It is no secret that Senator Lindsey Graham is in the fight of his political life in the final days of his campaign to win re-election to the United States Senate.
“I’m overwhelmed,” Graham pleaded on air with Fox News’ Sean Hannity last month, as his Democratic rival Jaime Harrison brought in a record $ 57 million in donations to overthrow him. “Help me – they’re killing me financially. help me. “
But with an ersatz ally, President Donald Trump, nowhere, a group that once despised Graham – and whose most prominent members have spent months underpinning bizarre conspiracy theories, posting extremely racist content on social media. and undermine the confidence of public health guidelines in the community. pandemic – come to the rescue.
The question is: does Graham want their help?
“Now is not the time for us to argue over differences of opinion,” Pressley Stutts, chairman of the Greenville Tea Party, said at an event on Wednesday afternoon, before presenting nearly a dozen from grassroots conservative leaders “to stand up straight” with Graham.
“Sen. Graham is in the run of his life, ”said Stutts, featuring Tory activists who criticized Harrison – or“ Harris, ”as several of them called him – for being a“ Marxist-Leninist ”who would enforce socialism. in South Carolina.
Sam Manley, a Tory podcaster, put the issues of the race straight up: “If you ever vote to enter socialism, you’ll have to fight your way.”
This resounding endorsement for Graham’s re-election – which included Michael LaPierre, who attempted to lead Graham this year – amounts to a ceasefire between Palmetto state’s best-known elected official and a coterie of some of his most devoted trolls. During the Tea Party wave of 2010, Graham – once considered one of the most traditional members of the Republican Party – became one of the most hated “RINOs” in the movement, or Republicans in name only. The leaders of the state’s Tea Party chapters attempted to recruit the then governor. Mark Sanford in the Graham Primary after voting to uphold Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, and a speaker at a Greenville Tea Party rally that year accused Graham of “trying to sell his own countrymen” for avoid being denounced.
For his part, Graham has once relished his battles with the state’s most conservative activists, calling the cross-party skirmishes “more fun than ever since I’ve been in politics,” but with polls showing Graham in a statistical stalemate with Harrison, the Senator scrambles to resolve these well-documented issues with voters who have largely moved from the Tea Party to the MAGA team – though the group’s politics couldn’t be less in line with that. by Graham.
Stutts, the group’s chairman, is a longtime immunization critic and has publicly discouraged people from wearing face masks during the coronavirus pandemic and has spread the conspiracy theory that billionaire Bill Gates is working to reduce the human population .
Stutts even claimed in an interview in April that a potential vaccine against COVID-19 could potentially “contain a microchip” so the government can track its citizens.
“Even if it doesn’t have a microchip I could predict the day because right now you have to show your ID or passport and here in South Carolina we have to get that real ID just to fly commercially, ”Stutts said on a conservative YouTube vlog at the time. “And I can see how well they’re going to say, okay, then show me your immunization records.”
At a Greenville Tea Party event in 2018, Stutts even hosted a talk with Jennifer Smith, who described herself as a “naturopath,” who referred to the baseless theory that vaccines cause autism and said she did not have her newborn baby vaccinated against hepatitis B. because he was “not a promiscuous homosexual” or an intravenous drug user.
Other speakers from the group at recent events include John Guandolo, the leader of a Dallas-based anti-Muslim group who was forced last year to pay $ 600,000 in a civil lawsuit for assaulting a sheriff in the United States. county after the man confronted him with the transmission of hate literature at a meeting of the National Sheriffs’ Association.
The group also staged protests against South Carolina’s social distancing rules, which Graham says are key to stopping the spread of the virus, despite rising infection rates in the state.
“Are you tired of putting up with an expensive and incompetent government?” the group posted on Facebook in September. “Join us on September 15 and make your voice heard too. Our legislators need to know that we have had enough! Arrive. Get up. Speak! It’s your family that has been negatively affected… #ThugArmy goes up !! “
Greenville Tea Party members and business partners have made even more extreme statements. Dan Harvell, a taxpayer advocate who spoke at Wednesday’s event and said he supports Graham for the sake of “the traditional American we will have for our children,” posted memes claiming that Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democratic candidate for vice president, slept before becoming a San Francisco district attorney and called former first lady Michelle Obama a “race tracker.”
The Graham campaign did not respond to a request for comment on whether he was disavowing support for the Greenville Tea Party and its members, and neither did the group. But State Democrats have called Graham’s dynamic playing with a group he once despised the latest in a long string of allowances the senator made under Trump.
“This is yet another demonstration of the extreme efforts Senator Graham will make to save his agitated campaign,” said Manuel Bonder, spokesman for the Democratic Party of South Carolina. “Instead of scrambling to solidify his support among fringe conspiracy theorists who know he is a hypocrite, Senator Graham should focus on leading South Carolina through this crisis and providing the relief it needs. working families and businesses desperately need it.
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