Nicole Lafond

Nicole Lafond is a news writer for TPM based in New York City. She is also currently earning a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and previously worked as an education reporter at The News-Gazette in Champaign, Ill. Follow her on Twitter @Nicole_Lafond.

Articles by Nichole

Following criticism from officials at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in Poland about a video he filmed inside the gas chambers at Auschwitz, Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA) retracted his video Wednesday. He said in a statement that his intent was to “offer a reverent homage to those who were murdered in Auschwitz” and remind viewers that “evil exists.”

“I filmed the Auschwitz message with great humility. My intent was to offer a reverent homage to those who were murdered in Auschwitz and to remind the world that evil exists, that free nations must remember, and stand strong. 

“However, my message has caused pain to some whom I love and respect. For that, my own heart feels sorrow. Out of respect to any who may feel that my video posting was wrong or caused pain, I have retracted my video. 

“The atrocities that happened at Auschwitz were truly despicable, and we must never let history repeat itself in such a way. I have always stood with Israel and all Jewish people, and I always will. We live in a dangerous world, and massive forces of evil do indeed yet exist. We must all stand united against those evils. My Auschwitz video has been removed, and my sincere apology for any unintended pain is extended.”

Museum officials took to Twitter Tuesday to speak out against the Congressman and his video, saying the former gas chambers are meant to be observed with “mournful silence” and that the site of the gruesome murders is “not a stage.”

The video that was published to YouTube Saturday — and has since been removed — shows Higgins filming himself inside the gas chambers at Auschwitz as he explains how people were killed there during the Holocaust and said the deaths at Nazi concentration camps are why “homeland security must be squared away” and why the U.S. military “must be invincible.”

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Arkansas will join the batch of other states that have refused to hand over all the voter data the President’s election fraud panel requested last week, Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) announced Wednesday, saying he won’t share his state’s “most sensitive data.”

I have spoken with Secretary of State Mark Martin and recommended that our state not provide all the voter information requested by the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. The request is simply too broad and includes sensitive information of Arkansas voters. The Secretary has indicated that he will not provide Arkansas voters’ most sensitive data.

“While we remain committed to ensuring the integrity of and confidence in our electoral process, providing all of the information requested is not in the best interest of Arkansas voters. I continue to have confidence in the Secretary of State’s efforts to ensure that Arkansas’ elections are free and fair.”

Since the election integrity commission sent a letter to all 50 states requesting data — from date of birth and address to military status and the last four digits of social security numbers — 41 states have announced they won’t share the private data, a member of the panel has resigned and a privacy advocacy group has filed suit against the commission.

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Continuing its 29-year tradition of broadcasting an annual reading of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, National Public Radio accompanied that broadcast with line-by-line tweets of the founding fathers’ statement Tuesday.

But some Twitter users interpreted the tweets as an attack on President Donald Trump, calling NPR “propaganda” and said the radio station was “calling for a revolution.”

Several of the Twitter users who responded negatively to NPR’s posts deleted their accounts or deleted the tweets, with one user saying he made a “dumb comment,” but questioned whether most Americans would be able to identify the Declaration of Independent if it were read to them.

NPR Spokeswoman Allyssa Pollard said the tweets were shared by thousands of Twitter users and started a “lively discussion” online.

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A GOP congressman is facing backlash from officials at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in Poland after posting a video of himself walking around inside an Auschwitz gas chamber and using the memorial as a “stage” to promote the U.S. military.

Museum officials spoke out against Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA) on Twitter Tuesday, retweeting a story about the recent video from New Orleans Online and saying “there should be mournful silence” inside a former gas chamber.

“It’s not a stage,” officials said.

Later Tuesday, the Auschwitz Memorial account tweeted a photo of the sign visitors see when entering the building that holds the first homicidal gas chambers of Auschwitz that says “Please maintain silence here: remember their suffering and show respect for their memory.”

Filming himself inside the gas chambers, Higgins’ video, which published on YouTube Saturday, features the U.S. representative explaining what happened to the millions of people killed during the Holocaust and said the deaths at Nazi concentration camps are why the U.S. military “must be invincible.”

“The cyanide pellets activated when they hit oxygen. After about 20 minutes everyone was dead and then slave labor would go in the room and drag bodies of those poor souls out and bring them and incinerate them in these ovens,” Higgins said, filming with the camera toward his face as he showed his audience around the gas chamber memorial. “There were three sets of ovens like that. This is why homeland security must be square away, why our military must be invincible.”

He went on to film and explain the “suffocation cells” at the memorial and said “this is why we must remember these things, man’s inhumanity to man can be quite shocking.”

As he left the museum he spoke to the camera again, saying the world is a “much smaller place” than it was during World War II and said the U.S. is “susceptible to terror like this, horror like this.”

“It’s hard to walk way from gas chambers, ovens, without a very sober feeling of commitment, unwavering commitment to make damn sure the United States of America is protected from the evils of the world,” he said.

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Global warming is nearly irreversible, according to Cambridge professor and world-renowned scientist Stephen Hawking, who spoke to BBC News about climate change and President Donald Trump this past weekend.

“We are close to the tipping point where global warming becomes irreversible. Trump’s action could push the Earth over the brink, to become like Venus, with a temperature of two hundred and fifty degrees, and raining sulphuric acid,” he said.

