Media

Trump Takes Question From Racist, Homophobic Florida Conspiracy Website

Trump Takes Question From Racist, Homophobic Florida Conspiracy Website
screencap via TruNews
click to enlarge SCREENCAP VIA TRUNEWS
screencap via TruNews
For the past two decades, Pastor Rick Wiles has built a career on the far fringes of the evangelical movement by railing against Jews, gays, and immigrants in language so over-the-top it would make Pat Buchanan blush. Wiles blamed Hurricane Harvey's devastation in Houston on the city's "LGBT devotion," has called Judaism and Islam "the Antichrist," and — just three months ago! — declared that Central American immigrants are a "brown invasion" sent by God to punish white Americans over legal abortion.

So, of course, President Trump called on a so-called reporter from Wiles' Florida-based, conspiracy-mongering website, TruNews, during his rambling news conference at the United Nations yesterday.

In his nearly hour-and-a-half-long conference, Trump railed repeatedly against "fake news" — most notably while misrepresenting the New York Times' reporting on sexual assault accusations against him. Then, amid that media broadside, he called on Edward Szall, a correspondent with the Vero Beach-based Christian news operation:
Szall has tweeted in the past about "liberal Jews" who use "their control of media to propagandize America & spread pornography" and recorded videos calling the TV sitcom Rick and Morty a "darkness in America." In this case, he just threw out a softball question to Trump about his "great peace deal" proposed for Israel.

Wiles, though, is the true star of TruNews. The former marketing and advertising specialist worked his way from AM radio through the Evangelical TV ranks at the Christian Broadcasting Network and Trinity Broadcasting Network before launching a career as an end-times-preaching pastor in the Houston area. It's not clear when exactly he launched TruNews, which lists a Vero Beach P.O. box as its corporate address.

Wiles has since become a regular feature of hate-speech tracking organizations such as Right Wing Watch, which boasts a bulky archive of his greatest hits. Just in the past year, he's claimed that government "death squads" were behind the Las Vegas massacre and that some other — or the same? — death squads murdered Antonin Scalia.
 
On his radio show, Wiles also recently interviewed an analyst who claimed that Queen Elizabeth is a lizard person who had Princess Diana murdered because she was about to reveal the royal family practiced Satanism and that Bill Clinton is, uh, a literal cannibal suffering from diseases related to eating human flesh.

Those conspiracies, at least, don't veer directly into homophobia or outright racism. But Wiles has plenty of experience in those unsavory territories as well, to the point where he was even suspended from YouTube in April for offensive content. (His channel appears to be active again.)

Here he is on TruNews in May discussing how the Antichrist will be a "homosexual Jew":
 
In June, Wiles discussed how he believes God is sending "brown" people from Central America to the States to punish whites for abortion.

“We’ve already been invaded. We’re already being pushed off the land. It’s already happened. The judgment has been underway for years and we didn’t see it. God is bringing another people into America and pushing the white Europeans off the land,” Wiles said. “We have a brown invasion that has come in. This is the land vomiting the people out.”

A month later, Wiles told his audience that America was "72 hours" away from a liberal coup that would see a leftist mob drag Trump and his family onto the White House lawn, where they'd be decapitated on national TV.

It's easy to laugh off such an obviously bigoted conspiracy theorist — except that the White House is actively legitimizing Wiles' brand of hate speech by not only giving his website press credentials but also calling on one of its so-called reporters at a packed news conference.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Rick Wiles' last name.
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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink