Joe The Plumber’s Spokesman Was Behind Breitbart Smear That Led To Missouri Professors Being Threatened
So after Joe the Plumber suggested that gun control was responsible for the Holocaust and that the Bible is more accurate than science textbooks because “it was never revised,” I’m sure you’re all wondering who’s running his brilliant communications operation. One great introduction to Joe’s “Director of Communications” Phil Christofanelli was this article where he doubled down on Joe’s comments and further suggested that gun control contributed to slavery:
‘Well, blacks weren’t allowed to own guns in the south, that’s a historical fact as well,’ said Mr. Christofanelli. ‘So, it would seem that the argument would apply there as well.’
By this brilliant reasoning, I guess you could also say gun control caused the arrests of activists during the civil rights movement because police didn’t hand out guns before spraying people with fire-hoses.
As it turns out, Christofanelli is a conservative from the St. Louis region who likes to follow the James O’Keefe script of attacking private citizens with distorted video, so I thought I’d fill in a few extra details about him.
In 2009, James O’Keefe came by the campus of Washington University in St. Louis (full disclosure: I’m a grad student there) and put together a lame, chopped up video edited to make it seem like the school administrators were trying to censor a conservative group, Young Americans for Liberty (YAL). The people O’Keefe tried to smear were not even “Evil Liberal Professorz” but rather were employees from the Event Services office simply trying to do their job in the face of a disruptive display that didn’t ask for the proper permits. But, as usual with this crowd, they don’t really care who they’re attacking as long as they get attention.
As it turns out, the controversy was a hoax, and this was admitted by one of the members of the sponsoring student groups. Despite the fact that a YAL member admitted that they didn’t get the proper permits, Christofanelli, a student who participated in O’Keefe’s stunt, wrote an article for Young American Revolution (p. 12) repeating the ridiculous claim that this was an act of tyrannical suppression by Evil Liberal Academia. The title and subtitle of his post was “Soviet U: Campus commissars suppress a commemoration of the fall of communism.”
Christofanelli later targeted the university again with a dishonest claim that the university was getting a “discount” from the St. Louis’s public transportation agency and was forcing “the poor” to make up the cost. As it turned out, Wash U was simply buying metro passes in bulk, an option available to any similar large institution (and a principle that should be pretty familiar to anyone who understands economics), and was paying *more* into the system than they would have if faculty, staff, and students were left to buy passes on their own.
But the real defining issue for Christofanelli was not his distorted attacks on Washington University, but rather the shameless smear campaign he instigated against the University of Missouri St. Louis, a local school that plays a crucial role in educating local residents.
Here’s a short timeline that shows Christofanelli’s willingness to set up his professors and fellow students for vicious attacks and threats from right-wing goons…
April 25, 2011: Big Government puts out video claiming that two college professors in a labor studies course were “advocating violence” and “industrial sabotage.” Simultaneously, Dana Loesch was pushing the “violence” and “industrial sabotage” claims on her local radio show and calling for the professors to be fired and harassed. These claims were based on video clips showing one of the professors Judy Ancel, saying “Violence is a tactic. It’s to be used when it’s the appropriate tactic,” and another professor, Don Giljum, describing acts of industrial sabotage. However, unsurprisingly given the source, both of these claims were based on misleading edits from the Breitbart collaborators. In Ancel’s case, the longer clip makes clear she was quoting a character from a movie to facilitate class discussion, and with Giljum the Breitbart gang edited out the middle of his quote where he stated that these tactics were no longer appropriate and would “do more harm than good.”
Even more disturbingly, the clips posted by Breitbart.com contained video footage of students engaging in classroom discussions. Academic classrooms are supposed to be places where students can freely explore ideas and engage in thought-provoking discussions; obviously releasing video footage, without permission, of students to vindictive hoards of conservatives willing to selectively use information against people completely undermines this atmosphere of free discussion. Several of the students expressed concern that their employment might be at risk.
Anyway, Breitbart.com released these clips, attacked the professors and students, and pressured the media to report. Throughout this time, Christofanelli, a student in the class, remained silent as his professors and fellow students, some of whom thought he was a friend, were ravaged by the conservative media.
April 26, 2011: Judy Ancel releases a statement saying the quotes were misleadingly edited. Breitbart editors lie and pretend they can’t imagine what she’s talking about and claim that the full videos are so much worse. Christofanelli remains silent as his fellow students are attacked.
May 1: I (along with my friend Kevin) interview two of the students in the class who deny the Breitbart.com story and describe a Breitbart blogger who trespassed on campus and was harassing students outside of the classroom and even daring them to “take a swing at me.” Breitbots still in denial. Christofanelli still silent.
May 8: Up until this point, the media had largely avoided posting the longer videos and was keeping up false information from the Breitbart sites. After a considerable amount of hustling on my part, the local media finally started updating their posts with the full video that clearly showed the claims were lies.
May 9: After the full videos came out, and after the media finally started getting the story right, Christofanelli finally comes out and admits that he had downloaded the full 30 hours of footage from the course and distributed it to “friends.” He still defends the edits but tacitly admits that he knows they were wrong by refusing to say who he actually gave the videos to while making sure to deny having anything to do with the editing. And his long-winded defense of the edits basically amounts to the absurd idea that because he doesn’t like the professors and feels in his gut that they would endorse violence, it’s therefore OK to edit videos in a way that makes it look like they said they endorse violence even when they didn’t. Christofanelli also suggested that the class content wasn’t up to his high standards of scholarship, a point especially ironic in light of his recent claims that gun control has something to do with slavery. Naturally, his attack on Evil Liberal Academia got him an appearance on Fox News.
As a result of this despicable smear campaign, the professors received numerous threats from knuckle-dragging Breitbots deceived by the edited videos, some of which were mentioned in this article by the Kansas City Star. Don Giljum had to change his phone number. And several students (see above interview) reported that they no longer felt safe in the classroom.
But this is all in a days work for a James O’Keefe styled Breitbart collaborator. It doesn’t matter who gets hurt or what the truth is, as long as you can score a couple political points and advance your career. This guy is a perfect fit for Joe the Plumber’s campaign.