The Fringe-Fighting Pundit Who Fears Nothing

Republican strategist John Henke takes on extremists in both parties

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Republican strategist and blogger Jon Henke has been on a quest to push "fringe idiocy" out of the Republican party. He has specifically targeted WorldNetDaily, the "conspiracy peddling" website that reports, among other things, that Obama is planning mass concentration camps for "political dissidents." Henke's efforts have drawn jeers from the right and cheers from the left, but Henke gladly takes on the fringe left with just as much vigor.

Henke's gripe isn't as much with the fringe as with the mainstream Republicans who legitimize them. "The Birthers are the Birchers of our time, and WorldNetDaily is their pamphlet," he wrote. "The Right has mostly ignored these embarrassing people and organizations, but some people and organizations inexplicably choose to support WND through advertising and email list rental or other collaboration."

He slammed, among other groups, the Republican National Committee for renting out WND's email list. "In the 1960's, Goldwater and a few Republicans had the integrity and guts to denounce the irresponsible fringe in the fevered swamps of the Right," he wrote. "Today, as far as I can tell, the Republican National Committee works with them."

Henke isn't afraid to go after the "fevered swamps" on the left as well. Rachel Maddow invited him on her show last night, expecting a discussion about the fringe right. But Henke, given the platform, challenged not just the right but Maddow and the left on her own show:

The left has certainly not buried their truther fringe. The left has not turned on them. Who on the left was supporting Van Jones being removed from the White House or resigning from the White House?

I'm part of the problem because before the Iraq War, I was focusing on the truthers and the war for oil crowd and forgot to focus on some of the more important issues. You're part of the problem because instead of focusing on the important entitlement issues and fiscal issues, you're focusing on "World Net Daily" and the birthers.

And so the right needs to clean its own house. So I'll tell you what. I'll make you a deal. I will stop talking about truthers and worry about cleaning the right's house if you'll stop talking about "World Net Daily" and the birthers and support Van Jones' leaving. 

The Reaction

  • Anti-WND Jihad  Henke was bombarded by a flurry of angry responses from WND and its readers as well as unflattering coverage in the Washington Times. WND founder Joseph Farah accused Henke of "an all-out jihad against WND." Undeterred, Henke responded, "I wear the criticisms of Joseph Farah and his WorldNetDaily supporters like a badge of honor."
  • Maddow Slaps Back  Though initially friendly to Henke, Maddow didn't hesitate to defend herself. "A, I don`t make deals with anybody about what I cover," she said. "And, B, my position on Van Jones is irrelevant because I have never covered him at all, because I never thought that he was of interest until he resigned under pressure from what I see as the unhinged right." She ended by inviting Henke to return for a "good, long, civil debate."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.