Analysis Politics

GOP Representative Prays for Fetuses, Mocks Obama’s Tears

Jenn Stanley

U.S. Rep. Steve King gave his seat to the "lives of more than 55 million aborted babies" at the president's final State of the Union Address in defiance of Obama's push for stricter gun laws.

All of the leading Republican presidential candidates have taken a hardline stance against stricter gun laws. They’ve also taken a stand on eroding reproductive rights.

It came as little surprise to political observers that after the White House announced Michelle Obama would set aside a chair in her guest box at the president’s final State of the Union address in memory of “victims of gun violence who no longer have a voice,” many prominent Republicans used it as an opportunity to talk about their opposition to abortion rights.

Presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) had this to say:

The issue escalated on Tuesday, when U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-IA), a prominent anti-choice legislator and Cruz backer, responded to Obama’s gesture by setting aside his own chair for the “lives of more than 55 million aborted babies.”

In lieu of attending the State of the Union speech, King said he would be in the members’ chapel “praying for God to raise up a leader whom he will use to restore the Soul of America.”

King denounced Obama’s policies on reproductive rights and joined the chorus of Republican voices who mocked Obama for shedding tears at his speech last week announcing executive actions to expand background checks on gun purchases.

“President Obama’s first official act, immediately upon his inauguration was to sign an executive order to accelerate abortions world-wide,” King said in a statement, referring to Obama’s reversal of a Bush-era policy that banned the United States from funding international family planning providers that offered abortions or abortion counseling. “The first tears we have seen him shed in seven years were for the victims of the tragic Sandy Hook School shooting. As far as we know, Obama has never shed a single tear for even one of the more than 9 million babies aborted under his watch.”

In light of King’s voting record on gun policies, this kind of comparison comes off as hypocritical, as advocates have argued in recent years.

He supported an amendment that would prohibit federal funds from being used to strengthen or enforce gun restrictions in Washington, D.C.; he voted yes to a 2011 bill that would have required states to recognize permits issued by another state authorizing the concealed carry of a firearm; and he voted yes to 2003’s Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which keeps gun manufacturers free from liability when crimes are committed with their products.

Other attempts to reform gun laws, such as those requiring waiting periods for gun purchases, have little hope of passing in states with GOP-controlled legislatures, where women often face forced waiting periods before having an abortion. In Missouri, where state Rep. Stacey Newman (D-St. Louis) has proposed one such bill, toddlers had shot more people than in any other state in 2015. In 31 of the 43 nationwide shootings by toddlers, the toddler found a gun and accidentally shot him or herself, according to a Washington Post investigation.

Many Republicans jumped at the chance to criticize the president when he was overcome with emotion while talking about the first-grade victims of the Sandy Hook massacre. GOP lawmakers are now trying to use it as leverage in the abortion debate. As clinic violence escalates, many Republicans have remained quiet or have condemned the violence without recognizing the anti-choice rhetoric that advocates believe has fueled the attacks.

Some prominent anti-choice activists and politicians used the deadly shooting at a Colorado Springs clinic as an opportunity to equate abortion and gun violence. Just hours after the shooting, anti-choice group Personhood USA released a statement that included equivocal condemnation of violence.

“Personhood USA absolutely opposes all abortion-related violence, against born and unborn people,” Personhood USA’s Jennifer Mason said in the statement. “That said, the media is failing to report that innocent babies are killed in that very building every day that they are in business. Please join me in praying that the people inside, along with the babies in their mothers’ wombs, are released safely.”

Former Arkansas governor and GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee after the Colorado Springs shooting compared the killings to what he believes happens inside the Planned Parenthood facility.

“There’s no excuse for killing other people, whether it’s happening inside the Planned Parenthood headquarters, inside their clinics where many millions of babies die, or whether it’s people attacking Planned Parenthood,” Huckabee said on CNN’s State of the Union.

Actor and reproductive rights activist Martha Plimpton explored that hypocrisy of anti-choice legislators who oppose gun regulations in an October 2015 op-ed in the Guardian.

“For the personhood of embryos, they draft legislation. For the safety of living, playing, laughing children, they do nothing,” Plimpton wrote. “The potential dreams of a not-yet-sentient organism are paramount – not because it is a human life, as demonstrated by their lack of commitment to actual living humans, but because it is inside of a woman.”

News Politics

Former Klan Leader on Senate Run: My Views Are Now the ‘GOP Mainstream’

Teddy Wilson

David Duke has been a fervent supporter of the Trump campaign, and has posted dozens of messages in support of Trump on Twitter. Duke has often used the hashtag #TrumpWasRight.

David Duke, convicted felon, white supremacist, and former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, announced Friday that he will run for U.S. Senate in Louisiana, Roll Call reported.

Duke said that after a “great outpouring of overwhelming support,” he will campaign for the open Senate seat vacated by former Republican Sen. David Vitter, who lost a bid for Louisiana governor in a runoff election.

Duke’s announcement comes the day after Donald Trump accepted the GOP nomination in the midst of growing tensions over race relations across the country. Trump has been criticized during the campaign for his rhetoric, which, his critics say, mainstreams white nationalism and provokes anxiety and fear among students of color.

His statements about crime and immigration, particularly about immigrants from Mexico and predominantly Muslim countries, have been interpreted by outlets such as the New York Times as speaking to some white supporters’ “deeper and more elaborate bigotry.”

