Jesse Watters’ Token Liberals Include A ‘Pizzagate’ Conspiracy Theorist Who Podcasted With Nazis

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The rise of cable news in the early ‘90s was fueled by daring reporters who donned bulletproof vests to cover bombings live on the rooftops of Baghdad. Three decades later, Jesse Watters, the top individual host on Fox News, the country’s most-watched cable channel, is selling audiences a far different concept of front line journalism. For his latest book, which just enjoyed its second week on the New York Times bestseller list after debuting in the top spot at the start of this month, Watters traveled the roughly eight blocks from his network’s Manhattan headquarters to the Port Authority Bus Terminal to interview, as he puts it, “a homeless guy.” 

Watters, who reportedly earns an eight figure salary for his primetime post, assures readers he wore “gloves” and brought along a “security guy” to engage with the man on the street.

This utter lack of bravery and thoughtfulness pervades all 336 pages of “Get It Together,” which is the host’s second bestselling tome. Watters’ book also fundamentally relies on an act of deeply dishonest misdirection. 

The cover promises “troubling tales from the liberal fringe” and Watters purports to deliver on that tantalizing premise with 22 different interviews. However, many of the subjects are not particularly political at all, including the aforementioned “homeless guy,” a “professional cuddler,” a woman who owned an “emotional support” squirrel, a pair of fairly random vegans, an anonymous prostitute, and two preachers, one who practices Voudou and another whose sacrament is a potent psychedelic derived from Mexican toads. 

In fact, some of Watters’ supposed denizens of the “liberal fringe” are not even liberals. One, a heavy drug user, declares, “When I got money, I’m Republican, but when I’m broke, I’m Democrat.” Another is Ayo Kimathi, a Black nationalist extremist who has specifically denounced liberals while focusing on attacking gays and Jews and has recorded streams with neo-Nazi and Klan leaders. Kimathi’s website also indicates one of his signature lectures is a three-DVD series focused on the far-right “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory. 

“I’m the furthest thing possible from a liberal,” Kimathi said in a phone interview with TPM on Friday. “Like every position that I can think of that liberals present, I’m entirely against.” “I’ll just talk frank with it,” he continued. “Liberalism is really the sociopolitical term for Jewish domination, so I’m not in favor of Jewish domination. I’m not a liberal.” 

Watters acknowledges Kimathi’s outreach to white nationalists and refers to the historical context of Black leaders like Marcus Garvey and the Nation of Islam finding common cause with racist groups. However, he does not indicate how this might complicate the book’s larger project and the presentation of Kimathi as an example of liberalism. Indeed, Kimathi says he identifies as “neither” right or left wing and is instead focused solely on what he sees as the real enemy. 

“Left wing, right wing, all of them are under Jewish control,” Kimathi declared. 

Along with some who express some degree of right-wing sympathies, nearly half of Watters’ subjects don’t discuss national politics at all during interviews that instead focus on their personal lifestyles. 

There is a reason the complicated actual ideologies of his interview subjects — or lack thereof — doesn’t matter to Watters. Rather than a real analysis of the real, modern far left, Watters is clearly interested in presenting a caricature of liberalism as a driving force encouraging people to need “emotional support,” cuddles, drugs, and radical expressions of identity like the woman in chapter 12, an “eco-sexual” who dervies pleasure from nature. 

This is an extension of the schtick that fueled Watters’ rise at Fox News in recent years as some of the channel’s more established hosts were felled by scandal. Along with filming a bit that was shockingly racist towards Asians, prior to taking over the network’s 8 p.m. hour last year, Watters was perhaps best known for adversarial ambush interviews and man-on-the-street segments where he presented himself as confronting the left. 

In the introduction to his book, Watters describes the text as a longer form version of his “semi-condescending” television conversations with “wild characters.” His premise hints at something more complex and accurate than the “troubling tales from the liberal fringe” promised on the cover. Rather than simply looking at the left, Watters says he is interested in “radicals.” He also presents his thesis, which is that family trauma, particularly “horrible moms” and absentee “ghost dads,” drove people to live “out of the mainstream” and that these experiences are driving them to press for dangerous social changes to “the pillars of Western civilization.” 

“What I found was that their maverick ideology was rooted in personal struggle,” Watters writes, later adding, “We do not need a social revolution because somebody has personal problems.”

