Fox News figures are dismissing the voices of the families who suffered in a mass shooting in Newtown, CT by claiming they're being used and exploited by Democrats, discounting the efforts they have made to encourage Congress to pass stronger gun laws.
On April 11, the Senate overcame a Republican-led filibuster that tried to block the beginning of debate on stronger gun laws with a 68-31 vote. The impetus for the new gun proposals was driven by the December mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut that left 26 victims dead, most of them young children. President Obama had been urging Congress to act to strengthen guns laws in response to the shooting for some time.
According to several Fox News figures, Obama has been using the families of the Newtown shooting victims as props for a political agenda.
On April 11, Fox News host Sean Hannity called the effort to strengthen gun laws "naked exploitation of dead children and grieving families," while his guest Ann Coulter said that Democrats are "play[ing] with these victims." The previous night, Hannity stated that the president "is once again using families of tragedy as props for his agenda." Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade said on his April 11 radio show that Obama is "using the Newtown families to push for background checks." Fox News White House reporter Ed Henry similarly said on April 9 that "for the second straight day, the White House used the victims of the Newtown tragedy to make their case." On his April 9 radio show, Fox News host Mike Huckabee suggested that taking some of the relatives of the Newtown shooting victims to Washington, DC on Air Force One to make their case for stronger gun laws was "an exploitation of those parents."
Such an attitude does a disservice to the many Newtown families that want tougher gun laws in the wake of their tragedies. Several of the families appeared on CBS' 60 Minutes on April 7 to discuss what kind of gun violence prevention measures they would like to see signed into law, saying that universal background checks and a ban on high-capacity magazines were important. After the vote that broke the GOP's threatened filibuster, more than 30 families of Newtown victims released a statement criticizing those who tried block an up-or-down vote on new gun legislation, saying that "[t]he senators who have vowed to filibuster this bill should be ashamed of their attempt to silence efforts to prevent the next American tragedy."
Fox News used the supervised release of immigrants to fearmonger about public safety, ignoring the fact that the vast majority of released immigrants have no criminal conviction or that for those with aggravated felony convictions under immigration law can mean crimes that are neither aggravated nor considered a felony.
A Miami Herald article highlighting the release of immigrant detainees reported that 225 immigrants were released in the Miami deportation unit that includes Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands but remained under supervision.
Discussing the story on Fox News' Your World, host Neil Cavuto argued that the fact that some of the immigrants were considered "aggravated felons" contradicted the government's claim that no one released was dangerous. Conservative pundit Katie Pavlich of Townhall.com stated that the decision "shows a gross disregard for public safety," while falsely claiming that a third of the immigrants released had aggravated felony convictions.
In fact, as the Miami Herald reported, only two immigrants released in the Miami deportation unit had such convictions -- and the nature of their crimes was not divulged. Moreover, immigrants who have been convicted of such crimes are automatically subject to deportation, without a court hearing, and face the harshest penalties under immigration law -- which immigration experts argue are more severe than even criminal convictions.
As immigration expert David Leopold, General Council of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, explained to Media Matters, an aggravated felony under immigration law can include more than violent offenses like murder and sexual assault:
Determining whether a crime is an aggravated felony under the immigration law requires a confusing analysis of state and federal statutes and precedent court decisions. Some crimes, such as theft or assault, are considered aggravated felonies based of the length of the jail sentence imposed by a federal or state court -- even if the entire sentence is suspended.
Other crimes, such those involving fraud and deceit, are considered aggravated felonies if the amount of loss to the victim exceeds $10,000, whether or not the money has been paid back. A state controlled substance offense is considered an aggravated felony if it would be a felony under the federal law. States are sovereign political entities with their own set of civil and criminal laws.
Fox News continued to stoke fears that immigrants are a threat to public safety by advancing Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's argument that granting undocumented immigrants driver's licenses might endanger American citizens. Fox has repeatedly sought to equate immigrants with an increase in crime, even as experts argue that crime drops as immigration rises.
Discussing a lawsuit challenging Brewer's decision, Fox News anchor Uma Pemmaraju suggested on Happening Now that Brewer is right to deny undocumented immigrants driver's licenses because it could jeopardize public safety. Pemmaraju stated: "What about when she raises issues about the safety of the citizens -- the fact that we already have situations that threaten our people here? We don't need another added burden."
In fact, experts contend that licensing undocumented immigrants will do the exact opposite -- increase public safety and promote the rule of law since it would encourage people who would otherwise be on the road anyway to get the training needed to obtain the license.
