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Context of 'Late November - Mid-December 2004: Conservative News Anchors, Analysts Falsely Accuse Elementary School of Banning Declaration of Independence'

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Stephen Williams, a fifth-grade teacher at a Cupertino, California public school, is prevented by school administrators from selecting passages from historical documents for his students that reinforce his belief that the US is a strictly Christian nation; in return, many media representatives accuse his school district of “banning the Declaration of Independence” from being taught. Williams describes himself as an “orthodox Christian.” He wants his students to learn that America’s “Founding Fathers” were staunch Christians who intended to create a nation based on Biblical tenets, a position not supported by the historical record. After finding few citations in school textbooks to support his beliefs, Williams began giving his students selected passages from a number of historical documents, including William Penn’s “Frame of Government in Pennsylvania,” the Delaware State Constitution, George Washington’s prayer journal, and President Bush’s statement on the recent National Prayer Day, where he told the nation, “Prayer is an opportunity to praise God for His mighty works.” Some of the parents of Williams’s students believed he was attempting to evangelize their children; one parent said, “My daughter came home one day and said, ‘Mr. Williams talks about Jesus 100 times a day.’” Williams’s principal, Patricia Vidmar, began reviewing his lesson plans and supplemental handouts to ensure that he does not proselytize religion to his students. Williams responded with a lawsuit complaining that his free speech and academic freedom had been unduly constrained. (Williams is being represented in court by the Alliance Defense Fund, which has filed several lawsuits challenging the legality of same-sex marriage.) When the national press reports Williams’s situation, conservative pundits and radio hosts begin informing, and misinforming, their listeners and readers about Williams and his teaching; many tell their audiences that the Cupertino school district is “banning the Declaration of Independence.” Fox News talk show hosts Sean Hannity and John Gibson, along with Fox News anchor Brit Hume, Fox News analyst Newt Gingrich, and MSNBC commentator Monica Crowley, all tell their audiences that the school does not allow the Declaration of Independence to be referenced in its classes. The conservative National Lawyers Association accuses Vidmar, whom it terms a “rogue school principal,” of working towards “rul[ing] that the Constitution is unconstitutional.” Some parents, district supporters, and civil liberties advocates say Williams has become a rallying point for conservative Christians eager to, in their words, rewrite American history. Ivory Madison, a legal analyst for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, says: “This is the same thing that people have been trying to do for 200 years. The only difference now is that they’re well funded, media savvy, and litigious. It’s a shame that our tax dollars have to be used for a school district to defend the Constitution.” One parent at the Cupertino school says of Williams’s teaching: “This is not about teaching history, this is about indoctrination.… [W]hat would happen if someone whose religion is not a majority religion would be doing this? It isn’t OK [for a teacher] to make a kid feel like he isn’t like you.” Another parent asked the school not to place her child in Williams’s class this year, and says, “[W]hat he’s doing isn’t teaching history. If you were teaching at a church school, that would be great. But he isn’t.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 12/8/2004; Media Matters, 12/10/2004]

Entity Tags: Monica Crowley, Brit Hume, Alliance Defense Fund, Fox News, John Gibson, Newt Gingrich, Stephen Williams, National Lawyers Association, Ivory Madison, Patricia Vidmar, Sean Hannity

