Erick Erickson—the influential conservative blogger, Atlanta-area radio host, and Fox News talking head—published a curious claim on Twitter this past Monday, which marked the 74th anniversary of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s coordinated attack on Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor in 1941. “Growing up, I remember my parents never letting us have Asian food on December 7th,” he tweeted. “They were children of WWII.” He later noted that his sister remembered the same tradition.
Erickson’s tweet appeared to explain, in its nostalgia for an era when adults could express racial hatred without social reprobation, how the author came to embrace his own brand of fear-mongering about black people, Muslims, and Arabs. But it turns out there’s some disagreement within the Erickson household about Erickson, Jr.’s tale of boycotting Asian cuisine.
Erickson’s sister, a woman named Gretchen Erickson Barlow, immediately hung up when we called and asked if Erick Erickson was her brother, so we weren’t able to verify his account with her. But at least one of their parents was eager to debunk the story.
“I’ve never heard that before,” Erickson’s mother, Kathleen Erickson, told Gawker when we asked about Erickson’s statement in a telephone conversation this morning. After we read aloud her son’s tweet to her, she insisted, “Whatever you heard, I think that is completely your idea, I have never heard of that before. Somebody is making that up about my son.”
Her son’s claim, a similar version of which he tweeted five years ago, is additionally peculiar given that Ms. Erickson had not yet been born when Pearl Harbor was attacked, according to voting records listing the month and year of her birth. The same records show that her husband, Erick Garwood Erickson, was slightly over two years old in December 1941.
When we asked Ms. Erickson to clarify whether she considered herself and her husband “children of WWII,” the following conversation ensued:
Ms. Erickson: What do you think of Jesus Christ?
Gawker: What do I think of Jesus Christ? He is obviously an important figure in Christian theology.
Erickson: Jesus Christ is the Lord and Savior, Mr. Trotter. He is the King of Kings. And he is coming again. So I hope and pray that you are Christian, Mr. Trotter. I will add you to my prayer list. [Hangs up.]
When we called Ms. Erickson back to confirm that her son was the conservative media personality Erick Erickson, she responded: “My son Erick is a Christian, and I hope one day you can meet him.” (Public records indicate Erick Erickson has lived in the same household, and shared the same P.O. box, as Kathleen Erickson and Erick Garwood Erickson in Jackson, Louisiana, where Erickson was born in 1975. The younger Erickson has also stated he was named after his father. Finally, he and Ms. Erickson share the same middle name, Woods.)
Ms. Erickson added, “As far as Asian food, we love Asian food. As far as the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbor, I’m very grateful that many of the Japanese people became Christian. We know many people who are Japanese, they are a very nice people.”
“You sound like a real go-getter Mr. Trotter, and I am praying for you,” she continued. “Merry Christmas.” She then hung up a second time. Subsequent attempts to contact her husband at the same residence indicated that Gawker’s phone number had been blocked. A voicemail left using a different number was not immediately returned.
Erick Erickson did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Update, 3:10 p.m.: Erickson responded to this story on Twitter, where he argued that his mother simply didn’t remember her own family’s annual tradition of boycotting Asian food on December 7:
My 73 year old mother does not remember a 27 year old event, so it is a news story to attack me. At least the reporter was witnessed to.— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) December 9, 2015
However in 2012—three years ago—Erickson seemed to indicate that the tradition has persisted into the 21st century, at least for Japanese cuisine, and that one or both of his parents send him yearly reminders to observe it:
Just received my annual parental reminder that today's Pearl Harbor Day so I shouldn't eat Japanese food.— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) December 7, 2012
We’ve emailed Erickson for clarification and will update if we hear back.
Update, 4:45 p.m.: Erickson wrote a lengthier response for Independent Journal Review’s Opinion section, under the title “Twenty-Seven Years Later My Mother Must Answer For Her Crimes Against Humanity.” Here is an excerpt:
Gawker has decided that my mother must be held to account for her sins or, more precisely, because when they called she had no memory of the event, they used her to write a story on her son the liar. ...
That is age we live in. It was a funny event about which my sisters and I have laughed in the past. It was shared on Twitter and became more than it should have ever been. But it did so only because so many people on the left so politicize everything that all bounds of decency, including getting a stranger on the phone unsolicited and unexpected in order to get her to not remember an event so her son can be cast as a liar by her own indictment really does set a new standard for where the gutter is.
Erickson argues that his mother decided her family should boycott Asian cuisine on December 7 just one time, in 1988. Every other year, he writes, “My mom and dad both held to the tradition of avoiding Japanese food on Pearl Harbor Day.”