Why Are GOP Officials Embracing Extremists at Upcoming ‘How to Take Back America’ Conference?
Table of Contents
- Phyllis Schlafly
- Janet Porter (nee Janet Folger)
- Joseph Farah
- Mat Staver
- Rick Scarborough
- Don Wildmon
If the Values Voter Summit last weekend in Washington, D.C. confirmed the tight mutual embrace between the Religious Right and the national Republican Party, the How to Take Back America conference taking place in St. Louis, MO this coming weekend demonstrates national GOP figures' willingness to embrace even the most extreme elements of the right-wing political movement. Mike Huckabee, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Rep. Steve King (R-IA), Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA), and Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) have agreed to speak at the event, which is hosted by activists who are actively promoting the most extreme, inflammatory , and false charges and conspiracy theories now making the rounds on the far right fringes, including claims that President Obama is not an American citizen, that his administration is preparing internment camps for conservatives, that the swine flu vaccine is a pretext for genocide, and even that the "cash-for-clunkers" program was just an excuse for "big brother" to get access to people's email and other personal information for internal spying purposes.
Mike Huckabee was among the earliest confirmed speakers and is sure to be one of the main draws of the event. Although Huckabee was sometimes portrayed in the media as a "new" kind of Religious Right leader, he continues to cultivate close ties to the far fringes of the Religious Right. Indeed, there's a huge overlap between the organizers of the How To Take Back America Conference and the Faith and Values Committee of his own presidential campaign.
How to Take Back America is co-chaired by Phyllis Schlafly, the godmother of right-wing organizing, and Janet Folger Porter, a radio host who has long resided among the most unhinged of right-wing activists, spreading the wildest conspiracy theories imaginable. Other members of the host committee include Joseph Farah of WorldNetDaily, Don Wildmon of the American Family Association, Rick Scarborough of Vision America, Mat Staver of Liberty Council, Rick Green of Wallbuilders, Philip Jauregui of Judicial Action Group, Michael Farris of the Home School Legal Defense Association, and Dick Bott of Bott Radio Network. A number of these same people have been part of other conferences taking place at state levels, such as the Virginia "Winning Matters" events, Hope for America rallies, and the July Reclaiming Oklahoma for Christ event.
Among the workshops available to participants will be: "How to counter the homosexual movement," "How to stop the killings: pro-life solutions," "How to defend America vs. missile attack, "How to defeat UN attacks on sovereignty" and even one entitled "How to recognize living under Nazis & Communists."
Echoing that last theme, conference organizers recently announced that among the speakers will be Kitty Werthmann, the head of the South Dakota chapter of the Eagle Forum, who produced a DVD called "Freedom to Dictatorship in 5 Years." Werthmann was 12 years old when Hitler came to power and conference co-chair Janet Porter makes the connection between Hitler and Obama abundantly clear:
She is 83 with a "vivid memory" of what happened in her homeland next. She witnessed the government take over the banks and the auto industry. Sound familiar? In the last nine months, Obama and the Democrats in Congress have successfully orchestrated the government takeover of Chrysler and General Motors along with countless banks.
She witnessed the "compulsory youth" service and indoctrination. That sounds a little like Obama's call for "mandatory volunteerism" for America's youth….
They had Joseph Goebbels; we have Mark Lloyd, the diversity czar, who is already poised to shut down private radio stations like his hero Hugo Chavez did threatening licenses and waging outrageous fines on stations (up to $25 million dollars) who say things he doesn't like….
"Each person was allotted ration cards like a pound of sugar per month." Werthmann said. "If your grandma died, and you used her ration card to buy sugar, the grocery store would report you. Then, the Gestapo showed up, but rather than arrest you, they recruited you as informant of your neighbors, boss, friends and family. You couldn't trust anybody, not even the mailman," Werthmann added. Weekly reports were required or arrests were made.
