Fox News hosted Larry Pratt, the leader of far-right group Gun Owners of America, to defend actor Vince Vaughn's recent comments on the Second Amendment, even though Pratt has repeatedly said politicians who support gun safety laws should fear being shot.
In a recent interview with British GQ, Vaughn argued that the purpose of the Second Amendment is "to resist the supreme power of a corrupt and abusive government":
"I support people having a gun in public full stop, not just in your home. We don't have the right to bear arms because of burglars; we have the right to bear arms to resist the supreme power of a corrupt and abusive government. It's not about duck hunting; it's about the ability of the individual."
During a June 2 appearance on Fox & Friends, Pratt defended Vaughn's insurrectionist view of the Second Amendment, stating, "I think Vaughn's point really needs to be emphasized. The right to keep and bear arms is enshrined in our Constitution in order to protect the people's right to protect themselves from tyrannical government."
Fox & Friends hosted Pratt despite his long history of inflammatory commentary and radical interpretations of the Second Amendment. Notably, he has repeatedly stated that politicians who endorse gun violence prevention laws should fear being shot by GOA supporters. During a November 2014 interview, when Pratt was asked about his oft-made claim that politicians should have a "healthy fear" of being shot, he responded: "Sure, that is what the Second Amendment is all about."
Pratt, who is considered to be one of the founding members of the 1990s right-wing militia movement, has engaged in extremism on the gun issue for decades.
In 1996, Pratt was forced to leave the presidential campaign of Republican Pat Buchanan after The New York Times reported "that he had spoken at rallies held by leaders of the white supremacist and militia movements" and published articles about guns the magazine of a white supremacist group. The Boston Globe subsequently reported Pratt "had attended a 1992 conference of militant white supremacists in Colorado in the aftermath of the shootout with federal agents at Ruby Ridge, Idaho," whose attendees included the leader of the racist and anti-Semitic Christian Identity movement, a former KKK leader, and Aryan Nation officials. Pratt reportedly spoke out in favor of the creation of "armed militia" units at the meeting.
In the wake of the 1995 Oklahoma City Murrah Federal Building bombing, Pratt suggested that far-right anti-government extremist Timothy McVeigh was justified in carrying out the attack as a response to the government's conduct during the 1993 Waco standoff at the Branch Davidian compound. And in 2014, Pratt claimed that President Obama supports stronger gun laws to prevent Americans from using firearms "to keep people like him from becoming tyrants."
In addition, Pratt has proposed that the government itself stages violence and civil unrest. Appearing on right-wing conspiracy theory radio shows, Pratt suggested that the 2012 mass shootings in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater and at Sandy Hook Elementary School may have been government-staged events.
More recently, Pratt claimed it was "reasonable" to suspect that Obama orchestrated the civil unrest in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray, going on to argue that police should have shot and killed rioters to bring calm to the city.
Despite Pratt's history of extreme right-wing views, national news shows sometimes treat him as a credible source on gun violence in the wake of mass shooting tragedies. Over the year-and-a-half following Sandy Hook, Pratt made 13 appearances on evening and Sunday cable news programs, even appearing on Fox News Sunday to discuss the one year anniversary of the mass shooting.
His reputation also hasn't been enough to scare away GOP presidential candidates. In May, Senator Ted Cruz agreed to remotely address a town hall meeting hosted by GOA.
Despite his history of extremism, Pratt continues to make appearances on cable television to discuss gun issues. When asked why major media outlets continue to host Pratt, freelance reporter Alexander Zaitchik, who has extensively written about Pratt, explained in a video series on Pratt's role in the gun-rights movement, "I think a big part of it is just attention span... and historical memory is getting shorter and shorter," explaining that news outlets "seemed to think he was you know, springing up out of the ground and didn't have this long, multi-decade history of radicalism and extremism." According to Zaitchik, Pratt also moderates his message while appearing on national television, saving his more extreme commentary for the fringe right-wing radio shows he frequents.
The raucous political warfare of the 1990s returned into view late last week with the stunning news that former Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert is under indictment for allegedly agreeing to pay more than $3 million in hush money to cover up sexual abuse involving a male student at a high school where Hastert taught decades ago.
