Review-Journal columnist Wayne Allyn Root is on a roll, riling up the right wing and infuriating those who still appreciate a few facts with their commentary.
Granted, the man who claimed without evidence that the Oct. 1 massacre on the Strip was a “clearly coordinated Muslim terror attack” just hours after the shooting, and later doubled down by boasting that “ISIS fingerprints were all over this thing,” has set a high bar for low accuracy.
This time his misdirection isn’t quite as hurtful and wicked. He’s merely spreading the false narrative that the 2018 midterms were fraught with heathen Democratic Party-backed voter fraud that victimized God-fearing Republicans and slowed President Donald Trump’s march to Make America Great Again. Root only indicted and convicted the nation’s election system, setting aside particular suspicion for Nevada’s efforts to ensure a credible vote count.
For Wayne, this is a slow week.
The facts don’t match Root’s bullhorn rhetoric, but in Wayne’s World facts are more of a suggestion, really. After blowing a prediction of a GOP victory on election night, he smeared Nevada’s election system without a scrap of evidence. His false claim was abetted by State Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald, who has all the credibility of a carnival barker.
Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske’s office quickly batted down the fear-mongering, but that won’t slow Root for a second. It’s not about the cold facts, but the bellows that stoke the fires of anger and suspicion in the relentless promotion of a presidential Ponzi scheme.
You want facts, pal, go read an encyclopedia. Root writes right-wing opinion. Root’s angry white male act in print, on radio and television is to reality what the Tommy gun was to Capone’s enemies. Subtlety and accuracy aren’t his strong suits.
But his critics shouldn’t hold that against him. In fact, I think they should lighten up on the guy. Sure, he’s a shameless bomb-thrower whose political stock has risen not despite his audacious puffery, but because of it. But you might say it’s in his blood.
You don’t have to search far on the Internet to find evidence of Root’s past as the face of WinningEdge.com, a handicapping service boiler-room that charged for its picks and had the colored reputation typical of such businesses. Former employees and customers said Root was a high-intensity guy untethered to the truth.
Major press publications including The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times have examined his act both as a Vegas tout and political candidate-turned-Trumpian fluffer.
Hey, maybe Root’s swan dive into extremist politics was inevitable. He honed his hucksterism hustling handicapped sports. That’s not such a stretch from promoting the big lies and pyrite virtues of America’s Hustler-in-Chief.
Root worships Trump not because he believes him, although he just might, but because he wants to be him. They’re separated-at-birth big idea men, Twain’s Duke and Dauphin incarnate, working the rubes with a modern political version of “The Royal Nonesuch.”
Frankly, it’s part of what I once enjoyed about both guys. But somewhere along the way they began to believe their own blather. Their shared conspiracy theories about Obama were ugly with xenophobia and dog-whistle racism. Stoking fear has always paid well in America, and their hyperbole morphed into something so toxic it should have been labeled a public health hazard. Instead, it was bottled, marketed, and sold to a recession-rattled public on cable news channels and vitriolic websites. Snake oil comes in many forms.
Back when I was a Review-Journal columnist, Root regularly tried to land a mention. He proudly promoted his business and books and enthused about the academic success of his family. I rarely bit, but I was raised in Las Vegas and have a soft spot for hucksters. I got a kick out of his ego-driven tenacity.
Critics who call Root dumb, or worse, don’t know their man. The Vegas Tout is far from ignorant, and he’s much smarter than his expanding audience. In addition to his academic training, he’s one of America’s great political bullshit artists — and these days the competition is steeper than ever.
The Root who wouldn’t dream of demanding President Trump release his income taxes is the same guy who in 2008 argued that presidential candidate Barack Obama release his Columbia University grade transcripts. Back then, Root was a Vegas tout with plenty of opinions and the Libertarian Party’s vice presidential nominee. “A vote for Obama is four years of Karl Marx, and no one should be happy about that,” he told Matt Welch in Reason magazine. “He’s a communist! I don’t care what anybody says.”
That kind of nutty rhetoric, once confined to conspiracy websites, has migrated into the Republican Party mainstream thanks to Trump and right-wing media chanticleers like Root. Perhaps the only real surprise is that Root hasn’t tried to rekindle the birther lie.
Root also claimed in an interview with The New York Times that GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain swiped “word for word” a part of his libertarian political platform. “He didn’t even give me credit,” Root huffed, back when he was more a character than a canker.
The fact that he’s carved out such a comfortable platform at the Review-Journal and numerous conservative websites shouldn’t be held against him. He’s a tireless salesman and self-promoter.
It’s not Root’s reputation that’s at stake. He’s a well-known quantity. And he’s not the Review-Journal’s pariah, but its poster boy. His presence accurately reflects the political mindset that controls Nevada’s largest newspaper.
The great Vegas Tout has found a real home and is right where he belongs.
John L. Smith is an author and longtime columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith