If the election is really rigged, 33 states are rigged by Republicans

CREDIT: Dylan Petrohilos


Donald Trump continued on Monday to push his claims that the election is “rigged” against him, falsely suggesting widespread voter fraud and raising the specter of a conspiracy of media outlets scheming to provide negative coverage of his candidacy.


But while he may believe that he only way he could possibly lose would be for for “1.8 million deceased people” to cast ballots against him and an array of other other vote-rigging techniques, many of those who oversee elections in the states have pushed back against his claims.

And most of those chief elections officers are Republicans — some of whom have publicly endorsed Trump.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 26 states have an elected secretary of state or lieutenant governor who oversee elections and 7 more have those officials share authority with a commission or board. Eight more states have a chief official selected by the legislature or governor; the rest are run by an appointed electoral commission of some sort.

In Hawaii, Illinois, New York, and Wisconsin, these are bipartisan boards. In other states, like Maryland and North Carolina, the majority on the boards goes to the current governor’s party.

In all, 29 states have GOP-controlled elections processes, representing 302 electoral votes. 17 states and the District of Columbia have a Democratic-controlled process, representing just 173 electors. The remaining 4 states, with a total of 63 electoral votes, have bipartisan boards.

In other words, if the election were truly “rigged,” it would have to be a Republican rig. Swing states like Florida, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina, and Ohio are all overseen by GOP chief elections officials.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (R) and Idaho Secretary of State Lawrence Denney (R) have said they will vote for Trump. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) endorsed Trump in February. Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate (R) even had Trump headline a 2015 campaign fundraiser for his own re-election. It seems unlikely these or other Republicans would secretly be working to rig an election for Hillary Clinton.

If anything, many of these Republican secretaries of state have moved to suppress the votes of Democrats and racial minorities — groups that are among the least likely to vote for Trump.

Perhaps this is why even Trump’s closest advisers are trying to push back against his claims. National campaign co-chair Sam Clovis told the Boston Herald on Tuesday, “I have a lot of faith in the secretaries of states across the country.”

And Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN), Trump’s own running mate, said on Sunday that the campaign would accept the results of the election and that the only “sense of a rigged election” came from the “obvious bias in the national media.”

Josh Israel

Trump Takes A Page From The Kremlin’s Media Playbook

Trump Takes A Page From The Kremlin’s Media Playbook

Sputnik/Kremlin/Alexei Druzhinin via REUTERS


Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s public flirtation with Russian President Vladimir Putin throughout the 2016 campaign has been met with extensive public interest, skepticism, and criticism. Whether definitive ties exist between Trump and the Kremlin remains to be seen, but the degree to which Trump has seemingly co-opted the Kremlin’s propaganda playbook, and the extent to which conservative media has helped Trump execute a Russian-style media strategy built upon the spread of disinformation, is unnerving and portends trouble for the state of objective truth in American democracy.

Red flags have been raised about Trump’s alleged relationship with Russia and Putin: Trump has effusively praised Putin;publicly invited the Russian government to hack Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s emails; deliberately liedthat Russia was not involved in hacking attempts aimed at interfering with the U.S. election; recited Russian state-sponsored misinformation; and allegedly has Russian investments in his businesses.

Further, Trump has managed to exploit the fragmented state of American media to seemingly execute the Russian model of “information warfare,” as outlined by NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence’s Keir Giles. The parallels between the Kremlin’s strategy for planting and spreading disinformation — with the ultimate goal of “undermining the notion of objective truth” — and Trump’s use of conservative media to spread lies and delegitimize traditional news sources are striking and play out in these ways:

Disinformation Initially Placed On “Sock Puppet Websites”

Russian disinformation strategy, which rests on “‘undermin[ing] the very fundamentals of information and credibility that informed debate are supposed to rest upon,’” begins by “placing disinformation” on “sock puppet websites which appear to provide or aggregate news” and “can achieve substantial reach and penetration,” according to Giles.

The primary “sock puppet website” at the heart of Trump’s Kremlin-style media campaign is The Drudge Report, the conservative media news aggregator that traffics in conspiracy theories, lies, and anti-Clinton smears. The Drudge Report has been a stalwart Trump cheerleader and a launching pad for a series of smearcampaigns and conspiratorial claims meant to undermine Clinton, including long-running conspiracies about her health.

Drudge frequently aggregates stories from notoriously right-wing fringe and conspiratorial websites including WorldNetDaily (WND), Zero Hedge, and Gateway Pundit. At its height in July, Drudge had 1.47 billion page views.

As The Washington Post notes:

Drudge is an ideal landing place for hard-hitting opposition research on one of your political opponents. He’s more likely to simply take it and post it rather than looking for where the holes are — as a more mainstream site would do. And, because of Drudge’s traffic, which isn’t just big but also influential (think reporters, cable TV bookers and other campaigns), everyone you want or need to see it will see it.

To underscore The Drudge Report’s jolting parity to Russian “sock puppet websites,” the website has openly embraced Putin himself and has linked to Russian propaganda sites at least 91 times thus far in 2016.

