“On brand and dangerous”: Moms for Liberty platforming extremists shows "just how radical” group is

"Rhetoric spewed at this conference by its host and invited guests has real-world consequences," GLAAD CEO warns

By Areeba Shah

Staff Writer

Published July 1, 2023 6:00AM (EDT)

Jennifer Pippin, president of the Indian River County chapter of Moms for freedom, attends Jacqueline Rosario's campaign event in Vero Beach, Florida on October 16, 2022. (GIORGIO VIERA/AFP via Getty Images)
Jennifer Pippin, president of the Indian River County chapter of Moms for freedom, attends Jacqueline Rosario's campaign event in Vero Beach, Florida on October 16, 2022. (GIORGIO VIERA/AFP via Getty Images)

Moms for Liberty, which was labeled an "extremist group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center last month, has used its national summit this week to promote conspiracy theories and far-right ideas all while maintaining its image of being a non-partisan organization of concerned parents.

The right-wing group has invited extremist speakers to spread anti-LGBTQ+ misinformation, holding strategy sessions featuring topics like "Comprehensive Sex Education: Sex Ed or Sexualization" and "Protecting Kids from Gender Ideology."

"Extremism is a growing threat to everyone's safety, and the rhetoric spewed at this conference by its host and invited guests has real-world consequences," GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis told Salon. 

One of the speakers featured in the summit includes KrisAnne Hall, who has been a member and host for the anti-government Oath Keepers militia. 

Hall has been described as "an antigovernment lawyer" by SPLC and taught a course during the Idaho Liberty Summit, in which she framed the federal government as being tyrannical and overreaching with its authority. 

"The fact that Moms for Liberty is platforming extremists like KrisAnne Hall of the Oath Keepers is another sign of just how radical this group really is," Heidi Beirich, co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, told Salon. "This is also another example of how the conservative movement now mainstreams figures and ideas that were once seen as beyond the pale in mainstream American politics."

Hall has gained a dedicated following among a group of antigovernment Americans and devotes part of her time to public speaking engagements where she promotes the advantages of non-compliance.

She has previously "compared the U.S. Capitol police to Nazi S.S. troops" and delivered an anti-government talk to the League of the South, a white nationalist and pro-Confederate organization, according to Media Matters.

"It's an outrage to think that Mom for Liberty would invite a speaker who is a member of a group whose leader was convicted of seditious conspiracy," Beirich said.

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The so-called Joyful Warriors National Summit has also attracted other notable far-right and mainstream conservative speakers, including Republican presidential candidates and prominent state education officers who are influencing state legislation.

Some of these names include former President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who promised to "fight the woke" in schools, the halls of Congress and corporations if elected president. 

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley also addressed the group on Friday in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

"John Hopkins comes out with the definition of a woman … 'A non-man' … And then everybody wonders why a third of our teenage girls last year seriously contemplated suicide," Hailey said. 

Moms for Liberty first gained notoriety in school board meetings, protesting COVID-19 mask and vaccine mandates. Over time, MFL has grown and claims to have 285 chapters in 45 states with a membership of over 100,000 participants. 

Now, as the group has expanded its "organizational jurisdiction from school boards to state legislatures", as Media Matters points out, they are combating LGBTQ+ acceptance in schools and communities. 

So it comes as no surprise that the group also invited anti-LGBTQ pundits Dennis Prager and James Lindsay to address the summit.

Prager, the conservative talk show host, has previously made outlandish claims suggesting that unvaccinated people today are treated worse than gay men during the height of the AIDS crisis, as The Daily Beast reported.   

While appearing on Newsmax, he said that people who choose not to get vaccinated against the coronavirus are "the pariahs of America, as I have not seen in my lifetime... Can you imagine if gay men and intravenous drug users… had they been pariahs the way the non-vaccinated are? But it would have been inconceivable."

Lindsay on the other hand, has shared conspiracy theories about the supposed communist takeover of the world and promoted "groomer" rhetoric against the LGBTQ+ community. 

During Turning Point USA's Americafest Live, Lindsay labeled Drag queens "groomer clowns" and called them a "provocation".

"You guys remember George Floyd? The goal is to have 'Drag Floyd,' and the goal is to get you to give in so they get their way or overreact – and that's where I say 'Drag Floyd,'" Lindsay said. "It's so important to understand that they want a drag queen to get attacked, and they want to make a huge amount of hay of it, and they want to create summer 2020 again off of a drag queen or a trans person or something like this." 

The Anti-Defamation League and GLAAD have documented more than 350 incidents against LGBTQ people over the last year, ranging from assault to harassment and vandalism, more than half committed by people associated with extremist groups, Ellis said.

A majority of the incidents were also linked to the "groomer" trope co-opted by some right-wing politicians and pundits, with drag shows and drag performers being a top target, according to the report.

However, not all anti-LGBTQ+ activities were carried out by individuals who were a part of extremist groups, the report found, demonstrating how easily people, who are a part of a local church group or a local parents' rights group, can be influenced. 

"As the right radicalizes and gets closer to movements that were once seen as fringe and dangerous, they provide sanction to views that should be outside of normal politics," Beirich said. "This is poisoning our political systems and bringing into the fold those who absolutely should be outside of it."

Anti-Muslim commentator Katie Gorka will also be speaking at the event. Gorka has previously made remarks claiming that the Muslim community in the United States, wasn't "working with us to prevent" terrorist acts. But upon joining the Trump administration, she helped deny funding from the Countering Violent Extremism program to a nonprofit that helps "people leave the violent far-right."

North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson will also be making an appearance. Robinson has a long record of making anti-LGBTQ+, racist, antisemitic and Islamophobic statements. He has been vocal about his hatred of LGBTQ+ people and opposition to their equal rights.

In the past, he has faced criticism from both sides of the political spectrum and calls for his resignation after delivering a sermon where he described teaching children about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools as child abuse, according to The American Independent

"There's no reason anybody, anywhere in America should be telling any child about transgenderism, homosexuality, any of that filth," Robinson said. "And yes, I called it filth. If you don't like it that I called it filth, come see me and I'll explain it to you."

The summit is also featuring training sessions on how to help attendees master and drive narratives in their communities. So far, Moms for Liberty has drawn national attention for efforts to elect conservatives to school district boards, ban books in libraries and scrub diverse material from lesson plans.

They have pushed the baseless narrative that children are being indoctrinated and sexualized through a radical "Marxist" agenda and chapters have even repeatedly quoted Adolf Hitler, Media Matters found.

Now, as they help platform extremists at their summit, the group is facing resistance from other local organizations in the area. ACT UP Philadelphia and Defense of Democracy have organized protests against the summit. 

Defense of Democracy used a billboard truck to promote a nationwide petition opposing the Marriott Hotel for hosting Moms for Liberty.

"Everyone should be aware that the so-called Moms for Liberty is an extremist group, so the fact that they are platforming other extremist groups is on brand, and dangerous," Ellis said. "Fortunately, they are increasingly the fringe, and their unhinged views are vastly outnumbered by the supermajority of Americans who support LGBTQ people and the right to live in peace and safety."

By Areeba Shah

Areeba Shah is a staff writer at Salon covering news and politics. Previously, she was a research associate at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and a reporting fellow for the Pulitzer Center, where she covered how COVID-19 impacted migrant farmworkers in the Midwest.

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