Lesa Antone, the founder of the anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim group Patriot Movement AZ (PMAZ), said this weekend on an internet radio show that she’s “feeling pretty hateful right now.”
So hateful, apparently, that she cheered on a fellow guest of the show who ranted about “foreigners” stealing American jobs and who advocated that, as a solution, “those traitors in D.C. should all be hanged.”
“You are amazing,” Antone told the guest moments after the comments. “You’re my sister. I’m pretty sure that we might be related.”
The exchange took place on Saturday, Dec. 29, on the “Live T.R.U.T.H. Radio” show, which is distributed by the Spreaker podcasting network. (The show’s acronym stands for “The Reality Underneath The Honesty,” according to its page on the crowdfunding platform Patreon.)
Antone was invited to call in as a guest during the final 90 minutes of the three-and-a-half-hour show. She was there primarily to talk about a series of videos PMAZ has posted on Facebook in recent days showing her and members of her group harassing volunteers and clergy at churches that the federal government has asked to shelter immigrants seeking asylum.
PMAZ has been increasingly active in Arizona and Southern California during the past 18 months. Based in the Phoenix suburb of Litchfield Park, the group has organized multiple rallies, protests and street actions against immigrant and other minority causes. Two of the group’s followers were arrested in March on felony charges of damaging an Arizona mosque – an incident PMAZ later disavowed and condemned. One of the group’s other leaders — Antone’s husband — was arrested in November on suspicion of assaulting a legal observer outside one of the group’s rallies
Along the way, Antone has insisted that PMAZ is “definitely not a hate group,” that it supports legal U.S. immigrants and only opposes illegal immigration.
But from nearly the beginning of her appearance on the “Live T.R.U.T.H. Radio” show, Antone let loose with a series of extreme statements that cut against those claims.
Hosted by Brian Lange, who described himself as a member of the Ohio chapter of the antigovernment group the Oath Keepers, the show provided Antone a friendly setting to rattle off myths and conspiracy theories about immigration and even dive into topics of race and what she called “traditional marriage.”
The marriage topic came up early when Antone talked about how critics of her group often point out that she has no job. She said that’s because she’s part of a “traditional marriage” in which her husband, Russell “RJ” Jaffe, works so she doesn’t have to.
“I mean, that’s my traditional marriage, you know?” Antone said. “My husband goes to work, and I go out and fight communists all day.”
Her critics, she said, “are so offended that I don’t work because they are so offended by the traditional marriage. The looks and the vile comments I get because I stay home is astounding, and it says everything you need to know about how they’ve taken our entire society down. They take away the traditional marriage. They demonize a heterosexual, normal marriage.”
Antone went on to declare that “heterosexual, white, Christian males” are “the most oppressed person in this country” and “the most hated person in this country.”
‘Hateful’ and just plain wrong
Antone played the victim throughout much of her interview. She described herself as one of the few people willing to stand up for her beliefs and complained that people like and share her posts on social media, but few show up in real life to support her cause. She also portrayed her struggle as being for the future of her grandchildren — a well-worn trope among far-right extremists.
It was in that context that Antone described herself as “hateful.”
“We have to be as angry as the left. We have to be as angry as they are,” she said. “And you know, people get mad at me, and they’re like, ‘You’re a hater.’ And I’m like, ‘You know what? I am feeling pretty hateful right now.’ I am tired. I don’t want my grandchildren – the youngest one is one year old, the oldest one is nine. I have three granddaughters. I prefer for them to know liberty. They can’t go in my front yard and play, and I live in the suburbs.”
The PMAZ founder somehow managed to get in an argument with another guest of the show who said his main focus was on economic issues instead of immigration. Antone called him naïve and chastised him by whipping up fears of undocumented immigrants — which she referred to as “illegals” and an “invasion.”
“Right now, there is no bigger threat to the security of the United States of America and every single citizen, and that is the threat of illegal invasion,” Antone said. “That is the threat of the planned, funded, organized invasion of our nation.”
She also claimed that “40 to 60 million illegals” will be trying to vote in the next election.
The assertion went unchecked by the host or other guests.
There is no evidence of widespread illegal voting by immigrants who are unauthorized to be in the U.S. The website PolitiFact recently checked similarly dubious claims by Fox Business Network host Lou Dobbs, a zealous anti-immigrant pundit, who said that undocumented immigrants had an “immense impact” on the 2018 election. PolitiFact rated the claim “Pants on Fire” — its worst rating.
Antone wildly exaggerated the size of the nation’s undocumented population. A study last year by the Pew Research Center estimated that there were about 10.7 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. as of 2016, down from a peak of about 12.2 million in 2007.
The high end of Antone’s numbers were even double what President Donald Trump has claimed in public. His declarations that as many as 30 million undocumented immigrants could be in the U.S. have widely been debunked by fact-checkers and immigration researchers.
‘At the end of a freaking noose’
Beyond the fearmongering and exaggerations, Antone’s appearance on the radio show took a darker turn when the broadcast’s final guest, Toni Chester, joined in.
Dialing in by phone, Chester began yelling about immigrants from the get-go. Her volume was so loud it occasionally made parts of her rant inaudible.
“These people that are sneaking over the damn border – and like Lesa said I don’t care if they came from Italy, I don’t give a rat’s ass where they come from — they’re coming here illegally, and they need to go home!” Chester said. “They need to be removed from our country permanently. And I don’t care if it’s by a [inaudible], where we drop them from 30,000 feet. That would sure as hell make sure that they don’t come back ever again.”
“Amen,” Antone said at the suggestion, chiming in whenever Chester paused for breath.
“I love you!” Antone said at another point.
“The God-blessed immigration policies of our country are so screwed up. And those traitors in D.C. should all be hanged. That’s where they should be. At the end of a freaking noose. That’s where they belong,” Chester said, continuing to yell into the phone. “Because they have sold us out. Each and every one of us. Our children, our grandchildren and our future. Because the more of these invaders that come into our homeland, we have lost. We have lost our country.”
Moments later, when Chester finally came to the end of her rant, Antone started gushing.
“She is amaz – you are amazing!” Antone said. “You’re my sister. I’m pretty sure that we might be related. Oh, my-lanta!”
Antone couldn’t stop praising the woman who had just openly fantasized about killing immigrants and executing leaders in Washington over the nation’s immigration policies.
“Wherever we are, when we’re out there fighting against this, people go, ‘You’re so angry.’” Antone said. “And you know what? You’re f’ing right. I am that angry. And every American should be as angry as me and as angry as you. And if you aren’t as angry as we are then you are not freaking paying attention to the problem. Thank you! Thank you!”
Then the PMAZ founder closed with a pitch.
“Can you move to Phoenix?” she said. “We could use you.”
Photo illustration by SPLC