Nicole Lafond

Nicole Lafond is a news writer for TPM based in New York City. She is also currently earning a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and previously worked as an education reporter at The News-Gazette in Champaign, Ill. Follow her on Twitter @Nicole_Lafond.

Articles by Nichole

A GOP congressman is facing backlash from officials at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in Poland after posting a video of himself walking around inside an Auschwitz gas chamber and using the memorial as a “stage” to promote the U.S. military.

Museum officials spoke out against Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA) on Twitter Tuesday, retweeting a story about the recent video from New Orleans Online and saying “there should be mournful silence” inside a former gas chamber.

“It’s not a stage,” officials said.

Later Tuesday, the Auschwitz Memorial account tweeted a photo of the sign visitors see when entering the building that holds the first homicidal gas chambers of Auschwitz that says “Please maintain silence here: remember their suffering and show respect for their memory.”

Filming himself inside the gas chambers, Higgins’ video, which published on YouTube Saturday, features the U.S. representative explaining what happened to the millions of people killed during the Holocaust and said the deaths at Nazi concentration camps are why the U.S. military “must be invincible.”

“The cyanide pellets activated when they hit oxygen. After about 20 minutes everyone was dead and then slave labor would go in the room and drag bodies of those poor souls out and bring them and incinerate them in these ovens,” Higgins said, filming with the camera toward his face as he showed his audience around the gas chamber memorial. “There were three sets of ovens like that. This is why homeland security must be square away, why our military must be invincible.”

He went on to film and explain the “suffocation cells” at the memorial and said “this is why we must remember these things, man’s inhumanity to man can be quite shocking.”

As he left the museum he spoke to the camera again, saying the world is a “much smaller place” than it was during World War II and said the U.S. is “susceptible to terror like this, horror like this.”

“It’s hard to walk way from gas chambers, ovens, without a very sober feeling of commitment, unwavering commitment to make damn sure the United States of America is protected from the evils of the world,” he said.

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Global warming is nearly irreversible, according to Cambridge professor and world-renowned scientist Stephen Hawking, who spoke to BBC News about climate change and President Donald Trump this past weekend.

“We are close to the tipping point where global warming becomes irreversible. Trump’s action could push the Earth over the brink, to become like Venus, with a temperature of two hundred and fifty degrees, and raining sulphuric acid,” he said.

He said that by pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement to reduce CO2 emissions, Trump is causing “avoidable environmental damage to our beautiful planet, endangering the natural world, for us and for our children.”

“Climate change is one of the great dangers we face and it’s one we can prevent if we act now,” he said.

He went on to say that environmental issues are just intensifying human conflict, adding that he thinks people may have a limited number of days left on earth.

“I fear evolution has inbuilt greed and aggression to the human genome. There is no sign of conflict lessening, and the development of militarized technology and weapons of mass destruction could make that disastrous. The best hope for the survival of the human race might be independent colonies in space,” he said.

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Starting off Monday morning with another Twitter rampage against the news media, President Donald Trump said journalists will be “forced” to cover positive White House accomplishments “at some point.”

This tweet follows several other posts last week criticizing the media, specifically CNN, and personally attacking the hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Mika Brzezinski And Joe Scarborough, for criticizing Trump on their show.

The President’s relationship with the media has been negative since the start of his run for office and has only frayed further in recent months as news outlets continue to cover the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

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While Justice Anthony Kennedy squashed rumors about his retirement at the end of this current term, it’s unlikely he will continue serving on the Supreme Court for all of President Donald Trump’s time in office, according to an NPR report.

Kennedy has already hired clerks for this coming term, but has not yet filled the positions for the following term, which begins in October 2018. The 80-year-old justice apparently told applicants for the 2018 term that he’s considering retirement, according to NPR.

Kennedy’s retirement would be consequential as his vote is often what decides the outcome of many cases, especially this past month following the appointment of Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, who so far has voted 100 percent of the time with his most conservative colleague on the court, Justice Clarence Thomas.

Gorsuch votes second most often with Justice Samuel Alito, according to the NPR report. On the other side of the ideological spectrum, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor voted together most often this term, leaving Kennedy and Chief Justice John Roberts on the center-right and Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan, at the center-left.

Evidenced in the last few weeks of the current term, Kennedy and Roberts votes are what allowed the travel ban to go into effect with certain rules and allowed same-sex couples to have the same benefits linked to marriage as heterosexual couples, like having both parents names on a birth certificate.

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The conservative radio host who appeared in a recent advertisement put out by the National Riffle Association — which calls on conservatives to fight against the left with a “clenched fist of truth” — said the video is meant to condemn violence, not condone it.

