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Fox Faces Another, Much Bigger Defamation Lawsuit Than Dominion’s

Smartmatic USA says it “remains committed” to holding Fox accountable.

A truck with a digital sign saying, "RUPERT MURDOCH KNEW" and "FOX KNEW" drives on the road. On the sign is also the website ""
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Fox just lost a decent chunk of money, and their legal headaches are far from over.

On Tuesday, Fox Corporation settled a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems to the tune of $787.5 million. The monthslong case that revealed streams of proof that Fox hosts had knowingly peddled lies about the 2020 election came to an anticlimactic end on the trial’s opening day, as the two entities chose to settle and stop the case from advancing.

But while Fox was able to buy off any further embarrassment in the Dominion case they still face a whopping $2.7 billion lawsuit brought by Smartmatic USA, another voting systems company. And after the Dominion settlement announcement, Smartmatic said it “remains committed” to holding Fox accountable.

Smartmatic’s massive defamation lawsuit is based on similar claims that Fox falsely accused Smartmatic of helping to rig the election toward Joe Biden; Smartmatic alleges too that Fox knowingly lied about the company in order to boost network ratings and appease Trump supporters.

In particular, the voting system company alleges that Fox made “over 100 false statements and implications about the company.”

In February, a Manhattan court rejected Fox’s attempt to dismiss the lawsuit, 5–0. The case proceeds against Fox News, Fox Business host Maria Baritromo, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, and former Fox Business host Lou Dobbs.

It’s almost humorous to think of Fox appealing to the courts to throw out a case similar to one they just settled for nearly $800 million. After Dominion settled its case with Fox Tuesday, Smartmatic was ready to connect its own fight to the case that left Fox down hundreds of millions of dollars and exposed some of the organization’s many lies.

“Dominion’s litigation exposed some of the misconduct and damage caused by Fox’s disinformation campaign. Smartmatic will expose the rest,” said Smartmatic attorney J. Erik Connolly. “Smartmatic remains committed to clearing its name, recouping the significant damage done to the company, and holding Fox accountable for undermining democracy.”

God Didn’t Want Ralph Yarl to Be Shot

Every detail in the story of the shooting of a Black teenager is worse than the last.

Christopher Smith for The Washington Post/Getty Images
Sixteen-year-old Kansas City high school student Ralph Yarl was shot on the front porch of this home when he went to the house by mistake in an attempt to pick up his twin siblings.

“God’s country.”

That is what attorney Lee Merritt says locals call the neighborhood in which 16-year-old Ralph Yarl was viciously shot after accidentally ringing the doorbell of the wrong address.

If such a place is indeed “God’s country,” we have perverted what it means for something to be godly at all. And if there is indeed a God, or gods, we have disrespected what virtue or moral ambition they could symbolize. Because every single excruciating detail of what transpired in Kansas City, Missouri, just days ago reveals a society unfit to be hailed as something sacred.

On Thursday, 16-year-old Yarl, who is Black, was attempting to pick up his siblings in Kansas City. He walked up to the doorstep of what he thought was the home he was sent to. He mistook Northeast 115th Terrace to be the address he should’ve gone to, Northeast 115th Street. And the honest mistake, a benign mix-up anyone could have made, proved to be costly.

Upon ringing the doorbell of the home, Yarl was allegedly shot point-blank by Andrew Daniel Lester, an 84-year-old white man.

After Yarl had rung the doorbell, Lester said he opened the interior door and, without exchanging any words, shot the young boy—right in the head. And as if the first shot was not enough, Lester apparently shot the boy again when he was on the ground.

“Don’t come around here,” Lester reportedly said after Yarl was somehow able to get up and flee.

Despite the shots ringing out at 10 p.m., certainly not a time of much loud rambunction, Yarl apparently had to run to three different homes before a neighbor finally agreed to help him. It somehow gets worse: A neighbor only “agreed” to help after Yarl heeded commands to lie on the ground with his hands up, according to a GoFundMe set up by his aunt, Faith Spoonmore.

A boy shot in the head and arm, running around yelling for help, was still somehow seen with suspicion before “earning” the right to assistance.

One of the three neighbors, who remained anonymous, said she called 911 after Ralph came to her door; she says she was directed by the 911 operator to stay inside because the shooter’s location was unknown. Among the only nuggets of faith in the story is her reportedly going outside eventually to help Ralph stave off the bleeding, unable to heed the directive to stay inside.

