Timothy Johnson

Author ››› Timothy Johnson
  • NRA Once Again Uses Footage From Military Cemetery In Campaign Attack Ad

    VFW’s Response to Previous Ad: “Don't Use Our Dead To Score Political Points”

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    A new attack ad from the National Rifle Association targeting Florida Democratic Senate candidate Patrick Murphy features images of military graves at Alexandria National Cemetery.

    In a September 27 ad, the NRA attempts to link Murphy to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton over supposed malfeasance related to the 2012 terror attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. (Without evidence, the ad claims Clinton “lied” about the attacks.) Murphy is facing Republican Sen. Marco Rubio in the race.

    The ad features several shots of Alexandria National Cemetery that the NRA filmed for a previous attack ad. It is a violation of U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs policy to film political ads at national cemeteries.

    From the ad:

    The footage from the ad comes from a June ad in which the NRA attacked Clinton over Benghazi in support of Republican nominee Donald Trump, whom the gun group has endorsed.

    Media Matters identified the cemetery in that ad as Alexandria National Cemetery in Virginia. The cemetery, which is primarily made up of Civil War-era graves, is located near Old Town, Alexandria, which is home to the headquarters for NRA News and an office of Ackerman McQueen, the NRA’s ad firm.

    At the time, veterans groups slammed the NRA for using a military cemetery in an ad. A national spokesperson for Veterans of Foreign Wars told Media Matters, “Don’t use our dead to score political points. We fought for everybody’s First Amendment rights and everything, but we don’t want any candidate using our dead to score political points.”

    Jon Soltz, an Iraq War veteran and chairman of VoteVets.org, responded with a statement that said, "This ad should be taken down immediately. It is insensitive to those buried at the cemetery -- most, if not all, of whom died before Benghazi, and many of whom may not have been NRA supporters. Further, it violates Veterans Affairs policy. It should be taken down."

    And yet the NRA continues to use the footage in its attack ads. In contrast, several  organizations other than the NRA that had aired images and footage from national cemeteries in political ads either altered or removed them. In 1999, Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) presidential campaign aired an ad featuring unauthorized footage filmed at Arlington National Cemetery, and  the campaign admitted fault and recut the ad to remove the footage. More recently, Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) pulled a 2014 ad that was filmed at a North Dakota veterans cemetery.

  • VIDEO: Trump Backers Alex Jones And Roger Stone Humiliated Themselves During Their Debate Coverage

    Blog ››› ››› COLEMAN LOWNDES & TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Trump supporter Alex Jones and Trump adviser Roger Stone pushed bizarre conspiracy theories about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s health during Jones’ coverage of the first presidential debate.

    During the live-stream of the debate at Jones' Infowars.com, Jones and Stone told viewers that Clinton suffered a series of medical incidents before, during, and after the debate, even as the footage of the debate belied their claims.

    Jones, one of the founders of the 9/11 truther movement and America’s leading conspiracy theorist, has been at the forefront of pushing conspiracy theories about Clinton’s health that have spread to conservative media and in some cases been legitimized by mainstream outlets. Stone, a longtime Trump adviser, has claimed that Clinton suffers from amnesia and other serious medical conditions.

    Following the September 26 debate, political observers, focus groups, and scientific polls all concluded that with her confident performance, Clinton won a decisive victory over Republican nominee Donald Trump.

    But Stone, Jones, and other members of the Infowars.com broadcast team claimed that Clinton, suffering from an “advanced form of epilespy,” arrived in a “medical van,” that the debate started several minutes late because Clinton was having a “diaper change,” that Clinton was “hopped up” on “anti-seizure medication” causing her to “barely keep her eyes open” during the debate, and that after the debate Clinton could “barely walk” so she “immediately” left the stage to go on an “oxygen tank.” Infowars’ own live-stream of the debate contradicted these descriptions. For example, instead of leaving “immediately” following the debate, Clinton was seen on the Infowars stream talking and shaking hands on the stage.

