Last night, the Discovery Channel ran a one-hour special on guns that stars a fanatic who threatened to kill President Obama and other officials and was investigated by the Secret Service in April. In 2007, the Discovery Channel’s new star wielded two machine guns while yelling, “Obama, he's a piece of shit. I told him to suck on my machine gun.” Then, raising up one the guns, he said, “Hey Hillary, you might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless bitch.”
Discovery’s new star is "Motor City Madman" Ted Nugent, who ominously warned in April that he would “either be dead or in jail by this time next year” if the president wins re-election. He then compared Obama and Clinton to a coyote that needs to be shot and called on his supporters to chop off Democrats’ heads in November. After those remarks were publicized by this blog, he was investigated by the Secret Service and commanders at Fort Knox cancelled his scheduled show there, citing his “public comments about the president of the United States.”
The Army has standards, Discovery apparently doesn’t. That reminds me, I’ve been hearing a lot of people complain about Honey Boo Boo, which plays on Discovery’s TLC. Say what you will, but at least she never threatened to kill the President. The same cannot be said of Nugent, star of last night’s one-hour special – Ted Nugent's Gun Country.
Nugent is best known – to the extent that people still know him at all – as a hard rocker from the ‘70s. He was crazy then, and time has not been kind to “Uncle Ted.” From a reality TV perspective, so far so good.
Nugent is a hunting enthusiast, to put it mildly, and a longtime NRA board member. The Discovery special is focused on that aspect of his life. But where we start to run into trouble is Nugent’s long record of extreme and hate-filled rhetoric.
Now, we could have a debate about whether someone who displays the Confederate flag, says real Americans are white, calls female leaders a “toxic cunt” and “dirty whore,” thinks gay men are “despicable” and so on should have their own cable TV show. But we don’t have to. We have a much simpler question at hand about violent rhetoric – should someone who has threated to kill the president and other officials get his own TV show?
In Nugent’s case, it’s even worse. He made the threats on multiple occasions and has a history of violent rhetoric. In 1990, he said he “would have killed everybody,” including fellow Americans, if he had been in the service and sent to Vietnam. In 1992, he said this of Heidi Prescott of the Fund for Animals, “Who needs to club a seal, when you can club Heidi?” In 1998, he told Fox News’ Alan Colmes about how he’d like to shoot and kill armed immigrants “invading our country.”
Nugent seems to take great pleasure in his song “Kiss My Glock.” At concerts, he’s called out the many people he wants to kiss his gun, including Jesse Jackson, former Congressman David Bonior, and Sarah Brady, the former RNC staffer whose husband served as President Reagan’s press secretary and was seriously wounded in a 1981 assassination attempt – both since have become gun control advocates. During one rendition of the song, Nugent even shot an arrow at a Nazi-flag-waving Janet Reno.
Nugent’s violent rhetoric has been covered widely in the press, so we can only assume that Discovery knows all about it. But even reality TV should have some minimum standards. It says a lot that we can’t even agree to draw the line at threatening to the kill the president.
On Thursday, we released a video of Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin telling an audience that he had once been arrested for blocking access to a reproductive health clinic. At a press conference the following day in Kansas City, Akin told the Associated Press that he had been arrested “about 25 years ago or so,” and a campaign aide “promised to provide details of the arrest later Friday.” But the campaign failed to come through.
When Jerry Boykin was named Executive Vice President of the Family Research Council in July, some of us wondered if Tony Perkins would make him put away his conspiracy theories and act – in public at least – like a somewhat reasonable person. The answer is no.
Speaking during the “Religious Hostility in America” panel at the Values Voter Summit, Boykin riffed on some of his favorite conspiracy theories. For instance:
“America is moving rapidly to Marxism under the influence of these people who call themselves progressives” – previously
the ACLU and Southern Poverty Law Center “are following, to the letter, the Marxist model” – previously
Boykin argued that progressives are attacking him, not because of his bigoted attacks on gays, Muslims, and others, but because of his Christian faith. Going further, he said that progressives, just like Marx, Stalin, Lenin, and Hitler, are leading a Marxist attack on Christianity so that God can be replaced with government.