“This is somebody’s child. I had to clean blood off of my door, off of my railing. That was someone’s child’s blood,” she told CNN. “I’m a mom … this is not OK.”

Cleo Nagbe, Yarl’s mother, told CBS that since the incident, her son has been replaying the situation constantly as he slowly recovers, the “residual effect” of the shooting plaguing him.

Nagbe says that Yarl is able to communicate “when he feels like it.” But “mostly he just sits there and stares and the buckets of tears just roll down his eyes.”

Lester has been charged with assault in the first degree and armed criminal action; it is unclear why a man who shot a boy point-blank, once in the head and once in the arm after he was already on the ground, has not been charged with something like attempted murder.

The disparities of our justice system will be something to watch; and of course, the wish is less about a carceral response for any one individual than it is about equal justice for everyone. Yet it is shocking, for instance, that Lester was released after just two hours of being in custody last week; he was released once again on Tuesday less than two hours after surrendering to authorities.

Such an appalling case, and the injustices in its aftermath, is backdropped by two separate cases of people, one Black, one white, being left to die in their jail cells while being held on lesser battery charges. On Monday, a grand jury decided that a group of police officers who shot an unarmed fleeing Black man almost 50 times would not face consequences. Another young woman, who was white, was also shot dead after accidentally pulling into the wrong driveway on Saturday.

All of which is to say that our society is a violent one. Racism undergirds much of this violence, but the violence is so deeply embedded within our social veins of distrusting anger, our structural veins of carceral coldness, that people of all backgrounds are implicated.

Such a society is one that has no capacity to deem any part of it to be “God’s country.” If there is a God, or gods, the compassion and moral commitments that we may derive from them are ambitions we have much more work to bend toward.

No Amount of Money Erases What We Already Learned About Fox in the Dominion Case

A settlement doesn’t make all the other revelations go away, no matter how much money it is.

A crowd of people at a press conference. Someone in the background holds a sign that reads "Fox is guilty."
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Lawyers representing Dominion Voting Systems talk to reporters outside the Leonard Williams Justice Center following a settlement with FOX News in Delaware Superior Court on April 18.

Dominion Voting Systems and Fox Corporation may have settled their lawsuit out of court, but nothing Fox does will erase what we’ve learned about it along the way.

After a months-long legal battle, Dominion and Fox settled for $787.5 million, in what was originally a $1.6 billion defamation suit. The decision was anticlimactic at best, as people had geared up for an unprecedented trial process.

Technically, per the American Bar Association, “a settlement doesn’t usually state that anyone was right or wrong in the case.” So even though Fox paid up, they aren’t officially admitting wrongdoing. But as Senator Mitt Romney told HuffPost reporter Igor Bobic, “Clearly you don’t agree to pay someone three-quarters of a billion dollars unless you think there’s a real risk you’re going to lose.”

And all that money won’t take back what Dominion has already revealed about Fox. Court documents show that Fox News hosts and executives never believed the conspiracy theories about the 2020 election that they were spreading.

Text messages and deposition excerpts show that hosts, including Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham, knew the election conspiracies were false and that Donald Trump’s lawyers weren’t credible, but they spread the conspiracies and invited the lawyers on air anyway. Carlson, who has repeatedly fawned over Trump on his show, even texted someone he was looking forward to ignoring Trump. “I hate him passionately,” Carlson said of the former president.

Fox owner Rupert Murdoch admitted under oath that he knew his media organization was spreading lies, but he continued to let hosts spout falsehoods and have Trump team members on as guests. A Fox News producer sued the company, alleging executives let the lies stand because they were good for business and coerced her into giving misleading testimony in the Dominion lawsuit.

But in a statement released after the decision was made to settle, Fox said they “acknowledge the Court’s rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false.” Fox only admitted that some of the things they said about Dominion were false, but recall that the court already ruled that everything they said about Dominion was false.

“The evidence developed in this civil proceeding demonstrates that [it] is CRYSTAL clear that none of the Statements relating to Dominion about the 2020 election are true,” a judge wrote in a decision last month, allowing the case to proceed to trial.

Fox, for its part, has made no mention of making an on-air retraction or apology about the Dominion falsehoods.

“Fox is about to burn brighter and hotter,” warned Media Matters president Angelo Carusone.

“Fox didn’t just get away with murder; they basically got a license to kill,” he said. “Unless we cut off their inflated guaranteed revenue from their wildly overpriced cable carriage fees, Fox is gonna use the license.”

