• Herschel Walker Has Many Flaws, But He Is Not a Cop

    Robin Rayne/Zuma

    Herschel Walker talks a big game. As I’ve written before, the former college football star, who is now challenging Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) for a Georgia Senate seat, claims to have considered committing murder, repeatedly played Russian roulette, and suffered from dissociative identity disorder-related blackouts that allowed him to forget allegedly pointing a gun at his ex-wife. 

    Another one for the list: Walker has claimed to have a history in law enforcement. He doesn’t—even if his resume does sound like the making of a fine police officer. As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported today, Walker said on at least three occasions that he had worked in law enforcement—and he once even claimed to be an FBI agent.

    Pressed by AJC, Walker’s campaign said that he was an honorary deputy at Georgia’s Cobb County Police Department, which, a former DeKalb County district attorney said, is “like a junior ranger badge.”

    As for being in the FBI, well, Walker spent a week at an FBI training school in Quantico, Virginia, in 1989. He never graduated college, a prerequisite for joining the FBI.

    Honestly, I’m not sure which is worse: a cop running for Senate, or a non-cop pretending to be one.

  • Colorado to Investigate Lauren Boebert for Alleged Misuse of Campaign Funds

    Rod Lamkey/Pool/CNP/Zuma

    Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) has come under investigation from several state agencies over her alleged misuse of campaign funds, the New York Times reported today.

    Boebert allegedly used campaign funds to reimburse herself for $22,259 in mileage—a sum strikingly similar to the $20,000 she paid in tax liens for her previous failure to pay unemployment premiums on her restaurant, Shooters Grill. The allegations were brought to the Colorado attorney general’s office by the American Muckrakers PAC, which recently tanked Madison Cawthorn’s congressional run.

    “Had Representative Boebert paid her restaurant staff properly and also paid the unemployment premiums to the State of Colorado, an investigation never would have been necessary,” David B. Wheeler, one of the PAC’s founders, told the Times.

    As I reported last month, five former Shooters employees told me that Boebert did not pay them on time. Several said that they were paid in cash without taxes deducted. 

    In April, I spoke with Scott McInnis, who represented Boebert’s district from 1993 to 2005 and now serves as Mesa County Commissioner. At the time, McInnis shrugged off the allegations that Boebert had misused campaign funds. “I remember when they made a big wahoo out of the mileage she submitted for reimbursement or something. I just chuckled,” he told me, adding that the district is so big that a representative could easily rack up thousands of miles driving to campaign events.

    But local news outlets suggest that the 38,712 miles Boebert purports to have traveled is an outrageous sum, even in Colorado’s huge 3rd District. As the Times reports, Boebert’s campaign later said that the mileage reimbursement included other expenses, like hotel rooms. It also claims that she paid off the tax liens before the reimbursements reacher her account.

  • Jared and Ivanka Knew Trump Was a Loser. But Don’t Believe This Rehab Job.

    Patrick Semansky/AP

    As the congressional committee investigating the attack on the US Capitol prepares to kick off its primetime hearing, a curious report has emerged on the front pages of the New York Times. Taken at face value, it offers a behind-the-scenes look at how Jared and Ivanka dealt with Donald Trump’s increasingly delusional claim that he had defeated Joe Biden and secured a second term. 

    “We’re moving to Miami,” Kushner told his wife from their $18,000-a-month mansion, deciding that they’d hit eject even if Trump refused to accept defeat. The Times goes on:

    No matter how vociferously Mr. Trump claimed otherwise, neither Mr. Kushner nor Ivanka Trump believed then or later that the election had been stolen, according to people close to them. While the president spent the hours and days after the polls closed complaining about imagined fraud in battleground states and plotting a strategy to hold on to power, his daughter and son-in-law were already washing their hands of the Trump presidency.

    Their decision to move on opened a vacuum around the president that was filled by conspiracy theorists like Rudolph W. Giuliani and Sidney Powell, who relayed to Mr. Trump farcically false stories of dead voters, stuffed ballot boxes, corrupted voting machines and foreign plots. Concluding that the president would not listen even to family members urging him to accept the results, Mr. Kushner told Mr. Trump that he would not be involved if Mr. Giuliani were in charge, according to people he confided in, effectively ceding the field to those who would try to overturn the election.

    I’m no investigative journalist. Far from it! But to believe this account, at least entirely, is to ignore one of the most persistent storylines of the Trump era. We’ve seen this play out time and time again: flattering stories, somehow leaked to the press, depicting Jared and Ivanka as the least-awful members of MAGA-world. It’s hardly a coincidence that this latest one, which could help shield the couple from any accusation that they played a role in fomenting violence at the Capitol, is emerging just as the January 6 committee is presenting them as the hearings’ star attraction

    But alright, let’s assume that this account is true, that Jared and Ivanka, knowing that Dad was a loser before the race was officially called, decided to exit fast. It certainly wouldn’t be a leap to read that they spent the final days of the Trump White House checked out and overwhelmingly focused on their own reputations. But opening Trump’s orbit to clearly unhinged characters, and eventually, the January 6 insurrection, is incredibly damning on its own—and once again shreds the notion that Javanka quietly operated as some kind of moderating force against Donald Trump. That image was manufactured by Ivanka herself. But how on earth is the media still doing the couple’s dirty laundry?

    I’ll leave you with the only good reason to actually click on the Times report today: That Kushner, whose parents reportedly bribed his way into Harvard, turned to a James Patterson-led MasterClass to write his forthcoming book on Trump’s legacy.

  • Uvalde Community Calls for Gun Control in Heartbreaking Hearing

    Miah Cerrillo, a fourth grader and survivor of the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, appears on a screen during a House hearing on gun violence.Jason Andrew/The New York Times/AP/Pool

    Just two weeks after a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at a Texas elementary school, Uvalde community members—including a doctor, a student survivor, and the parents of a child who died—have come together to plead for Congress to take action on gun control.

