A host on far-right cable channel OAN called President Joe Biden the “groomer-in-chief,” the natural culmination of the work Republican senators started in earnest during Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearings.
“Biden is the groomer-in-chief,” said host Chanel Rion last weekend, first reported by Media Matters. “He’s open to the language of fellow groomers, but sympathy for groomers only enables them further. Look at their newly nominated Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, America’s queen of child porn apologists.”
Ever since Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) made Jackson’s supposed leniency with those in posession of child pornography the keystone of their hearing performances — a line of attack that has been extensively debunked — the QAnon leanings of the party have been dragged into the daylight.
QAnon, the conspiracy theory that centers on a belief that Democratic politicians are pedophilic Satanists who will face a Last Judgment-like reckoning, has set up camp on the party’s right wing since at least 2017.
Former President Donald Trump nudged and winked in its direction, frequently retweeting QAnon Twitter accounts. He is the messianic figure in the conspiracy theory, whose believers often proclaim that he’ll be restored to his rightful place in the White House.
But the Republican senators infused the conspiracy theory and its fixation on sex crimes against children with new life during the briefings, berating Jackson for cumulative hours with cherry-picked lines from a handful of child pornography cases she sentenced. They rehashed gruesome details, such as the ages of the child victims.
The senators gave the conspiracy theory elasticity, enough gradient to encompass both the devout QAnoners and Republicans who still eschew the conspiracy theory in name, but sow doubt around some of its fouler accusations.
Many senators on the committee, for example, insisted that they were just asking questions. While their clear aim was to smear Jackson as sympathetic to predators over victims, the stance gave them plausible deniability.
“As far as the further inquiries go about how the nominee handled child exploitation cases, we’re looking at her record — that’s what we’re supposed to do,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who chair Dick Durbin (D-IL) complimented many times for his supposedly exemplary behavior during the hearings. “It appears the White House wants to hide that record.”
Others, with less vested interest in maintaining a facade of respectability, had the space to go full QAnon.
“The Democrats are the party of pedophiles,” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) declared earlier this month.
Some on the right are using the GOP’s current anti-trans and anti-gay crusades as a convenient tie-in.
“The Democrats are the party of teachers — elementary school teachers — trying to transition their elementary school age children and convince them they’re a different gender,” Greene said in those same remarks.
It’s a tried-and-true gay-bashing technique for the GOP, with a new QAnon twist. Anti-LGBTQ activists and politicians have long fought civil rights advancements by claiming that gay people are secretly sex offenders trying to “groom” vulnerable children.
Now that smear campaign is in vogue again, perhaps inflamed by the conservative supermajority Supreme Court’s apparent willingness to unravel decades-long precedent. At the same hearings that they gave QAnon conspiracy theories a national audience, some of the Republican senators repeatedly returned to Obergefell v. Hodges, the case that established the right to same-sex marriage, as precedent wrongly decided that should be overturned.
OAN, building on that work, is taking the dehumanizing line of attack to its logical conclusion.
“Their true motive isn’t about protecting the gender identities of children,” host Rion said. “This is about satisfying their own warped perversions. And if you want to take it a layer deeper, it’s about canceling reproduction. This is population control. Sterilize your children, abort your babies, discourage nuclear families, and encourage non-reproducing unions.”
“Call it what it is,” she added, “gender mutilation and child abuse illegal under current U.S. law.”