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Duke said in his campaign announcement that he was the first candidate to promote the policy of “America first,” echoing a line from Trump’s nomination acceptance speech on Thursday night.

“The most important difference between our plan and that of our opponents, is that our plan will put America First,” Trump said Thursday night. “As long as we are led by politicians who will not put America First, then we can be assured that other nations will not treat America with respect.”

Duke said his platform has become “the GOP mainstream” and claimed credit for propelling Republicans to control of Congress in 2010. He said he is “overjoyed to see Donald Trump … embrace most of the issues I’ve championed for years.”

Trump in February declined to disavow the support of a white supremacist group and Duke, saying he knew “nothing about David Duke” and knew “nothing about white supremacists.” He later clarified that he rejected their support, and blamed his initial failure to disavow Duke on a “bad earpiece.”

Trump’s candidacy has also brought to light brought many incidents of anti-Semitism, much of which has been directed at journalists and commentators covering the presidential campaign.

Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro wrote in the National Review that Trump’s nomination has “drawn anti-Semites from the woodwork,” and that the Republican nominee has been willing to “channel the support of anti-Semites to his own ends.”

Duke took to Twitter after Trump’s acceptance speech Thursday to express his support for the Republican nominee’s vision for America.

“Great Trump Speech, America First! Stop Wars! Defeat the Corrupt elites! Protect our Borders!, Fair Trade! Couldn’t have said it better!” Duke tweeted.

Duke has been a fervent Trump supporter, and has posted dozens of messages in support of Trump on Twitter. Duke has often used the hashtag #TrumpWasRight.

Duke was elected to the Louisiana house in 1989, serving one term. Duke was the Republican nominee for governor in 1991, and was defeated by Democrat Edwin Edwards.

Duke, who plead guilty in 2002 to mail fraud and tax fraud, has served a year in federal prison.

News Race

#FreedomNow Protests: Police Union ‘Protects Violent Officers’

Michelle D. Anderson

In New York City, activists called attention to the role the union plays in preventing police accountability. The activists called for the firing a police officer who fatally shot 37-year-old Delrawn Small while off duty in a road rage incident on July 4.

Several activists demanding police accountability were arrested at a local police union building in New York City during a protest that began during Wednesday’s early morning hours.

Organized by the Black Youth Project 100 (BYP 100) NYC, the Million Hoodies Movement for Justice, and The Movement for Black Lives, the protest was held at the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association headquarters building in Lower Manhattan.

The action was part of the two-day #FreedomNow national call for justice for Black lives. The movement seeks to counter failed policing strategies and disparities in health, education, and housing across the United States.

Rahel Mekdim Teka, the organizing chair for BYP 100 NYC, said in a statement Wednesday that police are trying to manipulate conversations on protecting Black lives by leading the public to believe law enforcement officers are at risk.

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Police officers in Louisiana were recently given hate crime protections after the state’s Republican-held legislature passed the so-called Blue Lives Matter bill. Texas is primed to become the next state to give law enforcement officers hate crime protections, even as violence against police has plummeted in recent decades.

“They are not at risk. Police officers are the threat. Police do not keep us safe,” Teka said. “Police do not protect us. They are the danger that keeps Black people unsafe. We [must] divest from institutions that do not value us and instead invest in Black communities.”

In New York City, activists called attention to the role the union plays in preventing police accountability. The activists called for the firing of New York Police Department (NYPD) officer Wayne Isaacs, a three-year veteran of the NYPD who fatally shot 37-year-old Delrawn Small while off duty in a road rage incident on July 4.

Isaacs has been placed on “modified duty” and assigned a desk job while the office of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman investigates Small’s death. The NYPD announced that the officer had been stripped of his gun and shield, the New York Daily News reported.

Monica Dennis, a Black Lives Matter organizer, tweeted protesters’ demands, charging that the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association “only serves to protect violent officers.”

The Million Hoodies Movement for Justice announced that ten activists from its ranks and BYP 100 had been arrested during the protests. The group sought donations for a bail fund that had raised around 70 percent of its $10,000 goal as of 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch issued a statement about the protests and arrests on the union’s Facebook page.

He called the protest “a display of misdirected and misinformed anger that should have been pointed at City Hall, not the police officers who were on hand to protect the demonstrators’ First Amendment rights.”

Lynch criticized protesters for entering the lobby and not dispersing when ordered. He asked local politicians to support police officers and to denounce violence against law enforcement.

The event garnered mass participation at the headquarters, located at the same address as the New York Civil Liberties Union and several private firms.

The New York protest was among several similar actions across the country. In Washington D.C., protesters with BYP 100 DC and Black Lives Matter DC “occupied” the legislative office of the National Fraternal Order of Police, according to a notice on the BYP 100 website.

D.C. protesters wanted officers who supported their fight for justice and accountability to show solidarity by not paying their dues.

On Twitter, Mervyn Marcano, a communications strategist for the Movement for Black Lives, said the successful shutdown in D.C. had lasted more than six hours.

Clarise McCants, an organizer for BYP 100 DC, said in a statement that the FOP functioned like a college fraternity.

“Just like college frats that further rape culture by closing ranks to protect members who are sexual assailants, the FOP has proven that their primary commitment is to protect the worst of their members behind the ‘Blue Wall of Silence’—even in the most heinous of circumstances,” McCants said.