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California Politics

Fox News laying out conspiracy theories the recall election will be stolen

“The only thing that will save Newsom is voter fraud. So as they say, stay woke, pay attention to the voter fraud going on in California”

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By Eric Kleefeld | WASHINGTON – Fox News is rolling out the next round of election-related conspiracy theories: This time, by casting doubt on the idea that a Democrat could win an election in the heavily Democratic state of California, where incumbent Gov. Gavin Newsom is facing a recall election backed by Republicans.

For what it’s worth, recent polls from SurveyUSA, the Public Policy Institute of California, and even Republican polling firm Trafalgar Group have all put Newsom ahead by significant margins in the key vote to remain in office.

Fox News previously served a major role in former President Donald Trump’s efforts to subvert the results of the 2020 presidential election. And beyond that, attempting to cast doubt on any Democratic win is on brand for Fox — network personalities also attacked the Georgia Senate runoffs while votes were being counted, including by casting suspicion on the high voter turnout in the election. And in the wake of the January 6 attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters, part of the network’s immediate response was to push for changes to voting laws that would help to suppress Democratic turnout, which the network then supported in the months afterward.

In that context, Fox Nation host Tomi Lahren claimed on Tuesday’s edition of Outnumbered: “The only thing that will save Gavin Newsom is voter fraud. So as they say, stay woke, pay attention to the voter fraud going on in California, because it’s going to have big consequences not only for that state, but for upcoming elections.”

And on Monday night, when Republican gubernatorial candidate and right-wing radio host Larry Elder appeared for an interview on Fox News Primetime, it was rotating host Rachel Campos-Duffy who brought up the subject of supposed election fraud: “A lot of people think you have the wind at your back but you seem to be concerned about some shenanigans that could be happening at the ballot box — or maybe in the mail.”

Elder has indeed spread conspiracy theories about voting machines having been rigged in the 2020 presidential election, and suggested that this might happen again in the California recall, but in this instance he simply gave some rhetorical boilerplate on being “concerned about voter fraud,” and said that his campaign website had a “voter integrity project set up with a bunch of lawyers ready to file lawsuits if anybody sees anything suspicious.”

And last week, on the September 1 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, host Tucker Carlson said that expanded usage of mail-in voting in multiple states, including in the case of California, were being done because Newsom “knows that mail-in ballots, which by definition lack any form of voter ID, cannot be verified. Those kind of ballots overwhelmingly benefit his party because they abet voter fraud.”

Carlson has also spread falsehoods about non-citizens voting in the recall, and he claimed on August 25 that the state would need outside observers to “to make sure this election isn’t stolen.”

Some in media have argued that these right-wing talking points picked up recently because the early statistics on returned ballots have indicated that Democratic voters are not sitting the election out, and therefore the groundwork must be laid for a conspiracy theory to explain a possible Republican loss.

To the extent that this explanation might be true, it should also be noted that the foundation was already being laid weeks ago, including by one of Fox News’ most shameless and vitriolic promoters of election denialism: Newt Gingrich. Appearing on the August 22 edition of Sunday Morning Futures, in a segment reminiscent of host Maria Bartiromo and Gingrich’s previous false claims about the 2020 election, the former GOP House speaker painted a lurid picture of vast election fraud in California:

NEWT GINGRICH (FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR): Frankly, what people ought to look at is this is going to be an election where they go all-out to steal the referendum. The secretary of state of California has now said you can print your own ballots. I mean, you think about this. You talk about the opposite of election integrity. They’re going to allow you to print your own ballots. They’re going to allow people to come around and harvest your ballot.

So, the unions will be out there, and they will make sure that everybody votes, even if they don’t vote. And I think this may well be the most rigged statewide election we have seen probably in at least a half century.

And I think people should look carefully at this, because there’s pretty good evidence that, if Newsom is in a straight, honest count, he probably — he has a good chance of losing. But if they can stuff every ballot box in California and they can cheat in every way possible — and so [Vice President Kamala Harris is] part of raising the money to pay for the cheating. I mean, it’s just that simple. It’s not complicated.

MARIA BARTIROMO (HOST): That is so extraordinary.

GINGRICH: Yes.

BARTIROMO: And that is the reason we continue to focus on all of these audits going on across the country. We want fair and free elections.

