I was stunned to learn today that Republican legislator Theresa Manzella is spreading misinformation about public assistance for Muslims in the United States. On her Facebook page, she posted a video that claims welfare dollars “fund Islamic polygamy,” with the caveat that she hasn’t actually verified the information contained therein, but believes it’s true. Good enough for this public representative to spread misinformation from an organization that has a history of dishonestly demonizing Muslims in general and Muslim refugees specifically.
In the video, which opens with outrage that government services are provided in languages other than English, ACT! For America claims that Muslim men are allowed four wives in federal assistance programs. This claim, the one that Representative Manzella couldn’t verify, took all of eleven seconds on Google to disprove. As for the asinine assertion in the video that Michigan has “rolled out the carpet for Sharia law,” there’s even less effort to provide support, but there is a pitch to attend a hatefest in September put on by ACT! For America. Maybe Manzella can attend and become even less informed about the law.
ACT! For America, Manzella’s trusted source of news, is one the Southern Poverty Law Center says is an extremist group that has become “far and away the largest grassroots anti-Muslim group in America” and which has “a long history of targeting refugees.” Its leader, and narrator of the video Manzella cited, is an especially despicable human being, one who attacked Gold Star father Khizr Khan, claiming that a person cannot both be a Muslim and follow the Constitution. The leader of the group, Brigitte Gabriel, who Manzella specifically cited as a credible source, once claimed that practicing Muslims cannot be loyal American citizens:
“If a Muslim who has — who is — a practicing Muslim who believes the word of the Koran to be the word of Allah, who abides by Islam, who goes to mosque and prays every Friday, who prays five times a day — this practicing Muslim, who believes in the teachings of the Koran, cannot be a loyal citizen to the United States of America.”
It’s not news that a leader in the Montana Republican Party is promoting an anti-refugee, anti-Muslim, anti-human agenda. It’s not news that Ravalli County is an especially attractive hotbed of ill-informed, xenophobic hate. But shouldn’t the press spend some time exploring this? How many Republican legislators and delegates to the national convention have to be promoting secession, xenophobia, militias, bigotry, and other forms of destructive ideologies before the press takes serious note of the extremism of the current Montana Republican party? Clearly these people are eager to share their views. Shouldn’t someone go ask them about them?
The Republican Party in Montana, and nationally, held off its nativist Know-Nothings for the better part of fifty years by co-opting them, but the party has been taken over by these extremists. Fearful of accusations of liberal bias or just disinterested in exposing the often factually wrong and morally suspect views of the leaders of the Republican Party, the press seems more interested in covering politics as if nothing has changed. The ascendance of people like Representative Manzella make it clear that’s absolutely not the case, to the detriment of our state and its governance.
Seems like news to me.