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An Open Letter To U.S. Representative Virginia Foxx

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Even Matthew Shepard’s
Murderer
Apologized

 

 

 

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Dear Representative Foxx,

It’s been ten years, seven months, and fifteen days since the night Matthew Shepard was savagely beaten, tortured, pistol-whipped so badly his skull was crushed, and, yes, robbed, and tied to a fence for eighteen hours in freezing temperatures, during which he sank into a coma before dying five days later. It is four weeks to the day since you stood on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives and delivered your now infamous speech to your fellow Congressmen, constituents, the media, and, yes, watching from the House gallery, Matthew Shepard’s mother.

On that hallowed floor, Dr. Foxx, you said, and I quote, “The hate crimes bill that’s called the Matthew Shepard Bill is named after a very unfortunate incident that happened where a young man was killed, but we know that that young man was killed in the commitment of a robbery. It wasn’t because he was gay. This – the bill was named for him, hate crimes bill was named for him, but it’s really a hoax that that continues to be used as an excuse for passing these bills.”

Facts, Representative Foxx, are facts. They’re not malleable. They don’t change based on your opinion or that of your sources. They are “pragmatic truths”. And they can’t be cherry-picked to flesh-out a version of events that suit one’s purpose. Dr. Foxx, when you stood in front of your country and the world, on that Wednesday afternoon two weeks ago, however, that’s exactly what you did.

You may believe you have apologized, but you have not. You simply apologized for your choice of words. You apologized for semantics. You did not, however, apologize for the fact that you maligned the memory of a twenty-one year old, five-foot four-inch boy who weighted barely more than one hundred pounds. You did not apologize for getting the facts wrong. You added your voice to a lie. And that is unacceptable.

It is unacceptable to millions of Americans, some of whom, in North Carolina, you represent directly. It is unacceptable to millions of people around the world who hold the memory, and the very idea of what Matthew Shepard represents, in our hearts. It is unacceptable to me. And it is unacceptable to the nearly two thousand people, some of whom are your constituents, who very quickly after you spoke those now infamous, horrific words, joined a group dedicated to securing your resignation.

Representative Foxx, after reading your public statements, your voting history, and seeing the very manner in which you serve the people of North Carolina and this country, we do not believe that you understand the gravity of your actions, or the gravity of your office. You may be the elected representative of the Fifth District in North Carolina, but you are a United States Congresswoman. And as a United States Congresswoman, when you speak, America hears not the Representative from the Fifth District of North Carolina, America hears a United States Congresswoman.

We know you sent a letter of apology to Judy Shepard, and said, “If I said anything that offended her, I certainly apologize for it and know that she’s hurting, and I would never do anything to add to that.” But, Representative Foxx, you did. And you wounded millions of Americans with your uninformed and ugly rhetoric, you violated the trust placed in an elected official of The United States, and you violated the memory of Matthew Shepard. Saying “if” demonstrated, in yet one more poorly chosen word, your lack of understanding of the pain you have caused victims of hate crimes, their families, friends, and loved ones. Saying “if” demonstrated your lack of understanding of the significance of your office.

How can you deny facts, so many facts, not set the record straight, not say you were wrong? Even Russell Henderson, one of Matthew Shepard’s murderers, in the very ABC News 20/20 article you based your statement on, apologized. Dr. Foxx, we need a real apology, a real statement that says you understand the facts of the Matthew Shepard murder, and the reason it was, in fact, a hate crime. And we need you to understand that hate crimes are real crimes, far worse than isolated murders and violent attacks. As a lawmaker, you need to understand the difference between a crime and a hate crime.

A hate crime, in the words of conservative columnist Kathleen Parker, “is really two crimes — one against the individual and another against the group to which he belongs. By that definition, Shepard’s murder may be viewed as a terrorist act against all gays, who would have felt more fearful as a result.”