(Just to be clear, Gingrich’s references to voters being able to “print your own ballots” involves a state program, known as the Remote Accessible Vote-by-Mail system, made in order to accommodate disabled voters and expanded during the pandemic, which has safeguards to ensure that a person can only print one ballot.)

At around that same time, Fox personalities also latched onto a local story involving a reported felon who was found in possession of 300 mail-in ballots — although it quickly became clear that these were among thousands of pieces of stolen mail, along with other items such as driver’s licenses and credit cards, rather than the alleged thief having actually targeted the ballots specifically. 

“There’s nothing to indicate this was anything specifically to impact the election,” a spokesman for the Los Angeles County clerk’s office said. “It seems like this person was likely trying to steal mail.”

The August 24 edition of Fox Business’ The Evening Edit ran a segment with the loaded chyron asking, “Why were 300 mail-in ballots stolen in CA recall election?” — even though the ballots made up just a fraction of the overall theft of mail. Republican strategist Ford O’Connell claimed that “to be perfectly honest with you, with Gavin Newsom on the ropes, you have to think that this is just a little more than coincidental.” He later upped the rhetorical ante even further: “Remember, Nancy Pelosi said she was going to activate her own operation. Maybe this is what she meant.”

“We don’t know — I know you’re being facetious,” responded host Elizabeth MacDonald, though there was not any indication of such an intent on O’Connell’s part.

And on the August 25 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, the host claimed that Democratic efforts to campaign for Newsom were themselves a threat to democracy: “Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are now set to campaign against the recall — ‘No more democracy for you!’ You’ve got to wonder, will the state survive this? Will there be a free and fair election?”

He then interviewed Republican lawyer Harmeet Dhillon, who used the story as an example of supposed Democratic malfeasance: “Of course, they are playing fast and loose. We’ve seen some very alarming scenes of 300 ballots bundled together in the car of a person with a gun and some drugs, and so we are definitely looking into all of these issues.”

Dhillon’s invocation of the story was then followed by an on-screen visual of the stolen mail, which Carlson’s production would have needed to already have prepared.

On the subject of ballots being thrown out, as well as the need to ensure a free and fair election, Dhillon previously served as a campaign legal adviser to Donald Trump in 2020. In the days following the election, she appeared with then-Fox Business host Lou Dobbs and spoke of the campaign’s effort to have the Supreme Court intervene in the ongoing vote counts: “We’re waiting for the United States Supreme Court — of which the president has nominated three justices — to step in and do something. And hopefully Amy Coney Barrett will come through.”

So perhaps these people might not be approaching the California recall from a standpoint of supporting democracy.

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Eric Kleefeld is a senior writer on the Rapid Response Team for Media Matters for America

The preceding article was preciously published by Media Matters for America and is republished by permission.

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California Politics

Newsom highlights blueprint investments in infrastructure & transportation

Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for more than 50% of emissions

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Governor Newsom speaks at Santa Clara Depot which serves Caltrain, the Altamont Corridor Express, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority and Amtrak (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

SANTA CLARA – Governor Gavin Newsom Thursday touted his California Blueprint’s major investments in transportation and infrastructure while visiting the Santa Clara Depot rail station, highlighting the plan’s $9.1 billion in funding for climate-friendly clean transit projects that will create thousands of jobs.

The Blueprint also includes $2.3 billion to support ports and goods movement throughout the state and an additional $6.1 billion to accelerate the state’s transition to zero-emission vehicles – creating a total package of $10 billion that will invest in affordable cars, clean trucks and buses. The Santa Clara Depot serves several transit agencies, including Caltrain, which is scheduled to complete electrification of its system in 2024. 

“These bold investments will deliver safer, faster and greener transportation options connecting communities across the state while creating thousands of jobs and tackling our largest source of harmful pollution and emissions,” said Governor Newsom. “With California on the frontlines of the intensifying climate crisis, the state is committed to building a clean transportation future that protects the health of our communities, environment and economy.”

Transportation is the state’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for more than 50% of emissions when considering the production and deployment of fuels. California’s commitment to decarbonizing the transportation sector also advances the state’s affordability goals, increasing access to opportunity and amenities through a network of affordable, clean transportation options and pushing zero-emission vehicle innovation to continue driving down costs for everyone.  