Hastert's unsettling case doesn't have anything to do with partisan politics, per se. But his rise to the speakership back in 1998 sure did. Like virtually everything else inside the Beltway at the time, Hastert's promotion revolved around the Republicans' relentless impeachment pursuit against President Bill Clinton. And today, Hastert's alleged crime once again throws into focus what a strange and hypocritical spectacle it was for GOP men to play sex cop and crusade for impeachment.
The impeachment of Bill Clinton defined American politics in the 1990s. It also defined the Beltway press, which still clings to many of the bad Clinton-related habits it formed that decade. The impeachment farce, where the press teamed up with Republicans to wage war on a Democrat, could also explain why the Clintons today might not fully trust the media as Hillary Clinton expands her presidential run and the press stands "primed" to take her down.
Why won't Hillary Clinton open up to the press? Why can't Bill and Hillary handle the media? Why has she "withdrawn into a gilded shell"? Why does she wear media "armor"? Those questions have been rehashed in recent months as journalists focus on themselves and what role they'll play in the unfolding nomination contest.
A suggestion: Follow the path back to Dennis Hastert's impeachment era for clues to those Clinton press questions.
During the 1990s, Hastert remained a firm advocate of impeachment, at one point condemning the president for his "inability to abide by the law." Hastert stressed, "The evidence in President Clinton's case is overwhelming that he has abused and violated the public trust."
Of course it was the impeachment imbroglio that elevated Hastert, indirectly, to his lofty position of speaker of the House; a position he later leveraged into millions by becoming a very wealthy lobbyist.
The background: Former Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich was forced to resign in 1998 after the impeachment-obsessed GOP faced disastrous midterm losses. (Gingrich later admitted he was engaged in an affair with a Congressional aide at the time.) Up next was Rep. Bob Livingston (R-LA), chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee. "One of the loudest of those calling for the House to impeach Clinton over an extra-marital affair," noted the National Journal, Livingston was soon ousted after he was forced to publicly confess to committing adultery "on occasion."
Into that void stepped Hastert.
That means all three Republican House leaders who pursued Clinton's impeachment have now confessed or been accused of sexual and moral transgressions themselves. Those were the people the D.C press took its cues from during the impeachment charade?
As Orin Kerr noted in the Washington Post following the Hastert indictment:
If I understand the history correctly, in the late 1990s, the President was impeached for lying about a sexual affair by a House of Representatives led by a man who was also then hiding a sexual affair, who was supposed to be replaced by another Congressman who stepped down when forced to reveal that he too was having a sexual affair, which led to the election of a new Speaker of the House who now has been indicted for lying about payments covering up his sexual contact with a boy.
While some in the press have conceded that the '90s impeachment was a strange circus, the truth is the Beltway press basically served as executive producers for the GOP's doomed theatrical run. It was the media elite who legitimized for years the right-wing's Javert-like pursuit of all things Clinton. "So much of the media was invested in breathless, often uncritical coverage of Clinton's impeachment," wrote Josh Marshall at Salon in 2002, while detailing the final release of the independent prosecutor's $70 million Clinton investigation.
Put another way, the same D.C. press corps that openly taunted the Clintons for years in the '90s, culminating with impeachment, is the same D.C. press corps that's now openly taunting them, for instance, regarding the Clinton Foundation, Hillary Clinton's emails, and anything/everything else that can be presented as a Clinton "scandal" story.
That's why when the New York Times story about Hillary Clinton's email account first broke in March, "The media and politicos and Twitterati immediately responded with all the measured cautious skepticism we've come to expect in response to any implication of a Clinton Scandal," noted Wonkette. "That is to say, none." And that's why Times columnist and chief Clinton sex chronicler Maureen Dowd has, to date, published 100 columns mentioning "Lewinsky."
More than twenty years ago, the Clintons understood that the so-called liberal media was working with conservative activists and Republican prosecutors to try to destroy Bill's presidency. For the GOP, the motivation was purely partisan. For the press, it seemed to be a mix of careerism (Clinton bashing proved to be good for business), combined with a genuine dislike of the Clintons.
Today, it's often difficult to recapture just how completely bonkers the D.C. media establishment went during the impeachment saga, and how on some days it seemed journalists were more pruriently obsessed with the Clintons than their tireless Republican tormentors. The recent Hastert sexual abuse allegation helps bring into focus the absurdity of the era, and reminds us why, as a new campaign season unfolds, the Clintons might not fully trust the Beltway media.
