Opinion | CJ Pearson’s reelection is a threat to SGA’s mission

Joseph Hoffman, Contributing Columnist

On Dec. 16, 2015, MTV News published an op-ed by a then-young, up-and-coming conservative commentator titled “I’m 13 And Donald Trump Becoming President Scares The Crap Out Of Me.” In it, the author accused Trump of “blanket racism and blatant Islamophobia,” asking, “Do people not know how bad Donald Trump is or do they just not care?” 

Just over five years later, on Jan. 6, 2021, that same commentator, CJ Pearson, stood on top of a police vehicle on the front steps to the U.S. Capitol as a rally against the results of the previous presidential election turned into a violent insurrection. 

He stated later that afternoon that he did not condone violence. However, in a now-deleted tweet, Pearson said, “The revolution will be televised” in reference to the event. In posts as recently as last week, he insinuated that President Joe Biden’s election was illegitimate. 

Pearson is now running for reelection to the Student Government Association Senate, as a representative of the Culverhouse College of Business. UA students deserve a legislator who can be trusted to be fair, honest and inclusive, serving all regardless of gender, race, sexuality or political identity. 

The preamble to the SGA constitution includes commitments to “the common interests of all students” and “democratic government.” The student body should elect candidates who can honestly demonstrate their commitment to these principles.

A candidate who has attacked university professors, queer identities and Islam, has aligned himself with such heinous ideologies and individuals and has attempted to overturn a democratic election cannot be a representative for the student body. 

It would be a disservice to every student, especially those historically marginalized on this campus, to allow him to continue serving as a senator. 

Allowing Pearson to serve in SGA is a direct contradiction to everything the organization stands for. The problem isn’t one of conservatism or liberalism; naturally, on a campus as large as UA’s there will be a diversity of political thought in its representative body. 

Pearson’s ideology is one that rejects objective truth and mutual respect for the people he is serving. That alone disqualifies him from fulfilling his duties as a senator.

To his credit, during his tenure, Pearson has shown up, earning the third-highest score on @InsideSGA’s fall scoreboard, which assigns points based on attendance and participation. @InsideSGA is anonymously run. 

His effort to place free feminine hygiene products around campus is admirable, but none of these actions outweigh the impact his hateful actions have had both directly and indirectly on so many here in Tuscaloosa.

Pearson’s career in politics took off in earnest in 2015 when videos of him criticizing President Barack Obama went viral on YouTube. Because of his success, Pearson was named as the national chair of Teens for Ted, supporting the presidential campaign of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Around this time, Pearson got into a Twitter fight with an alleged liberal critic of his, whose account was later found to be registered under Pearson’s work email. Later, he also publicly lied about being blocked by Obama.

Over the course of the 2016 election cycle, Pearson’s allegiances changed multiple times, in drastic directions. After supporting “maverick” candidate Rand Paul, he joined Ted Cruz’s campaign before disavowing the conservative movement and indicating he could “get behind” Marco Rubio. On Jan. 7, 2016, Pearson announced his support of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. 

“Systemic racism is real. Police brutality is real. Youth unemployment is real. Income inequality is real. Poverty in the richest country in the world is real. There is only one candidate that has shown enough courage to accept these issues as a painful reality and has released plans to tackle every single one of them,” said Pearson.

By August, Pearson announced his support of Donald Trump.

Since Trump’s election, Pearson has been busy growing his massive social media following across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. As of today, he has over 350,000 followers on Twitter, and 179,000 on Instagram. He is the CEO of Right or Die, a clothing brand “for patriots, by patriots.” 

In an advertisement for the brand posted to his Twitter, he wears a red shirt emblazoned with the phrase “not vaccinated” in all caps. Pearson is vaccinated against COVID-19, by his own admission.

Pearson now hosts a podcast, titled “CJ Pearson UNCENSORED,” hosted on the multimedia network of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, a man who once signed a pledge to support a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. 

Episode 15 of Pearson’s podcast featured Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene. Last week, Greene addressed the America First Political Action Committee, a group founded by white nationalist and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes. 

Pearson has defended Fuentes in the past, saying he’s “not sure what he’s said qualifies him as a Nazi.” In this video, Fuentes openly engages in denial about the severity and existence of the Holocaust. 

On Feb. 26, Fuentes spoke about the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, saying, “Now they’re going on about Vladimir Putin and Russia and Vladimir Putin is Hitler and they say that’s not a good thing.”

On Nov. 19, 2021, Pearson retweeted a post from Ali Alexander promoting a Stop the Steal event in Georgia. At this event, Alexander was pictured in the statehouse with Fuentes. Fuentes was also present at the Capitol on Jan. 6. 

Episode 23 of the podcast had Congresswoman Lauren Boebert as its featured guest. Boebert is explicitly against same-sex marriage. She also tweeted, “The easiest way to make the Delta variant go away is to turn off CNN.”  

In an Instagram post, Pearson poses with Congressman Madison Cawthorn, who was accused of sexual misconduct, both during his time in school and his campaign. Cawthorn also traveled to Adolf Hitler’s vacation home, saying it was on his “bucket list.”

You name the relevant political topic, there’s a fairly good chance Pearson has a controversial take on it. Transgender rights? Pearson doesn’t want a “woman with a penis” in girls’ bathrooms. Climate change? He challenged Greta Thunberg to a debate over its threat. #MeToo? According to Pearson, it destroyed due process for men.

Throughout his career, Pearson has shown his principles are malleable. It has been arguably his greatest asset as he ascended the ranks of power, from eight-year-old blogger to rubbing shoulders with the president. 

His values exist in the present, relying on his audience to forget how he called Trump racist, or is vaccinated, or lies repeatedly to gain attention. 

To the students of UA: You have a choice on March 8. Your vote matters and will shape the immediate future of this campus. These facts deserve to be known and duly considered when choosing the direction of this university.