Charlie Kirk (activist)

Charlie Kirk (born 1993)[3] is an American conservative activist and radio talk show host. He founded Turning Point USA with Bill Montgomery in 2012, and has served as its executive director since. At the age of 23, Kirk addressed the 2016 Republican National Convention, and supported President Donald Trump. He was listed on the 2018 Forbes 30 under 30 list in Law & Policy.

Charlie Kirk
Charlie Kirk (50764241763) (cropped).jpg
Kirk in 2020
Born (1993-10-14) October 14, 1993 (age 27)[3]
OccupationPolitical Activist
Years active2012–present
OrganizationTurning Point USA
TitleFounder and Executive Director
Political partyRepublican
Partner(s)Erika Frantzve (engaged 2020)

Early life and education

Kirk was born in the Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights, Illinois, and raised in nearby Prospect Heights, Illinois. He is of English descent. As a youth, he was a member of the Boy Scouts of America and earned the rank of Eagle Scout.[4] In his junior year at Wheeling High School in 2010, Kirk volunteered for the successful U.S. Senate campaign of Illinois Republican Mark Kirk, to whom he is not related.[5] As a senior in 2012, Kirk wrote an essay for Breitbart News alleging liberal bias in high school textbooks which led to an appearance on Fox Business.[1]

At a subsequent speaking engagement at Benedictine University's "Youth Empowerment Day," Kirk met Bill Montgomery, a retiree more than 50 years his senior, who was then a Tea Party-backed legislative candidate.[6][7] Montgomery encouraged Kirk to get engaged in political activism full-time.[8] He subsequently founded Turning Point USA, a "grass-roots organization to rival liberal groups such as MoveOn.org." At the 2012 Republican National Convention, Kirk met Foster Friess, a prominent Republican donor, and persuaded him to finance the organization.[9][6]

In 2015, Kirk told The Atlantic that he was taking part-time online classes at The King's College,[6] and he was taking classes at Harper College, a community college near Chicago, but in 2015 dropped out to pursue conservative activism.[10]

Leadership of Turning Point USA

Kirk has been CEO, chief fundraiser, and the public face of Turning Point since its founding.[11][12] According to The New York Times, he has turned the organization into a "well-funded media operation, backed by conservative megadonors like the Wyoming businessman Foster Friess."[2]

In 2020, ProPublica investigated the finances of Turning Point USA and claimed in their report that the organization made "misleading financial claims," that the audits were not done by an independent auditor, and that the leaders had enriched themselves while advocating for President Trump. ProPublica also reported that Kirk's salary from TPUSA had increased from $27,000 to nearly $300,000 and that he had bought an $855,000 condo in Longboat Key, Florida.[13]

Talk radio host

In October 2020, Kirk began hosting a daily three-hour radio talk show on Salem Media's "The Answer" radio channel.[14][15]

Activism

According to The New York Times, by "[m]ixing, matching and twisting facts, Mr. Kirk has come to exemplify a new breed of political agitator that has flourished since the 2016 election by walking the line between mainstream conservative opinion and outright disinformation."[1]

Promotion of conspiracy theories

Kirk promotes the Cultural Marxism conspiracy theory, and has described universities as "islands of totalitarianism."[16][17][18]

External video
  Charlie Kirk ~ The Conservative Forum ~ 9-8-2015 on YouTube (Liberty Forum of Silicon Valley) (at 2:10–3:20)

In a 2015 speech at the Liberty Forum of Silicon Valley, Kirk stated that he had applied to the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York, and was not accepted.[19] He said that "the slot he considered his went to 'a far less-qualified candidate of a different gender and a different persuasion'" whose test scores he claimed he knew.[20][21] He told The New Yorker in 2017 that he was being sarcastic when he said it.[20] He told the Chicago Tribune in 2018 that "he was just repeating something he’d been told,"[8] and at a New Hampshire Turning Point event featuring Senator Rand Paul in October 2019 he claimed that he never said it.[21]

On July 7, 2018, Kirk falsely claimed on social media that Justice Department statistics showed an increase in human trafficking arrests from 1,952 in the year 2016 to 6,087 in the first half of 2018. He deleted the tweet without an explanation the next day, after a fact-checker had pointed out that the false 2018 number had originated on conspiracy site 8chan.[22][23]