InfoWars, a fringe conspiracy website led by 9/11 truther Alex Jones, has also been the birthplace of nonsense claims and anti-Clinton attacks.

Trump has praised Drudge and InfoWars and repeated their conspiracy theories on the campaign trail, effectively mainstreaming the reputation of otherwise unsound sources and giving widespread credence to a variety of baseless claims. Jones himself once announced on his radio show that it has been “surreal to talk about issues here on air and then word-for-word hear [Donald] Trump say it two days later. It is amazing.”

New Media Exploited To “Plant, Disseminate, And Lend Credibility To Disinformation”

In his report, Giles notes that “pro-Russian trolls and bots” also “exploit specific features of the relationship between traditional and social media in order to both plant, disseminate and lend credibility to disinformation.” They utilize “a range of fora including online discussion boards, Twitter and more” to “act as a force multiplier for driving home the Russian message.”

New and non-traditional online forums like Reddit, 4Chan, and Twitter have served as effective tools for Trump supporters to coalesce and subsequently blast out conspiracy theories and anti-Clinton attacks in unison.

As The New York Times highlighted:

[I]f major social media platforms are where Mr. Trump amplifies his pronouncements, sites like Reddit and 4chan have become a sort of proving ground, where an extreme, Internet-amped version of Mr. Trump’s message is shared and refined.[…] [Reddit] users promote favorable stories, feud with foes and rally support through phone-banking or “Facebanking” — campaigning to Facebook friends. On The Donald, the message is relentless — as are the insults. Opponents are referred to as “cucks,” which is short for “cuckservative,” as in “cuckold” — now used as a derisive term for liberals and moderate Republicans recently popularized by far-right online commentators and white nationalists, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The group shares content and tone with parts of 4chan, the infamous and anonymous message board that traffics in shock, and where Mr. Trump — who regularly scorns “political correctness” — has found substantial, if oblique, support.

Bogus anti-Clinton attacks, like the claim that the Clintons did “the same thing” with their taxes as Trump —who “used a $916 million loss that he reported on his 1995 income tax returns to avoid paying personal federal income taxes for years” — by claiming a “$700,000 loss” on their 2015 tax return, originated on the pro-Trump reddit page “The_Donald” and subsequently rocketed through right-wing media.

Disinformation Then Is “Fed Into The Mainstream News Flow”

After Russian propaganda is placed on aggregate sites and gains traction among these “pro-Russian trolls and bots,” writes Giles, the disinformation is then “fed into the mainstream news flow” and “picked up and reported by reputable traditional media.”

Similarly, disinformation in the American media track often jumps from fringe websites like Drudge and InfoWars (frequently after and precisely because Trump cites them) to Fox News, the unabashedly pro-Trump cable network that nonetheless brands itself as “fair and balanced,” and other right-wing media outlets.

Seemingly attempting to stay in sync with Trump, Fox has mainstreamed fringe right-wing conspiracies and elevated anti-Clinton smears about Clinton’s health (which Trump haspromoted), character, and leadership style (which Trump hasechoed) — while also promoting fringe claims of a “rigged” election (which Trump ishyping), “garbage” online polls that favor Trump (which he loves to cite), allegations that Clinton has her foes murdered (which Trump nodded to), and claimsregarding the Clintons’ personal marriage (which Trump hasfloated), all sourced from the fever-swamps of conservative fringe websites.

As Trump’s own campaign manager Kellyanne Conway oncesaid, “You can draw a straight line from a Drudge link to what gets covered on cable that night.”

Credible Outlets Not Wanting “To Be Left Behind” Repeat The Disinformation

Once disinformation pierces the mainstream news flow “at one or more points,” “others will follow,” Giles notes. “Even in the new climate of awareness, major news media do not wish to be left behind on a story which has made it to the news agenda.”

Credible mainstream American outlets and journalists, perhapsconcerned “they will be labeled ‘biased,’” as claims John A. Tures, adopt stories that often are cultivated in the right-wing echo chamber and given life by Trump. After Clinton’s September pneumonia diagnoses, several mainstream outlets went all-in on hyping how “talk of Clinton’s health [is] no longer just the stuff of conspiracy theorists.” Media outlets have timeand timeand time again parroted right-wing pseudo-scandals about Clinton’s use of a private email server and about the Clinton Foundation (stories that were also hyped by right-wing outlets like Drudge and Fox News).

Conservative shaming of the “liberal media” also is often intended to induce mainstream coverage of an otherwise fringe or unsubstantiated story. Speaking about hacked emails from Clinton campaign manager John Podesta, Fox host Ainsley Earhardt exclaimed, “Do you think the mainstream media will talk about it?” Co-host Steve Doocy added, “Or at least Donald Trump?” Guest Steve Hilton replied, “I don’t think so, so that’s why [Trump] needs to talk about it. Because otherwise, it’s just going to disappear into the ether.”

