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Ron DeSantis Was Trying Not to “Piss Off” Trump Voters as Far Back as 2018

Leaked videos show how DeSantis has long been concerned about alienating Trump’s base.

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Ron DeSantis

“I have to frame it in a way that’s not gonna piss off all his voters.”

It is 2023, and while Ron DeSantis still hasn’t announced his run for president, he’s apparently been formally preparing for at least five years.

Streams of leaked footage from 2018 show the Florida governor sparring debate questions and talking strategy. In footage obtained by ABC, DeSantis mulls how to win over Trump voters, whether the NRA is “quite the boogeyman the Democrats think it is,” whether the NRA even donated to him at all, and how he can remind himself to try being “likable” instead of unsettlingly aggressive.

In other footage, Representative Matt Gaetz coaches DeSantis and tries to tell him that he comes in “too hot” and prep him for how to respond to attacks from his opponent.

DeSantis, who was preparing for the 2018 gubernatorial race at the time, was accused of making a racist comment by asking voters not to “monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda” in voting for Democrat Andrew Gillum, who is Black. DeSantis was also criticized for close association with David Horowitz, who, among other things, has complained about Black people not feeling “gratitude” for white people’s “sacrifices” in ending slavery. And reports claimed that DeSantis was an administrator for a racist Facebook page.

“It deserves to be hot!” DeSantis replies in exasperation. “I mean, I’m sorry.”

“Kavanaugh showed that when you say ‘fuck this’ …” DeSantis suggested, referring to Brett Kavanuagh’s success in whining and yelling enough about the numerous allegations of sexual assault against him that he was still able to weather the storm and become one of nine jurists in one of the most powerful institutions in America.

Not necessarily a great role model for someone trying to prove themselves as definitively innocent or trustworthy.

DeSantis is said to be undergoing more debate prep and considering skipping the step of launching an exploratory committee, instead diving right into the race sometime next month. The final touches of the longtime coming presidential campaign follow a remarkably hostile and incendiary state legislative session, in which the Florida governor has attacked millions of LGBTQ people, students, teachers, women, immigrants, people fearful of gun violence, Disney lovers, and fans of Dwyane Wade.

Fox’s Reaction to Jordan Neely’s Death Is So Deranged It’s Sickening

There’s a tendency to brush off what Fox does as to be expected. But the network embodies a disease that needs to be excised from society.

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There’s a soullessness in our society that must be excised.

You may have thought Fox might turn things down on the racism dial after it had to pay $787.5 million in a settlement with Dominion Voting Systems to avoid further inquiry into its corrupt inner workings. But in the wake of the brutal murder of a Black, homeless man in New York this week, it’s continued right on course.

Daniel Penny killed Jordan Neely by putting him in a choke hold for 15 minutes. Then, he got up and walked away. He has still not been charged with a crime.

And yet, on a man killing a desperate and hungry homeless person, Fox anchors laugh:

They welcome jeering.

And they suggest, in fact, it’s actually not that “people kill people.” Jesse Watters said that had Neely been “institutionalized” or “incarcerated,” he wouldn’t be dead. No, Jesse. Had he not been murdered in broad daylight, he wouldn’t be dead.

“Maybe if the left had not defunded and demoralized the police, he wouldn’t be dead,” Watters continued, referring to a city in which police officers are getting a raise while other agencies are collectively taking $1 billion in annual cuts.

“They care about blaming somebody else,” Watters finished, blaming “the left” for an act of cold-blooded murder done by an individual who felt empowered enough in this society to choke-hold someone for 15 minutes.

There’s a tendency to ascribe the barbaric, almost libidinal hatred peddled by Fox to profit. That a formula that pulls out the worst instincts among us metastasizes them and leaves those instincts wanting more is a formula destined for dollars. And surely, that equation has been intrinsic to the construction and rise of Fox and right-wing media more broadly.

Yet there also comes a point where the numbers are too large, the bank accounts are too stuffed, to blame such viciousness on the lust for profit alone.

Sure, it’s not revelatory that people like Watters or Tucker Carlson or any other member of Fox’s roster are, in fact, racist. But there’s a deeper sickness, a gaping hole where once there may have been at least a sliver of humanity. They all have their own origin stories, their own paths of how they became the figureheads of an ideology that not only tolerates but encourages, salivates at, the murder of the worst-off among us. How they developed a mindset that cannot fathom the pain of another human being who was first brought to live on the streets, then strangled and killed for yearning for a better existence.

