The trials of both Michael Dunn and George Zimmerman have brought national attention to Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law. Media coverage of the trials has also proven to be an enormous boon for certain white supremacists, who have managed to use mainstream news outlets as a platform for bigotry. Nowhere is this more evident—and disturbing—than in the case of Frank Taaffe.
Taaffe (who is also a neighbor and close friend of Zimmerman) has established himself as the most visible and vocal supporter of both George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn in cable news network coverage of the trials. Despite repeated revelations of Taaffe’s white supremacy activities, he continues to appear as a regular guest analyst on CNN’s HLN shows, including Nancy Grace’s coverage just this past week. His success in mainstreaming extremism should be a warning call.
“Standing Our Ground” and The White Voice Network: Who is Frank Taaffe?
Taaffe’s white supremacist “credentials” are extensive. Beginning in August of 2013, Taaffe hosted a weekly show on The White Voice Network, which describes itself as “media, news, and information for White people against White genocide.” Taaffe’s program is aptly named “Standing our Ground,” and is co-hosted with the author of the “Save White People Handbook,” Joe Adams. The Network’s guest list has included Tom Metzger, who founded White Aryan Resistance and who was praised by Joe Adams for his work against “niggers” and Jews.
Hosts and guests on The White Voice believe they must be proactive in defending themselves against the white genocide efforts of “niggers and mud people,” as Joe Adams describes in Episode 76. In that same episode, guest Tom Metzger warns that the “nonwhites are getting more brave and bold all the time.” Frank Taaffe’s remarks have been similarly offensive, as evidenced by this short clip from Episode 8 of “Standing Our Ground,” which has since been scrubbed from the White Voice Network’s website:
Caller: I think I did use the name Oprah Winfrey, so would Oprah Winfrey qualify as a nigger to you?
Joseph Adams: To me she wouldn’t.
Frank Taaffe: I think she is.
Joseph Adams: Frank you go first, then.
Frank Taaffe: “Yeah, she’s a nigger because she keeps spewing out all that bullshit. She goes over to Switzerland and she says that the lady didn’t want to share a handbag because she thought that she couldn’t afford it, and she keeps just doing what she’s doing. She keeps stirring the pot. She keeps trying to promote her boy Obama. You know, Obama could do no wrong. You know, it’s birds of a feather, they flock together and stick together, and to me, she’s a nigger. Oprah Winfrey’s a nigger. She’s a nigger.”
White Voice Programming and Stand Your Ground
In addition to Taaffe’s show, The White Voice Network includes a slate of other podcasts, including their new program, “Traditionalist Youth Hour,” hosted by Matthew Heimbach, Matt Parrott, and Thomas Buhls. All three are affiliated with the Traditionalist Youth Network, and Buhls is also a coordinator for the Knights Party Veterans League of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).
Heimbach is a 2013 graduate of Towson University, where he founded Youth for Western Civilization, a white nationalist organization. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Heimbach has taken a turn to the Hard Right since graduating, so much so that he was booted out of the League of the South for participating in Klan and neo-Nazi gatherings. (Heimbach had been given an award by the League of the South at their 2012 conference in Montgomery, where Heimbach and his friends spent their evening hours “flagging” locations, or taking pictures of themselves with Confederate flags. These landmarks included the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King Jr. pastored, and the Southern Poverty Law Center, described by the group as planning “white genocide.”)
The baby-faced, constantly smiling Heimbach has told ABC News that he considers himself a racist. In an interview with the National Socialist Movement, Heimbach described himself as a Christian nationalist with a “spiritual calling.” He also described the United States today as a sick and dying society comparable to Germany in the ’20s and ’30s. Heimbach explained that fiery faith is crucial as a motivation, stating, “I wouldn’t die for tax cuts for the rich. I’m not going to die about what road they’re going to build through our county.” He continues, “But I will die for my faith.” He cites Francisco Franco as the best example of a leader for the Christian Nationalist Movement.
It was Heimbach and his White Student Union that caused the widely-reported commotion at CPAC in 2013, as he and others affiliated with the Union shouted out in defense of slavery and segregation during a session on GOP outreach to minorities.
Networks, Cable News, and the Mainstreaming of Extremism
In recent months, Mariah Blake has written several articles [see here, here, and here] about Taaffe’s background on Mother Jones. Blake noted that Taaffe was invited by HLN to “weigh in on legal and technical aspects of the Zimmerman case, from the implications of witness testimony to the meaning of forensic evidence” and was given a platform to counter forensic experts and medical examiners. In fact, one of Taaffe’s “Standing Our Ground” shows was live broadcast while Taaffe was in a limo on the way to Headline News Studio. Despite Blake’s revelations about Taaffe’s white supremacist activities and his criminal record, he has continued to be featured as an analyst on HLN’s Nancy Grace Show, appearing as recently as this past week.
Meanwhile, in his podcasts for The White Voice, Taaffe makes no effort to hide his supremacist beliefs in regards to Trayvon Martin, Michael Dunn, and Stand Your Ground laws: In one episode of “Standing Our Ground,” Frank Taaffe tells a black caller to the show, “Listen up, negro. You got your justice. It’s the Trayvon Martin Foundation and they’re reeling in the big bucks.” Taaffe continues, “Listen to me, man. We did our best in the South, and the South will rise again. Okay, you want to come on down. Make sure you remember this is Florida. You come on vacation, leave on probation, and you’re back on violation.”
Media Matters reported in 2013 that Taaffe’s media footprint has also “included ABC News, CNN, NBC News, Fox News, CBS News, MSNBC, and CNN-spinoff HLN” and “more than 60 separate primetime appearances on HLN alone.”
Ultimately, we must recognize that Taaffe’s successful transformation into a “mainstream” media fixture is not an isolated problem. Both current and former members of the League of the South can now claim the title of “media superstar,” as documented in Nullification, Neo-Confederates, and the Revenge of the Old Right. The mainstreaming of extremism is a widespread and deeply disturbing. Those committed to advancing racial and social justice would be wise to pay attention to the voices and ideas being given legitimacy every day on network news.