Now more than ever, the news media has a moral responsibility to speak the truth - and to stop pretending like there's equal validity to 'both sides' of this argument.

CONTRIBUTED - Oregon state Rep. Diego HernandezIn its Aug. 15 issue, the Portland Tribune gave a platform to Oregonians for Immigration Reform (OFIR), the local chapter of a national hate group that has spent decades demonizing immigrants.

The guest column, "Illegal immigration bad for environment," is abhorrent, and I condemn the Tribune's decision to use its limited pages to publish thinly veiled racist beliefs. This moment in American history demands high-quality journalism and editorial judgment that fosters the honest public conversations our democracy is built upon.

Publishing a hate group's rhetoric without any context or comment fails that standard miserably, so I wanted to share some of that critical information with readers here.

OFIR's LaMountain used the pages of this newspaper to advance an idea that has come to be known as "green xenophobia" — that is, scapegoating immigrants and refugees for environmental problems. This isn't a new idea. Nativist groups have been using environmental concerns to disguise their white nationalist objectives for decades.

In fact, in his column, LaMountain quotes the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which was founded by John Tanton, who has expressed his explicit goal to protect the white majority. Tanton has founded and funded numerous other anti-immigrant groups, all of which form a xenophobic network that advances the idea that nonwhites are inferior and should be kept out of the country. OFIR is part of Tanton's FAIR network.

But don't take my word for it. Here's Tanton in his own words (as compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit that tracks and exposes the activities of hate groups and other domestic extremists):

"As Whites see their power and control over their lives declining, will they simply go quietly into the night? Or will there be an explosion?" — FAIR founder and board member John Tanton, Oct. 10, 1986.

"I've come to the point of view that for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that." — John Tanton, letter to eugenicist and ecology professor Garrett Hardin (now deceased), Dec. 10, 1993.

And you don't have to go far to see how LaMountain's group is part of the same openly bigoted patchwork. OFIR got its start online as part of the "New Nation News" website, which spouts enormously vile racist rhetoric.

Now, OFIR is getting financial help from another of Tanton's white nationalist groups, US Inc., to fund yet another anti-immigrant ballot measure in our communities. These groups unapologetically espouse white supremacist views.

While the nation reels from the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, where armed mobs of neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members, and other white nationalist groups marched through the city chanting Nazi slogans — and where civil rights activist Heather Heyer was killed by a white supremacist — OFIR and LaMountain are advancing a racist agenda that is emboldening hate-filled marches across the country.

We can't allow people like LaMountain and his allies to greenwash their racism. They are tearing this country apart.

Now more than ever, the news media has a moral responsibility to speak the truth — and to stop pretending like there's equal validity to "both sides" of this argument. On one side is the kind of racism that is responsible for the worst episodes in human history. The "other side" is the rest of us — including the media — who have a responsibility to fight back against the reprehensible goals of the white nationalists.

The Portland Tribune needs to do a better job of calling out these repellent views rather than giving them a bigger megaphone.

Rep. Diego Hernandez, D-Portland, House District 47, represents East Portland and is serving his first term in the Oregon Legislature. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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