Today, People For the American Way’s Right Wing Watch celebrates its 10-year anniversary. PFAW first launched the site after more than two previous decades of monitoring the Right to expose and counter—in real time—the extreme right-wing activists and organizations that were having an outsized impact on our politics. Right Wing Watch has tracked fringe right-wing figures who have suddenly risen to national prominence, reported on the absurd and bigoted statements of politicians who thought no one would listen to what they said on a far-right radio show, and tracked the continued rise of the Religious Right when, year after year, countless others declared it dead.
“Right Wing Watch has spent the last ten years covering those who seek to undermine fundamental constitutional values and distort the American Way,” said PFAW President Michael Keegan. “Through our team’s expert reporting, we analyze and uncover the far-right and hold accountable the politicians who stand by them, uplift their voices, and perpetuate their lies. And we do this in a way that no other organization does. Right Wing Watch has built up its authority not by taking right-wing figures out of context or twisting anyone’s words, but simply by shining a spotlight on what they say and believe.”
“Right Wing Watch has always had a clear mission: to expose what right-wing leaders are saying when they think that no one is listening,” said PFAW Communications Director Drew Courtney. “Over the last decade, Right Wing Watch has collected and shared an enormous amount of information about the far-right movement in this country, and again and again that’s allowed us to hold politicians accountable when they pander to extremism. We’ve shown that politicians who try to score short term benefits from throwing in with bigotry will pay a long term political cost.”
As part of the 10-year anniversary, PFAW today launched a new Right Wing Watch website, featuring our just-published report on the extremist anti-choice movement’s return to Wichita, KS. You can see the new site at www.RightWingWatch.org.
To schedule an interview with a Right Wing Watch researcher on our work, what it’s like to cover the Right, and/or how the Right has changed over the last ten years, please email [email protected].
Right Wing Watch Highlights: 2006-2016
Top Right Wing Watch highlights this election cycle:
- While listening to conservative talk radio host Dana Loesch, Right Wing Watch was the first to report that then-presidential candidate Gov. Scott Walker referred to medically unnecessary, mandatory ultrasounds as a “cool thing out there.”
- Right Wing Watch has reported on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones since 2012—our first post detailed an interview he did where his guest speculated that President Obama was behind the Aurora movie theater shooting—so when Trump and his allies started appearing on his show, we tracked the conspiracy theories that arose from the show and made it to the campaign stump. For example, we reported on Jones and Trump ally Roger Stone discussing the idea that the 2016 election will be “rigged” the day before Trump made the suggestion at a campaign rally.
- Right Wing Watch was the first to report that three GOP presidential candidates were scheduled to appear at an event in Iowa organized by radical Colorado pastor Kevin Swanson. Right Wing Watch monitored the conference, revealing that the candidates were appearing alongside those calling for the death penalty for gay people and other radical measures. The controversy dogged one of the candidates, Sen. Ted Cruz, for months.
- After then-presidential candidate Ted Cruz welcomed the endorsement of anti-choice leader Troy Newman, Right Wing Watch was the first to report on the endorsement and lay out the extremism of Newman, which includes calling for the government to execute abortion providers.
- At the 2016 Values Voter Summit, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin said that the election of Hillary Clinton would result in the shedding of blood of “patriots” and “tyrants.” Of all the reporters in the room, RWW’s Peter Montgomery was the one to notice the story and make sure Bevin was held accountable for his outrageous remarks. The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel wrote: “Bevin's speech made no immediate impact…[But] Right Wing Watch, a project of People for the American Way, did hear a story. Peter Montgomery, PFAW's tireless correspondent at conservative conferences, wrote up the Bevin remarks for a Monday blog post. Hours later, the Lexington Herald-Leader's Daniel Desrochers chased the story and got an explanation from Bevin.”
Top Right Wing Watch highlights from the last ten years:
- As Mike Huckabee became the Religious Right’s candidate of choice in the 2008 presidential election, Right Wing Watch unearthed comments that Huckabee had made in a failed 1992 Senate campaign in which he called for quarantining HIV patients. The remarks dogged him throughout his campaign.
- In 2009, Right Wing Watch filmed a press conference at which former Operation Rescue leader Randall Terry said that assassinated abortion provider George Tiller “reaped what he sowed.” The video was widely distributed and exhibited the extremism of Terry’s wing of the anti-choice movement.
- In 2010, news organizations reported that Virginia Delegate Bob Marshall had declared that disabled children are God’s “special punishment” for women who have had abortions. Marshall tried to claim that his comments had been misconstrued, but Right Wing Watch dug up a video proving that he had indeed clearly made those comments.
- In 2011, Mitt Romney was scheduled to speak at the Values Voter Summit immediately before Bryan Fischer, a rabidly anti-gay spokesman for the American Family Association who also made a habit of insulting people of other faiths, particularly Mormons. Using Right Wing Watch’s research on Fischer, People For the American Way called on Romney to denounce Fischer’s bigotry—and, in his speech, Romney did just that, further marginalizing one of the most divisive figures on the Right.
- In 2011, then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry launched his presidential bid with a stadium prayer rally hosted by extremist groups and featuring a number of proponents of “dominionism,” the idea that conservative Christians must take control of all parts of society, including the government. Right Wing Watch exposed the extremism of the event, which ended up dominating news coverage of the launch of Perry’s campaign.
- In 2013, famed televangelist Pat Robertson claimed on his daily “The 700 Club” program that gay people deliberately infect others with AIDS by wearing special rings that cut people whom they shake hands with. Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network edited the remark from its recording of the program, but Right Wing Watch had been recording it live. Right Wing Watch resisted several attempts by Robertson to quash the video, ensuring that he couldn’t cover over his extremism.
- In 2013, Right Wing Watch was the first to reveal that Brian Brown, the head of the National Organization for Marriage, had traveled to Russia to testify in favor of anti-LGBT laws before the nation’s parliament just days after the body had passed an infamous bill banning “propaganda” about homosexuality. Right Wing Watch’s discovery highlighted the fact that Brown and his organization were interested in far more than stopping marriage equality in the U.S.
- In 2013, Right Wing Watch was the first to draw attention to Rep. Steve King’s comments on a small conservative cable network that the majority of DREAM Act recipients have “calves the size of cantaloupes because they’ve been hauling 75 pounds of marijuana a across the desert.” After RWW highlighted the video, King’s comments drew national attention and helped to define the immigration debate that was raging at the time in Congress.
- History Bonus: Right Wing Watch launched online 10 years ago, but PFAW’s research department has existed since the organization’s founding in 1981. In 2001, it was PFAW that was recording Pat Robertson’s television program when he and Jerry Falwell blamed the Sept. 11 attacks on “the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way.”