Conservative media freak-out: claim Obama DHS targeting conservatives in report on right-wing extremists

››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN

Conservatives in the media are citing a declassified DHS report detailing potential increases in right-wing extremism to claim that the Obama administration is targeting conservatives and others simply because they disagree with administration policies and proposals.

Since the Department of Homeland Security declassified an April 7 report detailing potential increases in right-wing extremism, media figures -- including CNN's Lou Dobbs, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, Fox News' Sean Hannity, Fox News national political commentator Andrea Tantaros, and Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin -- have advanced the claim that the Obama administration is targeting conservatives and others simply because they disagree with administration policies and proposals. For example, during the April 14 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, Limbaugh claimed: "[Y]ou have a report from Janet Napolitano and Barack Obama Department of Homeland Security portraying standard, ordinary, everyday conservatives as posing a bigger threat to this country than Al Qaeda terrorists or genuine enemies of this country like Kim Jong-Il." However, while the report addressed potential issues that could spur right-wing extremism, it did not allege that someone is an extremist simply because he or she holds conservative views.

The DHS report concluded that "rightwing extremists may be gaining new recruits by playing on their fears about several emergent issues. The economic downturn and the election of the first African American president present unique drivers for rightwing radicalization and recruitment." The report also cited as potential mobilizing issues for right-wing extremism "immigration and citizenship, the expansion of social programs to minorities, and restrictions on firearms ownership and use," as well as "[r]ightwing extremist paranoia ... harkening back to the 'New World Order' conspiracy theories of the 1990s."

In addition to Limbaugh, the following media figures have responded to the DHS report by alleging or suggesting that the Obama administration is targeting Americans simply because of political differences:

  • On the April 14 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, Dobbs asked viewers: "Do you think a person concerned about borders and ports that are unsecured, illegal immigration, Second Amendment rights, or a returning veteran from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is likely or even possibly probable, as the Department of Homeland Security suggests, to be a right-wing extremist?" As Media Matters for America noted, the DHS report warned of a possible resurgence among extremist groups that "will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to exploit their skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat," citing, in part, a 2008 FBI report authored during the Bush administration.
  • On the April 14 edition of Fox News' Hannity, Hannity stated that DHS "is warning law enforcement officials about the rise in right-wing extremist activity" and asserted that the department "would define it as people that maybe think we're not controlling our borders, people that have pro-life bumper stickers." Hannity later claimed: "Now if you disagree with that liberal path that President Obama's taken the country down, you may soon catch the attention of the Department of Homeland Security. Now the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis has issued an intel assessment that warns of a rise of what they're calling right-wing extremism. But critics of the report say their definition of a right-wing extremist sounds awfully close to somebody who might simply just disagree with the Obama administration."
  • During the April 14 edition of Fox News' Your World, guest host David Asman stated that Tantaros is calling the DHS report "an attempt to silence the right." Tantaros later said of the report, "I'm just wondering if this is just an effort to shut up their critics."
  • In her April 14 blog post, titled, "Confirmed: The Obama DHS hit job on conservatives is real," Malkin wrote: "[T]he piece of crap report issued on April 7 is a sweeping indictment of conservatives."

Moreover, in dismissing the DHS report, Limbaugh, Hannity, Malkin, and Tantaros also suggested that the Obama administration declassified the report to coincide with April 15 tea parties:

  • Limbaugh claimed that "this speech of Obama's and the DHS report yesterday are timed for one reason, and that's the tea parties tomorrow."
  • Hannity stated: "I wonder what the DHS is going to call those thousands of great Americans who take to the streets tomorrow to have their voices heard at tax day tea parties across the country."
  • Malkin asserted: "In Obama land, there are no coincidences. It is no coincidence that this report echoes Tea Party-bashing left-wing blogs (check this one out comparing the Tea Party movement to the Weather Underground!) and demonizes the very Americans who will be protesting in the thousands on Wednesday for the nationwide Tax Day Tea Party."
  • Tantaros claimed, "You know, it's no coincidence that it's happening right before these tea parties, which are proving to be extremely effective in getting attention. But, look, this is an administration that does not like any kind of dissent." Asman then stated: "I'm looking at the report, and it says, among other things, that the federal government is going to begin gathering information on right-wing extremists' activities in the United States. Does that mean they're going to be spending -- sending spies to these tea parties?" Tantaros also said of tea parties: "It's free speech and the Obama administration is trying to shut it down, because, as I pointed out before, they don't like any kind of disagreement or dissent when it's against their policies."