    Dr. Roy Guerrero, an Uvalde pediatrician, tried to convey the horror of the day to the House Oversight Committee.

    “What I did find was something no prayer would ever relieve: two children whose bodies had been pulverized by bullets fired at them, decapitated, whose flesh had been ripped apart, that the only clue to their identities was the blood-spattered cartoon clothes still clinging to them,” he said.

    Guerrero said that he became a pediatrician because he admired children’s resilience and willingness to accept change. “Adults are stubborn,” he said. “Why else would there have been such little progress made in Congress to stop gun violence? Innocent children all over the country today are dead because laws and policy allow people to buy weapons before they’re legally old enough to even buy a pack of beer.”

    Guerrero criticized one other habit of adults: their affinity for nostalgia. “Once the blood is rinsed away from the bodies of our loved ones and scrubbed off the floors of the schools and supermarkets and churches,” he said, “the carnage from each scene is erased for our collective conscience, and we return again to nostalgia, to the rose-tinted view of our Second Amendment as a perfect instrument of American life, no matter how many lives are lost.”

    Miah Cerrillo, a student who survived the massacre, was the next to testify at the hearing via video. Cerrillo made headlines when she described covering herself in her classmate’s blood and playing dead. In her video appearance today, she described the gunman shooting her teacher in the head. Asked if she felt safe at school, Miah shook her head and said, “Because I don’t want it to happen again.”

    Miah’s father, Miguel Cerrillo, appeared at the hearing and choked back tears as he described how the shooting affected his daughter. “She is not the same little girl that I used to play with, run with, and do everything, because she was Daddy’s little girl,” he said. “I wish something would change, not only for our kids, but every single kid in the world, because schools are not safe anymore.”

    Kimberly and Felix Rubio, the parents of 10-year-old Lexi Rubio, who died in the attack, appeared to remember their daughter, who wanted to go to college on a softball scholarship, major in math, and attend law school.

    “We understand that for some reason—to some people, to people with money, to people who fund political campaigns—that guns are more important than children,” Kimberly said. She proposed a list of demands: a ban on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, red flag laws, stronger background checks, and an increase in the age to purchase assault rifles in Texas from 18 to 21.

    As her husband wiped tears from his eyes, Kimberly concluded, “Somewhere out there, there is a mom listening to our testimony, thinking, ‘I can’t even imagine their pain,’ not knowing that our reality will one day be hers, unless we act now.”

  • You Can’t Run on Defending Democracy if Democracy Is Broken

    Mother Jones illustration; Getty

    Wait, what is this all for?

    Starting this week, the House’s January 6 Committee will hold a series of hearings, at least two of which will be in “primetime,” on the blitz of the Capitol by protesters egged on President Donald Trump on January 6. As my colleague David Corn has reported, the hope is to “convey the full significance of the insurrectionist assault on Congress.”

    The seven Democrats and two Republicans on the panel face a massive undertaking to convince the American public, many of whom largely believe the news has exaggerated the affair, that something went dreadfully wrong on January 6, that American democracy was fundamentally harmed. It is an attempt to lay down for history what occurred.

    Which is why it was odd this morning when the New York Times described the hearings as aimed at something else: winning the 2022 midterms.

    Perhaps this is just a bad headline. The Washington Post reported Democrats are “not counting” on the January 6 hearings for influencing voters in the upcoming midterms; in the story, Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) noted that the presentation is solely “focused on presenting the American people with the truth about this violent attack.” The Times’ own report contains much of the same rhetoric.

    But the headline is one set of a larger piece: New York magazine reported the plan is to “cast as stars” Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. Democrats hired a former ABC News producer to assure it is, according to Axios, a “blockbuster investigative special.” At some point, the medium becomes the message.

    Since January 6, and for much of the Trump era, Democrats have melded defenses of democracy with pleas to Vote Blue. (Donate, too, folks.) And so when Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) tells the Times he wants the hearings to show “how irresponsibly complicit Republicans were in attempting to toss out their vote and just how far Republicans will go to gain power for themselves,” it’s easy to ask: Is he talking about the midterms or an investigation of a violent attack? The answer is Democrats want it to be both. 

    But putting on display weeks of what I’ve (perhaps crassly) started calling Democracy Porn can only do so much. People have to believe our electoral system, in some way, works for them. If not, an issue arises: What is this week’s massive spectacle TV show actually defending?

    Institutions? Democracy? Rule of law? You mean the things that…don’t seem to be working at all for so many people?

    Let’s remember: Over the past few years, a central thesis of the Democrats’ message has been to protect institutions of democracy. And that worked—they won. Yet, now with that power? Not much has changed. Democrats failed to enshrine reforms like eliminating the filibuster and passing voting protections, among many others. They have often fallen short in making the institutions strong enough to be cheered.

    Partly as a result, everything else is broken, too. After a heartbreaking deluge of mass shootings, Congress can’t pass gun reform. The Supreme Court is about to overturn Roe as the federal government more or less sits on its hands. Police, transit, housing, and health care remain fundamentally broken. COVID relief could have heralded a larger social welfare state if enshrined, fulfilling all those heady pieces about Joe Biden’s New Deal; instead, Democrats couldn’t even keep around the expanded child care tax credit, which had lifted many out of poverty. For all the paying attention to court cases, scandals, reports, hearings, and impeachment(s) that would finally oust Trump, he’s been fine. Carbon filters into the sky.

    Yelling about our chief Democratic obstructionists in Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema isn’t wrong as a response to this. But we’re living under a system designed to empower them.

    So, sure, one can imagine how these hearings would be a good idea, a thorough presentation that outlines the core concepts of what some Democrats have been screaming for a long time: The other side cares more about winning (appeasing Trump, in our parlance) than democracy (the will of the people) and here’s the proof.

    But that gambit doesn’t work as well if everything, the very system itself, is broken. The material benefits of democracy must flow to people from the institutions to earn all this defense. If not, we are in grave danger.