Perhaps, Dr. Foxx, not having been part of an oppressed minority, it is difficult for you to understand what it’s like to feel the fear of others who have suffered, knowing that, you, too, might one day befall the same fate, merely for the color of your skin, or your heritage, or for simply how you appear. What could possibly be worse than not supporting the idea of protecting those who need protection the most? Isn’t that what America stands for? Isn’t that the reason we, over the course of more than two centuries, have many times gone to war? How can you not support something so simple and so human as wanting to ensure all Americans feel free from the danger and harm that hatred can bring?

Representative Foxx, I invite you to reexamine your comments about Matthew Shepard. We need you to correct the record, apologize for the hurt and pain caused by not only your words, but by your position on the murder of Matthew Shepard and by your position on hate crimes. Apologize, and tell the truth: Matthew Shepard’s murder was a hate crime. If you feel these requests are too unimportant, then, Representative Foxx, you should consider the needs of the people of North Carolina and America, and let someone else, anyone who has the temerity for truth, take your place. Because, if you cannot realize that your understanding of the Matthew Shepard murder was wrong, that your words and your response were hurtful, and that your position on hate crimes is hateful, you may still be qualified to “hold office,” but you are in no way qualified to represent any part of this great country.

Sincerely,

David Badash
Founder,
FireFoxx

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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

Principal Ordered Librarian to Take Down Holocaust Survivor’s Famous Quote Just Days Before Holocaust Remembrance Day

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A Pennsylvania principal drew criticism last week after telling a Bucks County school librarian to take down posters with a famous quote by Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Peace Prize winning human rights activist, professor, and Holocaust survivor, just days before Holocaust Remembrance Day. The Central Bucks School District reportedly has ties to an organization that appears on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of anti-LGBTQ hate groups.

Despite being under investigation by the U.S. Dept. of Education’s Office of Civil Rights after an ACLU complaint, the Central Bucks School District earlier this month voted 6-3 to pass “a contentious policy that bans teachers from engaging in ‘advocacy activities’ and displaying inclusive symbols like Pride flags in their classrooms,” WHYY reported earlier this month.

Citing that new rule, known as Policy 321, the school principal told Central Bucks High School South librarian Matt Pecic to take down four posters that displayed Wiesel’s famous quote from his 1986 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, WHYY reports.

“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented,” Wiesel said.

READ MORE: $1 Billion Campaign From Group ‘Linked to Staunchly Conservative Causes’ Will Try to ‘Redeem Jesus’ Brand’ in Super Bowl Ads

The principal reportedly told Pecic if he did not comply human resources would have to get involved. Pecic, who has worked for the school district for three decades, met with the principal accompanied by his union representative.

“If I didn’t take it down, I knew there would be consequences that could impact me,” Pecic said. “It’s a horrible feeling. And you feel like you have to do something that you don’t agree with.”

Making the issue even more difficult, “Pecic’s ninth-grade daughter, a Central Bucks student at Holicong Middle School, originally emailed him the quote,” WHYY reports.

“This is where I get choked up,” Pecic said. “She said that ‘this quote reminds me of you.’”

Pecic describes himself as someone who often speaks up, “if I disagree with something, especially if I think it’s not for the benefit of students, I will say something.”

On Thursday, after uproar from the community, the district stepped in and allowed the posters with Wiesel’s quote to be put back up.

READ MORE: Trump-Aligned Christian Nationalist Group ‘Taps Into Unholy Well’ That Threatens Democracy

“We regret that the decision was made to remove it,” the district said in a statement, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported,  “and in a manner that promotes not only the importance of the novel, but continued awareness and education surrounding the Holocaust and its National Day of Remembrance this coming Friday. The district apologizes for any hurt or concerns this has caused, particularly for those in the Jewish community.”

The Central Bucks School District hired a public relations firm, Devine + Partners, at the cost of $15,000 a month, “in an attempt to repair strained public relations and improve the school district’s image,” The Buck’s County Herald reported last summer.

Devine + Partners was hired to help after “a series of executive decisions made by the Central Bucks School District, most of which appear targeted towards the LGBTQ+ student body.”

