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The Right Is Weirdly Hyperfixated on Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Muscles

A video of the presidential candidate has sent the far right into a tizzy.

Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Over the weekend, videos of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. exercising circulated the internet. Groaning and glistening while donning tight jeans and no shirt, the presidential candidate earned the approval of an interesting array of people, namely far-right media and Twitter’s blue-check army.

“Getting in shape for my debates with President Biden!” Kennedy tweeted alongside a video of him squeezing through nine non–fully extended pushups.

“That’s a fit boy,” a voice said behind the camera.

Another video showcased Kennedy struggling through a similarly lackluster set of inclined bench presses at what appears to be a whopping 115 pounds—certainly nothing to dismiss on its own, but maybe not a performance to so excitedly cheer for if Kennedy’s body was as herculean as some have made it out to be (this was “his last drop set of the day,” the video tweeter assured the public).

Anyhow, the lovefest ensued.

The posts have also been part of a smear campaign against a prominent scientist who has been targeted for his support of vaccines. The implication being: Why trust a normal-looking scientist who supports vaccines when you have this red, meaty anti-vaxxer (who definitely doesn’t instead inject himself with steroids) right in front of you?

RFK Jr. prides his campaign on being health-centered in a way that no other candidate is, hence his latest strategy to showcase himself as uniquely fit relative to Biden (curiously, the comparison to the Republican front-runner, Donald Trump, has not been made by RFK Jr. or many of his ogling fans). But having a balanced diet and embracing physical activity certainly do not preclude someone from also taking rigorously studied vaccines against diseases that have killed millions of people.

Such revolutionarily basic logic unfortunately might not penetrate the force field humming around the freethinkers who have been led to believe that freethinking means free of thinking.

The sweaty Kennedy content was imposed so forcefully onto people’s Twitter timelines, it would not have been surprising if Elon Musk himself was juicing the numbers. And that might not be the only juicing relevant here. While Kennedy has prided himself on standing against vaccines researched and scrutinized by thousands of scientists around the world, one might not be out of bounds to question the particular puffiness of his stature.

It’s not bad for someone to take steroids, especially if they are proven to support one’s physical or mental health, or longevity. If only that logic would be extended to the millions of transgender people in this country, instead of for instance, Kennedy insinuating that chemicals in water are turning them trans.

FBI Knew Proud Boys Were Prepping to “Kill People,” Did Nothing

A new Senate report savages the FBI and DHS for ignoring pre–January 6 intel.

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A new report out Tuesday morning from a Senate committee rips the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security for ignoring “a massive amount of intelligence information” in the weeks leading up to the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

In one egregious example, the report from the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee charged that the bureau overlooked a December 2020 tip that members of the Proud Boys were gearing up to be in Washington on the day Congress voted to certify Joe Biden’s victory and that their “plan is to literally kill people,” in the report’s language. Numerous social media posts warned of violence erupting, including some that used language like “burn the place to the ground” (with respect to the Capitol) and, from a member of the Oath Keepers group: “There is only one way in. It is not signs. It’s not rallies. It’s fucking bullets!”

In addition to that, the social media company Parler, a platform favored by MAGA-land, directly sent the FBI a number of posts that it found alarming. According to the report, one read: “This is not a rally and it’s no longer a protest. This is a final stand where we are drawing the red line at Capitol Hill.… Don’t be surprised if we take the #capital [sic] building.”

And yet, with all those warnings and more, on the very morning of January 6, as Donald Trump was preparing to give his “fight like hell” speech, the FBI announced that there were “no credible threats at this time,” as the AP reported Tuesday morning.

“Our intelligence agencies completely dropped the ball,” said Senator Gary Peters, Democrat of Michigan and committee chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee. “Despite a multitude of tips and other intelligence warnings of violence on Jan. 6, the report showed that these agencies repeatedly—repeatedly—downplayed the threat level and failed to share the intelligence they had with law enforcement partners.”