In June 2012, the Obama administration announced it would grant "deferred action" to certain undocumented immigrants under 31, exempting them from deportation for a period renewable every two years. Those who qualify are eligible to obtain work permits and Social Security cards. Though they do not have full legal status, they are considered to be lawfully present in the United States under the program.
Two months later, Brewer issued an executive order denying driver's licenses and IDs to the undocumented youths, claiming that state law barred these immigrants from obtaining driver's licenses.
This action was unusual. According to the National Immigration Law Center, at least 38 states, including the District of Columbia, have announced they will issue or plan to issue licenses to undocumented immigrants who have deferred status. Only two -- Arizona and Nebraska -- have explicitly said they will deny them. A number of states have cited the benefit to public safety as reason to issue driver's licenses, saying it would promote the rule of law and cut down on traffic violations and unlicensed drivers.
Rush Limbaugh attacked the Violence Against Women Act, claiming it was legislation signed "under the guise that women are being beat to a pulp in this country" and a way of perpetuating the narrative that the GOP is waging a "war on women." But the act has been instrumental in fighting against domestic violence and sexual assault for nearly 20 years.
As President Obama signed VAWA on March 7, Limbaugh mocked the law on his radio program, saying it was pushed "under the guise that women are being beat to a pulp in this country because of the Republican war on women. Women are being beat up, they're being creamed, they're just being mistreated all over the place." Limbaugh went on to attack Obama for "praising the survivors. Women who have survived all of this hideous violence that's committed against and on them every day in this country":
But domestic violence is a serious issue, one that VAWA has provided effective tools in preventing and prosecuting. According to a 2010 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 18.3% of women were the victims of completed or attempted rape, 13% of women experienced sexual coercion, 27.2% of women experienced unwanted sexual contact, and more than one-third of women were the victims of rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner.
From the March 4 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
Loading the player reg...
From the February 6 edition of Fox News' The Five:
Loading the player reg...
From the February 4 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
Loading the player reg...
From the January 26 edition of SiriusXM's Media Matters Radio:
Loading the player reg...
Fox News invented a flip-flop by President Obama, contrasting the president's support for strengthening gun violence prevention laws with a position he took in 1999 on whether to try certain juveniles who committed a gun crime as an adult.
On Wednesday, Obama proposed mandatory criminal background checks for all gun sales; banning assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and possession of armor-piercing ammunition; calling for funding for research into gun violence and additional police officers on the streets and at schools; and improving mental health services.
On Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy and the Daily Caller's Vince Coglianese purported to contrast Obama's support for those measures with the fact that as an Illinois state senator in 1999, Obama voted "present" on a 1999 state law that provides for adult criminal prosecution of minors who were at least 15 and fired a gun near a school.
But there is no inconsistency between the two positions. None of Obama's proposals involve trying more juveniles as adults.
Furthermore, Obama did not oppose the bill because he opposed strengthening gun laws. Rather, he made clear during debate on the 1999 bill that he opposed the Illinois law because of a general objection to automatically treating juveniles as adults, and that the Illinois legislature had just reformed the juvenile justice code to limit how often juveniles were transferred to adult courts:
From the January 17 edition of Fox News' America Live:
Loading the player reg...
Fox News Sunday included as a featured guest Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, despite the history of inflammatory rhetoric and extremist links that Pratt and his organization are associated with.
The opening segment of the January 13 edition of Fox News Sunday featured Pratt and Neera Tanden of the Center for American Progress discussing issues of gun rights in the wake of the Newtown massacre. Pratt argued against banning weapons and expanding background checks, and he said that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was "not speaking from a constitutional perspective" when he said that Second Amendment rights are not unlimited.
While host Chris Wallace did confront Pratt about his comparison of President Obama to King George III, he made no mention of other, more extreme rhetoric and connections Pratt and his organization are linked to:
On January 11, Pratt said on a radio show that Obama should be impeached if he uses an executive order to restrict gun rights.
Pratt has also said that legislation denying firearms to the dangerously mentally ill was "a dictatorial power" that "they use[d] ... in Nazi Germany."
Pratt was removed as national co-chair of Pat Buchanan's 1996 presidential campaign after his associations with white supremacists were revealed. Pratt also served as a contributing editor of a publication described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as anti-Semitic.
On Fox & Friends, John Velleco, GOA's director of federal affairs, falsely claimed: "Every time a state tries to relax concealed carry laws, we hear the Chicken Littles of the world saying that blood is going to flow in the streets, and it just doesn't happen. In fact, crime doesn't go up, crime goes down, because criminals don't know who is carrying a firearm to defend themselves.
