If it sounds beyond parody, that’s because it is.
A Green New Deal fact sheet accidentally released by the office of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) last month mentioned carbon emitted by “farting cows” in the context of long-term climate goals. Comments Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D-VA) made during a recent interview were misinterpreted by some as an endorsement of infanticide.
These gaffes might not seem like huge events in a vacuum. But they ended up spawning perhaps the two central themes of the first two days of this year’s Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) conference — a conference that’s been far more concerned with demonizing Democrats than it has been with articulating any sort of positive Republican vision for the country.
Speaker after speaker twisted the aforementioned Green New Deal fact sheet — which had actual inaccuracies of its own — to falsely accuse Democrats of wanting to ban cows altogether. The conference began on Thursday with Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) cracking a joke about it.
“You know, with this Green New Deal, they’re trying to get rid of all the cows,” he said. “But I’ve got good news: Chick-fil-A stock will go way up because we are gonna be eating more chicken!”
A short time later, Sebastian Gorka, a former official in President Donald Trump’s White House, falsely accused Democrats of wanting “to take away your hamburgers,” and said burger-banning “is what Stalin dreamt about but never achieved.”
On Friday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) quipped that he hopes “to see PETA supporting the Republican Party, now that the Democrats want to kill all the cows.”
And during a panel discussion with Donald Trump Jr. later Friday, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. went as far as to threaten AOC if she came for his cows.
“I’ve got 100 cows — you just let Alexandria Cortez [sic] show up at my cows and try to take my cows away,” he said, prompting Trump Jr. to reply: “I love cows, Jerry — they’re delicious.”
Here’s a supercut of all the stuff CPAC speakers have been saying about cows:
CPAC speakers have said a lot of wild stuff about Democrats wanting to ban cows. Here’s a supercut. pic.twitter.com/HfmBnlRGyo
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 2, 2019
The cow stuff is humorous, even if unintentionally so. But what CPAC speakers have been saying about abortion is deadly serious.
When they haven’t been accusing Dems of wanting to ban cows, CPAC speakers have been twisting what Northam said during a radio interview in January and using it to accuse Democrats of supporting infanticide.
To give a bit of context, Northam, referring specifically to “a fetus that’s nonviable,” said that in cases where a mother goes into labor, “The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”
Although some people took Northam’s comments to be an endorsement of infanticide, a spokesman for the governor told Vox in a statement that his comments “focused on the tragic and extremely rare case in which a woman with a nonviable pregnancy or severe fetal abnormalities went into labor” and were “absolutely not” meant to refer to anything else.
Despite Northam’s clarification, a parade of CPAC speakers misrepresented what he said to smear Democrats as aspiring baby murderers.
Early on Thursday, former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) said, “by the way, it’s not live-birth abortion. It’s not infanticide. It is murder if you take the baby home and kill the baby at home, it’s murder” — his suggestion being Democrats believe something else. But they don’t.
On Friday, Vice President Mike Pence accused Democrats of “standing for late-term abortion and infanticide.” His comments were rebuked by Planned Parenthood, which tweeted that it’s “not surprising to see [Pence] take a turn at promoting lies about abortion when his entire political career has been dedicated to undermining our health care and the right to make decisions about our bodies.”
Not surprising to see @VP take a turn at promoting lies about abortion when his entire political career has been dedicated to undermining our health care and the right to make decisions about our bodies. https://t.co/xR8nqab8ck
— Planned Parenthood Action (@PPact) March 1, 2019
Later Friday, Trump Jr. accused Dems of supporting something that doesn’t exist — “post-term abortion.”
Don Jr attacks Dems over “post-term abortion” — something that doesn’t exist.
“That’s called murder. This isn’t women’s health care. If the baby is born, and it’s alive, the woman is no longer at risk,” he says. pic.twitter.com/TY4bkcetIq
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 1, 2019
These comments are both false and dangerous. They represent the types of beliefs about abortion that have motivated people who have committed acts of violence against abortion providers in the past.
Republicans won’t let facts get in the way of their narrative
Perhaps unsurprisingly, CPAC speakers weren’t deterred by the fact their claims about cows and abortion are false.
In this respect, they’re taking cues from the president, who has in recent weeks also mocked the Green New Deal (claiming “They want to take away your car,”) and used Northam’s comments to accuse Democrats of supporting infanticide (“Execute the baby!”).
Cows and babies weren’t the only things CPAC speakers misled their audiences about. Baseless conspiracy theories about social media censorship were also a recurring topic, as was willfully misinterpreting Michael Cohen’s testimony about what he does and doesn’t know about collusion in hopes of exonerating the president, who no speaker dared criticize.
In lieu of articulating a positive vision of the future, the hyperbole used by CPAC speakers seems to be aimed at motivating the Republican base by stoking fears about what Democrats will do if they retake the White House and/or the Senate in 2020.
Toward that end, Republicans at CPAC haven’t been letting facts get in the way of their narrative.