New Yorker's Jane Mayer: Koch Brothers Reaping Racism and Hate Through Trump Triumph

Journalist Jane Mayer issued another twisted attack on her own Enemy No. 1, the libertarian industrialist Koch brothers, from her New Yorker magazine perch. “Who Sponsored The Hate?”, posted March 15, left no doubt as to who she thinks is responsible for the current Trumpian climate of political vituperation.

Mayer recently released Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, which focuses on the Koch brothers. For years she has issued dark, often conspiratorial threats about the Midwestern oil and chemical industrialists, guilty of trying to convince voters of the rightness of their beliefs, to the abject horror of a big-government left which has spent a generation trying to do the same thing, eiher through their own billionaires (George Soros, Ted Turner) or actual government money.

Mayer began with the now-standard liberal line that conservative ideologues are reaping what they sowed with the rise of Trump and his supporters:

....But, in fact, the influence of the Kochs and their fellow big donors is manifest in Trump’s use of incendiary and irresponsibly divisive rhetoric. Only a few years ago, it was they who were sponsoring the hate.

The power of that sentence depends mightily on how one defines “a few years ago” and hate.” For Mayer, the former definition apparently includes the early 1960s and the John Birch Society, which years ago became a nonfactor in American politics, thanks to traditional conservatives like William F. Buckley.

From the second paragraph you know the revelations will be a bit stale. 2010?

Over the July 4th weekend of 2010, I attended the fourth annual Defending the American Dream Summit, in Austin, Texas, which served in part as a training session for local Tea Party activists. The summit was sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, which purported to be a nonpartisan grass-roots political-advocacy group devoted to the cause of small government, free markets, and liberty. It was in fact an organization that had been founded and heavily funded by the Kochs, whose early activism was entwined in fearmongering and racial intolerance.

The Kochs’ father, Fred Koch, the founder of Koch Industries, the hugely profitable private oil-and-chemical company that his sons inherited, was one of the original members of the John Birch Society, the ultra-conservative group that accused political opponents of treason and was at its core segregationist. After the Supreme Court ruled in favor of desegregating America’s public schools, in 1954, the Birchers launched a nationwide crusade to impeach Chief Justice Earl Warren. In 1960, Fred Koch wrote a self-published book describing welfare programs as a secret government plot to lure rural blacks into cities so that they could foment “a vicious race war.”....

It’s not fair to visit the sins of the father on the sons, but Charles and David have their own dubious record of involvement with racist institutions. They themselves belonged to the John Birch Society, and, in the late sixties, Charles was a trustee at a place called the Freedom School, outside Colorado Springs, which had no black students because, its director explained to the Times, “it might present a housing problem because some of his students are segregationists.”

Mayer called the Freedom School “the first step in the Koch’s lifelong crusade to use their vast fortune to reshape American academia and politics along the lines of their own ideology.” She then returned to the somewhat-present. But where was the “hate”?

That was long ago, and, of course, many people’s views on race have evolved during the decades since. In more recent years, the Kochs have made large donations to the United Negro College Fund. But, in a 2011 interview with The Weekly Standard, David Koch echoed specious claims, made by conservative gadfly Dinesh D’Souza, that Obama was somehow African rather than American in his outlook. He claimed that Obama, who was born in America and abandoned by his Kenyan father as a toddler, nonetheless derived his “radical” views from his African heritage....

That’s pretty weak for either racism or “hate.”

And then there was Mayer’s horrified reaction to Sen. Ted Cruz saying (again, back in 2010) that there were communists on the faculty of Harvard Law School when he attended in the early 1990s. Mayer is obsessed with this particular anecdote, reporting on it for the New Yorker in February 2013 over the headline “Is Senator Ted Cruz Our New McCarthy?” then writing a followup with Cruz's response, and repeating the story for her current blog post:

The luncheon speaker at the summit was Ted Cruz, who was formerly the solicitor general of Texas. The Kochs may now be dismayed at Trump’s rhetoric, but, at the time, no one objected when Cruz said that Harvard Law School, which he and Obama both attended, had been infiltrated by communists. “There were fewer declared Republicans in the faculty when we were there than communists,” Cruz said. “There was one Republican. But there were twelve who would say they were Marxists who believed in the communists overthrowing the United States government”....The same incendiary style characterized the big donors’ fight against the Affordable Care Act....

That’s where Mayer found “angry mobs” only on the right, spurred on by Koch-affiliated groups: “...Traditional town-hall meetings, at which local congressmen met with their constituents, were overtaken by angry mobs...”

Most of which were spurred on by liberal supporters of Obama-care, often union reps, as Mary Katharine Ham revealed in a Weekly Standard cover story.

More misrepresentations followed, including the “racist epithets” directed at black congressmen at a Capitol Hill rally that no one ever actually documented, before Mayer righteously concluded:

If the big donors in the Republican Party are now recognizing that such discourse isn’t just ugly but also potentially dangerous, as the outbursts of violence at Trump’s rallies demonstrate, then that’s a welcome change. But for the same donors who poured gasoline on the flames, when the winds were blowing the way they wanted, to now complain that Trump’s campaign is out of control is, well, for want of another word, rich.

Clay Waters
Clay Waters
Clay Waters was director of Times Watch, a former project of the Media Research Center.