In December 2018, Kirk falsely claimed that protesters in the French yellow vests movement chanted "We want Trump." These false claims were later repeated by President Trump.[24]

In defending the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus pandemic, Kirk falsely stated that the Obama administration responded slowly to the H1N1 swine flu pandemic.[25][26]

Kirk has spread falsehoods about voter fraud[27][28] and the COVID-19 pandemic.[29] According to Forbes, Kirk is known for "his repudiation of liberal college education and embrace of pro-Trump conspiracy theories."[29]

Republican and pro-Trump activism

 
Kirk on a phone call with Trump at a convention in 2020

Kirk addressed the 2016 Republican National Convention. In an interview with Wired magazine during the convention, Kirk said that while he "was not the world's biggest Donald Trump fan," he would vote for him, and that Trump's candidacy made Turning Point's mission more difficult.[30] Kirk flipped to supporting Trump at the 2016 Republican National Convention and spent the remainder of the campaign assisting with travel and media arrangements for Donald Trump Jr.[1]

In October 2016, Kirk participated in a Fox News event along with Trump Jr., Eric Trump, and Lara Trump that had a pro-Donald Trump tone.[31]

In July 2019, Kirk became chairman of Students for Trump, which had been acquired by Turning Point Action, and launched a campaign to recruit one million students for the 2020 Trump reelection campaign.[32] The unsuccessful effort led to TPUSA and the Trump campaign blaming each other for an overall decline in youth support for Trump.[33]

COVID-19 misinformation

 
Kirk with anti-vaccine activist Simone Gold at a TPUSA forum in 2020

Kirk spread false information and conspiracy theories about COVID-19 on social media platforms, such as Twitter, in 2020. Kirk sharply criticized Democrats' criticism of President Donald Trump's withdrawal of World Health Organization (WHO) funding and referred to COVID-19 as the "China virus", which was retweeted by President Trump.[1] Furthermore, Kirk alleged that the WHO covered up information about the COVID-19 pandemic.[1] He was briefly banned from Twitter after falsely claiming that hydroxychloroquine had proved to be "100% effective in treating the virus";[34] and that Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic governor of Michigan, threatened doctors who tried to use the medication.[1] These falsehoods were retweeted by Rudolph Giuliani whose account was then suspended by Twitter as well.[1][34] Kirk also described the public health measure of social distancing prohibitions in churches as a "Democratic plot against Christianity" and made the unfounded assertion that authorities in Wuhan, China, were burning patients.[1] Kirk has said that he refuses to abide by mask requirements, falsely claiming that "the science around masks is very questionable."[29][35]

At an August 2020 meeting of the Council for National Policy, Kirk said: "Democrats have done a really foolish thing by shutting down all these campuses... It's gonna remove ballot harvesting opportunities and all their voter fraud that they usually do on college campuses - so they're actually removing half a million votes off the table. So please keep the campuses closed - it's a great thing. Whatever!"[36]

Election fraud claims

After Donald Trump lost the 2020 presidential election, Kirk promoted unsubstantiated claims of fraud in the election.[37][38] The day before the Washington protest that led to the storming of the United States Capitol, Kirk wrote on Twitter that Turning Point Action and Students for Trump were sending more than 80 "buses of patriots to D.C. to fight for this president".[39][40][41] A spokesman for Turning Point said that the groups ended up sending seven buses, not 80, with 350 students.[39][42] Afterward, Kirk said the violent acts at the Capitol were not an insurrection and did not represent mainstream Trump supporters.[43][44]

Falkirk Center for Faith and Liberty

In November 2019, Kirk and Jerry Falwell, Jr. co-founded the "Falkirk Center for Faith and Liberty," a right-wing think-tank funded, owned and housed by Liberty University.[45][46][47] Fellows included Antonio Okafor, director of outreach for Gun Owners of America, Sebastian Gorka, former deputy assistant to President Trump, and Jenna Ellis, a senior legal counselor for Trump.[48][46] In 2020, the Falkirk Center spent at least $50,000 on political Facebook advertisements promoting Trump and Republican candidates.[49]

Students and alumni raised objections about the organization's aggressive political tone they considered to be inconsistent with the university's mission.[46][47] Falwell resigned as president of Liberty University in August 2020, and the university did not renew Kirk's one-year contract in late 2020. In 2021, the university renamed the organization "Standing for Freedom Center".[47]

