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GOP’s Hunter Biden Laptop Obsession Accidentally Reveals How Twitter Helped Right-Wing Speech Flourish

The “Twitter Files” didn’t pan out exactly how Republicans expected.

Marjorie Taylor Greene holds up a giant posterboard with one of her old tweets printed on it. It is about Covid, masks, vaccines, and obesity.
Anna Rose Layden/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene displays her bad tweets during a House Oversight Committee hearing on February 8.

Republicans’ fateful “Twitter Files” hearing on Wednesday was supposed to reveal how the social media company and the left colluded to suppress a New York Post story about Hunter Biden’s laptop. Instead, witness testimony revealed more ways the social media company accommodated right-wing speech and was even supplicated directly by Republican elected officials—including the White House.

Oversight Committee ranking member Jamie Raskin introduced a line of questioning to former Twitter employee Anika Collier Navaroli, who explained that the company actually allowed “a loud roar” of violence-inciting hate speech from thousands of posts. Navaroli said management did not allow employees to remove the posts that were violating incitement to violence policies.

And in a farcical hearing where Republicans were supposedly concerned with government officials attempting to influence the social media company’s content moderation policies, Representative Gerry Connolly pointed out that former President Trump tried on numerous occasions to directly influence Twitter’s content moderation policies, including publicly in a rant on Twitter.

In answering a question from Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Navaroli revealed that Twitter had in fact changed its own content moderation policy after Trump violated it, in order to accommodate his tweet.

“So much for bias against [the] right-wing on Twitter,” said Ocasio-Cortez.

Members including Representative Jim Jordan attempted to propagate a notion that the FBI “played” the employees in order to suppress the Hunter Biden story. For this, as for many of the allegations being hurled at individual Twitter employees, Trump was president at this time, and the FBI director was Trump’s own pick, Christopher Wray.

Meanwhile, Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert spent much of their time complaining about their own accounts being held accountable for content moderation violations, and still attempting to peddle an anti-Trump conspiracy between Twitter and the government—a plot supposedly happening while Trump was still the leader of the government.

While firebrand Republicans sought to carry out a hearing that exposed a nefarious connection between Democrats and Twitter, instead they revealed the tenuousness of some of their claims.

“I believe that what’s happening here is my Republican colleagues know that the premise of this whole hearing is misleading. There is no evidence that the Biden campaign had anything to do with the Hunter Biden New York Post story,” Representative Becca Balint said. “And the evidence we do have simply shows what the Trump campaign and millions of Twitter users do routinely: flag content and ask Twitter to conduct its own review to determine whether it violates Twitter’s own rules and policies.”

Whistleblower Tells AOC That Twitter Changed Rules to Allow Racist Trump Tweets

A former Twitter employee testified that a Trump tweet targeting Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other Squad members should have violated content moderation guidelines.

Anika Collier Navaroli testifies
Alex Wong/Getty Images
Former Twitter employee Anika Collier Navaroli testifies during a hearing before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee on February 8. The committee held a hearing on “Protecting Speech From Government Interference and Social Media Bias, Part 1: Twitter’s Role in Suppressing the Biden Laptop Story.”

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez helped reveal Wednesday that Twitter changed its rules to allow Donald Trump to tweet essentially whatever he wanted.

Anika Collier Navaroli worked on Twitter’s content moderation policy. She was also the whistleblower who told the House January 6 investigative committee that the social network let Trump bend rules and tweet disinformation for years because executives enjoyed how powerful it made them.

Navaroli testified Wednesday in front of the House alongside three other former Twitter executives. Republicans had called the hearing to ask about Hunter Biden’s laptop, but Ocasio-Cortez decided it was time to “talk about something real.”

Ocasio-Cortez highlighted a Trump tweet from 2019 demanding why she and several of her colleagues (members of the Squad and, at the time, all women of color) don’t “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

In response to a series of questions, Navaroli explained that she and her team had recommended finding Trump in violation of Twitter policy for that tweet, particularly because phrases such as “go back to where you come from” were specifically forbidden in Twitter’s content moderation guidelines.