FBI officials have previously testified that they knew of no such intel. The report seems to contradict that completely. Maybe people just found it hard to believe that armed citizens would storm their Capitol building with the literal intent of killing members of Congress (and the vice president).

And, of course—maybe some people in the FBI suspected it might happen but didn’t disagree with the mob that the election was stolen. Whatever’s behind the failure, it’s a historic and humiliating one.

Supreme Court Strikes Down Right-Wing Theory That Would Have Upended Elections

The ruling on the “independent state legislature theory” is a blow to election deniers everywhere.


The Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down the controversial “independent state legislature theory,” in a serious win for democracy.

The court voted 6–3 in the case Moore v. Harper to knock down the fringe right-wing legal theory, which would have given state legislatures broad, virtually unchecked authority to oversee federal elections.

The Supreme Court had been asked in the case to decide whether North Carolina’s Supreme Court had the power to throw out the Republican-controlled legislature’s congressional maps.

Last year, the state Supreme Court deemed the maps an “egregious and intentional partisan gerrymander” meant to favor Republicans—and court-drawn maps were instead used for the 2022 election.

North Carolina Republicans argued that under the Constitution’s elections clause, the state legislature has the ultimate authority over election laws, not the courts, and they wanted their gerrymandered map reinstated.

But the Supreme Court handily rejected their argument, writing: “The Elections Clause does not vest exclusive and independent authority in state legislatures to set the rules regarding federal elections.”

Had the court ruled differently, election deniers throughout the country would likely be rejoicing. In its most extreme form, the independent state legislature theory could allow state legislatures to bypass state courts and governors’ vetoes when it comes to election law, giving them virtually unchecked authority with no checks and balances. It could even allow state legislatures to certify presidential electors who were not approved by the voters. Unsurprisingly, the theory was one that Donald Trump and his allies used to try to overturn the 2020 election.

This story has been updated.

Fox News Enters Its Post–Tucker Carlson Era

Its ratings have rebounded, and it has finally found its Tucker Carlson replacement.

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When Fox News fired Tucker Carlson in April, the network entered a tailspin. It had parted company with stars before—most notably Bill O’Reilly, after Fox News and the longtime host settled lawsuits with five women who had accused him of sexual misconduct—but always bounced back. Fox News, the thinking both inside and outside the network went, was bigger than its stars and could make or break them more or less at will.

This time was different, however. Carlson was a different type of Fox anchor: Less glued to the GOP establishment, he played a vital role in pushing nativist and far-right narratives into the mainstream. At the same time, Fox had genuine, if significantly smaller, competitors on its right; viewers had real alternatives, something that hadn’t always been the case. After Carlson departed the network, its rankings tanked. There were calls for boycotts and, most absurdly, allegations that Fox News had “gone woke.” In May, the ratings for Carlson’s 8 p.m. slot fell by more than 50 percent; the network’s prime time fell by about 40 percent. Fox News was in a genuine crisis.

At the end of June, that crisis seems to largely be over. The network’s ratings have rebounded, although they haven’t come close to what they were before Carlson’s defenestration. Last week, Fox News dethroned MSNBC—which had taken the top of the leaderboard during its right-wing competitor’s tailspin—averaging 1,536,000 viewers to MSNBC’s 1,397,000 in prime time. (CNN continued to lag behind with 800,000 viewers.) And on Monday, Fox News announced it was shaking up its post-Carlson lineup. Jesse Watters, who got his start doing racist “comedy” videos on O’Reilly’s show and has since become a star as the resident doofus on Fox News’s The Five, will take over Carlson’s old 8 p.m. show. Greg Gutfeld’s painfully unfunny late-night show, Gutfeld!, will move to 10 p.m.