It’s difficult to conceptualize how someone can begin to think like this, be brought to the eye of a storm in which all they see is the stability of their claims, while knowing none of the violence that surrounds it. Congressman Jamaal Bowman, in the aftermath of the January 6 attacks on the Capitol, put forth one notion that at least offers a lens toward seeing these people even now as modes of potential:

What transpired on that New York City subway line is a cruelty so inexplicable it may be tempting to search for some justification for why it happened. But there is none. Only this sickness, these false identities of superiority, can lead someone to justify, joke about, jeer at—and indeed, commit—something so definitively inexplicable, so patently opposed to humanity.

Determining whether someone—even the likes of Carlson or Watters—is “too far gone” is a fool’s errand; but if this sickness is to be excised from our society, it at least begins by preventing its spread any further.

Trump Is Showing Everyone Exactly Who He Is (a Sexual Predator)

Trump is on trial for rape and defamation. And still, he chose to double down on his “grab ’em by the p***y” comments.

Donald Trump
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On October 7, 2016, the infamous Access Hollywood tape was revealed, showing Trump, who is now on trial for rape, talking about how he approaches women.

“I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything,” he said on tape.

Now, footage from Trump’s deposition during his rape and defamation trial brought by E. Jean Carroll shows the twice-impeached criminally indicted former president doubling down on the idea.

“Historically, that’s true with stars,” Trump said when asked about his past comments. “If you look over the last million years, I guess that’s been largely true. Not always, but largely true. Unfortunately or fortunately.”

“Do you consider yourself to be a star?” the interviewer asked.

“I think you could say that, yeah,” Trump mused.

May as well spell it out: Trump—while standing trial for rape—says that it is “largely true” that stars (like himself) can get away with sexually assaulting women.

How Clarence Thomas Smeared His Own Sister to Gain Right-Wing Cool Points

Lying about money is apparently nothing new for the Supreme Court justice.

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Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas hasn’t just lied about his own finances. He also lied about his own sister for political gain.

Thomas is under fire for hiding multiple major financial dealings, primarily that Republican billionaire megadonor Harlan Crow paid for Thomas and his wife to go on decades’ worth of luxury vacations. Crow also bought Thomas’s childhood home, where his mother still lives, and paid the private boarding-school tuition for Thomas’s grandnephew.

The Washington Post also reported Friday that longtime Federalist Society executive Leonard Leo secretly paid Thomas’s wife, Ginni, thousands of dollars for consulting work she did a decade ago.

But lying about money is nothing new for Thomas.

Speaking to a conference of Black conservatives in 1980, Thomas described his sister as “dependent” on welfare—and accused her of making her children feel “entitled” to welfare payments instead of being motivated to work. His comments reinforced a negative stereotype popular among conservatives that Black people are lazy and count on welfare instead of their own work, an attempt to set himself apart and advance his career.

But when a reporter tracked down Thomas’s sister, Emma Mae Martin, in the early 1990s, he found that nothing could be further from the truth.

Martin was on welfare for four or five years—after she’d had to stop working two minimum-wage jobs to take care of an aunt who had suffered a stroke, the Chicago Tribune reported. Her husband had abandoned her in 1973, her father had abandoned the family nearly three decades earlier, and her brother was busy at law school.

When the Tribune story came out in July 1991, Martin was working as a hospital cook. Her oldest son—named after his uncle—was in the Navy, her second-oldest child was a carpenter, and the third-oldest had just been laid off from a bakery. The youngest was still in school.

Martin seemed unbothered by her brother, who has always made himself out as a modest everyman who pulled himself out of poverty by his own wits and work. But “the realities of Thomas’ sister’s life are closer to the realities of most poor people,” the Tribune said.

It is a story of male abandonment, female sacrifice, and a turning to welfare only temporarily and only as a last resort. It also is a story of an inadequate government safety net for those who struggle at the bottom of society—no day care, no health insurance, no subsidy for the “working poor” whose wages are not enough to lift their families above the federal poverty line.

Thomas’s lie about his sister is particularly hypocritical, considering how often he has claimed to be against government aid and welfare. But Thomas and his family have spent decades enjoying free travel, housing, and school that are only offered because he holds a powerful position in the government.

Of Course Biden Has Picked Neera Tanden to Replace Susan Rice

Biden could have used Rice’s departure as domestic policy adviser as a reset for a fresh start. Instead, he picked Tanden.