Boykin’s analysis, if you can call it that, doesn’t seem to be grounded in any real understanding of the various ideologies, quotes and terms he throws around. From his right-wing fundamentalist perspective, Hitler may as well be Marx, a liberal atheist may as well be an Islamist, President Obama may as well be Mohammed Morsi, and a Christian who doesn’t agree with him may as well be a secular Jew.
Fox News’s Todd Starnes is sick and tired of ‘South Park’ and Hollywood getting a free pass. The Fox News commentator participated in the Values Voter Summit panel on “Religious Hostility in America” over the weekend.
The panel featured the familiar argument that Christians in America are somehow a beleaguered minority that is under constant assault. Starnes claims to have a pile of stories stacked up on his desk about “instances of people who have been facing attack because of their faith in Jesus Christ.”
Speaking of the controversy surrounding the laughably bad “Innocence of Muslims,” Starnes asked why the federal government isn’t investigating “shows like ‘South Park,’ which has denigrated all faiths.” He also demanded to know why President Obama hasn’t denounced Hollywood.
We have the seen the administration come out and say, "we condemn anyone who denigrates religious faith." And they come out in regards to this anti-Muslim film.
Well, that's well and good, but my question is, when has the administration condemned the anti-Christian films that are coming out of Hollywood? Where are the federal investigations into shows like ‘South Park,’ which has denigrated all faiths?
Where is the outrage when people of the Christian faith are subjected to this humiliation that is coming out of Hollywood?
Religious Right activists have been the most vocal supporters of the filmmakers, if you can call them that, and have rightfully pointed out that the First Amendment protects their activities. Starnes, however, seems to have a double-standard when it comes to speech that he deems offensive to his religious views.
As it turns out, the only investigation going on around the “Innocence of Muslims” concerns whether one of the purported “filmmakers” violated the terms of his probation. Otherwise the government has no place policing speech, regardless of who is offended, and the president is not the film critic in chief. President Obama can be excused, however, for speaking out when Americans are being killed over an amateurish YouTube video.
Last night on MSNBC, Rachel Maddow called out Paul Ryan for speaking at the Values Voter Summit and lending credibility to the bigotry and pure crazy on display at the conference. Her report provided crucial context on the extremists who are appearing at the conference – something that has been sorely lacking in most media coverage so far.
Michelle Bachmann, speaking at the Values Voter Summit this morning, quickly one-upped Mitt Romney in pinning blame on President Obama for the violent protests in Libya and Egypt and deaths of four Americans in Libya. She accused Obama of appeasing the Muslim Brotherhood and opening our borders to terrorists. Not long after, Paul Ryan also attacked Obama over foreign policy:
Amid all these threats and dangers, what we do not see is steady, consistent American leadership. In the days ahead, and in the years ahead, American foreign policy needs moral clarity and firmness of purpose. Only by the confident exercise of American influence are evil and violence overcome.
But here’s the thing. Ryan and Bachmann are speaking at a Religious Right conference that is making a mockery of diplomacy and even the threat of terrorism. Consider the following:
the video that sparked the unrest in Egypt and Libya was created and promoted by anti-Muslim activists who have worked with backers of Bachmann’s effort to purge the U.S. government of Muslim Americans and key players in the effort to block the so-called Ground Zero mosque (e.g. ACT! for America and the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission)
in July, misinformation promoted by Bachmann and two upcoming speakers at the Values Voter Summit, Frank Gaffney and Jerry Boykin, sparked aggressive protests against American diplomats in Egypt, including Secretary Clinton, whose motorcade was pelted by protestors – Boykin and Gaffney have been the leading forces behind Bachmann’s witch hunt against Muslim Americans in the U.S. government
Taken together, this suggests more than a lack of seriousness. It suggests that many Religious Right activists are far more interested in fighting a holy war than they are with diplomacy, peace or religious freedom. Unfortunately for the rest of us, we have the live in the same world as them.