When she made the recommendation to one of her superiors, Navaroli’s decision was overridden. A few days later, Twitter changed its content moderation policy to remove that phrase as an example of abusive language.

“So Twitter changed their own policy after the president violated it in order to potentially accommodate his tweet?” Ocasio-Cortez asked.

When Navaroli said yes, the congresswoman replied, “So much for bias against [the] right-wing on Twitter.”

Republicans and Trump in particular have long claimed that social media is biased against them. But Navaroli’s testimony reveals that Twitter, at least, was willing to bend the rules to give world leaders much more wiggle room.

In 2019, Twitter created its public interest exemptions, which stated that even if a politician’s tweets violated content policy, the posts could be left up if they were found to be in the public interest.

Trump was only penalized when he tweeted something really egregious, such as election misinformation or comments that helped spark the January 6 riot. But by then, it was too late.

Maxwell Frost Enters “P**** A** B****” Into the House Record to Make a Point About Free Speech

Frost was referencing an iconic Chrissy Teigen tweet about Donald Trump.

Maxwell Frost
Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Thanks to Representative Maxwell Frost, “pussy ass bitch” is now in the congressional record.

As he questioned former Twitter safety employee Anika Collier Navaroli in a House hearing on Wednesday, Frost asked Navaroli to read out loud the expletive quote from a Chrissy Teigen tweet about Donald Trump. Navaroli then testified that the Trump administration reached out directly to Twitter, jockeying for the company to remove the post.

“Free speech,” Frost remarked about Teigen’s tweet.

The exchange was part of a House hearing, inspired by the so-called “Twitter Files,” on whether Democrats worked with Twitter to suppress the story of Hunter Biden’s laptop. Frost’s line of questioning complicated Republicans’ narrative that Twitter colluded with the government to baselessly silence right-wing views.

Frost, the 25-year-old congressional freshman from Florida, further challenged the hearing’s supposed concern for free speech, asking whether his colleagues would host hearings on government officials suppressing free speech, rather than only private businesses making editorial decisions. Frost cited how his state’s own Governor Ron DeSantis is attacking free speech by targeting businesses that support drag shows and teachers who are teaching curriculum that DeSantis has sought to ban.

Much of the right-wing outrage driving the hearing revolved around trumped-up claims of cancel culture and of social media companies suppressing “free speech” (whether that be slurs, calls for violence, or even incitements of riots). Frost addressed this quite acutely, noting that “there’s a difference between a culture war, and how culture naturally changes,” as he suggested some of his colleagues are resistant to natural culture change. “Just yesterday, we heard a member equate immigration negatively to ‘changing our culture.’”

“The reality is that culture changes and adopts and welcomes more people. It becomes more understanding, and it also decides to reassess what’s acceptable behavior and rhetoric,” Frost said. “In this supposed culture war, they often conflate the right to free speech with the nonexistent right to not be criticized or held accountable for what you say on the internet or even real life.”

Questions surrounding free speech, online and offline, are indeed important, as are inquiries into policies on platforms where millions of people communicate. Frost’s lines of questioning, however, helped provide a reality check on how many of the concerns from the hearings’ most vocal proponents were about free speech versus about the right to say a slur, spread election or Covid conspiracies, or incite more riots on the Capitol.

What on Earth Was Sarah Huckabee Sanders Doing in Her State of the Union Response?

Sanders used the little time she had to focus on herself and the “woke mob.”

Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images

It is said that the State of the Union response slot is cursed, that whoever gets the “lucky” draw to deliver the response may thereafter come into some bad political luck. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s speech may push the idea further; her unfocused and culture war–inspired remarks on Tuesday, ringing impressively discordant compared to President Biden’s largely positive speech, may not only leave a mark on her own career but actually further hamper her already-flailing party.

Biden spent over an hour sticking to a message about policy accomplishments (highlighting bipartisan efforts, perhaps too generously, wherever he could) and the “possibility” of what more Congress can do: everything from taking on junk fees and revitalizing ever-popular child tax credits to paying teachers better and capping insulin prices for all.