    The right has made clear where it’s headed. Consider the ascendency of Senate hopefuls J.D. Vance and Blake Masters, who have shorn their economic populism pretty far from the economic. Ponder the New Right. Think about (shudder, I’m sorry) how the faux-Marxists cool kids have indulged in it. They are landing pretty close to fascism. The Republican Party has illustrated it’s okay with a tinge of illiberalism. Who could forget CPAC in Hungary

    January 6 was the more obvious of the antidemocratic moments of the past few years. But as Ari Berman has written for us, it is the slow-moving destruction of election law that could papercut our system to its knees. We’re living through a dirge of democracy; January 6 was a high note. If someone savvier takes up the reins, the next coup will likely be horrible, but also boring—and it might even be exceedingly popular.

    The Democrats’ response to that cannot be only to message harder, even if it’s during primetime, that the other side is antidemocratic. Everyone saw it. The problem is that not enough people care that much about the sacred values of a Republic. They care about other things. For some, that’s bare allegiance to Donald Trump; for others, it’s tax cuts. No amount of framing will outweigh the galling lack of action by Democrats.

    There is only one solution: Shit has to work. I get that’s not easy, but democracy has to function as a way to make the lives of people tangibly and materially better. If it does not, people won’t believe in it. Democrats need to not only defend democracy in hearings, they have to make it popular in real life. Or else it seems like all there is is the show.

    This is something Eric Foner, the historian most famous for his book on Reconstruction, recently wrote about the history of the Democratic Party for the London Review of Books. In defeating Trump, Foner warns, many missed how easily a new Republican coalition is forming. He seems to agree with Michael Kazin, whose new book, What It Took To Win, allows him to give a tour of the history of the party, in noting that “the Democrats have succeeded…when they have enacted policies, such as Medicare in the 1960s, that demonstrably serve all segments of the working and middle class.”

    Lately, in having these thoughts, I’ve come back to a piece from 1941 by Dorothy Thompson. In it, she famously wrote about the “macabre parlor game” of wondering “Who Goes Nazi?” There are “the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers,” she writes.

    Often, we think of the born Nazis. These are easy enough to identify. But I want to pause for a moment on those “whom democracy itself has created.” Who is this man? Thompson describes him thus: “He is the product of a democracy hypocritically preaching social equality and practicing a carelessly brutal snobbery. He is a sensitive, gifted man who has been humiliated into nihilism. He would laugh to see heads roll.”

    Democrats must do everything in their power to stop that nihilism.

  • Supposed Anti-Pedophilia Lawmaker Hires Person Famously Outcast for Minimizing Child Sex Abuse

    Robin Rayne/Zuma

    Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) loves accusing people of supporting pedophilia.

    During Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Greene levied the accusation against the Democratic Party and a select group of moderate Republicans, all because of a bad-faith argument that Jackson was lenient when sentencing child-pornography defendants. Greene’s enthusiasm for smearing others as pedophiles isn’t surprising, given her affinity for QAnon and the pedophilia hysteria that goes along with it.

    So I guess that makes it “funny,” in a backwards and depressing way, that Greene hired Milo Yiannopoulos as an unpaid intern. Yiannopoulos even posted a photo of his badge to Telegram.

    For those blissfully unfamiliar with Yiannopoulos’ comments on sex between children and adults, all you really need to know is that they were bad enough for the editor-in-chief of Breitbart News to call them “indefensible” and “appalling.” Yiannopoulos had defended sex between adults and boys as young as 13 and bashed child sex abuse victims who came forward as adults. He has since said that his comments were an effort to cope with the sex abuse he experienced as a child. Yiannopoulos resigned from Breitbart in 2017.

    Since then, Yiannopoulos has gone on to be a fundamental part of a new push from the far-right to fundamentally change the Catholic Church in the United States and across the world. As Kathryn Joyce reported for us earlier this year:

    In 2018, [Yiannopoulos] published a book, Diabolical: How Pope Francis Has Betrayed Clerical Abuse Victims Like Me—and Why He Has to Go, that tied his defense of the remarks he’d made—that he’d been glibly processing his own childhood sexual abuse—to the broader crisis in the Catholic Church. Soon, he was welcomed by right-wing Catholic news outlets like Church Militant and LifeSiteNews, and a popular Catholic apologetics YouTube show hosted by firebrand and now anti-vaccine activist Patrick Coffin, which together represent some of the most vitriolic critics of the pope online. In early 2021, Yiannopoulos completed the journey, announcing to LifeSiteNews that returning to a traditionalist form of Catholicism had helped him become “ex-gay,” and he now planned to build a Catholic-based conversion therapy clinic in Florida, to be called the Milo Center.

    As Yiannopoulos conducted a publicity tour around the alternative media universe of the Catholic right, he theatrically threw away an engagement ring he called his “sodomy stone” and quipped about the need to “make the Vatican straight again” and “make America homophobic again.” By July, he’d become a regular columnist at Church Militant, where he paired his trademark acidity with a laser fixation on the “cult of homosexualism,” which he described as “a reimagining of a very old, pagan form of worship.” He also claimed that women who miscarry after receiving Covid-19 vaccinations have effectively aborted their children, and declared that “sometimes one feels the only good bishop is a dead bishop.” By fall, he was appearing on Church Militant’s home-shopping network, flogging an $88 “Adoring Virgin” icon—a “good Mary,” Yiannopoulos promised, unlike some less physically attractive depictions—and a CD set of him reading Psalms and Proverbs for $75.

    As usual, anything Yiannopouls says should be taken with a grain of salt, given his propensity to troll. That includes his internship. But, come on. There’s an entire section of his Wikipedia page subtitled “Remarks on paedophilia and child sexual abuse.”

    What sort of a statement is Greene hoping to make by affiliating with someone whose rhetoric is harmful enough to have gotten him banned from both Twitter and Facebook? And to have gotten him to resign from, of all places, Breitbart?