Sounds a little like Obama's recruitment of government informants, i.e. the "snitch program," to turn in offenders for "fishy" speech. No arrests just yet, but the Department of Homeland Security has already tagged pro-family Americans as "the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States."…
Werthmann said it took five years for Hitler to rise to a dictatorship, and is amazed at how fast history is repeating itself here. "It has to be done fast," she added, "so people won't catch on."
RightWingWatch.org has monitored the development of the How to Take Back America Conference and has been chronicling the activities of its right-wing organizers for years. What follows is only a sampling of the extremism that Right Wing Watch has documented. This information, and far more, is readily available to everyone, including Mike Huckabee and the Members of Congress who are inexcusably lending credibility to this event and to its organizers.
The fact that Phyllis Schlafly was just honored with the James C. Dobson Vision & Leadership Award at the Values Voter Summit for her lifetime of activism tells you a lot about the right-wing movement in America. Schlafly pioneered the technique which is now at the heart of right-wing propaganda campaigns: as Sarah Palin might put it, Schlafly "makes stuff up" that she thinks might scare or anger people into action against the threat of the day. In fact, USA Today's Cathy Grossman recently wrote that Schlafly has essentially built her entire career on scaring people into action by making up threats that are barely grounded in reality. Grossman saw this technique in action in a profile of Schlafly she wrote more than 20 years ago, and marvels how widespread it has become: "What interests me here," wrote Grossman, "is the tactical gimmick of arguing by extremes. Palin reflects the teachings of the master - Phyllis Schlafly, founder of the Eagle Forum and a conservative-right tactician extraordinaire."
Schlafly first made a name for herself in right-wing circles with her pro-Barry Goldwater book"A Choice Not An Echo" in 1964 and then led the campaign to kill the Equal Rights Amendment. In 1974, she established the Eagle Forum.
Schlafly believes that married women can't be raped by their husbands because getting married means assenting to sex whenever your husband wants it, so it only makes sense that she's long worked to overturn the Violence Against Women Act. (During the Reagan administration, PFAW urged an investigation when the Eagle Forum was awarded a $600,000 grant by the Justice Department to counteract "the feminist agenda" on domestic violence.)
Schlafly has long been an ardent promoter of conspiracy theories about American sovereignty, pushing fears that the Bush administration was secretly negotiating to have America essentially merge with Mexico and Canada in a North American union. She likewise led opposition to U.S. ratification of the Genocide Convention and similarly opposes any and all other international treaties as dire threats to US sovereignty. She has also written that Mexican immigrants are "invading" the U.S. and spreading disease.
When she received an honorary degree from Washington University of St. Louis last year, some students protested, leading Right Wing Watch to note:
Apparently the students don't think that Washington University should be honoring an immigrant-hating, UN-detesting, evolution-fighting, court-stripping, conspiracy-theorist anti-feminist hypocrite who blames the Virginia Tech massacre on the English Department go figure.
Schlafly was never a fan of Huckabee; she didn't trust his economic policies and threatened a walkout at the GOP convention if McCain chose Lieberman as a running mate; but she was a huge supporter of Sarah Palin, who, she gushed, is "right on every issue." Shortly before the 2008 election, she suggested that Barack Obama might appoint William Ayers as his Secretary of Education.
Women on the Web published a useful overview of Schafly's career earlier this year. But any kind of comprehensive review of Schlafly's decades of promoting right-wing fever-dreams would take volumes.
It is probably impossible to overstate the extremism and lunacy of Janet Porter, whose radio program and Faith2Action.org website gives her a platform for promoting the most unhinged of conspiracy theories.
Porter is Mike Huckabee's biggest fan. She first fell in love when she organized the 2007 Values Voter Debate to which she had personally invited a gospel choir to sing "Why Should God Bless America?" and after which Porter (then Folger) declared that Huckabee had been revealed as the answer to Christians' prayers for a presidential candidate who shared their views, proclaiming him to be the "David among Jesse's sons." During the presidential primaries, she started a front group to attack Huckabee's arch nemesis Mitt Romney and wrote columns claiming that only Huckabee could prevent Hillary Clinton from throwing all Christians into prison and save her fantasy world from this "evil queen and her dragon of slaughter."