    Clinton’s performance in the debate has left Clinton health conspiracy theorists scrambling. The morning after the debate, the Drudge Report published a video titled “HILLARY MORNING AFTER: Both hands on rail…” In the video, a smiling Clinton is seen briefly placing both of her hands on the railing of an airstair before removing her hands to gesture toward a member of the press as she ascends the stairs:

  • Debate Guide For Media On Trump And Gun Policy

    ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    While the issue of gun violence and gun policy was a common topic of discussion during the Democratic presidential primary debates, Republican nominee Donald Trump gave less than three minutes worth of answers on the issue across 12 GOP primary debates. But gun-related issues have caused several flashpoints throughout Trump’s campaign, including when he claimed that “Second Amendment people” could do something about the election of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

  • NRA’s Ted Nugent Promotes His Trump Campaign Ad Appearance By Comparing The Present To Revolutionary War Times

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent promoted his appearance in a campaign video for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump with a message claiming that politicians currently engage in the “very stuff our forefathers declared their independence from, fought a revolution over, died for and warned us against allowing.”

    Nugent appeared in a September 18 ad about hunting and the Second Amendment released by the Trump campaign where he claimed that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton “will destroy the freedom that is uniquely American.”

    In a September 21 post on his Facebook page promoting the video and urging people to vote for Trump, Nugent wrote, “The list of high crimes and misdemeanors professional politicians have committed against us is the very stuff our forefathers declared their independence from, fought a revolution over, died for and warned us against allowing”:

    Nugent has previously invoked revolutionary times to threaten political violence. During an appearance at a 2013 gun industry trade show, Nugent claimed the Obama administration "is attempting to re-implement the tyranny of King George" and that "if you want another Concord Bridge, I got some buddies." The Battle of Concord, one of the first battles of the Revolutionary War, was fought at the North Bridge in Concord, MA.

    That same year at a concert, Nugent said, “When the British came to take our guns we met them at Concord Bridge and we blew their fucking brains out ... 2013, happening all over again, we got to be ready.”

    Nugent has recently repeated a similar line at a July concert, saying, “I love when American shit-kickers hear that the British are coming to Concord Bridge to take away our guns, so we went to Concord Bridge and we shot the motherfuckers dead. So next time if any assholes try to come and try to take your guns, meet them at the bridge and shoot the motherfuckers dead. That’s what I said. I don't care who the fuck they are.”

    Earlier this year Nugent called for Clinton and President Obama to be hanged for treason.

    Nugent has a long history of making racist and other inflammatory commentary. In 2016 alone, Nugent has promoted anti-Semitic content, used a racial slur against a Latino critic, promoted misogynist reasons why guns are better than women, shared a racist meme advertising the fake moving company “2 niggers and a stolen truck,” and smeared Minnesota police shooting victim Philando Castile as a criminal. In 2015, Nugent devoted an entire column to praising the use of the word “nigger,” even in a racist context.

    In May, Nugent, who has endorsed Trump for president, promoted a fake video of Clinton being shot. In an August post on his Facebook page calling for people to vote for Trump, Nugent termed Clinton a “lying hypocrite bitch.” He has also called the former secretary of state a “toxic cunt.” In a viral 2007 concert video, an assault-rifle-wielding Nugent called Clinton a “worthless bitch” and said that she should ride on his machine gun.

  • Media Credulously Repeat NRA’s False Claim That Clinton Opposes Gun Ownership

    ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Media outlets reporting on the NRA’s new $5 million ad buy that claims Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton “could take away” your “right to self-defense” failed to hold the gun organization to account for the falsity of that claim. While media reporting on the ad repeated and gave credence to the NRA’s claims, they often failed to cite Clinton’s actual positions on gun regulation or mention the fact-checkers who have debunked a nearly identical NRA ad targeting Clinton as “false.”

  • Flashback: Trump Was Silent When The NRA Cased A Real Mall To Show How To Carry Out The “Perfect” Terrorist Attack

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump recently suggested that “freedom of the press” should be limited because of the existence of magazines that show terrorists how to build bombs, but had nothing to say in July when the NRA released a video in which they cased an Oklahoma mall to demonstrate how to carry out a successful terrorist attack.

