Wingnut Week In Review: Offensive Defense

Terrance Heath

This week, conservatives went out of their way to defend sexual abusers of children, both alleged and admitted, and showed that they have no idea how to treat a lady — especially if she happens to be transgender.

The Hastert Rule

When reports surfaced that former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert was indicted on charges of violating banking laws, evading the IRS, and lying to the FBI, the 73-year-old former lawmaker had been out of office since 2007. According to the indictment, the FBI began investigating Hastert’s cash withdrawals, which hinted at “possible structuring of currency transactions to evade reporting requirements.” In other words, Hastert was snared by the Bank Secrecy Act of 1970, a law intended to catch money launderers.

Whatever led the FBI to start investigating his transactions, Hastert may have sealed his fate when he lied to agents. Hastert said that he withdrew the money because he didn’t trust the banking system. “Yeah…I kept the cash. That’s what I’m doing,” Hastert said of the $1.7 million in transactions that was the focus of the FBI investigation. It was a stupid answer, unworthy of a smart man like Hastert. Unless the agents believed he was keeping it in a mattress, it meant the FBI would look until it found out where the money went.

That’s when the other shoe dropped, and the world learned that Hastert had been making cash withdrawals to pay $3.5 million to an unnamed individual, “to cover up past misconduct,” sexual in nature, that occurred when Hastert was a high school wrestling coach and teacher in Yorkville, Illinois. A second victim has since been identified by family members. Jolene Burdge says her brother Steve Reinboldt, who died of AIDS-related complications in 1995, was molested by Hastert throughout his high school years., and there are reports of several more. The revelation gives those who know Hastert a new understanding of why Hastert was so withdrawn, and spent all of his time chasing money after leaving Congress. It also explains a mysterious C-SPAN caller’s question to Hastert a year ago.

What’s harder to explain is how Hastert, many of his friends in Washington, and conservative media see him as the victim.

The Clinton/Lewinsky scandal fueled Hastert’s rise to power. The Mark Foley scandal ended Hastert’s control of the House. Now, another potential scandal has brought Hastert back into the spotlight. When he left Congress, Hastert’s legacy was the “Hastert Rule,” a “majority of the majority” principle that limits the power of political minorities. Now it seems that scandal is really the only “Hastert Rule.”

Defending The Duggars

If anything proves the existence of the impenetrable Fox News Bubble, it’s Megan Kelly’s exclusive interview with Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar this week. Both the network and the Duggar family had been uncharacteristically quiet in the weeks since InTouch magazine broke the story that eldest son Josh Duggar was the subject of an investigation into allegations that he molested a number of girls as a teenager. When InTouch followed up days later by publishing a redacted copy of the police report detailing the allegations, Duggar issued a public apology, and stepped down from his position leading the lobbying arm of the Family Research Council. The family remained silent, except for a post on their Facebook page.

The silence is understandable. Until the molestation allegations, the Duggar family was a major conservative “brand,” promoted as the embodiment of faith and “family values.” The Duggars weren’t shy about using their celebrity to promote their politics.

  • Jim Bob Duggar served in the Arkansas House of Representatives from 1999 to 2002, and ran unsuccessfully for the US Senate in 2002.
  • Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar endorsed Mike Huckabee in the 2008 Republican presidential primaries. They endorsed former senator Rick Santorum in 2012, before endorsing Huckabee again in the 2016 GOP primaries.
  • In 2012, Josh Duggar toured with Rick Santorum’s campaign, and spoke at rallies in support of Santorum.
  • In 2013, the Duggars backed Republican Ken Cuccinelli’s unsuccessful bid to become governor of Virginia.
  • In 2013, Josh Duggar became the executive director of FRC Action, a position in which he associated with several high profile conservatives, including most of the GOP presidential bench.
  • In 2014, Michelle Duggar recorded a robocall supporting the repeal of an LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance in Fayetville, Arkansas, suggesting that the ordinance would cause “males with past child predator convictions that claim they are female to have a legal right to enter private areas that are reserved for women and girls.”
  • In an interview with FRC Radio, Josh Duggar claimed that the Fayetteville ordinance jeopardized the safety of children.

The Duggars couldn’t have chosen a friendlier network or host. Megyn Kelly warned viewers ahead of time that she might not ask the Duggars any “tough” questions. Indeed, Kelly complained that the media highlighted the Duggar’s connections to prominent Republicans — connections the Duggars themselves went out of their way to highlight — and for some reason dragged former president Bill Clinton into it.

Kelly didn’t need to ask any tough questions. If the interview was intended as damage control, it failed miserably, as Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar dug themselves even deeper with their efforts to deny, minimize, obscure the events in question.

  • Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar stated publicly that four of the victim’s were Josh’s younger sisters.
  • Jim Bob Duggar minimized the molestation, saying that Josh “just basically touched them over their clothes while they were sleeping,” and that “they didn’t even know he had done it.”
  • Jim Bob later admitted, “There were a couple instances where he touched them under their clothes,” then quickly minimized the incidents, saying, “This was not rape or anything like that.”

Jim Bob and Michelle seemed unable or unwilling to recognized that the incidents went far beyond “inappropriate touching.” Most teenage boys are “curious about girls,” but few would even think of feeling up their own sisters. They also seem to think that since most of the molestation took time when the girls were asleep, it’s not a big deal. The girls weren’t even conscious, so no harm done! (Actually, according to the police report, the five-year-old victim was awake, sitting on Josh’s lap while reading a book, when she was molested.)

“They [the girls] didn’t even know he had done it.”

“None of them were aware of Josh’s wrongdoings.”

“The girls, we talked to them, and they didn’t know anything had happened.”

Across America, every rapist who’s ever drugged a woman in order to take advantage of her, or sexually assaulted an unconscious woman surely nodded their heads in emphatic agreement.

The Duggars displayed a mind-numbing lack of self awareness about the “safeguards” they put in place after the molestation.

  • No boys babysitting.
  • No boys and girls playing hide-and-seek together. (So that, “Two don’t go off and hide,” Michelle said.)
  • No girls alone in the same room with boys.
  • No little ones sitting on big boys’ laps. (Unless it’s their dad.)

Not only do those “safeguards” not get to the heart of the problem, but if your five year old can’t sit on her big brother’s lap without getting molested in the first place, you’ve got a bigger problem than you realize.

Twitter exploded with outrage.

In the end none of it changes the facts we know, based on the police report:

  • Josh Duggar molested at least five girls, four of whom were his sisters, and one of whom was five-years-old at the time.
  • His parents failed to contact law enforcement, or to get counseling from licensed professionals for their son and his victims.
  • Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar covered up their son’s offenses until an anonymous tip launched a police investigation in late 2006.
  • Rumors of the abuse appeared online as early as 2007.
  • The Duggar’s continue to cover up the story, in order to protect their lucrative television series, until InTouch magazine broke the story.

No Way To Treat A Lady

Unless you were visiting another solar system this week, you’re aware that Caitlyn Jenner made her debut on the cover and in the pages of Vanity Fair.

The same right-wingers who defended Dennis Hastert and Josh Duggar — one accused and one admitted child molester — wasted no time attacking Caitlyn Jenner who hasn’t hurt anyone, and whose main crime appears to be … well … nothing.

To get things rolling, Glenn Beck claimed that no conservatives have objected to Jenner’s transition.

“I wish you happiness,” Beck said. “I don’t hate Bruce or Caitlyn and I don’t know anybody who does. What’s so striking here is, if you’re a liberal, you would expect there to be a massive outrage, especially since he came out and said he was conservative … Have you heard any push back from any conservative? You didn’t hear any of that.”

Where to begin?

And then there was Twitter.

Here’s the best of the rest of the worst in wingnuttia this week:

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