Juan Williams: GOP turns lies into laws

Florida governor Ron DeSantis
Getty Images

You know President Trump’s “Big Lie.”

Now the right-wing echo chamber is exploding with little lies.

First, conservative papers and social media erupted with bogus reports that President Biden planned to ban Americans from eating hamburgers.

Second, came the lie that a picture book authored by Vice President Harris was being handed to immigrant children at the border.

{mosads}And then Republicans on Capitol Hill expressed outrage about a highly dubious claim that John Kerry, the former secretary of State, was disclosing secret information to Iranians.

Trump’s “Big Lie” — that the presidential election was stolen by widespread voter fraud — is at the center of this constellation of endless lies.

Keep in mind that Trump started lying about election results in November.

Yet, months later, even after President Biden was inaugurated, 65 percent of Republicans still said they believed Biden’s win in November was illegitimate, according to a February AP-NORC poll.

Now the “Big Lie” is generating small lies with terrible consequences.

This month, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed what he describes as “the strongest anti-looting, anti-rioting, pro-law enforcement piece of legislation in the country.”

The law is the result of a lie, often repeated in far-right media, that protests against police brutality last summer became celebrations of violence that left American cities as burned-out shells.

On that basis, DeSantis has put in place an authoritarian law that is a brassy repudiation of the Constitution’s First Amendment rights to protest and the exercise of free speech.

Incredibly, the Florida bill “makes it easier,” The New York Times reported, for anyone to crash a car into a protest march and “escape civil liability,” even if they injure people.

The Florida bill is one of more than 90 in 35 states being proposed by Republicans to limit future protests, ABC News reported.

The basis of these repressive laws is an outright lie.

Here is the truth, according to The Washington Post:

“Our data suggests that 96.3 percent of [last summer’s protests] involved no property damage or police injuries, and in 97.7 percent of events, no injuries were reported among participants, bystanders or police.”

The Post concluded that even at the 3.7 percent of protests that involved property damage, some of this was done by “people engaging in vandalism or looting alongside the protests,” rather than the protesters themselves.

The New York Times also reported last fall that “more than 93 percent of the protests in the United States this summer were peaceful, according to a report by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project, which monitors political upheaval worldwide.”

ABC News cited similar statistics last week — now nearly a year after the protests — showing that an analysis of 12,000 demonstrations in 2020 by the Crowd Counting Consortium at the University of Connecticut found “96 percent had no property damage, 98 percent had no injuries reported.”

The closest that proponents of the “anti-riot” law can come to justifying the crackdown on legitimate protest by Americans is to cite videos taken at the height of the protests showing a few buildings burning in Portland and Minneapolis.

A building fire does not tell the whole story.

The reality of last summer’s protests is they were overwhelmingly nonviolent.

That truth is being sacrificed in a bonfire of lies.

Here is an Associated Press analysis, done in October, of the people arrested for the limited trouble among the tens of millions of Americans who marched:

“President Donald Trump portrays the hundreds of people arrested nationwide in protests against racial injustice as violent, urban left-wing radicals. But an Associated Press review of thousands of pages of court documents tells a different story. Very few of those charged appear to be affiliated with highly organized extremist groups, and many are young suburban adults from the very neighborhoods Trump vows to protect from the violence.”

And keep in mind there is a large threat from organized radicals on the right, according to Christopher Wray, the FBI director.

Wray told Congress last fall that the prime source of “racially motivated violent extremism” came from white supremacists who are the nation’s main domestic terror threat.

But Republican politicians don’t want to hear the truth.

They have spent the first 100 days of the Biden administration using lies to justify curbs on protests and even the right to vote.

{mossecondads}Georgia and Florida, for example, have enacted laws to suppress voter turnout, especially in Black neighborhoods, despite lacking evidence of voter fraud.

Some of the right’s little political lies are funny, such as the ones about Dr. Seuss books being banned and Mr. Potato Head becoming gender-free.

Some lies are no joke, however. In late March, Trump continued lying about the violence done by his supporters at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

He told Fox News the rioters were “hugging and kissing the police and guards.” In fact, 140 officers got hurt in the attack.

President Biden told the truth last week when he called the attack by Trump supporters the “worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War.”

The truth is the basis of a free democracy — even if the right-wing echo chamber can’t handle the truth.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.

Tags #BlackLivesMatter Christopher Wray civil rights Donald Trump Joe Biden John Kerry political violence Protests right to protest Ron DeSantis Voter suppression voting rights

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