Rachel Maddow Goes A-Steinin'

On its website, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) bills itself as a “reliable source of information” on immigration.

But FAIR President Dan Stein wasn’t exactly reliable on facts concerning his own organization when he appeared last night on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show.” During the combative 15-minute interview, Stein claimed that FAIR never gave money to a group whose leaders included self-described white separatist Virginia Abernethy.

“We never gave that organization a dime,” Stein insisted. “And secondly, even if we were going to give them a dime, we wouldn’t have given them a dime with Virginia Abernethy associated with it.”

Maybe Stein should have checked FAIR’s website. When The Maddow Blog later fact-checked Stein, it found multiple references there to FAIR’s financial support for Protect Arizona Now, whose national advisory board was led by Abernethy. (PAN backed a successful 2004 ballot initiative that requires Arizonans to show proof of citizenship when voting and penalizes government workers who fail to report suspected undocumented immigrants seeking public benefits.) One FAIR news release (no longer on the organization’s website but accessible from an Internet archive) quoted none other than Stein touting FAIR’s role in PAN’s campaign. “Every dime that FAIR and these other organizations have raised to obtain signatures for Arizona’s PAN has been spent in Arizona to get signatures,” he said.

Stein also attempted to dismiss as irrelevant Maddow’s questions about FAIR founder — and current board member — John Tanton, who has made bigoted statements about Hispanics and advocated a European-American majority. (Much of Maddow’s most incendiary information on Tanton and FAIR came from research by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which publishes this blog; see here and here and here.) “We have a big tent,” Stein said. “People have lots of ideas."

Maddow’s interview comes after FAIR took credit for writing a harsh new law in Arizona that critics including SPLC lawyers say would lead to racial profiling. The law, which has provoked a nationwide debate, allows police to arrest people merely because they’re suspected of being in the country illegally as long as the police have some other reason to make contact with them.

Rather than address the issues, Stein was reduced to blaming his favorite bugaboo, frequently accusing Maddow of using “talking points from discredited smear artists like those folks down in Alabama.”

We’ll take that as a compliment. Stein’s dubious performance last night has been mocked throughout the blogosphere. The Political Carnival website opined that “because of this interview (read: tussle; read: battle; read: slaughter), we have a new word: ‘Steined’ … as in, ‘You’ve been Steined by Rachel Maddow.’”