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August 13, 2023 Heather Cox Richardson

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It has been rainy and foggy here for most of the summer, but Buddy caught this clear early morning a few weeks ago.

He captioned it “Headed out to the gold fields,” which seems to me to work in this beautiful spot even for those of us who don’t fish for a living.

I’m taking an early night. Will be back at it tomorrow. Once again, it bids fair to be a busy week.

[Photo by Buddy Poland.]

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April 17, 2024 Heather Cox Richardson

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Senate nominee bankrolled by far-right activist trashing MLK and the Civil Rights Act Judd Legum

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Founder and executive director of Turning Point USA, Charlie Kirk, speaks on July 15, 2023, in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Last month, Bernie Moreno won the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in Ohio. Moreno benefited from an early endorsement from Turning Point Action, the far-right activist group founded by Charlie Kirk. On May 10, 2023, Kirk posted on X that he was “proud to support Bernie,” and Moreno had Turning Point Action’s “full endorsement.” 

In response, Moreno wrote that he was “honored to be endorsed by Charlie Kirk and Turning Point Action.” Moreno said that “[f]ew have done more to fight back against the radical left than they have,” and he looks “forward to working with them to defend for our America First conservative values in the US Senate.” 

In 2023, Kirk repeatedly featured Moreno as a guest on his popular podcast and consistently promoted Moreno’s candidacy to his 2.9 million followers on X. At the end of 2023, Kirk donated the maximum legal amount of $5,000 to Moreno’s campaign through the Turning Point PAC. 

At the same time, Kirk, known for his embrace of fringe views and conspiracy theories, launched a sustained attack on Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and legacy. At a December 2023 convention hosted by Turning Point USA, Kirk said that King “was awful” and “not a good person.” Kirk’s critique extended not just to King himself but to the civil rights movement itself. “We made a huge mistake when we passed the Civil Rights Act in the 1960s,” Kirk declared, trashing the legislation that outlawed segregation in public places and many businesses. 

In his convention speech, Kirk blasted the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as an effort to “re-found the county” and “get rid of the First Amendment.” He criticized courts for enforcing the law, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. “Federal courts just yield to the Civil Rights Act as if it’s the actual American Constitution,” Kirk complained. 

A spokesperson for Turning Point USA, Andrew Kolvet, defended Kirk’s attacks, saying respect for King’s legacy was based on “fake history.” 

Kirk announced he was “gonna tell the truth about MLK Jr” on MLK Day in January 2024. According to Kirk, a podcast episode attacking King and the civil rights movement was being put together by his producer, Blake Neff. In 2020, Neff was forced to resign from Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox News after it was revealed Neff was posting racist comments online under a pseudonym.

The episode, titled “The Myth of MLK,” kicks off with Vince Everett Ellison – a right-wing activist who claims that voting for a Democrat will send you to Hell. Ellison describes King as “despicable,” “immoral,” and “perverted.” Kirk repeatedly suggests that King’s legacy has harmed “Black America.” He asks Ellison if the lives of Black Americans have improved “the more that we have worshipped MLK.” Kirk also invites Ellison to talk about how “MLK’s narrative and political activism led to the modern welfare state.” Ellison responds by accusing the civil rights community of keeping Black people poor, adding that the devil “rest[s] his head at the DNC” and that the DNC “use[d] MLK and all of those perverts with him.”

“I could say declaratively this guy is not worthy of a national holiday. He is not worthy of god-like status. In fact, I think it’s really harmful,” Kirk says after the conversation with Ellison ends. Then Kirk, alongside Neff, spends roughly 30 minutes attempting to demonize the Civil Rights Act. According to Neff, the Civil Rights Act is “directly against this colorblind world that conservatives think MLK brought.” Kirk tells listeners that “in reality the language and the application of the Civil Rights Act…is a color preference act, not a color blindness.” Kirk adds that the Civil Rights Act “is making it harder for us to pursue Excellence as a society” because, as Neff puts it, “you have to discriminate against men, against white people.”

On X, Kirk wrote that the “deification of MLK and his proto-DEI ideology marks the exact moment that the progress of black America goes sideways.” Kirk suggested that MLK was responsible for the “disintegration” of “their cities,” the “collapse” of “their families.” Because of MLK, Kirk claims, “they” are “enormously dependent on government support.” 

Kirk’s crusade against King and the civil rights movement did not appear to impact his relationship with Moreno. On March 14, 2024, Turning Point Action donated $100,000 to the Buckeye Values PAC, Moreno’s Super PAC. 

Buckeye Values PAC is tightly aligned with Moreno’s campaign and was responsible for organizing and financing a key rally featuring Trump and Moreno on March 18, the day before the Ohio primary. 

