Security experts and many Americans alike are blasting an attack by the mainstream media giant Politico against Vice President Kamala Harris, an attack that comes amid revelations of a study in The Washington Post showing just how unfairly negative the press has been in its coverage of President Joe Biden and his administration. As it turns out, Politico, a major player in DC politics, is effectively owned by a million-dollar donor to Donald Trump.
The anger which spread through social media late Monday night was fueled by a tweet from Politico’s White House reporter Alex Thompson, who shows Vice President Harris in four different images using corded headphones instead of wireless ones. According to Thompson, co-author of the piece, the Vice President has a “Bluetooth phobia,” and co-wrote a story titled, “Kamala Harris is Bluetooth-phobic.”
NEW: Kamala Harris has long felt that Bluetooth headphones are a security risk.
So, she insists on using wired ones, 3 fmr campaign aides told @rubycramer and me.
That Bluetooth phobia remains (if you look closely, you’ll see the clump of wires in hand)https://t.co/9poyMTQrU2 pic.twitter.com/HtscTWm1sF
— Alex Thompson (@AlexThomp) December 6, 2021
Outrage was swift, with many asking how this could even possibly rate as a valid “news” story amid a nation whose democracy is crumbling as it battles a global pandemic, rising fascism, an attempted coup, a decades-long plot to curtail reproductive, voting, minority, and sexual minority rights, climate change, inflation and massive wealth inequality, in a political climate that some fear may lead to actual civil war.
Others, especially intelligence and national security experts slammed Politico and the article’s authors, noting just how potentially dangerous Bluetooth headphones actually are from a security perspective.
But Thompson was undeterred, defending the article at every turn.
“Former aides say that VP has long been careful about security — w/ some describing it as prudent & others suggesting it’s a bit paranoid,” he tweeted Monday. “A former aide from AG days said when a person arrived for a meeting, staff were instructed not to allow them to wait in Harris’ office alone.”
Politico in October was sold to the German media conglomerate Axel Springer, reportedly for about $1 billion. Axel Springer, which has been described as “conservative” and by casual observers “right wing,” is majority-owned by the U.S.-based investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR), whose founders are known for historic, massive leveraged buyouts.
Henry Kravis is a million-dollar Trump donor, according to Forbes.
Dana Milbank is the author of the Washington Post piece that exposes just how poorly the mainstream media has covered the Biden administration. On Sunday he happened to tweet about Politico:
It’s interesting that Germany’s Axel Springer completed its takeover of Politico on Oct. 18, and that’s exactly when Politico took its sharply negative turn against Biden. Maybe this explains the pushback from @RyanLizza
— Dana Milbank (@Milbank) December 5, 2021
Chad Loder has been described by The Intercept as “a tech company founder and cybersecurity expert from Los Angeles who posts meticulous, open-source investigations of local right-wing extremists on a Twitter feed with more than 100,000 followers.” He’s also written articles like “Should you hold employees accountable for cyber security?” (yes, in short, by the way.)
Here’s how he responded to the Politico piece:
I’m a recognized security expert who holds 7 patents in computer security.
Kamala Harris is absolutely right about the security risk, and the word “phobia” has no place in the discourse.
— Chad Loder (they/them) (@chadloder) December 7, 2021
Byron Tau, who writes about national security for The Wall Street Journal, explained why Bluetooth is a security risk:
“Bluetooth peripherals are a security risk. If they don’t rotate their unique identifier, they can easily be sniffed and tracked. If there are flaws in the security, they can be compromised. Most people don’t have to worry about these things but high level federal officials should,” he said via Twitter.
Magdi Semrau, a journalist who writes about science, politics, and culture, responded to Thompson and his co-author Ruby Cramer, pointing to an article titled: “Sorry, readers. Your Bluetooth device is a security risk.”
It’s not a phobia https://t.co/wHCyezH32J
— Magdi Semrau (@magi_jay) December 7, 2021
A former chief of staff for the White House National Space Council offered some anecdotal evidence of Bluetooth use curtailment, and asked, “what is the point of this article?”