Afterward, Sanders filled much of her nearly 15-minute slot talking about “critical race theory,” left-wing “rituals” and “woke fantasies,” and herself.

After the former Trump press secretary opened by calling Biden a liar, she discussed her and her mother’s past cancer diagnosis and how thankful she was to doctors and the grace of God that neither disease stopped her family from charging “boldly ahead.”

She spent precious minutes on this story, all to not even mention how important it might be for everyone to have access to health care that could cure their ailments too. Instead, she transitioned into contrasting herself with Biden. “I’m the first woman to lead my state. He’s the first man to surrender his presidency to a woke mob that can’t even tell you what a woman is,” Sanders said, opening up her remarks toward the Republicans’ latest crutch: hating transgender people.

“His administration has been completely hijacked by the radical left,” Sanders opined, after Biden had spent an hour talking about policies most Americans agree with and another hour shaking the hands of practically every member of Congress and guest at the State of the Union address.

“The dividing line in America is no longer between right or left. The choice is between normal or crazy,” Sanders continued. She then boasted about signing executive orders to ban critical race theory and “indoctrination” in schools and repealing Covid safety standards.

“The Biden administration seems more interested in woke fantasies than the hard reality Americans face every day,” Sanders warned. “Most Americans simply want to live their lives in freedom and peace, but we are under attack in a left-wing culture war we didn’t start and never wanted to fight,” she continued, as if conservatives are not the ones ratcheting up the culture war with their ever-oscillating sights on gas stoves, or M&Ms, or weirdly encouraging people to smoke tobacco. Sanders was right to suggest that “most Americans simply want to live their lives in freedom.” Unfortunately, book bans and the criminalization of abortions, notable infringements on people’s “freedom,” are hallmarks of the Republican agenda.

“Make no mistake: Republicans will not surrender this fight,” Sanders assured. “We will lead with courage and do what’s right, not what’s politically correct or convenient.” Sanders’s speech resembled the same sort of hollow and out-of-touch messaging that helped Republicans lose in 2020 and fall drastically short of expectations in 2022. It was visionless, with seldom any actual talk of policies that would uplift people in this country.

So, in a sense, Sanders is correct in saying that if Republicans do indeed continue this fight, they will absolutely find the strategy to be politically inconvenient and strategically incorrect.

Pennsylvania Democrats Win House Majority, Ensuring Protection of Abortion Rights

Pennsylvania Democrats won three special elections, giving them control of the state House of Representatives for the first time in more than a decade.

Pennsylvania state Capitol building
Hannah Beier/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Democrats secured the majority in Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives for the first time in more than a decade, giving them the power to block Republican legislation on abortion rights.

The Democrats won three special elections Tuesday, giving them a one-seat majority in the chamber. This is the first time they have held the majority since 2010, although Republicans still control the state Senate.

The slim but powerful majority now gives Democrats the power to block major Republican legislation, including a constitutional amendment stripping away protections for abortion rights.

Republicans passed a bill in July, just two weeks after Roe v. Wade was overturned, that would have amended the state constitution to declare there is no right to abortion in Pennsylvania. It would also have said there is no guarantee that taxpayer funds can be used for abortions.

The GOP controlled both the House and Senate at the time, and the bill passed easily. Then-Governor Tom Wolf had vowed to veto any abortion restriction laws, and current Governor Josh Shapiro similarly supports reproductive rights. But the bill was passed as part of a larger omnibus package that bypassed the governor and would create a new constitutional amendment that would be voted on by Pennsylvania residents.

Currently, anyone seeking an abortion in Pennsylvania must undergo state-mandated counseling designed to discourage them from getting the procedure and then wait 24 hours before proceeding. Abortion is not covered by insurance plans offered under the Affordable Care Act except in cases of rape, incest, or if the pregnant person’s life is in danger. The procedure is banned after 24 weeks except to save the pregnant person’s life.

The new bill needs to pass two legislative sessions, but the governor would be unable to stop the measure from going to a public vote if it does.

But with Democrats now in control of one of the chambers, the anti-abortion legislation is unlikely to pass.