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Neera Tanden is back in the mix.

Less than two weeks ago, Susan Rice, who some have called “one of the most anti-immigrant folks in the administration,” was pushed out of her role as White House domestic policy chief.

Just as Rice famously cleansed her office with burning sage in the weeks after January 6, President Joe Biden could have used the newfound vacancy as an opportunity to signal a new, fresh start on the policy front. Perhaps elevate someone similar to former White House chief of staff Ron Klain, who was able to manage the post-primary Sanders-Biden coalition that led Biden to oversee one of the most historic midterm performances in recent history.

Instead, he’s elevating Tanden, who has made enemies not just with the right, as any likely candidate may have, but with much of the left as well.

Tanden has been involved in politics for years, beginning by volunteering on Michael Dukakis’s presidential campaign in 1988 and most recently serving as Biden’s staff secretary, reporting to former chief of staff Ron Klain (whose departure and replacement with Jeff Zients has marked a significant rightward shift within the Biden administration). Between then and now, Tanden has been heavily immersed in liberal spheres, in numerous campaigns, on Capitol Hill, and even by helping lead the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, or CAP.

In her illustrious career Tanden, a longtime Hillary Clinton loyalist once regarded as the former presidential candidate’s closest policy adviser, has certainly garnered years of experience in politics but has also left behind a questionable legacy.

In 2008, while serving as an aide to Clinton during her first presidential campaign, Tanden pushed—in some accounts punched—then-editor of ThinkProgress Faiz Shakir for asking Clinton about the Iraq War. Tanden once welcomed the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, calling him “the agent of a proto fascist state, Russia, to undermine democracy.” Under her leadership, CAP reportedly censored staff from criticizing the Israeli government; the think tank also allegedly censored a report on Islamophobia to maintain its relationship with billionaire Michael Bloomberg. And this does not include all her infamous tweets against both the left and right.

Tanden had been elevated to serve as a Biden senior adviser, and then staff secretary, only after having her nomination to head the Office of Management and Budget withdrawn. Republicans presented a unified front in their opposition to Tanden, criticizing her for her disparaging tweets about various Republican elected officials (many of which, to be fair, were not far off).

Republicans’ opposition was surely much more high-grade given their knowledge that Tanden’s prolific posting came for all. Senator John Kennedy famously remarked that Tanden had “called Senator Sanders everything but an ignorant slut.” Senator Joe Manchin announced his opposition, saying that Tanden’s “overtly partisan statements” against Republicans and Sanders would “have a toxic and detrimental impact” on the relationship between Congress and the OMB.

Such opposition led to potential Republican swing votes like Mitt Romney and Susan Collins announcing their own opposition. Sanders and other progressive senators did not announce opposition to Tanden.

Given Biden’s recent rightward shift, it is reasonable to scrutinize every personnel decision he makes from here on out. Tanden is no exception. But the experienced D.C. operator herself has reflected, in TNR’s pages, on past shortcomings and growing and evolving from them. May we hope that that spirit is sincere and that she strives to genuinely bring Biden back to the kind of message that has both won politically and remotely resembles the progressive politics needed to meet a moment crying out for fundamental change.

Fox Begs Media Matters to Please Stop Publishing Leaked Tucker Carlson Videos

The videos, of course, show what a creep Tucker was at Fox.

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Fox Corporation has asked Media Matters to please stop publishing all these videos that show what a creep Tucker Carlson is.

Nonprofit media watchdog Media Matters has published at least one behind-the-scenes video of erstwhile Fox News star Carlson a day since the start of the month. The videos show Carlson being sexist, creepy, and generally gross.

The latest video, released Thursday, shows Carlson asking an on-set makeup artist if “pillow fights ever break out” in the women’s bathroom. When she says no, he says, “OK. Not in the bathroom. That’d be more [of] a dorm activity.”

Fox is now begging Media Matters to stop exposing Carlson and, by extension, the network. Fox Corporation lawyers sent Media Matters a letter Friday saying the videos are “confidential intellectual property” and that Fox “does not consent” to their being released.

“Reporting on newsworthy leaked material is a cornerstone of journalism. For Fox to argue otherwise is absurd and further dispels any pretense that they’re a news operation,” Media Matters president Angelo Carusone said in a statement. “Perhaps if I tell them that the footage came from a combination of WikiLeaks and Hunter Biden’s laptop, it will alleviate their concerns.”