From the April 14 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight:

DOBBS: Well, we'd like to know what you think about all of this. Our poll question tonight is: Do you think a person concerned about borders and ports that are unsecured, illegal immigration, Second Amendment rights, or a returning veteran from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is likely or even possibly probable, as the Department of Homeland Security suggests, to be a right-wing extremist? Yes or no.

Cast your vote at LouDobbs.com. We'll have the results here later in the broadcast.

From the April 14 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

HANNITY: The Department of Homeland Security, Dr. Dobson, is warning law enforcement officials about the rise in right-wing extremist activity. Now, some of -- for example, they would define it as people that maybe think we're not controlling our borders, people that have pro-life bumper stickers -- I'm not Ron Paul's biggest fan, but if you have a Ron Paul bumper sticker, you might be viewed as a radical by the government.

And I'm thinking -- what do you think of that interpretation, especially coming from a guy that started his political career in the home of an unrepentant terrorist who bombed our Pentagon and Capitol, and sat in Reverend Wright's church for 20 years?

JAMES DOBSON (founder, Focus on the Family): Isn't it interesting that the media has jumped all over this when there aren't any examples of it. There are no Timothy McVeighs out there right now. They're making a big deal out of something that hasn't happened and may not happen.

They were also saying today that when the troops come back from Iraq or Afghanistan, that they're going to be a big problem because they have military training. Well, you know, the war didn't just start. It's been going on for eight years.

And they're trying to create an issue out of what, to this point, is a non-issue. And I think for political purposes.

[...]

HANNITY: Now if you disagree with that liberal path that President Obama's taken the country down, you may soon catch the attention of the Department of Homeland Security. Now the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis has issued an intel assessment that warns of a rise of what they're calling right-wing extremism. But critics of the report say their definition of a right-wing extremist sounds awfully close to somebody who might simply just disagree with the Obama administration.

Now the report lists the following issues as possible recruiting tools for right-wing groups: the economic downturn, illegal immigration, legislative and judicial drivers, perceived threats from other countries, and disgruntled military veterans.

Now regarding those threats from other countries, DHS says right-wing groups, quote, "bemoan the decline of U.S. stature." And on illegal immigration, DHS points out that there is a "frustration over a perceived lack of government action on illegal immigration."

Well, I wonder what the DHS is going to call those thousands of great Americans who take to the streets tomorrow to have their voices heard at tax day tea parties across the country. And I wonder if they have a report on left-wing fanatics, you know, like Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright?

From the April 14 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:

ASMAN: I'm David Asman. I'm in for Neil Cavuto, and this is Your World. Neil is back tomorrow, broadcasting live from the Sacramento tea party. But, today, a new report by the Department of Homeland Security creating quite a stir -- it's entitled, quote, "Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment." Here it is.

While it takes aim at conservatives, it ignores liberal groups, like ACORN breaking into foreclosed homes; housing activists storming Bear Sterns; violent anti-capitalist protests at the G20; and Codepink targeting public officials. So, what gives?

GOP strategist Andrea Tantaros calling it an attempt to silence the right -- Andrea, good to see you. Thanks for being here.

TANTAROS: Thanks, David.

ASMAN: So, we should mention that they did -- the DHS did come out with a report in February on left-wing radicalism, but it didn't really suggest that there was anything violent about it. This one is all about the violent nature of right-wing extremism.

TANTAROS: Right. And that report that was about the left-wing group was actually a group that was setting cars on fire and forests on fire -- this radical environmental group. This is apples and oranges, David. You know, it's no coincidence that it's happening right before these tea parties, which are proving to be extremely effective in getting attention.

But, look, this is an administration that does not like any kind of dissent. They're essentially saying, "Attention, first responders! People are actually exercising their First Amendment rights of free speech." What they should be doing is putting out a report to our first responders saying, people are exercising their First Amendment rights, nobody interfere.