The fake terrorist I referred to above is identified on the schedule as Kamal Saleem, but his real name is Khodor Shami. He claims that he was a Muslim Brotherhood operative who “came to the United States of America…to destroy this country” and crossed the Canadian border and “brought weapon caches right through cities.” He also claims to have “completed his first bloody terror mission into Israel for the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) at the age of seven.”
Bad news for Eric Cantor. He’s speaking tomorrow at the Values Voter Summit, but he’s apparently still going to hell. Let me explain.
Jerry Boykin is the Executive Vice President of the Family Research Council and Tony Perkins’ right-hand man. FRC is hosting the far right conference that the House Majority Leader, who is Jewish, plans to address tomorrow.
Boykin, much like Bryan Fischer, has a penchant for saying exactly what’s on his mind – things which others know not to say, even when they’re thinking the same thing. While you may know Boykin from his prolific Muslim-bashing, he also has some interesting things to say about Jews.
In a 2009 speech on “Why We Must Stand with Israel,” Boykin spoke out against pastors who say that “the Jews don’t have to come to know Jesus,” complaining that those pastors were “destroying the efforts” to lead Jews to Christ:
Last year, Boykin said that “one of the most disgusting things I hear is for people to call Hitler the extreme Right” because he was “an extraordinarily off the scale leftist.” He then lamented that “many Jews in America, for example, can't identify with the Republican Party because they're called the party of the Right, when in fact nothing could be further from the truth."
Boykin also said that President Obama is creating a Hitler-sytle Brownshirt army to force Marxism on America. And in 2003, then-Lt. Gen. Boykin said that the U.S. was fighting a war “in the name of Jesus,” prompting a rebuke from the ADL and President Bush.
To be sure, the Religious Right hasn’t always had the best relations with American Jews. Jerry Falwell sparked a controversy in 1980 when he said that God “does not hear the prayers of unredeemed Gentiles or Jews.” He was speaking at a press conference in defense of the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, who had proclaimed that “God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew.”
More recently, however, Religious Right leaders have been careful to stress Judeo-Christian values and avoid explicit attacks. Boykin, however, doesn’t have any use for such niceties.
All of this makes me wonder if Cantor’s folks did their homework before agreeing to speak tomorrow. Perhaps something will come up, and he’ll have to decline FRC’s invitation, much like Ann Romney and Cardinal Dolan have done. We’ll find out tomorrow.
After we reported yesterday evening that Ann Romney was being touted on the Values Voter Summit lineup alongside Paul Ryan, the Romney campaign moved quickly to distance her from the event. They first disputed our report, which was entirely accurate and based on the Values Voter Summit website, and then denied that Ann Romney was ever planning to speak there in the first place.
It certainly seemed to strike a nerve. Apparently a gay-bashing conference is just fine for Paul Ryan but off-limits for Ann Romney.
That begs the question of why Ann Romney was listed in the first place. As I wrote yesterday, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan were listed for weeks on the speakers page, as were many others. When Cardinal Dolan made it clear that he would not be attending, his photo was removed. Ann Romney, however, was never listed on that page.
With the conference less than a week out, the Family Research Council posted the schedule and pushed highlights to daybooks for press planning purposes. And suddenly there was Ann Romney closing out the kickoff session with Paul Ryan.
An FRC spokesman told Buzzfeed that Ann Romney had been invited but was not confirmed. I, for one, find it hard to believe that FRC pushed out Ann Romney’s name to the media without, at the very least, an understanding with the campaign, but we can’t know for sure.
What we do know is that Ann Romney declined the invitation, perhaps as recently as last night, and the Romney campaign went into overdrive to distance her from the event. Late last night, her name was removed from the conference website.
Meanwhile Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor are still speaking on Friday.
