in the country at the expense of the native-born."

And just in case the document didn't sound enough like it came out of the files of Mussolini or Hitler, the proposal lauds, "the architectural, engineering and aesthetic value that befits the progeny of European architecture, whereby public infrastructure must be utilitarian as well as stunningly, classically beautiful, befitting a world power and source of freedom."

Of course, all of these ideas were promoted by Trump and his administration, right down to the architectural flourishes, detailed in an an executive order he signed last year attacking modern architecture of some federal buildings and demanding only "classical" structures be built for the future.

So yeah, McCarthy saw nothing but trouble in saying the quiet part out loud — preferring to say the quiet part quietly — and sent out his tweet, though named no names. Greene backtracked — in her caustic, angry way —- attacking the media, saying the caucus was just in discussion and the document was just a "draft" that she'd not yet read, as did Gosar. But MAGA maniac Gaetz, currrently under investigation for sex-trafficking, said he'd be "proud" to be a member of the America First Caucus, while Gohmert, sounding dumb as rock as usual, defended the caucus while feigning ignorance of the organizing document, stating, "It's not supposed to be about race at all."

No matter what happens regarding any official caucus, you can bet the base of the GOP, and its so- called leaders, will continue to back or tolerate these vile positions and policies because they are Trump's — and Trump owns the party. McCarthy's laughable claim that the GOP is not a party of "racist dog whistles" takes me back to when President Obama compared the GOP to "the flat earth society" for its denialism on climate change, which had GOP leaders expressing outrage at the idea of being called anti-science.

That was 2012, and the party leaders have only continued to promote a fantasy of what the party is, while Trump and his MAGA loyalists in the House, Senate and state legislatures and governors mansions across the country are truly defining the GOP's direction and priorities.

It sure seems like Matt Gaetz was preparing to get caught at something

Florida GOP congressman and Trump loyalist Matt Gaetz may or may not have committed a crime connected with what we've learned from media reports: That he's being investigated by the Justice Department for sex-trafficking, which also might involve a 17-year-old girl, and, according to the the Daily Beast late last week, that he paid money to an accused sex trafficker, who then venmo'd money to a teen.

This article was originally published at The Signorile Report

But it does appear as if he's anticipated, perhaps for years, that he one day might be the target of sexual allegations. With even Donald Trump now reportedly refusing a meeting with Gaetz, every day seems to bring new evidence of that.

Former House member Katie Hill last week said she now questions Gaetz's motives in defending her back in 2019, when she resigned from Congress amid a media-driven sex scandal.

Private nude photos from the past of the openly bisexual California Democrat with her then-husband — from whom she'd become estranged by 2019 — and another woman were published without her permission in a British tabloid while reports surfaced about Hill's involvement in a then recent inappropriate relationship with a female staffer.

"Who among us would look perfect if every ex leaked every photo/text?" Gaetz tweeted in response at the time.

So, a right-wing Republican was defending a progressive Democrat targeted by people trying to hurt her career via sexual allegations? And this was Matt Gaetz, the original MAGA attack dog.

It smelled back then, and it stinks to high heaven now.

Gaetz conveniently is using that defense of Hill in his own current defense. He vehemently denied the sex-trafficking allegations and illegal interactions with a minor in an op-ed, claiming the "swamp" is trying to take him down:

I defended Rep. Katie Hill's "throuple" when her own Democratic colleagues wouldn't. I just didn't think it was anyone's business.

Of course, that defense is absurd, and insulting to Hill — comparing apples to oranges — but it is curious. And the curiosities don't end there. Gaetz, who, according to a recent CNN report, shared sexually explicit photos and videos of women (with whom he had allegedly had sex) with colleagues on the House floor — among several issues the House Ethics Committee is now investigating — killed a revenge porn bill when he was in the Florida House of the Representatives in 2014.