Awards, achievements and honors

Kirk was listed on the 2018 Forbes 30 Under 30 in Law & Policy.[50][51]

In May 2019, Kirk was awarded an honorary doctorate from Liberty University.[52]

Books

Kirk co-wrote, with Brent Hamachek, the 2016 book Time for a Turning Point: Setting a Course Toward Free Markets and Limited Government for Future Generations (Simon & Schuster).[53]

Kirk wrote the 2018 book Campus Battlefield: How Conservatives Can WIN the Battle on Campus and Why It Matters. In a review for The Weekly Standard, Adam Rubenstein described the book as a "hot mess", "nothing more than a marketing pitch for TPUSA" and said the "thin" book was "stuffed with reprintings of his tweets and quotes from others."[54]

Media

Kirk’s Twitter account had the ninth most interactions in the three-month period from November 2018 to February 2019.[55] In October 2020, Kirk signed on to do a daily three-hour talk radio show with the Salem Media Group's weekday lineup.[15][better source needed]

Personal life

Kirk is an evangelical Christian.[56] In December 2020, he announced his engagement to Erika Frantzve, a podcaster, businesswoman, and doctoral student at Liberty University who was Miss Arizona 2012.[57][58]

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Rosenberg, Matthew; Rogers, Katie (April 19, 2020). "For Charlie Kirk, Conservative Activist, the Virus Is a Cudgel". The New York Times. Retrieved May 5, 2021.
  2. ^ a b Plott, Elaina (October 27, 2020). "Win or Lose, It's Donald Trump's Republican Party". The New York Times. Retrieved January 6, 2021.
  3. ^ a b New York Times, April 2020: "The tweets by Mr. Kirk, 26, who runs Turning Point USA [...]";[1] New York Times, October 2020: "Charlie Kirk, the 27-year-old founder [...]"[2]
  4. ^ Mayer, Jane (December 21, 2017). "Allegations of Racial Bias and Illegal Campaign Activity at a Conservative Nonprofit That Seeks to Transform College Campuses". The New Yorker. Retrieved November 9, 2020.
  5. ^ "Perfect storm launches 19-year-old Wheeling native into political punditry". Daily Herald. April 29, 2013. Archived from the original on January 29, 2018. Retrieved January 31, 2018.
  6. ^ a b c Nelson, Rebecca; Journal, National (March 25, 2015). "The 21-Year-Old Becoming a Major Player in Conservative Politics". The Atlantic. Archived from the original on August 8, 2017. Retrieved September 25, 2020.
  7. ^ Peterson, Anne. "Charlie Kirk And Candace Owens' Campus Tour Is All About The Owns". BuzzFeed News. Retrieved December 10, 2020.
  8. ^ a b Keilman, John (October 22, 2018). "Before Trump and Kanye became fans, Charlie Kirk battled 'Marxist' high school teachers in Chicago's suburbs". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved May 8, 2021.
  9. ^ "This Boy Wonder Is Building the Conservative MoveOn.org in an Illinois Garage". Bloomberg News. May 7, 2015.
  10. ^ "A Profile of Charlie Kirk". The Dartmouth Review. The Dartmouth Review. November 1, 2019. Archived from the original on January 17, 2020. Retrieved January 4, 2020.
  11. ^ Guinto, Joseph (April 7, 2018). "Trump's man on campus". Politico. Retrieved May 9, 2021.
  12. ^ Mayer, Jane (December 21, 2017). "A Conservative Nonprofit That Seeks to Transform College Campuses Faces Allegations of Racial Bias and Illegal Campaign Activity". The New Yorker. Archived from the original on December 23, 2017. Retrieved May 9, 2021.
  13. ^ Spies, Mike; Pearson, Jake. "At This Trump-Favored Charity, Financial Reporting Is Questionable and Insiders Are Cashing In". ProPublica. Archived from the original on July 23, 2020. Retrieved July 23, 2020.
  14. ^ Robins-Early, Nick (November 2, 2020). "The Christian Radio Network Working To Reelect Trump". HuffPost. Retrieved May 9, 2021.
  15. ^ a b "SRN Adds The Charlie Kirk Show to Weekday Lineup". www.businesswire.com. September 1, 2020. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  16. ^ Braune, Joan (2019). "Who's Afraid of the Frankfurt School? 'Cultural Marxism' as an Antisemitic Conspiracy Theory" (PDF). Journal of Social Justice. 9.