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Glenn Beck discusses the Tides Foundation during his Fox News broadcast.Glenn Beck discusses the Tides Foundation during his Fox News broadcast. [Source: NewsRealBlog (.com)]Journalist John Hamilton publishes the results of a series of interviews with Byron Williams, who is charged with multiple counts of attempting to murder police officers from a shootout with Oakland, California, Highway Patrol officers (see July 18, 2010 and After). Williams has said that he targeted a progressive charitable foundation in San Francisco, the Tides Foundation, because of its liberal policies, and has said he intended to “start a revolution by traveling to San Francisco and killing people of importance at the Tides Foundation and the ACLU.” Since his arrest, Williams has retained Hamilton to be his “media advocate.”
Williams and Fox's Beck - Williams told Hamilton that his primary political influence and informational source is Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck. Williams had Hamilton watch specific broadcasts of Beck’s shows to glean information about what Williams describes as an intricate conspiracy between President Obama, liberal philanthropist George Soros (see August 8, 2006 and February 2007), Brazilian oil company Petrobras, and BP, the corporation responsible for triggering the Gulf oil disaster. Williams also cites right-wing pundit David Horowitz (see August 5, 2003 and November 30, 2004) and right-wing conspiracist Alex Jones (see July 24, 2009) as other influences. The progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters notes that Beck spoke 29 times about the Tides Foundation in the 18 months leading up to Williams’s shooting spree, sometimes at length; other pundits rarely mentioned the organization, if at all, during that same time period. Williams defends Beck, saying that the talk show host advocates non-violence and merely “confirm[ed]” his belief in the conspiracy. “Beck would never say anything about a conspiracy, would never advocate violence,” Williams told Hamilton. “He’ll never do anything… of this nature. But he’ll give you every ounce of evidence that you could possibly need.” Beck, he says, is “like a schoolteacher on TV. You need to go back to June—June of this year, 2010—and look at all his programs from June, and you’ll see he’s been breaking open some of the most hideous corruption.” In that month, Beck advised his viewers to stop a Democratic-orchestrated “march towards Communism” by “shoot[ing]” Democrats such as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) “in the head (see June 9, 2010).
Genesis of a Shootout - Williams moved to his childhood home in Groveland, California, in 2007 after serving a prison sentence for a 2001 bank robbery. Williams has an extensive criminal record, and has been convicted of assault, property destruction, hit-and-run, and drunken driving. He lived with his mother during that time, unable to find steady work, and growing increasingly depressed and fascinated with right-wing radio and television. His neighbor, Tom Funk, told Hamilton of Williams’s profanity-laden tirade on the night of November 4, 2008, after Obama won the presidency. He remembered Williams shouting what he calls racist, drunken threats after the news of Obama’s victory was announced, saying: “He was up there cussing and saying that America is not going right by having a black president. He was using words he shouldn’t be saying after 9/11, because it would have put him in jail. Threatening words towards the president.” In the days before and after the election, Funk said, Williams liked to listen to radio talk show host Michael Savage (see January 10, 2008, March 13, 2008, and November 10, 2008). Hamilton found transcripts of Savage’s radio broadcasts during that time; Savage held forth about the “bloodbath coming to America” should Obama be elected, and predicted that the nation was on “the verge of a Marxist revolution in the United States of America. You have a naked Marxist, America-hating, white-hating [Democratic] party—wing of the party—about to seize power. And you don’t even know it.” Hamilton then interviewed Williams’s mother Janice, who drives an SUV with “Palin 2012” bumperstickers on it. Williams’s mother told Hamilton that in phone calls and a letter to her, her son “basically said: ‘I’m sorry, I never intended to hurt anyone. I got really angry and lost my head.’” She said she did not believe her son would actually have attacked either the ACLU or the Tides Foundation. She also denied that her son shouted racial imprecations after Obama’s election, saying: “I read one account that he used the n-word. I don’t believe that. The neighbors told that to the media, but they just wove that out of whole cloth. I don’t care how loud anyone here gets, there’s no way anyone over there could have heard anything that far away. It’s just someone seeking publicity.” She said her son does not tolerate alcohol well, because he is partly “American Indian… [t]hat’s why he can’t drink.” The day of the shooting, she “found 18 or 20 beer bottles by the sink.” Her son is angry, she told Hamilton, because of “the federal government. And the shadow government that operates behind the scenes, manipulating things.” She said she agreed with many of her son’s concerns about government intrusion: “I believe in limited government. The government should be there solely for the purpose of protecting our borders. All the other stuff is add-ons. This whole Obamacare thing has everything to do with consolidating government. There’s no concern about the little people. Having said that, my hope was to retake the country peacefully, through the ballot box.” She denied that her son was influenced by Beck, Savage, or any other right-wing commentator, saying: “All the reporters who came out here last month were blaming what he did on Rush [Limbaugh], Glenn Beck, and the tea party. Why would you blame the messenger? If Glenn Beck tells us something, and everyone gets upset about it, why blame him?” She called the Tides Foundation “a money laundering scheme for the radical left that didn’t want their names attributed to what they were doing,” a charge first leveled by Beck. She did confirm that her son was a Beck fan: “Yes, he liked Glenn Beck, but he didn’t feel he went far enough. He’d take it only so far, but stopped short.” She added that almost everyone she had heard from after the shooting supported her son’s position: “I had only one hate call out of all the thousands of people who heard about this case. Most people have expressed support—not for the act, but for the frustration behind it.”
