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North Dakota Republican Compares Letting Students Use Their Preferred Pronouns to Murder

More than a bit of hyperbole from state Representative Lori VanWinkle

Mark Rightmire/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register/Getty Images

Lori VanWinkle seems to believe respecting students’ preferred pronouns is the same as committing murder.

The Republican representative in North Dakota made the claim during a state House judiciary meeting Monday on a Senate bill that would ban schools from adopting any policies or curriculum related to “expressed gender” and allow teachers to misgender students without facing penalty. VanWinkle supported the bill and seemed to argue that respecting someone’s preferred pronouns was tantamount to accepting murder.

“I mean this seems to be like we’re promoting them to make things up that aren’t true and then endorse that,” she said, suggesting that simply allowing students to use their preferred pronouns is instead encouraging them to lie about their gender. “I just don’t understand why we’re calling ‘lying’ protecting something, when we wouldn’t do it if [students] came to school and felt like they had the right to murder people,” she added.

The bill, which also bans schools from requiring staff training on gender, passed the Senate last month. Both chambers of the North Dakota legislature are controlled by the Republican Party, as is the governor’s office.

“Senate Bill 2231 only has one outcome for North Dakota,” North Dakota Student Association spokesperson Celeste McCash told local outlet KX News. “Economic losses. Individuals who are part of the LGBTQUIA+ community and their families will not consider moving to or continuing to live in our state.”

None of that is a problem for VanWinkle. “How does this even remotely fit into our constitutional obligation to promote a high degree of intelligence, patriotism, morality, and integrity for our students in the education system?” she asked earlier in the meeting.

Since entering office last year, VanWinkle has made a habit of reading Bible verses on the House floor and focusing on bills banning gender-affirming care and mask mandates. Last month, she cited a Covid-19 conspiracy theory while debating a bill on expanded workers’ compensation for firefighters and police officers, eliciting at least one audible groan from a fellow lawmaker.

Recently, VanWinkle joined Representative Brandon Prichard—known by local outlets as the “George Santos of North Dakota,” for reportedly lying about his education and even where he lives—to push a bill that would ban drag performances in the presence of minors or on public property. That bill, H.B. 1333, is also up for consideration.

John Cornyn Calls GOP Effort to Slander Trump Investigators Waste of Time

The Republican senator had some words for the rest of his party.

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Congressional Republicans and right-wing media figures are working to discredit the Manhattan district attorney in the lead-up to a potential indictment of Donald Trump. Republican Senator John Cornyn, a two-decade member of Congress and prominent party figure, finds the effort to be a distraction.

“There’s more than enough to do,” Cornyn told Punchbowl News. “I would hope they would stick to the agenda they ran on when they got elected to the majority.”

The pronouncement by Cornyn may seem tame, but it is still significant given how much stock Trump puts into seeing who sticks out for him, and who does not.

Other Republicans have thus far mostly criticized the investigation into Trump’s alleged hush-money payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels, rather than the former president himself. Senator J.D. Vance lambasted the ongoing investigation as a baseless inquiry funded by George Soros.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik have also perpetuated the conspiracy about Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg serving at the behest of Soros. Stefanik went even further, saying that while Manhattan allows such a supposedly baseless investigation, Bragg has brought “skyrocketing crime” to the city. The latter claim is demonstrably false (violent crime has decreased since Bragg’s election).

The claim about Soros is rooted in a right-wing antisemitic scare campaign about wealthy Jewish people nefariously influencing society. This organized campaign straight from the top of Republican leadership comes from the same people who shamelessly booted Representative Ilhan Omar off a House committee for a comment she said was not meant to be taken as antisemitic but apologized for nonetheless. Republicans have never apologized for their continual invocation of the Soros conspiracy theory.

Cornyn may complain of the behavior of Republicans like McCarthy and Stefanik (not the hypocrisy about antisemitism), but he is mistaken if he thinks this was not exactly the agenda radical House Republicans “ran on when they got elected to the majority.” This kind of time-wasting, hypocritical, obstructive rhetoric was always on the front burner for Republicans—and is one reason why their “majority” is barely one at all anyhow.

Oklahoma Just Barely Expands Abortion Access to Preserve Life of the Pregnant Person

The Supreme Court ruling still leaves abortion inaccessible for most Oklahomans.

Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the state constitution protects a woman’s right to an abortion “when necessary to save her life.”

Abortion providers and reproductive rights groups had asked the court to find that the constitution protected a person’s right to choose to end a pregnancy. But the justices ruled only on a narrow exception, leaving the majority of the state’s tight restrictions in place. This means that abortion is still inaccessible for most Oklahomans.

