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Has Ron DeSantis Eaten Pizza Before?

The Florida governor’s Fox News interview was predictably awkward.

Photo by Ronda Churchill/Getty Images

On Thursday, Ron DeSantis joined Fox News for a slice of pizza in New York City.

The Florida governor and 2024 presidential candidate joined Fox’s ladder-climbing wonder boy Jesse Watters to shoot a segment in response to the city considering a rule that would encourage pizza shops to cut emissions from outdated coal-fired ovens.

Of course, analogous to the whipped-up backlash to the Consumer Product Safety Commission expressing concern for the health effects of gas stoves, the right has turned this into a cultural panic: The left wants to ban pizza. Enter Ron DeSantis, who has tried to make himself the poster boy of every ginned-up moral panic on the right.

Some quipped that it looked like the first time the 2024 candidate has eaten a slice of pizza.

“[The left] just wanna control.… They just don’t want people to be happy and be able to make their own decisions” DeSantis said, as if he hasn’t launched an all-out crusade against students and teachers, LGBTQ people’s civil rights, or people’s freedom to choose after signing one of the strictest abortion bans in the country.

“They were going after gas stoves. In Florida we made them tax-free, we may have to do some incentives for coal-fired pizza, because you know what, we’ll take it,” he continued before taking another face-scrunching bite.

The segment appeared as millions across the country were re-enveloped in wildfire-induced smog worsened by climate change. It also came months after twice-impeached and twice-indicted former President Donald Trump said DeSantis would have been working in a “pizza parlor” or “law firm” without his help.

Joe Biden’s Student Loan Forgiveness Plan Is Dead

The Supreme Court just blocked a debt forgiveness policy that helped tens of millions of Americans.

Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

The Supreme Court voted to overturn President Joe Biden’s student debt relief plan 6–3.

The pause on student loan payments was already set to expire at the end of August, and Biden’s ability to extend the pause was foreclosed through debt ceiling negotiations. But the court’s decision on Friday hurts about 43 million people who were expected to see some relief from the burden of America’s crippling student debt regime.

On Thursday, the court ruled that affirmative action was a discriminatory mechanism. A day later, it ruled that people can openly discriminate against gay people, or anyone they see as “illegitimate” (in a case that didn’t even involve any gay people). And now the court has ruled against debt forgiveness, in a case based on harm toward a loan servicer that actually didn’t want to be involved in the case at all.

Justice Elena Kagan captured the madness in her dissent. “Wielding its judicially manufactured heightened-specificity requirement, the Court … does not let the political system, with its mechanisms of accountability, operate as normal. It makes itself the decisionmaker on, of all things, federal student-loan policy. And then, perchance, it wonders why it has only compounded the ‘sharp debates’ in the country?”

Estimates show that 87 percent of the relief from Biden’s plan was to go to individuals earning less than $75,000 a year, while none would have gone to those earning more than $125,000. Ninety-five percent of the total benefits were set for households making less than $150,000.

It remains unclear what the administration now plans to do to remain committed to its promises to these millions of people, but there still are options. One potential pathway proposed by the People’s Policy Project involves using the Higher Education Act to instate already authorized income-driven repayment programs that could potentially have debtors save even more than in Biden’s original plan.

The Supreme Court Just Used a Fake Case to Make It Easier to Discriminate Against Gay People

In America, Neil Gorsuch writes, people are “free to think” that gay people are “illegitimate.”

A hand outside a inwdow hold a pride flag in the wind
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Supreme Court ruled 6–3 in favor of a Colorado web designer’s crusade to make exemptions from anti-discrimination laws so she can refuse to provide services for same-sex weddings.

Consistent with the First Amendment, the Nation’s answer is tolerance, not coercion. The First Amendment envisions the United States as a rich and complex place where all persons are free to think and speak as they wish, not as the government demands,” the court wrote in an opinion led by Justice Neil Gorsuch.

303 Creative LLC v. Elenis is among the most peculiar cases to reach the highest court of the land. Since 2016, web designer Lorie Smith had been appealing courts to outright make exceptions to Colorado anti-discrimination laws, so she could provide wedding website design services to straight couples only. Smith’s initial suit with a Colorado district court failed in 2019, and her subsequent appeal to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals failed as well. The Supreme Court took up her case in February 2022.

Puzzlingly, before she actually filed the first suit in 2016, Smith had apparently never designed a wedding website. Even weirder: She had never apparently been asked to provide services to a same-sex couple up to that point either.

Enter supposed couple “Stewart and Mike,” who apparently submitted a request to Smith for her services one day after she filed her case in Colorado’s U.S district court in 2016. Stewart apparently wanted to plan some design work for his wedding with Mike “early next year.”

But after The New Republic reached out to Stewart directly—his contact information was readily accessible in court documents—the story fell apart: He said he had never submitted the form; he said TNR’s call was “the very first time I’ve heard of it.”

“It looks like Smith and her attorneys have, perhaps unwittingly, invented a gay couple in need of a wedding website in a case in which they argue that same-sex marriages are ‘false,’” TNR’s Melissa Gira Grant writes.

This flimsy story befits a complaint with little to no substance. No one has caused actual, material harm to Smith that may prompt legal action at all. Colorado’s anti-discrimination law is the supposed villain here, according to Smith’s legal team. Such a law apparently prevents Smith from being able “to bring glory to God by creating unique expression that shares her religious beliefs of creating wedding websites,” her lawyers argue. “She only wants to make websites that comport with her values that same-sex marriage is illegitimate.”

And now, with the Supreme Court’s blessing, people like Smith can openly discriminate against anyone they see as “illegitimate.”

Dylan Mulvaney Slams Bud Light for Not Supporting Her

The trans influencer revealed the beverage company never reached out as far-right creeps made her fear for her safety.

Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
Dylan Mulvaney at the 2023 Grammy Awards

On Thursday, Dylan Mulvaney—the actress and influencer who has been viciously attacked by the angriest forces in society for simply being transgender and promoting Bud Light on Instagram—released a video revealing that Bud Light never reached out to her as she faced a relentless, bigoted backlash.

“I should have made this video months ago, but I didn’t. And I was scared. And I was scared of more backlash. And I felt personally guilty for what transpired,” Mulvaney said. “So I patiently waited for things to get better. But surprise: They haven’t really. And I was waiting for the brand to reach out to me, but they never did,” she revealed.

“And for months now I’ve been scared to leave my house. I have been ridiculed, in public,” she continued. “I’ve been followed. And I have felt a loneliness that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. And I’m not telling you this because I want your pity. I am telling you this because if this is my experience, from a very privileged perspective, know that it is much, much worse for other trans people.”

Indeed, approval for LGBTQ rights in America has slipped after years of progress. Ultimately, there’s a ferocious minority of individuals in society making their livings off of targeting people like Mulvaney. The campaign against her was deeply cynical, but it was successful: Bud Light has seen its market share dip after right-wingers made the company the latest target in their war on gay and trans rights.

Here’s Even More Evidence That Trump’s SPAC is a Scam

Three investors in an entity connected to it were just arrested for insider trading.

Photo by CHRIS DELMAS/AFP/Getty Images

The Trump Train is more of a clown car.

In the latest episode of Trump-adjacent criminality, three top-line investors have been charged with insider trading relating to a proposed merger with the company that owns twice-impeached and twice-indicted former President Donald Trump’s Truth Social social media platform.

The Floridian trio allegedly got away with over $22 million by illegally trading shares in Digital World Acquisition Corp, or DWAC, a shell company that was set to merge with Trump Media Technology Group, or TMTG. The three men, Michael Shvartsman, Gerald Shvartsman, and Bruce Garelick made the trades based on nonpublic information.

DWAC is what is known as a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, a tool that allows companies to merge with other entities and go public, all without having to formally file for IPOs. It is essentially a shell company that allows financiers to avoid finicky things like paperwork and rules—which are usually required when companies go public—in search of a quick payday.

According to the Securities and Exchanges Commission court filing, Garelick and both Shvartsmans had signed investor confidentiality agreements with DWAC in June 2021; after signing, the duo were first told about the company’s plans to merge with Trump’s media company.

Garelick had then joined the DWAC board of directors in July 2021. With his newfound position, he had come to learn of more details about DWAC’s plan to acquire Trump’s media company and also voted on actions related to the merger. The merger was officially announced on October 20, 2021.

Yet according to the complaint, Garelick had repeatedly purchased DWAC securities prior to that announcement date, didn’t complete required forms for directors who engage in securities trading of the companies they serve as director for, and shared additional nonpublic information about the merger with his boss at Rocket One Capital—Michael Shvartsman—who then tipped off his brother, Gerald.

After the merger announcement, the trio sold their DWAC holdings and pocketed almost $23 million.

Trump himself has not been named in the complaint. Meanwhile, the merger still has not happened, thanks in large part to numerous legal complaints. If DWAC and TMTG do not merge by September 8, the former is required to return $300 million to investors.

Days after the deal was first announced, The New York Times reported that DWAC may have violated securities laws that hold SPACs are not supposed to have a merger pre-planned prior to going public. Trump had reportedly been in talks with DWAC founder Patrick Orlando since at least March 2021.

In December 2021, it was revealed that the SEC and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority were looking into the company’s stock trading and communications with Trump’s media company before the deal was announced. Then, in June 2022, the SEC was reported to have expanded its inquiry. Days later, the Southern District of New York subpoenaed DWAC and each member of its board—with a special focus on communications with Rocket One Capital. Amid the chaos, Garelick had resigned from the board of directors. And now we know why.