Ultimate Goal Of “Undermining The Notion Of Objective Truth”

In his assessment of “Russian objectives” behind the Kremlin’s “information warfare” strategy, Giles writes, “it has as one aim undermining the notion of objective truth and reporting being possible at all,” which ultimately “‘undermines the very fundamentals of information and credibility that informed debate are supposed to rest upon.’”

In executing a similar media strategy, Trump and the conservative media have worked to discredit historically legitimate sources of truth. Both by planting, cultivating, and bolstering disinformation and through an unprecedented war on the press, Trump and right-wing media have ushered in an era of post-truth politics where voters have “been successfully persuaded that everything is a lie, so the only political choice you have is to select the fiction that most fits your self-conception,” as explained by journalist Ned Resnikoff.*

Just as how “credibility is not always a metric of success for Russian information warfare campaigns” and that Russian disinformation thrives despite its “lack of plausibility,” as Giles writes, Trump’s promotion of lies and conspiracies are notdepressed by the overwhelming number of fact-checks he receives, precisely because truth may not be the measure of success he is seeking.

Indeed, as CNN’s Brian Stelter warned, “Trump and his supporters … are delegitimizing institutions the United States holds dear” — which, frighteningly, is exactly what Giles notes was the goal of Soviet propaganda campaigns that the current Kremlin “information warfare strategy” is emulating.

Group of nearly 80 evangelical leaders publish letter condemning Trump

Credit: AP


A diverse group of evangelical Christians unveiled a letter on Thursday condemning Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his candidacy, arguing his campaign “affirms racist elements in white culture.”

The letter, which is signed by nearly 80 prominent evangelical leaders, thinkers, authors, and pastors, decries Trump’s attacks on women, Muslims,immigrants, refugees, and the disabled, saying such vitriol is an affront to the Christian faith. It also highlights how his campaign has energized white nationalists, such as when he was endorsed by leaders of the Ku Klux Klan.

“We cannot ignore this bigotry, set it aside, just focus on other issues, or forget the things Mr. Trump has consistently said and done,” the letter reads. “No matter what other issues we also care about, we have to make it publicly clear that Mr. Trump’s racial and religious bigotry and treatment of women is morally unacceptable to us as evangelical Christians, as we attempt to model Jesus’ command to ‘love your neighbors as yourself.’”

“We have to make it publicly clear that Mr. Trump’s racial and religious bigotry and treatment of women is morally unacceptable to us as evangelical Christians, as we attempt to model Jesus’ command to ‘love your neighbors as yourself.”

Most signers of the letter, which is also published as a Change.org petition, hail from progressive-leaning evangelical communities. They include Rachel Held Evans, a blogger and best-selling author; Tony Campolo, a left-leaning evangelical author and activist; Lisa Sharon Harper, Chief Church Engagement Officer of Jim Wallis’ advocacy group Sojourners; and Shane Claiborne, author and founder of the Christian community the Simple Way.

Despite their liberal leanings, the signers say they reflect a more diverse coalition of evangelicals than what is often portrayed in the media—or courted by politicians such as Trump.

“A significant mistake in American politics is the media’s continued identification of ‘evangelical’ with mostly white, politically conservative, older men,” the statement reads. “We are not those evangelicals.”

The letter appears to be geared toward building an unusual point of solidarity with conservative evangelicals, many of whom are deeply ambivalent about Trump, who has a long history of bumbling attempts to discuss faith. Although 69 percent of white evangelicals now back Trump according to a new PRRI poll, several influential leaders of the Religious Right have been actively hostile to the business mogul’s candidacy. Russell Moore, head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s political arm, has been an especially vocal opponent of Trump’s, arguing he is against “everything [evangelicals] believe.” Meanwhile, the conservative-leaning Christian Post published ascathing criticism of Trump in February—the first time the publication has ever taken a stand on a political candidate—and a Liberty University board member resigned in protest when the school’s president endorsed the Donald.

What’s more, some analysts argue that Trump’s support among evangelicals isunfairly inflated, because polls often fail to account for non-white evangelicals or those who do not identify as “born-again”—in other words, the exact group represented in Thursday’s letter.

“We, undersigned evangelicals, simply will not tolerate the racial, religious, and gender bigotry that Donald Trump has consistently and deliberately fueled, no matter how else we choose to vote or not to vote.”

Interestingly, while the signers had no shortage of criticism for Trump, they avoided endorsing his opponent, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

“Hillary Clinton is both supported and distrusted by a variety of Christian voters,” the statement reads. “We, undersigned evangelicals, simply will not tolerate the racial, religious, and gender bigotry that Donald Trump has consistently and deliberately fueled, no matter how else we choose to vote or not to vote.”

Jack Jenkins

That ‘basket of deplorables’ Clinton mentioned? This is what she was talking about.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Ted S. Warren


21 percent of Trump supporters think white people don’t have enough influence.

Weeks after Hillary Clinton notoriously said that half of opponent Donald Trump’s supporters could be placed into a “basket of deplorables,” a new poll reinforces the point she was making.

According to a Langer Research Associates survey, 38 percent of Trump supporters think minorities have too much influence in American society. Despite the fact that white men constitute 80 percent of Congress while only comprising 31 percent of the country’s population, the survey found that 21 percent of Trump supporters actually think white people don’t have enough influence.