The majority opinion founded its argument on the constitutional provision guaranteeing that “all persons have the inherent right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and the enjoyment of the gains of their own industry.”

That section “stands as the basis for protecting a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy in order to save her life.”

After Roe v. Wade was overturned, Oklahoma enacted a near-total abortion ban, one of the strictest laws in the country. It only made an exception for someone in a “medical emergency.” Abortion was also made a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison or a $100,000 fine. Individuals could sue anyone who helped provide access to an abortion.

The state Supreme Court struck down that law, ruling that “a woman has an inherent right to choose to terminate her pregnancy if at any point in the pregnancy, the woman’s physician has determined to a reasonable degree of medical certainty or probability that the continuation of the pregnancy will endanger the woman’s life.”

“Absolute certainty is not required, however, mere possibility or speculation is insufficient.”

But the court left in place a law passed in 1910 that makes it a felony to intentionally perform an abortion unless necessary to save the patient’s life. This means that health care providers will still have to tread incredibly carefully when performing abortions, lest they risk up to five years in prison. And by not ruling on elective abortions, the court’s decision means that most abortions are still not an option for state residents.

The right recognized today is so limited that most people who need abortion will not be able to access it,” Emily Wales, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, tweeted. “Providers’ hands are still tied by an abortion ban that would make them criminals for providing essential care.”

While it’s good that Oklahoma now has even marginally increased abortion access, the ruling makes clear that the bar is so incredibly low for abortion wins. And as writer Jessica Valenti has repeatedly noted, abortion law exceptions aren’t really about restoring rights at all. “The truth is that abortion exceptions are a lie: A political tool that’s more about helping Republicans’ public image than making abortion accessible to victims,” she wrote in a September newsletter.

Even Alex Jones Has a Problem With Donald Trump’s Calls for Protest

The far-right conspiracy theorist said Trump’s call for protest, ahead of his potential indictment, is dangerous.

Alex Jones
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“I’ve got an issue with Trump,” far-right provocateur Alex Jones said on Steven Crowder’s show Tuesday, referring to the twice-impeached former president’s call for protests in response to his potential indictment.

Jones disapproved of Trump’s Truth Social posts urging people to “TAKE OUR NATION BACK!” and “PROTEST, PROTEST, PROTEST!!!” He compared the call to the January 6 attack on the Capitol (which Jones called a “setup”), arguing that “he’s lighting up a cigarette while he’s playing with gasoline,” by potentially inciting “some people” to become violent once again.

Of note is that Jones’s opposition appeared largely as strategic advice to Trump, not as condemnation.

“Someday, there may be a 1776 issue, where things are so bad we gotta get physical,” Jones conceded humbly. “But I think we should exhaust all the remedies first, and I don’t think, if there is a violent revolution, it should be randomly attacking police or Capitol buildings.”

“Of course,” Crowder chimed in, nodding and verbally affirming everything Jones said about how best to carry out “violent revolution.”

Crowder continued with the baton, assuring listeners that he did not think Trump would have wanted violence. “He didn’t word it, maybe, prudently,” Crowder suggested, describing how Trump could have simply said, “‘Protest, make your voices heard peacefully,’ which he did, by the way, on January 6.”

In the weeks leading up to, and on the day of, January 6, Trump continually instructed his supporters to “show strength,” and “stop the steal.” On December 18, he insisted that he won the election. “FIGHT FOR IT. Don’t let them take it away!” Trump tweeted.

At a rally on January 6 itself, Trump dropped the word “peacefully” in once; otherwise, his remarks focused on directing his supporters to demand Congress overturn the election results. “We’re going to walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators, and congressmen and women,” Trump said to his supporters. “We’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them, because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.”

This is what Crowder calls “peaceful,” as if that instills any confidence that Trump certainly did not intend to call for violence this time around.

“Unnecessary and Cruel”: Georgia Senate Passes Bill Banning Gender-Affirming Care for Trans Kids

The bill now goes to the desk of Republican Governor Brian Kemp.

A heart made from transgender flag stickers outside
Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe/Getty Images
A heart made from transgender flag stickers

The Georgia Senate passed a bill Tuesday banning gender-affirming care for minors and criminalizing medical workers who provide that care.

The bill passed by a vote of 31–21 and now goes to Governor Brian Kemp, who is likely to sign it. The measure passed the state House of Representatives last week.

If it becomes law, the bill will ban hormone therapy and transition-related surgeries for anyone under the age of 18. It was amended in the House to include civil and criminal penalties for health care workers who provide gender-affirming care.