The California Blueprint includes a proposed $9.1 billion package to advance clean transit initiatives that support the state’s climate and public health goals, promote equity and bolster the green economy, including $4.9 billion for transit and rail projects to improve connectivity, climate adaptation, bicycle and pedestrian safety and more locally driven initiatives. In addition, the Blueprint proposes a $4.2 billion investment in California’s High-Speed Rail project, which will eventually share the electrified Caltrain corridor, as well as funding for projects that encourage active modes of transportation and improve equity and safety, including converting underutilized highways into corridors that better serve residents. The Blueprint positions California to take advantage of additional federal infrastructure investments.

The California Blueprint also furthers the Administration’s ongoing work to support ports and build supply chain resilience, outlining a $2.3 billion package that includes $1.2 billion for port-related infrastructure projects that increase goods movement capacity and additional funding for zero-emission port equipment, drayage trucks and infrastructure. The Governor in October issued an executive order directing state agencies to help identify additional ways to alleviate congestion at California ports and announced a state-federal partnership to help kick-start infrastructure projects designed to improve goods movement. In addition, the Governor has launched a multi-agency Supply Chain Task Force working to find opportunities to lease state and privately-owned land for container storage space, Caltrans has issued temporary truck weight exemptions on State Highways to keep goods moving efficiently and the Department of Motor Vehicles has worked to nearly double its capacity to conduct commercial driving tests.

The Blueprint also builds on the California Comeback Plan’s $3.9 billion zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) package with an additional $6.1 billion in proposed investment to accelerate the transition. The additional funding will add thousands of affordable clean cars, zero-emission trucks and transit buses, support school transportation programs and electrify our school bus fleet, expand equitable access to ZEV charging infrastructure and fund equity-focused clean transportation community projects.

Governor Newsom in 2020 made a commitment to require that sales of all new passenger vehicles be zero-emission by 2035 and aggressively decarbonize heavy-duty vehicles such as trains, trucks and buses. The state has targeted emissions from the heavy-duty sector with bold action to reduce pollution in disproportionately impacted communities.

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California Politics

Intersex civil rights legislation killed after fails to advance

These irreversible genital reconstruction surgeries usually performed when intersex children are infants have lifelong consequences

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California capitol building (Blade file photo)

SACRAMENTO – Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) announced Tuesday that he will not be moving forward with Senate Bill 225: the Intersex Bodily Autonomy, Dignity and Choice Act. This civil rights legislation would ban medically unnecessary, irreversible genital surgeries on intersex infants and other young children.

Wiener has pursued this civil rights legislation that would provide children and their families with a chance to make informed decisions about major, life-altering genital reconstruction surgeries for three consecutive years.

He has been unable to pass the bill out of its first policy committee, the Senate Business & Professions Committee, due to lack of sufficient votes in the committee. SB 225 was co-sponsored by Equality California, interACT: Advocates for Intersex Youth, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the ACLU of California. 

“SB 225 was a basic civil rights law, standing for the important principle that people should be able to make decisions about their own lives, as opposed to having other people make those decisions for them. These irreversible genital reconstruction surgeries – usually performed when a child with variations in their genitalia are infants – have lifelong consequences. These consequences can include chronic pain, scarring, loss of sexual sensation, and more,” the Senator said in a media statement.

“SB 225 is vitally important civil rights legislation for intersex people and the larger LGBTQ community, and I’m disappointed and saddened that it does not appear to have a viable path forward at this time. For three years, we’ve worked to advance the legislation, and it’s become apparent that we continue to lack the votes to pass a meaningful bill — one that actually protects intersex people — through committee, he added.

“Pausing medically unnecessary genital surgeries until a child is old enough to participate in the decision isn’t a radical idea. Rather, it’s about basic human dignity.  In countries like Germany, Colombia, and Malta, these infant surgeries are banned. The United Nations and three former U.S. Surgeons General have called for these surgeries on babies to be banned. I’m fully committed to protecting the rights of everyone with variations in their genitialia, including intersex people. I’m not giving up, and I stand in solidarity with the intersex community in its fight for bodily autonomy, dignity and, choice,” Wiener said.