There’s no guarantee it would have succeeded if it were put to a vote, though: Abortion rights helped deliver historic wins to Democrats during the midterm elections, including for Pennsylvania Senator John Fetterman.

Five states had abortion rights–related measures on the ballot, and all five voted to protect access to the procedure.

Unfortunately, Republicans have proved they have no chill when things don’t go their way. In Kansas, after residents overwhelmingly voted in August to keep abortion rights in the state constitution, the state legislature is still trying to pass laws that would restrict abortion access.

Rail Workers Tried to Warn Us the Ohio Train Derailment Would Happen

An inter-union alliance of rail workers says the train wreck happened due to antiquated regulation and corporate malpractice.

Cargo train lays off the tracks, as smoke rises
Smoke rises from a derailed cargo train in East Palestine, Ohio, on February 4.

The fiery train derailment that led to thousands being forced to evacuate their homes in East Palestine, Ohio, didn’t have to happen. This is what the workers of Railroad Workers United, or RWU, inter-union caucus argue. And, they warn, if action is not taken against corrosive industry trends, the Ohio disaster will be one of more to come.

On February 3, a 150-car Norfolk Southern train derailed near the Ohio town. About 20 of the cars were considered to contain hazardous materials; 10 of those cars were involved in a pileup of 50 cars, five of which contained vinyl chloride—a carcinogenic and flammable chemical.

Environmental engineer Kurt Rhoads told a Cleveland news affiliate that the impact could be felt for years as the hazardous chemicals seep into the groundwater. Fish in a nearby waterway had already been found dead on Monday.

The RWU argues that antiquated regulation and corporate malpractice led to the potentially generationally damaging incident, a primary culprit being Precision Scheduled Railroading, or PSR. The practice, dubbed by some workers as “positive shareholder reaction,” manages freight movement by the individual car level, as opposed to the whole train—ensuring train cars are constantly on the move. In practice, this has cut jobs, consolidated dispatch centers, and made trains less safe, as fewer workers have less time to conduct checks on more train cars.

Based on its analysis, the RWU says “the immediate cause of the wreck appears to have been a nineteenth-century style mechanical failure of the axle on one of the cars—an overheated bearing—leading to derailment and then jackknifing tumbling cars.”

Moreover, the train appeared to have had its collective weight unbalanced; prior to PSR, the caucus said, trains would be built with the heavier cars on the head, and the lighter ones bringing up the rear. Such a practice would prevent what happened in Ohio: heavier cars slamming into lighter ones in front of them, causing the exact jackknifing that had occurred last week. The train allegedly had 40 percent of its weight on the rear one-third of the train.

Fortunately, despite these failures, the train’s three-person crew was able to quickly mobilize together and minimize damage. As railroads have brazenly proposed cutting crews to just one member, thank goodness that was not the case here.

“The short-term profit imperative, the so-called “cult of the Operating Ratio”—of NS and the other Class 1 railroads—has made cutting costs, employees, procedures, and resources the top priority,” the RWU said. Norfolk Southern recently reported record fourth quarter and annual revenues; just last year, the company announced $10 billion in stock buybacks. Meanwhile, its workers still don’t even have guaranteed paid sick leave.

The workers’ warnings here follow a continual campaign for better working conditions and safer rail outcomes. After the government in December imposed a contract on workers that did not include much-needed paid sick leave, workers continued rallying for such benefits as well as the guarantee of at least two-person crews and the elimination of PSR.

Nevertheless, during his State of the Union address, President Biden did not mention the plight of rail workers, nor did he even discuss the disastrous rail derailment. Workers’ efforts are not falling on completely closed ears, however; Senators Bernie Sanders and Mike Braun are holding a Thursday press conference to demand paid sick leave for rail workers.

“The wreck of Train 32N has been years in the making. What other such train wrecks await us remains to be seen,” the RWU said. “But given the modus operandi of the Class One rail carriers, we can no doubt expect future disasters of this nature.”

11 Good and Normal Things Republicans Refused to Clap for During Biden’s State of the Union

Not even giving teachers a raise?