The Human Rights Campaign condemned the bill as “unnecessary and cruel.”

“When medical associations representing 1.3 million doctors say that age-appropriate, gender-affirming care is medically necessary for trans and nonbinary youth, who are these politicians to say that they know otherwise?” HRC State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel Cathryn Oakley said in a statement.

These extremist lawmakers have been told what this harmful bill will do, and now the families of transgender youth in Georgia will be the ones who have to live with the consequences. This is cruel and unconscionable legislation, designed only to hurt marginalized kids.”

Major medical organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, support giving gender-confirming care to children, deeming it medically necessary and even lifesaving.

The cruel irony of Georgia’s bill, part of a nationwide effort by Republicans to curtail LGBTQ rights, is that its supporters insist they are protecting children. But gender-affirming care actually decreases the amount of depression and anxiety that trans and nonbinary teenagers feel. It also makes them less likely to consider suicide.

What’s more, by targeting LGBTQ people through legislation, Republican lawmakers are only demonizing the community and exposing them to more violence and hatred.

Kemp has not commented recently on the gender-affirming care ban, but he has previously signed a law banning transgender girls from playing girls’ sports.

Kevin McCarthy Dismisses Potential Trump Indictment As “Political” Witch Hunt

The House speaker’s claim comes right after he begged Trump supporters to please not protest if in an indictment really happens.

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The investigation into Donald Trump’s alleged hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels is all just some frivolous and unjust “political” exercise, but also nobody should protest an indictment if it happens. This is Kevin McCarthy’s running line, as the twice-impeached former president and current leading 2024 Republican candidate faces potential arrest.

McCarthy was asked Tuesday by CNN’s Manu Raju about allegations that Trump falsified business records to cover up a hush-money payment to Daniels, a porn actress he reportedly had an affair with. Rather than answer the question, McCarthy demurred, talking instead about Hillary Clinton, attacking the Manhattan District Attorney’s office handling the case, and interestingly not even disputing the actual core of the allegations themselves.

“This was personal money. This wasn’t trying to hide. This was seven years ago, statute of limitations,” said McCarthy. “And I think in your heart of hearts you know too that you think this is just political. And I think that’s what the rest of the country thinks. And we’re kind of tired of that.”

The comments came after McCarthy urged people on Monday to not protest the possible indictment. “I don’t think people should protest this, no,” he said. “I think President Trump, if you talk to him, he doesn’t believe in that either.”

“PROTEST, TAKE OUR NATION BACK!” Trump had urged on Truth Social on Saturday, in an all-caps rant on George Soros–funded nefariousness and “ILLEGAL LEAKS” from the DA’s office. (Trump himself was the one who leaked the coming potential indictment.). Later that same day, Trump posted again, saying that “IT’S TIME!!!” as he warned about the nation being in a “STEEP DECLINE,” due to “EVIL & SINISTER PEOPLE” in power. “PROTEST, PROTEST, PROTEST!!!” Trump called to his loyal supporters.

The call to protest naturally raised concerns, given the last time Trump’s supporters heeded the call to protest (read: attack the Capitol). But apparently not for McCarthy.

“I think the thing that you may misinterpret when President Trump talks, when someone says that they can protest, he’d probably be referring to my tweet, ‘educate people about what’s going on,’” McCarthy said on Trump’s posts. “He’s not talking in a harmful way. And nobody should.”

McCarthy purported to be frustrated with questions about Trump and his crimes during a House issues retreat, instead of questions about policy. But framing the Republican Party as one interested in solving material problems is difficult when it’s simply the party of “No” when it comes to government action—and hyperfocused on couching its opposition to such action through meaningless terms like “Wokeism.” After all, House Republicans have spent more energy trumping up their select subcommittee “on the Weaponization of the Federal Government,” than on any of their supposed initiatives to manage good governance. 

The line McCarthy is fumbling between can be seen in real-time. McCarthy was asked if Trump is still the leader of the Republican Party. “In the press room, for all of you, he is,” he retorted. Curiously, at a different point, McCarthy also referred to Trump as already being a “nominee for president.”

Fox Producer Says Network Bullied Her Into Giving Misleading Info in Dominion Case on 2020 Election

The producer for Maria Bartiromo and Tucker Carlson said she became a scapegoat thanks to a culture of “poisonous and entrenched patriarchy.”

A person walks past the Fox News headquarters. The wall reads: "How do you Fox News?" alongside a giant QR code.
A person walks past the Fox News Headquarters at the News Corporation building in New York City on March 9, 2023.