    If Greene can accuse others of being “pro-pedophilia” for supporting Judge Jackson, does she think she’s immune from being the subject of those same jeers for supporting someone who has actually belittled the experiences of child sexual assault survivors?

  • Uvalde Mom Who Was Handcuffed Says Police Warned Her Not to Tell Her Story

    President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden visit a memorial outside Robb Elementary School to honor the victims killed in this week's school shooting, Sunday, May 29, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas. Aaron M. Sprecher via AP

    The Uvalde, Texas mother of two young Robb Elementary School students who was handcuffed by law enforcement at the scene of last month’s school shooting that left 19 children and two adults dead, gave a detailed description on Thursday of her attempts to save her children. Speaking to CBS News, Angeli Gomez said that she has since received a phone call from law enforcement, warning her to stop telling her story of how she scuffled with police who had set up a perimeter around the school but refused to enter the building and attempt to stop the shooter. 

    Gomez, whose two sons are in second and third grade and survived the attack, told CBS that after being at the school earlier in the day for a graduation ceremony, she sped to Robb Elementary upon hearing a shooting was in progress. Upon arriving, she said she drove past a police line, and was handcuffed by federal agents after she confronted them over their inaction. She was eventually released by local police officers. Gomez recounted to CBS how she then hopped a fence and finally went into the school and found her children. Gomez was captured on video bringing her children out of the building herself. She also said she saw no police officers inside the building.

    Gomez also said that since she began telling her story to the press, she received a call from “law enforcement” warning her that because she is on probation for a charge she says is close to a decade old, she could face legal trouble and be charged with “obstruction of justice” if she continues to speak to the media.

  • Ron DeSantis Is Hard at Work Doing Bad Shit

    Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/TNS/Zuma

    Ah, early June. The weather is warm, the water is fine, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is casually doing the most diabolical shit.

    You name the progressive cause, and DeSantis has taken substantive steps to stymie it over the past few days, waging attacks on everything from gun control to vaccine mandates to trans rights.

    Yesterday, DeSantis joined a growing contingent of Republican governors who are trying to make it harder—or impossible—for trans kids to access gender-affirming medical care. His method is bureaucratic. Unlike in Texas and Alabama, DeSantis wants to circumvent the state legislature by placing the decision in the hands of the state Board of Medicine. The Florida Health Department, led by Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, has made clear that it opposes these medical procedures. In a letter, the Board of Health requested an opportunity to “establish a standard of care” to curtail what Ladapo described as “complex and irreversible procedures.”

    “The current standards set by numerous professional organizations appear to follow a preferred political ideology instead of the highest level of generally accepted medical science,” Ladapo wrote.

    As my colleague Samantha Michaels has reported, treatments like puberty blockers and hormonal therapy can greatly reduce the risk of anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation among trans kids. “Typical gender-affirming treatments for kids are deemed safe and effective by major medical associations like the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics,” she writes.

    The cherry on top? Hours before the Florida Board of Medicine issued its letter, the state Agency for Health Care Administration issued a controversial report that suggests that gender-affirming care is ineffective for people of all ages. The existence of the report threatens to ban Medicaid coverage of these treatments. As the Kaiser Family Foundation has reported, transgender adults tend to report lower household incomes and higher rates of unemployment than cisgender adults—which means they are likely to rely on Medicaid at higher rates than cis adults.

    So, in multiple ways, DeSantis and his administration have tried to tamp down on gender-affirming care without even having to vote on it in the legislature.

    As if that weren’t enough, DeSantis turned his crusade on, uh, the Special Olympics. The organization had a vaccine requirement for the games set to be held in Orlando this weekend. This makes sense, since, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with disabilities might be more likely to get Covid, and those with underlying medical conditions have a higher risk of becoming severely ill.

    But Florida has a law banning vaccine mandates, which allowed it to threaten the Special Olympics with a $27.5 million fine, according to ABC News reporter Jay O’Brien. Not wanting to stir the pot, the organization dropped its vaccine requirement.

    And, lastly, in DeSantis’ world, free speech is all well and good, except when it comes to a baseball team advocating for kids not getting shot in school. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays, which has a pitcher from Uvalde, where 19 children and two adults were killed in a mass shooting last week, made several social media posts in support of gun control during its May 26 game. Among them was a pledge to donate $50,000 to Everytown for Gun Safety’s Support Fund, which promotes education, research, and litigation to reduce gun violence.

    Days later, DeSantis vetoed state funds for a new practice facility for the team. I wonder why.

    DeSantis’ actions could be cast as just more culture war, as if all these actions against gun control, vaccine mandates, and trans care were designed to gin up his base. But it’s not all talk: These decisions will have material consequences for the most vulnerable Floridians.

  • Peter Navarro, “Trump’s Looniest Economic Adviser,” Has Been Indicted

    Ron Sachs/ZUMA

    Peter Navarro, a former economic adviser to Donald Trump, was indicted Friday on two contempt charges for defying a subpoena from the House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the US Capitol. He’s now the second former Trump aide to be charged with contempt related to the panel’s probe, after Steve Bannon.

    According to the indictment, Navarro, who previously defied a House subpoena in Congress’ Covid probe, has failed to comply with January 6 committee’s requests for documents and an interview with congressional investigators. Each charge carries a minimum of 30 days and a maximum of one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

    Once branded “Trump’s looniest economic adviser” by the Wall Street Journal, Navarro is notably representing himself in a lawsuit challenging the House subpoena, which he’s called the “fruits of a poisonous tree.” 

    As for Bannon, who in April asked a federal judge to dismiss the contempt charges, his trial is set for next month.

  • Why Can’t the Star Wars Nerds Imagine a World With Black People?

    Karwai Tang/WireImage/Getty

    It’s like clockwork. A harvesting of Star Wars IP is announced; a cast list is released; a horde of fans abuse an actor of color for daring to be in the franchise. 

