A Louisiana lawmaker is giving up his effort to make the Bible his state's official book after critics dubbed the effort a pointless distraction.
Republican Rep. Thomas Carmody introduced legislation earlier this year that would have designated the Christian text as the Bayou State's official tome, saying it "would be appropriate" given that the state motto already references God. And Carmody insisted his goal was neither to promote Christianity nor to create a backdoor to to establish a state religion; the bill said nothing about biblical teachings or dogma.
Still, some critics remained skeptical that the bill could truly be religiously impartial. Others worried the particular Bible Carmody picked would not be inclusive enough of various branches of Christianity.
So with the Bible debate trumping more important legislative matters, Carmody said Monday he was scrapping the bill so lawmakers could "concentrate our efforts on those things that are much more important." Jon Terbush
On Tuesday, President-elect Donald Trump is traveling to Fayetteville, North Carolina, for the second stop on his "thank you" tour to battleground states that voted for him. Last week in Cincinnati he held his first rally, which strongly resembled Trump's raucous campaign events, and later this week he is taking his victory tour to Iowa and Michigan. In his Ohio rally, Trump mixed in a personnel announcement — he will nominated retired Gen. James Mattis as defense secretary — so he may combine business with politics. Victory tours are extremely unusual, if not unprecedented, in U.S. presidential history. Peter Weber
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls resigned on Tuesday to mount a bid for the Socialist presidential nomination, and President Francois Hollande replaced him with Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve. Valls will face at least seven rivals in the Socialist primary, and if he wins, he will compete against Republican nominee Francois Fillon and Marine LePen of the far-right National Front. Hollande is not running for re-election, he announced last week. Cazeneuve, 51, is a close ally of Hollande and gained a high profile through his work in the aftermath of several Islamist terrorist attacks in France, including his push for new security laws. Hollande named Bruno Le Roux, a Socialist leader in parliament, as the new interior minister. Peter Weber
Samantha Bee began Monday's Full Frontal with a recap of President-elect Donald Trump's transition. "In the past three weeks, PEOTUS has made America great again by skipping security briefings, imperiling U.S. relations with China and India, threatening a private manufacturer, draining the swamp directly into his Cabinet, declaring open war on the press, and celebrating Take Your Daughter to Work Day with foreign leaders," she said, noting that the daughter in question, Ivanka Trump, will soon run her father's business empire. "Oh, you thought there were rules?" Bee asked. "Psych!"
"Turns out our institutions are only as strong as the unspoken norms we all agree to live by," she said. But the Trump transition was just an introduction to the larger topic of undermining democracy. President Obama will peacefully hand power to Trump on Jan. 20, Bee noted, but "if you want to see what it looks like when a defeated party clings to power, we have to go on a long journey to a hot land haunted by memories of civil war and sustained by farming a deadly, addictive drug: North Carolina."
On Election Night, Gov. Pat McCrory (R) lost to his Democratic challenger, Roy Cooper, and McCrory "took his defeat like a man — by which I mean he refused to have his status lowered." On Monday, 27 days later, McCrory finally gave up his push for recounts in more than 50 counties and conceded the election, less than gracefully. "Pat couldn't even concede without undermining faith in the process," Bee said. "I can't think of anything classier than crying conspiracy when you lose — oh, yes I can: Crying conspiracy when you win!" That would be a reference to Trump's baseless claims of rampant illegal voting.
"So, how do we restore public confidence in our elections? Not like this," Bee said, playing a clip of Green nominee Jill Stein explaining why she's pushing for a recount in three states. "Look, liberals, I know you only gave her money because you thought she'd take off with it and never come back — and we all want that — but instead of using your energy to undermine democracy, why not participate in it and help Foster Campbell win his run-off" in Louisiana's Senate race this weekend. "Remember, state elections come down to a handful of votes," she said: Just ask Pat McCrory. Watch below — but be warned, there is some NSFW language. Peter Weber
Dr. Jill Stein and the Green Party have pushed for recounts of the presidential votes in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, and it looks like at least two of those are going to be completed. But there was some drama over the weekend with the Pennsylvania recount, with the Green Party dropping and then expanding its recount request, and Stephen Colbert's Late Show had some fun with that on Monday night's cold open. It ends with Stein in a vat of Cheez Whiz. Watch below. Peter Weber
The Church of Scientology is not pleased with former member Leah Remini's new A&E series, Scientology and the Aftermath, saying it should be called Leah Remini: After Money, Megyn Kelly dutifully noted on Monday's Kelly File. But she was clearly sympathetic to Remini's plight to expose the problems in the rigidly controlled organization she broke free from in 2013. "We've seen the church come after anybody who comes after them," Kelly said, and "they're pretty brutal about it and pretty relentless about it. My question for you is, is it scary for you now to be doing this show?"
