The advertisers funding Greta Thunberg's autism troll

Michael Knowles may have lost Fox News, but he still has Amazon.

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The autism-based attacks

Greta Thunberg has been the subject of some bafflingly gross Twitter commentary since her speech at the United Nations on Monday.

Since condemning world leaders for their inaction on climate change, the 16-year-old with Asperger syndrome has been called a “freak,” compared to a Nazi, and told she “needs a spanking.” Fox host Laura Ingraham compared her to an evil character from Children of the Corn; and modern-day Nazi Milo Yiannopoulos suggested the activist—who speaks openly and positively about her autism—might be suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome.

These comments have originated mostly from the more outlandish right-wing pundits. And in the wake of outrage from from autism advocacy organizations, even some of them have deleted their tweets

For the most part, mainstream conservatives have been shying away from making fun of Thunberg’s autism.

Except Michael Knowles.


“A mentally ill Swedish child”

Knowles is a 29-year-old conservative commentator for The Daily Wire, a website that Media Matters has called “a cesspool of bigotry and hatred.” He runs a podcast called The Michael Knowles Show, which has episode titles like “Why Hypocrisy Is More Offensive Than Blackface” and “Save the Planet: Don’t Recycle.” Knowles also has the same last name as Beyoncé.

Anyway, Knowles is also a regular guest on Fox News—well, he was a regular guest on Fox News until Monday night. As Buzzfeed reports:

Fox News apologized to 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg on Monday after a conservative pundit called her a "mentally ill Swedish child."

Thunberg, who has Asperger's syndrome, delivered a powerful speech at the United Nations earlier in the day about the impact of climate change on her generation. The speech was then the subject of a segment on Fox News' The Story, featuring reaction from conservative writer and the Daily Wire host Michael Knowles and progressive podcast host Chris Hahn.

"The climate hysteria movement is not about science," Knowles said. "If it were about science, it would be led by scientists, rather than by politicians and a mentally ill Swedish child who is being exploited by her parents and by the international left." …

Knowles continued: "She is mentally ill. She has autism. She has obsessive-compulsive disorder. She has selective mutism. She had depression."

Fox News apologized for the comments on Monday night and said the network had “no plans" for Knowles to appear as a guest on future shows.


No apology

Fox News may have apologized to Greta, but Knowles has doubled down on his comments. On Monday, he tweeted that Thunberg’s “mental disorders” are being “exploited” by the left, and retweeted this tweet:

I’ve said this before, but I’m not sure what’s grosser — the conservatives who outright bully Greta, or the conservatives who pretend to care about her mental well-being because they can’t find any other way to criticize her message.

If you’ve ever met or spoken to Greta, you know she’s fully capable of speaking for herself, independently of her parents. She’s not a child, nor is she “ill.” She’s a teenager; she’s educated; she’s pissed. Greta is also open about how climate activism helps her with the negative aspects of her autism. As she told me last week:

When I started to do something—to take action, to try to make a difference instead of sitting in despair—that changed my life. Because then that gives your life meaning . . . and that’s important, because things can sometimes seem meaningless. But to know that you can actually have an impact. Really, It makes you feel a lot better.

And if you’ve ever spoken to someone with autism, you know it affects people differently. It’s literally a spectrum. Some people are fine with crowds. Some aren’t.

Knowles, it seems, has not spoken to either—yet is content to use both to bolster a misinformation campaign that, if successful, would lock humanity into irreversible feedback loops of unprecedented natural disasters and global conflict. It’s notable that even Fox News called that “disgraceful.


Who’s standing by Knowles now?

Knowles may not have Fox News anymore—but he still has the advertisers for his podcast. The 5 biggest ones I came across are:

  • Ring, a home security company owned by Amazon. On Episode 419—in which Knowles also called Greta “mentally ill”—Knowles said having a home security system on his phone makes him feel “really cool.”

  • VistaPrint, the business card company owned by Netherland-based Cimpress— “They’re the best, they’re the kings of this … that’s why I’ve always used them.” (UPDATE 9/25 @ 1:30pm — A spokesperson for VistaPrint tells me the company “is not advertising on any upcoming episodes of the Michael Knowles podcast” following his remarks about Greta.)

  • ZipRecruiter

  • QuickenLoans

  • RayCon Earbuds, which is owned by Ray J. Yeah, that Ray J. The website also has a whole page dedicated to celebrities who wear RayCons. It includes Cardi B and Melissa Etheridge. And Ray J.

Here are 11 smaller ones I came across, too:

This list is non-exhaustive; it’s based on a listen-through I did of the last dozen or so Knowles podcasts.

I reached out to each company last night to confirm the status of their advertising relationship with Knowles. As of newsletter send-out time this morning, I have yet to hear back from most.

A spokesperson for LendingClub said the company was no longer running ads with Knowles, and had only run a “limited number of ads” as part of “a broader test” with Westwood One Podcast Network, which produces podcast for conservative personalities like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Ben Shapiro, Mark Levin and others.

A spokesperson for VistaPrint said they were checking on the status of their ad buy, and encouraged me to review parent company Cimpress’ efforts and commitment to reduce carbon emissions and their corporate social responsibility policy.

I’ll update you if I hear from anyone else.

That’s all for today—thanks so much for reading HEATED.

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See you tomorrow.