She has since claimed that God has cursed America for voting for Obama, that anyone who voted for him is bound for hell , and that anyone who has ever voted for a pro-choice candidate is also living under a curse. She has actively pushed the Birther conspiracies and even alleged that Obama's presidency was the culmination of a decade-long Communist conspiracy twenty years in the making. After the election, but before the inauguration, she called on God to prevent Obama from taking office, while warning that "AN EARTH-SHATTERING CALAMITY IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN" to this nation because we deserve God's judgment.
Among other fears she has recently been stoking: the Obama administration is creating internment camps for conservatives and building mass evacuation buses to take them there, while warning that the H1N1 flu vaccine is really a nefarious plot by the government to kill millions of Americans. She helped to create and inflate the Right's false claims that a Department of Homeland Security report was equating conservatives and veterans with terrorists; as noted above, she's now pushing comparisons between the Obama administration and the rise of Nazism.
Porter has written a book called "The Criminalization of Christianity" and claims that hate crimes legislation will lead to Christians being thrown in jail. More recently she's joined the chorus of extremists falsely claiming that the bill would "give heightened protection to pedophiles." As part of her campaign against hate crimes legislation, Porter has repeatedly invited on to her radio show Ted Pike, a rabid anti-Semite who claims hate crimes laws are part of a Jewish plot for world domination.
You can read much more about Janet Porter here.
Joseph Farah, the founder, editor, and CEO of WorldNetDaily, is a leader of the "Birther movement," which has been written off as "nuts" by even right-wing stalwarts like Ann Coulter, and his WND has been responsible for either creating or spreading just about every unhinged right-wing conspiracy in circulation today, including the idea that "soy makes you gay." He's become such an embarrassment to the movement that there is a movement afoot among conservatives to boycott those who associate with WND and even the Conservative Political Action Conference, which has welcomed Farah in the past, declined WND's request to hold a panel at the 2010 event. But Farah is not too extreme, apparently, for Mike Huckabee or the various Members of Congress headed to How to Take Back America.
In June, he accused Obama of speaking in code about the Holocaust, suggesting that Obama was supporting Iran's plans to "finish" the Holocaust. Farah has turned his "news agency" into a full-time promoter of the idea that President Obama is not an American. (Though he has contradicted himself by suggesting that Obama's grandmother was really his mother.)
Upon Obama's inauguration, Farah called for a prayer campaign against the administration:
Many a coward has been bolstered in his conviction against challenging tyranny by not reading too deeply into the Scriptures. Yet, nowhere does the Bible ever suggest evil rulers are to be obeyed. When the rule of men conflicts with the commands of God, the Bible leaves no doubt about where we should stand.
That's why I do not hesitate today in calling on godly Americans to pray that Barack Hussein Obama fail in his efforts to change our country from one anchored on self-governance and constitutional republicanism to one based on the raw and unlimited power of the central state.
It would be folly to pray for his success in such an evil campaign.
I want Obama to fail because his agenda is 100 percent at odds with God's. Pretending it is not simply makes a mockery of God's straightforward Commandments.
And here's how the ever-classy Farah responded to Ted Kennedy's death:
I know there's an old adage that one shouldn't speak ill of the dead.
But I don't subscribe to the idea that when evil and foolish people die we should pretend they were something other than evil and foolish.
And Ted Kennedy was evil and foolish.
He wasn't just a politician with whom I disagreed.
He was a rotten man a wicked man.
Mat Staver directs the Liberty Counsel and is Dean of the Law School at Liberty University, the college founded by the late Jerry Falwell. Like Janet Porter, the prospect and reality of Obama's election seems to have pushed him into ever-deeper waters of extremism.