    While discussing the weekend bombings in New Jersey and New York on Fox News, Trump made critical statements about “freedom of the press” and “freedom of expression,” claiming, “It’s called ‘freedom of the press,’ where you buy magazines and they tell you how to make these same bombs that I saw.” Trump added, “we should arrest the people that do that because they’re participating in crime”:

    The Huffington Post called Trump’s remarks “chilling” because of Trump’s “casual dismissal of ‘freedom of expression’ and ‘freedom of speech,’ bedrocks of American democracy, as potentially disposable in fighting terrorism.” Fusion also criticized Trump’s remarks, noting that they should be examined in the context of Trump’s widely panned past comments about wanting to “open” up libel laws to make it easier to sue journalists.

    Despite Trump’s recent comments connecting terrorism and "freedom of the press," Trump was not as critical in July when the National Rifle Association, which has endorsed Trump for president, released a video where an NRA employee cased a real shopping mall in Oklahoma to show how to carry out the “perfect” mass shooting terrorist attack.

    In the video, released as part of an online series, NRA News commentator Dom Raso warned of a hypothetical, forthcoming mass shooting at a shopping mall carried about by “a radical Islamic terrorist” who “is looking for gun-free zones in states and cities where politicians have reduced our Second Amendment freedoms.”

    Although there is no evidence that mass shooters choose their targets based on whether or not guns can be legally carried at those locations, the NRA attempted to illustrate its point by sending a member of its video crew to record cell phone video footage showing how to case a shopping mall.

    The NRA video blurred out some faces and store signs, but not others, making the mall identifiable as Penn Square Mall in Oklahoma City, OK, which is less than a mile from the offices of Ackerman McQueen, the NRA’s ad firm.

    As footage of the mall and shoppers was shown in the NRA video, Raso explained how to maximize casualties in a mass shooting incident, describing a would-be shooter’s planning, “As he walks through nearby shopping malls, he’s looking at the exits. He wants them to be few and far between -- hard to find in a panic, and easy to block. He wants lots of open area, high ground, and places to channelize people.”

  • NRA Ad Uses Home Invasion Footage To Lie And Fearmonger About Clinton And Guns

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    A new attack ad from the National Rifle Association (NRA) depicting a woman as a victim of a home invasion falsely claims Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton “could take away” your “right to self-defense.”

    The ad is false because Clinton has repeatedly said that she favors allowing law-abiding gun ownership and that she supports the Second Amendment while also calling for measures to prevent dangerous people from accessing weapons. Fact-checkers have ripped a previous false ad that claimed Clinton “doesn’t believe in your right to keep a gun at home for self-defense” and the false claim by Republican nominee Donald Trump that Clinton “wants to abolish the Second Amendment.”

    The NRA’s new September 19 ad depicts a woman being awoken in her home as a man kicks in her door. She begins to open a gun safe to retrieve a weapon but the gun vanishes into thin air as a narrator says, “Hillary Clinton could take away her right to self-defense”:

    NARRATOR: She’ll call 911. Average response time: 11 minutes. Too late. She keeps a firearm in this safe for protection, but Hillary Clinton could take away her right to self-defense. And with Supreme Court justices, Hillary can. Don’t let Hillary leave you protected with nothing but a phone.

    According to The Guardian, the ad is part of a $15 million effort by the NRA, which has endorsed Trump, to defeat Clinton. Federal Election Commission documents indicate that the NRA, through its Political Victory Fund and Institute for Legislative Action, has been the second biggest spender on independent expenditures opposing Clinton, only second to pro-Trump Super PAC Rebuilding America Now.

    The ad is premised on the lie that Clinton opposes gun ownership by law-abiding Americans. Clinton has never said she opposes gun ownership. In fact, Clinton’s campaign website says she “knows that gun ownership is part of the fabric of many law-abiding communities.”

    And in recent months Clinton has repeatedly said that legitimate Second Amendment rights should be protected while she advocated for expanding background checks on gun sales and other measures. She has also explained that you can call for stronger gun laws “and still support the right of people to own guns.” (According to PolitiFact, Clinton’s legal view of the Second Amendment appears similar to the Bush administration's position “recognizing the right but allowing reasonable curtailment.”)

    During her speech at the Democratic National Convention, Clinton said, “I’m not here to take away your guns. I just don’t want you to be shot by someone who shouldn’t have a gun in the first place.”