    This time the racists crawled out of their hidey holes and took to social media to abuse actress Moses Ingram. Ingram faced the barrage after it was revealed she would play “Reva” in the new Obi Wan Kenobi mini-series. People called her a “diversity hire,” the N-word, and a slew of other race-based insults. Some even threatened her life.

    Disney defended the actress. And, eventually, Ingram addressed the abuse herself, posting a response on her Instagram story. 

     

    “Thank you to those who’ve stepped up to defend me,” she said. “And to the rest of y’all, y’all are weird.” 

    Ingram is only the latest person in a long string of actors who’ve been tormented by racist fans. We see this happen to actors of color in science-fiction and fantasy franchises over and over and over again. Just a few months ago, 12-year-old Leah Seva Jefferies had to contend with a similar bout of online harassment after being cast in the new Percy Jackson and the Olympians TV series. Jefferies, a Black girl, is slated to play Annabeth Chase, a character who was white in the novels the series is based on.

    But the Star Wars fandom is especially notorious for bullying and harassing towards cast members they don’t like, especially if they’re an actor of color. In 1999, Ahmed Best secured a role in the Star Wars prequel film, The Phantom Menace, playing the infamous character Jar Jar Binks. While the character was rightfully criticized for being a hodge-podge of numerous racial stereotypes, a lot of that backlash unfairly fell on Best.

    In a story for ABC News, Best describes how the toxicity almost pushed him to take his own life. At one point, the actor found himself on the edge of the Brooklyn Bridge. 

    “As a Black man from New York City, from the Bronx, there’s this façade that I can’t be hurt,” said Best. “In actuality, I was really just crumbling inside.”

    In 2014, the teaser for the much anticipated Star Wars sequel The Force Awakens dropped. The first image that millions of fans saw was of the Black actor John Boyega, in the middle of a desert planet, decked out in the iconic, white Stormtrooper uniform. It outraged some fans. They called it “anti-white” propaganda. In response, the hashtag #BoycottStarWarsVII was created, with racists claiming that film promoted “white genocide.”

    “I’m in the movie,” Boyega said in response. “What are you going to do about it?”

    Four years later, actress Kelly Marie Tran endured a similar experience. Tran, who is Vietnamese-American, played the character Rose Tico in the movie The Last Jedi, the second installment in the sequel trilogy. After the films’ release, she also faced a hoard of sexist and racist insults online. In an essay for the New York Times, Tran detailed how those insults affected her mentally and emotionally.

    “Their words reinforced a narrative I had heard my whole life,” she wrote. “That I was ‘other,’ that I didn’t belong, that I wasn’t good enough, simply because I wasn’t like them.”

    In the following movie, Tran’s role was scaled down significantly, with many speculating that this was in response to the backlash. However, the film’s co-screenwriter has said this was due to editing and bad CGI. 

    Unlike with Boyega and Tran, Disney stepped forward a bit more directly to support Ingram, saying that they’re proud to welcome her to the family and denounced anyone who made her feel “unwelcome.”

    The series’ lead actor and executive producer, Ewan McGregor, took a more direct approach.

    In a video that was posted on the official Star Wars Twitter account, McGregor stated that there’s no place for racism in this world and that he stands with Moses.

  • To Argue Against Gun Control, Lauren Boebert Notes That “We Didn’t Ban Planes” After 9/11

    Rod Lamkey/CNP/Zuma

    The New York Post isn’t exactly known for its tact. It has doxed a medic for her work on OnlyFans, published a photo of a man seconds away from being struck by a subway train, spread disinformation, and endorsed Trump—twice. But a comment from Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) last week apparently went too far, even for the Post.

    In an appearance on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show days after a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, Boebert argued against “politicizing” the tragedy, but followed up with a bizarre remark. “When 9/11 happened, we didn’t ban planes,” she said. “We secured the cockpits.”

    The Post branded this comment “tasteless” and “senseless.” Hard to argue with that. It’s also worth noting, as the Post does, it’s basically wrong. The 2001 terror attacks led to the construction of a massive security state, including the formation of the Transportation Security Administration, the passage of the PATRIOT Act, and changes in federal law to allow for the ongoing detention of “enemy combatants” at Guantánamo Bay. “Securing the cockpits” entailed making sure that no weapons got on planes—not that that stopped Boebert’s colleague Rep. Madison Cawthorn from trying. In this light, Boebert’s comment could be read as an accidental endorsement of gun control.

    It’s not surprising that Boebert would do anything in her power to avoid the topic of gun control. After all, she’s a fan of guns, big time. As I wrote in my recent profile of the Colorado congresswoman, Boebert owns a restaurant where staff are encouraged to open-carry firearms. (One former employee told me that Boebert jokingly pointed a loaded gun at him when he said he would have voted for Barack Obama for a third term.)

    Compared to 9/11, the nation’s response to mass shootings has typically been, basically, nothing. Boebert’s comment begs the question: How would one secure classrooms? Would the congresswoman prefer that entering a school every day be as cumbersome and perplexing as going through airport security? (Many kids already walk through metal detectors upon entering school every day.) And what’s to prevent a shooter from doing as the Sandy Hook gunman did and entering a school not by entering an unlocked door, but by shooting through a window?

    Or is the question of how to actually stop shootings not the actual point for her?

  • The Feds Step in to Investigate the Uvalde Cops’ Response to the Massacre

    People embrace outside a memorial to honor the victims killed in this week's school shooting outside Robb Elementary School, in Uvalde, Texas.Aaron M. Sprecher/AP

    On Sunday, the US Department of Justice announced it would formally investigate the police response to the murder of 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

    Questions have multiplied about the police response in the aftermath of the killing spree. The gunman spent 78 minutes inside the building, even as the members of the Uvalde Police Department and officers from other law-enforcement agencies gathered outside. Terrified parents gathered, too, and reported being handcuffed and even pepper-sprayed by those same cops. As the massacre dragged on, at least two kids on the inside repeatedly called 911, begging in vain for help. 