I’m still thinking about this story from @politico. If you go into a SCIF, you aren’t even allowed to have bluetooth hearing aids. I knew people that worked in the White House in sensitive NatSec jobs that didn’t even own smart phones. Like, what is the point of this article? https://t.co/i08yiMHIy5
— Jared Zambrano-Stout (@Space_Jared) December 7, 2021
Referring to Hillary Clinton, former Media Matters senior fellow Jamison Foser asked Thompson and Cramer: “Did you consider including for context in this piece the fact that another high-profile woman was the subject of years of obsessive media coverage about supposed security risks in her communications practices as a high-ranking government official?”
Sherrilyn Ifill, the highly-respected President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) asked what many were thinking:
How is this a story? https://t.co/gJGRdsSgUr
— Sherrilyn Ifill (@Sifill_LDF) December 7, 2021
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Grassley Slammed for Turning Photo With Iowa Family Who Drove 856 Miles to DC Into ‘Cheap Political Talking Point’
Seven-term Republican U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, who has served the people of Iowa since 1959, is being criticized for using a photo of a family from his home state who drove all the way to Washington, D.C. He suggested they complained about the price of gas after their long journey, and his caption on the photo of him with the family ties into his campaign re-election talking points.
Senator Grassley, 88, who is running for re-election and known for a unique style of tweeting, posted this on Monday:
Met w the Sparlin family from Preston today. They drove to DC from Iowa so we talked about soaring ga$ price$ pic.twitter.com/OKVvCPwWHY
— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) June 6, 2022
That same day Grassley posted this tweet about gas prices, a common GOP talking point they are falsely blaming on President Joe Biden.
— Grassley Works (@GrassleyWorks) June 6, 2022
Writer, activist, former press secretary and communications director Charlotte Clymer blasted Senator Grassley, saying the family deserved “a hell of a lot better” than to be used for “a cheap and ridiculous political talking point.”
I feel really bad for this family. These folks drove 14 hours to witness the majesty of American democracy only to have their senator reduce that effort to a cheap and ridiculous political talking point. They deserve a hell of a lot better than that, Sir.
— Charlotte Clymer 🏳️⚧️🇺🇦 (@cmclymer) June 7, 2022
Other responses to the photo of Grassey and the Iowa family pointed out the obvious fact that if their goal was to talk about the price of gas they could have saved a 13 hour and 26-minute drive, each way (according to Google Maps) and just picked up the phone or met their Senator in a local office.
They DROVE to dc to talk about GAS PRICES
— Santiago Mayer (@santiagomayer_) June 7, 2022
Why would you even post this? They drove from Iowa to DC to discuss GAS prices? Is THIS the level of intellect it takes to vote for a “Grassley”?
— Phil (@Philmachinist) June 7, 2022
Did they ask grassley why he voted against a bill that would have prevented gouging by oil companies?
— @eva (@evaingrid599) June 7, 2022
If gas prices are causing you financial problems, driving 1720 miles to complain about them seems 🤔
Esp when Senator Grassley takes phone calls & e-mails & has an office 47 miles from your town.
Also, 41 years is too long to be in same elected office. Even if it were my dad! pic.twitter.com/uGkzXkWxLc
— Kat O’Brien (@OBrien_Kat) June 7, 2022
Did you explain why Republicans voted against the gas price gouging bill?#RecordOilProfits
— Sarah Meinzer☮️ (@sarah_meinzer) June 6, 2022
Worldwide gas prices?? pic.twitter.com/pHAdMJnirO
— Becky Paige (@yellowpaiges) June 7, 2022
— cowboytexas🇺🇸🌊 (@cowboytexas) June 6, 2022
He was in Iowa recently. They could’ve saved some money…
— 🐾Misfit of House Moderna🐾 (@jenjenkra) June 7, 2022
‘Find a Spine’: State Farm Criticized After Celebrating Pride Then Dropping Program Supporting LGBTQ Books in Schools
Over the past year, insurance giant State Farm has posted ten tweets supporting LGBTQ people, programs, and organizations, as recently as last week:
When we talk about mental health, we take away the stigma. For #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth, learn about challenges faced by LGBTQ+ youth in the new 2022 national survey on LGBTQ+ youth mental health from @TrevorProject: https://t.co/KQ74fWPDvx
— State Farm (@StateFarm) May 19, 2022
The $79 billion company will turn 100 years old next month, which coincidentally is LGBTQ Pride Month. It has made strong statements in support of LGBTQ equality and diversity. Just last June they tweeted: “We believe no one should be afraid to celebrate who they are. Let’s support our LGBTQ+ neighbors and show our Pride together!” They even tagged the tweet with their own corporate branding, using #GoodNeighbor and #PrideMonth hastags.
