I hate that I am writing about this sheer stupidity, period, but it is so stupidly popular that I feel I must
SILVER SPRING—To be frank, part of me is ashamed that I am even writing about this. But neither I nor sane people made Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to a hair salon the top story on rightist media the past few days or absolutely dominate Facebook’s top link shares. And if there is one thing that 2020 should have taught us journalists, it is that nonsense that picks up steam must be confronted forcefully, in detail, and repeatedly. Yet, as I have noted before, the media has not learned from its 2016-cycle mistakes and is currently repeating them. Over the last few days, Trump himself tweeted no less than four times about this, and retweeted an additional two tweets about it and one of his own tweets regarding the same.
Today, White House Press Secretary, Kayleigh McEnany literally played a loop of video of Pelosi at the hair salon to begin today’s press briefing, because the Trump Administration feels this is the most important thing in America and the world today—not, say, the more than 1,000 American dead added to the coronavirus death toll yesterday or the more than 880,000 Americans applying for unemployment benefits last week—and, somehow, that makes complete sense in the dystopian America Trump and his enablers have inaugurated.
Hairgate: Another Fake Scandal Pushed by the Right
Today’s case in point: two months before the election, we are talking about Nancy’s trip to a hair salon. And by we, I mean pretty much every media outlet, not just right-wing news, but CNN, The New York Times, the BBC, you name it.
My suspicion, after seeing Pelosi’s response, was that, whatever what the local salon operator did, Kious as the owner would have been one of the only people with access to the security footage who could have passed it on to Fox News and that this was, indeed, a setup, because no footage of me at a private business has ever made it to a news station; no, this was not some sort of official investigation, but video from a private business of a famous politician does not just land at the desk of a news organization hostile to that politician.
And I was right: Kious did provide the footage to the media, specifically to Fox News, which has run wild with it since, as has the rest of the right-wing media.
In her interview from last night on Fox News, Tucker Carlson said her story of her fighting COVID restrictions and fallout from her sharing this video with Fox News “one of the most heartbreaking stories I’ve heard in a long time, a long time” (a comment made, mind you, in the era of the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Jacob Blake, among others). She has plenty of footage of Pelosi presumably, and yet we only see a few seconds of Pelosi walking just after her hair-washing, with a face-mask on but pulled down. Pelosi (who has constantly taken serious precautions to wear a mask and practice social distancing when Trump the vast majority of the time—even at his own Republican National Convention—has not) claims she wore the mask when she was not having her hair washed and for a moment immediately after, but other footage has not been released. It has been stated that she was the only customer in the salon, and the staff were wearing masks, so this was hardly an incident that endangered people in any serious way, unlike Trump’s speech in front of the White House on the final night of his convention with over 1,500 people present, most of whom were not practicing social distancing or wearing masks, and unlike, say, Trump’s summer rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at which it seems former Republican presidential candidate and Trump supporter Herman Cain may very well have contracted coronavirus, which killed him after quite a battle with the virus.
Pelosi has claimed this was a setup against her, stating she was not familiar with the specific regulations and that, when the salon, which she has frequented for years, accepted her appointment request, she assumed her visit would be in line with any regulations. Kious makes the absurd claim in her interview with Carlson that it cannot be a setup, because she had a camera system for five years and because Pelosi’s assistant made the appointment, that it could not be a setup. And yet, it was Kious who chose to share the video and to share it with Fox News and to speak, specifically, with Tucker Carlson in a live interview.
Guess who else thinks it was a setup by Kious?
In a statement released by his lawyer, Kious’s own contractor, Jonathan DeNardo, who ran the salon that day and did Pelosi’s hair, claims he had spoken with Kious the night of August 29th about the request for an appointment from Pelosi’s office and said he would not take her appointment for the 31st without Kious’s permission. In the statement, it DeNardo claims that the fact that Pelosi was the one who wanted to come in drew “special interest” from Kious, who
made several vitriolic and incendiary comments about Speaker Pelosi and her purported responsibility for temporarily suspending operations of Ms. Kious’ business, despite such orders actually being put into place not by Speaker Pelosi, but by Governor Gavin Newsome and San Francisco Mayor London Breed. Ultimately, Ms. Kious authorized Mr. DeNardo to proceed with Speaker Pelosi’s appointment.
If this is true, Kious and her story are both farces and she bears even more responsibility as the business owner for responsibility for allowing the appointment to proceed without even trying to have Pelosi informed that it would be in violation of the regulations, for Speaker Pelosi was still a paying, regular customer. So, yes, this reeks of being a setup, despite claims by Kious that this is not about politics and a right-wing media eager to echo her framing.
