Despite his background as a comedian, Stephen Colbert is known by many of the authors who have appeared on his show as one of the toughest interviewers in the business. But on July 28, when country music superstar Toby Keith stepped on the set of the Colbert Report to promote his movie, “Beer For My Horses,” he was greeted by his host with nothing less than reverential admiration. After a jovial, back-slapping sit-down with Keith, Colbert turned the stage over to his guest for a performance of the song that inspired the title and theme of his forthcoming “Southern comedy.”
While Keith belted out “Beer For My Horses,” Colbert’s studio audience clapped to the beat, blithely unaware that they were swaying to a racially tinged, explicitly pro-lynching anthem that calls for the vigilante-style hanging of car thieves, “gangsters doing dirty deeds…crime in the streets,” and other assorted evildoers.
On July 18, the world’s most prominent Holocaust denier, David Irving, parachuted into New York City to deliver a talk to a few dozen supporters. It was Irving’s first major stateside appearance since his release from an Austrian prison where the British writer spent a year for “trivializing the Holocaust” — a crime in that country. Irving is the author of numerous books on Hitler and the Third Reich. With support from the Southern Poverty Law Center, I produced a video about Irving’s New York lecture, “Springtime For Irving,” containing an exclusive interview with Irving, along with a look at his Nazi sympathizing supporters. In it, Irving issues a rousing defense of Hitler, blames Jews for their own persecution, and reveals his strange friendship with Christopher Hitchens.
See “Springtime for Irving: A Holocaust Denier Hits Manhattan”
Phil Gramm attempted to invest $15,000 in “Truck Stop Women.” His money ultimately helped produce a film portraying Richard Nixon wandering nude around the White House.
Phil Gramm’s recent disparaging of “a nation of whiners” complaining about a “mental recession” did more than offend the sensibilities of economically struggling Americans. His gaffe also served as a reminder that McCain had appointed one of the most reactionary, venal, and destructive political figures in recent times as his top econ man. By Sunday, the damage to the McCain campaign had grown so severe it announced that Gramm’s role had been significantly reduced.
Gramm was an accident waiting to happen. Indeed, his gaffe represents little more than a scrap in the massive heap of wreckage he has left in his wake. Gramm’s own presidential campaign in 1996 was among his most high-profile casualties. In order to win a whopping total of 8 delegates, the charisma-challenged Gramm had to spend $20 million, or about $2.5 million per delegate. This experience curiously translated into a job as one of McCain’s key political advisors.
But first, Gramm returned to the Senate, where he was lobbied intensely by one of his major campaign contributors, Enron. Enron enjoyed easy access to Gramm’s office; the senator’s wife served on Enron’s board of directors and Ken Lay was his 1992 campaign co-chair. Gramm rewarded his financial angels in 2000, slipping the “Commodity Futures Modernization Act” into a omnibus spending bill just as Congress headed off for summer vacation. His amendment instantly enabled the creation of a shadow banking system — “weapons of financial destruction” in the words of Warren Buffet — that directly contributed to the current mortgage foreclosure crisis. Millions of Americans have suffered as a result of Gramm’s machinations.
During the week of July 1, lawyers representing far-right Pastor John Hagee demanded that YouTube remove scores of videos supposedly infringing on the copyright of John Hagee Ministries. YouTube acceded to Hagee’s attorneys without even a cursory review of their claims. As the Huffington Post’s Sam Stein reported, the maneuver resulted in the immediate disappearance of over 120 videos from YouTube — almost all of which depicted the preacher in a negative light.
Among the videos removed by YouTube was my mini-documentary, “Rapture Ready: The Christians United For Israel Tour.” Considering that my piece contained no copyrighted material whatsoever, it became apparent to me that Hagee’s minions were guided by ulterior political motives. Instead of guarding their copyrights, they sought to stifle legitimate reporting on Hagee’s far-out End Times ideology. Continue reading →
My report on Barack Obama’s evangelical outreach strategy is up at the Nation. I open by revealing a testy moment between the candidate and Franklin Graham:
On June 10, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama convened a meeting in a law office in downtown Chicago with a wide array of about thirty evangelical leaders, in an unprecedented effort to win their support. Obama insisted that the meeting remain entirely off the record, forbidding participants from disclosing his statements to the press. His campaign has kept the names of attendees a closely guarded secret. But through interviews with participants and overlooked statements in obscure publications of the Christian press, a first-hand picture of the meeting emerges, starkly at odds with the news reports that accepted the formal version at face value.
News accounts about the meeting stated that Obama impressed his audience with his sincerity, depth of theological knowledge and communication skills. But according to those present, he did little to assuage the hostility that many of the assembled–particularly the conservative white evangelicals–harbor toward him and his liberal positions on social issues. Those differences reached a crescendo when the Rev. Franklin Graham directly confronted Obama about his supposedly Muslim background and Christian authenticity. Continue reading →