October 16, 2021

Far-right activist wins Republican primary in Florida

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A anti-Muslim extremist and conspiracy theorist whose hate speech got her banned from multiple social media platforms won her Republican primary on Tuesday and will challenge the Democratic representative Lois Frankel for Congress in November.

Laura Loomer, who has described herself as a “proud Islamophobe”, won praise from Donald Trump early on Wednesday, who tweeted that she had a “great chance”, despite her Florida district being deep blue. The president shared multiple tweets celebrating Loomer’s victory, and called her opponent, a Democrat who has served in Congress for seven years, a “puppet”.

Loomer has called Muslims “savages”, described Islam as “a cancer”, and said on Instagram that Muslims should not be allowed to run for political office in the United States.

In 2017, Loomer was banned from using ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft after she posted a series of tweets blaming all Muslims for terror attacks and saying that someone should create a ride-sharing service that did not employ Muslims.

In 2019, she wrote that she did not care about the white nationalist terror attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, which left 51 people dead.

The far-right provocateur has also spread conspiracy theories about the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, and about the 2018 pipe bomb plot targeting prominent critics of Trump.

Loomer has been a political fixture for years in the Palm Beach county district, which is firmly Democratic. After trying to hoax journalists with Project Veritas, Loomer moved to direct confrontations with public figures in recent years, disrupting interviews and news conferences.

Loomer has built her public profile through vicious attacks against Muslims and immigrants, followed by public claims that she is being censored when social media companies take action against her.

Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Medium, PayPal, Venmo, GoFundMe, Uber and Lyft have banned her, but her communications get out through tweets by supporters and other workarounds, the Palm Beach Post reported.

After being banned from Twitter in 2018, which reportedly followed a series of tweets attacking Ilhan Omar, one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress, Loomer handcuffed herself to a door at Twitter’s headquarters in New York.

In 2017, she was arrested and charged with misdemeanor trespassing after disrupting a production of Julius Caesar in New York City, and shouting “This is violence against Donald Trump!”

In 2018, she was escorted out of a federal courthouse in Florida after harassing the family of Noor Salman, the widow of the Pulse Nightclub shooter Omar Mateen, Huffington Post reported.

In 2019, she was handcuffed after trespassing on the grounds of the California governor’s mansion in an anti-immigrant and anti-Mexican protest, the Sacramento Bee reported. Loomer, who wore a sombrero during the incident, claimed that her protest was meant to demonstrate that governor Gavin Newsom “cares more about illegals than Americans”. Loomer’s associates later staged a confrontation at a Mexican restaurant in downtown Sacramento, and called the restaurant “un-American”, the Sacramento Bee reported.

Loomer has been a guest on Fox News and alt-right programs after gaining followers by ambushing journalists and politicians in stunts posted online. Her campaign adviser is Karen Giorno, a political strategist who worked for Governor Rick Scott and Trump’s 2016 campaign in Florida.

Donors have contributed millions to her campaign.

Elsewhere in Florida, Ross Spano, a Republican congressman dogged by ethics investigations, lost his primary challenge on Tuesday, becoming the eighth incumbent House member to be defeated in party primaries this year.

Scott Franklin, a former navy pilot, business owner and Lakeland city commissioner, won a contest shaped by the coronavirus pandemic.

The US Department of Justice is investigating Spano for alleged campaign finance violations. The House ethics committee was looking into allegations that Spano borrowed more than $100,000 from two friends and then loaned the money to his campaign. But it paused the review when the criminal investigation began.

The district sits east of Tampa in central Florida and has traditionally voted Republican. Franklin will face Democrat Alan Cohn, a former television journalist who had raised about $600,000 for the race as of 29 July.

This post originally appeared on and written by:
Associated Press and Guardian staff
The Guardian 2020-08-19 14:52:00

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