ThinkProgress

Conservative pundit praises late Chilean dictator who threw political dissidents from helicopters

Conservative pundit Erick Erickson praised late Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in a series of tweets this week. Pinochet was a brutal leader known for throwing political dissidents from helicopters, something Erickson lauded. (Photo Credit: Screengrab)

In the immediate aftermath of Trump’s 2016 electoral victory, Erick Erickson was the type of conservative pundit many despairing liberals wanted to see.

Erickson, a popular conservative radio host and commentator, had been a fierce critic of Trump, disinviting him from a 2015 conservative conference for “inappropriate” comments on Megyn Kelly. He also wrote a November 2016 op-ed for The New York Times in which he talked about the need for conservatives to “reach across the aisle and go outside Washington” and was profiled by The New Yorker.

But if any doubts remain about whether #NeverTrump Erickson has continued to advocate for his more “acceptable” conservatism as opposed to, well, advocating full-blown fascism, they were dispelled by a series of tweets Erickson posted Monday night, in which he lauded late Chilean dictator Augosto Pinochet and called for a return of dissidents being thrown out of helicopters.

Augosto Pinochet was a murderous dictator who ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990, after taking power in a CIA-backed military coup from the democratically elected socialist Salvador Allende. Anyone who opposed Pinochet was either murdered, tortured, exiled or — in at least 120 cases — thrown out of helicopters into the sea. Pinochet’s intelligence services also assassinated Orlando Leteiler, a former Chilean diplomat, and two other bystanders with a car bomb in 1976 in Washington, D.C.

All of this is fine in the far-right’s eyes, however, because Pinochet also instituted free market economic reforms.

Erickson then proceeded to double-down on his tweets with a piece in the Resurgent on Tuesday morning. He admitted, halfway through his article, that Pinochet was a ruthless dictator, but also added that to deal with the “root problems” of the migrant caravan, “will actually require that we ally with some unsavory types more likely than not.”

He also criticized that fact that we spent a combined $618 million in foreign aid to Central American countries which are “causing or contributing to the migrant caravan.” That sounds like a lot, until you remember that the USS Gerald R Ford, the U.S.’s newest aircraft carrier and one of a planned 12, cost $13 billion.

Perhaps the most disturbing thing about Erickson’s comments were that they were a carbon copy of the same meme and language that have been repeatedly seen in far-right groups in the United States. Individuals like Patriot Prayer’s Tusitala “Tiny” Toese — who has been repeatedly involved in street brawls in Portland — and Chris “Crying Nazi” Cantwell have repeatedly pushed memes about how “Pinochet did nothing wrong” or that leftists need to be thrown out of helicopters.

The Proud Boys, a group recently classified as an “extremist group” by the FBI, also sell pro-Pinochet merchandise.

What’s more, the meme was previously extremely popular on the sub-reddit r/Physical_Removal, which celebrated physical violence against leftists. As the Daily Beast reported in August 2017, the forum was banned shortly after a top post mocked the death of Heather Heyer in the wake of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.

Erickson’s embrace of Pinochet is unlikely to affect his punditry popularity too much. He is a regular guest on Meet the Press, and appeared in an October episode where he railed against right-wing conspiracies — despite having promoted them himself on a number of occasions.