Note: The following piece includes direct quotes from Roger Stone, some of which include bigoted slurs.

The Trump era has brought with it a lot of things we wouldn't usually consider "normal." A reality TV star caught on camera bragging about sexual assault being elected president? Not normal. That same president putting trust in fringe websites while ignoring his own intelligence briefings and labeling mainstream news outlets "fake news"? Also not normal.


But one of the strangest, most subtle bits of abnormality in this new world is the media renaissance of Trump adviser Roger Stone, who you may recognize from his appearances on cable and network news shows.

Stone chats with the media during a December 2016 visit to  Trump Tower. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

For more than 40 years, Stone played a mostly behind-the-scenes role in Republican politics. After Trump's election, that changed.

Also known as "Nixon's man in Washington" (according to Stone's own book), Stone has a long history as a political "dirty trickster" and purveyor of half-baked conspiracy theories on everything from 9/11 to the Kennedy assassination to Obama's birth certificate. He was also a key player in the election of Donald Trump. And, like the president, he prides himself on not being "politically correct."

He has referred to black and Latino journalists as "quota hires," he once ran an anti-Hillary Clinton organization called Citizens United Not Timid (apparently, he really liked the acronym), and this weekend, he went on a sexist Twitter rant, calling a woman identified as Caroline O. a "stupid ignorant ugly bitch."

Those sexist tweets were not an isolated incident.

His behavior was enough to get him banned from some of the cable news networks. He was banned from CNN (after calling CNN commentator Ana Navarro an "Entitled Diva Bitch," "Borderline retarded," and "'dumber than dog shit"), from MSNBC ("because of his now very well-known offensive comments"), and from Fox News (Stone says, "I'm banned at Fox because I kick their ass"). Stone became a star only to see it all fade once his more extreme views became more widely known.

You might think that would be the last we saw of him. You'd be wrong. While Stone hasn’t been back on any of the networks that banned him, he has been getting a lot of attention from mainstream networks like NBC and PBS since the election.

So why — if nothing about his misogyny, racism, and penchant for conspiracy theories has changed — is Roger Stone on our TVs again?

Stone recently appeared on NBC's "Today" show to discuss the effect Russia had on the 2016 campaign. In January, he appeared in the PBS "Frontline" documentary "Divided States of America." In April, Netflix will premiere "Get Me Roger Stone," a documentary about the man himself, at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Despite being shunned by major networks during the election, the very same man who quoted Gore Vidal to the New York Times in 2015 — "Never miss the opportunity to have sex or be on television" — seems to be making good on at least the latter half of that statement.

Stone in 1987 during his time as a political consultant for Campaign Consultants Inc. AP Photo/Tom Reed.

So, what is it? Why is Roger Stone being given a platform on our TVs again? And what does it say about what's "normal" in the Trump-era media landscape that a man who tweeted "DIE BITCH" at former New York Times editor Jill Abramson, who he called a "snot-nosed, arrogant, biased liberal — and all around bitch" because the paper didn't review his 2013 book about President Kennedy's assassination, who called former Rep. Michele Bachmann a "tranny," and who called Al Sharpton a "professional negro" is considered palatable for mainstream audiences?

Roger Stone hasn't changed, but maybe we have.

Stone during The New Yorker Festival 2016's "President Trump: Life as We May Know It" panel. Photo by Anna Webber/Getty Images for The New Yorker.

Stone is the canary in the Trump-era normalization coal mine. He is what happens when the country elects Donald Trump president, and he is evidence of a ripple effect that could continue for generations.

Roger Stone, Milo Yiannopoulos, Alex Jones, and others were once fringe elements within the media. Their ideas — sexist, hateful, and based in paranoia and conspiracy theories — were rejected for those very reasons. When people like them, whose arguments and careers are built upon a lifetime of bad behavior, are given platforms and aren't held responsible for their actions and attitudes, we start to become numb to just how extreme their views are. When we become indifferent to harmful viewpoints and people, we redefine "normal" — and not for the better.

This is not normal.

Hate is not normal. Bigotry, misogyny, racism, and xenophobia are not acceptable "alternative" viewpoints. And people who promote those messages should not become just one more cog in the cable news machine. We cannot let that become our new reality. We're better than that.

So why is Roger Stone on my TV again?

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Actions speak far louder than words.

It never fails. After a tragic mass shooting, social media is filled with posts offering thoughts and prayers. Politicians give long-winded speeches on the chamber floor or at press conferences asking Americans to do the thing they’ve been repeatedly trained to do after tragedy: offer heartfelt thoughts and prayers. When no real solution or plan of action is put forth to stop these senseless incidents from occurring so frequently in a country that considers itself a world leader, one has to wonder when we will be honest with ourselves about that very intangible automatic phrase.

Comedian Anthony Jeselnik brilliantly summed up what "thoughts and prayers" truly mean. In a 1.5-minute clip, Jeselnik talks about victims' priorities being that of survival and not wondering if they’re trending at that moment. The crowd laughs as he mimics the actions of well-meaning social media users offering thoughts and prayers after another mass shooting. He goes on to explain how the act of performatively offering thoughts and prayers to victims and their families really pulls the focus onto the author of the social media post and away from the event. In the short clip he expertly expresses how being performative on social media doesn’t typically equate to action that will help victims or enact long-term change.

Of course, this isn’t to say that thoughts and prayers aren’t welcomed or shouldn’t be shared. According to Rabbi Jack Moline "prayer without action is just noise." In a world where mass shootings are so common that a video clip from 2015 is still relevant, it's clear that more than thoughts and prayers are needed. It's important to examine what you’re doing outside of offering thoughts and prayers on social media. In another several years, hopefully this video clip won’t be as relevant, but at this rate it’s hard to see it any differently.

Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

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