If this Trump thing doesn’t work out, how about Ben Sasse for president?

 

Good morning Austin:

If this Trump thing doesn’t work out, Ben Sasse, the 45-year-old Republican senator from Nebraska, could end up being our next president.

Or, if this Trump thing really doesn’t work out, the one after Mike Pence fills out the remainder of Trump’s term.

Or at any rate, the Republican Party nominee.

Because, in ways political and personal, Ben Sasse is the unTrump and the anti-Trump, the plausible Republican presidential candidate who can say, don’t blame me, and, if you didn’t like that, you might like this.

I first saw Sasse in January 2016 at a Ted Cruz event in Keosaqua, Iowa, population 1,006, Sasse spoke ahead of Rick Perry, who by then was campaigning for Cruz for president, and spoke ahead of Cruz.

But, while Sasse spoke warmly of Sen. Cruz, he wasn’t there as a Cruz supporter but as a Donald Trump opponent, as someone who wanted the party to nominate a candidate other than Trump.

 

Until that night I was scarcely aware that Ben Sasse existed and yet, here he was in the middle of nowhere at the opposite end of Iowa from his homestate of Nebraska, taking with great passion about the peril that Donald Trump posed to the Republican Party, the nation and the Constitution.

I was impressed by how natural and personal Sasse seemed in in his approach – very fresh and very young.

“Is he old enough to be in the Senate?” I asked the young woman standing next to me in the back of the hall.

“Yes,” the young woman replied. “He gets that a lot.”

It was Sasse’s daughter.

(That’s the back of Ben Sasse’s head and his daughter, Corrie, behind Rick Perry as Perry prepares to sign a Bible for David Clark in Keosaqua, Iowa. It wasn’t until Sasse went before the crowd to introduce Perry that I realized who he was.)

Who could have imagined that a year and change later, Cruz yesterday would be issuing a press release praising “the Trump Administration’s executive action to roll back a number of costly Obama-era climate regulations,” at a press conference that featured both President Donald Trump and Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

I saw Sasse Friday night at the Austin Club where he was the featured speaker at the Travis Country Republican Party’s very successful Reagan Gala, where he gave a speech wholly unlike anything you might hear at such a gathering.

There was no mention of Trump, but Sasse did talk about the meaning of life and love and friendship and work. And limited government.

Here are the last 16 minutes of the speech in two installments, and yes, I do drop my phone for a moment toward the end of Part 2, but recover quickly.

You  can hear the full speech here.

Sasse was well-received. Austin is a safe place for Sasse ,who might not be invited to some GOP dinners for his failure to vote for Trump.

This is, after all, a sanctuary city.

And, if taking a dim view of Trump is a political sin for a Republican, Sasse was among sinners Friday night, though some of those, unlike Sasse have repented.

As I recounted in  First Reading the week after the November election:

Matt Mackowiak was elected vice chairman of the Travis County Republican Party Tuesday night, precisely one week since he tweeted at Donald Trump, “Go f**k yourself. You just conceded the most winnable election in 50 years against the least popular Dem nom ever.”

That was the first thunderclap in a tweetstorm Mackowiak issued when he thought Trump was going down, and dragging down with him local Republican candidates, like Austin City Council Member Don Zimmerman, candidates on whose behalf Mackowiak had toiled.

But, as Trump triumphed, Mackowiak deleted the tweets and subsequently, Make America Great Again hat in hand, apologized to his fellow Travis Country Republicans to win the vice chairmanship.

Meanwhile:

 James Dickey, with Mackowiak’s backing, was restored to the party’s chairmanship in September, defeating Austin Republican consultant Brendan Steinhauser, after Dickey pledged his support for Trump, which Steinhauser said he could not do.

“I’m going to work my way from the bottom of the ballot on up, and I’m certainly not going to vote for Hillary Clinton, but I can’t tell you I am going to vote for Donald Trump,” Steinhauser said to some audible gasps.

But Dickey — who had a signed a letter to other Texas delegates prior to the Republican National Convention warning that if Trump won, down-ballot candidates would either have to become “full-time Trump apologists” or “risk being called disloyal” — said a party chairman has to support Trump.

“We face the real possibility of a landslide Clinton victory.”

Dickey was reclaiming the chairmanship he had lost to Robert Morrow in the March 2016 primary election.

(Wearing a jester cap that he calls his truth-telling hat, Robert Morrow is sworn in as Chairman of the Travis County Republican Party by Melissa Goodwin, Justice of the 3rd Court of Appeals, at the party’s organizational meeting June 28, 2016. Morrow was elected chairman despite not campaigning. His short and nationally famous tenure as Travis County Republican Party chairman ended two months later when he launched a write-in candidacy for president that, under state election law, disqualified him from continuing to serve as county party chairman. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Morrow was also not favorably disposed to Trump … and that has not changed.

(Travis County GOP Chairman Robert Morrow is escorted out by police after protesting before the start of a Donald Trump rally at the Travis County Expo Center in Austin on Aug. 23, 2016. Lukas Keapproth/AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

 

Well, the gang was all there Friday night, including Morrow, who, sans jester hat, was looking very conventional and was meeting and greeting folks as a conventional former chairman might.