Remini said she's not scared for herself — her high profile and support from the media provide some shield — but for other people criticizing Scientology "it's heartbreaking how this organization continues to attempt to bully its victims and people who are speaking out — they go after your job, they go after your family, they picket in front of your house, and they continue to do it, and their history has shown that unless it's stopped, it's going to continue to go on."
The Church of Scientology denies that and threatens to sue people who make those claims, Kelly said, and Remini jumped in: "They don't need to deny anything, Megyn. Honestly, you just need to google it and you'll find out that it's true." "You're not allowed to do that in Scientology, right?" Kelly asked. "It's a rule that you stay off the internet when it comes to Scientology in particular?" "Correct, and as someone who was in the church, I understand it," Remini said. "So I didn't find these things out, unfortunately, until I left. And it simply is just looking for yourself, and I implore people to do that. This is a church that does— you get penalized for asking questions and for looking." In fact, it was a rudely rebuffed question at Tom Cruise's wedding to Katie Holmes that started her exit from Scientology, she explained. You can watch below. Peter Weber
Preston Wiginton is finally getting his moment in the klieg light. The 51-year-old former pallet manufacturer crowned "Strongest Skinhead" in 2005 at the neo-Nazi gathering Hammerfest, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, is hosting "alt-right" leader Richard Spencer at Texas A&M University on Tuesday, and while his past forums in rented university rooms featuring controversial speakers have been widely ignored and drawn tiny crowds, this event is getting national coverage.
Texas A&M, which Wiginton attended for a year in his 40s, says it can't stop the Spencer event because it is a public university and can't impinge on First Amendment rights, but it has voiced opposition to the white supracist views espoused by both Wigington and Spencer and is holding a counter-event at the football stadium. A&M isn't the only actor put in a bind — so is the media. The journalism that "aims to cover or even expose Spencer," says Michael Brendan Dougherty at The Week, "ultimately plays into his hands," and the same is probably true about Wigington. "Hopefully, this event will give me enough exposure that people will say, 'This guy knows what he is talking about,'" Wiginton said last week.
CNN's Gary Tuchman interviewed Wigington for Monday's Anderson Cooper 360 and tried to push back on the white nationalist's more outrageous claims — such as the opinion, suggested also by President-elect Donald Trump on the night before the election, that Somalis are too different to fit into white American culture. "By saying that all Somalis shouldn't come here, isn't that being a bigot?" he asked. "Um," Wigington said, pausing for a long second. "Sometimes maybe being a bigot is wise."
If you want, you can read more about Wigington — including his time in Russia living in a David Duke-leased apartment and forging ties with Russian skinheads and far-right leaders — in this report from WFAA and The Texas Tribune. Wigington would probably appreciate it. Peter Weber
Republican presidential elector Christopher Suprun says he doesn't think a president-elect should be disqualified over policy disagreements or because he lost the popular vote — to him, the deal-breaker is showing the country daily that you're not qualified for the office.
In a New York Times op-ed published Monday, Suprun, a paramedic from Texas, said he was part of the response to the Sept. 11 attacks, a period he calls the last time the country was united. With his unfettered tweeting, Donald Trump is doing what he can to "drive a wedge between us," Suprun said, and he "does not encourage civil discourse, but chooses to stoke fear and create outrage." Suprun also took issue with Trump's business dealings and the fact that he surrounds himself with advisers like former Breitbart News head Steve Bannon, and said Trump lacks the foreign policy experience and demeanor to be president. This is troubling, but since the vote hasn't taken place yet, "electors of conscience can still do the right thing for the good of the country."
The role of the Electoral College is to "determine if candidates are qualified, not engaged in demagogy, and independent from foreign influence," he said. Trump has shown over and over he doesn't meet these standards, Suprun continued, and "given his own public statements, it isn't clear how the Electoral College can ignore these issues, and so it should reject him." He said he'd like to see his fellow electors rally around an "honorable" Republican candidate, like Ohio Gov. John Kasich, adding that while he has worked hard in the past to elect Republicans, he "owes no debt to a party. I owe a debt to my children to leave them a nation they can trust." Suprun ended his op-ed on a sober note. "Fifteen years ago, I swore an oath to defend my country and Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic," he said. "On Dec. 19, I will do it again." Read the entire op-ed at The New York Times. Catherine Garcia