He was part of that "Why Should God bless America" debate in Florida in 2007 and has since been part of promoting the same kinds of extremist conspiracy theories pushed by Janet Porter and others. For instance, not too long ago he was blaming our current financial crisis on the "radical redefinition of marriage" and saying that America will be cursed if it elected Barack Obama. After Obama won, Staver told Newsweek that people who believe Barack Obama might be the Antichrist are not necessarily crazy, but are rather merely "expressing a concern and a fear that is widely shared."Also after the election he warned that Obama (and his gay allies) are the "biggest threat to religious liberty we've ever had." Staver called Obama's recent speech to schoolchildren "illegal" and warned parents that "Obama is after our children."
Staver is currently representing a couple in Florida who harbored a runaway girl; Rifqua Bary is a teenage convert to Christianity who has become a cause célèbre among Religious Right fringe figures who allege that she will be killed by her Muslim parents if she is returned to them, even though every bit of evidence and every investigation by child protection services has indicated that there is absolutely no validity to any of these right-wing claims.
Liberty Counsel likewise got involved in the DHS "controversy" and responded to the report on the threat of home-grown terrorism by offering its supporters "proud to be a right-wing extremist" cards .
Staver is also fanatically anti-gay. Earlier this year Staver blasted the state of Vermont for granting marriage equality, saying "if [elected officials] can't understand this basic human relationship between a man and a woman, then they absolutely are not competent for public office" and warning that "what we are seeing in America is literally the beginnings of another revolution" from the "silent majority" who will draw a line in the sand, leading to "another American Revolution." He has declared that gay marriage would lead to an entire generation of violent criminals.
Staver was among a group of Religious Right leaders who falsely claimed that hate crimes legislation would criminalize the gospel, "punish principled dissent" and "[b]e a savage and perhaps fatal blow to First Amendment freedom of expression." He has alsoclaimed that>"Sexual orientation and gender identity include pedophilia and every imaginable deviant fetish. Cross-dressers and pedophiles find refuge in this so-called hate crimes bill, while veterans and grandmas are left to fend for themselves. Obviously, this bill is not about the prevention of crime but is all about pushing a radical sexual anarchy. This bill will crush free speech and trample free exercise of religion."
Staver has also been deeply involved in the Religious Right's efforts to scuttle any healthcare reform, both through the Freedom Federation and through his own group, Liberty Counsel, which has distributed a long report filled with false claims about the House bill that have been thoroughly debunked by Factcheck.org. Staver has also promoted bogus right-wing attacks on Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, the president's health care advisor.
Staver served on Huckabee's Faith and Family Values Coalition during his presidential campaign and will soon be travelling with Huckabee to Israel. Staver was one of many who asked McCain to choose Huckabee as his VP, though he was ultimately giddy with McCain's "absolutely brilliant choice" of Sarah Palin.
Rick Scarborough, a self-described "Christocrat" heads Vision America and, when he's not out palling around with Alan Keyes, has a penchant for suggesting that evangelical leaders are dying off because the nation has turned its back on God, suggesting that Christians will have "the blood of martyrs on [their] hands" if they don't oppose hate crimes legislation, blaming "the church" for just standing by and allowing the election of "unrighteous leaders" in 2006, saying that opponents of the War in Iraq are committing treason, organizing conferences designed to highlight the "War on Christians and Values Voters," and penning books entitled "Liberalism Kills Kids," among other things.
Scarborough was a pioneer in organizing "Patriot Pastors" to get out the vote on behalf of Republicans. A few years back, the Texas-based former Southern Baptist pastor, a long-time ally of Tom DeLay, formed the Judeo-Christian Council for Constitutional Restoration with stalwarts such as Jerry Falwell and Phyllis Schlafly to oppose "activist judges." Through the group, Scarborough organized the "Judicial War on Faith" conference following the death of Terri Schiavo in 2005, and a "War on Christians and Values Voters" conference in 2006.
Rick Scarborough also backed Mike Huckabee's presidential bid and served on Huckabee's Faith and Family Values Coalition. He had hoped to prevent the disaster of a Democratic president when he launched his "70 Weeks to Save America" tour, with a goal of signing up "100,000 Values Voters, 10,000 key leaders, 5,000 Patriot Pastors and 5,000 women" to "vote their Christian values on Election Day 2008." The tour fizzled after his initial partner, Alan Keyes, decided to run for president himself.
