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Rep. Scott Perry calls KKK ‘militant wing’ of the Democratic Party

U.S. Rep. Perry Scott (R-Pennsylvania) speaks as, from left, Rep. Barry Moore (R-Alabama), Rep. Ralph Norman (R-South Carolina) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) listen during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 13, 2024, in Washington, D.C. (Alex Wong/Getty Images/TNS)

U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R., Pa., is facing criticism after he reportedly called the Ku Klux Klan the “military wing of the Democratic Party” in a closed-door briefing for lawmakers on antisemitism Tuesday, according to CNN.

Perry also appeared to defend the so-called great replacement theory — the racist, white nationalist belief that white people are being purposely replaced by minorities and immigrants in the United States and Europe, CNN reported. Perry added that migrants entering the country “have no interest in being Americans.”

Audio of the comments, which Perry reportedly made during a House Oversight Committee members’ briefing about “The Origins and Implications of Rising Antisemitism in Higher Education” were obtained by CNN.

Perry, an ally of former President Donald Trump and the former leader of the House Freedom Caucus, is running for reelection in Pennsylvania’s 10th Congressional District, which includes Dauphin County and parts of Cumberland and York counties. Democrat Janelle Stelson, a former local news anchor, is challenging him in the November general election.

Asked for comment Wednesday about the leaked audio, Perry’s office released a statement:

“Once again, the radical Left twists facts in order to silence conversation about its own crimes and Biden’s intentional failures to enforce laws and close or regulate our borders,” Perry said. My point is proven yet again: when the Left loses an argument, it debases and smears instead of engaging in debate on merits.”

According to the audio, Perry said, “The KKK in modern times, a lot of young people think somehow it’s a right-wing organization when it is the military wing of the Democratic Party. Decidedly, unabashedly, racist and antisemitic.”

Although the KKK was founded by Democrats in 1865, “it became an extra-legal terror organization that was never the wing of any political party,” said Matt Jordan, director of the Pennsylvania State University News Literacy Initiative, which helps students and citizens distinguish “reliable journalism” from “the noise that often overwhelms and divides us,” according to its website.

Perry’s comments repeated debunked tropes

Perry’s statements repeated tropes about the KKK and replacement theory that are “sticky narratives,” according to Jordan — widely circulated, debunked ideas that politicians use to garner media attention and to rile their base.

“Replacement theory is real” Perry said, according to CNN. “They added white to it to stop everybody from talking about it.”

While Perry said during the briefing he is happy to accept people “that are here legally,” pointing to his ancestors who migrated to the United States, he has an issue with migrants that are “un-American,” according to the audio recording.

“What is happening now is we’re importing people into the country that want to be in America … but have no interest in being Americans, and that’s very different and to disparage the comments is to chill the conversation so that we can continue to bring in more people that we never met that are un-American,” Perry said, according to the recording.

The great replacement theory is “misinformation” with fascist resonance, Jordan said. “‘You replace white voters with brown-skinned immigrants to denigrate and corrupt the blood of our country,’ is how people think,” he added. “Tucker Carlson and others use it. It’s deployed with great effect in the right-wing media echo system.”

And, Jordan said, there’s “not a shred of evidence that migrants here without documentation can vote,” though Trump and House Speaker Mike Johnson recently have promoted a bill to prevent non-citizens from voting.

The briefing for lawmakers this week was intended set up to discuss the District of Columbia’s response to the pro-Palestinian protests and encampments on college campuses. House Republicans have advocated for racking down on the demonstrations and have attempted to unify against antisemitism, according to CNN.

Other recent remarks by Scott Perry

Perry’s remarks this week weren’t the first controversial comments he’s made recently.

At the conservative Pennsylvania Leadership Conference in Camp Hill last month, Perry referenced transgender students in school locker rooms and said, “If you say something about it, the FBI will likely list you as a domestic extremist.”

That’s a common talking point among conservatives. Jordan, of Penn State, said that “amplifying the anti-trans moral panic is a feature of far-right politicians worldwide. To say the FBI will violate your First Amendment rights and put you on a list of extremists is pure paranoid fantasy.”

Perry also claimed that the Biden administration is out to grab up people’s gas stoves. That’s an inaccurate assessment of health and climate concerns about gas appliances that’s nonetheless repeated endlessly on conservative talk radio, experts say.

When Perry recyles these well-worn, culture-war talking points, he’s attempting to use moral panic to fire up conservative Republicans enough to make sure they vote, Jordan said.

“It’s when the strategic use of misinformation becomes disinformation,” Jordan said. “Rhetoric used to knowingly fool people.”


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