 

Brendan Steinhauser, who was denied the county party’s chairmanship because he held he same position on Trump as the night’s featured speaker,  was there with his wife, Randan, a member of the State Republican Executive Committee.

And Dickey and Mackowiak were there presiding over the TCRP’s resurrection.

 

Dear friend,

Whether you were able to join us on Friday night at our annual Travis County GOP Reagan Gala or not, we wanted to provide a quick summary of how it went.

We had over 260 guests (!) with every single seat taken, and 13 generous event sponsors. We hosted 22 elected officials. In the end, with all costs accounted for, we raised over $60,000, making this the most successful TCRP fundraising event in at least ten years.

At the Gala, we presented the first-ever Rising Star Award to Council Member Ellen Troxclair and the Volunteer of the Year award to Peggy Cravens. We presented a certificate of appreciation to outgoing TCRP Executive Director Olga Lasher, who received a standing ovation.

We presented video messages from U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, and U.S. Reps. Lamar Smith and Roger Williams. A video message sent from U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul was unable to be shown due to technical problems on our end, but you can watch the message here.

Our volunteers and silent and live auctions were masterfully organized and managed by Deputy Executive Director Tracey Carroll, with the auction bringing in well over $10,000.

Many important logistical details, including the event programs, were carefully and doggedly executed by our Executive Director Gary Teal.

Land Commissioner George P. Bush detailed the important work he is doing at the General Land Office, upholding the promises he made as a candidate.

U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) kept the audience’s rapt attention for over 30 minutes as he delivered a memorable and thoughtful extemporaneous address about the future of the country.

The entire TCRP leadership team is grateful for support the party received with this event and we look forward to detailing more big plans for the rest of the year!

Sincerely,

James and Matt

Mackowiak’s Election Night tweeting at Trump seems to have done him no harm.

On the contrary.

He is an increasingly regular commentator on cable TV – he was on MSBNC yesterday talking about tax reform – and he now has a regular podcast, Mack on Politics,  interviewing consistently interesting guests.

Sasse was delighted for the Austin invitation because he used to live here during a short stint teaching at the LBJ School at UT beginning in 2009, and he brought the family along to Austin.

From his LBJ School page:

Benjamin Sasse

Sasse is one of the very few members of the Senate not to have held previous elective office when he was elected to the Senate in 2014.

A year later, in November 2015, the Atlantic’s Molly Ball asked in the Atlantic, Can Washington’s Most Interesting Egghead Save the Senate?

Nebraska’s freshman Republican, Ben Sasse, has spent nearly a year in silence. But now he plans to start calling out his colleagues.

Almost exactly a year ago, just after the 2014 elections, The Washington Post sized up the motley crew of newly elected senators—10 Republicans and one Democrat—and tried to figure out what roles they would play once they arrived in the Capitol. Ben Sasse, a 43-year-old conservative from Nebraska with no prior political experience, was voted most likely to give the first speech and most likely to make trouble for the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell.

D.C. seemed to have Sasse (pronounced “sass”) pegged as a rabble-rousing smarty-pants eager to turn the place upside down. But Sasse proceeded to defy expectations: He decided to spend the first 10 months of his term listening—without giving any speeches at all on the floor of the Senate. (This approach did not please everyone: A letter published in the Lincoln Journal Star last month accused him of “simply collecting his paycheck and having an occasional meeting with other senators.”)

“I’m a historian by training,” Sasse explained, perched on a chair in his Senate office, which is nearly bare save for a few generic pictures of Nebraska. Until a few decades ago, he said, it was traditional for new senators to wait a year to speak. That that’s no longer the case, he suspects, speaks to the pathology of the modern Senate, where lawmakers deliver stale talking points for the benefit of the C-SPAN2 cameras, often with nobody else in attendance.

But once he starts speaking, Sasse doesn’t plan to stop. He has concocted an audacious plan to get his fellow senators’ attention—one he hopes could rescue the moribund upper house from its current torpor.

Sasse is, in fact, a historian by training, among other things—he may have the Senate’s most varied resume, from the five degrees (Harvard undergrad, three master’s, Yale Ph.D) to several executive-branch positions in the Bush administration (Department of Justice, Health and Human Services) to corporate consulting to academia. When he set out to run for Senate last year, he was the president of a small Lutheran school in his home state, Midland College, whose faltering enrollment and finances he successfully turned around; running with a hybrid of establishment credentials and Tea Party passion, he defeated two better-known candidates in the Republican primary and sailed to victory in the general election.

Sasse says he has approached the Senate like a company in need of a culture change. “I’ve done 26 crisis and turnaround projects in the last 21 years, so I’m used to going into places that are really broken,” he says. “You always have to walk this fine line between learning a place—by being humble and asking questions and having empathy for real humans laboring in broken institutions—and resolve, that you’re going to still steel yourself to not let human empathy cloud the fact that a broken institution is a broken institution.” In his speech today, according to a draft, he plans to say, “I believe that a cultural recovery inside the Senate is a partial prerequisite for national recovery.”

 What the heck does this mean? And if the problem with the Senate is that senators aren’t listening to each other’s speeches, can you really hope to fix it by giving another speech nobody listens to?
Sasse delivered hat maiden speech after what he described as a year of empathetic listening,

It was Trump’s ascent, however, that brought Sasse before a national audience.