    “The goal of the review is to provide an independent account of law enforcement actions and responses that day, and to identify lessons learned and best practices to help first responders prepare for and respond to active shooter events,” a DOJ spokesman said in a statement to CNN. “As with prior Justice Department after-action reviews of mass shootings and other critical incidents, this assessment will be fair, transparent, and independent. The Justice Department will publish a report with its findings at the conclusion of its review.”

    Previously, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott had tried to reassure the public by conducting a much different kind of investigation. In a May 25 press release, his office announced that the state’s assessment of the May 24 debacle is “being led by DPS Texas Rangers and the Uvalde Police Department.” In other words, after what looks like an epochal botching of an effort to save the lives of a mostly Latino group of fourth graders, Abbott had entrusted the Uvalde Police Department to investigate its own performance, aided by the Texas Rangers.

    Venerated in pop culture and by politicians like Abbott, the Rangers are a state law-enforcement unit with a long history of atrocities against Native Americans, Mexican nationals, and Mexican Americans. As my colleague Tim Murphy pointed out in a great 2020 article, “unlike the Confederates or Columbus, the Rangers are still around and profiting from their past—they’re a ‘living monument,’ as [a] booster once said.” These days, he added, “the Rangers are the ones brought in to investigate when a local law enforcement officer kills a civilian, or when a Texan dies in custody (such as the 2015 death of Sandra Bland).” Tim quoted Domingo Garcia, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens: “The Texas Rangers come in and they whitewash the killing and always absolve the local police officer.”

    Abbott tapped them to make sense of how the Uvalde Police Department handled last week’s rampage. The dead, the survivors, their families, and the public as a whole are owed a full accounting of what went wrong. The DOJ’s intervention is the least we can ask for.

  • “It Was The Wrong Decision. Period.”

    Wong Maye-E/AP

    Plenty of questions remain over the Uvalde, Texas, school massacre. But three days into the investigation, one thing is now for certain: law enforcement officials catastrophically mismanaged their response as 19 children and two teachers were killed inside a single classroom.

    “From the benefit of hindsight where I’m sitting now, of course it was the wrong decision—period,” Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety Steven McCraw told reporters at a tense press conference on Friday. McCraw was referring to the call by the on-scene commander at the time of Tuesday’s attack to not enter the classroom where an 18-year-old gunman had been located for more than an hour. The damning assessment comes a day after officials confirmed that “numerous” officers had been stationed just outside the classroom—only to retreat and wait for a special tactical team to arrive.

    “There’s no excuse for that,” McCraw continued, before appearing to offer exactly that: “Again, I wasn’t there.”

    The press conference is sure to fuel public outrage as questions mount over the nearly 90-minute delay in police response—and what exactly transpired between the first 911 calls and when police eventually killed the 18-year-old gunman. In the wake of Tuesday’s massacre—the second deadliest school shooting in US history—law enforcement officials have repeatedly offered contradictory accounts of how they handled the shooting inside Robb Elementary School.

    “If I thought it would help, I would apologize,” McCraw said on Friday. For the family members of Tuesday’s massacre, it surely won’t.

  • The Fear of Deportation Only Makes the Uvalde Trauma Worse

    Members of the community gather at the City of Uvalde Town Square for a prayer vigil.Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty

    Hours after yet another mass shooting killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, desperate parents were still trying to find out if their kids were dead or alive. They were asked to provide DNA samples to help with the identification of the victims as reporters at the scene described the sound of “agonized screams” from families who had just learned the worst possible news.

    In a community like Uvalde, about 85 miles west of San Antonio and not far from the border with Mexico, the unfathomable grief and trauma might be further complicated by the fear of immigration enforcement. The immigration status of the victims and families continues to be rightfully undisclosed, but the school district’s population is 90 percent Hispanic, leading to concerns by immigrant rights advocates that the presence of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agents might further traumatize relatives in mixed-status families seeking information from authorities and trying to reunite with their children.

    Agents with Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the branch of DHS that operates within a 100-mile border zone, were among the first law enforcement to respond to the shooting. That isn’t surprising considering that Uvalde is a heavily militarized area of South Texas and many agents reside in the area and some had children in the school. Roughly 80 border patrol agents, some of whom were off duty, were present at the scene. Among them were members of the SWAT-like elite team known as BORTAC, or Border Patrol Tactical Unit, who reportedly shot the 18-year-old gunmen. That’s the same unit that Donald Trump deployed to Portland as part of a violent crackdown on racial justice protests in the summer of 2020 that the city’s mayor Ted Wheeler characterized as “urban warfare.” At the time, a former CBP agent told the Guardian that, in her experience, BORTAC were among “the most violent and racist in all law enforcement.” 

    Border patrol agents may have prevented the shooter from continuing to carry out a massacre on Tuesday, but there’s no denying their presence could be triggering for people in the community. “The same officer involved in deportation of your family member could now be telling you your child has died…this is what systemic trauma looks like,” Thania Galvan, an incoming assistant professor at the University of Georgia’s Department of Psychology tweeted.

    Juliette Kayyem, a DHS assistant secretary during the Obama administration, called on the agency and the White House to explicitly reassure the Uvalde community that they would be safe from immigration enforcement. “I don’t know motives, we don’t know motives. I am just telling you demographics. It is a predominantly Hispanic population with a large immigrant community, relatively near San Antonio,” Kayyem said on CNN. “We need the federal government to say right now, everyone is essentially safe harbor right now in terms of immigration status.” She noted that members of the community needed “not to be fearful of immigration status,” and pointed out that a strong law enforcement presence was inevitable under these circumstances. But, when someone’s immigration status may be uncertain, they may “not react to police presence as you or I may.” 

    On Wednesday, DHS issued a statement saying that “to the fullest extent possible,” its agencies—Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)—would not conduct enforcement activities in “protected areas,” adding that agents would not “pose as individuals providing emergency-related information.”