A Fox News producer has sued the media company, alleging its lawyers coerced her into giving misleading testimony in the Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit against the network. The move, she argues, is due to a culture of “poisonous and entrenched patriarchy” that targets female staff.

Abby Grossberg has worked at Fox for the past four years, primarily on Maria Bartiromo’s shows. Last year, she began working on Tucker Carlson’s nightly show. In court documents filed Monday night in New York and Delaware, Grossberg accused network lawyers of trying to set up her and Bartiromo as scapegoats for Fox’s decision to repeatedly air falsehoods about Dominion Voting Systems and election fraud.

Grossberg said the attempt was the result of systemic misogyny and discrimination at Fox. “That’s what the culture is there,” she told The New York Times. “They don’t respect or value women.”

The lawsuit describes rampant sexism throughout Fox News: Grossberg said network executives described Bartiromo as a “crazy bitch” and “menopausal.” When Grossberg started working on Carlson’s show, his office was decorated with pictures of then–House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a revealing swimsuit.

Grossberg alleges that Carlson’s top producer asked her if Bartiromo and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy were having a sexual relationship, and that Carlson’s staff regularly made antisemitic jokes and misogynistic comments. When she reported to HR that two male producers harassed her, Grossberg says she was reprimanded instead for not doing her job.

Grossberg also said that Bartiromo’s show was so short-staffed that she was often the only employee working on it, meaning they had no bandwidth to fact-check what Bartiromo said on air. In her deposition in the Dominion Voting lawsuit, Grossberg was asked whether she cared that the claims made on Bartiromo’s show were true or false.

“No. Because we didn’t know if they were true or false at the time,” she said. She answered “no” when asked if it was important to correct a false claim made on air.

Grossberg now says that she was “coached by and intimidated by” Fox lawyers to make these and other similar statements regarding the network’s coverage of the 2020 election. She told CNN she wanted to “expose the lies and deceit” that she saw at Fox.

“It’s constant,” she said. “Ratings are very important to the shows, to the network, and to the hosts. It’s a business and that’s what drives coverage.”

Fox has countersued Grossberg to block her from sharing information that could cause the network to “suffer immediate irreparable harm.” A network spokesperson also said the company had hired an outside investigator to look into Grossberg’s accusations, which they claimed “were made following a critical performance review.”

Fox News has been hit for years with multiple accusations of sexual harassment and a hostile work environment, particularly for female employees.

The network’s executives and star hosts have also admitted in sworn testimony that they know they spread falsehoods about the 2020 election—but continued to do so, and to give airtime to members of former President Donald Trump’s inner circle.

Grossberg is coming forward as the network faces two major defamation lawsuits: one from Dominion, which is seeking $1.6 billion in damages, and another from electronic voting machine company Smartmatic, which is seeking $2.7 billion.

We can, of course, take some of her claims with a grain of salt. It does not take a full production team to fact-check that the 2020 election was not stolen, for example. Grossberg has now openly admitted that she knew Fox was spreading lies during her years working there.

Los Angeles School Workers Begin Strike, Shut Down Second Largest District in the Country

The strike halts classes for more than 566,000 students in California.

Scott Heins/Getty Images

On Tuesday, a union representing 30,000 Los Angeles school custodians, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, special education assistants, and other school staff members began a three-day strike, halting classes for more than 566,000 students.

Members of the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, Local 99 are conducting the strike after almost a year of negotiating with the Los Angeles Unified School District. Local 99 members currently make an average salary of $25,000, with many of them working part-time. Workers are asking for increased hours for part-time workers, a 30 percent wage increase, and a $2 per hour additional raise for the lowest-paid among them. The living salary for a single adult—not even with a child—in Los Angeles is around $44,000.

Members of United Teachers Los Angeles, or UTLA, a union representing some 35,000 teachers, are also striking in solidarity with the workers. The UTLA is separately undergoing its own contract negotiations; the union terminated its contract with the district earlier in March, so members have more freedom to stand alongside their SEIU comrades. Teachers are seeking raises of about 20 percent, and more resources to support students, including for immigrant students and high-need community schools.

Los Angeles teachers had previously conducted a strike in January 2019, shutting down classes for six days. The teachers were demanding smaller class sizes, increased staff, and higher wages. Such demands have been sweeping across the country from West Virginia and Oklahoma to Arizona and Colorado, as teachers grow tired of having to work multiple jobs, pay for some of their own supplies, and watch poorly funded schools fail their students.

The Pro-Trump Protest Was So Small Organizers Are Pretending They Wanted It to Be “Low-Key”

The protests supporting Donald Trump ahead of his possible indictment didn’t quite go to plan.