From Tim Murphy in the September/October issue of Mother Jones: If the Republican Party Can Be Saved From Its Trumpocalypse, This Senator Could Be the Key. Long before his colleagues saw the light, Ben Sasse repudiated Trump and demanded a new kind of politics. But is the GOP ready for his reformation?

One evening in early May, Sen. Ben Sasse sat at his home on the banks of the Platte River just outside Fremont, Nebraska, and began writing a message “to majority America.” Donald Trump had just become the de facto Republican presidential nominee. As Sasse explained in a Facebook post that would soon go viral, two things had happened that day that he couldn’t shake. His phone had been flooded with voicemails from party leaders asking the first-term Republican to get on board with the GOP’s candidate. And he had gone shopping at Walmart.

Sasse had been critical of Trump throughout the primaries—mocking his insecurity about the size of his hands, crashing a private meeting between Glenn Beck and Fox News’ Sean Hannity to assail the latter’s Trump coverage as “bull,” and even traveling to Iowa to warn voters that Trump talked like a man who was running to be king. Trump, for his part, retorted that the 44-year-old Sasse looked like a “gym rat.” But as Sasse navigated the aisles of Walmart, his shopping trip became a rolling public forum. Shopper after shopper approached him, he wrote, with the same refrain. They were fed up with both parties; they were sick of Trump as well as Hillary Clinton; and mostly, they were tired of Washington punting on its responsibilities.

And so Sasse, putting off his kids’ bedtime bath to keep writing, proposed an alternative. What if there were someone else—a candidate running on a minimalist platform that promised to focus on three or four things, like entitlement reform and fighting terrorism: “I think there is room—an appetite—for such a candidate.”

 To the chagrin of the party’s Never Trump rump, Sasse made clear that he himself would not be that candidate. Nevertheless, as his colleagues one by one climbed aboard the Trump train, Sasse steadfastly withheld his support from the GOP nominee. On Saturday, after a tape of Trump boasting of sexual assault was leaked to the Washington Post, Sasse became one of the first Republican senators to call on the GOP nominee to leave the presidential race. Dozens of Republicans, tired of defending their erratic figurehead’s bigotry and reality TV antics, rescinded their endorsements of Trump. But what set Sasse apart from his peers is that he had never wavered in his opposition, even as pressure mounted to fall in line. Most of the few Republican lawmakers who have renounced their candidate are retiring or fighting to hold on to blue-leaning seats—that is, they had nothing to lose or potentially something to gain. Sasse isn’t up for reelection for four years, and his state is as reliably crimson as his ubiquitous Cornhuskers polo shirt.

A Trump loss would bring a moment of reckoning for Republicans, one that could put Sasse in a position of unusual influence for a first-term senator—poised, perhaps, to refocus the identity of the GOP in the way that Paul Ryan and Newt Gingrich did before him. As a longtime scholar of the Protestant Reformation and a self-described “crisis turnaround guy,” he has spent his life studying what happens when major organizations become unmoored from their mission. The Republican Party may be his biggest project yet.

But any November soul-searching would require Sasse to wrestle with the factors behind his own political rise in a way that, by training his fire on Trump and limiting his messaging to dramatic manifestos and late-night tweetstorms, he has so far avoided. Sasse may have staked his future in Washington on stopping Trumpism. But Trumpism helps explain how he got there—and it will have to be grappled with before any serious political reformation can take hold. Whether Sasse and his party are prepared to do that may be the defining political question of the coming years.

Sasse casts his approach to politics, education, theology, and life in sweeping historical terms. A typical 30-minute speech covers 6,000 years, indulges in a smattering of McKinseyan jabberwocky, and cites C.S. Lewis, Thomas Friedman, and Alexis de Tocqueville. But the basic thrust is that the institutions that have steadied America’s progress over the last 200 years are no longer up to the task. Education, media, politics—they’re all in the throes of what he calls “disintermediation,” as gatekeepers are bypassed in favor of something more direct. Just as nightly news broadcasts have given way to social media, so, too, have the GOP’s power centers been short-circuited by Trump’s direct appeals to voters.

Sasse’s message is rooted in his self-branding as a “history nerd” and “crisis turnaround guy.” After spending his last year at Harvard writing an honors thesis about Martin Luther, Sasse signed on for just over a year at the Boston Consulting Group, where he worked with one of the big three airlines and a European flag carrier as they adjusted to the internet. Sasse likes to talk about the cratering effect that sites like Expedia had on traditional travel agencies, a cautionary tale of the power of disintermediation to usurp established systems: Adapt or die. But he soon left consulting to join a group known as Christians United for Reformation. The organization later merged with the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, and Sasse would spend nearly eight years helping edit its house magazine.

After college, Sasse had set aside his Lutheranism in favor of a form of Presbyterianism. Both traditions were represented in ACE, alongside Anglicans, Baptists, and Congregationalists. They defined the word “evangelical” by its classical theological meaning: one who believes that salvation comes only through a direct relationship with God. ACE believed that modern Protestantism was a broken institution, as badly in need of a new reformation as the Church had been in the early 16th century. ACE warned against ministers who grow too fond of the center stage and dilute Christianity by pitching it as little more than a self-help program or a get-rich-quick scheme—a spiritual means to secular ends. “They think of themselves as the sort of intellectual elite of evangelicalism,” says Molly Worthen, a history professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

At first, Sasse stayed out of the Republican presidential primary, refusing to even discuss the race on Twitter, which he considered a “politics-free zone” for broing out about ’80s rock and making fun of serving kale on Thanksgiving (“doesnt exist in nature #frankenfood”). But in late January, as he was watching an NFL playoff game, a switch flipped. Sasse tweeted a series of questions at the Republican front-runner, saying that Trump had “rightly diagnosed much of what’s wrong in DC,” but that he had questions about how the real estate magnate would govern. Some of those questions concerned Trump’s womanizing and adultery and his history of liberal views on guns and health care. But mostly he was concerned about a candidate who seems to view the presidency as akin to being a chief executive tasked to “run” the country. Sasse once called Trump a “megalo­maniac strongman”; that day he piled on, suggesting Trump was a “Nixon-style” figure who believed that America’s ills were nothing an extralegal power grab couldn’t fix.

Trump responded to Sasse’s inquiries with that jab about a “gym rat,” and the relationship went downhill from there. By the end of February, Sasse had published an open letter pledging to support someone other than Trump or Clinton. “Political parties are not families; they are not religions; they are not nations—they are often not even on the level of sports loyalties,” he wrote. “They are just tools. I was not born Republican. I chose this party, for as long as it is useful.”

No one issue or moment triggered the schism. Sasse has knocked the Muslim ban and labeled Trump’s remarks about the Mexican American judge handling his fraud case as “racism.” He vigorously supports the free-trade deals that Trump opposes. But he hasn’t made his fight about any one of those things. Rather it’s a critique of character—Trump’s crassness, ego, and misogyny—that Sasse squeezes into his general What Ails Washington framework. Worst of all, to Sasse, Trump is a big old liar who poisons the well of political discourse—just like those grandstanders in the Senate. “Our public square is plagued by habitual, brazen lying,” he wrote in July. “I do not believe this country can long survive if the public concedes in advance that people in government do not need to be consistently aiming to tell the truth.

But for all of Sasse’s pleas for seriousness and big ideas, he’s shown that he’s comfortable with elements of Trumpism. In his Senate campaign, he told voters that America was “becoming a socialist mess, like Europe,” and that Obamacare “is arguably the worst law in our history”—he even brought a poster hawking “death panels” to a Fox News interview. He laments Washington’s inability to set aside partisan sniping to get serious on entitlement reform, but he has also called Medicare a “Ponzi scheme” and warned that we’re headed toward “cradle-to-grave dependency.” Sarah Palin, perhaps the second-most-visible icon of the know-nothing conservatism that Sasse now loves to deride, campaigned with him back in 2014, even starring in a TV ad. So did Ted Cruz, the embodiment of the kind of senatorial grandstanding Sasse has subsequently called out.

From the Mother Jones piece:

A few days before the Republican National Convention, Sasse published an open letter—on Medium, of course—which he said he had begun composing while on a congressional delegation to Afghanistan over the Fourth of July, at a table “backed up against razor wire.” After reiterating that “DC should be disrupted” and using several hundred words to define theological righteousness, Sasse cast his decision not to vote for a presidential candidate in strong moral terms: “If we shrug at public dishonesty—if we normalize candidates who think that grabbing power makes it okay to say whatever they need to in the short-term—then we will be changed by it.”

Around the time he was drafting that letter, Sasse made clear he would not be attending the convention. The senator, his spokesman said, planned to instead take his children on a tour of Nebraska’s dumpster fires.

I don’t know if Sasse actually took his kids on a tour or dumpster fires.

But he has shown no compunction about dragging his children into the political fray.

This ad, from his Senate campaign, is a bit creepy, with daughters Alex and Corrie describing how their father despises Obamacare and wants to destroy it, and especially when Corrie says, We always pray for the opposing candidates … at breakfast.

But, he has found more edifying ways of exploiting his children on social media.

From the Wall Street Journal’s Kyle Peterson, a year ago:

By KYLE PETERSON
Updated April 5, 2016 10:13 p.m. ET
131 COMMENTS
For the past month, Ben Sasse, the junior U.S. senator from Nebraska, has been tweeting out his “lessons from the ranch”—or, rather, his daughter’s lessons. While her peers across the country might have spent much of the past few weeks lolling about their bedrooms, staring at smartphones instead of doing homework, 14-year-old Corrie Sasse was hours from home, laboring as a farmhand in exchange for room and board.

“We just believe in work,” Mr. Sasse tells me. “In our family we try to figure out ways that our kids can work.” The freedom to do so is one benefit of home schooling, since Mr. Sasse and his wife, Melissa, clearly consider working hard an education in itself.

Corrie seems to have taken the ranch assignment in stride, texting updates to her father, who then shared them on Twitter. Production agriculture, she learned, can be a dusty, dirty, smelly business, not least during calving season, when this particular ranch expects 300 new arrivals.

Text #FromTheRanch: “Today we checked to confirm some cows were pregnant—which Megan did by jamming her hand up their rectum. Eww.”

We should confirm, for the uninitiated, that the pregnancy-check generally involves a shoulder-length disposable glove . . . but still. Mr. Sasse says that surprise, more than anything, helped his daughter overcome the ick factor: “It was just all of a sudden, the moment they were at, and she was told to do it, and that was the work that needed to be done that day.” Corrie donned the long glove too.

Text #FromTheRanch: “Am not going to call now. I need to get some sleep before checking cows—and feed the fats—at midnight. . . By the way, Dad, the ‘fats’ are cows soon to be slaughtered.”

Now that’s real news. On Alex Jones’ Pizzagate apology and the perils of subbing one conspiracy for another.

 

Good morning Austin:

Woe is unto Alex Jones.

Or so it seemed.

On Friday, Jones did the unthinkable. He apologized for his role in spreading the Pizzagate story.

“Alex Jones here with an important note for our viewing, listening and reading audience,” Jones began his six-minute recitation of a text obviously written by, or at least, at the instruction of his attorney or attorneys, and the text of which appeared on the screen as he read it, just in case Jones had any temptation to throw the very exacting script away and wing it.

But, no, it seemed from his tone and bearing that Jones had been told to make the apology, lest he provide his attorney or attorneys an opportunity to fatten their wallets at his expense in what might have made for a sensational libel case.

The apology ends six minutes later on what he or his attorney or attorneys must have thought an upbeat, albeit improbable note.

We encourage you to hold us accountable. We improve when you do.

It suggests a new theme for a man already widely acknowledged to be America’s great popularizer of conspiracy theories:

Alex Jones: Building better conspiracy theories since 2017.

But apologies in the world of conspiracy theorizing are problematic.

Being a conspiracy theorist ought to mean never having to say you’re sorry. If you do say you’re sorry, or seem to be obliged under pain of something to apologize, well, what’s up with that?

Did the globalists get to you? Do they have something on you? Or, more obviously, were you one of them all along?

As news of Jones’ apology went viral, these sort of suspicions started to percolate in the world that Alex Jones has come to dominate and one was left to wonder whether he had irreparably hurt his brand with his act of contrition.

But, by yesterday afternoon, Jones’ faithful could take heart.

Their man was back, in demeanor and ingenuity.

https://twitter.com/RealAlexJones/status/846080494387318786

And, at the appointed time …

https://twitter.com/RealAlexJones/status/846142259938693120

I don’t know that in nature there is a spider that can unspin a web.

But Jones is sui generis, and yesterday’s 19-minute video is a dizzying attempt to unspin one web while simultaneously spinning another – reframing Friday’s dour apology as simply the latest stroke of a brave and brilliant manuever by Jones, launched late last year, to sever ties from Pizzagate conspiracy mongering which, he had realized, with a flash of insight, was a diversion, fanned by the MSM (mainstream media), to protect the real cabal of international pedophilia, on which Jones will now devote his attention.

And not to worry, there is, Jones suggests, a Clinton (Bill), in the thick of that cabal.

Here is the statement Jones delivered on Friday.

Last fall before the Presidential election, a large number of media outlets began reporting on allegations arising from emails released by Wikileaks that appeared to come from John Podesta, who served Presidents Clinton and Obama and was the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Dozens of those stories and articles raised or discussed theories that some of Podesta’s emails contained code words for human trafficking and/or pedophilia. Stories also included allegations connecting members of the Democratic Party with a number of restaurants involved with a child sex ring. These stories were cited and discussed in social media and went viral on the Internet.

One of the persons mentioned in many of the stories in the media was a Washington, D.C. restaurant owner named James Alefantis, and his pizza restaurant Comet Ping Pong.

It is fair to say that Mr. Alefantis is a prominent individual who has been mentioned as a power player in Washington. Mr. Alefantis and his restaurant were mentioned in many stories published by a lot of different outlets. Mr. Alefantis was quoted in many subsequent stories, and he denied any involvement in such child sex rings. These denials were reported in national media and many other media outlets and news websites.

The volume of stories was substantial, generated national headlines and came to be known across the country as “Pizzagate.” We at Infowars became a part of that discussion. We broadcast commentary about the allegations and the theory that the emails contained code words. We raised questions about information in Mr. Podesta’s emails and the Comet Ping Pong restaurant. We believed at that time that further investigation was necessary. In December 2016 we disassociated ourselves from the “Pizzagate” claims and theories, a position we reiterated last month after being contacted by Mr. Alefantis.

In late February 2017, we received a letter from Mr. Alefantis asking that we retract certain statements that he says were made in seven of our broadcasts between the last week of November and the first week of December 2016. We have attempted, through our lawyers, to contact Mr. Alefantis to discuss with him what sort of statement he would like to see made.

In our commentary about what had become known as Pizzagate, I made comments about Mr. Alefantis that in hindsight I regret, and for which I apologize to him. We were participating in a discussion that was being written about by scores of media outlets, in one of the most hotly contested and disputed political environments our country has ever seen. We relied on third party accounts of alleged activities and conduct at the restaurant. We also relied on accounts of reporters who are no longer with us. This was an ever-evolving story, which had a huge amount of commentary about it across many media outlets.