For Some Reason, Dominion Settles With Fox in Defamation Lawsuit Over Election Lies

This was set to be an unprecedented trial, forcing Fox executives and insiders to the stand.

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Members of the legal team representing Dominion Voting Systems leave the Leonard Williams Justice Center where Dominion sued Fox News in Delaware Superior Court on April 18.

After a months-long legal battle between Dominion Voting Systems and Fox Corporation, it all ended in a poot.

On Tuesday, Fox and its cable networks reached a settlement agreement worth $787.5 million, in what was originally a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion. The settlement nips away what may have been an unprecedented trial process that would’ve brought an array of insiders—Fox hosts, executives, and others—to take the stand.

The day was slated to be one that opened up the possibility for more revelations into Fox and the lies swarming within it. Instead, the promise of further accountability for the network slowly, and then all at once, fizzled away.

Hours were spent picking jurors for the case, even having to substitute one juror who said they were awake all night and were not in a capacity to go through the rest of the trial. Then a short lunch recess was called, around 12:40 p.m. Eastern time.

Opening statements were set to begin at 1:30 p.m. But then time passed. And more time passed. In the interim, Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis ordered the formal appointment of a special master to look into whether Fox complied with its court-ordered discovery obligations. (The order followed Davis sanctioning Fox last week for not handing in evidence on time, including audio recordings from a former Fox producer suing the network, alleging that she was harassed, retaliated against, and made to be a scapegoat in the Dominion case.)

Finally, almost two and a half hours later, just minutes before the clock ticked to 4 p.m., Judge Davis made the announcement: “The parties have resolved their case.”

“Money is accountability,” Dominion lawyer Justin Nelson said, referring to the nearly $800 million settlement agreement. Dominion’s legal team made no mention that Fox would have to issue an apology or retraction on air for the lies it spread about the 2020 election.

With the settlement, Dominion decided that the short-term win was worth more than continuing the battle against one of the most crooked “news” agencies in the business. That Rupert Murdoch’s Fox was willing to fork over so much cash gives a hint at what more still was left to be exposed.

Sure, all media outlets face some form of legal challenge from time to time, but Fox takes the cake: The corporation is constantly embroiled in legal battles related not just to unethical journalistic practices but sexual harassment and discrimination against employees.

And that’s just among the cases that actually make it to court. Who knows how many cases are either quashed internally or don’t receive enough attention to challenge such a behemoth corporation? Dominion, occupying center stage, has exposed many lies undergirding Fox, including ones spread by the network’s most popular hosts. And now, in its settlement, it relinquishes that battle and lets Fox off the hook.

And the corrupt network is already celebrating and ready to move on, confident in its ability to settle any future legal challenges just as well.

“We acknowledge the Court’s rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false,” Fox’s P.R. team said in a statement. “This settlement reflects FOX’s continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards.”

“We are hopeful that our decision to resolve this dispute with Dominion amicably, instead of the acrimony of a divisive trial, allows the country to move forward from these issues.”

That’s right, folks: Don’t hold on to the lies Fox told about voting systems, or the dishonesty of its own hosts and executives who knew they were sharing lies all along. That all can just be a section on Fox’s endless Wikipedia page; let’s “move forward.”

This story has been updated.

Kevin McCarthy Begs Republicans to Back His Unfinished Debt Ceiling Plan

This isn’t the first time McCarthy has had to ask his party to please just get behind him.

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Kevin McCarthy’s debt ceiling bill goes up for a vote next week—despite being so unpopular in his own party that he is reportedly begging people to back it.

The House speaker unveiled a plan Monday to raise the debt ceiling into next year, so that the United States won’t default on its debt. Democrats and Republicans are locked in a protracted battle over the debt limit, and the GOP had previously indicated they were willing to hold the debt ceiling hostage in order to reduce government spending.

McCarthy offered few specifics about his plan, which has turned many of his fellow House Republicans off. Although House Rules Chairman Tom Cole told CNN Tuesday the debt limit bill will go up for a vote next week, McCarthy reportedly begged his colleagues to back the measure in a closed-door meeting earlier in the day.

McCarthy told Republicans that his deal isn’t about getting everything they want but about getting President Joe Biden back into negotiations, according to CNN. But many Republicans are unsure about the bill, particularly members of the House Freedom Caucus.

The far-right wing of the House Republicans was primarily responsible for forcing all of us to sit through seemingly endless rounds of votes for House speaker in January. Scott Perry, who chairs the caucus, said McCarthy’s debt proposal was too vague. “I don’t know what’s in the package completely—that’s the issue,” he told reporters.*

Anna Paulina Luna said the proposed budget cuts “should go further,” while Andy Biggs—who ran against McCarthy for speaker—said the proposal was a “long ways away” from what he would support.

“I’m not at the table,” Biggs said.

Other, more moderate Republicans also think the debt limit bill needs work. Nancy Mace said that holding the vote next week is “probably not” enough time to convince her to support the measure. Marc Molinaro said the GOP is “making progress, but we’re still taking a look at it.”

McCarthy promised not to touch Medicare or Social Security when cutting federal spending, a particular sticking point in the budget debate. Republicans have generally tried to end the entitlement programs since they began nearly a century ago, despite the idea being wildly unpopular. Slashing Social Security and Medicaid have repeatedly been suggested during recent debt ceiling debates.

Republican Matt Gaetz has proposed a plan for Medicaid work requirements, while Dusty Johnson proposed a separate plan for food stamp work requirements. It’s unclear which, if either, plan will make it into the bill. While work requirements would definitely reduce Medicaid costs, they would do so by denying health care to countless people.

McCarthy holds a razor-thin majority in the House, and he needs 218 votes to get his bill passed. It’s unclear if he can rally all the support he needs to push the measure through. Democrats are refusing to compromise on the debt ceiling, and if the battle goes on much longer, the United States could be in serious trouble.

The government already hit the debt ceiling in January, and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has previously warned the U.S. could default on its debt by the summer if the cap isn’t raised. “It’s simply a recipe for economic and financial catastrophe to think we can pay some of our bills and not all of them,” Yellen told the Senate Finance Committee in mid-March.

* This piece originally misstated the leader of the Freedom Caucus.

Democrats Should Listen to Mitch McConnell for Once

McConnell has made the Republican Party’s stance on Dianne Feinstein and the Judiciary Committee more than clear.

Mitch McConnell sounded the death knell Tuesday on any chance of Dianne Feinstein staying in Congress. For once, Democrats should listen to him.

Feinstein hasn’t been in the Senate for more than six weeks due to complications from having shingles. Her absence has put many key votes, including judicial confirmations, on hold. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he would grant her request to let another Democratic senator temporarily serve in her place on the Judiciary Committee.

A few Republicans have said they will refuse to let that happen, but McConnell put the final nail in that coffin Tuesday. “Senate Republicans will not take part in sidelining a temporarily absent colleague off a committee just so Democrats can force through their very worst nominees,” the chamber minority leader said in a floor speech.

Calls for Feinstein to step down have begun to grow, even within her own party. Representatives Jamaal Bowman and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tactfully urged the senator to resign on Monday, joining their colleagues Ro Khanna and Dean Phillips.

Feinstein announced in February that she would not run for reelection. She has had a long and storied career, but it has been sullied in recent years by reports that she is no longer mentally capable of serving.

If she does not step down now, she will effectively hand control of the Senate to Republicans. The GOP will be able to hold up votes and even determine the outcome of judicial nominations, which are becoming increasingly important as human rights battles play out in courts across the nation.

If Feinstein does resign, California Governor Gavin Newsom would appoint her replacement, and President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees would no longer be stuck in limbo with a split Judiciary Committee.

Some people have come to Feinstein’s defense. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said Monday that Feinstein “has the right…to decide when she steps down,” while former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi blamed the calls to resign on sexism.

But as Senator Amy Klobuchar said Sunday, “this isn’t just about California, it’s also about the nation.” Feinstein’s final act of service to her country could be ceding power. It would be an act of service to herself to do so with her dignity intact.

Iowa Senate Rolls Back Child Labor Law in the Dead of Night

While most of their constituents were asleep, Iowa Republicans voted to make it easier to hire minors to work in places like meat freezers.

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Iowa state Capitol building. An Iowa state flag is flying in front.

Before the sun had even risen on Tuesday, the Iowa Senate passed a bill to loosen child labor laws, allowing the employment of kids in previously restricted fields like roofing, demolition, and working in meat freezers.

Republicans pushed through Senate File 542 just before 5 a.m. Tuesday morning after a marathon session, with only two Republicans voting against the bill. The bill now moves to the House, and Republicans have trifecta control in Iowa.

Pushed by lobbyists including the Iowa Restaurant Association and Iowa Grocery Industry Association, the bill would allow 14- to 17-year-olds to work in some fields that violate federal labor law, such as freezers or meat coolers (settings notorious for child and migrant labor violations).