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A supporter of former President Donald Trump covers her ears near a counterprotest near the office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Brag and the New York County Criminal Court on March 20.

Protesters descended on Manhattan to support former President Donald Trump, just as he predicted—if he predicted a group of only about 50 people.

Trump predicted over the weekend that he will be indicted Tuesday by a Manhattan grand jury for his role in paying adult film star Stormy Daniels hush money during his 2016 presidential campaign. He urged his followers on Truth Social to “PROTEST, TAKE OUR NATION BACK!”

But on Monday night, only about 50 protesters showed up outside the Manhattan Criminal Court.

One of the organizers, New York Young Republican Club president Gavin Wax, told Politico that the protest was intentionally small because it was organized “last minute” and was meant to be “low key.”

“We weren’t sure we even wanted to come out because some people don’t like us, but we are here to show that there is support for President Trump in the bluest area in the country, here in Manhattan,” Wax said, despite the fact that he’d predicted a crowd of 150 to 200 people earlier that day.

Another organizer said the club had “vetted” all the attendees ahead of time to keep any potential “bad actors” out—which says a lot about Trump supporters if only 50 made the cut.

Wax also advised against protesting further on Tuesday and said people should instead wait until later in the week.

New York law enforcement has been rushing to shore up security plans ahead of the potential indictment—understandably, given what happened the last time Trump urged his followers to turn out for him, on January 6, 2021, in Washington.

But it’s unclear how many Trump supporters actually want to take to the streets on his behalf this time around. There have been some calls to action besides the New York Young Republicans’, but most people seem to be wary of demonstrating.

The nearly 1,000 arrests made since January 6 seem to have played a role in discouraging similar unruliness. Those arrested in connection with the riot have racked up large legal bills, and many say they feel Trump abandoned them. Others, including Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, have spread a conspiracy theory that the insurrection was fueled or set up by undercover law enforcement informants, and that any protests this week could be similarly used against Trump supporters.

This isn’t the first time that Trump or his supporters have struggled to raise a major show of support. Back in November, just before the midterms, an intimidating group of six right-wing activists showed up to protest one of President Joe Biden’s speeches.

South Carolina Abortion Bill Loses Co-Sponsors After Death Penalty Backlash

Palmetto State women may soon be free of the fear of execution, as a treat.

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An abortion rights demonstrator holds a placard expressing her opinion outside the South Carolina Statehouse.

South Carolina Republican lawmakers are backpedaling away as fast as possible from a bill that would make abortion punishable by the death penalty, one of the strictest anti-abortion measures that has been proposed since the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization last year.

The South Carolina Prenatal Equal Protection Act, which was introduced in mid-February, would have established that human life begins at fertilization. It further held that an abortion could be considered a homicide. In South Carolina, a person convicted of murder is subject to the death penalty or a minimum of 30 years in prison.

But the bill has become too hot for even some of its supporters to handle. Of the bill’s 24 original co-sponsors, nine have yanked their support in the past few weeks, following a massive outcry on social media. Several explained they did not want to criminalize people who get abortions. One, Representative Brandon Guffey, claimed he had not read the bill thoroughly before signing on.

“I did not read into the bill far enough to be aware that it included death penalty,” he said in a Facebook post. “I read through it, but I did not click on the code that it linked to stating that a woman should get the death penalty.”

Guffey pulled his name from the list of sponsors on Thursday. In his Facebook post, he explained he is “pro life but that includes the life of the mother.” He also said he supports other bills that restrict abortion access in South Carolina.

The Prenatal Equal Protection Act has yet to be considered by a committee, but one representative told NBC News that party leadership had made clear the measure was “dead on arrival” and would never make it to the House floor. Republican Senator Shane Massey, the Senate majority leader, also tweeted last week the bill had “zero chance of passing.”

South Carolina currently allows abortion up to 20 weeks; Republicans in the state have tried repeatedly since Roe v. Wade was overturned to cut back access to the procedure. The state Senate passed a bill in February that banned abortion after six weeks, before many people even know they are pregnant, but included exceptions for rape, incest, fatal fetal anomalies, and the pregnant person’s life—up to a generous 12 weeks.

Republican-led states have been rushing to restrict abortion access since the Supreme Court rolled back the nationwide right to the procedure. Some states seem to be competing for who can pass the strictest measures, while others are trying to actively circumvent the will of the people in banning abortion.

That this draconian South Carolina bill is shuddering slowly to a halt is a welcome development, but it’s also a pretty grim reminder of how low the bar has become that “not sentencing people to death for getting a normal medical procedure” is good news.