— State Farm (@StateFarm) June 8, 2021
So many were left stunned when the Illinois-based corporation’s chief diversity officer sent an email to employees and agents, as The Daily Beast reports, stating it was dropping its “support of a philanthropic program, GenderCool,” saying it “has been the subject of news and customer inquiries.”
The program helps put LGBTQ-inclusive books into libraries and schools.
“This program that included books about gender identity was intended to promote inclusivity,” Victor Terry continued. “We will no longer support that program.”
And in an apparent bowing down to rising far right-wing extremism and anti-LGBTQ hate, the diversity expert declared, “conversations about gender and identity should happen at home with parents.”
The right-wing outlet Washington Examiner on Monday, as part of a series titled “Restoring America” published a report on State Farm’s support of LGBTQ students: “Backlash prompts State Farm to end program donating trans books to schools.” That article was a follow-up to one the very same day titled, “State Farm donating transgender books for 5-year-olds to schools in Florida.”
Here’s what those two pieces look like:
Outrage over State Farm’s “180” was immediate.
Well-known LGBTQ Activist and writer Charlotte Clymer explained via her Substack platform:
Last night, State Farm, the insurance company, gave up on LGBTQ rights after being pressured by hateful extremists.
So much for being a good neighbor. I wrote about it here.https://t.co/m5VD6Nu2qA
— Charlotte Clymer 🏳️⚧️🇺🇦 (@cmclymer) May 24, 2022
Parker Molloy, also a well-known LGBTQ activist and writer, blasted State Farm.
Since the company is so clearly and easily moved by public backlash, State Farm customers should call their agent and cancel their policies.
— Parker Molloy (@ParkerMolloy) May 24, 2022
She adds: “One of the reasons this is getting to me so much has to do with the fact that my dad (who is great and accepting, etc.) is a State Farm agent. That company has been a part of my life for as long as I’ve been alive.”
Bobby Lewis, who writes for Media Matters, tweeted, “something as anodyne as a fucking insurance company buying kids books turned into another fascist outrage campaign, and the corporate cowards caved in a second. it’s pathetic.”
He wasn’t finished, adding: “corporate pride is all window dressing that will never save anyone, but goddamn find a spine you sniveling cowards.”
Veteran journalist Michelangelo Signorile, host of the SiriusXM Progress’ “Signorile Show” and writer of The Signorile Report newsletter calls State Farm’s actions “grotesque as LGBTQ rights are backsliding across the country. Now companies joining Ron DeSantis, MAGA and the ‘don’t say gay’ purge.”
i’ll be canceling the State Farm insurance, switching to another company. You should too.
— Michelangelo Signorile (@MSignorile) May 24, 2022
— Colleen •WearAMask• Barry 🇺🇦🌻 (@Cbeary1608) May 24, 2022
.@StateFarm is a horrible neighbor to LGBTQ families.
— John Pavlovitz (@johnpavlovitz) May 24, 2022
Like your bigoted, racist neighbor, State Farm is there. https://t.co/KbHbFGH6yX
— Lesley Abravanel (@lesleyabravanel) May 24, 2022
So @StateFarm = cowards. Teaching kids about different identities is suicide prevention. Comprehensive sex education prevents *actual* grooming. Don’t listen to right-wing pundits and bitter transphobes. State Farm should double down, not back off. GenderCool does important work.
— Finley Daniels ☭🇵🇸 (he/him) (@FinleyDaniels1) May 24, 2022
State Farm is caving to the bigots and bullies and helping them erase LGBTQ children.https://t.co/pzZXZ8oqAE
— John Pavlovitz (@johnpavlovitz) May 24, 2022
There is no greater cowardice than giving into hate out of financial convenience.