On the other hand, 67 percent of Clinton supporters think minorities have too little influence, and just seven percent think whites don’t have enough.

Trump and Clinton supporters also diverge in their views on how much power women currently have in America. Twenty-one percent of Trump supporters think women have too little power, compared to 58 percent of Clinton supporters.

“Controlling for demographics, partisanship, ideology and presidential approval, seeing too little influence for whites and men and too much influence for minorities and women independently predicts support for Trump,” a summary of the poll says. “Other than disapproval of Barack Obama, which is by far the best predictor of support for Trump, views of group influence have a similar effect as partisanship, ideology and race.”

Polls conducted earlier this year found that 65 percent of Trump supporters believe Obama is a Muslim; 59 percent believe Obama wasn’t born in the United States; 40 percent believe blacks are more “lazy” than whites; 31 percent support banning homosexuals from the country; 16 percent believe whites are a superior race; and 20 percent disagree with Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed Southern slaves.

For context, Clinton’s comment about “the basket of deplorables” — those with “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, [and] Islamophobic ” views — was directed toward 50 percent of Trump supporters. That’s a greater percentage than those who believe minorities currently have too much power according to the new poll, but a lesser percentage than those who believe Obama is a Muslim — a quickly discredited conspiracy theory that nonetheless brought Trump to national political prominence.

Aaron Rupar

Fox News’ Presidential Debate Moderator Says He’ll Let Candidates Lie

Trump shakes hands with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, who will moderate the third presidential debate. | Screen Cap – Fox News Channel


For the first time, Fox News has been selected to moderate a presidential debate. The Presidential Debate Commission selected Chris Wallace, host of Fox News Sunday, to moderate the third presidential debate, scheduled for October 19 in Las Vegas.

Wallace appeared on Fox News’ Media Buzz to discuss what his selection meant to him personally and “what it means to Fox News.”

The host of the program, Howard Kurtz, asked Wallace, “What do you do if they make assertions that you know to be untrue?”

“That’s not my job,” Wallace replied, without skipping a beat. “It’s not my job to be a truth squad.”


A moderator who lets the candidates lie with impunity could be an advantage for Donald Trump, based on his Politifact scorecard. (Here is Hillary Clinton’sscorecard, for comparison.)

Trump rose to political prominence making false claims about Barack Obama’s birth certificate. He has recently been consulting with one of the nation’s most notorious conspiracy theorists.

Wallace is has close personal and professional ties to Roger Ailes, who was his boss until a few weeks ago and is now reportedly helping Trump prepare for the debate.

When Ailes was forced out of his position due to a string of credible sexual harassment allegations, Wallace showered him with praise.

Wallace said that he was “very proud to be a representative of Fox” in his role as debate moderator. He agreed with Kurtz that his selection dispelled the notion that Fox was a “right-wing network” that “favors Republicans.”

According to Wallace, his selection means the debate commission looked at Fox News’ body of work and decided it really was “fair and balanced.”

Judd Legum

Watch the latest video at video.foxnews.com

White Nationalists Love Twitter And Donald Trump, Report Says



The alt-right, Nazi sympathizers, and their ilk prefer to use the microblogging platform to wake people up and raise awareness.

It’s confirmed: White nationalists on Twitter now outnumber members and sympathizers of the Islamic State (ISIS) thanks to Donald Trump’s campaign. At least that’s what one study published by George Washington University’s extremism program found.

“White nationalist users referenced Trump more than almost any other topic, and Trump-related hashtags outperformed every white nationalist hashtag except for #whitegenocide within the sets of users examined,” wrote J. M. Berger, the study’s author and renowned terrorism expert.

The report characterizes white nationalism as an umbrella term for related political ideologies including Nazi sympathizers, right-wing European groups, and to a lesser extent the Ku Klux Klan, alt-right, and fascist South American movements.

Berger identified over 25,000 “seed” accounts of people who have connections to white nationalist organizations or leaders on and offline.


White nationalist sentiments on Twitter increased 600 percent in 2012 due to a spike in activism and people who identified with white nationalism joining the service, along with a rise in “ organized trolling communities seeking to flood social media platforms with negative content,” the report states.

Those individuals then hitched to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. The number of followers for major white nationalist Twitter “seed” accounts jumped from 3,542 in 2012 to 25,406 in 2016.

The #whitegenocide hashtag was by far the most popular with #tcot (top conservatives on twitter) coming in second. But together, Trump-related tags — #Trump2016, #Trump, and #MakeAmericaGreatAgain — appeared more often and had nearly as many uses as #whitegenocide. White nationalists used Trump hashtags 9,201 times while Nazi sympathizers used them 6,628 times.


But despite being a prime topic of conversation, Trump is merely a conduit for white nationalists’ prime talking points: the mistreatment of whites. “Less than 1% of white nationalist accounts tweeted exclusively about Donald Trump,” Berger wrote. Instead many accounts had varied interests split between discussing anti-Islam or anti-Muslim beliefs, sharing Nazi imagery, and other white nationalist ideas.