Joe Biden delivers his State of the Union. Behind him, Kamala Harris stands to clap. Kevin McCarthy remains seated and looks on.
Jacquelyn Martin/AP/Bloomberg/Getty Images

President Biden delivered arguably the most pro-worker, populist, and shrewd State of the Union in modern history. Though the bar on those standards is low, Biden found a way to expose Republicans as reactionary in both demeanor and policy, while still coming off as generally pleasant and focused on offering the American people an affirmative vision for the future.

Meanwhile, as Biden delivered his remarks, Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy and his Republican colleagues refused to clap for several rather ordinary things millions of Americans support.

From rallying to give teachers a raise, to demanding that insulin be affordable for all, many of Biden’s remarks were met with crickets, or even jeers, from Republicans.

Here are 11 of those moments:

1. Democracy

“Two years ago, democracy faced its greatest threat since the Civil War, and today, though bruised, our democracy remains unbowed and unbroken.”

2. Making Billionaires Pay Taxes

“No billionaire should be paying a lower tax rate than a schoolteacher or a firefighter.”

3. Capping Insulin Prices

“Let’s finish the job this time: Let’s cap the cost of insulin for everybody at $35.”

4. Assault Weapons Ban

“[Brandon Tsay] saved lives. It’s time we do the same. Ban assault weapons now! Ban them now, once and for all!”

5. Preschool for Kids and Giving Teachers a Raise

“Let’s finish the job by providing access to preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds. Studies show that children who go to preschool are nearly 15 percent more likely to finish high school and go on to earn a two- or four-year degree—no matter their background they came from. Let’s give public school teachers a raise.”

6. A Living Wage

“I’m so sick and tired of companies breaking the law by preventing workers from organizing. Pass the PRO Act, because workers have a right to form a union. Let’s guarantee all workers have a living wage. Let’s make sure working parents can afford to raise a family with sick days, paid family medical leave, affordable childcare. That’s going to enable millions of more people to go and stay at work, and let’s restore the full child tax credit, which gave tens of millions of parents some breathing room and cut child poverty in half to the lowest level in history.”

7. Jobs

“Two years ago, the economy was reeling. I stand here tonight, after we created—with the help of many people in this room—12 million new jobs. More jobs created in two years than any president has created in four years, because of you all, because of the American people.”

8. LGBTQ Rights

“Let’s also pass the Bipartisan Equality Act, to ensure LGBTQ Americans—especially transgender young people—can live with safety and dignity.”

9. Immigration Reform

“Let’s also come together on immigration, make it a bipartisan issue once again.”

10. Clean Energy

“Look, the Inflation Reduction Act is also the most significant investment ever in climate change, ever. Lowering utility bills, creating American jobs, leading the world to a clean energy future.”

11. Junk fees

“Junk fees may not matter to the very wealthy, but they matter to most folks in homes like the one I grew up in, like many of you did. They add up to hundreds of dollars a month. They make it harder for you to pay your bills and afford that family trip. I know how unfair it feels when a company overcharges and gets away with it. Not anymore. We’ve written a bill to stop it all; it’s called the Junk Fee Prevention Act … the idea that cable, internet, and cell phone companies can charge you $200 or more if you decide to switch to another provider—give me a break. We can stop service fees on tickets to concerts and sporting events, and make companies disclose all the fees up front. And we’ll prohibit airlines from charging $50 roundtrip for families just to be able to sit together. Baggage fees are bad enough; airlines can’t treat your child like a piece of baggage. Americans are tired of being played for suckers.”

Biden Says “Abortion” Exactly Once in First State of the Union Since Downfall of Roe v. Wade

Abortion is still under attack. It deserved a little bit more attention from the president.

Joe Biden speaks at the State of the Union
Jacquelyn Martin/Pool/Getty Images

President Joe Biden said the word “abortion” exactly once during the State of the Union Tuesday, the first since Roe v. Wade was overturned.

Democrats have made abortion rights a key issue since the nationwide right to the procedure was rolled back last summer. Abortion rights helped deliver the party historic wins during the 2022 midterm elections.

But during his speech, Biden took almost an hour to mention the fight for abortion rights. And when he did, he spent four sentences on the topic, using the actual word “abortion” only once.