When you appease homophobes, you empower homophobia and put LGBTQ families at risk. https://t.co/Nfcm5gZv1v
— Melanie D’Arrigo for NY03 (@DarrigoMelanie) May 24, 2022
— Erica French Csapo (@EricaCsapo) May 24, 2022
‘Sordid, Corrupt, Lawless’: Experts Call New Ginni Thomas Revelations ‘Breathtaking’ and Ask ‘What Did Her Husband Know?’
The latest revelations about the actions of Ginni Thomas, the far right wing activist, lobbyist, and spouse of a sitting U.S. Supreme Court justice who had unprecedented access to the Trump White House are leading experts to demand Clarence Thomas’ recusal while calling the combination of their actions “breathtaking corruption,” and noting the Justice’s extraordinary hypocrisy.
Later Friday morning The Washington Post reported that Ginni Thomas pressed two Arizona lawmakers to overturn the will of Arizona’s voters in the 2020 presidential election by choosing a “clean” slate of electors, representing Donald Trump and not Joe Biden. The Post notes Thomas did not mention any candidate by name but reports “the context was clear.”
“Before you choose your state’s Electors … consider what will happen to the nation we all love if you don’t stand up and lead,” an email bearing Ginni Thomas’ name, sent to the Arizona lawmakers, reads.
It included a link to a video of a man delivering a message meant for swing-state lawmakers, urging them to “put things right” and “not give in to cowardice.”
“You have only hours to act,” said the speaker, who is not identified in the video.
Thomas also pressed Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to work to overturn the election, as has been widely reported.
Her efforts, combined with Justice Thomas’ actions on the Supreme Court, amount to “breathtaking corruption,” writes Slate’s legal expert Mark Joseph Stern.
“The conflict of interest between Ginni and Clarence Thomas has never been greater. While Clarence was applying the ‘independent state legislature doctrine’ from the bench, Ginni was using the exact same theory to try to overturn the 2020 election. Just breathtaking corruption,” Stern says.
Clarence Thomas’ continued service on the Supreme Court is a scandalous and appalling breach of judicial ethics. He is implementing the exact same theories that his wife used to try to steal the 2020 election for Trump. It is sordid, corrupt, and lawless in the extreme.
— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) May 20, 2022
To be clear, I put “independent state legislature doctrine” in quotes because it’s a baseless theory that shouldn’t be taken seriously. It is precisely what Ginni Thomas describes in that email, though she didn’t use the academic name for it. Read more: https://t.co/6Hwvb1Q6ES
— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) May 20, 2022
Former federal prosecutor Joyce Vance, now an NBC News/MSNBC legal analyst and law professor, issued a strong warning:
“Either Justice Thomas recuses in every case that comes to the Court where his wife is heavily involved in the action or the public’s confidence in the Court will be damaged beyond repair.”
Reuters reporter covering the U.S. Supreme Court, Lawrence Hurley:
“I wonder how long we’re going to have these institutions at the rate we’re undermining them,” Justice Clarence Thomas, Ginni’s husband, said last week https://t.co/MQNH8YDupn
— Lawrence Hurley (@lawrencehurley) May 20, 2022
Former federal corruption prosecutor Noah Bookbinder, who is president of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) says it is “outrageous” Justice Thomas has refused to recuse:
“New evidence that Ginni Thomas’s participation in efforts to overturn the 2020 election was even greater than we knew; in this case pressure on AZ legislators to overturn that state’s vote. Makes it even more outrageous that Justice Thomas did not recuse.”
“Wow!” exclaimed Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and former New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. “Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, pressed Arizona legislators to overturn Biden’s win and choose a ‘clean slate of electors.’ In other words, she supported a coup to overthrow an elected president. What did her husband know?”
Economist and frequent political commentator David Rothschild observes, “Ginni Thomas was conspiring with high ranking Republicans to overturn [the] republic, and her husband was either privy to or actively involved in this conspiracy before using his position to coverup his wife’s role.”
Former SDNY Asst. U.S. Attorney Richard Signorelli sums up:
“clean slate of Electors” = sedition
Ginni Thomas = psycho https://t.co/UGygIBpaPu
— Richard Signorelli (@richsignorelli) May 20, 2022
Image by Gage Skidmore via Flickr and a CC license
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