The rise of white nationalists on Twitter intersects with ISIS’ dwindling influence on the platform. That’s likely due to Twitter’s crackdown campaign on ISIS-linked accounts. Since 2015, Twitter has removed nearly 250,000 accounts promoting or creating ISIS propaganda. The militia group has turned more of its focus on “community-building” than social media activism, Berger found.

White nationalists on Twitter are the opposite: “Red Pill” white nationalists, who took their name from The Matrix movie and set out to “awaken” people to the realities of an anti-white agenda, skew antagonistic and gear their messages toward users they consider to be “anti-white,” the report found. They also tweet more, averaging 33 tweets a day. And where ISIS recruiters try to welcome newcomers, white nationalists bond over “feelings of disenfranchisement or dislike of minorities.”


Trolling and harassment have become hallmarks of white nationalists on Twitter. There have been several high-profile incidents of harassment from sub-groups particularly the alt-right, such as repeated attacks on comedian Leslie Jones. As a result, Twitter shut down accounts that incited or perpetuated the harassment.

Trump and his campaign have been tightly linked with white nationalists despite his many efforts to distance himself. Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton painted Trump and his white nationalist supporters as online trolls in a campaign speech in August.

Trump responded by saying his supporters weren’t racist for wanting to close the borders: “It doesn’t make you a racist. It makes you smart. It makes you an American.”

Lauren C. Williams

That Time The President Of Mexico Compared Donald Trump To Hitler

CREDIT: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais


On Tuesday night, Donald Trump announced that he would be making a last minute trip to Mexico to visit with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. Trump made the announcement, naturally, on Twitter.

The Mexican government has also confirmed the meeting, which will be private.

There have been episodes in human history, unfortunately, where these expressions of this strident rhetoric have only led to very ominous situations in the history of humanity. That’s how Mussolini got in, that’s how Hitler got in — they took advantage of a situation, a problem perhaps, which humanity was going through at the time, after an economic crisis. And I think what (they) put forward ended up at what we know today from history, in global conflagration. We don’t want that happening anywhere in the world.

Trump famously launched his campaign by describing Mexican immigrants as “rapists.” Since that time he has insisted that he will build a wall across the entire southern border and get the Mexican government to pay for it.

Nieto has categorically rejected the idea. “There is no scenario,” he said.

The New York Times called the meeting a “conciliatory gesture.” But at least one Congressman thinks it’s a trap.


Fox News Host Explains How Tweet Of Hillary In Blackface Actually Made A Really Good Point

Screencap via Goldie Taylor


Trump’s top pastor stands by the message in his since-deleted tweet.

Pastor Mark Burns, a prominent surrogate for Donald Trump, said he believes his “intentions were honorable” when he posted a cartoon of Hillary Clinton in blackface to his Twitter account Monday afternoon.

During a Tuesday morning appearance on Fox News, Burns acknowledged that “the blackface imagery has been used in the past and it is offensive to African Americans, but my message, I stand behind it.”

He said “the real offense” is that many minority families in America “don’t know where their next meal is coming from.”

Fox News host Martha MacCullum then suggested Burns made a good point with his blackface tweet, saying he “used that blackface, which you explained, to say that you thought that she, in this case, is pandering to black voters.”

MacCullum told Burns she “thought it was interesting” that the media wanted to ask him about “the blackface part” of his tweet, but not “the underlying stuff of what you’re talking about — the violence that exists in our inner cities, the fact that more black people are killed my members of their own black community in our inner cities, that that is the issue that plagues them more than any other.” She then read a quote from Trump before Burns jumped back in and accused liberals of “playing the race card.”

Here’s the tweet Burns posted, which was later deleted from his feed:

Burns’ case for why African Americans should vote for Trump is basically the same as the one Trump has been making to the largely white audiences that attend his rallies — black people have it bad as it is, so why not vote for Trump and see what happens?

“Black people are Americans, and when Donald Trump talks about jobs, he’s talking to all Americans. When he talks about security, he’s talking to all Americans,” Burns said in his Periscope video.

On MSNBC, Burns said “millions of African Americans are on welfare, [millions] of African Americans are on food stamps… we are not at the promise land that Dr. King spoke about.”

“The problem is we live in a political PC environment… where we go after the African American vote like all of us African Americans are the same,” he added.

Burns, who referred to Democrats as “the enemy” and called on God to “defeat” Clinton during his aforementioned RNC speech, is helping to promote Trump’s upcoming appearance at a predominately black church on Saturday. The New York Times reports that it will be Trump’s first event in front of a predominately black audience in more than a year.

New polling released by Public Policy Polling indicates African Americans aren’t buying what Trump and Burns are selling. According to the poll, Trump’s favorability rating among African Americans is zero percent, with 97 percent viewing him unfavorably and three percent undecided.

 Aaron Rupar

Federal Judge Says Religion Gives You A Right To Discriminate



There are two narratives, both of which are true, that can be told about America’s long history of bigotry and discrimination.