Both hosts use the guise of comedy to push reactionary views. Both are also painfully unoriginal and predictable, using the same complaints about wokeness and crime again and again in predictable ways. Unlike with Carlson, you’ll never be surprised—even if you will occasionally be shocked—by what they say. That’s the point. Fox News’s brass grew frustrated with Carlson because they couldn’t control him. Carlson would stray—sometimes far—from Republican orthodoxy on a number of issues. He didn’t try to disguise his bigotry, as Watters and Gutfeld often do, with the possibility that they’re joking. He would push back at efforts to control him. Fox News executives don’t have to worry about Watters and Gutfeld. They are good soldiers who will follow the company line.

The Supreme Court May Preemptively Ban a Federal Wealth Tax

Given the recent ethics questions about justices’ interactions with billionaires, it’s an interesting case to take on.

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The Supreme Court took up a case on Monday that could make it nearly impossible for Congress to pass a federal wealth tax, giving the justices an opportunity to torpedo a major Democratic policy proposal before it can be enacted. The plaintiffs who brought the case have all but urged the court to do exactly that.

In Moore v. United States, the justices will consider whether a provision of former President Donald Trump’s tax-reform law in 2017 violated the Sixteenth Amendment, which allows Congress to collect federal income taxes. As part of a complex restructuring of federal corporate tax laws, the 2017 law imposed a one-time “mandatory repatriation tax” on American taxpayers who owned more than 10 percent of a foreign corporation.

Charles and Kathleen Moore, the titular plaintiffs, owned 11 percent of an Indian farm-equipment company when the 2017 law went into effect. Thanks to the provision in question, they paid roughly $15,000 in additional taxes the following year. The Moores filed a lawsuit against the federal government and argued that the tax was unconstitutional because their partial ownership of the company did not count as “income” under the Sixteenth Amendment.

The lower courts rejected that argument, however, and ruled that the tax had essentially targeted years of deferred foreign income. That prompted the couple to ask the Supreme Court to intervene. While the case hinges on a tax passed by Trump and a Republican-led Congress, the petition invited the justices to use it to prevent Democrats from imposing a federal wealth tax in the future.

“This is no idle threat,” the Moores said in their petition for review, referring to a federal wealth tax. They cited proposals by the Biden administration and Oregon Senator Ron Wyden to tax billionaires based on their assets, none of which have passed Congress. “There is every reason for the Court to resolve the pivotal constitutional question of realization now, when its judgment can inform lawmakers and stands to head off a major constitutional clash down the line,” the couple told the justices.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed published in 2021, two of the Moores’ lawyers also declared unambiguously that the lawsuit “stands to slam shut the door on a federal wealth tax like the one Sen. Elizabeth Warren wants to enact.” They made a direct pitch to “the courts” to hear the Moores’ case “now” to make it easier to block a wealth tax in the future.

“If the courts confirm the Sixteenth Amendment’s limited reach now, that would relieve them from having to do so in a politically explosive case directly challenging a wealth tax,” the two lawyers concluded. “The courts would do well to remind Congress at this opportune time that its taxing power is not without limits.”

The Justice Department had urged the justices to reject the case, noting there was no split on the issue in the lower courts and arguing that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had correctly applied the relevant precedents. On the wealth-tax question, the government also pointedly noted that the Supreme Court does not have the constitutional power to issue advisory opinions about hypothetical legislation that has not been enacted into law by Congress.

Debates over a wealth tax’s constitutionality are not new, of course. After Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren made her proposal to enact one as a centerpiece of her 2020 presidential campaign, more than a few legal scholars argued that such a tax would not fall within the Sixteenth Amendment’s parameters. (Warren and other wealth-tax proponents disagree.) If Congress implemented such a tax in the future, a legal challenge to it in the courts would be virtually guaranteed.