As I have said before, what became a heightened focus on Mr. Alefantis and Comet Ping Pong by many media outlets was not appropriate. To my knowledge today, neither Mr. Alefantis, nor his restaurant Comet Ping Pong, were involved in any human trafficking as was part of the theories about Pizzagate that were being written about in many media outlets and which we commented upon.

I want our viewers and listeners to know that we regret any negative impact our commentaries may have had on Mr. Alefantis, Comet Ping Pong, or its employees. We apologize to the extent our commentaries could be construed as negative statements about Mr. Alefantis or Comet Ping Pong, and we hope that anyone else involved in commenting on Pizzagate will do the same thing.

Here’s what we have done to clarify to the public. Months ago we took down the majority of broadcasts/videos including ones that only mentioned Pizzagate. This happened months before we were even contacted by Mr. Alefantis. Mr. Alefantis objected to portions of seven particular radio broadcasts. We have taken down those seven broadcasts and we have attempted to take down any broadcasts that mentioned Mr. Alefantis or Comet Ping Pong. We have attempted to do so not just on our website but also social media sites such as our YouTube channel. If Mr. Alefantis has other objections, we invite him to let us know. Two reporters who used to be associated with us are no longer with us. In a recent broadcast, I invited Mr. Alefantis on our program to state what he wanted to, and I again do so here. He has given interviews to many media outlets, and he is welcome to come on our show.

In issuing this statement, we are not admitting that Mr. Alefantis, or his restaurant, have any legal claim. We do not believe they do. But we are issuing this statement because we think it is the right thing to do. It will be no surprise to you that we will fight for children across America. But the Pizzagate narrative, as least as concerning Mr. Alefantis and Comet Ping Pong, we have subsequently determined was based upon what we now believe was an incorrect narrative. Despite the fact that we were far from the genesis of this story, it is never easy to admit when your commentaries are based on inaccurate information, but we feel like we owe it to you the listeners, viewers and supporters to make that statement, and give an apology to you and to Mr. Alefantis, when we do.

We encourage you to hold us accountable. We improve when you do.

Alex Jones,
Infowars

There is a lot of blame-shifting in that statement. But hell, it’s an apology. By Alex Jones.

 

Uh oh.

https://twitter.com/martinelki/status/845453292566130688

If you’ve got the time, you can relive the whole experience.

Jordan Sather, whose eyes were opened by Alex Jones, found his latest moves suspicious.

 

Could Sather be the next Alex Jones?

Well, we’re going to do a little body language analysis because he is under a huge amount of stress. We want to document how he reacts when he is sued by the big boys, I mean the big boys. The big boys  in D.C.  don’t play around. When the D.C. lawyers give you a phone call, when they write you a letter saying, `cease and desist, stop what you’re doing, ‘Alex Jones does exactly what he is told.

Look at those eyes. Those eyes tell you everything.

Alex Jones cannot hide it. He is very, very sad.

His jaw line does some weird twisting and turning.

Watch the jaw movement. His jaw does some funny things when he is under stress.

It is clear he has to wipe the sweat off of his lips.

Insert into post

From Paul Farhi at the Washington Post:

Jones didn’t say what prompted his apology but it may have been motivated by a letter Alefantis wrote to him in February. The letter demands an apology and retraction for InfoWars’ postings about Pizzagate; it does not threaten legal action, but refers to what Alefantis describes as “defaming” comments by InfoWars.

But the timing of Jones’s apology suggests he was concerned about a potential lawsuit. Under Texas law, the Austin-based Jones had to retract or apologize for the stories by Friday — one full month after receiving Alefantis’s letter — to avoid exposing InfoWars to punitive damages in a libel suit.

In a statement, Alefantis said, “I am pleased that Mr. Jones has apologized and admitted that he and his employees repeatedly spread falsehoods about me and my restaurant. I wish that he would have made this admission and apology months ago. And his apology, while welcome, does nothing to address the harm he and his company have done to me, my business, and my community.”

A spokeswoman for Alefantis said Friday that Alefantis and his attorney “continue to evaluate our legal claims.”

As the story spread, Alefantis and his employees received multiple death threats. The rumors culminated in December when a North Carolina man, Edgar Madisson Welch, came to the restaurant with a loaded assault rifle and handgun in what he called an attempt to investigate the claims. He fired the rifle several times while inside the restaurant, according to court documents.

Welch coincidentally pleaded guilty on Friday to weapons and assault charges in an agreement with federal prosecutors in the District.

InfoWars wasn’t the principal progenitor of the false story. The story spread primarily through such user-generated sites as Reddit and 4chan, as well as through fake-news websites and social media.

But InfoWars played a role, publishing numerous articles and commentaries that speculated about the alleged involvement of Clinton and Podesta. Pizzagate was sparked by cryptic comments made by Podesta in emails that were stolen and later released by WikiLeaks during the campaign.

Among the more damaging elements cited by Alefantis in his Feb. 22 letter was InfoWars’ role in encouraging its followers “to go out and investigate the ‘Pizzagate’ conspiracy theory, to come to my restaurant and investigate lies.”