A new survey conducted by the Pew Research Center found that Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck's talk radio shows are more distrusted than trusted among three generations surveyed by Pew.
Pew surveyed millennials, Generation Xers, and baby boomers on political news sources and how each generation trusted them. The study published on June 1 found that "Four sources are distrusted more than trusted by all three: The Glenn Beck Program, The Rush Limbaugh Show, The Sean Hannity Show, and BuzzFeed." From Pew Research Center:
José Díaz-Balart, el presentador del programa dominical de Telemundo Enfoque, desafió la declaración del director ejecutivo de la Iniciativa Libre, Daniel Garza, de que la falta de liderazgo presidencial es culpable de que no se logre una reforma migratoria, recordándole a Garza y a la audiencia que son los Republicanos los que tienen el control del Congreso entero.
A pesar de que otros portavoces de la Iniciativa Libre -- organización financiada por los hermanos Koch -- han reconocido en el pasado la responsabilidad de los Republicanos de que no se logre una reforma migratoria integral, en la edición de Enfoque del 31 de mayo Garza decidió culpar "la incapacidad" de "cuajar lo que es una agrupación de gente que ya están de acuerdo en ciertas cosas". Agregó que la postura en inmigración de Hillary Clinton -- que calificó de "extrema" -- demostraba su "incapacidad de ser líder". Díaz-Balart interrumpió a Garza para decir que el otro lado también necesita trabajar y no solo hablar, refiriéndose al hecho de que los Republicanos tienen la mayoría tanto en el Senado como en la Cámara de Representantes.
De la edición del 31 de mayo de Enfoque:
DÍAZ-BALART: Ahora Dan, si hubiera en la cámara de representantes la voluntad política -- de nuevo, ahora, esa cámara de Representantes, y no solo la cámara de Representantes está en manos Republicanas, sino también el Senado -- si hubiera voluntad política, liderazgo político en esas Cámaras, hoy pudiera por lo menos haber una conversación, un primer paso hacia una reforma migratoria para que estas familias no sigan siendo separadas, y eso no está ocurriendo, Dan.
GARZA: No, no, por eso hay que proponer de que comience el debate y de que comience un nuevo esfuerzo para tratar de lograr una reforma...
DÍAZ-BALART: (interrumpe) ... ¡pero es que el mismo partido controla ambas Cámaras!
GARZA: Lo que pasa es que pueden hacer todas las promesas que quieran José. Lo que aquí importa es cumplir con esas promesas. Y ahora Hillary Clinton ha dicho, ha tomado una postura dice más extrema que aún los Demócratas porque ella quiere avanzar una reforma pero a su modo. Lo que pasa es esto: Hillary, puedes prometer todo lo que quieras, si no te mueves al centro para reconciliar esas diferencias nunca va a haber nada. Entonces, yo creo que esa incapacidad de hacer líder [sic], de persuadir a la gente, de yo creo, de cuajar lo que es una agrupación de gente que ya están de acuerdo en ciertas cosas, en ciertos aspectos de una reforma, eso hay que avanzar. Entonces lo que tiene que hacer el presidente, [es] no imponer su propia ley, o su propio capricho, sino trabajar con el otro lado opuesto para llegar a una acuerdo.
DÍAZ-BALART: Pero que el otro lado opuesto también trabaje, y que no diga y que no haga. Ese es el gran problema que ha habido en este país, que muchos hablan...
GARZA: (casi inaudible)... y hay que poner la presión de los dos lados.
DÍAZ-BALART: Dan Garza de la Iniciativa Libre y Alan Cisneros del Texas Organizing Project. Caballeros, gracias por estar conmigo este domingo.
Garza también minimizó la acción ejecutiva de Obama en inmigración, refiriéndose a ella como un "capricho" del presidente, ignorando el hecho de que una encuesta de Latino Decisions demuestra que un 89 por ciento de latinos apoya la acción del presidente, que tiene el potencial de beneficiar a millones de inmigrantes indocumentados concediéndoles un alivio temporal que los protegería de ser deportados.