The court’s decision to hear the Moores’ case also comes at an awkward time for the justices, to say the least. ProPublica and other major news outlets have reported extensively on Justice Clarence Thomas’s fruitful relationship with Harlan Crow, a billionaire and GOP megadonor, in recent months. Last week, the publication also reported that Justice Samuel Alito went on a free luxury fishing trip in Alaska in 2008 with billionaire Paul Singer, who gave the justice a free ride on his private jet to get there. Both Thomas and Alito have denied that they acted improperly by not disclosing the billionaires’ gifts on their annual financial-disclosure forms; Alito even took to the Wall Street Journal’s op-ed section to defend himself.

Only four votes are needed for the justices to take up a particular case. The court does not disclose how the justices vote on petitions for review, so it is not known if Thomas or Alito voted to hear the Moores’ lawsuit. Americans will get a clearer perspective on their views in the case when the court hears oral arguments in the fall term. As the justices wrestle with rapidly declining public esteem and multiple ethics controversies, taking up a case that could protect billionaires from wealth taxes before Congress can even pass them is an interesting choice.

Guess Who’s Targeted in Ron DeSantis’s First Major Policy Address?

LGBTQ people? Authors of banned books? Those seeking abortions? Close, but not quite.

Ron DeSantis
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Florida GOP Governor Ron DeSantis gave his first major policy address as a presidential candidate on Monday. The economy? Tax cuts and deregulation? How to revive manufacturing? How we’re all part of one glorious shining city on a hill?

You haven’t been paying much attention to the governor if you thought any of those things. The nominees for topic of his first presidential policy address were, of course, LGBTQ people, librarians, teachers, those seeking and providing abortions; but the lucky winner this morning? Undocumented immigrants.

In a nutshell, DeSantis is promising to be worse than Donald Trump on immigration.

According to CNN, DeSantis, who spoke at a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Eagle Pass, Texas, vowed to dispatch the military to the border and commence a “mass detention and deportation” (CNN’s words) of undocumented immigrants. He also pledged to end birthright citizenship and, yes, Build. The. Wall.

“For decades, leaders from both parties have produced empty promises on border security, and now it is time to act to stop the invasion once and for all,” DeSantis said. “As president, I will declare a national emergency on day one and will not rest until we build the wall, shut down illegal entry, and win the war against the drug cartels. No excuses. We will get it done.”

His camp also took one of its first shots at Trump over the weekend by tweeting: “Trump ran on this same promise in 2016, but ended up deporting fewer illegals than Barack Obama.”

As governor, DeSantis has banned sanctuary cities, sent Florida law enforcement and National Guard officers to the Texas border, and cracked down on workforce immigration violations. And of course there were his famous stunts where he sent undocumented immigrants by plane to Martha’s Vineyard and Los Angeles to troll the libs.

So this will be the heart of DeSantis’s campaign, although presumably LGBTQ people and librarians and abortion-seekers will all have their day in the Sunshine State sun, as it were. That is, assuming his campaign lasts long enough. He’s slipping in the polls against Trump, and Politico posted a piece Monday morning about a serious political etiquette gaffe he pulled in New Hampshire that offended those notoriously delicate Granite State “how things are done” sensibilities (he scheduled an event there at the same time as a previously scheduled Trump event, in front of some kind of important Republican women’s group).

So maybe the people he’s targeting don’t need to be so scared.

Supreme Court Paves Way for New Louisiana Congressional Map

If the map is redrawn to include a new majority-Black district, it could help Democrats retake the House.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Representative Troy Carter of Louisiana

The Supreme Court on Monday lifted a stay on a lower court’s ruling requiring the Louisiana state legislature to add another majority-Black congressional district ahead of the 2024 elections. The move came after a surprise decision earlier this month ordering Alabama to redraw its congressional districts, with two conservative justices joining all three liberal justices in ruling in favor of the state’s Black voters.

The high court’s unsigned order sent the case back to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, requiring the issue to be resolved “in advance of the 2024 congressional elections in Louisiana.” The Republican-led state legislature had passed a congressional map last year that made only one out of Louisiana’s six congressional districts majority Black, even though roughly one-third of the state’s population is African American. Representative Troy Carter, who is Black, is the only Democrat in the Louisiana delegation.

