"Moms for Liberty is linked with the Proud Boys, a chapter quotes Hitler, they are behind book bans, they are funded by right-wing groups and... ABC News calls them 'joyful warriors,'" wrote one observer. "The whiteness of it all is exhausting."
ABC News this week joined other U.S. corporate media outlets in being accused of "normalizing" Moms for Liberty after publishing what one critic called a "puff piece" on the right-wing group that's behind a wave of school book bans and is linked to the neofascist Proud Boys and the Qanon conspiracy theory.
On Saturday, ABC News published an article by Brittany Shepherd titled "Moms for Liberty Are Fired Up in Philadelphia" as the self-described "parental rights" organization held its annual conference in Pennsylvania's largest city, where crowds of protesters turned out to denounce the group's bigotry.
"Did ABC let Moms for Liberty write this puff piece themselves?"
"They call themselves joyful warriors—but this group of conservative moms are mad," Shepherd wrote in her lede.
Author and Daily Beast columnist Wajahat Ali called the article "shameful."
"Moms for Liberty is linked with the Proud Boys, a chapter quotes Hitler, they are behind book bans, they are funded by right-wing groups and... ABC News calls them 'joyful warriors,'" Ali tweeted. "The whiteness of it all is exhausting."
Historian Kevin Kruse wondered, "Did ABC let Moms for Liberty write this puff piece themselves?"
Brandon Wolf, press secretary for the LGBTQ+ advocacy group Equality Florida, noted that a Moms for Liberty chapter in Indiana included a quote from Adolf Hitler in its inaugural newsletter. The chapter chairperson subsequently apologized.
Founded in Florida in 2021 to oppose Covid-19 lockdowns and mandates, Moms for Liberty quickly gained a reputation for its anti-LGBTQ views and its harassment of school officials in service of the organization's far-right agenda.
The group—which says it has more than 115,000 members in 245 chapters in 45 states—wants to erase mention of LGBTQ+ rights, systemic racism, diversity, and other "woke" topics from school curricula.
Moms for Liberty—many of whose chapters are linked to extremist groups like the Proud Boys and Three Percenters as well as the Qanon conspiracy theory—has spearheaded a successful movement to ban books, especially ones with LGBTQ+ and racial themes, from school libraries across the nation.
The American Library Association said earlier this year that it had recorded 1,269 demands to censor books from various groups and individuals in 2022, compared to 729 challenges counted in 2021.
In her article, Shepherd wrote how the Moms for Liberty conference "showcases how local issues like education can have tremendous, galvanizing national influence, as Gov. Ron DeSantis, former President Donald Trump, and former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley tried to woo nearly 700 attendees."
The article continued:
Several key breakout sessions at the center of the group's mission, such as "Protecting Kids from Gender Ideology" and "Getting Flipped School Boards To Take Action" were kept behind closed doors, with media access barred. But still, the enthusiasm at open events was palpable, nearly bouncing off the ballroom walls.
The piece does note that Moms for Liberty is designated an extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for spreading "hateful imagery and rhetoric against the LGBTQ community."
However, two paragraphs later Shepherd wrote that "Republicans will need this group to make up any lost ground" from last year's midterm elections.
In a Friday interview by MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace, extremism expert Kristofer Goldsmith urged viewers to spread the world about who Moms for Liberty are and what they stand for.
"We are talking book burning. We're talking about racism and we're talking about persecuting the LGBTQ community. These are the Proud Boys with a wig and lipstick," Goldsmith said. "That is all that they are. And because of the words 'Moms for Liberty,' not a lot of people are going to understand that."
"So folks watching this need to be evangelists, right?" he added. "You need to get out online and talk to your friends about what Moms for Liberty is, and help them understand that they are a pipeline into the most radical of extremism in this country."