This week, conservatives were confronted with two of their worst fears: gay people getting married and black people getting angry. Then, as if things weren’t bad enough, the federal government began preparations to invade Texas.
Freddie Gray, 25, was walking through his West Baltimore neighborhood at 8:30am on April 12. Along the way, Gray made eye contact with a police officer. The officer pursued, Gray ran, and two more officers on bicycles joined the pursuit. Gray suffered a broken leg as a result.
Officers handcuffed Gray, put him in leg irons, and placed him in a police van — but didn’t put him in a seatbelt. That’s interesting, because Baltimore police have a long history of “rough rides,” in which a handcuffed detainee is placed in a police van without a seat-belt, as the van is driven recklessly through the city streets. It’s a practice that’s cost the city almost $6 million.
Forty-five minutes later, Gray was taken to an area hospital with two additional injuries: a crushed voice box, and a spine that was 80 percent severed at his neck. Gray lingered in a coma for a week, and then died.
Years of poverty, economic neglect, and brutal policing turned Baltimore into a powder keg. The death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray proved the spark that caused an explosion of pent-up rage and frustration. Protesters cheered, however, when Baltimore’s prosecutor charged the six officers involved in Gray’s death with crimes including murder and manslaughter.
Naturally, wingnuts had their say.
- Fox News personalities Lou Dobbs and Dr. Keith Ablow blamed President Obama for the unrest in Baltimore.
- Fox News host Tucker Carlson suggested that Baltimore police “fire a shotgun in the air,” because those protesting Freddie Gray’s death were a “threat to civilization itself.”
- Former congressman and deadbeat dad Joe Walsh tweeted that the unrest in Baltimore was the fault of, “Democrats who have purposely turned blacks into uneducated government slaves.”
- Presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul (R, Kentucky) blamed the Baltimore riots on a “lack of fathers,” the same week his own son was arrested for drunk driving — for the third time — and lived.
- During an interview with radio host Laura Ingraham, Sen. Paul quipped, “I came through the train on Baltimore (sic) last night, I’m glad the train didn’t stop.”
- Fortunately, Paul has some very patient black advisors who explained to him why he shouldn’t have said what he did.
- Maryland Republican state Delegate Patrick McDonough proposed a law to take food stamps away from the parents of Baltimore protesters. “I think that you could make the case that there is a failure to do proper parenting and allowing this stuff to happen, is there an opportunity for a month to take away your food stamps?” McDonough said on a Baltimore radio program.
- Fox News contributor Bo Dietl suggested that Freddie Gray injured himself because he “slipped and fell” while high on drugs.
- Rep. Bill Flores (R, Texas) said that “what is going on in Baltimore” is because of too many gay marriages.
It was even too much for some Fox News talking heads, who turned tables and schooled their colleagues.
- Fox News host Shep Smith rebuked his colleagues on “The Five” for blaming the unrest in Baltimore on the civil rights community and parents.
- Dr. Phil McGraw gave Fox News host Brian Kilmeade a quick lesson in income inequality, explaining that the protestors in Baltimore didn’t have the same opportunities as Kilmeade. “They may have the same potential, but I’m not sure they have the same opportunities because the fact is the school system is not necessarily the same, the resources are not necessarily the same, the leadership that they have from the parents because of the generational pass-throughs are not the same,” McGraw said. “There’s no question that they have a steep hill and a tough row to hoe.”
But so did several Baltimoreans.
- Fox News host Sean Hannity tried to scold nonviolent black protestor Adam J. Jackson, but Jackson gave it right back to Hannity. “We shouldn’t be moralizing people’s frustration and pain,” Jackson said, “What we should be moralizing is the systemic violence that has been put on people in Baltimore.” No wonder Hannity cut the interview short.
- Baltimore city councilman Nick Mosby reminded Fox News reporter Leland Vittert that rioting and looting was not just a black thing.
- Rep. Elijah Cummings (D, Maryland) blew off Fox News to keep Baltimoreans from breaking the curfew, and then told off Fox News for getting in the way.
- An unidentified Baltimore protester whom Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera dismissed as a “vandal” went off on Rivera in an off-air footage. “I want you and Fox News to get out of Baltimore City,” the unidentified man said, “You are not here reporting about the boarded up homes and the homeless people under MLK [Boulevard]. You’re not reporting about the poverty levels up and down North Avenue.”
The Supreme Court heard arguments in marriage equality cases that could lead to a ruling that legalizes same-sex marriage for the entire country. Wingnuts objected.
