Politics

Politico’s Ben Smith gives credence to baseless SPLC comments on Tea Party connection in Arizona shooting

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter

In a column published late Sunday night, Politico’s Ben Smith quoted a political activist at the Southern Poverty Law Center as a source to link the weekend shooting in Arizona to mainstream conservatism. SPLC’s Mark Potok told Smith that the connection is through far right-wing activist David Wynn Miller.

Miller is a former Milwaukee welder who has declared himself the “King of Hawaii.” He’s associated with the “redemption movement,” a conspiracy theory that alleges the U.S. government pledged its citizens as collateral when it abandoned the gold standard. Redemption movement followers believe that the government creates a fictitious person, or straw man, for every newborn citizen with bank accounts holding $630,000. In other words, he’s fringe and so is the movement.

Potok has targeted Miller since at least 2003, and first made the connection between him and shooter Jared Lee Loughner on a special Saturday night edition of MSNBC’s “Countdown with Keith Olbermann.” Potok said Loughner’s YouTube videos, filled with references to mind-control and “controlling grammar,” suggest he fits with the “radical right.” Potok also said that Loughner’s videos connect him to Miller.

Miller told Politico on Sunday that, while he agrees with the statements Loughner made about brainwashing, it’s “ridiculous” to assert that his writings influenced Loughner’s decision to shoot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others. Miller told Politico he does not know Loughner, yet Smith gave Potok an outlet to tie him to the Arizona shooting.

Smith e-mailed Potok asking why he aligned Miller’s “strange ideology” with the right-wing, instead of classifying it as delusional. Smith said Potok responded that Miller’s beliefs are consistent with “views popular on the right fringe.”

“Miller is a full fledged believer in ‘sovereign citizens’ ideology — the idea that you don’t have to pay taxes to the wicked federal government if you only know the right formula,” Potok wrote in an e-mail to Smith. “He believes that if you upper case your name, you’re a slave of the government; on the other hand, if you use colons and hyphens in your name, you’re no longer taxable — you’ve broken free of the tyrannical government. As I say, these are ideas that are very important in large swaths of the antigovernment ‘Patriot’ movement, aka the militia movement.”

Smith refused The Daily Caller’s request for comment.