The first is a narrative of progress and improvement. In this version, the descendants of former slaves serve in Congress. Same-sex couples enjoy the right to marry. A woman is poised to become the next President of the United States. It’s the narrative President Obama appealed to when he implored voters to “choose our better history.” And it is the story of America that allowed him to become the first African-American president.

But there is another, far more sinister American story. In this story, Native American slavery is largely abandoned, but replaced by African slavery. African Americans become freedmen, only to be trampled by Black Codes and peonage. America’s darker history is what led Stokely Carmichael to quip that the only position for women in his civil rights movement is “prone.” It’s the history that brought millions to the polls in 2004 to lash out against marriage equality.

The original Jim Crow, a caricature of people of African descent

In America’s sinister history, someone must always be Jim Crow. Someone must be the scapegoat. The hated other. Bigotry never dies, it just finds a new home.

On Thursday, Judge Sean F. Cox, a George W. Bush appointee,declared that transgender people are the new scapegoats. He did so in a 56-page legal opinion that sits as much on the knife-edge of America’s culture wars as it does at a crossroads between two very different futures for American law.

His opinion, should it be upheld on appeal, offers a license to business owners to engage in anti-trans bigotry. It also opens the door to a whole new round of cases alleging that discrimination is permissible just as long as it is justified by an appeal to religious faith.

What Hath Hobby Lobby Wrought?

Judge Cox’s opinion in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes confronts a legal issue that is genuinely uncertain in the wake of a Supreme Court decision that could remake the balance of power between religious objectors and the rule of law. Prior to the Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, a religious objector’s right to defy the law ended when such defiance intruded on the rights of others — and this was especially true in the business context. As the Supreme Court explained in United States v. Lee, “when followers of a particular sect enter into commercial activity as a matter of choice, the limits they accept on their own conduct as a matter of conscience and faith are not to be superimposed on the statutory schemes which are binding on others in that activity.”

Additionally, a long line of cases established that religion cannot be used specifically to justify bigotry. A unanimous Supreme Court held that a restaurant owner’s religious challenge to the ban on whites-only lunch counters was “patently frivolous.” A religious university could not demand tax subsidies so long as it maintained racist policies. A Christian school could not use religion to justify its decision to compensate its women employees less than men.

Then came Hobby Lobby, which held, for the first time, that a religious liberty claim could trump the rights of third parties — in that case, the rights of women seeking contraceptive coverage. Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion did address the question of what impact this new regime would have on civil rights laws, but only incompletely. “The Government has a compelling interest in providing an equal opportunity to participate in the work force without regard to race,” Alito conceded. “And prohibitions on racial discrimination are precisely tailored to achieve that critical goal.” Left unspoken is whether other forms of discrimination, such as discrimination against women or LGBT people, also remains forbidden when someone claims that they have a religious right to disriminate.

Enter Judge Cox

R.G. & G.R. Harris should have been a very easy case. The case involves a funeral home owner who fired one of his funeral directors, Amiee Australia Stephens, after Stephens came out as trans and announced her intention to begin living as a woman. Stephens’ boss admits that he fired her because Stephens “was no longer going to represent himself as a man” and because she “wanted to dress as a woman.” He added that he believes that permitting Stephens to dress as a woman “would violate God’s commands because, among other reasons, [the owner] would be directly involved in supporting the idea that sex is a changeable social construct rather than an immutable God-given gift.”

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits an employer from firing an employee “because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin,” where “sex” refers to gender and not sexual orientation. So the law forbids discrimination “because of . . . sex” and this particular employer openly admits that he fired Stephens because of his personal prejudices regarding sex. This really isn’t a hard case.

Judge Cox decides to complicate the issue, however, by denying that firing someone because they are transgender is a form of sex discrimination. Instead, he holds that Stephens sole claim is under a line of cases prohibiting “sex/gender-stereotyping.” Stephens case is allowed to proceed because she was fired for failing to “conform to the Funeral Home’s sex/gender based stereotypes as to work clothing.”

A protester offers a different view than the one expressed by Judge Sean Cox in a recent opinion. (CREDIT:(AP PHOTO/PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS)

As a practical matter, this may seem like a purely semantic difference. Regardless of whether Stephens’ case is framed as a sex discrimination case or a sex stereotyping case, her employer still broke the law. But Cox manages to make a great deal of this seemingly minor distinction.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) permits religious objectors to ignore laws that “substantially burden” their “exercise of religion,” unless the government can show that applying the law “is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest” and “is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.” Prior to Hobby Lobby, there was little question that anti-discrimination laws were not trumped by RFRA, and Hobby Lobby itself concedes that laws banning race discrimination further a compelling interest and use the least restrictive means of doing so.

But what about laws banning sex stereotyping?

To answer this question, Judge Cox draws a very fine distinction. The specific conflict in this case arose because of the funeral home’s gendered dress code. Male employees who interact with the public are required to wear a male business suit and tie, while women are required to wear a skirt suit. As a woman, Stephens wanted to wear a skirt suit. Her employer demanded that she wear a male pant suit and tie.