Carusone also tweeted that Fox lawyers had originally sent a letter saying the network “does consent” to the videos being published, but corrected their typo an hour later.

These videos may very well be the reason Carlson was canned, amid a sex discrimination lawsuit accusing him of creating a hostile workplace. It’s possible he was let go before the videos could start surfacing to help Fox fend off the (clearly true) accusations.

Wisconsin Republicans Are Fighting to Keep a 200-Year-Old Abortion Law on the Books

A nationally watched abortion lawsuit is making its way through Wisconsin courts.

Sara Stathas for The Washington Post/Getty Images
Abortion rights supporters rally in the rotunda of the Capital in Madison, Wisconsin, on January 22, 2022.

Wisconsin Republicans are trying to keep state abortion laws exactly as they were almost 200 years ago, when Zachary Taylor was president.

After Roe v. Wade was overturned, Wisconsin reverted back to its original abortion law, which was implemented in 1849. Under the law, abortions are banned entirely except to save the life of a pregnant person. However, three doctors must agree that the abortion is medically necessary, imposing an unbelievable burden on anyone in a life or death situation seeking the procedure.

Democratic state Attorney General Josh Kaul argued in front of a judge Thursday that Wisconsin should void that law because it has gone unused for so long. He and his team also said the law conflicts with other abortion rules that were implemented much later, such as a 1985 law that only criminalizes abortion post–fetal viability—an already mushy window of time that decreases as neonatal care improves—but with an exception after that to save the life of the pregnant person.

“Women in the state of Wisconsin are not currently able to receive critical health care … because of the very lack of clarity in the law,” said assistant Attorney General Hannah Jurss.

Kaul filed the lawsuit just days after the Supreme Court issued the Dobbs ruling last summer. It is only now making it to the courtroom.

But one of the three Republican district attorneys named as defendants in the case, Joel Urmanski, argued that Kaul doesn’t have legal standing to challenge the ban because it does not affect him personally or his ability to do his job as attorney general. Urmanski had filed a motion to dismiss the suit in December. His lead attorney said Thursday the ban has been able to coexist in “harmony” with newer abortion laws.

Jurss hit back, saying that Kaul needs to know what laws apply in Wisconsin in order to act as the state’s top law enforcement official. “It can’t be that the law says something is illegal and legal at the same time,” she said.

The judge gave few indications of how she was leaning, but the case is widely expected to go to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Liberals will hold a majority on the court once Justice-elect Janet Protasiewicz is sworn in in August.

Protasiewicz was elected in early April, beating her Republican opponent by a whopping 11 percentage points and flipping the court for the first time in 15 years. She campaigned heavily on her support for abortion rights.

Washington Post Levels Another “Racist,” “Baseless” Attack on Clarence Thomas!

If you’re to believe the right’s defense of the Supreme Court justice’s latest financial scandal, anyway

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Longtime Federalist Society executive Leonard Leo paid the wife of a sitting Supreme Court justice in secret—but if you’re to believe the right’s defense of it, this is all part of a giant, racist conspiracy cooked up by the left.

The Washington Post has reported that Leo—leader of the bold campaign to obstruct now Attorney General Merrick Garland from the Supreme Court—helped manage an everyday business agreement between Ginni Thomas and Kellyanne Conway.

Leo arranged for Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, to be paid tens of thousands of dollars for consulting work that she had done in 2012. Leo made sure her name was left off the billing paperwork and made fake invoices instead, which apparently is a problem for some reason.

Between June 2011 and June 2012, Leo directed Conway’s polling company (cleverly named the Polling Company) to charge his nonprofit, the Judicial Education Project, and use the money to pay Ginni—but he asked Conway to please not mention her in the paperwork.

In one January 2012 instance, Leo told Conway he wanted her to “give” Thomas “another $25K,” emphasizing that there should be “no mention of Ginni, of course,” in any of the paperwork.

In total, the payments amounted to some $80,000 within the timeframe. But what’s $80k among friends, really?

Also, never mind that the payments to Ginni came right before her husband voted favorably in a 5–4 majority to roll back voting rights, which is exactly what Leo wanted.

In December 2012, after the stream of payments the Judicial Education Project made to Ginni, the nonprofit submitted an amicus brief in Shelby County v. Holder. The case was challenging the Voting Rights Act. Thomas voted with the slim majority that struck down a key formula in the law that determined which jurisdictions were subject to federal clearance based on their histories of voter discrimination. Thomas’s concurring opinion aligned with arguments advanced by the Judicial Education Project.