Pelosi having the mask down for few second on video after her hair-washing surely helped Kious’s setup, but from Kious’s statement it was just the act of Pelosi coming in and making the appointment that really set Kious off, so even without Pelosi’s mask being pulled down for a few seconds on video, it seem quite likely that Kious would still have gone to Fox with news of the appointment to air the same grievances.
The legal statement on behalf of DeNardo continues to note that, contrary to Kious’s statements to Tucker Carlson, she has been frequently operating her business since April in violation of the restrictions, up to an including just a few days before Pelosi’s own visit, that Kious herself (unlike DeNardo in the video) was in multiple instances not wearing a masks or practicing social distancing and even encouraged her contractors to violate regulations “for her own financial benefit,” and that there is photographic, video, and witness evidence to substantiate these claims (as she declared she has been shut down, perhaps some enterprising sleuths will keep tabs on if she bothers to declare income from this period as legally required and if she will be held accountable frequent violations of state and local authority).
The statement’s last paragraph begins: “The fact that Ms. Kious is now objecting to Speaker Pelosi’s presence at eSalon, and from a simple surface-level review of Ms. Kious’ political leanings, it appears Ms. Kious is furthering a set-up of Speaker Pelosi for her own vain aspirations. Mr. DeNardo’s name has now been dragged through the mud for simply following Ms. Kious’ recommendations.”
DeNardos’s attorney is right that “a simple surface-level review of Ms. Kious’ political leanings” reveals much: after even just a little research, there is an overwhelming chance she is in the MAGA/Trump crowd for different reasons, lending further credence to the idea that she would have set up Pelosi and sew the whole situation as an opportunity to create a scandal for U.S. House Speaker, whom Kious obviously does not like and, form her statements and actions, holds responsible for her frustrations even though, as the statement points out, Pelosi is neither the mayor of San Francisco nor the governor of California responsible for the restrictions in California. Not least of the reasons is almost certainly among the Trump faithful is that she chose to go on Tucker Carlson’s show—one of the least subtly racist television shows on any major network, of all shows—to highlight this Pelosi incident and air her grievances, a decision that speaks volumes.
But there are other indicators that she is firmly part of the MAGA crowd.
Exposing the Political Motivations of a Salon Owner Who Entrapped a Paying Customer Over Politics
For one thing (and I know that this is wading into dangerous territory as some would say no one—especially men—should criticize a woman’s appearance), I will make an observation that I am certain I am not the only one to notice: that Erica Kious has that classic Fox News-fake-blonde, heavily-made-up-and-glammed look, could easily fill in for a number of the anchors reading scripts, and, certain to be a star now with the MAGA crowd, may very well have a future on Fox: she has already appeared on the problematic Tucker Carlson’s show just hours before I began writing this, and I am wholeheartedly convinced that if this had happened a few weeks ago that Erica Kious would have been a featured prime-time speaker at the Trump’s Republican National Convention cult performance art spectacle and already in the process of beatification by the MAGA faithful, with serious effort to groom her for a House seat gestating.
Additionally, while her social media presence is hardly ubiquitous and her business-sense as an owner was deep enough to keep her from posting publicly about Trump, what is out there in terms of her social media posts is pretty telling.
While truly working-class people have been devastated by COVID-19, Kious posted beaming pictures of what appears to be a vacation in Tennessee (including posting photos of firing guns at a shooting range, in which she included the hashtag “guns;” probably not [though possibly] the only-time she has been to a range given her other characteristics, with gun-loving being one of the more solid political-affiliation predictors) in August and another trip to Montana in July, writing “Montana was amazing-so fortunate to be there during the CA lockdown!!” Keep in mind that Kious was fortunate enough to be spending long periods of time away from home on vacation during an economically devastating lockdown and yet, somehow, she was able to secure a federal Small Business Administration (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, which she tweeted about in late June in an angry responseto the Mayor of San Francisco, who tweeted about a delay in reopening based on “science and data.” There was also another Tweet from Kious in July responding to the governor’s office in which Kious complained that San Francisco had not reopened yet.
