National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent shared an open letter "to all the braindead hippie logic-challenged dipshits in the media" that mocked individuals with mental disabilities with the line, "Not every retard can read, but look at you go, little buddy."
In two weeks, Nugent will appear on Sarah Palin's Sportsman Channel show. Palin, who has a child with Down syndrome, has compared the use of the word "retard" to using racial slurs.
The National Down Syndrome Society "strongly condemns the use of the word 'retarded' in any derogatory context" because the term "is hurtful and suggests that people with disabilities are not competent."
An image posted to Facebook by Nugent on January 14 contained other offensive comments, including, "Look at you smiling at your phone, you crayon eating motherfucker," and suggested that a "retard" "lick[ed] windows" or "screw[ed] farm animals":
Fox News and other conservative media outlets are attacking gun safety group Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) by falsely claiming that the group insulted slain Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle. But CSGV did nothing of the sort. The attacks rely on blaming CSGV for statements made by commenters to its public Facebook page.
Kyle was a decorated veteran of the Iraq War who was well known for having 160 confirmed kills. In January 2013, Kyle published a book about his experiences, but was murdered just days later at a shooting range by a veteran allegedly suffering from PTSD. Kyle's life story has been turned into a movie, American Sniper.
During the January 13 edition of Fox & Friends, host Heather Nauert falsely claimed, "This morning the anti-gun group Coalition to Stop Gun Violence is blasting Kyle, inviting its Facebook users to trash the American hero." On-screen text included "Dishonoring A Hero" and "Anti-Gun Group Trashes Chris Kyle."
The January 13 edition of Fox & Friends First similarly claimed CSGV was "trashing Chris Kyle" and "taking swipes at the U.S. military's most lethal sniper," and later displayed a graphic asking, "Should This Group Be Trashing One Of Our Military Heroes Who Defended Our Freedom?"
The smear likely originated from a January 12 article at the conservative Washington Examiner that claims CSGV "is targeting Clint Eastwood's potential Oscar nominee 'American Sniper." As evidence, the Examiner links to an October 2, 2014, post by CSGV on its Facebook page that calls the upcoming movie an "Interesting project," while linking to a USAToday.com article about the film:
Reporter Emily Miller has claimed during recent appearances on Fox News that the United States has not been subject to terrorist shootings like the one at the office of French satire newspaper Charlie Hebdo because private gun ownership in the United States dissuades terrorists from launching attacks.
Miller, the chief investigative reporter for Washington, D.C.'s Fox affiliate WTTG, also pushed false information about gun violence, including the claim that "gun-free zones" attract mass killers and that civilians with concealed weapons have stopped mass shootings.
During the January 11 edition of Fox & Friends Sunday, Miller (the former senior opinion editor of the conservative Washington Times who also contributes columns to FoxNews.com) claimed the reason "terrorists don't come here is because of civilian's ownership" of firearms. Miller continued with the confounding argument that terrorists use bombs but not guns in the United States because of civilian gun ownership:
MILLER: They come here and they bomb us, unfortunately, which is horrible, but they're not coming here with guns because Americans can shoot back.
During a January 12 appearance on Fox & Friends, Miller added, "The Second Amendment is what keeps us safer from terrorist attacks because foreigners know we have guns." (Al Qaeda has actually encouraged its followers to exploit loose gun laws in the United States to get weapons without a background check.)
Miller offered a number of untrue claims about gun violence built upon her false premise that there is no civilian gun ownership in France during her Fox appearances.
Right-wing media figures illogically rushed to blame France's strict gun policies after three gunmen killed 12 people at the offices of satire newspaper Charlie Hebdo during a terrorist attack. In the United States, where gun laws are comparatively less restrictive, there is far more gun violence and public mass shootings happen with greater frequency.
On the January 7 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox News national security analyst KT McFarland said that one thing that stood out to her about the attack is "that in France they have a very strict gun control policy." Later on Fox's The Five, host Greg Gutfeld said the victims of the attack were "sitting ducks" because the country "has the most powerful gun control in the world, and nobody's armed." On Fox Business Network, Fox's senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano said, "One of the reasons these people are dead is because they were sitting ducks. One of the reasons they're sitting ducks is you can't carry a gun in Paris. This would not happen in New York City." On Twitter, frequent Fox guest Donald Trump wrote that the attack occurred "in one of the toughest gun control countries in the world."