The video was published on the NRA’s Facebook page earlier this month and features Dana Loesch criticizing those on the left for their beliefs and for making up reasons to protest, “to scream racism and sexism and xenophobia and homophobia. To smash windows, burn cars, shut down interstates and airports, bully and terrorize the law abiding,” all said alongside video clips of people marching and exhibiting violent behavior.

“The only way we stop this, the only way we save our country and our freedom is to fight this violence of lies with a clenched first of truth,” she said, closing out the advertisement. The ad concludes: “I’m the National Riffle Association of American and I’m freedom’s safest place.”

The video has been criticized by groups like the Women’s March and Black Lives Matter for condoning violence, and even pushed Sen. Chris Murphy to tweet about it, saying he thinks “the NRA is telling people to shoot us.”

But appearing on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Fox News Thursday evening, Loesch called the reaction to the video “insane” and said the aim was to condemn violence.

“I’m talking over video clips that show actual leftist violence, rioting, property damage, arson, physical assault and apparently me condemning violence is what’s inciting a divided America,” she said.

She said it’s clear when she suggests fighting violence with a “clenched fist of truth” she’s talking about “fighting violence with truth because truth wins out all the time, apparently that’s bad,” she said.

She called Murphy’s comments “irresponsible” and said the shooting at the congressional GOP baseball practice earlier this month was “due to some of this rhetoric like we see from Sen. Murphy.”

“This has to stop. I’m not going to stop condemning violence and it’s a shame that other people on the left won’t do the same,” she said.

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Kellyanne Conway on Friday defended President Donald Trump tweeting personal attacks on cable news anchors, saying Trump has the right to fight back when he’s attacked.

“No, I didn’t say I endorse his attacks. … I said I endorse his ability to fight back when he’s attacked. There’s no good (that) comes out of people attacking the President’s physical and mental states on national television every day to the exclusion of connecting Americans with the information they need,” Conway said, appearing on “Good Morning America.”

Her comments are in response to Trump tweeting personal attacks against the two hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show, claiming co-host Mika Brzezinski had gotten “a face-life.”

“This is not about any one individual. We need to start connecting Americans with information they need,” Conway said, referring to the amount of time news outlets have spent reporting on Trump’s tweets instead of policy. “Bottom line, I endorse his ability to connect on social media with Americans and I endorse, as the first lady has said, him firing back when he’s being mercilessly attacked.”

She said she hopes “good” comes out of the situation, and that people have respect for the office of the President and “have a full conversation about policy.”

“Let people disagree on policy and stop the personal invective, it’s completely toxic and it’s completely counterproductive to connecting America with policy prescription that they need.”

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Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder sent out a early morning message via Twitter, warning and encouraging “career men and women” at the Department of Justice and the FBI.

“Your actions and integrity will be unfairly questioned. Be prepared, be strong. Duty. Honor. Country,” he said.

The tweet comes as the FBI conducts an investigation into whether President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to interfere with the 2016 election.

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A new advertisement put out by the National Rifle Association — which calls on conservatives to fight the left with a “clenched fist of truth” — has the Women’s March demanding an apology, activists calling it an “open call to violence” and a propaganda expert labeling the video “sinister.”

The video, which was published on the NRA’s Facebook page on June 12, begins with talk radio host Dana Loesch criticizing the media and the way liberals use it to “assassinate real news.” It calls out liberals in the public school system for teaching “children that their president is another Hitler,” Hollywood for progressing “their narrative” and for using their “ex-President to endorse the resistance.”

Loesch goes on to say all these venues are a means to create reasons for protest, “to scream racism and sexism and xenophobia and homophobia. To smash windows, burn cars, shut down interstates and airports, bully and terrorize the law abiding,” all said alongside video clips of people marching and exhibiting violent behavior.

“The only way we stop this, the only way we save our country and our freedom is to fight this violence of lies with a clenched first of truth,” she said, closing out the advertisement saying, “I’m the National Riffle Association of American and I’m freedom’s safest place.”

Join the National Rifle Association

Join NRA Here:

Posted by National Rifle Association of America on Monday, June 12, 2017

A New York University professor, whose research has focused on modern propaganda, called the video irresponsible and said he could “safely say the (video) is a textbook example of propaganda.”

“It’s actually an example of propaganda when it’s most sinister,” Mark Crispin Miller of NYU told TPM. “It’s extremely hostile, takes a dark view of dissonance and protest and lauds the police as our only protection against this unprecedented threat.”

The advertisement takes on the classic method of creating a “they” mentality, he said, while saluting police power.