    In May, PolitiFact rated the claim Clinton “wants to abolish the Second Amendment” false, finding “no evidence of Clinton ever saying verbatim or suggesting explicitly that she wants to abolish the Second Amendment, and the bulk of Clinton’s comments suggest the opposite.”

    The previous NRA ad claiming Clinton “doesn’t believe in your right to keep a gun at home for self-defense,” which ran throughout August, was rated as false by PolitiFact North Carolina and The Washington Post Fact Checker, with PolitiFact noting “Clinton has never said that” and Glenn Kessler at the Post writing that the ad is “a classic example of a fear-mongering ad based on little evidence but leaps of logic.”

    The juxtaposition of images of a home invasion with false claims about a candidate’s record is a common tactic in NRA election ads. Earlier this month the NRA launched a home invasion-themed ad that used the same b-roll seen in the NRA’s new Clinton ad to falsely claim that Missouri Democratic Senate candidate Jason Kander “voted against your right” to “protect your home with a firearm.” (Kander, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, responded with a viral ad of his own showing him assembling a firearm blindfolded while talking about the need to protect Second Amendment rights while keeping guns away from terrorists.)

    In 2014, an NRA ad showed the same home invasion footage while claiming that then-Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu “voted to take away your gun rights.” In that ad, the NRA cited Landrieu’s vote in favor of expanding background checks on gun sales following the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting.

    PolitiFact rated the ad “pants on fire,” calling it “downright scary” and noting that it “can only be described as fear mongering.” The Washington Post’s Fact Checker similarly gave the ad “Four Pinocchios” -- its worst rating -- citing the “hyperbolic disconnect between the images on the screen and the practical impact of the law in question.”

  • New Trump Ad Features NRA Board Member Ted Nugent, Who Has Called For Clinton To Be Hanged

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    A new advertisement from Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign about hunting and the Second Amendment features National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent, who claims Hillary Clinton “will destroy the freedom that is uniquely American.” Earlier this year, Nugent called for Clinton to be hanged for treason.

    The eight-minute video features other conservative media figures including Fox News host Sean Hannity, frequent Fox News guest and Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, and Mark Geist, the co-author of 13 Hours, about the 2012 attacks on American diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya.

    Nugent has a long history of making racist and other inflammatory commentary. In 2016 alone, Nugent has promoted anti-Semitic content, used a racial slur against a Latino critic, promoted misogynist reasons why guns are better than women, shared a racist meme advertising the fake moving company “2 niggers and a stolen truck,” and smeared Minnesota police shooting victim Philando Castile as a criminal. In 2015, Nugent devoted an entire column to praising the use of the word “nigger,” even in a racist context.

    Nugent, who has endorsed Trump for president, this year has called for Clinton to be hanged for treason and promoted a fake video of her being shot. In an August post on his Facebook page calling for people to vote for Trump, Nugent termed Clinton a “lying hypocrite bitch.” He has also called the former secretary of state a “toxic cunt.” In a viral 2007 concert video, an assault-rifle-wielding Nugent called Clinton a “worthless bitch” and said that she should ride on his machine gun.

    In August, Bud Light pulled sponsorship of a Nugent concert following reporting from Media Matters about the beer company's association with Nugent. Nugent caused a national controversy in 2014 by campaigning with Texas Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott. Abbott was slammed -- including by fellow Republicans -- for the association after Nugent called President Obama a "subhuman mongrel."

    In Trump’s ad, Nugent says, “The Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, the Ten Commandments, the golden rule. We the people, choosing our own pursuit of happiness: It doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world. Hunting, fishing, trapping: We the people own these precious renewable natural resources. It’s a way of life, which is why conservation is the greatest success story in the world here in America. Hillary Clinton is against all these things. She will destroy the freedom that is uniquely American. Donald Trump will safeguard the things that make America the greatest place in the world.”

    Nugent is promoting the Trump ad on his Facebook page, just hours after claiming victims of a September 17 stabbing spree at a Minnesota mall are “pathetic” and “embarrassing” because they were unarmed.

    At the end of the ad, Trump says, “Political correctness, Hillary Clinton, and Washington insiders are trying to take away our Second Amendment rights and they’re really trying hard like never ever before. That’s wrong, and it won’t happen when I’m president. I will protect your rights. I will protect your Second Amendment.”