He said that by pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement to reduce CO2 emissions, Trump is causing “avoidable environmental damage to our beautiful planet, endangering the natural world, for us and for our children.”

“Climate change is one of the great dangers we face and it’s one we can prevent if we act now,” he said.

He went on to say that environmental issues are just intensifying human conflict, adding that he thinks people may have a limited number of days left on earth.

“I fear evolution has inbuilt greed and aggression to the human genome. There is no sign of conflict lessening, and the development of militarized technology and weapons of mass destruction could make that disastrous. The best hope for the survival of the human race might be independent colonies in space,” he said.

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Starting off Monday morning with another Twitter rampage against the news media, President Donald Trump said journalists will be “forced” to cover positive White House accomplishments “at some point.”

This tweet follows several other posts last week criticizing the media, specifically CNN, and personally attacking the hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Mika Brzezinski And Joe Scarborough, for criticizing Trump on their show.

The President’s relationship with the media has been negative since the start of his run for office and has only frayed further in recent months as news outlets continue to cover the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

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While Justice Anthony Kennedy squashed rumors about his retirement at the end of this current term, it’s unlikely he will continue serving on the Supreme Court for all of President Donald Trump’s time in office, according to an NPR report.

Kennedy has already hired clerks for this coming term, but has not yet filled the positions for the following term, which begins in October 2018. The 80-year-old justice apparently told applicants for the 2018 term that he’s considering retirement, according to NPR.

Kennedy’s retirement would be consequential as his vote is often what decides the outcome of many cases, especially this past month following the appointment of Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, who so far has voted 100 percent of the time with his most conservative colleague on the court, Justice Clarence Thomas.

Gorsuch votes second most often with Justice Samuel Alito, according to the NPR report. On the other side of the ideological spectrum, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor voted together most often this term, leaving Kennedy and Chief Justice John Roberts on the center-right and Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan, at the center-left.

Evidenced in the last few weeks of the current term, Kennedy and Roberts votes are what allowed the travel ban to go into effect with certain rules and allowed same-sex couples to have the same benefits linked to marriage as heterosexual couples, like having both parents names on a birth certificate.

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The conservative radio host who appeared in a recent advertisement put out by the National Riffle Association — which calls on conservatives to fight against the left with a “clenched fist of truth” — said the video is meant to condemn violence, not condone it.

The video was published on the NRA’s Facebook page earlier this month and features Dana Loesch criticizing those on the left for their beliefs and for making up reasons to protest, “to scream racism and sexism and xenophobia and homophobia. To smash windows, burn cars, shut down interstates and airports, bully and terrorize the law abiding,” all said alongside video clips of people marching and exhibiting violent behavior.

“The only way we stop this, the only way we save our country and our freedom is to fight this violence of lies with a clenched first of truth,” she said, closing out the advertisement. The ad concludes: “I’m the National Riffle Association of American and I’m freedom’s safest place.”

The video has been criticized by groups like the Women’s March and Black Lives Matter for condoning violence, and even pushed Sen. Chris Murphy to tweet about it, saying he thinks “the NRA is telling people to shoot us.”

But appearing on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Fox News Thursday evening, Loesch called the reaction to the video “insane” and said the aim was to condemn violence.

“I’m talking over video clips that show actual leftist violence, rioting, property damage, arson, physical assault and apparently me condemning violence is what’s inciting a divided America,” she said.

She said it’s clear when she suggests fighting violence with a “clenched fist of truth” she’s talking about “fighting violence with truth because truth wins out all the time, apparently that’s bad,” she said.

She called Murphy’s comments “irresponsible” and said the shooting at the congressional GOP baseball practice earlier this month was “due to some of this rhetoric like we see from Sen. Murphy.”

“This has to stop. I’m not going to stop condemning violence and it’s a shame that other people on the left won’t do the same,” she said.

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Kellyanne Conway on Friday defended President Donald Trump tweeting personal attacks on cable news anchors, saying Trump has the right to fight back when he’s attacked.

“No, I didn’t say I endorse his attacks. … I said I endorse his ability to fight back when he’s attacked. There’s no good (that) comes out of people attacking the President’s physical and mental states on national television every day to the exclusion of connecting Americans with the information they need,” Conway said, appearing on “Good Morning America.”

Her comments are in response to Trump tweeting personal attacks against the two hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show, claiming co-host Mika Brzezinski had gotten “a face-life.”

“This is not about any one individual. We need to start connecting Americans with information they need,” Conway said, referring to the amount of time news outlets have spent reporting on Trump’s tweets instead of policy. “Bottom line, I endorse his ability to connect on social media with Americans and I endorse, as the first lady has said, him firing back when he’s being mercilessly attacked.”

She said she hopes “good” comes out of the situation, and that people have respect for the office of the President and “have a full conversation about policy.”

“Let people disagree on policy and stop the personal invective, it’s completely toxic and it’s completely counterproductive to connecting America with policy prescription that they need.”

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Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder sent out a early morning message via Twitter, warning and encouraging “career men and women” at the Department of Justice and the FBI.

“Your actions and integrity will be unfairly questioned. Be prepared, be strong. Duty. Honor. Country,” he said.

The tweet comes as the FBI conducts an investigation into whether President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to interfere with the 2016 election.

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