The California Medical Association, the politically influential professional organization representing nearly 50,000 physicians in the state of California, was opposed to the legislation and actively lobbied against it.

“We’re proud to stand with Senator Wiener and the intersex community in this important fight to safeguard the human rights of all Californians and are immensely grateful for his leadership on SB 225,” said Equality California Legislative Director Tami Martin. “We’re disappointed that there is not enough support to pass this bill out of committee this year, but our fight will continue until the work is done.”

One to two percent of people are born with variations in their genitalia and sex anatomy, some of whom identify as intersex. Parents of children with these variations are often offered medically unnecessary surgical interventions – such as major surgeries to cut a clitoris, create a vagina for penetrative sex, remove hormone-making organs, or move a working urinary opening – which are typically performed on children under two years old and often without a complete discussion of the various risks.

These surgeries may result in extreme scarring, chronic pain, chronic incontinence, loss of sexual sensation, post-traumatic stress disorder, incorrect gender assignment, and the need for additional surgeries to treat complications from the original surgery. SB 225 would allow parents to make a decision, in consultation with their child and medical professionals, once a person is old enough to participate in decision-making about whether or not a surgery to change sex anatomy is right for them. 

“While this particular bill did not become law, we are deeply grateful to our allies and proud of getting one step closer to protecting intersex bodily autonomy in California,” Alesdair Ittelson, Director of Law & Policy and Interim Executive Director of interACT said. “interACT will continue to demand self-determination instead of pathologization for intersex people and we are not deterred by the paternalistic approach of a rapidly shrinking number of individuals who stand in the way of protecting intersex human rights. Intersex people will prevail in their fight for control over their own bodies and we applaud all of those who supported SB 225.”

Becca Cramer-Mowder, Legislative Coordinator and Advocate with ACLU California Action, noted: “We are disappointed that California is not yet ready to lead on this important civil rights issue, and we will continue to work with intersex individuals and advocates to move the state forward towards recognizing the bodily autonomy of intersex Californians.” 

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California Politics

Anti-LGBTQ+ Devin Nunes officially resigns from Congress

He is slated to take over as chief executive officer for former president Donald Trump’s Trump Media & Technology group

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Former Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) being questioned by Capitol Hill reporters during Trump impeachment hearings (Blade file screenshot)

WASHINGTON – In a letter Saturday to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, (D-SF), Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, who represents California’s 22nd Congressional District, officially resigned his seat in Congress.

“It has been the honor of my life to represent the people of California’s San Joaquin Valley for the last 19 years,” Nunes wrote. He is slated to take over as chief executive officer for former president Donald Trump’s Trump Media & Technology group, which is expected to launch expected to launch Truth Social later this month, a conservative right-wing alternative to Twitter and Facebook.

One of the former president’s ardent loyalists, Nunes has repeatedly been at the center of controversy during his entire career on the Hill. In addition to his support of Trump, he has been openly antagonistic towards the LGBTQ community.

In 2010, Nunes voted against the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the law that prohibited gays from serving openly in the U.S. military. He also consistently received a “0” rating on LGBT issues from the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecard, which has a rating scale of 0 to 100.

He opposed legal recognition of same-sex marriage, and he also refused to back any LGBTQ+ legislation.

Over the years he has also been involved in a series of high-profile lawsuits, including a 2019 $435 million defamation lawsuit in which he claimed CNN libeled him by reporting he was digging up dirt on Joe Biden and Ukraine.

U.S. District Court Judge Laura Taylor Swain in Manhattan dismissed the suit against CNN on a technical ground: She found California law applied to the case and Nunes had failed to request a retraction as required under the laws of the Golden State. Nunes’ lawyer had argued that the laws of Virginia or Washington, D.C., should apply, but the judge said it made the most sense to apply the laws of Nunes’ home state to the dispute, Politico reported.

In 2019, Nunes also sued Twitter over two parody accounts that he claimed harassed him, @DevinNunesMom and @DevinCow. That lawsuit brought on merciless ribbing from late night show hosts and other comedians. The Late Show host Stephen Colbert mocked the Republican congressman explaining how Nunes’ lawyers arrived at the $250 million amount for the lawsuit: “You take the value of Devin Nunes’ reputation and you add $250 million dollars.”

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