Velleco also suggested that gun owners should be allowed to carry their weapons at events where the president of the United States is speaking.
Michael Hammond, GOA's legislative counsel, warned that a "government psychiatrist" could determine who is allowed to possess a gun, citing the example of returning Iraq War veterans who are not allowed to have guns due to post-traumatic stress disorder.
A Wall Street Journal editorial scolds communities of color for protesting New York City police "stop-and-frisk" tactics, failing to mention that the police are changing this policy in response to successful challenges to its constitutionality. The WSJ also incorrectly claimed these warrantless street detentions have "a track record of saving lives and making ghettos safer" and falsely equated constitutional gun violence prevention strategies with unconstitutional search and seizure violations.
In the past decade, despite evidence of its inefficacy, the NYPD has dramatically increased stop-and-frisk, which overwhelmingly targets young men of color. Support for this police tactic is not strong, receiving the most significant opposition in the communities of color where it is most prevalent. Recent lawsuits alleging this police practice is not only impermissibly racially discriminatory, but also a systematic violation of the Fourth Amendment's prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures, are succeeding.
Nevertheless, the WSJ argued that black and Hispanic New Yorkers should be "thankful" that the police are targeting them for pat-downs without reasonable suspicion of illegal activity. From the editorial:
Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly credit "stop and frisk" police tactics with the drop in homicides, and rightly so, but it's worth noting that Gotham has a slew of Democrats running to succeed Mr. Bloomberg next year and promising to repeal "stop and frisk" if they're elected. The left claims to care so deeply about the welfare of minorities and the poor, yet they oppose policies that have a track record of saving lives and making ghettos safer for the mostly law-abiding people who live in them.
By the way, many of these same liberal opponents of "stop and frisk" support stricter gun control laws. But as commentator David Frum recently asked, how can you support gun control and oppose "stop-and-frisk"?
The WSJ does not cite evidence for its claim that the "drop in homicides" is due to the past decade's stop-and-frisk policing. In fact, the evidence does not support this much-repeated right-wing talking point. In addition to the NYPD admission that "nearly nine times out of ten" the individuals detained under the policy are innocent and that police discover "guns in only about one of every 666 stops--or 0.15 percent," claims that stop-and-frisk is responsible for the drop in homicide are spurious. As explained by The New York Times:
[Proponents of stop-and-frisk] applaud the mayor for inventing "a new statistic": 5,600 "fewer murders in the past decade" because of stop-and-frisk.
The mayor's math is certainly inventive, as well as deeply ahistoric. He takes the high point for homicides, which hovered around 2,200 in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Then he points to the number of homicides each year since he took office in 2002, which has hovered near 500, and claims 5,600 lives saved.
Where to begin?
The early 1990s represented a high-water mark for urban bloodshed. Boston, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, Richmond, Washington: all became caldrons of violence.
The wave of homicides subsided most substantially in New York, but violence slid in most cities. Smart policing helped a lot. So did the waning of the crack epidemic, the decline of drug turf wars, and tens of thousands of citizens who refused to stay locked in their homes.
New York experienced its sharpest drop before 2002, the year Mr. Bloomberg took office. Since then, homicides have fallen about 11 percent, while stop-and-frisks increased sevenfold.
The NYPD has already begun changing its stop-and-frisk policy in recognition of the increasingly successful challenges to its constitutionality. Although brief police detentions of individuals on the street are not automatically unconstitutional, in certifying a class action lawsuit against the NYPD's specific stop-and-frisk practices, a federal court warned the NYPD last summer that its use of the practice appeared to go far beyond what was constitutionally reasonable. Furthermore, on the same day the editorial page of the WSJ published support for stop-and-frisk, a federal court struck down part of it as unconstitutional, a major news story the WSJ covered in its straight news section:
In the first judicial rebuke of the city's stop-and-frisk practice, a federal judge ordered the New York Police Department to end what the ruling described as "unlawful trespass stops" outside some private buildings in the Bronx.
In her harshly worded ruling, the judge wrote that "while it may be difficult to say where, precisely, to draw the line between constitutional and unconstitutional police encounters, such a line exists, and the NYPD has systematically crossed it."
Finally, the WSJ recycled journalist David Frum's question, "How can you support gun control and oppose stop-and-frisk?"
