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March 2, 2019

It sounds like a set-up for a knockoff of comedian Dave Chappelle's Clayton Bigsby character — the blind white supremacist who does not realized he is himself black — but James Hart Stern's takeover of the National Socialist Movement (NSM) is entirely serious.

Stern, who is African-American, is an activist in California who leads a group called Racial Reconciliation Outreach Ministries. He was contacted by former NSM president Jeff Schoep in 2014, Stern told The Washington Post, and the two men began speaking regularly. "From day one, I always told him: 'I don't agree with you; I don't like you,'" Stern said in his Post interview. "I talked to him because I wanted to hope to change him."

Schoep did not change his views, but he did get scared he'd be held accountable for the criminal actions of NSM members, most pressingly via a lawsuit alleging the group conspired to commit violence at 2017's Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Early this year, Stern was able to convince Schoep to give him legal control over NSM.

In his new role as leader of the neo-Nazi group, Stern has asked a Virginia court to find NSM guilty in the Charlottesville suit. He does not plan to disband the organization, lest its several dozen members simply reform under a different name. Instead, he intends to work with Jewish groups to transform the NSM website to educate members on the history of the Holocaust and anti-Semitism.

"I did the hard and dangerous part. As a black man, I took over a neo-Nazi group and outsmarted them," Stern said of his project so far. "My plans and intentions are not to let this group prosper. It's my goal to set some hard records right." Read the full Post story here. Bonnie Kristian

February 13, 2019

Elon Musk's bizarre Twitter antics may have cost him millions of dollars and earned him a defamation lawsuit, but Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey approves.

In a recent online Q&A session, Dorsey was asked who he feels is "the most exciting influential on Twitter right now." His response? The CEO of Tesla, who Dorsey contended is "focused on solving existential problems and sharing his thinking openly."

This, of course, earned some double takes considering Musk's Twitter activity has included baselessly accusing a Thai cave diver of being a pedophile. And that's not to mention the time Musk casually tweeted that he was thinking of taking Tesla private, which prompted an investigation from the Securities and Exchange Commission. This concluded with Musk stepping down as chairman of the Tesla board and Tesla being fined $20 million, though Musk said the tweet was still "worth it," Reuters reports.

Dorsey did say he also approves of the Twitter activity of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who he said is "mastering" the platform. But not, apparently, as much as Musk. Brendan Morrow

November 14, 2018

It has clearly been quite some time since President Trump's last trip to the grocery store.

In a new interview with The Daily Caller Wednesday, Trump pushed for strict voter ID laws, using as part of his argument the completely made-up fact that "if you buy a box of cereal — you have a voter ID." Trump had previously said in August that you need to show photo ID to buy groceries, and apparently nobody has bothered to correct him in the past three months.

Trump in this interview also tossed out a voter fraud conspiracy theory that's even weirder than usual: he contends that there are people who illegally vote by showing up to the polls, voting, and then switching into another outfit in the parking lot so they can get back in line and pretend to be somebody else like something out of an episode of The Simpsons. "Sometimes they go to their car, put on a different hat, put on a different shirt, come in and vote again," Trump claimed without evidence, adding that it's "really a disgrace what's going on.”

This came after Trump baselessly declared that the only reason "Republicans don't win" is because of these "potentially illegal votes," although voter impersonation is actually extraordinarily rare. As Democrats continue to pick up seats in the House of Representatives, don't be surprised by the increasingly nonsensical voter fraud conspiracies, and surprisingly ridiculous misunderstandings of grocery store protocol, to come. Brendan Morrow

April 20, 2018

Mike Pompeo: former Kansas lawmaker, current CIA director, and possible future secretary of state. But Gulf War veteran? Despite it being widely reported that Pompeo served in the 1991 Gulf War, the CIA confirmed Friday to Splinter News that, well, he didn't. "Director Pompeo was in the U.S. Army at the time of the Gulf War — serving until 1991," the CIA said. "He was not deployed to that theater."

Pompeo's "participation" in the Gulf War has been reported in numerous reputable publications including The New Yorker, Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, and at the time of publication, it has not been corrected on his Wikipedia page.

While the mix up is relatively inconsequential — and not apparently Pompeo's fault — Ned Price, formerly of the CIA, explained the importance of correcting the record. "This could all stem from sloppiness between having served 'during' the Gulf War vs. 'in' the Gulf War, but — if this is to be our secretary of state — we need a clear understanding of his background and record," he tweeted. Jeva Lange

April 12, 2018

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt reportedly wants to mint "challenge coins" for his department but has insisted that they be twice as large as his predecessor's coins and that they prominently display symbols relevant to him personally, rather than something more traditional like the EPA's official seal, The New York Times reports.