Conservative media are praising actor Vince Vaughn for repeating a debunked right-wing talking point that falsely claims most mass shootings occur in "gun-free zones."
Vaughn is receiving widespread attention for an interview he gave to British GQ in which he advocated the carrying of guns in public and in schools, declared that the purpose of the Second Amendment is to defend against an "abusive government," and claimed that mass shootings have "only happened in places that don't allow guns."
According to Vaughn:
All these gun shootings that have gone down in America since 1950, only one or maybe two have happened in non-gun-free zones. Take mass shootings. They've only happened in places that don't allow guns. These people are sick in the head and are going to kill innocent people. They are looking to slaughter defenceless human beings. They do not want confrontation. In all of our schools it is illegal to have guns on campus, so again and again these guys go and shoot up these f***ing schools because they know there are no guns there. They are monsters killing six-year-olds.
Vaughn's claim, which suggests that possibly none but at most two mass shootings since 1950 have happened in a place where guns were allowed, is a variation on a claim about public mass shootings over the last half-century that was first made by discredited gun researcher John Lott.
José Díaz-Balart, the host of Telemundo's Sunday interview show Enfoque, challenged an assertion by the Libre Initiative's Daniel Garza that presidential lack of leadership is to blame for inaction on immigration, reminding Garza and viewers that Republicans control the entire Congress.
Even though other spokespersons for the Libre Initiative -- which receives funding from the conservative Koch brothers -- have previously acknowledged Republican responsibility for the lack of action on comprehensive immigration reform, on the May 31 broadcast of Enfoque, Garza chose to assign blame to "a lack of leadership" persuasive enough to bring together "a group of people that already agree on certain things." He added that Hillary Clinton's position on immigration -- which he called "extreme" -- showed her "inability to be a leader." Díaz-Balart interrupted Garza to say that the other side also needs to work, but "many only talk," referring to the fact that Republicans hold a majority in both the Senate and House of Representatives.
Translated from the May 31 edition of Telemundo's Enfoque,
DÍAZ-BALART: Now, Dan... If there was the political will in the House of Representatives - again, right now both the House and the Senate are controlled by Republicans - if there was political will, political leadership in both chambers, now we could at least have a conversation, a first step towards immigration reform so that families can stay together, and that isn't happening.
GARZA: No, no, that's why it's necessary to propose that a debate starts and that a new effort starts to try to accomplish reform...
DÍAZ-BALART: (interrupts) ... but the same political party controls both chambers!
GARZA: What's happening is that they can make all the promises they want Jose -- what really matters here is keeping those promises. Hillary Clinton has taken a position that is even more extreme than Democrats. She wants to advance reform, but on her own terms. What happens is this: Hillary, you can promise whatever you want but if you don't move to the center to reconcile differences, there's never going to be anything [reform-wise]. I think that that inability to be a leader, of persuading people, of consolidating a group of people that already agree on certain things in terms of a reform, that's what needs to be advanced. Therefore what the president has to do is not to impose his own law, his own whim, but work with the opposition to reach an agreement.
DÍAZ-BALART: But the other side also needs to work, and stop talking and not working. The big problem happening in this country is that many only talk and not work.
Garza also minimized Obama's executive action on immigration, referring to it as a "whim" and ignoring the fact that a poll by Latino Decisions showed that 89 percent of Latinos support the president's action, which could potentially benefit millions of undocumented immigrants by granting them temporary immunity from deportation.
The Associated Press violated its own guidelines for how to refer to transgender people in a voyeuristic report about former Olympian and reality television star Caitlyn Jenner's appearance on next month's cover of Vanity Fair.
On June 1, Vanity Fair released a preview of its July issue cover story, headlined, "Call Me Caitlyn." The story is Jenner's public debut as Caitlyn following a highly-watched television interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer in which Jenner, who still identified then as Bruce, announced that she is transgender and detailed her experiences hiding her gender identity while appearing on the popular reality show, "Keeping Up With The Kardashians." The Vanity Fair story says Caitlyn Jenner now wishes to be referred to as a woman.