The day after his primary victory, on March 20, Moreno appeared again on Kirk’s podcast. At the beginning of the interview, Moreno expressed his gratitude for Kirk’s support. “Thank you, Charlie,” Moreno said. “And thank you for your early endorsement. You were with me from the very beginning.”

The Moreno campaign did not respond to a request for comment. 

Moreno suggested white people should get reparations

Moreno himself has also had controversies involving racial issues. When he launched his campaign for Senate, Moreno floated the idea of reparations for white descendants of Union soldiers that were killed during the Civil War. “They talk about reparations. Where are the reparations for the people, for the North, who died to save the lives of Black people?” Moreno said. “I know it’s not politically correct to say that, but you know what, we’ve got to stop being politically correct.” 

“We stand on shoulders of people like John Adams, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, George Washington… That same group of people later, white people, died to free Black people,” Moreno said. A campaign spokesperson for Moreno told the Cincinnati Enquirer, “Bernie was right when he said political correctness is killing our country, and the crocodile tears from the left expose the Democrat hypocrisy he was referring to in the clip.”

Moreno’s companies have “faced multiple lawsuits alleging discrimination against employees in the run-up to the sale of his high-end Cleveland car dealership,” the AP reported. One 2017 lawsuit involved “a Black former service manager” at a dealership owned by Moreno, who “alleged that he was targeted for discipline and then demoted after taking concerns to human resources about white peers and a subordinate being paid the same or more than him.” He “claimed racial discrimination led to his demotion and eventual wrongful termination.” The lawsuit was “settled out of court,” and the terms of the settlement “were kept private.”

A campaign spokesperson said that “Moreno is ‘a proud minority businessman’ who based his company ‘on the colorblind principles of merit and hard work.’” The statement said that “Bernie has always been committed to giving opportunities to all of his workers, regardless of race, color, gender or creed.”

 

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Among the Activists Plotting to Disrupt the DNC. Plus. . . Oliver Wiseman

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Uri Berliner at his home on April 5, 2024, in Washington, D.C. (Pete Kiehart for The Free Press)

Today from The Free Press: left-wing activists planning to disrupt the DNC, Columbia’s president testifies, and three more Free Press lonely hearts. But first, another update on Uri Berliner. 

Uri Berliner, the NPR editor who accused the network of bias in an essay for The Free Press last week, has resigned. 

“I am resigning from NPR, a great American institution where I have worked for 25 years,” he said in his letter to CEO Katherine Maher. “I respect the integrity of my colleagues and wish for NPR to thrive and do important journalism. But I cannot work in a newsroom where I am disparaged by a new CEO whose divisive views confirm the very problems at NPR I cite in my Free Press essay.” 

We knew Uri’s essay would cause a stir—but its impact has been much bigger than we could have imagined. His account of how the organization lost its way has been picked up by every major national outlet, including his own, triggered fresh scrutiny for Maher—who took over at the helm of NPR only last month—and stirred an important conversation about media bias and impartiality.

Yesterday, Uri told The New York Times he did not have any immediate plans after leaving NPR, and said he was “looking forward to getting more sleep and spending time with his family.” And after all the fuss, who can blame him?

Among the Activists Plotting to Disrupt the DNC

Over the weekend we brought news of left-wing activists in Chicago chanting “Death to America” and “Hands off Iran.” Free Press reporter Olivia Reingold captured those moments last Saturday at a conference where activists plotted to disrupt the Democratic National Convention in the city this summer.

Now, Olivia and fellow Free Press reporter Eli Lake bring more details on the plan to bring “the biggest, baddest historical march” to the DNC in August.

CHICAGO — In a room full of 450 far-left activists, a leader with the Freedom Road Socialist Organization kicks off a chant: “Protest is a right—not just for the rich and white.”

“Have you heard that the Democratic National Convention is coming to Chicago?” Joe Iosbaker asks the crowd. “Are we going to let ’em come here without a protest? This is Chicago, goddamn it—we’ve got to give them a 1968 kind of welcome.”

In 1968, the Democratic Convention in Chicago was a bloodbath, with 600 arrests in one street battle that was broadcast all over the world. And the group that met here last Saturday, in the local headquarters of the Teamsters Union, wants to repeat history when Joe Biden is named the presidential nominee at the DNC this August. They oppose the president they call “Genocide Joe” for backing Israel in its war against Hamas. 

“If we don’t get a permit, are we still going to march?” Iosbaker asked the crowd, who responded with a chorus of “Yeah!”

“Are we still gonna march within sight and sound? Are we gonna let Genocide Joe come here and not hear us and see us? No! From Chicago to Palestine, protesting is not a crime.” 