After the ruling, hundreds of polling places closed, many in predominantly African American communities, while jurisdictions freed from preclearance standards had massively increased voter registration purges.

This is now one of many disqualifying revelations about the Supreme Court Justice; but according to some on the right, any concern about the litany of ethical violations is really just a racist attack against Thomas.

Reporting from ProPublica has similarly revealed what amounts to a warm relationship between Thomas and megabillionaire GOP donor Harlan Crow. The Nazi memorabilia–collecting billionaire has generously paid for the private school tuition of a family member Thomas was raising “as a son.” Crow has also extended gifts to the Supreme Court justice, like luxurious island-hopping excursions on superyachts, and even closed a simple, low-key deal in which he bought Thomas family property and proceeded to upgrade it while Thomas’s mother still lived in it. Thomas’s “son” had joined in on many of the family fun adventures with Crow too.

Apparently though, the problem is that the racist and sanctimonious liberal media can’t fathom the idea that a Supreme Court justice (one of the nine most powerful people in our country) can also have close relationships with some of the most financially successful individuals in society, who just coincidentally are arguing cases before the court. And if they can’t do that, when will the left come after you, next?

The Proud Boys Conviction Has Killed the Right’s Favorite Defense of January 6

“How many of the participants have been charged with insurrecting, with sedition, with treason?”

Brent Stirton/Getty Images
Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as people try to storm the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

The conviction of four Proud Boys for seditious conspiracy blows up a major right-wing campaign to downplay the January 6 attack.

Members of the right, particularly on Fox News, have long tried to whitewash the January 6 riot. Many claimed that it couldn’t have been an insurrection because no one had been charged with seditious conspiracy. That, of course, is not true.

“Oh, it was an insurrection,” Tucker Carlson said on his show just a few months after the attack. “So how many of the participants have been charged with insurrecting, with sedition, with treason? Zero.” The talking point was common on Fox News—but also in right-wing circles more generally.

Well, on Thursday, four members of the far-right Proud Boys, including leader Henry Tarrio, were found guilty of seditious conspiracy, as well as conspiracy to obstruct Congress and obstruction of Congress. A fifth group member was also found guilty of obstruction of Congress but not the other charges. The Proud boys are a far-right, neofascist group known for promoting chauvinist views. Former President Donald Trump infamously told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” during the September 2020 presidential debate, which prosecutors argued the extremist group took as a call to action.

There have now been a total of 14 convictions on seditious conspiracy over January 6, including that of Stewart Rhodes, the leader of another extremist group the Oath Keepers.

Dianne Feinstein Finally Issues Statement on Her Absence, Refuses to Say When She’ll Be Back

The California senator is pretending her absence makes no difference in what’s happening in Congress.

Senator Dianne Feinstein
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Dianne Feinstein said Thursday that her absence from the Senate is not slowing down the workings of the chamber. Don’t fall for it.

Feinstein hasn’t been in the Senate for more than eight weeks due to complications from shingles. Her last vote was in mid-February. Since then, her absence has put many key votes, including judicial confirmations, on hold. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he would grant her request to let another Democratic senator temporarily serve in her place on the Judiciary Committee, but Republicans quickly poured cold water on that idea.

In a statement, Feinstein pushed back on the idea that her absence is causing issues. “The Senate continues to swiftly confirm highly qualified individuals to the federal judiciary, including seven more judicial nominees who were confirmed this week. There has been no slowdown,” she said.

“I’m confident that when I return to the Senate, we will be able to move the remaining qualified nominees out of committee quickly and to the Senate floor for a vote,” she said, while refusing to specify when she would actually return.

Although Feinstein may say that her absence isn’t a problem, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Despite what she said, there is still a backlog of judicial nominees who need to be confirmed—something that is becoming ever more crucial as more human rights battles play out in courts across the country. Just last week, Senate Republicans were able to pass a resolution nullifying an Environmental Protection Agency rule that seeks to reduce toxic air pollution from heavy-duty vehicles.

Feinstein announced in February that she would not run for reelection. She has had a long and storied career, but it has been sullied in recent years by reports that she is no longer mentally capable of serving. Calls for her to step down have begun to grow louder, as her congressional colleagues urge her to put the country first.