'He was very unfairly treated': Trump grants pardon to doc filmmaker, conservative pundit Dinesh D'Souza
D'Souza's anti-Hillary Clinton film helped Trump get elected
Conservative filmmaker and commentator Dinesh D'Souza, director of some of the most successful documentaries of recent years, is exulting in a pardon from President Trump.
"Obama & his stooges tried to extinguish my American dream & destroy my faith in America. Thank you @realDonaldTrump for fully restoring both," D'Souza tweeted Thursday after the president's action.
D'Souza had long claimed he was the victim of a political prosecution after he was charged with making illegal campaign contributions in 2012 to Wendy Long, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate from New York. In 2014, saying he wanted to avoid the possibility of a prison sentence, D'Souza pled guilty to a single felony count.
My heartfelt thanks to those who prayed for me, supported me & reached out on social media to President Trump to pardon me.
"What they did to him was horrible," Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One Thursday on a trip to Houston. "I’ve always felt he was very unfairly treated. And a lot of people did, a lot of people did.” He said D'Souza deserved only a small fine for his illegal activity.
Trump issued the pardon after an appeal from Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.
"Bravo!" Cruz tweeted in a salute to Trump following the announcement. "Dinesh was the subject of a political prosecution, brazenly targeted by the Obama administration [because] of his political views. And he’s a powerful voice for freedom, systematically dismantling the lies of the Left—which is why they hate him. This is Justice."
The New York Times noted Trump's pardon may have served as a sideways shot at the prosecutor who obtained the guilty plea from D'Souza in the first place: Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Bharara has become one of the president's most relentless critics after Trump fired him last year.
Referencing that, D'Souza sent out a tweet that gloated, "KARMA IS A BITCH DEPT: @PreetBharara wanted to destroy a fellow Indian American to advance his career. Then he got fired & I got pardoned."
Bharara fired back in a tweet of his own, writing, "The President has the right to pardon but the facts are these: D'Souza intentionally broke the law, voluntarily pled guilty, apologized for his conduct & the judge found no unfairness. The career prosecutors and agents did their job. Period."
D'Souza is a regular political commentator and author with a penchant for conspiracy theories (for instance, he backs Trump's baseless accusation claiming the FBI planted a spy inside his election campaign). But his greatest service to the right--if not to intellectual honesty--may be his documentary films, among the most popular at the box office in recent years.
His film 2016: Obama's America made an astonishing $33.5 mil. in 2012. In 2016 he released Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party, which collected more than $13 mil. at the box office. His website boasts, "Hillary’s America is widely credited with contributing to Hillary Clinton’s defeat in 2016."
As we wrote on this website, Hillary's America connected with conservative audiences at the expense of intellectual integrity. The film asserted -- correctly, so far as it goes -- that it was the Democratic Party that backed slavery and states' rights during the lead up to the Civil War. However, D'Souza conveniently neglected to note that Southern racists who used to call the Democratic Party home decamped for the Republican Party starting in the 1960s and continuing through today. It is now the Republican Party that clings to the states' rights argument, a political philosophy that has been used to advocate for Jim Crow and more recently for laws that permit anti-gay discrimination.
Anyone with a shred of historical curiosity would see through D'Souza's attempts to smear current members of the Democratic Party by invoking an ugly ideology that in fact best represents today's Republican Party.
The conservative intelligentsia is filled with scam artists like D’Souza, who are dressed up as serious thinkers when their real purpose is to attack the left...
"To maintain the fiction that intellectual curiosity, and not reactionary sentiment, informs their arguments, conservatives gravitate toward what they believe to be the trappings of serious thinking: bow ties, purple prose, name-dropping. D’Souza, as usual, provides an extreme example," Sarah Jones wrote in The New Republic Thursday. "The conservative intelligentsia is filled with scam artists like D’Souza, who are dressed up as serious thinkers when their real purpose is to attack the left, to defend a reactionary ideology and, increasingly, to simply troll."
Indeed, one of D'Souza's most recent trolling efforts was to mock survivors of the mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. After a photo of survivors was published showing them distraught over a decision by the Florida legislature not to pursue gun control measures, D'Souza tweeted, "Worst news since their parents told them to get summer jobs."
To his credit, D'Souza later apologized for his insensitive tweet, writing, "I'm truly sorry."
As a convicted felon, D'Souza was unable to vote for Trump in the 2016 election. He will now be able to cast a ballot for him in 2020, free from the restrictions that resulted from his guilty plea. But while Trump may have cleared his name for official purposes, there is no pardoning D'Souza's intellectual deceit.
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.