The bill also allows 15-year-olds to do loading work for items up to 30 pounds. A waiver from the labor commissioner can increase that number to 50 pounds, and it can also enable them to do assembly-line work.

The bill also extends the amount of time companies can have kids under 16 work—until 9 p.m. during the school year and until 11:00 p.m. during the summer. It moreover allows the employment of minors for up to six hours a day during a school week, two hours higher than currently allowed. Employers could have kids above the age of 16 work the same number of hours as adults.

Senators spent hours debating the bill, and the hours stretched on thanks to Republican stalling. The bill’s floor manager, Senator Adrian Dickey, as well as Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver refused to answer questions from Democrat Bill Dotzler during debate. After further closed-door sessions and several failed Democratic attempts to amend the bill, the Republican-led Senate finally voted to pass the bill in the wee hours of the morning.

Republicans have framed the bill as both a benefit to children and a means to help fill in a supposed labor shortage.

On the former, Republicans blocked a Democratic amendment on additional workers’ compensation for teenagers who get injured while working. And on the latter, opponents have argued that the labor shortage didn’t just happen out of nowhere.

“The biggest reason we have a labor shortage is because our wages are too low,” state Senator Clair Celsi told Iowa Starting Line. “Most of the states touching Iowa all have higher wages.” Thirty states have a minimum wage higher than Iowa’s $7.25 per hour.

Bureau of Labor Statistics figures show that unemployment rates per job opening in Iowa have in fact reached, and at some points dipped even lower than, pre-Covid rates. The claims of a labor shortage seem more about preventing labor from demanding better benefits and conditions; such a goal can be all the more easily accomplished when employing minors who may not be primed to join a union or demand more rights.

The bill seeks to create more legal pathways to justify the preexisting issue of corporate child labor exploitation already rampant in this country.

The Senate voted on the child labor law just days after Iowa Representative Sami Scheetz encountered what appeared to be a minor working at a construction site; Scheetz allegedly asked the worker his age, and the site supervisor told the worker in Spanish to say he was 18.

Twitter Quietly Rolls Back Ban on Misgendering Trans People

Twitter reversed a policy to protect trans people from hate speech on the platform.

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Twitter secretly changed its hateful-conduct policy to remove protections for transgender users, opening them up to even more online abuse.

The social media network implemented a rule in 2018 prohibiting users from referring to trans people by the wrong gender or by their dead name, meaning the name they were given prior to transitioning. Under the policy, misgendering or deadnaming trans people was considered “targeting others with repeated slurs, tropes or other content that intends to degrade or reinforce negative or harmful stereotypes about a protected category.”

That rule was in place until April 7, according to the internet archive the Wayback Machine. But by the next day, the second sentence had been removed from Twitter’s policies. As civil rights lawyer Alejandra Caraballo pointed out, this opens the door to even more abuse toward trans people, who are already subjected to a lot of hatred both on- and offline.

Twitter did not announce the change, meaning that people are only just learning about it 10 days after the fact. GLAAD slammed the switch as “the latest example of just how unsafe the company is for users and advertisers alike.”

“Social media companies committed to maintaining safe environments for LGBTQ people should be working to improve hate speech policies, not deleting long-standing ones,” GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement, noting that civil rights groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, have categorized misgendering and deadnaming people as a form of hate speech.

Ellis also pointed out that TikTok, Pinterest, and Meta have trans protection policies, making Twitter an outlier.

Hate speech has risen dramatically on Twitter since Elon Musk took over in October, although he insists otherwise. A report released in December by Media Matters and GLAAD analyzed tweets from nine prominent right-wing figures and accounts and found that in the first month under Musk’s leadership, there was a 1,200 percent increase in retweets of posts that use the word “groomer,” a homophobic slur.

The social media research group National Contagion Research Institute found that in the 12 hours after Musk bought Twitter, use of the n-word increased almost 500 percent. Musk has let Nazis back on Twitter, given blue verification check marks to the Taliban, and shared transphobic memes and Nazi photos himself.

Democrats Begin to Call for Feinstein’s Resignation

Republicans are not going to help Democrats replace Dianne Feinstein on the Judiciary Committee. So there’s only one option left.

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On Monday, Representatives Jamaal Bowman and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez expressed support for the resignation of Senator Dianne Feinstein, as the congressional veteran’s absence leaves key votes, including on juridical nominations, in limbo.