Whether or not you agree with the conservative view that the meat-eating, patriotic, traditional “Western” American culture that Watters continually elevates throughout the book is ideal, the idea of interviewing radicals of all stripes and finding the emotional reasons for their unconventional views is an interesting one. And indeed, that may have been part of what Watters was aiming for. One source who worked on the project said it was the publisher who proposed the “liberal fringe” cover line rather than Watters. However, the problems with Watters’ book extend far beyond that cover line. 

The interviews in Watters’ book are interspersed with asides from the smirking heel persona that he’s made his on air trademark. He repeatedly interjects to mock the people who graciously took the time to speak with him and to pass judgment on their personal choices and lives. This is particularly stunning given Watters’ own exceedingly well-documented personal drama

And sympathy isn’t the only thing missing from Watters’ interviews. Many of the assertions from both Watters and the admittedly “wild” and sometimes “straight-up mentally ill” figures he dialogues with are not contextualized with any real data or research. Apart from Watters’ snarky asides, there is little dividing up the interviews in his book, which is often akin to a transcript with extended block quotes. Along with statistics and empathy, anything resembling quality, readable prose is also strikingly absent from Watters’ narrative. 

A common theory in political science places ideology on a horseshoe-shaped continuum where the far left and far right are closer to each other than to more moderate movements. While a few of Watters’ subjects — including Kimathi and a pair of communists who express admiration for the former Fox News host Tucker Carlson — indicate affinity with right-wing views, Watters doesn’t explore this issue or what it might mean in any depth. He completely ignores the trend we have seen in recent years where people engaged in new-age lifestyles and spirituality have gravitated toward political conspiracy theories and the right. When some of his more apolitical, quirky subjects make statements indicating they might fall in this camp — including expressing frustration with Democrats and COVID safety measures — those comments go completely unaddressed. 

Watters also clearly doesn’t realize that some of his own views are fairly radical. This is on display at multiple points in the book, including when he, at this late point, expresses skepticism about climate change and suggests it could be a “hoax” or when he veers close to QAnon territory by positing that there is a “conspiracy” of “wealthy powerful men … protected at the highest levels” who are systematically abusing children. 

Overall, it’s the selection and framing of the interview subjects that makes clear Watters isn’t interested in nuance or truly tough conversations. Along with presenting a stereotypical and negative view of the left, Watters has provided himself with a series of sparring partners that are easier to take on. He includes no elected leaders or even heads of particularly prominent groups or movements. Instead, readers are treated to a person who supposedly identifies as a wolf and to thoughts on Black Lives Matter from Emily Marnell, a white woman who is perhaps best known for her sister, the writer and 2010s internet figure Cat Marnell.

Most importantly, while supposedly diving deep into radicalism, Watters doesn’t speak with a single person who is unambiguously from the right. This is particularly glaring since he concludes the book by arguing that the trauma-driven extremism is driving a risk of violence. 

“This seems like a dangerous cultural cliff that we’re sprinting toward,” Watters writes in the epilogue. “I see violence coming if we don’t all buckle down.”

The thing is, political violence driven by the fringes has already come — and it wasn’t driven by people using exotic drugs or by furries. And while there was widespread violence and rioting associated with the largely left wing Black Lives Matter protests that gripped the country in 2020, U.S. law enforcement officials have repeatedly made clear that it’s the far right — and particularly white supremacists — that is the most urgent and prevalent threat to national security. A series of violent incidents have been associated with these groups that went ignored by Watters including, most notably, the Jan. 6 attack.

One of Watters’ interviews did touch on the storming of the Capitol, which was the most large-scale and dramatic incident of political violence in modern U.S. history. A Native American activist who helped tear down a statue of Christopher Columbus brought up the attack during his chat with Watters.

“When I saw Jan. 6, I loved it,” the man said. “I love seeing those people, and I thought, ‘My God, this country’s coming to an end, finally.’ I loved it.”

The comment was a clear opportunity for Watters to examine the affinity between the far left and right. However, that would have required acknowledging the extremism and violence on the right in the first place, which Watters is clearly unable — or unwilling — to do. After printing the quote about the Jan. 6 attack, Watters immediately follows it up with a rather telling line showing how eager he is to move on to a more comfortable conversation.

“Let’s get back on track,” he writes.

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