February 11, 2020

Michelle Malkin Endorses Racist CPAC Rival
This week:  * CPAC gets a racist rival, with help from Michelle Malkin * Fox News leak questions Sean Hannity’s guest list * Check out this book! * Seth Rich conspiracy theorists get a big boostCPAC, but for white nationalists: Later this month, conservative operatives from all over the country will head to a hotel outside Washington for the Conservative Political Action Conference, the annual mega-confab for all things Trump. But this time, CPAC will face a racist rival conference at an undisclosed location nearby: the “America First Political Action Conference,” featuring two speakers who marched in the white supremacist Charlottesville rally in 2017. Ordinarily, a gathering this fringe wouldn’t mean much for the right—except for the fact that Michelle Malkin, one of the most prominent conservative columnists in the country, is also speaking. Malkin’s headlining role raises questions about how far racist ideas are infiltrating the mainstream right. The backstory here is that a particularly online section of the right has been riven for the past few months between “groypers”—the white nationalist activists and their fellow travelers—and more establishment conservative elements like Charlie Kirk’s Turning Point USA and the organizers of CPAC. Organized around white nationalist Nick Fuentes, the “groypers”—who take their name from an obese toad version of Pepe the Frog—started showing up at Turning Point events and shouting down speakers like Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX). They claimed that Crenshaw and his allies aren’t conservative enough, and many of their questions were aimed at questioning the United States’ support for Israel, in an attempt to “red-pill” campus conservatives toward more extreme views.Malkin has gone all-in on the groypers, apparently because of her hardline stance on immigration. She joined the encrypted messaging app Telegram—their preferred social media platform—and even lost her speaker’s bureau contract over it. Now Malkin, who had a headlining speech at CPAC just last year, is positioning the racist AFPAC variation as the real conservative conference. She’ll appear at the event alongside Fuentes, a Holocaust denier, and Patrick Casey, the leader of a white nationalist group that rebranded after its internal chat logs leaked. Malkin’s appearance at AFPAC raises the embarrassing possibility that plenty of CPAC attendees will head over to AFPAC on Friday night, linking the conservative movement’s leading conference with white nationalists.Malkin has promoted AFPAC on Twitter and declared that, unlike CPAC, it would have no “swamp lobbyists lurking backstage.” Malkin didn’t respond to a request for comment. But her appearance at the white nationalist event suggests that the far-right, racist “groyper” ethos is getting more entrenched with conservatives.  Want this in your inbox? sign up now!* * *Fox critiques its own Ukraine coverage: Even some of Fox News’ own researchers do not believe the claims made by a number of Sean Hannity’s most frequent guests, according to an internal Fox document I reported on last week. In a report from Fox’s in-house research unit, a researcher blasted guests like John Solomon and Rudy Giuliani, accusing them of pushing a Ukrainian disinformation campaign.* * *Right Richter Reading Corner: If you like Right Richter and its coverage of marginal, bizarre Trumpland characters, you’re going to love the new book Sinking in the Swamp. It’s the latest from my colleagues Asawin Suebsaeng and Lachlan Markay, it’s coming out on Tuesday, and it’s filled with bizarre stories about what the Trump era means for our country. Check it out!* * *Seth Rich conspiracy theories flare anew: It’s been a lean couple of years for Seth Rich conspiracy theorists. The people fixated on the 2016 murder of the Democratic National Committee staffer had their high point in 2017, when Hannity and a Fox reporter pushed the baseless idea that Hillary Clinton had Rich killed for leaking hacked Democratic emails to WikiLeaks. Hannity started losing advertisers, Rich’s family sued Fox, and the channel ditched the story. Since then, the most prominent Rich conspiracy theorist has been vlogger Matt Couch—a guy with a sizable fringe following but not exactly a household name on the right. That all might be about to change now, though, after redacted emails obtained from the Department of Justice with the subject line “Seth Rich” were released earlier this month.While the emails are all brief and are just about people dismissing the idea that Rich was involved in the WikiLeaks email hack, they’ve been seized on by Rich conspiracy theorists. And they’ve made their way over to OAN, the cable network that Trump increasingly praises in an attempt to push Fox rightward. Last week, OAN ran an entire segment about the emails, with the headline proclaiming: “Attorney: FBI Had Been Lying About The Murder Of Seth Rich.” The blast of cable news attention has reinvigorated Seth Rich conspiracy theorists, suggesting that the saga the Rich family has long asked speculators to end won’t be stopping anytime soon. 
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