“This includes the removal of Pride Flags in the classroom, under the justification that they were political symbols, and as such, not fit for the classroom. It also includes only allowing students to attend Human Growth and Development classes that matched with their assigned genders at birth, and pausing said classes shortly after they began, effectively outing these students to their teachers and peers.”

READ MORE: McCarthy Sat for an Interview With Trump Jr. – One Bragged About an ‘Illegal’ Act, One Wished His Dad Would ‘Show Some’ Love

WHYY is a separate report notes on Monday that the Central Bucks School District has ties to an anti-LGBTQ hate group, the Family Research Council.

The district is currently reviewing five books after rolling out a new, harsh policy “which aims to keep books that a yet-to-be-determined group might deem ‘inappropriate’ for unspecified ‘sexualized content’ out of school libraries,” WHYY reported in July.

“Recent updates to the policy were reviewed by a conservative Christian law firm, Independence Law Center, as first reported by the Bucks County Courier Times,” WHYY adds. “The Independence Law Center is the legal arm of the Pennsylvania Family Institute, which is a statewide branch of the national organization Family Research Council, an anti-LGBTQ Christian nationalist group designated as an extremist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.”

Earlier this month NBC 10 Philadelphia reported on the passage of Policy 321 by the school board. Watch below or at this link.

 

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Criminal Charges Against Trump Possible as Manhattan DA Presents Grand Jury With Evidence in Hush Money Probe

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Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has empaneled a special grand jury and prosecutors are now presenting evidence against Donald Trump in their revived investigation into hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels and one other woman during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Calling it “a dramatic escalation of an inquiry that once appeared to have reached a dead end,” The New York Times reports the Manhattan DA is “laying the groundwork for potential criminal charges against the former president in the coming months,” and says it “a clear signal” that Bragg “is nearing a decision about whether to charge Mr. Trump.”

Among the witnesses testifying is David Pecker, “the former publisher of The National Enquirer, the tabloid that helped broker the deal” with Daniels.

READ MORE: $1 Billion Campaign From Group ‘Linked to Staunchly Conservative Causes’ Will Try to ‘Redeem Jesus’ Brand’ in Super Bowl Ads

Prosecutors have also contacted members of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, and have subpoenaed phone records and other documents that could provide evidence.

But The Times notes that a “conviction is not a sure thing, in part because a case could hinge on showing that Mr. Trump and his company falsified records to hide the payout from voters days before the 2016 election, a low-level felony charge that would be based on a largely untested legal theory. The case would also rely on the testimony of Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former fixer who made the payment and who himself pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the hush money in 2018.”

Cohen broke with Trump and in 2016, “made the extraordinary admission in court on Tuesday that Mr. Trump had directed him to arrange payments to two women during the 2016 campaign to keep them from speaking publicly about affairs they said they had with Mr. Trump,” The Times reported in 2018.

The payments were made “for the principal purpose of influencing the election” for president in 2016, Cohen testified.

He was sentenced to 36 months in prison.

“Days before then-President Donald Trump left the White House, federal prosecutors in New York discussed whether to potentially charge Trump with campaign finance crimes once he was out of office,” CNN reported on Friday, citing a new book from CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig.

But they “decided to not seek an indictment of Trump for several reasons, Honig writes, including the political ramifications and the fact that Trump’s other scandals, such as efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election and the January 6, 2021, insurrection, ‘made the campaign finance violations seem somehow trivial and outdated by comparison.'”

Award-winning journalist and author Brian Karem tweeted: “As someone who worked extensively with [Michael Cohen] on the book ‘Revenge’ I can say this: Facts show that the MOST dangerous criminal case against Donald Trump could be made by the Manhattan D.A.”

Read The Times’ full report here.

This article has been updated to include Brian Karem’s tweet.

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$1 Billion Campaign From Group ‘Linked to Staunchly Conservative Causes’ Will Try to ‘Redeem Jesus’ Brand’ in Super Bowl Ads

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From electric vehicles to cosmetics, and even the word “mummy,” there is a lot of rebranding going on.

Bowing to anger from right-wingers and conservative commentators, M&M’s decided to rebrand the decades-old multi-colored candies after outrage over its latest addition, purple, and its new “spokescandy,” also named “Purple.”