Challenge coins are military in origin, having once been used as a means of proving one's allegiance if questioned. Now they are used for everything from recognizing emergency workers' services to commemorating a job well done by a department or company's employees. Career EPA employee Ronald Slotkin, who recently retired and spoke with The New York Times, said that isn't exactly what Pruitt is doing. Instead, the administrator wants to remove "anything to do with the EPA" and turn the mementos into "Pruitt coin[s]," Slotkin said.

Embed from Getty Images

(Assorted challenge coins on display in the Oval Office)

Pruitt reportedly asked to get rid of the official EPA seal on the EPA challenge coins, for example, with one agency official saying the administrator believed the flower on the seal looked too much like a marijuana leaf. Pruitt also supposedly pushed for the inclusion of a buffalo, to symbolize himself (he's from Oklahoma), and a Bible verse, also to symbolize himself (or, more specifically, his faith).

"The coin should reference the EPA," stressed Scott H. Amey, the general counsel of the Project on Government Oversight watchdog group, "and not become tribute to Pruitt or Oklahoma." Read more about Pruitt coins at The New York Times. Jeva Lange

March 7, 2018

Economist Peter Navarro has been described as "the man who pushed [National Economic Council head] Gary Cohn out of the White House" and Politico has suggested he "could lead us into a global depression — or worse." A relatively minor character before President Trump announced a 25 percent tariff on steel and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum, Navarro could very well be credited with making those plans a reality.

While the tariffs are in line with what Trump has long touted, Navarro is the "hard-liner who is seen by outsiders as enabling and egging on Trump's most nativist and nationalistic instincts," The Washington Post writes, even as other aides and prominent Republicans have made desperate and unsuccessful counterarguments against going forward with the plan.

How Navarro ended up in the White House in the first place is its own odd story. On Wednesday, The Washington Post highlighted a 2017 report at Vanity Fair that explains Navarro was brought into the fold by … Jared Kushner's Amazon search:

At one point during the [2016 presidential] campaign, when Trump wanted to speak more substantively about China, he gave Kushner a summary of his views and then asked him to do some research. Kushner simply went on Amazon, where he was struck by the title of one book, Death by China, co-authored by Peter Navarro. He cold-called Navarro, a well-known trade-deficit hawk, who agreed to join the team as an economic adviser. (When he joined, Navarro was in fact the campaign's only economic adviser.) [Vanity Fair]

You know what they say: Trade wars have been started over weirder things. Jeva Lange

October 9, 2017

No one would ever turn down a dinner date with Angelina Jolie — or at least that was the thinking behind the actress' offer in 2012 to act as bait to lure Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony to a meal and then arrest him, The Sunday Times reports.

Kony is the head of a guerilla group known as the Lord's Resistance Army, and he has remained frustratingly elusive to international forces since his 2005 conviction of crimes against humanity. Under Kony, more than 60,000 children have been abducted to become soldiers; the warlord was famously the target of Invisible Children's Kony 2012 campaign, which sought to increase awareness of his atrocities.

Jolie's 2012 proposal was uncovered in a leak of 40,000 International Criminal Court (ICC) emails to the French website Mediapart. Former ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo wrote in one: "Forget other celebrities, [Jolie is] the one. She is ready. Probably Brad [Pitt] will go also."

While the plan was never carried out, Moreno Ocampo and Jolie personally exchanged several emails on the topic. "Apparently you can be embedded with the special forces that are chasing Kony. Can Brad go with you?" Moreno Ocampo wrote to the actress in one email.

"Brad is being supportive. Let’s discuss logistics. Much love Xxx," Jolie reportedly replied.

The plan might not have been as far-fetched as it sounds: Actor Sean Penn's sit-down with drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman might have inadvertently led to the notorious criminal's capture last year. Jeva Lange

August 6, 2016

Speaking in Washington, D.C. at a joint conference for black and Hispanic journalists on Friday, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton urged reporters to keep her honest. "I want you to hold me accountable," she said, "because the stakes are as high as they’ve ever been in our lifetime."

That's difficult to do, however, when journalists aren't often allowed to question the candidate. As Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus pointed out Friday afternoon, Clinton "hasn't held a press conference in 244 days," since December 4, 2015.

Though she did allow about 10 minutes for convention attendees to ask pre-screened questions after her talk — sort of breaking her eight-month streak — Clinton prohibited questions from the working press, the journalists on hand to actually cover her appearance. Bonnie Kristian

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