ASMAN: Well, Andrea, I'm looking at the report, and it says, among other things, that the federal government is going to begin gathering information on right-wing extremists' activities in the United States. Does that mean they're going to be spending -- sending spies to these tea parties?

TANTAROS: I'm not sure about that, but all I know is that it's taxpayer money, so that Obama and his administration can define an unreasonable enemy. I mean, think about it, David. Obama does not have an unreasonable enemy, and he would love for nothing more. I mean, the Clintons, they always had an unreasonable enemy and that was the vast, right-wing conspiracy.

ASMAN: Right.

You see Obama going overseas, you know, apologizing for the United States, making concessions. You have Hillary Clinton apologizing or making excuses for Americans' behavior. It seems like they're more concerned with the threat here at home than they are the threat abroad.

ASMAN: Well, and here's another quote from it. It says the joint federal-state activities will, quote, "have a particular emphasis on the causes of rightwing extremist radicalization." I'm just wondering if this is just an effort to shut up their critics.

TANTAROS: Well, it's certainly a growing concern, and I think it's lurching in that direction. I mean, this is American people across all political parties who are voicing their concern. They're concerned about the future of their kids. They're concerned about the economy. They're concerned about under-employment and not enough jobs.

It's free speech and the Obama administration is trying to shut it down, because, as I pointed out before, they don't like any kind of disagreement or dissent when it's against their policies.

ASMAN: Well, Andrea, another problem is that the power of the federal government is growing so extreme. I'm wondering if Janet Napolitano --

TANTAROS: That's right.

ASMAN: -- the head of the Department of Homeland Security, is going to ask for the same kind of extraordinary power that, for example, Treasury Secretary [Timothy] Geithner is asking for.

TANTAROS: Well, that would be very, very scary, and you know what? If they're going to issue these reports for this made-up threat of people exercising their right to free speech, they need to start thinking about exercising reports for groups like ACORN.

I mean, think about this, David. ACORN was in the lobby of banks, pressuring people to -- you know, to give loans to people who couldn't afford to pay them. What about Codepink? How about all the protestors at the 2004 convention that ran up and down 8th Avenue naked, screaming save the children?

ASMAN: Right.

TANTAROS: How about a report about them?

ASMAN: Well, or the G20 protesters?

TANTAROS: The hypocrisy is just astounding.

ASMAN: The G-20 protesters, and which -- it did become a deadly protest over in Europe. The same thing could happen here.

TANTAROS: That's right. That's absolutely right. And this is nothing more than concerned Americans exercising their First Amendment rights. It's constitutional. And the left and the Obama administration is clearly trying to take it away because they see it as deeply, deeply threatening -- and that should tell you something.

ASMAN: All right, Andrea Tantaros. Andrea, good to see you again. Thank you very much.

From Michelle Malkin's April 14 blog post:

They were very defensive - preemptively so - in asserting that it was not a politicized document and that DHS had done reports on "leftwing extremism" in the past. I have covered DHS for many years and am quite familiar with past assessments they and the FBI have done on animal rights terrorists and environmental terrorists. But those past reports have always been very specific in identifying the exact groups, causes, and targets of domestic terrorism, i.e., the ALF, ELF, and Stop Huntingdon wackos who have engaged in physical harassment, arson, vandalism, and worse against pharmaceutical companies, farms, labs, and university researchers.

By contrast, the piece of crap report issued on April 7 is a sweeping indictment of conservatives. And the intent is clear. As the two spokespeople I talked with on the phone today made clear: They both pinpointed the recent "economic downturn" and the "general state of the economy" for stoking "rightwing extremism." One of the spokespeople said he was told that the report has been in the works for a year. My b.s. detector went off the chart, and yours will, too, if you read through the entire report - which asserts with no evidence that an unquantified "resurgence in rightwing extremist recruitment and radicalizations activity" is due to home foreclosures, job losses, and...the historical presidential election.

In Obama land, there are no coincidences. It is no coincidence that this report echoes Tea Party-bashing left-wing blogs (check this one out comparing the Tea Party movement to the Weather Underground!) and demonizes the very Americans who will be protesting in the thousands on Wednesday for the nationwide Tax Day Tea Party.

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