In his statement, Alefantis noted, “We can all hope that Mr. Jones’ retreat is the beginning of a process to hold accountable the people who motivated an armed gunman to travel across state lines and fire his weapon in a family-friendly restaurant.”

From Eli Rosenberg in the New York Times”

The hoax has had real-world consequences. The pizzeria, Mr. Alefantis and his employees have been besieged by threats. Nearby businesses have also been affected. And the hoax has even spread to several other pizzerias around the country.

“It’s been a roller coaster of emotion and fear,” Mr. Alefantis said, in a telephone interview on Saturday, noting that he was still receiving daily threats online. “Good days and bad days.”

Mr. Alefantis’s restaurant was closed for two days in December, after the police arrested a man, Edgar M. Welch, 28, a father of two from North Carolina, who they said showed up at Comet Ping Pong to investigate the claims and fired a semiautomatic rifle he had brought with him inside the pizzeria. Mr. Welch pleaded guilty on Friday to assault with a dangerous weapon and interstate transportation of a firearm and will be sentenced in June.

In an interview a few days after his arrest, Mr. Welch told The New York Times that he listened to Mr. Jones’s show, saying that the host “touches on some issues that are viable but goes off the deep end on some things.”

But the theory lives on. A small group of protesters showed up outside the White House on Saturday, holding signs that asked why the news media was covering up child trafficking and demanding an investigation into Hillary Clinton, Mr. Alefantis and John Podesta, Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman, in connection with the hoax.

Mr. Alefantis said his restaurant has spent nearly $70,000 on two guards to stand at the entrance during business hours. A neighbor who runs a security company helped install an alarm system and a network of cameras — both inside and outside the restaurant — as well as panic buttons to alert the local police.

Last weekend, about 10 Pizzagate theory adherents held a protest in front of the restaurant. Mr. Alefantis said no one but Mr. Jones has ever apologized to him.

“Honestly I wouldn’t wish this on anyone,” he said. “These lies and falsehoods spread about me and my restaurant exist all over the place. The damage that has been done to my company and business and my community, all will remain forever.”

Austinites will recall that, as Matthew Odam reported at the end of the first week of December, Jones’ Infowars’ prodigy and sidekick Owen Shroyer was fomenting wacky Pizzagate suspicions directed at East Side Pies in Austin, though it proved very short-lived.

That same week, Jones still had one foot in the Pizzagate conspiracy camp an one foot out.

As I wrote in  a First Reading that week:

After the election, I did a First Reading and story on Jennifer Mercieca who is wring a book, The Rhetorical Brilliance of Donald Trump, in which she described a favored Trump technique, which also gets quite a workout at InfoWars.

Alex Jones is now responsible for projecting and explaining the world as Donald Trump, if recent experience is any guide, will most probably come to see and understand it. You, Alex Jones, are the architect of Trump’s reality and, it is not too much to say, the fate of the world depends on you executing that responsibility with some relative probity.

This is even more true now than it was the day it was written.

Virtually every jaw-dropping thing that Trump has said since then – from his claim of massive voter fraud to his claim that former President Obama was spying on him – has Alex Jones’ fingerprints on it, either as originator or popularizer.

And, for Jones, Pizzagate was a case study of paralipsis on steroids.

From Bryan Menegus at Gizmodo on Dec. 5.

Two of the most vocal (and visible) entities propping up pizzagate’s absurd claims were, predictably, arch-troll Mike Cernovich and the Alex Jones’ Infowars. In a tweet yesterday, Cernovich claimed that pizzagate was not his story and that “I’ve even said not sure about it.” A Periscope video he posted two weeks ago, however, is titled “Yes #PizzaGate is true — what fake news media won’t report.” A Twitter poll he conducted yesterday concluded that 60% of his audience on the platform fully believes in the veracity of the pizzagate community’s findings, a notion which is certainly helped by Cernovich treating idle speculation as reportable fact.

“You can’t then just have people go through these things randomly and say ‘oh this pizza place must be the center of it all’” Jones—a Gizmodo fan—said in a video posted to Infowars’ YouTube channel today. He took the opportunity to remind his 1.8 million viewers that “pizza” is “a super common word” which does not reasonably prove any connection to pedophilia. Previously, Infowars posted several videos on the topic—most notably one titled “Pizzagate Is Real”—racking up close to 2 million views total as a result of the conspiracy. “When I really caught up to it was about two weeks ago,” Jones says in the same backpedaling 9-minute non-apology. The first Infowars video on the subject, which features Jones himself, was posted on November 5th.

The core problem with riling up people susceptible to conspiracy theories is that even if movement agitators like Cernovich and Jones publicly renounce pizzagate, their followers are happy to keep up the investigation—even after one of the believers discharges a weapon in a restaurant.

Pizzagate was featured on 60 Minutes last night as a prime example of fake news.

Alex Jones went unmentioned. It was left to Cernovich to defend Pizzagate as the real deal.

James Alefantis: It went from a few people buzzing about something online or inside of chat rooms that we never would have seen before, to suddenly being blasted to millions and millions of people.

