You may recall that in the middle of the 2018 Senate race between Jon Tester and Matt Rosendale it became critically important, front page, fainting couch breaking news that a poster for a Pearl Jam concert where Jon Tester raised money featured an image of the President that upset Mr. Rosendale.
On Thursday, Republican Senator Steve Daines and Representative Greg Gianforte shared the stage with two leaders of Turning Point USA, the Astroturf “student” group perhaps best known for its members dressing up in diapers to “own the libs.”
It’s not exactly surprising that Daines and Gianforte would endorse the agenda of a group that is little more than an Astroturf front for the fossil fuel industry and other uber-wealthy conservatives like the Uihlein and DeVos families, but it is surprising that the so-called liberal media didn’t see fit to report any of this.
And the outraged press coverage that characterized the Pearl Jam kerfuffle just never materialized, even though Turning Point USA is a deeply problematic organization that has been exposed for its racist views, interference in elections, and support of anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists.
Daines and Gianforte spoke with TP USA Communications Director Candace Owens, who recently praised the nationalism of Adolf Hitler and previously so offensively mocked sexual assault survivors that even fellow conservatives condemned her.
Also present was TPUSA founder Charlie Kirk, who has created and championed a McCarthyite attack on college professors while he is running around the country braying about free speech and championed an anti-Semite.
Just two weeks ago, the academically challenged and fact-free duo were in Mississippi defending the honor of Confederate soldiers.
But the problems with Turning Point USA go much deeper than the idiocy of this dense duo.
The New Yorker reported in 2017 that the Astroturf group created a hostile environment for people of color. Consider this message from its national field director:
Perhaps most troubling for an organization that holds up conservatives as the real victims of discrimination in America, Turning Point USA is also alleged to have fostered an atmosphere that is hostile to minorities. Screenshots provided to me by a source show that Crystal Clanton, who served until last summer as the group’s national field director, sent a text message to another Turning Point employee saying, “i hate black people. Like fuck them all .?.?. I hate blacks. End of story.”
Here’s an example of some of the content Turning Point USA has produced. From the Daily Beast:
The New Times reported Tuesday that students at TPUSA’s Florida International University chapter formed a group chat called “TPUSA FIU Fun” on which they told to “avoid using the n word and don’t reference Richard Spencer too much and don’t Jew hate … all the time.” Everything else, apparently, was fair game.
One member of the group posted a meme featuring a brown Pepe the Frog, the alt-right’s mascot, raping a Swedish woman, while another brown Pepe holds a gun to a man’s head. In the background of the image, a “Refugees Welcome” sign implies that Muslim refugees in Europe will rape women.
And Kirk, according to the Daily Beast, praised an anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist and invited him to a TPUSA retreat:
Sharpe is also a frequent user of a number of anti-Semitic dog whistles online. In August 2017, Sharpe tweeted that the term “Holocaust denier” was “created to hide the truth.” He even deploys the triple-parentheses favored by white supremacists as a way to denote Jewishness.
“People in power is always (((them))),” Sharpe has tweeted.
Sharpe has also praised members of the racist alt right. While a black man praising white supremacists might seem surprising, Sharpe and the alt right appear to have found common ground in their anti-Semitism.
“Alt right isn’t afraid to call out the Jews and their implications in the destruction of the black community in America,” Sharpe said in a February 2017 video.
Really, read the entire article. Sharpe also refers to Jews as the “Jutang clan” and believes that the 9/11 attacks were an inside job.
None of this is terribly surprising, as the Anti-Defamation League has cataloged the extensive connection between TP-USA and the racist, “alt-lite” movement.
Not satisfied with horrific, juvenile racism, Turning Point USA also interfered in elections, both on campus and off.
From the Chronicle of Higher Education, we learn that Turning Point USA is funneling thousands of dollars to campaigns to take over campus student government.
They also likely violated election laws in 2016, working for conservative candidates and conservative activist Ginny Thomas, the wife of the Supreme Court Justice:
As Turning Point’s profile has risen, so has scrutiny of its funding and tactics. Internal documents that I obtained, as well as interviews with former employees, suggest that the group may have skirted campaign-finance laws that bar charitable organizations from participating in political activity. Former employees say that they were directed to work with prominent conservatives, including the wife of the Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, in aid of Republican Presidential candidates in 2016.
And, because it seems so relevant to Senator Daines, noting that Russia weaponized Turning Point USA memes to wage a propaganda war against the US.
And that’s just a sampling of the details about the organization that Greg Gianforte and Steve Daines, who refuse to hold public town halls with real Montanans, chose to speak to.
It’s not exactly surprising that Daines and Gianforte would choose to endorse a duo that purports to be a college group, though neither Owens nor Kirk graduated from college. It’s not exactly surprising that Daines and Gianforte would endorse the agenda of a group that is little more than an Astroturf front for the fossil fuel industry and other uber-wealthy conservatives like the Uihlein and DeVos families. It’s not even surprising that Daines and Gianforte would endorse the agenda of an organization connected to racist elements.
But it is surprising that the so-called liberal media didn’t see fit to report any of this. A reference to a group of protesters outside the event is hardly critical reporting of an organization that is so problematic. There’s a strange notion in the coverage of Republicans in Montana. Because the party has moved so far to the right, it’s not even considered worth reporting when its leaders associate themselves with some incredibly troubling groups.
Jon Tester didn’t get to approve, nor even see, the Pearl Jam poster before it appeared. Greg Gianforte and Steve Daines knowingly chose to speak at an event with a woman who praised Hitler and mocked sexual assault survivors and a man who supported an anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist.
And, for some reason, the local media chose not to discuss that.