Last week, Representative Ro Khanna became the first Democrat to call for Feinstein’s resignation, with Minnesota Representative Dean Phillips echoing Khanna’s call shortly after.

“Yes, you know, she’s had a very long and stellar career, you know, but missing that many votes, you know, stops us from moving forward judge nominations,” Bowman cautiously told CNN’s Manu Raju.

Ocasio-Cortez echoed Bowman’s remorseful tone, saying that “it is unfortunately something that … is appropriate to consider in this case.”

The growing calls for Feinstein’s resignation comes amid the tanking of Senator Dick Durbin and Chuck Schumer’s idealistic vision to keep Feinstein in office but find a replacement for her on the Judiciary Committee. Sixty senators would have to approve the Feinstein replacement, which means a few Republicans would have to join the effort. While there is precedent for unanimous support for committee reappropriation, enough key Senate Republicans have announced they are not interested in playing along this time. With Feinstein missing, the committee is split, and Biden’s judicial nominees will continue to be blocked.

Now the options are far and few between for Democrats. And the stakes are no less heightened with the backdrop of the scandalous financial entanglements of one of the most powerful jurists in the country, Clarence Thomas.

Though calls for Feinstein’s resignation continue to grow, both in and outside of government, some members of Congress have been less open to the idea. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said Monday that Feinstein was “voted by her state to be senator for six years; she has the right, in my opinion, to decide when she steps down.” Former Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi has insinuated the calls are rooted in sexism, saying she doesn’t “know what political agendas are at work that are going after Senator Feinstein.”

Meanwhile, most Democrats have been largely mum or deferential up to this point, allowing the likes of Khanna to be the lone voices against leadership that has relentlessly stood by Feinstein. But the growing calls may signal a sea change. Other members of Congress who have publicly been on the fence could be primed to come out in support of Feinstein gracefully resigning given the narrowing options.

On Sunday, Senator Amy Klobuchar told ABC that “if this goes on month after month after month, then she’s gonna have to make a decision with her family and her friends about what her future holds because this isn’t just about California, it’s also about the nation.” Klobuchar, by no means someone who is routinely out of step with the party center, may be indicative of how many Democrats feel. Given the sparse options and less and less time to confirm judges (and how crucial courts have come to be: from abortion access and immigrant protection to labor and civil rights), Democrats can ride off the movement spurred by Khanna and Phillips, and now Ocasio-Cortez and Bowman, to encourage Feinstein to conclude her career in the best way possible.

Feinstein can resign of her own volition, focus on regaining her health without a timeline pressuring her, and enjoy her life after a long-storied career in the Senate. And to top it all off, she’ll leave a legacy that many politicians fail to secure: shedding a bit of ego and knowing when to leave.

Now Ron DeSantis Wants to Put Mickey Mouse in Prison

The Florida governor’s war on Disney continues.

Ron DeSantis
Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

Ron DeSantis’s latest plan to get back at Disney is so bad, it’s criminal.

The Florida governor has been engaged in the weirdest back-and-forth with Disney World since 2022, after the company’s then-chairman condemned DeSantis’s “Don’t Say Gay” law. DeSantis retaliated by stripping the park of its autonomous governing powers and installing a leadership board of allies.

Disney, in turn, snuck a clause into the development agreement that dramatically limits what the new board can actually do. Apparently, all board members failed to read the contract. And now, in a pettiness masterclass, Disney doesn’t need board approval for major construction projects, nor can the board use Disney branding. The clause lasts until “21 years after the death of the last survivor of the descendants of King Charles III”—meaning it could last for 100 years.

Well now, DeSantis has a new idea to one-up the House of Mouse: turn it into a big house.

DeSantis rhetorically wondered what to do with the land around Disney during a Monday press conference. “Someone even said, ‘Maybe you need another state prison.’ Who knows?” he said. “I just think that the possibilities are endless.”

It’s not entirely clear what DeSantis thinks he is achieving by taking on Disney. Brandon Wolf, the press secretary for LGBTQ rights organization Equality Florida, described the governor’s latest threat as “a truly unhinged display of ego.”

DeSantis is widely expected to announce he’s running for president in 2024, and many of his latest actions (or lack thereof) are clearly to set himself up for campaigning as an “anti-woke” champion. But he’s doing so at the cost of his current constituents.

Areas of southern Florida are still experiencing historic rainfall and flooding, and DeSantis has been noticeably absent from the state response.