Scarborough recently bragged that he uses clips from Glenn Beck in his church sermons about the threat from President Obama's "czars" and the threat of the Fairness Doctrine. Scarborough has declared that Religious Right leaders must take advantage of the outpouring of conservative outrage and hostility that gave rise to the Tea Parties and "get out in front of the movement and begin to define it."
Scarborough also promoted the charge that hate crimes legislation will make it "illegal to preach that homosexuality is a sin" and grandly promises to "break that law" and become a martyr if necessary. Scarborough complained that the selection of openly gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson to give a prayer during Obama inaugural festivities was a "slap in the face to Christians. Objecting to President Obama's recognition of LGBT Pride Month in June, Scarborough ranted that "those who engage in unnatural acts should hang their heads in shame."
Earlier this year, Scarborough declared that "the persecution of Christianity in America has begun. Among other alarms he is sounding:
I believe that America is facing the gravest challenge since the Second World War, and one that will forever change the course of this great nation if Christians do not experience a renewed commitment to freedom and understanding of the role of God in government….
And now we are hearing of plans to take the financial crisis this country is facing and using it as the gateway to nationalizing enormous chunks of the American economy, moving us down the road to European style socialism. One of the foundational principles of the Declaration of Independence was the inalienable right to pursue happiness. With nationalized healthcare, no health care professional will ever be included in that right again, and you will see an erosion of the greatest healthcare system the world has ever known.
James Dobson recently had Scarborough on his radio show, a major step up from the Religious Right minor leagues where Scarborough has been toiling.
Don Wildmon is the Founder and Chairman of the American Family Association, which exists primarily to decry whatever it deems "immoral" in American culture and lead boycotts against companies that in any way support causes, organizations, or programs it deems offensive, particularly anything that does not portray gays and lesbians in a negative light.
Over the years, AFA has targeted everything from the National Endowment for the Arts, Howard Stern, and the television show "Ellen" to major corporations such as Ford , Burger King, and Clorox. AFA has also been particularly focused on Disney, declaring that the company's "attack on America's families has become so blatant, so intentional, so obvious" as to warrant a multi-year boycott. The AFA recently slammed celebrity Miley Cyrus for "tweeting" that Jesus loves everybody, including gays, and that God's greatest commandment is to love. "And judging is not loving." AFA warned parents that Cyrus was a poor role model. Recently, AFA has been busy warning that proposed hate-crimes legislation is designed to lay the "groundwork for persecution of Christians," attacked presidential candidate Mitt Romney over his time on the board of Marriott Corporation because the company offers adult movies in its hotels, and warned that the US Senate was "angering a just God" and bringing "judgment upon our country" by allowing a Hindu chaplain to deliver an opening prayer.
You can find much more on Wildmon and the American Family Association here.
We could go on about the various other right-wing activists involved in this conference, like Michael Farris, founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association and Patrick Henry College, or Rick Green and his work along side right-wing pseudo-historian David Barton at Wallbuilders, but doing so would merely be redundant, as the utter radicalism of the organizers of this conference has already been established.
It must be noted that these are not your"run of the mill" Religious Right activists of the sort with whom Republicans leaders regularly consort, but rather represent the outer fringe of the movement, so much so that many in the Religious Right establishment generally go to great lengths to avoid being seen with them.
When this same group of fringe activists hosted their Values Voter Debate back in 2007, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, and Mitt Romney, all of whom went on to address the more "mainstream" Values Voter Summit one month later, openly snubbed the event, seemingly fully aware of the radicalism of its organizers. But Mike Huckabee not only attended, he declared to the audience that while "many [other candidates] come to you. I come from you." After that, many of the events organizers went on to serve on his presidential campaign's Faith and Family Values Coalition.
And now that they are hosting their own How To Take Back America Conference, Huckabee is returning to join hands with them once again, and this time he is being joined by five Republican members of Congress, raising the question of just how radical a right-wing activist has to become before they are shunned by "respectable" Republican leaders.