Top US conservative think tank president blasted for applauding Italy’s election of 'neo-fascist' prime minister
The Heritage Foundation is ranked as the third most influential think tank – left or right – in the U.S. A right-wing D.C. organization, it’s where Donald Trump went to deliver a speech in April when he was trying to reposition himself as someone who was getting ready to run for president again, this time with “policies.”
Policies are what once made the Heritage Foundation the jewel of the conservative movement. It provided Ronald Reagan with the backbone of his body of work that transformed the American right into what it was until Trump took it over. It’s now home to at least four former top Trump administration officials, including former Vice President Mike Pence.
Critics on both sides of the aisle overnight were stunned and outraged when the new head of the Heritage Foundation, Dr. Kevin Roberts, applauded Italy’s election this weekend of a fascist, Giorgia Meloni, to be its new prime minister.
“Italy’s far-right coalition led by Meloni wins election, exit polls say,” is the headline at European news agency France 24, calling her a “neo-fascist.
Here in the U.S., ABC News’ headline reads: “How a party of neo-fascist roots won big in Italy.”
“A century after Benito Mussolini’s 1922 March on Rome, which brought the fascist dictator to power, Meloni is poised to lead Italy’s first far-right-led government since World War II and Italy’s first woman premier,” the article, from the Associated Press makes clear.
It also makes clear Meloni’s fascist focus: “Yes to the natural family. No to the LGBT lobby. Yes to sexual identity. No to gender ideology,” the AP says she “thundered” at a rally.
The Heritage Foundation has assets of around $400 million. Its latest annual report, 2021, is titled, “Always on Offense.” The cover boasts a flattering quote praising the organization from former Trump Secretary of State and possible 2024 presidential hopeful Mike Pompeo.
Dr. Kevin Roberts leads Heritage. He’s the former CEO of the far-right wing Texas Public Policy Foundation, based in Austin, Texas.
TPPF has received funding from Koch Industries, is a big supporter of school vouchers, and an even bigger supporter of climate change denialism.
Its Fueling Freedom Project, it says, is working to “Explain the forgotten moral case for fossil fuels.”
Back in 2016 Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott proposed nine major changes to the U.S. Constitution. He chose to make his announcement at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Those proposals could have led to the elimination of many federal LGBTQ protections, including same-sex marriage.
Dr. Roberts is a former president of Wyoming Catholic College. In 2015 he decided to opt out of accepting federal financial aid, citing the school’s religious beliefs against LGBTQ people as part of the reason.
“Roberts said that his university loves all people and has charity towards all, but they would have problems with the admissions and employment of transgender individuals or people with a same-sex sexual orientation,” Fox News reported at the time.
So perhaps it’s unsurprising that Roberts celebrated Italy’s election of a fascist leader with a strong anti-LGBTQ agenda Sunday evening – urging conservatives to fuel more elections of people like Meloni.
“If exit polls are right, then conservatives will come to power in Italy, just weeks after conservatives in Sweden won,” he tweeted, glossing over the fascistic aspects of their conservatism.
“This can be a trend,” he urged, “conservatives everywhere need to define the choice as what it is—US vs THEM, everyday people vs globalist elites, who’ve shown they hate us.”
\u201cIf exit polls are right, then conservatives will come to power in Italy, just weeks after conservatives in Sweden won. This can be a trend: conservatives everywhere need to define the choice as what it is\u2014US vs THEM, everyday people vs globalist elites, who\u2019ve shown they hate us.\u201d— Kevin Roberts (@Kevin Roberts) 1664144778
Roberts was highly criticized, even by fellow conservatives.
Tom Nichols, a staff writer at The Atlantic who is the popular and now retired U.S. Naval War College professor and an expert on Russia, nuclear weapons, and national security, blasted Roberts.
“The president of a DC think tank explains how he’s just a regular guy helping the little people against the globalists, and not all aligned with a political movement that trades in hateful rhetoric,” tweeted Nichols, a Never Trump conservative.
Former Bloomberg Opinion columnist Noah Smith who writes about economics at Substack mocked Roberts.
“‘Globalist elites’? Man, you have a PhD and you’re the president of a think tank that fights for free trade. Who do you think you’re kidding??” he tweeted.
Brian Riedl, a senior fellow at the right wing Manhattan Institute, slammed Roberts’ remarks.
“I’d just like a party that stands for free markets, less government, originalist judges, strong defense, and against woke excess. Count me out with this Pat Buchanan-style tinfoil hat populism,” he tweeted, referring to the far-right anti-immigration former Nixon-Ford-Reagan advisor.
A former editor for the right wing Cato Institute also criticized Roberts.
“When the president of your think tank is cheering on the electoral victories of actual fascism, that’s probably a sign it’s time to resign from the organization if you’re an employee, or pull your dollars if you’re a donor. American conservatism mustn’t continue down this path,” warned Aaron Ross Powell.
“Recovering libertarian” writer and editor Jay Stooksberry also mocked Roberts.
“Careful, Kev. If I saw somebody with the title ‘Ph.D. and CEO of one of the largest, most influential think tanks in D.C.’, I’d assume they were one of the ‘global elite’. Us-versus-them populism is some raunchy, anti-intellectual, and dangerous thinking, my dude.”
Conservatives weren’t the only ones criticizing the Heritage Foundation head, with some seeing his “globalist elites” remarks as antisemitic.
“American fascists, crawling out of their holes,” wrote Jay Bookman, author and award-winning journalist.
“We see you and your cutesy code words. You want to embrace fascism? We will stop you and your ilk. Our democracy will destroy your fascism,” David Sugarman, an Oregon attorney, wrote.
Writer and director David Avallone did not mince words in response to Roberts’ remarks.
“L’Shanah Tovah, you absolute fucking Nazi scumbag,” he tweeted. “Stop being a pants shitting coward. Just say ‘Jews’ when you mean Jews.”
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