  17. ^ Mayer, Jane (December 21, 2017). "Allegations of Racial Bias and Illegal Campaign Activity at a Conservative Nonprofit That Seeks to Transform College Campuses". The New Yorker. Retrieved November 9, 2020.
  18. ^ "Cambridge Union allowed far right-linked Turning Point to invite three members of their own debate opposition". Varsity Online. Retrieved November 9, 2020.
  19. ^ Guinto, Joseph. "Trump's Man on Campus". POLITICO Magazine. Archived from the original on November 1, 2020. Retrieved September 23, 2020.
  20. ^ a b Mayer, Jane (December 21, 2017). "A Conservative Nonprofit That Seeks to Transform College Campuses Faces Allegations of Racial Bias and Illegal Campaign Activity". The New Yorker. Archived from the original on December 23, 2017. Retrieved December 23, 2017.
  21. ^ a b DePaolo, Joe (November 15, 2019). "Charlie Kirk Shouts 'Fake News' at a Town Hall Questioner for Asking About Something He Actually Said". mediaite. Archived from the original on October 8, 2020. Retrieved September 20, 2020.
  22. ^ View, Travis (September 18, 2018). "How conspiracy theories spread from the Internet's darkest corners". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 6, 2021.
  23. ^ View, Travis (September 12, 2018). "How A QAnon Talking Point Traveled From 8Chan To Charlie Kirk's Twitter Account". Contemptor. Retrieved May 6, 2021.
  24. ^ "No, French protesters are not chanting, 'We want Trump'". AFP Fact Check. December 4, 2018. Archived from the original on December 8, 2018. Retrieved December 8, 2018.
  25. ^ Fichera, Angelo (March 31, 2020). "Flawed Comparison on Coronavirus, H1N1 Emergency Timelines". FactCheck.org. Archived from the original on April 13, 2020. Retrieved May 19, 2020.
  26. ^ Qiu, Linda; Bouchard, Mikayla (March 5, 2020). "Tracking Trump's Claims on the Threat From Coronavirus". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on May 18, 2020. Retrieved May 19, 2020.
  27. ^ "REFILE-Iowa official slams viral claim of suspicious voter registration activity as false". Reuters. February 4, 2020. Archived from the original on February 5, 2020. Retrieved May 17, 2020.
  28. ^ "PolitiFact - Report about potential Iowa voter fraud is false". Politifact. 2020. Archived from the original on May 25, 2020. Retrieved May 17, 2020.
  29. ^ a b c Solender, Andrew. "Trump Gives Conservative Youth Activist Charlie Kirk 'Patriotic Education' Post During Last-Minute Hiring Blitz". Forbes. Retrieved December 21, 2020.
  30. ^ "At the Republican Convention, Millennials Search for Signs of the Future". Wired. July 20, 2016. Archived from the original on October 21, 2017. Retrieved January 31, 2018.
  31. ^ Vasquez, Michael (May 7, 2017). "Inside a Stealth Plan for Political Influence". The Chronicle of Higher Education. ISSN 0009-5982. Archived from the original on September 16, 2017. Retrieved September 6, 2017.
  32. ^ Singman, Brooke. "Charlie Kirk launches GOTV campaign to enlist 1 million 'Students for Trump' in 2020". Fox News. Archived from the original on July 19, 2019. Retrieved July 19, 2019.
  33. ^ Orr, Gabby (November 27, 2020). "Blame game erupts over Trump's decline in youth vote". Politico. Retrieved April 19, 2021.
  34. ^ a b Porter, Tom (March 29, 2020). "Twitter deleted a tweet by Rudy Giuliani for spreading coronavirus misinformation". Business Insider. Retrieved May 5, 2021.
  35. ^ Ecarma, Caleb. "Thousands of Young Conservatives May Hold Blowout Conference in Florida, COVID Be Damned". Vanity Fair. Retrieved December 21, 2020.
  36. ^ O'Harrow, Robert (October 14, 2020). "Videos show closed-door sessions of leading conservative activists: 'Be not afraid of the accusations that you're a voter suppressor'". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Archived from the original on October 22, 2020. Retrieved October 22, 2020.
  37. ^ Budryk, Zack (December 15, 2020). "Geraldo Rivera, Charlie Kirk clash over voter fraud: 'That is so dishonest'". TheHill. Retrieved December 18, 2020.
