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On Moms for Liberty, 60 Minutes and Scott Pelley focus on a threesome rather than the harm the group causes

On Moms for Liberty, 60 Minutes and Scott Pelley focus on a threesome rather than the harm the group causes

Scott Pelley 60 Minutes interview Moms for Liberty
CBS

Pelley neglected to mention that a racist compared Moms for Liberty favorably to Nazis and the Southern Poverty Law Center labeled the organization an anti-government extremist entity.

The most prevalent tabs on the Moms for Liberty website (I won’t insert a link for obvious reasons) home page are the bright yellow “Donate” button on the top right corner, and if you didn’t see it, the bright yellow “Donate” tab smack in the middle of the home page. If you didn’t see those two, fear not. When you scroll down to the bottom, there it is again, in all its yellow brightness, “Donate.”

If you don’t choose to donate, you can shop for branded merchandise. “The Liberty Shop” is also highlighted on the home page, with coffee tumblers and T-shirts; however, when you click on “The Liberty Shop” you must be a member to go on. I was furious because, while I didn’t want to be a member, I did want one of those coffee tumblers — I’m joking, of course.

But Moms for Liberty is no joke. It is, at its heart, a money-making enterprise, with book bans targeting LGBTQ+ and racially themed texts front and center. That hate is fueling the funnels of money going into the group. Instead of all kinds of yellow buttons and coffee mugs, the group should just put a huge headline on its site that says SEND US ALL OF YOUR MONEY SO WE CAN SPREAD HATE ALL OVER THE PLACE.

Former President Donald Trump does this, and if the group wants to be a skilled grifter like Trump, then it should heed my advice.

In its most recent tax filing, Moms for Liberty reported it took in $2.1 million in 2022 — the year before the group exploded on to the scene. Last year was undoubtedly a cash cow for the group. It garnered the attention and support of Trump, Nikki Haley, and its biggest cheerleader, Ron DeSantis. All three spoke at the group's summer convention in Philadelphia last year, and all of them sang the group's praises.

That kind of attention not only draws eyeballs, but it’s a magnet for donors. Trump, Haley, and DeSantis's endorsements gave credibility to a group that has proliferated far and wide with hyped-up hysteria that schools were breeding grounds for pornography and grooming.

Its members and tactics have been blatantly racist, even brushing up against the Proud Boys. Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio said that Moms for Liberty is “the Gestapo with vaginas.”

A racist compares an extremist group favorably to Nazis. Let that sink in for a moment. That tells you all you need to know, really, about Moms for LIberty.

It’s that kind of association, the language it uses on social media and other public comments that caused the watchdog group Southern Poverty Law Center to add it to its list of anti-government extremist entities. The SPLC likened Moms for Liberty to racist groups of the 1960s that wanted to resegregate public schools.

The movement "is primarily aimed at not wanting to include our hard history, topics of racism, and a very strong push against teaching anything having to do with LGBTQ topics in schools. We saw this as a very deliberate strategy to go to the local level,” Susan Cooke, intelligence project director for SPLC, said in an interview with USA Today.

CBS News' 60 Minutes and anchor Scott Pelley included Moms for Liberty and two of its founders in a story last Sunday about the book ban controversy in Beaufort, S.C. While Pelley called out the absolute idiocy of Tiffany Justice and Tina Descovich, accusing them of being “evasive” and “dodging questions” (it was like a watching a train wreck), and cited the group's failures — among other things, losing a majority of school board races around the country — he neglected to provide the context around its extremism.

Granted, Pelley did a much better job of pushing back than Lesley Stahl did in her puff-piece interview with Marjorie Taylor Greene. But Pelley missed a crucial chance to talk about the danger the organization poses to marginalized groups, including LGBTQ+ youth and youth of color. Granted, he did mention Moms for Liberty’s fast and loose use of the word “groomer,” which Justice and Descovich tried ridiculously to explain. But Pelley didn’t go far enough.

Instead, Pelley’s piece delved into the sex controversy around the group’s third founder, Bridget Ziegler, who admitted to a three-way with her husband, former Florida GOP leader Christian Ziegler, and another woman. Christian Ziegler was ousted from his position after accusations that he had raped the other woman after the three got together. Authorities eventually decided not to pursue rape charges against him.

To me, Pelley wasted time in the segment by zeroing in on the scandal of the tantalizing three-way – sex, sex, sex! That’s what keeps people watching, rather than talking about the imminent dangers the group poses.

The Ziegler scandal was a sideshow, a deflection from the root of rot that Moms for Liberty sows with its chapters – and donations – across the United States, and mainly in the South. For Pelley not to cite its extremist label by SPLC and its association with racist organizations, like the Proud Boys, was to let Moms for Liberty off the hook.

Not everyone is well-read about Moms for Liberty. CBS and Pelley assume a lot when they don’t provide the full picture of the group and talk about its very real dark side. Most people who saw the segment probably laughed at the ineptitude of the group’s leaders, and they shook their heads at the three-way talk.

The viewer likely came away Sunday with the impression that the group was less than reputable, has a poor record of banning books, is run by two women who don’t have their act together, and that Moms for Liberty is mean-spirited at best.

That is not who Moms for Liberty is. It is more sinister and more dangerous. Just because the women dodged questions from Pelley and looked like fools doesn’t mean that they’re any less extremist and have less hate in their hearts, and that’s what’s at the core of the group's mission – besides making money. Its mission is to erase marginalized youth and marginalized identities from schools.

Instead of focusing on that, Pelley opted for a different kind of three-way.

John Casey is a senior editor at The Advocate.

Views expressed in The Advocate’s opinion articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the views of The Advocate or our parent company, equalpride.

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John Casey

John Casey is senior editor of The Advocate, writing columns about political, societal, and topical issues with leading newsmakers of the day. The columns include interviews with Sam Altman, Neil Patrick Harris, Ellen DeGeneres, Colman Domingo, Jennifer Coolidge, Kelly Ripa and Mark Counselos, Jamie Lee Curtis, Shirley MacLaine, Nancy Pelosi, Tony Fauci, Leon Panetta, John Brennan, and many others. John spent 30 years working as a PR professional on Capitol Hill, Hollywood, the Nobel Prize-winning UN IPCC, and with four of the largest retailers in the U.S.
John Casey is senior editor of The Advocate, writing columns about political, societal, and topical issues with leading newsmakers of the day. The columns include interviews with Sam Altman, Neil Patrick Harris, Ellen DeGeneres, Colman Domingo, Jennifer Coolidge, Kelly Ripa and Mark Counselos, Jamie Lee Curtis, Shirley MacLaine, Nancy Pelosi, Tony Fauci, Leon Panetta, John Brennan, and many others. John spent 30 years working as a PR professional on Capitol Hill, Hollywood, the Nobel Prize-winning UN IPCC, and with four of the largest retailers in the U.S.