More on Trump's Truth Social Scam

How Worried Should Democrats Be About 2024?

The presidential election may come down to just three states.


The 2024 presidential election is well over a year away—and the GOP nomination is still up for grabs, at least technically. And yet, early signs are pointing to another very close election: Most early polling shows that President Joe Biden and Donald Trump are neck-and-neck, albeit with large numbers of undecided voters, in national polling, and tight races in a number of swing states.

On Thursday, the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics released its Electoral College Rankings, which shows an astonishingly close race, with only 43 electoral votes up for grabs.

“We are starting 260 electoral votes worth of states as at least leaning Democratic, and 235 as at least leaning Republican,” writes the Center for Politics’s Kyle Kondick. “The four Toss-ups are Arizona, Georgia, and Wisconsin—the three closest states in 2020—along with Nevada, which has voted Democratic in each of the last four presidential elections but by closer margins each time (it is one of the few states where Joe Biden did worse than Hillary Clinton, albeit by less than a tenth of a percentage point). That is just 43 Toss-up electoral votes at the outset.”

This is still, broadly speaking, good news for Democrats. Nevada has been trending red, but its six electoral votes would likely not be decisive in this scenario. Democrats have reason to feel hopeful about Arizona, which went for Trump in 2016 and Biden in 2020, but where Democrats have recently done well—thanks in part to the general insanity of the state’s Republican Party. There are positive signs in Wisconsin as well, where Governor Tony Evers boasts a high approval rating. Still, with less than 18 months to go, this is a much tighter race than many Democrats would hope, especially given the fact that the presumptive Republican nominee is currently facing dozens of federal charges relating to mishandling classified information.

Mike Pence’s Incredibly Dumb Reaction to the Supreme Court’s Affirmative Action Ruling

He checked his privilege—and there’s definitely nothing to see there.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Supreme Court this morning outlawed affirmative action in colleges, and Mike Pence quickly distinguished himself among the crowded 2024 GOP field with the dumbest reaction yet to the ruling.

“There may have been a time, 50 years ago, when we needed to affirmatively take steps to correct long-term racial bias in institutions of higher education. But I can tell you as the father of three college graduates, those days are long over,” Pence said Thursday. Those three children are all white.

One wonders what possibly could have occurred in 1973 to forever end “long-term racial bias” at colleges. But I guess we’ll just have to trust that the well-connected former vice president knows exactly what he’s talking about with regard to whether nonwhite Americans are still disadvantaged from getting to go to college.

Two More Federal Judges Smack Down Bigoted Anti–Trans Youth Bills

Trans health care bans were blocked in Kentucky and Tennessee—but not in North Carolina.

A protester at Kentucky's State Capitol
Jon Cherry/Getty Images
A protester at Kentucky's State Capitol in March

Federal judges in Kentucky and Tennessee have both rejected parts of Republican-led bans on gender-affirming health care for people under the age of 18—just days, even hours, before the anti-trans laws were set to take effect.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge David Hale issued a temporary injunction on Kentucky’s ban, allowing puberty blockers and hormone therapy to remain legal and accessible to people under the age of 18 while a broader legal battle proceeds.

The ACLU of Kentucky had filed a suit in May, after Democratic Governor Andy Beshear’s veto was overridden, arguing that the state’s ban on gender-affirming care was unconstitutional because it prevents trans kids specifically from receiving medically necessary care and infringes upon family privacy and doctors’ jobs. The court’s injunction only goes so far, however, as the suit focused mainly on puberty blockers and hormone therapy. Kentucky’s ban on gender-affirming surgeries for those under the age of 18 will still go into effect on Thursday.

Tennessee Judge Eli Richardson issued a similar ruling on Wednesday, stating that criminalizing gender-affirming care for trans kids but not cisgender or intersex kids “imposes disparate treatment on the basis of sex.” Tennessee’s law was set to go into effect on July 1 and would have banned hormone treatment or surgeries for transgender people under the age of 18. Richardson’s ruling did not block the law’s ban on surgeries.

Richardson, a Trump appointee, reiterated that his ruling follows numerous other decisions across the country blocking similar bans on trans health care. “If Tennessee wishes to regulate access to certain medical procedures, it must do so in a manner that does not infringe on the rights conferred by the United States Constitution, which is of course supreme to all other laws of the land,” Richardson wrote.

Richardson also confronted the basic logic of those seeking to defend the bans, and why the bans are not just constitutionally but practically misguided:

Defendants’ assertion that gender-affirming treatment does not improve mental health outcomes relies solely on the testimony of Dr. Cantor, who seems never to have treated an individual for gender dysphoria. But the weight of evidence in the record suggests the contrary—that treatment for gender dysphoria lowers rates of depression, suicide, and additional mental health issues faced by transgender individuals. And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, the Court notes that several courts, based on the respective records in those cases, have found the same.