“What it basically does is create this nightmarish image of an all-powerful ‘they,’ which would be protesters, it would be Democrats and liberals and Hollywood, the media. They’re all the same, one big monolithic entity and the goal of that entity is to destroy not just the Trump presidency, but the whole country,” he said. “The images suggest chaos and violence and brutality by an undifferentiated mass of malicious actors. … It’s aimed at resentful denizens of ‘fly-over states.’ It suggests that there’s a kind of malevolent group that’s in control of everything and trying to destroy the rest of us, the good people and our president.”

While Miller called the video a “sinister” form of propaganda, Paul Baines, a professor of political marketing at Crainfield School of Management in the UK who studies propaganda from terrorist groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda, said the advertisement was “weak propaganda” and a potentially “dangerous” method for building up the NRA’s membership.

“It’s weak in terms of its fervor. ISIS uses a similar approach, reduces the world into a binary place where the alternative is disgusting and they tend to dehumanize the others. … It potentially is dangerous if they move down that avenue. It could incite members to respond to the far left with agitation. It’s not particularly clever to build up membership in this way because it could cause sufficient concern, where people could follow through with this message and create problems,” Baines said. “These (groups) often use a fear-based appeal. … That in itself is problematic. They’re essentially saying, ‘the far left is causing problems and the only thing you can do to save yourself is to buy a gun. The only way to reduce this fear is buy a gun.’”

The Women’s March group, which organized a massive protest in Washington after President Donald Trump was inaugurated, sent a letter to NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre, calling on the organization to “immediately remove the recent irresponsible and dangerous propaganda videos” and issue an apology for the advertisement that “suggests armed violence against communities of color, progressives and anyone who does not agree with the (Trump) administration’s policies.”

The advertisement comes as groups across the U.S. have called out the NRA for not making a statement about the not guilty verdict for the Minnesota police office who killed Philando Castille, a gun owner who was reaching to show an officer his gun registration when he was shot.

The message behind the video was disturbing enough to push politicians and activists to tweet about the video, with Sen. Chris Murphy saying he thinks “the NRA is telling people to shoot us” and Black Leaves Matter leader Deray McKesson calling it an “open call to violence to protect white supremacy.”

And while some are outraged by the video, Jonathan Auerbach, who teaches English at the University of Maryland and is a co-author of “Weapons of Democracy: Propaganda, Progressivism and American Public Opinion,” called the video “pretty standard” for a group like NRA.

“(It’s a) routine example of propaganda designed to recruit new members by rousing indignation against a perceived enemy,” he told TPM in an email. “Not especially innovative or nuanced, but perhaps effective for a brief clip since (there’s) no need to address the substance of ‘the enemy’s accusations.”

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Despite the announced delay on Republicans’ health care bill vote to give GOP senators more time to get on the same page, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said Congress is “still on schedule” with getting a health care plan passed.

“As we said, tax reform is later in the year, in the fall, so we still have the summer here to work on health care,” he told reporters Thursday. “We are perfectly on time with our schedule.”

However, he said he couldn’t answer a question on how long it would take to get something passed because “I don’t know when the Senate is going to bring this bill to the floor for a vote,” but that he would make sure the House moved “fairly quickly” after that.

“We still think we’re on track. Look, I’m familiar with this, this is exactly what we did here in the House. We brought it to the floor and we pulled it back, then we brought it and passed it,” he said. “It’s a bit of deja vu. I told Sen. McConnell, I know how he feels, but I do think we will persevere through this because we have promise to keep.”

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After the President sent out a vicious tweet attacking MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski and claiming she had a “face lift,” deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended President Donald Trump, saying he “fights fire with fire.”

Look, I don’t think that the president’s ever been someone who gets attacked and doesn’t push back. There have been an outrageous number of personal attacks, not just to him but to frankly everyone around him. People on that show have personally attacked me many times, this is a president who fights fire with fire,” Sanders said on Fox News. “And certainly will not be allowed to be bullied by liberal media or liberal elites within the media or Hollywood or anywhere else.”

When asked whether this type of personal attack was necessary, Sanders said what’s “necessary is to push back against unnecessary attacks on the President both personally” and claimed there have been “outrageous attacks” “day in and day out” on “Morning Joe” against her and Trump.

“I have seen far worse things come out of that show. Again, directed not just at the President, but everyone around him, personal attacks, mean, hateful attacks. Again this President is not going to sit back and not push back and fight fire with fire and that’s exactly what he did today,” she said.

Trump apparently tweeted about the show’s co-hosts Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough after hearing they criticize him on the show.

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