Late in the day Friday, the Heritage Foundation announced that Jason Richwine, the co-author of their widely criticized immigration report, was no longer employed by the conservative think tank. Shortly after the immigration report was released, the Washington Post’s Dylan Matthews reported that Richwine’s PhD dissertation claimed that “new Hispanic immigrants will have low-IQ children and grandchildren.”
Heritage’s decision to hire Richwine was not a momentary lapse in judgement that was quickly rectified. To the contrary, Richwine was employed by the Heritage foundation for more than three years before reports of his quasi-eugenic views forced him to leave. As it turns out, this is not an isolated incident. Although evidence has not yet emerged suggesting that Richwine’s racist views are common among Heritage employees, here are seven examples of radical, offensive or just downright weird beliefs held by current Heritage staffers:
- Children of undocumented immigrants should be allowed to starve. When news of Richwine’s racist dissertation broke, Heritage initially attempted to rehabilitate its immigration report by claiming that Richwine’s co-author, Heritage Senior Research Fellow Robert Rector, took the lead in designing the study’s methodology and Richwine merely “provided quantitative support to lead author Robert Rector.” Rector, however, is hardly a picture of moderation. Among other things, Rector co-authored a 2012 report arguing that we should “prohibit food stamp payments to illegal immigrant families.” Notably, because all nearly all children born in the United States are automatically U.S. citizens under the Fourteenth Amendment, one impact of Rector’s proposal would be starving American children in order to spite their parents.
- Gay people and sexually active unmarried women should be banned from teaching. In 2010, Heritage President Jim DeMint told a rally at a South Carolina church that “if someone is openly homosexual, they shouldn’t be teaching in the classroom and he holds the same position on an unmarried woman who’s sleeping with her boyfriend — she shouldn’t be in the classroom.”
- The Voting Rights Act is a “racial entitlement.” Defending Justice Scalia’s statement that a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is a “perpetuation of racial entitlement,” Heritage Senior Legal Fellow Hans von Spakovsky endorses Scalia’s view and writes that “the only thing certain about talking honestly about the current benefits and burdens of Section 5 (or voting against its renewal) is the very type of venomous attacks and false claims of racism and Jim Crow to which Scalia has been subjected.” Spakovsky’s disregard for the Voting Rights Act is not surprising, as he is one of the nation’s top proponents of voter suppression laws. Indeed, a panel of Virginia judges recently refused to reappoint Spakovsky to an election board in Fairfax, Virginia in the wake of allegations that he used his seat on the board to crusade against voting rights.
- Todd Akin can save America from an “economic abyss.” At a time when former Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) found himself friendless due to his “legitimate rape” comment, DeMint tried to throw Akin a lifeline in his Senate race against Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO). In a joint statement with former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), DeMint said that they “support Todd Akin and hope freedom-loving Americans in Missouri and around the country will join us so we can save our country from fiscal collapse.” As a bonus, Heritage published a column by Akin in 2011 where the former congressman claimed that “the constitutionality of much entitlement spending is debatable.”
- Poor people aren’t really poor if they own refrigerators. In 2011, Rector and Heritage Policy Analyst Rachel Sheffield published a report arguing that “Congress should reorient the massive welfare state to promote self-sufficient prosperity rather than expanded dependence” in part because most impoverished households own appliances and do not send their kids to bed hungry. Among the report’s claims are that nearly all poor people have “kitchens equipped with an oven, stove, and refrigerator,” that “[n]early three-fourths have a car or truck” and that “70 percent have a VCR.” Of course, as Matt Yglesias points out, many of the common household amenities Rector and Sheffield dismiss as luxuries are actually signs of thrift — “[b]uying food at the grocery store and saving it thanks to the miracles of modern refrigeration is sound household budgeting.” Similarly, poor people in parts of the country without adequate public transportation would find it very difficult to hold a job if they did not have a car or truck. As Melissa Boteach and Donna Cooper explain, a particularly well-equipped poor household could sell all of their household appliances and electronics and still only wind up with two and a half months rent.
- Accused terrorists shouldn’t have legal representation and their lawyers should be punished. According to at least one former Bush Administration official, the “vast majority” of the 742 original Guantanamo Bay detainees were innocent of terrorism, which only emphasizes the importance of providing these detainees with due process and adequate legal representation. Yet, in a 2007 radio interview, then-Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Charles “Cully” Stimson made a thinly veiled attempt to punish lawyers who represent Gitmo detainees by encouraging their law firms’ corporate clients to drop them. Stimson listed the names of over a dozen firms with attorneys representing detainees, and then said “I think, quite honestly, when corporate C.E.O.’s see that those firms are representing the very terrorists who hit their bottom line back in 2001, those C.E.O.’s are going to make those law firms choose between representing terrorists or representing reputable firms.” Within a month, Stimson resigned from the Bush Administration (he also apologized for his comments and claimed they did not reflect his “core beliefs”). Yet, while Stimson’s comments were too disgraceful for him to remain in Bush’s Defense Department, they were not too disgraceful for the Heritage Foundation. Stimson is now a Senior Legal Fellow at Heritage.
- A J.J. Abrams TV show should guide America’s defense policy. The plot of J.J. Abrams’ show “Revolution” focuses around a new weapon technology that disables electronic devices and returns the world to the pre-industrial era. Most TV viewers understand that this show is science fiction. Heritage thinks it is a warning about the future. According to Heritage, the future world depicted in this show, “is not as unlikely as it might appear.” Heritage national security Research Fellow Baker Spring warns that America’s enemies could detonate “a nuclear weapon at a high altitude over the earth” triggering an “electromagnetic pulse” (EMP) that would disable American technology. Another Heritage paper calls for a “National EMP Awareness Day.” In reality, of course, the idea of an EMP attack belongs in science fiction. Among other things, if someone who wished us harm possessed both a nuclear warhead and the technology required to detonate such a weapon in US airspace, there are plenty of other much more destructive things they could do — such as setting off the nuke in the middle of Manhattan.