“Roughly a year ago, Mars Wrigley updated the look of its M&M’s characters, announcing an initiative to make the mascots fit a ‘more dynamic, progressive world.’ As part of these changes, the company introduced new designs of some of M&M’s characters and wrote weirdly elaborate backstories for others. Most notably, the company made the green M&M less ‘sexy’ by shortening her legs and replacing her high-heeled boots with sneakers,” Vox Media’s Polygon reported last week.

Fox News personality Tucker Carlson infamously has waged war on the “woke” spokescandies, declaring at one point, “M&M’s will not be satisfied until every last cartoon character is deeply unappealing and totally androgynous.”

Fast forward to now: Actress and comedian Maya Rudolph is their new spokesperson, although the “spokescandies,” perhaps after some additional rebranding, will be returning in a new ad on Super Bowl Sunday.

Which brings us to the rebranding of another icon: Jesus Christ.

He too will be part of the Super Bowl Sunday ads.

READ MORE: Trump-Aligned Christian Nationalist Group ‘Taps Into Unholy Well’ That Threatens Democracy

Over the next three years a $1 billion mostly-dark-money campaign – which reportedly will include funds from billionaire right wing anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ funder David Green, the founder of Hobby Lobby – will promote Jesus in ads, including during the Super Bowl on February 12. Those two Super Bowl ads to “to redeem Jesus’ brand” will cost $20 million, Religion News Service reports.

The campaign to promote Jesus includes $100 million in ads declaring “He Gets Us,” from “the Servant Foundation, an Overland Park, Kansas, nonprofit that does business as The Signatry,” RNS adds.

The “donors backing the campaign have until recently remained anonymous — in early 2022, organizers only told Religion News Service that funding came from ‘like-minded families who desire to see the Jesus of the Bible represented in today’s culture with the same relevance and impact He had 2000 years ago.'”

But the full list of donors remains unknown.

“Jason Vanderground, president of Haven, a branding firm based in Grand Haven, Michigan, that is working on the ‘He Gets Us’ campaign, confirmed that the Greens are one of the major funders, among a variety of donors and families who have gotten behind it.”

READ MORE: Pelosi Attack Video Release Leads to Criticism of Musk, Right Wingers Who ‘Trafficked in Homophobic Conspiracy Nonsense’

In a Washington Post interview last year, Vanderground “said Christians see their faith as the greatest love story, but those outside the faith see Christians as a hate group.”

But rather than try to convince self-identified followers of Christ to act as Jesus would want, right-wing interests are spending $1 billion to convince others of what Christianity is supposed to be about.

“Our research shows that many people’s only exposure to Jesus is through Christians who reflect him imperfectly, and too often in ways that create a distorted or incomplete picture of his radical compassion and love for others,” Vanderground told The Washington Post. “We believe it’s more important now than ever for the real, authentic Jesus to be represented in the public marketplace as he is in the Bible.”

Some are not impressed, and are more-or-less asking, “What would Jesus do?”

“They are latching on to this touchy-feely, conveniently vague, designer Jesus,” podcaster, author, and secular activist Seth Andrews told RNS. Andrews “poses the question of what Jesus would think of the amount of money spent on the ads. Would he prefer that the money be spent on ministering to people’s physical needs or making the world a better place?”

READ MORE: McCarthy Sat for an Interview With Trump Jr. – One Bragged About an ‘Illegal’ Act, One Wished His Dad Would ‘Show Some’ Love

“Or would he say, no, go ahead and spend $100 million to tell everybody how great I am?”

On-air, CNN said, “at first blush, it can all read like a stand against radical right-wing politics and related divisiveness,” but adds that “some are calling this a ‘right-wing stunt for politics.'”

“‘He Gets Us’ is funded by anonymous donors acting through a Kansas non-profit linked to staunchly conservative causes,” CNN’s report (video below) notes, saying it “raises alarms for some skeptics.”

Watch CNN’s report below or at this link.

Image: Romolo Tavani/Shutterstock

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