In its report on the Vanity Fair cover, the Associated Press violated its own guidelines on how to report on transgender people, which state that trans people should be identified by their preferred pronouns. Instead, the AP story refers to Jenner as a male and calls her Bruce. The report also objectifies Jenner by describing her as wearing "va-va-voom fashion" and highlighting her "ample cleavage:"
Bruce Jenner made his debut as a transgender woman in a va-va-voom fashion in the July issue of Vanity Fair.
"Call me Caitlyn," declares a headline on the cover, with a photo of a long-haired Jenner in a strapless corset, legs crossed, sitting on a stool. The image was shot by famed celeb photographer Annie Leibovitz. Prior to the unveiling of Caitlyn, Jenner had said he prefers the pronoun "he," but Vanity Fair contributing editor Buzz Bissinger, who wrote the accompanying story, refers to "she."
Jenner debuted a new Twitter account as well with: "I'm so happy after such a long struggle to be living my true self. Welcome to the world Caitlyn. Can't wait for you to get to know her/me." In about 45 minutes, the account had more than 180,000 followers.
According to the magazine, which took to Twitter with the cover Monday, Jenner spoke emotionally about her gender journey: "If I was lying on my deathbed and I had kept this secret and never ever did anything about it, I would be lying there saying, 'You just blew your entire life.'"
In addition to the corset, Vanity Fair released a black-and-white video on the making of the cover. It shows Jenner getting her hair done and posing in a long, off-the-shoulder gown with ample cleavage. [emphasis added]
Media outlets are baselessly linking an increase in murders in Baltimore and other cities to "increased scrutiny" of police, without noting the legitimate reasons why such scrutiny of local police departments is needed.
Homicides have spiked in the last month in Baltimore, with 43 killings reported in May, the most in one month since 1971 and the highest monthly per capita rate on record, according to The Baltimore Sun. At the same time, arrests have plummeted, with a WBAL-TV investigation finding arrests have gone down 32 percent since the curfew was lifted, and the Sun reporting arrests in May this year were less than half the number in May last year.
Several right-wing media figures are attributing these numbers to increased scrutiny of police, and this narrative is seeping into mainstream coverage. On the June 1 edition of Fox & Friends, during an interview with author Kevin Jackson, co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle argued that "police are more concerned about their own well-being. They don't want to be arrested or persecuted for just putting on the blue every morning." She added that "when you have individuals like [Baltimore City State's Attorney] Marilyn Mosby going aggressively against the police," this "undermines the ability of law enforcement to keep people in the community safe," linking the increase in homicides to Mosby's decision to charge six Baltimore police officers in connection with the death of Freddie Gray.
On the May 31 edition of Fox & Friends Sunday, National Review Online contributor Heather Mac Donald similarly claimed the U.S. is "in the grips of a hysteria against cops," saying "cops have gotten the message that they should back off of policing." She faulted the "mainstream media, the university presidents talking about assaults on blacks and of course the president and former attorney general." Mac Donald, who has a history of deeply offensive commentary on race, was discussing her recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, in which she argued that the "most plausible explanation of the current surge in lawlessness is the intense agitation against American police departments over the past nine months."
The previous week, National Review editor Rich Lowry also advocated for increased incarceration in response to the spike in violence, and cited anonymous police officers who "say they feel that city authorities don't have their back, understandably enough when city leaders are loath to call rioters 'thugs.'"
And now the Associated Press is adopting the same language. In a May 31 report on Baltimore homicides, the AP stated that "Some attribute the drop [in arrests] to increased scrutiny of police following the April death of Freddie Gray from injuries received in police custody."
Aside from the obvious problem with this argument -- that there is no evidence these feelings attributed to the police have resulted in an increase in murders -- this coverage has also missed a significant reason why people have called for increased scrutiny of police officers since the deaths of men like Eric Garner, Walter Scott, and Freddie Gray: the fact that police killings and police brutality disproportionately affect people of color.
On May 30, the Washington Post released a study on police killings, which found that two-thirds of unarmed victims of police shootings were minorities, and "blacks were killed at three times the rate of whites or other minorities when adjusting by the population of the census tracts where the shootings occurred." Their figures represent far greater total than the FBI statistics on police killings, which are "widely considered to be misleading and inaccurate": FBI records show about 400 shootings per year, compared to 385 so far this year in the Post's data. Three of the 385 shootings the Post reported on resulted in the officer being charged, or less than one percent. And over the last several years, the Department of Justice has found that numerous local police departments have engaged in a "pattern or practice" of improper discrimination against residents of color, and have disproportionately targeted them for stops and arrests.