As Judge Cox writes, the federal agency that sued on Stephens behalf “has not challenged the Funeral Home’s sex-specific dress code, that requires female employees to wear a skirt-suit and requires males to wear a pants-suit with a neck tie.” Instead, it argued that “Stephens has a Title VII right to ‘dress as a woman’ (ie., dress in a stereotypical feminine manner) while working at the Funeral Home, in order to express Stephens’s gender identity.” For Cox, this very fine distinction is fatal to Stephens’ case:

If the compelling interest is truly in eliminating gender stereotypes, the Court fails to see why the EEOC couldn’t propose a gender-neutral dress code as a reasonable accommodation that would be a less restrictive means of furthering that goal under the facts presented here. But the EEOC has not even discussed such an option, maintaining that Stephens must be allowed to wear a skirt-suit in order to express Stephens’s gender identity.

In essence, Cox argues that the right Stephens seeks, the right to wear a skirt suit at work, is not the “least restrictive means” of eliminating gender stereotyping at work. Instead of seeking this right, she could have instead sued to challenge the workplace’s rule requiring men and women to dress differently.

It’s a confusing ruling for several reasons. For one thing, Stephens wasn’t seeking a sweeping change to her employer’s policy. She was seeking an narrow, individualized accommodation that would allow her to wear female attire to work. It’s far from clear why Judge Cox thinks that forcing an employer to change a company-wide policy is a “less restrictive” option than simply allowing one woman to wear a skirt to work.

Cox’s solution, moreover, doesn’t really address Ms. Stephens’ concern. The entire point of this lawsuit is that Stephens wants to be able to continue her vocation while also living her life as a woman. Changing the employer’s policy so that women can wear stereotypically masculine clothing does little to address her core concern.

The New Hated Other

So Judge Cox’s opinion is an odd one, but it is also a very clever decision. AfterHobby Lobby, there is some uncertainty about whether religious objectors enjoy a right to discriminate. But pre-Hobby Lobby law is clear that such discrimination is not allowed. And even Hobby Lobby itself says that religious objections are not a license to engage in some forms of discrimination.

Cox resolves this uncertainty in two questionable steps. He denies trans people the right to bring basic sex discrimination suits, as opposed to sexstereotyping suits, and then he limits the force of sex stereotyping suits in a way that neuters their effectiveness against anti-trans employees. In effect, he imposes a kind of least-favored-litigant status on transgender plaintiffs, weakening their civil rights claims without having to dive into the thorny question of whether RFRA permits other kinds of discrimination.

Cox, in other words, chooses America’s sinister history. In his courtroom, someone must always be Jim Crow. And now, Jim Crow is a trans person.

Ian Millhiser

Justice Editor

5 absurd right-wing moments this week: Katrina Pierson displays most stunning ignorance yet

Katrina Pierson (Credit: CNN)

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.


Hard to compete, but Tucker Carlson also had the most ridiculous hissy fit ever

Sure, sure, sure, Donald Trump had his worst and most heinous week ever. (If we had a dollar for every time we’ve said that!) The man floated the idea of assassinating Hillary Clinton; insisted repeatedly that President Obama founded ISIS, then chided everyone for taking him seriously; suggested illegally trying U.S. citizens at Gitmo; and railed about a rigged election that has not occurred. More conservatives and dozens of national security officials fled the Republican nominee, as did voters. Just another week in the Trumpoverse.

But man, this guy attracts the best and the brightest. Winners like Katrina Pierson,Jeffrey Lord and now Carl Paladino.

Not familiar with these three outstanding political thinkers, these Trumpian spinners of tales? Read on for some of their latest antics.

1. Katrina Pierson just can’t stop revising history.

It’s very hard for Katrina Pierson to keep track of who started which war. C’mon guys, that’s hard. Especially when these wars go on and on forever. Also history, schmistory. It’s all Obama’s fault.

After being severely dressed down recently for saying that Captain Khan was killed in Iraq under Obama’s watch in 2004 — when Bush was president and Obama a senator who had opposed the war — Pierson decided to put her knowledge of recent wars on display again Saturday.

This time, she accused Obama of owning the war in Afghanistan, which is odd, because he was a state senator when that war was launched in 2001.

“Remember we weren’t even in Afghanistan by this time,” Katrina Pierson told a puzzled CNN host. “Barack Obama went into Afghanistan, creating another problem.”

Asked to clarify whether she meant he launched that war, she said, “That was Obama’s war.”

Well, no, though he did announce a surge there in 2009 when he actually became president.

Next up? Pierson blames Obama for WWII. Stay tuned.

2. Meet Carl Paladino! He’s completely awful!

Although Donald Trump declared the Khan family controversy over and “put to bed” this week (and Mika Brzezinski tried to point out to him that he does not get to choose when people stop talking about it), apparently the chairman of his New York campaign did not get the memo. Carl Paladino, an atrocious GOPer who has run for governor of New York and been thoroughly humiliated in that attempt, is of the belief that it’s always a good idea to attack Muslim families, no matter who they are.