    But the fact that DHS felt the need to issue a statement saying its agents wouldn’t disguise as helpers in the aftermath of a mass shooting at an elementary school in itself could spark concerns in the community. Especially in a state that is controlled by aggressively anti-immigrant politicians. Texas Governor Greg Abbott has spent billions of dollars and deployed thousands of National Guard and state troopers in a failed operation to “secure” tbe border, and the state has led a successful lawsuit against the Biden administration to stop the termination of Title 42, the infamous pandemic-era border policy shutting down asylum. Just a couple of weeks before the shooting, Abbott indicated he might challenge a Supreme Court decision guaranteeing the right to public education for undocumented students. 

    As immigration and criminal law expert César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández noted on Twitter, ICE deported a survivor of the 2019 Walmart shooting in El Paso, Texas. The undocumented woman known as Rosa had offered law enforcement assistance in their investigations into the white supremacist attack targeting Latinos that killed 23 people and injured dozens more. But, two years later in 2021, her previous help didn’t stop the immigration agency from sending her back to Mexico after a traffic stop. She was also reportedly in the process of applying for a U visa, which offers temporary status and protection from deportation for undocumented survivors of certain crimes who cooperate with law enforcement. 

    “It is shocking to me really that after seeing all the different communities it has happened in, we still don’t believe that it can happen in our own community and if we’re not willing to do something,” Mary Ann Jacob, a survivor of the Sandy Hook shooting that happened ten years ago, told ABC News. “Our legislatures are not going to do anything, unless we push them to do something. So vote for people who care about what you care about and make sure that they are going to drive change.” While some elected officials offer their rehearsed thoughts and prayers, Uvalde survivors and their relatives will be left to mourn and process this tragedy for months and years to come. They should be allowed to do so without wondering whether they might put themselves or their families at risk. As Dr. William D. Lopez, a professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health who studies the health impacts of law enforcement violence in the US told Prism, “deportation upon death is not how a community will heal.”

  • For the Right, Everything Is Fodder for the War on Public School—Even Mass Shootings

    The welcome sign outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas has become a memorial for victims of the tragic mass-shooting there on May 24, 2022. Aaron M. Sprecher/AP

    How do we stop this? In the aftermath of Tuesday’s horrific tragedy in Uvalde, Texas, where a gunman shot and killed 19 children and 2 adults, that question has followed a frustratingly similar script as past mass shootings. Liberals pled, to mostly deaf ears, for gun control laws in the one country where this happens. Conservatives pled for more guns, pearl-clutching about the politicization of a tragedy born of political decisions. Recently, there have been mass shootings in Buffalo, New York and Laguna Woods, California. In New York City, a man shot and injured 23 people at a subway station in Sunset Park.

    Over the last few months, we have not even had time to finish a cycle of mourning and remembrance before another shooting happens. Each is met with realitydefying talking points from Republicans. Rinse and repeat. More death.

    And so to use this as a moment for shitposting would be obviously obscene when many are genuinely desperate for a solution.

    Still, it happened.

    Because this most recent shooting occurred, like Sandy Hook and Parkland and so many before it, in a school, some conservatives are adding a disgraceful, yet altogether unsurprising, wrinkle to the mix: It’s the schools themselves that are the problem.

    Writing in The Federalist on Wednesday, staff writer Jordan Boyd argued that Tuesday’s tragedy made a “somber case for homeschooling.” More specifically, Boyd singles out “government schools” as the culprit. “The same institutions that punish students for ‘misgendering’ people and hide curriculum from parents are simply not equipped to safeguard your children from harm,” wrote Boyd. 

    Boyd continues, “You can’t protect your kids from everything. There’s no telling when a crazy gunman might open fire in a movie theater or a grocery store. You can, however, do your best to prevent them from being sitting ducks at frequently targeted locations such as schools by keeping them by your side.”

    This is an unserious argument made in bad faith. The gunman at Sandy Hook was homeschooled. Initial reports of good guys with guns on the scene in Uvalde, do not fill one with confidence, either. Videos show police officers more concerned with restraining parents than with rushing in to stop the shooter. But, perhaps most importantly, Boyd is hiding the ball.

    The article is using a horrific tragedy to shoehorn in another argument against public schools. These are the same people who have spent the last year leading an assault on public schools through the dueling moral panics of schoolteachers brainwashing children with critical race theory and sexually grooming them. The Federalist has often written about and boosted homeschooling as a bulwark against the idea of big government and has dutifully covered the critical race theory and grooming stories. The goal, with all of this, as the CRT-panic architect Christopher Rufo has repeatedly stated, is to rally parents behind a plan to “lay siege to the institutions,” with public education first on their proverbial hit list. Do they hate public education because it fails to protect children? Because it actually fills kid’s heads with bad ideas about race or gender or sexual identity? Or do they just hate public education because it’s public?

    How to go about enacting, let alone passing, effective gun control in a country with a historically unprecedented number of firearms is, to be sure, a thorny and complex issue. Only in a monstrous society would children be so often sent to their death at the place they go to learn and socialize. Fixing the problem and its underlying issues deserves far more than a shoulder-shrug emoji in written form.  

    And so to offer a solution that is little more than part of a continuing war on public education? That makes a “somber case” for the nihilism of some on the right that allows them to use anything for their war on public schools—even mass shootings.

  • Biden on Texas Mass Shooting: “Why Are We Willing to Live With This Carnage?”

    Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

    In a brief address Tuesday night, following the senseless massacre of at least 18 children and a teacher at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, a beleaguered Joe Biden asked the nation “when in God’s name” America would stand up to the gun lobby. 

    He mourned “beautiful, innocent, second, third, fourth graders” and spoke of the scores of children at the school who saw their friends “die as if they are on the battlefield.” 

    Biden also spoke as an adult who has lost children himself.

    “To lose a child is like having a piece of your soul ripped away,” he said. “There’s a hollowness in your chest you feel like you’re being sucked into it… It’s never quite the same.” 

    Biden urged Congress to pass common sense gun laws and expressed outrage over the way Americans seem to have grown inured to the “carnage” occurring around them every day. 

    “These kinds of mass shootings rarely happen anywhere else in the world,” Biden said. “Why? They have mental health problems. They have domestic disputes in other countries. They have people who are lost. But these kinds of mass shootings never happen with the kind of frequency they happen in America. Why? Why are we willing to live with this carnage? Why do we keep letting this happen?”

  • Following Texas Shooting, a Senator Begs His Colleagues: “What Are We Doing? What Are We Doing?”

    Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) took to the Senate floor Tuesday evening to issue a desperate plea, just several hours after 14 children and one teacher were killed in a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

    “What are we doing? Just days after a shooter walked into a grocery store to gun down African American patrons, we have another Sandy Hook on our hands,” he said, referring to the 2012 school massacre in his home state. “Our kids are living in fear every single time they set foot in a classroom because they think they’re going to be next.”

    “What are we doing?” he repeated again, before beseeching his fellow lawmakers to finally act. “Why do you spend all this time running for the United States Senate? Why do you go through all the hassle of getting this job or putting yourself in a position of authority? If your answer is that, as this slaughter increases, as our kids run for their lives, we do nothing, what are we doing?”

    “Why are you here?” he said.

    The full Mother Jones database of mass shootings since 1982 can be found here. This is the third mass shooting in 2022. Our news team is covering the major developments here. And you can read a deep dive on Murphy’s efforts to push gun control over the past decade here

  • 19 Children, Two Teachers Killed in Texas Elementary School Shooting

    Emergency personnel gather near Robb Elementary School following a shooting on May 24 in Uvalde, Texas. AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills

    Nineteen children and two teachers were killed in a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday, according to reports from multiple outlets. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott confirmed the news. The school teaches second through fourth grades. It was the second-to-last day of school before summer break.

    At a press conference, Abbott said the suspect is an 18-year-old high school student who, police believe, worked alone. “He shot and killed horrifically, incomprehensibly, 14 students and killed a teacher,” the governor said earlier in the afternoon. Abbott also said that the suspect reportedly shot his grandmother before opening fire on the school. The suspect is deceased, according to police.

    Our full database of mass shootings since 1982 can be found here. This is the third mass shooting in 2022.

    This is a breaking news story and will be updated.

  • Madison Cawthorn Is Now Under Investigation Over Possible “Improper Relationship” and Potential Fraud

    Nell Redmond/AP

    Madison Cawthorn’s new status as a lame duck, often a quiet period for defeated politicians, appears set to be just as tumultuous as the scandal-plagued track record that got him booted from Congress.

    On Monday, the House Ethics Committee announced an investigation into two sets of allegations related to the embattled Republican: that Cawthorn may have dabbled in some light insider trading related to the cryptocurrency Let’s Go Brandon, and that he engaged in an improper relationship with a staffer. (Cawthorn’s office has denied the panel’s allegations, claiming that Cawthorn is being targeted for “political gain.” This comes just a week after the North Carolina Republican lost his seat in the GOP primary for the state’s 11th congressional district. 

    Ethics investigations into members of Congress are relatively rare. That Cawthorn is on his way out makes Monday’s announcement even more unusual, though perhaps ultimately unsurprising considering how much both sides of the aisle appeared to loathe him. In his short career, Cawthorn, the youngest member of Congress, got caught in a series of headline-making scandals that included lies about his college acceptances, allegations of past sexual harassment, dubious claims he made about supposed drug-fueled orgies running amuck in the shadows of DC, and much, much more.

    Following his defeat, a vengeful Cawthorn on Thursday appeared determined to leave Congress with some last-minute weirdness, vowing to expose “those who say and promise one thing yet legislate and work towards another.” Cawthorn’s Instagram post enlisted the help of something called “Dark MAGA,” which as my colleague Ali Breland explained, doesn’t appear to be much more than a handful of bad Photoshop jobs.

  • A Federal Judge Just Blocked Biden From Ending a Trump-Era Border Policy

    Migrants wait to be processed by Border Patrol agents in Eagle Pass, Texas. Dario Lopez-Mills/AP

    A Trump-appointed federal judge in Louisiana issued a ruling on Friday afternoon blocking the Biden administration from winding down an infamous policy that summarily expels migrants arriving at the border. Title 42 relied on a pandemic-era public health order to effectively seal off the southern border for most asylum seekers and migrants. The federal judge’s decision, which comes in a case brought by 24 states led by Republican attorney generals, effectively allows the policy to remain in place indefinitely despite the federal government’s plans to terminate it by May 23. The ruling is yet another stark example of how states are using the courts to dictate federal immigration policy.

    Earlier this month, my colleague Fernanda Echavarri wrote about how border cities were already preparing for the termination of Title 42:

    Their preparations are moving forward even as a federal judge is expected to rule—perhaps as soon as the end of the week—on whether Title 42 will actually end as scheduled. If the judge doesn’t intervene and the policy is lifted as planned on May 23, it would not constitute a new asylum policy; rather the shift would bring things back to pre-pandemic operations for asylum seekers at the border. 

    “We anxiously await and are eagerly preparing for the full termination of Title 42,” says Kate Clark, senior director of immigration services at Jewish Family Service of San Diego, a group that has been instrumental in assisting asylum seekers for years. “For too long, thousands of vulnerable families and individuals in desperate need of protection have been left with no relief or their ability to exercise their lawful right to seek asylum in the US.”

    In early April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined that the “current public health conditions and an increased availability of tools to fight COVID-19” made the public health order allowing the expulsion of migrants no longer necessary. Public health experts and immigrant rights advocates had long argued that the policy had no scientific basis—but that didn’t stop the Trump and Biden administrations from using it as a tool to stop migration.