“This decision shows that in a healthy democracy fair and equitable representation matters, whether to the people of Louisiana or anywhere else in the world,” Carter wrote on Twitter on Monday.

Opponents of the congressional maps in Alabama and Louisiana argued that the districts diluted Black voters’ strength. The Alabama decision could also affect similar court challenges in South Carolina and Georgia. New majority-Black districts likely give Democrats a better chance of retaking the House. In the wake of the Alabama decision, the Cook Political Report shifted five of its House ratings in Democrats’ direction, with analyst Dave Wasserman predicting that “it’s very likely two formerly Solid R seats will end up in Solid D.”

One potential casualty: Louisiana Representative Garret Graves, whose seat the Cook Political Report had already moved from “Solid R” to “Toss Up” earlier this month. Graves is a key ally of Speaker Kevin McCarthy, and was one of the House Republicans who negotiated the debt limit deal with the White House. The Supreme Court order thus could have far-reaching effects not only for the makeup of the House but for the political dynamics within the House Republican conference.

Sarah McBride Aims to Be First Openly Trans Member of Congress

The Democratic lawmaker from Delaware formally announced her bid for the House of Representatives.

Sarah McBride
Rich Fury/Getty Images for Human Rights Campaign
Sarah McBride

Delaware state Senator Sarah McBride on Monday announced she is running for the House of Representatives. If she wins the election next November, she would become the first openly transgender member of Congress, taking office at a time of rapidly escalating attacks on trans and LGBTQ people.

In a campaign video posted to Twitter, McBride highlighted the right’s attacks on teachers and education, the high cost of prescription drugs, and her own work passing paid family and medical leave as a state senator in Delaware.

She told The New York Times she is also looking to use her campaign to talk about gun safety, reproductive rights, affordable early childhood education, and elder care.

McBride is running to replace Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester in Delaware’s at-large House seat. Blunt Rochester, the first woman and Black representative in the state, is leaving the seat to run for Senate and replace Democratic Senator Tom Carper, who is retiring.

McBride, 32, has broken political barriers before. She was the first openly trans woman to intern at the White House in 2012, the first openly trans person to speak at the Democratic National Convention in 2016, and she became the highest elected trans politician in the country when she won her state Senate seat in 2020.

“I think there was a false sense of security that a lot of people had over the last decade. There was a sense that if we simply worked for it, change was inevitable. But the reality is that inevitably is the exception in our nation’s history,” McBride told The 19th about her decision to run for Congress.

McBride’s run comes as the rights of LGBTQ and trans people in America are under renewed attack. The Human Rights Campaign found that the 2023 legislative session was the worst year on record for anti-LGBTQ legislation, and more than 75 anti-LGBTQ bills have already been signed into law. Nearly half of the bills introduced this year target trans people in particular, including bathroom bans, gender-affirming care bans, and transgender sports bans.

Still, McBride told The 19th, she finds hope in the fact that previous generations—including LGBTQ Americans—overcame the seemingly insurmountable odds before them.

“From Stonewall to the steps of the Supreme Court, it has always been in our biggest challenges that we take our most significant steps forward,” she said. “And I truly believe that if we summon our hope, and we persevere, that we can ensure that the story of this moment will not be the story of bigotry and backlash, but of progress and pride.”

Greg Abbott Wants More Texans to Be Mauled by Vicious Dogs

Gov’s veto spree included a bill that would have increased penalties for owners of attack dogs.

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Texas Governor Greg Abbott

We already know that Texas Governor Greg Abbott wants people to be able to make citizens’ arrests of anyone who aids and abets the act of seeking an abortion. You can’t do that in Texas. But if you own a pit bull that tears into a human being’s flesh, all is cool.