The police say there is no sex-trafficking conspiracy. But millions read about it on dozens of websites including one called “Danger and Play,” which wrote, “Clinton’s inner circle includes child traffickers, pedophiles and now members of a sex cult.” “Danger and Play” is written by Michael Cernovich, a Southern California lawyer who describes himself as “right-of-center politically,” but who has become a magnet for readers with a taste for stories with no basis in fact.

Scott Pelley: These news stories are fakes.

Michael Cernovich: They’re definitely not fake.

Scott Pelley: They’re lies.

Michael Cernovich: They’re not lies at all. 100-percent true.

What I’m doing is, it’s punchy, it’s fun, it’s counterintuitive, it’s counter-narrative, and it’s information that you’re not gonna see everywhere else.”

Scott Pelley: Do you believe that, or do you say that because it’s important for marketing your website?

Michael Cernovich: Oh, I believe it. I don’t say anything that I don’t believe.

Scott Pelley: That doesn’t seem like a very high bar.

Michael Cernovich: It’s a high bar because I’m an attorney. I know how to weigh and measure evidence.

Michael Cernovich: Here’s the story of my life.

Cernovich streams commentary daily and publishes on social media. He reached Twitter users 83 million times last month.

Michael Cernovich: That was a slow month, too. We hit 150 million sometimes. What I’m doing is, it’s punchy, it’s fun, it’s counterintuitive, it’s counter-narrative, and it’s information that you’re not gonna see everywhere else.

In August, he published this headline.

Scott Pelley: “Hillary Clinton has Parkinson’s Disease, physician confirms.” You don’t think that’s misleading?

Michael Cernovich: No.

Scott Pelley: You believe it’s true today?

Michael Cernovich: Oh, absolutely.

That story was sourced to an anesthesiologist who never met Clinton. It got so much traction it had to be denied by Clinton’s doctor and the National Parkinson Foundation.

Michael Cernovich: She had a seizure and froze up walking into her motorcade that day.

Scott Pelley: Well, she had pneumonia. I mean–

Michael Cernovich: How do you know? Who told you that?

Scott Pelley: Well, the campaign told us that.

Michael Cernovich: Why would you trust the campaign?

Scott Pelley: The point is you didn’t talk to anybody who’d ever examined Hillary Clinton.

Michael Cernovich: I don’t take anything Hillary Clinton is gonna say at all as true. I’m not gonna take her on her word. The media says we’re not gonna take Donald Trump on his word. And that’s why we are in these different universes.

A few hours before 60 Minutes aired, there was Jones, depicting his Pizzagate apology as only the natural conclusion of his wisdom and prescience on the matter, in the teeth of a nefarious mainstream media.

Of his apology to Alefantis, Jones said:

Why did I do that? Because I plan to go on the offense against real child traffickers and those abusing children, and since Dec. 1 of last year, I have told my crew at Infowars that I believed this to be a manufactured controversy by MSM to discredit those researching and exposing the epidemic of powerful elites across the world exploiting and abusing children.

So to be clear, the reason I put this letter out to Mr. Alefantes is because I believe he and his employees are innocent people who have been sucked into it just like I was sucked into it. And if MSM would just be honest, they would track back and see this for themselves. But regardless, I did this because it is the right thing to do, just like by Dec. 1 clicked on to what was going on and have been proven right yet again.

My entire system, my entire economy is about being genuine and telling the truth. I said there were no WMD’s in Iraq in 2003. I told you that Donald Trump was going to win the election and the polls were fake. I told you that household appliances were having spy systems put into them 15 years ago because I had the schematics. It’s now on the news.

The truth, ladies and gentlemen, is we’re cutting edge. We’re trailblazers at Infowars. And my whole world is about telling the truth and being honest and having integrity. And so that’s why, when I saw us being sucked into MSM picking up the most obscure rumors on line and magnifying it, and I saw us reporting on it, I had everything we put up removed because I didn’t want to add fuel to the fire, and I went on the TV and the radio in early December and told our listeners it was a distraction. But of course MSM is still out there lying, claiming that I just retracted all of this because Alefantis sent us a letter.

No, I openly and officially retracted and apologized, because that’s the way of clearly cutting off the lies saying I’m promoting this damn things when, since Dec. 1, I have been publicly against it and I can sleep good at night knowing that all of that will come out whether there is an true investigation or, if there is any court action.

I stand on the truth and nothing more, and I’m not going to let the exploiters of children, like Mr. Epstein or Bill Clinton, who’s clearly involved, and others sit there and distract and divert to a lower politico, who I believe they have been using all along, just like they’re using me. And that’s why I’m angry and that’s why I’m speaking out and that’s why I’m telling the truth about what happened.

Some of our viewers – the abuse of children and their exploitation is very serious – so when you go with half-baked conspiracies and you run around saying I’m trying to cover this up, because I’m trying to uncover the truth, you add to the hysteria and you create a smokescreen that distracts from the real, bona fide, meat and potatoes issues that we can prove and then that gives political cover to the real child abusers that are there.

To all the pedophiles and all the scum and all the controllers out there who think they are going to use these distractions and these mainstreams media lies to have a smokescreen to abuse children, Infowars is going on the offensive against the organizations that are known and documented, like the United Nations and others, to be involved in this.

But some of the comments on Jones’ tweet yesterday suggest that not everybody was buying his apologia.