The Stew Reporting on news from inside the Beltway

Senate candidate brings pro-life voice to Twitter

Politics | The social media service is accused of favoring pro-abortion groups
by Evan Wilt
Posted 10/12/17, 02:17 pm

WASHINGTON—Twitter censored, then allowed, a pro-life advertisement from Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s Senate campaign this week, bolstering pro-life groups’ claim that the social media service favors pro-abortion views.

Blackburn launched her 2018 Senate campaign last week with an ad that mentioned Congress’ investigation into Planned Parenthood’s fetal tissue procurement practices: “I fought Planned Parenthood and we stopped the sale of baby body parts. Thank God.”

In 2016, Blackburn chaired the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, which formed in response to undercover videos released by David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress.

Twitter called Blackburn’s comments “inflammatory” and blocked her from directly promoting the ad on its service unless she removed the line from her video. But on Tuesday, Twitter reversed its decision.

“While we initially determined that a small portion of the video used potentially inflammatory language, after reconsidering the ad in the context of the entire message, we believe that there is room to refine our policies around these issues,” Twitter spokesman Nicholas Pacilio said in a statement.

Pro-life advocates praised Twitter for backing down and permitting Blackburn to promote her message, but asserted the social media service needs to go further to enable free speech.

Lila Rose, the founder and president of Live Action, said Wednesday in light of Twitter’s reversal it should also unblock ads from her group that conveyed a similar pro-life message.

“Some of the Live Action content that Twitter objected to was identical to the content in Ms. Blackburn’s now-permitted advertising, so there’s no longer a rational basis for it to ban Live Action’s ads,” Rose said in a statement.

In June, Twitter told Live Action that in order to advertise it needed to delete tweets related to the Center for Medical Progress videos. Twitter also asked the pro-life group to remove related content from its own website.

Lawyers for Live Action have urged Twitter to undo the ban without success.

Another pro-life organization, the Susan B. Anthony List showed its support for Live Action in a tweet Wednesday: “Social media sites that claim to foster freedom of expression shouldn’t be suppressing #ProLife speech.”

The Susan B. Anthony List recently ran into a similar problem when Twitter blocked the group from promoting a tweet featuring a Mother Teresa quote: “Abortion is profoundly anti-woman. Three-quarters of its victims are women and children: Half the babies and all the mothers.”

Both pro-life groups note Twitter regularly allows Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, to promote “inflammatory” ads that offend pro-lifers.

Before Twitter lifted its ban on Blackburn’s ad, she sent messages to potential campaign donors asking for support because “Silicon Valley elites” were trying to “impose their values.” Appearing on Fox & Friends on Wednesday morning, Blackburn called Twitter’s reversal, “Our first Senate conservative victory.”

Associated Press/Photo by J. Scott Applewhite (file) Associated Press/Photo by J. Scott Applewhite (file) Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at a July 2013 news conference with Sen. Orrin Hatch (left)

Conservatives coordinate Senate rebellion

Several conservative organizations announced Wednesday a coordinated effort to take down the Senate’s Republican Party leadership.

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and his top deputies, grassroots groups cited GOP failures to deliver on key campaign promises and said it’s time for change.

“2017 has been a disappointing year for the millions of Americans who fully expected, and had every right to expect, real change in Washington,” the organizations wrote. “Republicans were given full control of the federal government. They—you—have done nothing.”

Senate Conservatives Fund president Ken Cuccinelli, Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin, FreedomWorks president Adam Brandon, Conservative HQ chairman Richard Viguerie, and Media Research Center president Brent Bozell signed the letter.

“If Mitch McConnell does not step down, we foresee a scorched-earth disaster from a furious Republican base that will take it out on elected officials in 2018 and again in 2020,” Bozell said at a news conference Wednesday.

The conservative groups blasted the failure of Republicans to repeal and replace Obamacare and the obfuscation of votes on a 20-week abortion ban and defunding Planned Parenthood.

Eight Senate Republicans are up for reelection next year, and Cuccinelli said he would work to draft conservative candidates to replace each one except Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. He named Republican Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Jon Barrasso of Wyoming, and Roger Wicker of Mississippi as targets.

The conservative activists have not coalesced around a preferred leader in the GOP to take over for McConnell, but Brandon floated Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania as a possibility. Martin said she could support Sen. David Perdue of Georgia.

“Who would I select?” Bozell asked. “I’m not going to name a name. But I’ll tell you it’s on one hand those that I feel comfortable with who are real conservative leaders today.”

Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, told Fox News this week he’s working with activists to recruit insurgent Republican challengers to oust every 2018 Senate incumbent except Cruz. Bozell said he would work with Bannon and others to take down McConnell and the Republican leaders who support his leadership. —E.W. The U.S. Capitol building in Washington

House IT scandal continues

Five members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus held an informal hearing Tuesday to discuss charges levied against former Democratic technology aides. U.S. Capitol Police first launched an investigation into several shared staffers in February after some computer equipment went missing. Each lawmaker dropped the staffers from their payroll, but Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., inexplicably retained Imran Awan for months until his arrest in July. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia charged Awan and his wife, Hina Alvi, with four criminal counts, including bank fraud and conspiracy. He pleaded not guilty in September.

Republicans invited three witnesses to discuss the facts of Awan’s case Tuesday. “These facts, standing alone, indicate a substantial security threat,” Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania said of Awan. Perry said the House Office of Inspector General tracked down Awan and his associates’ usage of House servers and found a massive amount of data flowing from the networks. Of the more than 5,700 logins by the five Awan associates discovered on a House server, 5,400 of those logins appeared unauthorized, according to Perry.

Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton, one of Tuesday’s witnesses, told lawmakers the negative reports mounting against Awan and his associates warrant further investigation. He said the Justice Department should inquire about what Awan did with the data gleaned from House servers. —E.W.

Bump stocks ban shifts gears

Lawmakers rallied last week to work on gun control legislation in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting. But House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said this week it makes more sense for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to take administrative action. A bill sponsored by Reps. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) and Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) would have banned any device that “is designed and functions to increase the rate of fire of a semi-automatic rifle but does not convert the semi-automatic rifle into a machine gun.” Police said Las Vegas gunman Stephen Paddock had a dozen of his weapons equipped with such devices, often called bump stocks. The ATF deemed bump stocks legal in 2010.

“We think the regulatory fix is the smartest, quickest fix, and then, frankly, we’d like to know how it happened in the first place,” Ryan said. With the House speaker deferring to the ATF, support for the bump stocks bill will likely slow. President Donald Trump said he’s open to discussing bump stocks use but would not say if he supports banning them. —E.W.

Blue slip blues

President Donald Trump continues to bemoan the slow crawl of the judicial confirmation process, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to do something about it. McConnell told The Weekly Standard on Wednesday he favors the Senate ditching its blue slip protocol to speed up the confirmation process. Blue slips are blue pieces of paper that a nominee’s home state senator must return to the Judiciary Committee before scheduling a confirmation hearing. McConnell said he thinks the Senate should no longer honor the tradition, but he’ll leave it up to Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, to decide. McConnell argues Democrats are abusing the blue slip process to bottle up nominees, but Grassley disagrees. He said senators from both parties returned blue slips in a timely manner and suggested the real problem lies on the Senate floor, where only seven of 17 nominees cleared out of committee have received a vote from the full Senate. Grassley said instead of changing Senate tradition, senators should skip recesses until they catch up on the backlog. —E.W.

Evan Wilt

Evan is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Washington, D.C.

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