According to the San Antonio Report, the GOP governor went on a veto spree last weekend, in part because he was miffed that a property tax relief bill he was pushing failed to pass. He vetoed 77 bills—among them, the Ramon Najera Act, named after an 81-year-old man who was mauled to death in San Antonio in February by two pit bull mixes. Evidently, according to the Report, people letting their vicious dogs roam neighborhoods unleashed is kind of a thing in San Antone.

The bill was sponsored by Democrats, so it probably never had much of a chance. Abbott argued that existing local laws were sufficient, and to be fair, the owners of the killer dogs in question were jailed. Still, it’s funny to hear a very conservative Republican governor complain about the “overcriminalization” of any illegal activity. Proponents of the law argue that the loose dogs are a genuine menace and a stronger message needs to be sent to the owners.

People killed by violent dogs aren’t the only humans who were on the business end of Abbott’s version of compassion in the last few days. He also rescinded two local laws in Austin and Dallas that provided outside workers a right to a certain amount of shade and water breaks.

He did so in the midst of a massive heat wave.

Oh—and a few days after Abbott acted, a 35-year-old lineman in the town of Marshall died after experiencing symptoms of heat illness. The heat index was 100 degrees while the man was working.

These moves come two weeks after Abbott sent a busload of migrants to Los Angeles in his latest let’s-use-human-beings-as-props stunt.

So now we know what you really don’t want to be in Greg Abbott’s paradise: an undocumented immigrant who works outside and who attracts the attention of an unleashed pit bull.

Florida Judge Strikes Down State’s Egregious Anti-Drag Law

The judge shut down the law as nothing more than an attempt “to suppress the speech of drag queen performers.”

Jason Koerner/Getty Images
Drag Queen Athena Dion performs onstage at the 2023 National LGBTQ Task Force Gala Kick-Off Event in Miami.

A Florida judge has struck down the state’s extreme anti-drag law, calling it “specifically designed to suppress the speech of drag queen performers.” And with his ruling, public drag is again legal in Florida.

District Judge Gregory Presnell issued a preliminary injunction on Friday, stopping the state from enforcing the law just as Pride Month comes to a close.

Supporters of the extreme legislation claimed that it would protect children, and Presnell directly shut down those arguments in his ruling. “Existing obscenity laws provide … the necessary authority to protect children from any constitutionally unprotected obscene exhibitions or shows,” he wrote. He also called out the “appetite for finding obscenity in drag performances, even where undercover state agents have reportedly concluded none exists.”

Florida’s law, which took effect last month, was so vaguely worded and so broad in scope that experts were worried about how it would be applied.

The legislation sought to ban people under the age of 18 from attending drag shows, but used the term “adult live performance” instead. Republican lawmakers admitted that the unclear language could be used to prevent high school students from attending plays like The Rocky Horror Picture Show or the musical Hair.

The law attempted to enforce the ban by targeting businesses: Any establishment that violated the law could have its license suspended or revoked, in addition to being fined or charged with a misdemeanor. One violation would incur a $5,000 fine, and each incident after that would mean a $10,000 fine.

The bill also targeted Pride celebrations specifically by preventing a government entity from issuing permits to an organization that may host an “adult live performance.” If a violation occurred, the text said, the person who issued the permit could be charged with a misdemeanor—effectively targeting all LGBTQ people by scaring government employees from issuing permits for Pride.

Republican lawmakers, again, did not seem to have a big problem with that; targeting Pride celebrations, rather, seemed to be a feature of the bill as opposed to a bug. One politician admitted on the floor in April that the bill was needed even “if it means erasing an entire community.”

The legislation had its intended effect: LGBTQ organizers in Florida began canceling Pride celebrations even before the bill was signed into law, citing fear of the state’s new political climate.

Presnell’s ruling on Friday is yet another blow for the Republicans and far-right activists nationwide who have made drag performers their new favorite target. Earlier this month, a judge also struck down Tennessee’s anti-drag law, deeming it unconstitutional. The defendant in that case has vowed to appeal the ruling, and a lengthy legal battle may also be in store for Florida.