  38. ^ Collman, Ashley. "Fox News star Geraldo Rivera called out die-hard Trump fan Charlie Kirk for continuing to push voter-fraud theories after the Electoral College confirmed Biden's victory". Business Insider. Retrieved December 18, 2020.
  39. ^ a b Qiu, Linda (September 16, 2020). "No, there is not evidence that Ginni Thomas paid for buses to bring people to the Capitol siege". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 12, 2021.
  40. ^ Mikael Thalen (January 10, 2021). "Charlie Kirk deletes tweet saying he sent '80+ buses full of patriots' to D.C." Daily Dot. Retrieved January 16, 2021. The deleted tweet, uncovered by the Daily Dot on Saturday, was posted just two days before Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in an attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
  41. ^ Kirk, Charlie (January 5, 2021). ""This historic event will likely be one of the largest and most consequential in American history The team at @TrumpStudents & Turning Point Action are honored to help make this happen, sending 80+ buses full of patriots to DC to fight for this president"". Twitter. Archived from the original on January 5, 2021. Retrieved January 12, 2021.
  42. ^ Parker, Joseph Tanfani, Michael Berens, Ned (January 12, 2021). "How Trump's pied pipers rallied a faithful mob to the Capitol". Reuters. Retrieved January 12, 2021.
  43. ^ Halon, Yael (January 10, 2021). "Kirk: Despite what the media claims, Trump supporters are 'repulsed' by Capitol riots". Fox News. Retrieved January 12, 2021.
  44. ^ "Charlie Kirk says Capitol attack was not insurrection after deleting "80+ buses" tweet". Newsweek. January 12, 2021. Retrieved January 12, 2021.
  45. ^ Seltzer, Rick. "'Pray for Our President': A Liberty University think tank pushed the boundaries on political advertising and messaging this year". Inside Higher Education. Retrieved December 10, 2020.
  46. ^ a b c Parke, Caleb (December 2, 2019). "Kirk, Falwell Jr. launch Liberty University think tank to fight attacks on Judeo-Christian values". Fox News. Retrieved January 8, 2021.
  47. ^ a b c Graham, Ruth (March 26, 2021). "Conservative Activist Charlie Kirk Leaves Liberty University Think Tank". The New York Times. Retrieved April 2, 2021.
  48. ^ Troutman, Hattie. "What is the Falkirk Center? Liberty University joins Charlie Kirk to create a new kind of think tank to promote faith and liberty on college campuses". liberty.edu. Liberty University Champion. Archived from the original on November 5, 2020. Retrieved October 31, 2020.
  49. ^ Severns, Maggie. "In final years at Liberty, Falwell spent millions on pro-Trump causes". POLITICO. Retrieved December 24, 2020.
  50. ^ Howard, Caroline (November 14, 2017). "30 Under 30 Class Of 2018: The Young Stars, Visionaries And Creative Disruptors". Forbes. Retrieved April 5, 2021.
  51. ^ "30 under 30 Law and Policy". Forbes. Retrieved April 5, 2021.
  52. ^ Liberty University News Service. "Vice President Mike Pence challenges 2019 grads to 'go forth for Liberty'". www.liberty.edu. Archived from the original on December 7, 2019. Retrieved July 20, 2019.
  53. ^ Kirk, Charlie; Hamachek, Brent (2016). Time for a turning point : setting a course towards free markets and limited government for future generations. New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-1-68261-247-7. OCLC 952648187.
  54. ^ "Charlie Kirk's Campus Battlefield Is a Hot Mess". The Weekly Standard. October 10, 2018. Archived from the original on October 10, 2018. Retrieved October 10, 2018.
  55. ^ Rothschild, Neal (February 19, 2019). "Instagram is an engagement powerhouse". Axios (website). Retrieved April 6, 2021.
  56. ^ "Charlie Kirk's Twitter account locked for spreading misinformation about mail-in votes". The Independent. October 19, 2020. Retrieved November 13, 2020.
  57. ^ Fowler, Kate (December 3, 2020). "Who is Erika Frantzve? Charlie Kirk announces engagement to girlfriend on Instagram". The Focus. Retrieved April 9, 2021.
  58. ^ Severns, Maggie. "In final years at Liberty, Falwell spent millions on pro-Trump causes". POLITICO. Retrieved December 24, 2020.

External links