- Glenn Beck predicted that, “within five years, 50 percent of the congregants will fall away from their church because they won’t be able to take the persecution.”
- Faith 2 Action’s Janet Porter gathered “ex-gays” and anti-gays in front of the Supreme Court to warn of “tyranny” and God’s “wrath upon America.”
- Porter warned that a ruling for marriage equality would result in Christians going to jail.
- Host of CBS’s “Face the Nation” Bob Schieffer introduced Family Research Council head Tony Perkins as the leader of an “anti-gay hate group.” “We have been inundated by people who say we should not even let you appear because they,” Schieffer said, “in their view — quote — you don’t speak for Christians.”
- Perkins proceeded to lie on “Face the Nation,” flatly denying that he’d ever called for the impeachment of justice who favor marriage equality, when there’s audio of him saying just that.
- Rick Santorum’s EchoLight Studios issued a press release saying that the Supreme Court Marriage ruling could lead to Christians being “persecuted and maybe even prosecuted.”
- One anti-gay heckler was dragged out of the Supreme Court, after yelling “The nation will earn God’s wrath,” for marriage equality. Justice Scalia found the episode “quiet refreshing,” of course.
In Texas, a military training exercise has triggered so many conspiracy theories that governor Greg Abbot had to step in. The controversy has to do with a two-month long, multi-state training exercise called Jade Helm 15, involving members of the U.S. Army Special Forces Command and other armed forced units.
The exercise, larger in size and scope than other military operations, is intended to help the military “stay ahead of the environmental challenges faced overseas,” and spreads across five states: Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado. Military officials said the exercise would take place entirely on private property, with the consent of the owners. Operations would include only willing volunteers engaged in role play.
That set off the conservative fringe fretting that the military is planning to invade Texas, and that special operatives were secretly infiltrating their towns, schools, and businesses, in preparation for martial law, rounding up citizens, and confiscating weapons. Even Walmart stores closing to fix plumbing problems were linked to the supposed conspiracy.
The paranoia actually reached such a fever pitch that the governor had to order the Texas State Guard to monitor the Jade Helm 15 exercises. Y’know, to stop the military from imposing martial law.
- Minnesota Republican state Rep. Randy Boehning was outed as bisexual by a Grindr user, for voting against a bill that would extend housing, workplace and other protections to LGBT people. Twenty-one-year-old Dustin Smith recognized Boehning on Grindr, and said Boehning approached him on Grindr, and sent Smith an unsolicited picture of his genitals.
- Oklahoma Republican state Rep. Kevin Calvey expressed a desire to self-immolate outside of the Oklahoma Supreme Court, to protest women’s access to legal abortion.
- Republicans in North Carolina want to force high school students to take a Koch Brothers/ALEC-backed American history course, while banning teachers’ political views from the classroom.
Here’s the best of the rest of the worst in wingnuttery this week:
- A host of right-wingers got punked this week. Former party promotor Larry Pfeifer fed a story to a right-wing blogger that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D, Nevada) got drunk and beat up his brother on New Year’s Eve, the turned up drunk at an Alcoholic Anonymous meeting with an injured hand and a story to tell. None of it was true, but that didn’t stop Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Breitbart, and Laura Ingraham from reporting it.
- During an event at the National Press Club, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R, Iowa) dismissed the need to fix Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which the Supreme Court said needed to be updated. “It depends on what you want to fix,” Grassley said. “If you want to fix more minorities voting, more minorities are already voting.”
- Radio host Bobby Fischer said that Bruce Jenner, who just came out as transgendered is on a “suicide train.” “Forty-one percent of all transgenders [sic] attempt suicide a some point,” Fischer said, “so Bruce Jenner is on a suicide train.”
- Fox News guest host and “Clueless” actress Stacy Dash said that, “no one would have been beheaded” when George W. Bush was president. Except, of course, for the guy who was beheaded.
- Dash further proved her cluelessness when she got schooled on wage inequality by Meredith Viera. Dash suggested that women who complain about the wage gap should, “Stop making excuses.”
- Pat Robertson advised a caller to forgive her husband, who had a drunken fling with a male friend from church. “ If he were this way all the time, if he’s a habitual drunk, if he’s a habitual homosexual, if he’s a habitual philanderer, then by all means take a hike. But one time, 11 years, don’t throw all of that away,” Robertson said.
- Robertson also advised another caller that God could “straighten out” her lesbian daughter in a Christian summer camp “where they are really on fire for the Lord.”