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Republicans’ War on Wokeness is Now Coming for PBS

In Oklahoma, the Republican governor is accusing the public broadcaster of indoctrinating children.

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt wears a suit and speaks and gestures with his hand. A book is on his lap.
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Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt

Oklahoma’s Republican Governor Kevin Stitt doubled down Monday on his decision to veto funding for PBS, accusing the network of indoctrinating children.

Stitt vetoed a bill two weeks ago approving funding for the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority, which broadcasts PBS and PBS Kids throughout the state. OETA receives both private and public funding. It offers shows including Sesame Street, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Antiques Roadshow, and PBS Newshour.

When asked Monday on Fox Business to explain his decision to veto OETA funding, Stitt demanded, “Why are we using taxpayer dollars to overly sexualize or indoctrinate children with this type of programming?”

A gubernatorial spokeswoman provided “evidence” of such sexualization and indoctrination to Tulsa World the day after Stitt issued the veto, which was basically just a list of LGBTQ content. She said OETA has aired Pride Month programs in recent years, and two children’s cartoons have included lesbian characters in some episodes. PBS Newshour also ran a segment in which an Indiana couple discussed how much gender-affirming care had helped their daughter.

Unless two-thirds of the state legislature votes to override Stitt’s veto, OETA will shut down in about a year—which could have devastating effects for more rural parts of Oklahoma, warned Friends of OETA board member Ken Busby.

Busby told Tulsa World that OETA is crucial to the state’s emergency alert system, especially for people in rural areas who don’t have cable television. “Our broadcast towers are how we inform a lot of rural Oklahoma about disasters like tornadoes and thunderstorms,” he said.

Republicans have been waging war on anything they deem “woke,” which usually means anything that encourages freedom of thought. A major argument has been that they are trying to protect children. But as moves such as Stitt’s veto show, a lot of their efforts to combat “wokeness” will actually have a detrimental effect on children’s well-being.

A Former Democrat in Texas Is Blocking a Gun Control Bill Endorsed by Uvalde Parents

Now Republican Representative Ryan Guillen is refusing to bring the bill for a floor vote, after yet another mass shooting in Texas.

Kimberly Rubio and her husband, Felix, parents of 10-year-old Lexi Rubio, who was gunned down in the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas

A Democrat-turned-Republican Texas legislator is obstructing incredibly modest gun reform in the wake of yet another mass shooting in his state.

Families of victims of the Uvalde mass school shooting have been rallying for months behind an array of gun safety bills, including one to raise the minimum age to buy semiautomatic rifles from 18 to 21. The bill was filed back in February but was not given a hearing until April 19. Even then, families had to wait more than 12 hours just to testify on the bill.

Monday—in the wake of a horrific mass shooting that left nine people, including the shooter, dead—is the final day the bill could have advanced.

And on Monday, Ryan Guillen—the chair of the Community Safety House committee where the bill is stalled—put a nail in the coffin: He does not want to bring up the bill for a vote.

It “doesn’t have the support in the legislature,” the Republican said, simply, ignoring the protesters demanding gun control inside the Capitol.

Who is to say how many more coffins will be nailed by the cowardice of Guillen and the rest of his Republican colleagues?

“To honor our children, you’d put this up for a vote.… It’s time for you to grow some balls and do your fucking job,” one family member said last week, addressing Guillen.

In face of the growing protests, Guillen then announced that the committee is taking another look at voting on the bill. “We’re considering it,” he said.

Guillen was elected to the state House as a Democrat in 2002 and, after nearly two decades, switched to the Republican Party in November 2021. The lawmaker is also a friend to national Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and Texas Representative Henry Cuellar.

Guillen shares much of his state district with Cuellar, an anti-choice, A-rated NRA conservative blessed by Nancy Pelosi and James Clyburn. The conservative Texas duo share both a tendency for political fence-riding and an apparent kindred camaraderie, perhaps in relating to each other’s spinelessness. Just last week, Cuellar boasted about spending time with a couple of his “friends” while visiting the Texas state legislature, including one Ryan Guillen.

“Coming back always brings so many memories of bipartisanship,” Cuellar wrote.

The mirroring between Cuellar and Guillen is almost beautiful in its patheticness. Last year, in the aftermath of the Uvalde mass shooting that left 19 children and two teachers dead, Cuellar voted against raising the minimum age to access semiautomatic guns from 18 to 21—just as Guillen blocked similar legislation Monday. The bill Cuellar voted against would have also created penalties for gun trafficking, required manufacturers to include serial numbers, and mandated safe storage of weapons away from children, among other very moderate provisions.

The “bipartisan” order that Cuellar so warmly recalls is indeed an influential one. It is one in which Texas Republicans and conservative Democrats put on a showcase of the most cynical, despicable, shamelessly wretched ways of leading one’s life.

This post has been updated.

Random Shootings Have Skyrocketed Since Texas Eased Gun Laws

It’s not exactly rocket science.

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Ever since Texas passed a law two years ago allowing people to carry a gun without a permit, random acts of gun violence have increased dramatically—including over the weekend when a shooter attacked a crowded mall.

A gunman opened fire at a mall north of Dallas on Saturday, killing at least eight people and wounding seven others before authorities shot him to death. It was the deadliest attack in Texas since the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde last spring.

There have now been 202 mass shootings since the start of the year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, five of which occurred after the Texas shooting. The Texas mall attack was the second-deadliest mass shooting of 2023, after the one in Monterey Park, California. But Texas is in its own category when it comes to mass shootings, thanks to the state’s lax gun laws.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a law in 2021 that allows anyone over the age of 21 to carry a handgun without a license or training. A study found that the number of mass shootings increased by 62.5 percent in the year after the law was implemented

From June 13, 2020, to June 13, 2021, when Abbott signed the permitless carry law, Texas had 40 mass shootings. In that same time period from 2021 to 2022, the number of mass shootings rose to 65,” state news outlet Reform Austin reported in September 2022.

In the one-year period before the bill was signed, 187 people were killed or injured in mass shootings in Texas, Reform Austin said. In the one-year period after the law was implemented, that number doubled to 375 people.

Many state authorities also say “they have seen an increase in spur-of-the-moment gunfire” since the law went into effect, The New York Times reported.

Texas was already struggling with gun violence, according to a study published in April by Colin Woodard, the head of Salve Regina University’s Nationhood Lab, which studies American democracy and authoritarian threats to it. The Deep South region, which includes a large swathe of Texas, “is the most deadly of the large regions,” Woodard wrote in Politico.

From 2010 to 2020, the Deep South had the highest rate of gun homicides of all U.S. regions. Over that same time period, the Deep South also had the highest rate of overall gun deaths (homicides and suicides). Woodard attributed these high rates in part to the Southern culture of “honor tradition”—meaning that people feel they need to respond personally to perceived slights or insults, or else it diminishes their dignity.

Infuriatingly, Abbott said Sunday that he would not attempt to reform gun laws in his state, even in the wake of the shooting. When a Fox News host showed him a recent poll that found the overwhelming majority of people favor increased gun control, Abbott said he would focus instead on the “root cause” of gun violence: mental health issues, a favorite Republican scapegoat.

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.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

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
Robert Perry/Getty Images

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.

Anna Moneymaker/Pool/Getty Images

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.

Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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.