The answer is simple. First, even if stop-and-frisk was an effective gun violence prevention measure, as right-wing media erroneously claim, it does not follow that it is a necessary tool to enforce gun laws. Second, as conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia concluded, "gun control" is constitutional. According to yesterday's federal district court ruling, NYPD's stop-and-frisk policy is not.
Fox News used debunked statistics to support its suggestion that guns may "deter more crimes than they cause." In fact, evidence shows that guns are involved in nearly 70 percent of homicides, but are rarely used successfully in self-defense.
In the weeks following the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, Fox News has repeatedly pushed the misleading claim that owning guns makes people safer.
On the Wednesday edition of Fox News' Happening Now, correspondent William La Jeunesse gave a report on gun violence and mass shootings. La Jeunesse began by saying, "America has a record-high number of guns, but a lower crime rate. So is it demographics, police work, or because guns deter more crimes than they cause?" La Jeunesse went on to claim that "Americans use guns every day to stop crime, up to 2.5 million times a year. ... Others lower that figure to 1 million."
But La Jeunesse's report is misleading. His figure of 2.5 million gun owners stopping crime annually has been debunked. This number comes from the discredited research of criminologist Gary Kleck. The director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, David Hemenway, concluded that Kleck's study was conducted with "serious methodological deficiencies" that led the self-defense figure to be "an enormous overestimate." In order for Kleck's figures to be correct, Hemenway wrote, victims of burglaries would had to have used guns in self-defense over 100 percent of the time.
Fox News has repeatedly hidden the danger of keeping guns in homes behind a handful of anecdotes about home owners who frightened off criminals with their own firearms. Research actually shows that guns kept in homes are far more likely to kill or injure those living there than deter crime.
On Monday's edition of America Live, host Megyn Kelly juxtaposed reports that the White House may push for laws to prevent gun violence with a story about a homeowner near Atlanta who successfully repelled a burglar with her gun. Kelly said that the home invasion "could have ended tragically for a family, but for the fact that the mother had a .38 revolver and knew how to use it."
As correspondent Mike Emanuel gave a report on the White House's interest in gun-violence legislation, text aired on-screen that read: "Mom's Shooting of Intruder Puts New Twist On Gun Control Debate."
On the December 5 edition of The Five, the co-hosts recited two stories of homeowners who had repelled invading criminals with firearms in the first five minutes of the show. Co-host Andrea Tantaros concluded that "burglars are less apt to break in if they think they might have their brains blown out."
Yet Fox's emphasis on these reports hides the fact that such successful self-defense stories are extremely rare. In a 2011 report summarizing scientific literature about the health risks and benefits of having a gun in the home, David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, found that one study in Atlanta determined victims of break-ins used firearms in self-defense 1.5 percent of the time. Hemenway cited a second study that found guns were used in self-defense by victims of sexual assault in fewer than 0.1 percent of incidents. He concluded that "genuine self-defense gun use is rare" and that "the evidence does not indicate that having a gun reduces the risk of being a victim of a crime or that having a gun reduces the risk of injury during the commission of a crime."
Conservative commentator and Fox guest Ann Coulter cited discredited gun researcher John Lott to falsely claim that concealed carry permits are the "one public policy" that reduces incidents of gun violence. In fact, experts say Lott's findings have little statistical support, and armed civilians have not successfully stopped mass public shootings.
On Hannity, Coulter claimed that if "you want to cut down on public shootings" and "if you care about children dying, if you care about innocent victims, you should be in favor of concealed carry." She cited research by Lott, claiming his study was the only "thorough examination of public multiple victim shootings" and proves concealed carry permits reduce shootings and casualties.
However, Lott is not a credible source for information on gun violence. He has been caught using fraudulent data in his concealed-carry studies, and his "more guns, less crime" hypothesis, which maintains that gun ownership helps reduce crime, has been characterized by a Stanford Law Review report as "without credible statistical support." Computer scientist Tim Lambert, discussing the Stanford Law Review report's findings, wrote that "if anything, concealed carry laws lead to more crime."
Indeed, a Mother Jones investigation could not identify a single mass public shooting in the past 30 years that was ended by an armed civilian, while economist Mark Duggan found that the rate of gun ownership "significantly positively" correlated with incidence of homicide.
Lott has also been caught modifying his research when his claims are called into dispute, and was the subject of an ethics inquiry after failing to produce evidence that he had actually conducted a 1997 survey. This has not stopped media figures from citing his claims, and he routinely makes media appearances to argue against the enactment of gun violence prevention measures.
Last month, Coulter responded to the mass shooting at a Newtown, CT, elementary school by calling for more concealed carry permits.