She also complained in a post against a proposed California tax increase extension, Proposition 55, that a $250,000 household income “is not rich here in the Bay Area with two kid [sic] in school and daycare cost-that’s low! This is bullshit!!!” That’s right, this woman is complaining and stating that her family with two kids presumably making $250,000 a year should not be considered “rich.” A quarter-of-a-million a year is “middle class” or “working class?” I know the San Francisco area is not cheap, but over $250,000 in household income places you just above the 95th percentile (the average is less than $90,000 and median is about $63,000) in household income. Thus, her household is making more than at least 95% of other American households. Even in the San Francisco-Oakland-Haywood conglomerate, $250,000 for household income is in the 83rd percentile. Again, typical of wealthy conservatives to downplay their wealth but even in a very wealthy area like the San Francisco Bay area, her household is making at least more than 83 percent of other households. But the Trump Administration felt this woman was deserving of an emergency loan when so many truly small businesses were not granted them, with friends and family of the president and larger corporations taking money that could have gone to those who truly needed it.
In two other recent Facebook posts, Kious also came out strongly against California Assembly Bill 5 (AB-5), which, controversially and in a complicated way, seeks to limit abusive corporate practices in which companies treat de facto employees as freelancers, denying them benefit and forcing double the payroll taxes on then because they incorrectly classify them as freelancers (as a freelancer myself, I will disclose that I am very much for forcing such companies, like Uber and Upwork, to treat their employees better, pay them higher wages, and cover far more payroll taxes rather than try to milk the advantages of using freelancers without allowing such freelancers to truly have the freedom and lack of constriction that is supposed to come with being a freelancer).
Prior to the pandemic, she also put up one Facebook post mocking positive coverage of Jay-Z and Beyoncé expecting twins (seriously, who does not like Beyoncé [besides right-wingers]?), another post that was a typical right-wing shallow complaint about a DMV being understaffed in spite of “all the tax we pay and smog checks and all the money the state & DMV take from people,” and another mocking protesters taking to the streets in opposition to Trump just after his elec
Erica Kious does not by any means need to be canceled or boycotted, and there should be zero tolerance of any serious efforts at harassment, threats, intimidation or having her life ruined. Neither should her family, friends, or business. She has already established herself as another inane prop in our inane political-stage Kabuki-theater-drama, but after refuting and exposing her nonsense, let us not give her any more oxygen or attention other an occasional fleeting look or update here or there, without the formatting of big-type fonts or front/top-landing-page position. As far as politics, she should be ignored as much as humanly possible, other than firmly and emphatically exposing the farce that is her disingenuous setup of Pelosi, period, full stop.
Stupid Is As Stupid Does
As noted, Pelosi has been consistent in her use and advocacy of masks and social distancing and certainly more than the MAGA cult and the Dear Leader Donald (I am not trying to be cute: they and he truly act like a cult and a cult leader, respectively). In the words of CNN media critic Oliver Darcy
It’s a perfect example of a story, pushed heavily by partisans, getting outsized attention in our current information ecosystem. In normal times, that would not be a great reflection on our media environment, but also unworthy of this screed. But with so many grave issues facing the country, it’s outrageous that this—of all the dire problems we face as Americans—is dominating the public conversation.
Beyond outrageous, it is incredibly pathetic, a true testament to how the right arranges its priorities, and a true indicator of how utterly and contemptibly stupid the whole Trump MAGA cult is. Even now, I still wait to come across a single declared supporter of Donald Trump who expresses that—amidst a combination of national and international health, economic, and other crises not seen in any of our lifetimes except for those who are literally a century old or older—such a degree of focus on a trip to a hair salon is decidedly undeserving of so much attention or weight. Kious is right in a sense that this is not about politics, but hardly in the duplicitous way she stated. These cultists must be driven from power as much as possible and serious, rational, sane adults who care about saving lives, jobs, democracy, and the global democratic order must prevail, with Biden–Harris as the only hope for those global forces to prevail. And in this struggle, Hairgate exists not as a real scandal for Speaker Nancy Pelosi but only as evidence of the sheer bankruptcy of the Trump MAGA cult and the sheer mockery it has made even of the now long-hollow Republican Party that started on this sad, sorry path years ago, the shell of which has been coopted by the parasitic MAGA cult run by a the most unfit president ever to hold the office, installed by Russia’s Vladimir Putin weaponizing our own stupidity against us even as we may be allowing it to happen again. As I have pointed out before, a majority of the top “stories” on Facebook and varyingly large portions of stories on other platforms and networks in the final months, weeks, and days of the 2016 election were either fake news or garbage, with hairgate and other “scandals” like the Bidens-Ukraine-Burisma “story” (which I have discussed in detail) giving an awful sense of déjà vu in this election cycle.
Also, even though now Ted Cruz and pregnancy are trending together, I am too emotionally drained by the above to even take on that mountain of stupidity. Apologies, but that baton can be handled by someone else.
© 2020 Brian E. Frydenborg all rights reserved, permission required for republication, attributed quotations welcome
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