Over a single day, the “March on DNC 2024” conference gathered 75 organizations to discuss how they plan to disrupt the convention. Speakers told the crowd how to flood the streets without getting arrested, how to spot members of the Secret Service, and how to say “Death to America” in Farsi. At one point, when news of Iran’s attack on Israel spread throughout the room, the crowd erupted in cheers.

Later that day, Jerry Boyle, an attorney and volunteer for the National Lawyers Guild, a nonprofit that says it acts “as the legal arm of social movements and the conscience of the legal profession,” gave a pep talk on how to “know your power” and overwhelm the police. 

“I’m not here to tell you what the law is,” Boyle told the crowd. “I’m here to tell you what you can get away with.” 

CONTINUE READING. 

Ten Stories We’re Reading 

Israel considered striking Iran Monday but decided to postpone, officials say. (Axios

Bob Menendez plans to blame his wife in his corruption trial. You’re facing federal bribery charges, Senator, not looking for an excuse to get out of a dinner party next weekend. (CBS

Joe Biden wants to triple tariffs on Chinese steel. This one’s for you, Pennsylvania. (FT)

Josh Hawley is a Republican making a similar pitch to his blue-collar constituents. Sohrab Ahmari profiles him. (Compact

You’ll never guess who the influencers are blaming for a possible TikTok ban. (The Atlantic)

This Chinese expert on Russia thinks Russia is sure to lose in Ukraine. “In time it will be forced to withdraw from all occupied Ukrainian territories, including Crimea. Its nuclear capability is no guarantee of success.” (The Economist)

Why do so many Latin Americans—including UFC fighter Renato Moicano, who we introduced you to earlier this week—admire Ludwig von Mises? Tyler Cowen explains the appeal of the obscure libertarian economist. (Bloomberg)

Why does being left-wing make you unhappy? Ian Leslie unpacks the ideological well-being gap. (The Ruffian

Martin Scorsese is trying to make a Frank Sinatra biopic. That noise you hear now is movie theater owners in northern New Jersey popping champagne. (Variety

The Daily Beast is hiring a Lauren Sánchez correspondent. Candidates must have expertise in tasteful, understated evening wear and superyachts. (Axios)

On Our Radar

→ Antisemitism and ‘Liquid Ass’ at Columbia: Columbia’s president Minouche Shafik and other university leaders were called to Washington yesterday to testify on how the school has become one of the country’s worst “hotbeds” of antisemitism. Unlike her counterparts from Harvard, Penn, and MIT, Shafik managed to get the easiest question right, though she had time to study the tapes. When asked if “calling for the genocide of Jews” violated Columbia’s code of conduct, she responded: “Yes.” But that doesn’t mean members of Congress let her off the hook. Representative Elise Stefanik grilled Shafik on the fate of Joseph Massad, the Columbia Middle East Studies professor who called Hamas’s October 7 terrorist attack against Israel “astounding,” “awesome,” and “remarkable.” Shafik stumbled when discussing Massad, before ultimately promising to remove him from his post as chair of the Academic Review Committee.

Then, Rep. Jim Banks read from a glossary handed out to new students at the Columbia School of Social Work defining the word Ashkenormativity as “a system of oppression that favors white Jewish folx based on the assumption that all Jewish folx are Ashkenazi or from Western Europe.” When Banks asked Shafik to explain why Columbia students had spelled folks with an x, Shafik replied, “They don’t know how to spell?”

Lawmakers at the hearing also tackled the alleged “chemical attack” on anti-Israel protesters on Columbia’s campus in January. Victims claimed they had been attacked by fellow students with ties to the IDF, who they alleged used a chemical weapon called “skunk.” The Intercept jumped on the story, reporting that dozens of students said they experienced “burning eyes, nausea, headaches, abdominal and chest pain, and vomiting” in the wake of the “attack.”

But in a lawsuit filed against the school on Tuesday, one of the students suspended for the alleged attack stated the smell came not from a “toxic chemical substance,” as Rep. Ilhan Omar described it, but rather from a “fart spray” purchased on Amazon called, um, Liquid Ass. 

Calling that a “chemical attack” is like calling a fender bender a 15-car pileup. It’s hardly sarin gas. 

While the university’s leaders testified on Capitol Hill, hundreds of Columbia’s students staged an unsanctioned “liberated zone” and “Gaza solidarity encampment” on the university’s main lawns—fit with dozens of tents and chants like “End the Zionist occupation.”