Jailhouse Meetings - Hamilton talked to Williams in the visiting area of the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, California, twice over a period of two weeks. Williams told Hamilton that he worried about being portrayed as an “extremist,” and said he should probably not discuss “that incident”—the shooting—because of his pending criminal trial. Williams was loquacious about his political views; he said, “My big thing was the oil rig, the Deepwater Horizon,” referring to the immense BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. “I’ve uncovered enough evidence to—I think in a court of law it could bring [BP CEO] Tony Hayward, Barack Obama, George Soros, and members of Halliburton indicted for treason.” Williams believes that the oil spill was deliberate, plotted by Soros. “It was a sabotage,” Williams explained. “Hayward and [Wall Street financial firm] Goldman Sachs sold their stock, which was depreciating, two weeks before the spill. Soros invested $1 billion of his own money into Petrobras. Soros has the Tides Foundation and the Tides fund. He funnels billions of donated dollars into the fund, which he uses for all kinds of nefarious activities.… Obama sent 2 billion of taxpayer dollars to Petrobras for deep water oil exploration, while holding a moratorium on deepwater exploration in the US. Once you see this pattern—it’s fishy stuff.… Halliburton, whose job was to seal the well—two days before the explosion, they bought an oil spill clean-up company.… When I saw the news was dropping the issue like a hot potato, I became infuriated.” He concluded: “The bottom line is that George Soros is the financier of Obama. And Obama has a clear agenda: First he did the health care reform. After that, it was all about energy. He wants to impose the worst tax ever conceived: a cap-and-trade system on carbon emissions. Think of it. Even your breathing could be taxed, because you give off greenhouse gases. That’s why I did what I did. There are not a lot of people fighting back. I don’t see a response.” Williams evoked the Civil War by asking why Gulf Coast residents did not rise up in arms about what he says was a conspiracy to destroy their shoreline for Soros’s profit. “What ever happened to the spirit of the South, of the Confederacy in the Civil War?” Williams summed up the plot as he sees it: “What I see here is a plan to bring the country down.”
Sources of Information - Asked where he gets his information, Williams responded: “Alex Jones. PrisonPlanet.com is his Web site. Also, DiscoverTheNetworks.” Hamilton identifies Williams’s sources: “Jones is a conspiracist and repeat Fox News guest who mingles dire warnings of the ‘New World Order’ (see September 11, 1990) with stories of government complicity in the 9/11 attacks. DiscoverTheNetworks is a Web site claiming to track ‘the individuals and organizations that make up the left.’ It’s run by David Horowitz, a former leftist who has reinvented himself as a right-wing propagandist.” Williams then named Beck as another major source of his information and said Beck is “like a schoolteacher” who uses his chalkboard to great effect. “I collect information on corruption,” Williams said. “I’ve been at it for some time.… Our media accepts the false reports and downplays the conspiracy theories.… A public that is aware of corruption can oppose the corruption. A public kept in the dark simply passes it by.” Fox News, Williams said, is the only television news outlet that is not “censored,” he said. “So perhaps Fox has broken away from the mold.” Aside from its presumably independent status, Williams added: “There’s only one conservative channel. That’s Fox. All the other ones are all liberal channels.” Williams stated that he watched Fox because of Beck, and not vice versa: “I would have never started watching Fox News if it wasn’t for the fact that Beck was on there. And it was the things that he did, it was the things he exposed that blew my mind. I said, well, nobody does this.” Williams told Hamilton to “go back to June—June of this year, 2010—and look at all his programs from June. And you’ll see he’s been breaking open some of the most hideous corruption. A year ago, I was watching him, and it was OK, he was all right, you know?… But now he’s getting it.” Williams said that he believes Beck knows more than he is willing to tell. Referring to the Gulf Oil spill, Williams said: “This is what he won’t do, Beck will not say it was a contracted hit. But he’ll give you every ounce of evidence you can possibly need to make that assumption yourself.… You see what I mean?… That’s why he downplays the 9/11 truthers. He talks bad about them.” Williams then retold some conspiracy theories that he apparently believes that Beck seems to dismiss, including the Alex Jones-propagated idea that the US government was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Of his various conspiratorial beliefs, he advised Hamilton: “Think like a conspiracy theorist. Except don’t use the word ‘theory.’ Because the conspiracies are not theories. The official report is the lie; the conspiracy is the truth.” Beck’s mission, Williams said, is to “expose” progressives and “leftists” who are endangering American democracy.
Ties to Tides - Beck is the source from which Williams first learned about the Tides Foundation, which he believes is at the heart of the Soros/Obama plan to destroy America. Beck himself has said of the Tides: “The chalkboard was brought up… for the Tides Foundation. I think that might have been the first time we used it.” His efforts to “expose” Tides “was the first time that I really realized its success—Tides Foundation and ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now). Because you can map it all out. And I know that they make fun of me for it, but that’s—that’s the difference.… Tides was one of the hardest things that we ever tried to explain. And everyone told us that we couldn’t. It is the reason why the blackboard really became what the blackboard is. It is because I was trying to explain Tides and how all of this worked.” Beck has repeatedly, and falsely, labeled the organization as “George Soros’ Tides Foundation,” which he has suggested is part of a liberal plot to “create mass organizations to seize power.” Tides, he said, is a “shady organization” that funnels money to “some of the most extreme groups on the left.” Beck has asserted that Tides is “involved in some of the nastiest of the nasty.” In the 18 months preceding Williams’s shooting spree, Beck attacked Tides 29 times on his Fox show. [Media Matters, 10/11/2010]