Faced with stark numbers like these, any media outlet should feel compelled to at least contextualize claims of a "hysteria against cops" with this evidence of disproportionate police violence against minorities.
Editors of the National Rifle Association's magazine, America's 1st Freedom, attacked a national plan to honor Hadiya Pendleton, the Chicago teenager whose 2013 shooting death made national headlines, and draw attention to all victims of gun violence, calling it "pointless."
June 2 will mark the country's first National Gun Violence Awareness Day. A national campaign organized by the Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund has asked Americans to wear the color orange to honor victims of gun violence. The "Wear Orange" campaign organizers say they hope to turn the color "into a symbol for the value of human life everywhere."
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, "Groups such as Amnesty International USA, MomsRising and Sandy Hook Promise; mayors from Chicago to Miami and Chapel Hill; and members of Congress representing states from Illinois to New York and California will be wearing or promoting orange on Tuesday. Media entities such as HBO and Essence Magazine are involved, with MTV and Motown Records planning to turn their logos orange." (Media Matters is also a partner organization.)
In a May 30 post in its digital magazine, America's 1st Freedom, the National Rifle Association attacked the campaign as "pointless" and said "participating is an easy way of scoring points for being 'socially conscious.'" The magazine also criticized celebrities Julianne Moore, Russell Simmons, and Michael Stipe for participating in National Gun Violence Awareness Day, writing, "It's a shame that quite a few presumably well-meaning celebrities are caught up in a thinly veiled anti-gun stunt orchestrated by Bloomberg and friends." (Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg is the founder of Everytown for Gun Safety.)
Sen. Lindsey Graham, who announced today he's running for president, has previously suggested he fears attacks from Fox News. Graham has attempted to placate the conservative network with nonstop appearances and praise of their coverage of issues like Benghazi and immigration reform.
Ryan Lizza reported in The New Yorker that during 2010 negotiations on a climate bill, Graham warned fellow senators "that they needed to get as far as they could in negotiating the bill 'before Fox News got wind of the fact that this was a serious process.'"
But, back in Washington, Graham warned Lieberman and Kerry that they needed to get as far as they could in negotiating the bill "before Fox News got wind of the fact that this was a serious process," one of the people involved in the negotiations said. "He would say, 'The second they focus on us, it's gonna be all cap-and-tax all the time, and it's gonna become just a disaster for me on the airwaves. We have to move this along as quickly as possible.' "
Graham later abandoned the efforts, which were heavily attacked by Fox, and said he did not believe human-caused emissions "are contributing overwhelmingly to global climate change."
In 2011, Graham told reporters that Fox News was making it difficult for him on immigration reform. He said: "When Fox News is saying 'amnesty' 24 hours a day, it makes it harder for me to get people on my side."
In 2013, however, Graham told the Wall Street Journal that Fox News chief Roger Ailes "supported fixing the broken immigration system and that his network was 'far more balanced' in covering the debate":
But Mr. Graham, an architect of last year's Senate immigration bill, said in an interview that the chief of Fox News supported fixing the broken immigration system and that his network was "far more balanced" in covering the debate than it had been during the 2006-2007 effort. Mr. Ailes has also been quoted on the record supporting the immigration overhaul, including its most contentious piece, a path to citizenship for those here illegally.
"I met with him at least three to four times in person and talked to him a lot," Mr. Graham said. He said he and others aggressively courted Mr. Ailes in hopes of toning down what Mr. Graham described as vocal opposition on Fox in the past. "People who observed the debate noticed that the tone was different and not so one-sided. It wasn't 'amnesty' every 15 minutes."
Graham has been a solid ally of Fox News' obsession with Benghazi. A 2014 Media Matters study found that Graham was the elected official interviewed most frequently on the network about the September 2011 attacks. Graham said in May 2013 of Fox's Benghazi coverage: "Thank God for Fox."
The senator has been a frequent presence on Fox News' evening and primetime programming and Fox News Sunday. Since President Obama's second inauguration to early April, Graham made 72 appearances, including 46 on Greta Van Susteren's program.