That is, he killed a bill that makes it a crime to share sexually explicit photos of others without their consent. The bill had passed the State Senate, but, according to the Orlando Sentinel, a House committee chaired by Gaetz wouldn't take it up. When the bill did get a vote in both chambers a year later, only Gaetz and his roommate, Republican state Rep. John Tobia, voted against it.

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The former lawmaker who sponsored the bill, Republican Tom Goodson, told the Sentinel last week that he'd met with Gaetz at the time, who explained why he was voting no:

Matt was absolutely against it. He thought the picture was his to do with what he wanted…He thought that any picture was his to use as he wanted to, as an expression of his rights.

Since Gaetz reportedly shared photos on the U.S. House floor of his sex partners, it's not out of the realm of possibility that he's been doing that for years, even before he was in the Florida Legislature.

It might seem stupid to block or vote against a revenge porn bill — especially since it will pass overwhelmingly anyway, and your vote will stand out — but it might insulate you from being exposed for hypocrisy if a reporter found out you did in fact share photos without consent. (Or at least, a guilty legislator might think that was a good strategy.)

And that brings us to Gaetz being the only U.S. House member to vote against a human-trafficking bill in 2017. Why would you bring that kind of attention to yourself? Did Gaetz again possibly calculate that it was better to vote against the bill and have a high-minded reason in case any other information one day was alleged? At the time, he said he voted against the bill because it was an example of "mission creep," and an "expansion of the federal government," and that he wasn't sent to Congress "to create more federal government."

Those statements reflect the Trumpian suspicion of the federal government that fuels the paranoia of anti-government groups — like those that attacked the Capitol on January 6th — and conspiracies about a dangerous "deep state" cabal in the federal government trying to take down conservatives and, in particular, Trumpists like Gaetz. Is it any wonder then that Gaetz over the weekend suggested that he is a victim — a "wanted man" — of the "deep state" that may be trying to destroy him?

It's as if the very skepticism he expressed about the human-trafficking bill in 2017 — the supposed danger of big government — now fits neatly with his defense in 2021. And that will help him keep his paranoid, anti-government Trumpian following loyal to him and refusing to believe contrary evidence, even if more damning facts are revealed in coming days and weeks.

Anti-vaxxer rages at vaccine passports but can't explain why he wears clothes or follows speed limit

In a discussion on my SiriusXM show about resistance to the coronavirus vaccines among evangelical Christians, the discussion at one point focused on businesses and other venues requiring proof of vaccination for entry.

My position is that everyone should get the vaccine to protect themselves and others —and help bring us to herd immunity — but if they choose not to, no business or public venue should be required to allow them entry.

In fact, it would only be responsible for operators of open public places, including private businesses, to require proof of a vaccination. And government has a responsibility to make sure they do — contrary to the reckless efforts of politicians like Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, who's moved to ban businesses from turning away those without proof of vaccination — if we're to stop the transmission of coronavirus and end the pandemic.

Rob said "I'm a 40-year-old male" who is healthy I'm not going to take a vaccine that was "spit out" in less than ten months, and claimed Covid-19 posed him little risk. Never mind that the basics of the coronavirus vaccines were actually developed over 10 years ago, going back to the SARS epidemic, and Covid vaccines would have been developed even more quickly if not for the Trump administrations defunding the National Institutes of Health and then, later, the botched rollout of the vaccines; Rob's claim that Covid-19 isn't a concern or a threat to his health — and others he might infect — is ludicrous and dangerous.

I told Rob that it was his choice not to get the vaccine, but he should not be allowed into any public place where he could transmit it to others. This was met of course with outrage, as he complained about the "government," as a "libertarian," encroaching on his rights.

But then Rob couldn't answer why he should be required to wear clothes into a store — and why he didn't walk around naked — nor why he follows the speed limit while driving.

His reasoning completely fell apart, and exposed the anti-vaxxers as devoid of logic or consistency. For many of these people, it's about fears and phobias and myths — and they all have to be addressed as we need as many people as possible to get vaccinated — but for others, as Trumpers, it's simply attempting to own the libs.

Listen in and let me know your thoughts.

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