Morris Sadek, an Egyptian-American anti-Muslim activist, managed in one week’s time to take an overlooked YouTube video featuring a lame attack on Islam and turn it into a flashpoint with violent extremists, with deadly consequences. As the New York Timesreported last night, Sadek drew attention to the obscure video clip “in an Arabic-language blog post and an e-mail newsletter in English publicizing the latest publicity stunt of the Florida pastor Terry Jones, reviled in the Muslim world for burning copies of the Koran.” Within days the clip was making the rounds in Egypt, prompting denunciations from politicians and generating press coverage, and culminating in protests and a deadly attack in Libya.
Sadek, who has worked with Jones in the past, says he is fighting for the rights of his fellow Coptic Christians in Egypt. Unfortunately he seems much more focused on attacking Muslims than helping the Copts. Sadek pulled his Facebook profile around 1 pm today, but we were able to take a look beforehand. Here’s what we found.
Sadek is a man of many interests. He’s a member of these groups, among many others: Islam is of the Devil, Warriors of Christ, and OBAMA IS THE WORST PRESIDENT EVER! Agree?. Sadek is also a fan of the Republican Party, George Bush, Allen West (for president no less!), and number of other Islamophobic, conservative and/or Republican institutions and leaders. Ironically enough, he’s also a fan of the American embassy in Cairo, which was overrun by the protests that he sparked:
Now to be clear, Sadek has every right to carry out his work, and the violent extremists behind yesterday’s attack bear full responsibility for their actions. But we can and should hold Sadek to account for his own bigoted views and actions, which have poured gasoline on the fire and made it that much more difficult for the United States to achieve its strategic and diplomatic goals. It’s also made life worse for the very people in Egypt that Sadek claims to be fighting for.
This is not the first time that the actions of extremist Christian activists in America have boiled over in the Middle East. As the New York Timesreported in July, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s motorcade “was pelted with shoes and tomatoes by Egyptian protesters” motivated by conspiracy theories that “originated with American conservatives” – two of whom, Jerry Boykin and Frank Gaffney, will be speaking at the upcoming Values Voter Summit.
Ann Romney, the person tasked with humanizing her husband Mitt, is apparently scheduled to address a conference that dehumanizes others. I’m talking about the Values Voter Summit, which is hosted and sponsored by two Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate groups – the Family Research Council and American Family Association.
The National Journal Daybook and Values Voter Summit website both list Ann Romney on the schedule:
Notably absent from the list is Cardinal Timothy Dolan, whose spokesperson pointedly declined FRC’s invitation. Yet there Ann Romney is.
The Romney campaign must have its reasons, but it sure seems like an odd way to deploy Ann Romney. They already have Paul Ryan scheduled to address the conference. Do they really need two headliners reaching out to the Bachmann-Akin wing of the party? Besides, just last week Ann Romney refused to answer questions about same-sex marriage and contraception, dismissing them as distractions "from what the real voting issue is going to be."
For weeks, the Values Voter Summit website listed Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan as invited speakers. When Ryan was added to the ticket in August, the Family Research Council blasted out an email confirming Ryan’s appearance. No one really expected Mitt Romney to show for the event – too radical, too close to the election. That’s why, when the conference schedule was recently posted, it was a shock to see not only “Romney” on the lineup, but Ann Romney.
Ryan and Ann Romney, if she appears, will be speaking on stage with Perkins in a lineup that includes Kirk Cameron and Michele Bachmann. They’ll be kicking off a conference that features a who’s who of Todd Akin backers (e.g. Mike Huckabee and Rep. Steve King) and anti-Muslim McCarthyites (e.g. Frank Gaffney and Jerry Boykin). And, of course, there will be gay-bashers – featured speakers like Perkins and Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver, who recently defended Malawi’s law criminalizing homosexuality. They would push for the same thing here in America if they thought they could pull it off. In fact, FRC’s Peter Sprigg and the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer have already done so.
These aren’t conservative people pushing conservative values and policies – this is the radical right. America, and the Romney campaign in all likelihood, would be better served if Romney and Ryan followed Dolan’s example and skipped the conference. Or they can go cast their lot with the extremists with the national media looking on. We’ll see what their priorities are this Friday morning.