Reproductive rights activists and writers were outraged, slamming the president for glossing over the issue and failing to call out the attacks on abortion rights and access.

This is it? Half of the country has been stripped of their right [to] be seen as a full human being and we get four sentences?” writer Jessica Valenti demanded on Twitter.

Making things even worse, one of first lady Jill Biden’s guests was a woman who nearly died after being denied an abortion under Texas law. Biden did not highlight her story, as he did with some of the other guests at the State of the Union.

Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, abortion rights and access have been under all-out attack from Republicans. States have cracked down on the procedure, even trying to circumvent the will of the people, and are trying to get medication abortion banned as well. Meanwhile, lawmakers at the federal level have tried to pass laws banning abortion.

The least Biden could have done is explicitly acknowledge any of that.

Biden Gets Republicans to Promise They Won’t Cut Medicare or Social Security During State of the Union

Okay, Dark Brandon, you go.

Joe Biden smiles at the podium during his State of the Union speech
Jacquelyn Martin/AP/Bloomberg/Getty Images

President Joe Biden appeared to get Republicans to agree not to cut funding for Medicare or Social Security during the State of the Union Tuesday night.

Republicans are threatening to hold the debt ceiling hostage until the federal budget is reduced. One of their plans includes slashing funds for social welfare programs including Medicare and Social Security.

Instead of making the wealthy pay their fair share, some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset. I’m not saying it’s the majority,” Biden said during his speech.

Republicans quickly cut him off with groans and shouts of, “No!” Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene shouted out, “Liar!”

Biden went off-script in response: “Anybody who doubts it, contact my office. I’ll give you a copy of the proposal.”

When he was greeted with more dissent, he said, “So folks, as we all apparently agree, Social Security and Medicare is off the books now, right?”

Republicans began applauding, to which he replied, “Alright, we got unanimity!”

“So tonight, let’s all agree—and apparently we are—let’s stand up for seniors,” Biden continued. “And if anyone tries to cut social security, which apparently no one’s gonna do … I’ll stop them. I’ll veto it.”

“I’m not going to allow them to be taken away, not today, not tomorrow, not ever, but apparently it’s not gonna be a problem.”

The Republican Party has already indicated it wants to cut Medicare and Social Security. Senator Rick Scott has previously proposed sunsetting the programs every five years. In August, Senator Ron Johnson proposed removing Social Security and Medicare as federal entitlement programs and instead making them discretionary spending programs that Congress approves on a yearly basis.

What’s more, Donald Trump tried to cut Social Security and Medicare every year he was in office. For the 2021 federal budget alone, Trump proposed slashing about half a trillion dollars from the programs.

Marjorie Taylor Greene Wanted to Bring a Big White Balloon to the State of the Union

Greene wants to troll Biden for the Chinese spy balloon. She announced her plan just hours after Kevin McCarthy said there would be no “childish games.”

Marjorie Taylor Greene outside the Capitol
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene wants to bring a white balloon to the State of the Union Tuesday night, a move she unveiled just hours after her new best friend Kevin McCarthy said there would be no “childish games” from Republicans during the speech.

She didn’t end up bringing the balloon, which referred to the Chinese spy balloon that has caused plenty of political debate and political theater over the past week.

It’s a decent troll (and a broken clock is also right twice a day). But it’s not to everyone’s taste. Lauren Boebert, who made headlines with Greene for heckling Joe Biden throughout the entire previous State of the Union, was dismissive of her former ally when asked if she would be making a “symbolic protest” during the address.

Greene’s announcement of her helium-filled guest also came just a few hours after House Speaker McCarthy told reporters that “we have a code of ethics of how we should portray ourselves … We’re not going to be doing childish games, tearing up a speech,” referring to Nancy Pelosi’s iconic shredding of Donald Trump’s last State of the Union.

Greene allied herself closely to McCarthy during his grueling run for speakership, and she was rewarded with positions on several key House committees.

Greene’s balloon was not seen in the chamber later Tuesday night, as she heckled the president throughout his speech.

This post was updated.