Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy


Tim Murphy is a senior reporter in MoJo's DC bureau. His writing has been featured in Slate and the Washington Monthly. Email him with tips and insights at tmurphy [at] motherjones [dot] com.

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Illinois School Suspends Teacher For Playing "Daily Show" Clips

| Wed Nov. 16, 2011 12:01 PM EST
Jon Stewart: Banned in Eureka.

Just imagine if he'd shown Two and a Half Men.

An Illinois school district suspended a high school civics teacher for two weeks after parents complained that he had forced kids to watch The Daily Show in class. According to the Bloomington (Ill.) Pantagraph, Rhett Felix showed Eureka students several recent segments from the Emmy-winning show, which resulted in a slew of complaints from offended parents:

School Superintendent Randy Crump suspended first-year teacher Rhett Felix on Tuesday morning following a two-hour executive session of the Eureka-based District 140 school board Monday night. During the public portion of the meeting, parents complained about bleeped obscenities and some sexual content of the segments and about a perception that Felix appears to have a liberal political bias. 

So what were the offensive segments students were shown? The paper helpfully identifies the specific clips from the October 31 and November 2 episodes. From there, it's not hard to see where things went wrong: One of the segments, which you can see below, begins with Jon Stewart discussing the then-breaking news of Herman Cain's sexual harassment complaint, and offering his own euphemistic pizza phrases: "You want sausage on your pie?"; "Want me to stuff your crust?"; "I told you, I guarantee, I will come in 30 minutes or less":

Felix, who could not be immediately reached for comment, also took heat for (as the paper puts it), "warning students against an Internet search that yields results deemed to be pornographic." As it turns out, that's a reference to another Daily Show clip, in which Stewart discusses Rick Santorum's Google problem.

Although the Daily Show is in fact a trusted source of news for many American teens, frothy fecal matter is not exactly the kind of subject you'd expect your kids' civics teacher to be discussing in class—especially not in conservative Eureka, Illinois, where Ronald Reagan spent his formative years.

Still, this quote, from a concerned parent, seems a bit much: "I look at what happened out at Penn State. Even though this doesn't rise to that particular level, I would ask that this board look at these allegations and respond with appropriate resolve."

It's exactly like Penn State. Except nothing at all like Penn State.

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Newt Gingrich: The World's Most Expensive Historian

| Wed Nov. 16, 2011 10:51 AM EST

When Newt Gingrich was asked by CNBC's John Harwood why Freddie Mac paid him $300,000 in 2006, he played his wild card: He was hired, he said, for his analysis as an "historian." We called baloney—and sure enough Bloomberg reported on Tuesday that Gingrich more or less did the opposite of what he said he did. And now they have a follow-up, with the full price tag: Over eight years, Gingrich was paid $1.6 million, or approximately 100,000 $16 muffins, for his work.

Clea Benson and Dawn Kopecki report:

The total amount is significantly larger than the $300,000 payment from Freddie Mac that Gingrich was asked about during a Republican presidential debate on Nov. 9 sponsored by CNBC, and more than was disclosed in the middle of congressional investigations into the housing industry collapse.

Gingrich's business relationship with Freddie Mac spanned a period of eight years. When asked at the debate what he did to earn a $300,000 payment in 2006, the former speaker said he "offered them advice on precisely what they didn't do," and warned the company that its lending practices were "insane." Former Freddie Mac executives who worked with Gingrich dispute that account.

The former officials said he helped craft and shape the agency's message in its efforts to win over lawmakers. That's in contrast to Gingrich's more recent statements; asked about his efforts by Harwood, he said he had sharply criticized the mortgage giant's housing policies and warned that its practices could hurt the economy.

Should his current surge in the polls continue much longer, it's unclear what will hurt him more: His business dealings after leaving the House, or his business dealings while he was still in the House, which prompted him to resign in disgrace. Or given the GOP base's ability to look past the flaws of any candidate not named Mitt Romney, he might just be in the clear.

Bachmann South Carolina Chair: "If at First You Don't Secede, Try Again"

| Tue Nov. 15, 2011 11:58 AM EST
South Carolina Sen. Lee Bright (R) and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.)

The most recent poll out of South Carolina, like the poll before that and the poll before that, doesn't look very good for Michele Bachmann. She's currently in fifth place, tied with Ron Paul, and just a few points shy of the basement. So on Tuesday, looking to give herself a little bit of momentum, she announced her new South Carolina campaign chair: State Sen. Lee Bright.

Bright's a strong social conservative in a state where that means a lot. But he's also got some baggage. As the Minnesota Independent's Jon Collins reports, he's also got in trouble in the past for joking about secession after introducing a bill to reaffirm South Carolina's sovereignty, telling a local paper, "If at first you don't secede, try again." And earlier this year, he floated a proposal to allow the state to print its own currency: 

Bright introduced his bill to study the creation of a new South Carolina currency earlier this session. The resolution argues that the right to print currency can flow from the state’s constitutional police powers.

"[M]any widely recognized experts predict the inevitable destruction of the Federal Reserve System's currency through hyperinflation in the foreseeable future," the resolution reads. "[I]n the event of hyperinflation, depression, or other economic calamity related to the breakdown of the Federal Reserve System, for which the state is not prepared, the state's governmental finances and private economy will be thrown into chaos, with gravely detrimental effects upon the lives, health, and property of South Carolina’s citizens, and with consequences fatal to the preservation of good order throughout the state."

South Carolina is one of more than a dozen states that have issued similar legal-tender legislation as part of an effort to bring down the Federal Reserve from the bottom up. Bright also co-sponsored legislation to ban Islamic Shariah law from being considered in state courts.

Newt Gingrich's Anti-Sustainable Development Crusade

| Mon Nov. 14, 2011 11:14 AM EST
Before he campaigned against Agenda 21, Newt Gingrich cut this ad on behalf of Al Gore's non-profit, calling for swift action to combat climate change.

At Saturday's GOP presidential debate, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich signaled to tea partiers that he is one of them by making an unusual reference to Agenda 21, the international compact that conservative activists believe is a stepping stone to a United Nations takeover. It was an odd subject to bring up at a debate that focused mostly on the Middle East and Central Asia, but as it turns out, Newt's been beating this drum for a few months now. In September, the ex-Speaker promised an Orlando tea party group that, if elected president, one of his first acts would be to sign an executive order "to cease all federal funding of any kind of activity that relates to United Nations Agenda 21":

In that speech, he explains that he hadn't even been aware of Agenda 21 until he'd begun campaigning and been asked about it by activists. He offered a longer explanation of his views in July, which he felt strongly enough about to post to his YouTube stream:

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