In North Carolina, Republicans finalized a bill that will ban gender-affirming care—therapy, puberty blockers, and surgeries—for anyone under the age of 18. Democratic Governor Roy Cooper will likely veto the bill, but the Republicans have slim veto-proof majorities in both chambers of the state legislation.

Affirmative Action is Over, Thanks to the Supreme Court

The rulings seriously curtail race-conscious college admissions, effectively ending a decades-old policy.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Supreme Court has voted to end affirmative action in higher education, overturning decades-old policy originating from the presidencies of John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard Nixon.

“Harvard’s and UNC’s admissions programs violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,” the court’s majority opinion ruled.

The suits were brought by the anti–affirmative action group Students for Fair Admissions; one was against Harvard University, another against the University of North Carolina.

In the former, the court voted 6–2, with Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson recusing herself due to having served on Harvard’s Board of Overseers. In the latter, the court voted 6–3.

Affirmative action has been a point of legal contention for decades, but most cases regarding it have arrived at one general conclusion: Schools can consider a student’s race when making admissions decisions, but only as part of a broader comprehensive and holistic process. This was the finding in the landmark 2003 cases Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger, in which the court ruled that affirmative action in school admissions is constitutional if race is treated as one factor among many, if the purpose is to achieve more diverse classes, and if it doesn’t replace more individualized review of applicants.

In ruling affirmative action unconstitutional, the court overturns this focus on holistic balance.

Now schools across the country will need to overhaul their admissions processes to the new regime. Many schools have already begun to de-emphasize the need for standardizing testing; others are taking the stronger step to get rid of legacy admissions, which favor the children of alumni.

What’s clear is that unless schools take positive steps to ensure their student bodies grow more and not less diverse in the aftermath of this decision, the Supreme Court will leave yet another shameful legacy in its wake: this time, hamstringing our need to foster a strong diversity of thought in this country.

“In so holding, the Court cements a superficial rule of colorblindness as a constitutional principle in an endemically segregated society where race has always mattered and continues to matter. The Court subverts the constitutional guarantee of equal protection by further entrenching racial inequality in education, the very foundation of our democratic government and pluralistic society,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in her dissenting opinion.

What Is Robert F. Kennedy Doing in the Democratic Primary?

Republicans love him. Democrats? Not so much.

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. theoretically has one big thing going for him in the Democratic presidential primary: He is a Kennedy. Possessing one of the most famous names in Democratic politics is a clear boon, even if Kennedy Jr.’s bid for the party’s nomination is a long shot given that the current occupant of the White House, Joe Biden, is a Democrat. Still, Kennedy Jr.’s name has given him a boost in this early stage of the Democratic primary: With many voters looking for alternatives to the octogenarian Biden, Kennedy Jr. surged in the polls, hitting the high teens in some cases.

The big problem with Kennedy Jr.’s candidacy, however, isn’t just that he’s running against a president most Democratic voters like. It’s that he’s basing much of his candidacy around fringe issues that are directly opposed to the views of most of the Democratic electorate. For decades, Kennedy Jr. has pushed a number of dangerous and unfounded conspiracy theories about the safety of vaccines and the Covid-19 vaccine in particular. Democratic voters like the vaccine—and vaccines more broadly—a lot. Kennedy Jr. has similarly campaigned aggressively against continued support for Ukraine, while arguing to end the war on terms that would be highly favorable to Russia—yet another viewpoint that is wildly out of step with his ostensible party. He has meanwhile appeared with a number of fringe figures, like Joe Rogan, and accepted kudos from Tucker Carlson, among other right-wingers. Donald Trump recently gave him a pat on the back, calling him a “commonsense guy.”

On the right, particularly on Fox News, Kennedy Jr. has been presented as an insurgent and a threat to Biden’s renomination. But that simply isn’t the case. Kennedy Jr.’s popularity has actually fallen as he’s received more media coverage. And it’s easy to see why: Much of the hype is coming from the right. And much of the coverage is focusing on the many, many ideas Kennedy Jr. has that are not shared by his party. In recent weeks, the percentage of Democrats holding strongly favorable opinions of RFK Jr. fell from 20 percent to 14, while those with strongly unfavorable opinions rose to 22 percent, per YouGov polling. Biden currently leads him by 63 points among Democratic voters, though he only bests him by 44 among independents.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is a conspiracy theorist and an anti-vaxxer running on ending the war in Ukraine on pro-Putin terms. Still, he could make a dent in an election next year—provided he switches parties. He’s running a decent campaign to become the Republican presidential nominee. He’s running a terrible one to replace Biden at the top of the ticket.