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Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) said on Wednesday that an unnamed but “popular” right-wing media figure recently threatened him for working on a sweeping immigration bill, claiming that the pundit said they’d “destroy” him if he tried to move the legislation before this year’s presidential election.
After four months of intense negotiations—and Republicans’ repeated insistence that any bill providing aid to Ukraine and Israel also include stringent border security measures—former President Donald Trump and his allies torpedoed the deal before the text of the legislation was even made public.
With the GOP frontrunner nakedly saying he wanted the border crisis to continue in order to damage President Joe Biden politically, Republicans soon fell in line and declared they would not support the bill they once demanded.
With the $118 billion immigration and foreign aid legislation “dead on arrival,” Lankford—who was one of the chief negotiators on the deal—lectured his GOP colleagues for refusing to “get stuff done and solve problems.” Prior to the Senate voting down the package on Wednesday, the conservative lawmaker chastised the chamber for only wanting to hold “press conferences” and not work across the aisle and pass legislation.
Speaking about the massive right-wing pushback the bill got after Trump came out against it, Lankford then noted that a conservative media personality privately approached him and demanded he scuttle the deal.
“I had a popular commentator four weeks ago that I talked to, that told me flat out—before they knew any of the contents of the bill, any of the content, nothing was out at that point—that told me flat out, ‘If you try to move a bill that solves the border crisis during this presidential year, I will do whatever I can to destroy you, because I do not want you to solve this during the presidential election,’” Lankford declared on the Senate floor.
“By the way, they have been faithful to their promise and have done everything they can to destroy me in the past several weeks,” the senator added.
With speculation already running wild over the identity of the mystery right-wing pundit, which included familiar names from Fox News who’ve said they helped kill the deal, Kelly tweeted out that he was the culprit.
“He may be a eunuch, but I’ll say this about James Lankford: He has great taste in radio. 😏 Yes, in case you’re wondering, he’s talking about me,” Kelly proudly proclaimed.
Lankford’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether Kelly was indeed the “popular” host who threatened the senator.
Since the sweeping immigration bill was finally unveiled, conservative media has worked overtime to submarine the deal, while misrepresenting the legislation’s provisions, seemingly on purpose. Even when Lankford and the bill’s other sponsors debunked Fox News’ falsehoods about the bill—namely, that it would allow 5,000 migrants to cross the southern border every day—the network’s stars continued to peddle those claims.
Meanwhile, right-wing media figures have taken particular aim at Lankford for the crime of negotiating with Democrats on an immigration and border deal.
Even though the actual legislation reads like a conservative wish list, MAGA provocateurs and anti-immigrant hawks have called on Lankford to be “criminally prosecuted” and “locked up” over his “betrayal.” Trump has also piled on, falsely claiming that he never endorsed Lankford for his Senate election. (He did.)