Entity Tags: Fox News, Tom Funk, David Horowitz, British Petroleum, Barack Obama, Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, Tides Foundation, Alex Jones, American Civil Liberties Union, Rush Limbaugh, Tony Hayward, Nancy Pelosi, Janice Williams, Halliburton, Inc., Goldman Sachs, Glenn Beck, George Soros, John Hamilton, Petrobras, Media Matters, Michael Savage, Byron Williams

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Fox News commentator Juan Williams discusses the recent exchange between himself and presidential candidate Newt Gingrich over what Williams characterizes as racially motivated comments from Gingrich. Hosting a debate between Republican presidential contenders, Williams, an African-American, asked Gingrich whether he understood that his recent comments belittling blacks as food stamp recipients who were unused to working (see November 30 - December 2, 2011, January 5, 2012, November 18, 2011 and After and December 1-2, 2011) were being received negatively by African-Americans, and Gingrich responded by repeating the claims, to the loud approval of the debate audience (see January 16, 2012). Williams tells Fox News host Bill O’Reilly that Gingrich intended to “play racial politics” in responding to Williams. Williams also attacks Gingrich’s premise that the young and poor in America have little interest in landing jobs, telling O’Reilly, “When you see that jobs are offered to young people in this country, you have lines around the block… he was suggesting that somehow these kids don’t want to work.” O’Reilly interprets Gingrich’s remarks as saying that Gingrich wanted the government to fund school jobs to help children learn a work ethic, but Williams says O’Reilly’s interpretation is not what Gingrich meant. O’Reilly asks if Williams believes Gingrich “was pandering to a certain voter in South Carolina,” alluding to conservative and presumably racist white voters, and Williams agrees. [Mediaite, 1/18/2012]

Entity Tags: Bill O’Reilly, Newt Gingrich, Juan Williams

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, 2012 Elections

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