As Claire Shipman, the co-chair of Columbia’s Board of Trustees, said during her opening statement: “I feel this current climate on our campus viscerally. It is unacceptable. I can tell you plainly, I am not satisfied with where Columbia is at the moment.” —Francesca Block 

→ Democracy dies of boredom: Proceedings in Donald Trump’s hush money case got underway in Manhattan this week. On paper, it should be the trial of the century: a former president running for reelection facing criminal charges in a case that involves hush money, a porn star, and a publisher named Pecker. And yet, so far, the country has met this historic moment with a shrug. Even the defendant himself thinks it’s a snoozefest. Cable executives are doubtless disappointed that recording isn’t allowed inside New York courtrooms. But it’s not just the lack of on-camera drama that explains the paucity of interest. A new AP-NORC survey finds that just one in three Americans thinks the president did something wrong in the hush money case. So yes, maybe your MSNBC dad is following every twist waiting for karmic justice to be done, and perhaps your OANN aunt is fired up about the persecution of 45. But the rest of us, it seems, can’t really be bothered.

→ AI-merica, fuck yeah! Back in 2017, Vladimir Putin predicted that whoever leads in AI will become “ruler of the world.” If Vlad’s right, here’s a reassuring chart, via Stanford

→ Legalize it? This Saturday is 4/20. Whether you’re planning on sparking up or avoiding adults inevitably playing with hula-hoops in the park that day, it’s a good time to revisit our recent debate on cannabis legalization.

Here are former attorney general Bill Barr and Hudson Institute president John P. Walters arguing that legalization hasn’t worked

And here’s Reason magazine editor Katherine Mangu-Ward defending legal weed

My personal policy: you guys do what you want, but I refuse to touch the stuff out of a deep fear that I’ll become as annoying as Seth Rogen. 

And now, an update from the Free Press Cupid

Another week, another set of Free Pressers looking for love. Last Thursday, we brought you a faith-forward bunch of singletons. This week, it’s a bunch of country music fans and adrenaline junkies. So if you’re an outdoorsy type, read closely. And if you’re a sofa-loving city slicker, fear not; your week will come. Best of luck to all, and happy soulmate searching!

Grace Rivera, Nashville, TN

I’m Grace, a Californian currently in Nashville. I’m looking for a guy who’s a cross between Magnum P.I. and Harry Bailey from It’s a Wonderful Life. In other words, you’re outgoing, adventurous, have a good moral compass, and were raised by good human beings. Bonus points if you speak German. I’m slowly teaching myself the language to keep my brain sharp.

I consider myself thoughtful, creative, on the quiet side, and somewhat of a bookworm, but I can be more talkative and dish out the sarcasm when I meet my match. It would be nice to find my other half to get me out of my head as I tend to think too much about the meaning of life. Boot-scootin’ boogying is not really my thing. I prefer off-Broadway activities. Good conversation and food while sitting outside is my preferred date night but I also welcome something different, like glassblowing or Krav Maga.

I believe in defending Western values and identify as a cultural Christian.

I have long brown hair and stand 5’6” inches tall.

If you’re kind, witty like the fellas from Monty Python, and don’t take life too seriously, please reach out.

graziakarski@gmail.com

Dalton Hirsh, Indianapolis, IN

I’m a 21-year-old undergraduate student at Purdue University studying Fermentation Science. As my major suggests, I have a passion for wine. I also love spending time in nature, listening to music, and reading prose and poetry. My favorite musician is Leonard Cohen, and my favorite author is Hermann Hesse. I love the art of conversation and think of myself, perhaps vainly, as a master of it. I’m a practicing Jew and a proud supporter of Israel. My ideal guy would share my passion for the great outdoors, old country music that talks way too much about Jesus, and the joy of a simple glass of wine. 

As far as physical characteristics, I’m tall and lanky (my driver’s license says I’m 6’4”), with hazel eyes and curly dark brown hair. My mom tells me I’m gorgeous so I know it must be true.

If you live in my area and happen to share my interests, my email is daltonhirsh@gmail.com

Victoria (Vyky) Saiz, 33, Tallahassee, FL

Thirty-three-year-old lesbian seeking. . . lesbian. I deeply appreciate different interests and backgrounds, so my top values are compromise and teamwork. It’s special to share new experiences and find that balance. 

So with that, a little about me. I’m an educator and a filmmaker; born and raised in Broward County; Hispanic but identify primarily as American. I am both adventurous (I solo traveled to two continents) and a chicken (I don’t do roller coasters). I recently changed my mind when I decided to leave Los Angeles and return to my alma mater for work: Go Noles! I really appreciate The Free Press for doing this but I’m a little old-school. Let’s meet and chat: vsart4@outlook.com.

Have at it, Free Pressers. Remember to be nice! And if you want to appear here, email cupid@thefp.com

Oliver Wiseman is a writer and editor for The Free Press. Follow him on X @ollywiseman.

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