On Friday, Paladino said this about Clinton and Trump to the host of “Imus in the Morning.”

“We’ve got an un-indicted felon [Author’s note: OK, not a thing] as his opponent and you’re talking about Khan, about him making a remark about this man? All right, I don’t care if he’s a Gold Star parent. He certainly doesn’t deserve that title, OK, if he’s as anti-American as he’s illustrated in his speeches and in his discussion. I mean, if he’s a member of the Muslim Brotherhood or supporting, you know, the ISIS-type of attitude against America, there’s no reason for Donald Trump to have to honor this man.”

It’s hard to be worse than Trump himself, but apparently manageable for some.

Keeping the level of discourse as high as possible, Paladino went on insist that Obama is a Muslim and Hillary Clinton is “devious” for hiding her alleged health problems, health problems that have been debunked.

“But if you’re really looking at what’s been exposed about Hillary and Hillary’s demeanor, I mean, just look at the deviousness. If it is true about her health problems, I mean, how devious can a woman possibly be? And not telling the American people that she’s got some sickness, she’s definitely impaired.”

3. Tucker Carlson’s has a new hissy fit defending Trump.

Things are getting desperate over at Fox News. To the difficult question of how to spin the Orange One’s really bad, no-good, horrible week, Tucker Carlson had to dig really deep.

The headscratcher he came up with? The fact that mean old Hillary Clinton acknowledged the existence of white privilege back in June is just as bad as all the bad things Trump has said lately.

Here’s the core of what Hillary said:

“White Americans need to do a much better job of listening when African Americans talk about the seen and unseen barriers you face every day. We need to recognize our privilege and practice humility, rather than assume our experiences are everyone else’s experiences.”

Man, that is hurtful stuff. That is like a personal attack on privileged, thin-skinned white guys like Carlson. Why doesn’t the media get all up in her face about that, like they do with Trump when he suggests assassination, or that Obama founded ISIS.

Carlson’s whine fest:

“I think [the media] have a right to ask Trump tough questions…Totally fair. But they are giving Hillary a complete pass. They’re acting on her behalf and they’re devaluing their moral authority in doing it. It’s a big mistake. […]

“He can’t back down. That’s for sure. I just wish that they would apply the same standard to Hillary when she says, for example, all white people are privileged and therefore should apologize. It’s like, really?”

Putting aside the insanity of comparing Clinton’s reasonable and inarguable statement to Trump’s incitement of violence, might we also mention that no one else seems to have heard Clinton saying all white people should apologize.

Tucker tantrumed on, undaunted:

“If you’re an unemployed machinist in Toledo, you’re really more privileged than the millionaire, Harvard educated African-American President of the United States? That’s actually an insane statement. And not one person called her on it or even noticed it. So just apply the same standard to Hillary.”

Get the sense he might still be a little upset about the whole African American in the White House thing?

4. Karl Rove loses his shit.

You know it’s bad when Karl Rove thinks you’ve gone off the deep end.

On a Fox show with host Charles Payne, Republican guru Karl Rove was unable to maintain the fantasy that Trump is a reasonable person to be the party’s nominee for the presidency. The former Bush chief of staff went off at the suggestion that it is in any way a good idea for Donald Trump, “as a New Yorker,” to “hit back” at every perceived slight.

“Yeah, well, you know what?” Rove began. “If he does that between now and the election, what do you think is going to happen? The Clinton campaign is going to provoke him every day to stay off of message. And he is going to fall for all of these things and waste valuable time. Does he want to win or does he want to respond? If he wants to be the New Yorker and punch back at everybody who comes his way — fine! That’s an open invitation for everybody to come his way with things like this.”

Might we just interject that it seems Rove is no great fan of New Yorkers in general? Also, Donald Trump has a message?

Rove was just getting started.

“He has 88 days to make his case,” Rove said. [Author’s note: 85 days now] “He has squandered the last three weeks by responding to the Gold Star mother. The day after he had his presidential nomination, he became the official nominee of the Republican Party. The first news conference he had was not devoted to laying out the case against Hillary Clinton or bashing Barack Obama or laying out what he wants to do as president. It’s renewing and revisiting all of things he said about Ted Cruz, who was yesterday’s news at that point!”

“And why? He felt compelled to do it. He ought to get control of his impulses and keep focused on the main target. Otherwise you’re going to have more of these Republicans saying ‘why do we want to stand by this guy when he just keeps going after the wrong target.’”

Your guess is as good as ours, Karl. No, we don’t exactly feel your pain, but we acknowledge it.

5. We can’t. We just can’t.

Simone Manuel won a gold medal in Olympic swimming competition this week, becoming the first African American ever to do so.

That’s big.

Michael Phelps added four more gold medals and a silver one (how terrible) to his history-making tally.

The San Jose Mercury News covered the news of these events with this headline, and an identical tweet:

“Olympics: Michael Phelps shares historic night with African American.”

And the winner of the most Olympically offensive headline is…!

Note, unlike Trump, the paper’s editors did apologize.