    Trump’s full ad:

  • NRA’s Ted Nugent: Victims Of Minnesota Stabbing Spree Were “Pathetic” And “Embarrassing” Because They Were Unarmed

    Nugent: “Apparently Most Americans Like Being Victims”

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent attacked victims of a stabbing spree at a Minnesota mall, calling them “so pathetic” and claiming, “Apparently most Americans like being victims as it is clear they are incapable of waking up to self defense 101.”

    During the evening of September 17, a man used a knife to attack shoppers at Crossroads Center, a mall in St. Cloud, MN. Nine victims received injuries that were weren't life-threatening before the perpetrator was fatally shot by an off-duty police officer. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack.

    Nugent reacted to the attack by writing on Facebook, “Unarmed & helpless is so pathetic. Apparently most Americans like being victims as it is clear they are incapable of waking up to self defense 101. Sad soulless & embarrassing”:

    In a October 2015 column at conspiracy website WorldNetDaily following a mass shooting at an Oregon community college, Nugent wrote that “losers" who don't carry a gun "get cut down by murderous maniacs like blind sheep to slaughter.” (Students on campus were actually armed at the time of the attack.)

    Nugent’s WND column appears to be defunct. In recent months he has been using his Facebook page to publish a series of columns in support of GOP nominee Donald Trump that all end with the statement, “Let’s make America great again. Vote Trump for president.”

  • NRA Claims NC Sen. Candidate "Opposed Your Right To Self-Defense" Because She Voted Against NRA's Pro-Domestic Abuser Bill

    Ross Voted Against Bill To Allow Domestic Abusers To Own Guns

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    A new attack ad from the National Rifle Association (NRA) against North Carolina Democratic Senate candidate Deborah Ross falsely claims Ross “opposed your right to self-defense” while serving as a member of North Carolina’s legislature.  

    But the vote cited by the NRA was not on legislation about the meaning of the “right to self-defense” -- in fact, the bill contained a provision to allow people subject to protective orders for domestic violence to own guns.

    On September 14, the NRA released an ad that claims that, while a member of North Carolina House of Representatives, “Ross voted against personal liberty. Ross voted for gun control. Ross opposed your right to self-defense.”

    According to The Charlotte Observer the ad is airing in Charlotte, Greensboro and Wilmington and the ad buy brings the total amount spent by the NRA in favor of Republican incumbent Sen. Richard Burr to $3 million.

    The NRA ad cites Ross’ 2011 vote against House Bill 650 to support its claim Ross “opposed your right to self-defense”:

    HB 650 was an omnibus bill strongly backed by the NRA that contained numerous provisions loosening North Carolina’s gun laws. The bill was signed into law by Republican Gov. Bev Perdue in June 2011. Among the bill’s provisions was a change to Chapter 50B of North Carolina’s domestic violence law. While before the law was enacted, people subject to a protective order because of domestic violence were prohibited from both owning and possessing firearms, the law was changed by HB650 to allow domestic abusers to own guns so long as they were not in the abuser’s possession -- a provision that allows abusers easier access to firearms.

    According to academic research, “domestic violence victims are five times more likely to be killed if their abuser has access to a gun.”

    Taking into account the other provisions of the bill -- which loosened rules on carrying guns in public buildings and on state property and made it easier for North Carolinians to buy guns across state lines and to buy machine-guns and silencers that are highly restricted under federal law -- voting against the legislation cannot be truthfully equated with opposing the right to self-defense. As it relates to firearms, the right to self-defense is presently described by the Supreme Court decision District of Columbia v. Heller to encapsulate the right of law-abiding people to have a gun in the home for the purpose of self-defense.

    Opposing the loosening of gun laws -- including making it easier for violent domestic abusers to access weapons -- does not mean opposing the core self-defense right defined by then-Justice Antonin Scalia in the conservative Heller decision. 

    Ross has responded to the ad with a statement that said it was being run “to distract from Sen. Burr’s reckless votes against a commonsense, bipartisan measure that would require dangerous criminals, domestic abusers, and the seriously mentally ill to get a background check before buying a gun at a gun show or online.”