Contrary to the impression given by conservative commentators, gun ownership is allowed in France, including the carrying of guns in public under extremely limited circumstances. Compared to the United States however, gun owners in France undergo a far more comprehensive licensing and screening process and are largely prohibited from owning semi-automatic weapons that are common in the United States.
PBS' Frontline documentary on the history of the National Rifle Association pushed the common media myth that the gun organization always wins and told the debunked story of how the NRA was supposedly responsible for the defeat of Al Gore in 2000.
On January 6, Frontline aired the hour-long feature Gunned Down: The Power Of The NRA, which was directed by filmmaker Michael Kirk. The documentary covered the history of the NRA from when the group began to become politicized in the 1960s through legislative efforts in 2013 following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Gunned Down overstates the ability of the NRA to influence election outcomes. The gun group's influence on federal gun legislation is often credited to the theory that politicians who oppose the NRA will be defeated when running for reelection. A statistical analysis of recent House and Senate races has disproven this notion. Still, mainstream news outlets often advance the myth of NRA electoral dominance.
Gunned Down repeatedly inflates the supposed strength of the gun group based on commentary from former NRA officials -- no current official would talk to Frontline -- and by citing what is considered conventional wisdom in Washington D.C.
While explaining the NRA's successful lobbying to defeat federal legislation to close the gun show loophole following the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High School, Gunned Down turned to a former NRA spokesperson who said of the NRA's membership "if it had one political trait, they vote, it's that simple. You are a politician, you want to get elected, you want votes, NRA has votes."
The NRA has often attempted to take credit for Al Gore's loss to George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential election. At the gun group's annual meeting in 2002, executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre told the crowd, "You are why Al Gore isn't in the White House."
Gunned Down gave baseless credence to these claims.
Right-wing media rushed to exploit the deadly terrorist attack on a French satirical newspaper in Paris, placing blame on Democrats and citing the tragedy to push for renewed surveillance of U.S. Muslims, discriminatory profiling, looser gun regulations, and stricter immigration laws.
The Washington Times attacked a program started by the Bush administration, which offers free gun locks to veterans, by conspiratorially suggesting that the program could be used to create a gun registry.
In a January 6 article, Times White House correspondent Dave Boyer wrote that the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) offer of free gun locks is "raising concerns about a government-run gun registry" because a letter received by veterans asks them to return "their name, address and number of guns in the home" if they would like gun locks.
The article quoted an anonymous veteran who suggested that the letter could represent evidence of "a gun registry in disguise." The source also told the Times that he feared the letter would spark "rumors" that "Big Brother is going to take [veterans'] guns away."
The free gun lock program that the Times is fearmongering about started in 2008, during the administration of President George W. Bush, according to NPR. The program was modeled after Project ChildSafe, which is a project of the gun industry trade group National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF). In 2009, the VA began to provide funding to NSSF, an ardent opponent of gun registries, to provide free gun locks to veterans.
According to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, "At least two studies have found that the risk of suicide increases in homes where guns are kept loaded and/or unlocked."
Right-wing media websites continued to undermine their credibility in 2014 by peddling a number of false, ridiculous, and bigoted smears. Here are the top smears from conservative websites The Daily Caller, Breitbart.com, and The Washington Free Beacon.
The research group whose misleading poll question was heavily touted by the media to suggest "growing public support for gun rights" has acknowledged that the question was flawed.
Last week, the Pew Research Center released the results of a survey that asked respondents whether it is more important to "control gun ownership" or to "protect the right of Americans to own guns." The poll showed increased support for the gun rights answer and a drop in support for regulating guns. The results were reported by numerous media outlets, especially by the conservative press.
But academics from the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research criticized the poll question in statements to Media Matters, saying that the query forces respondents to choose between two options that are not mutually exclusive and pointing out that polls consistently show broad public backing for specific gun regulations, such as expanding the background check system to make it more difficult for felons and the mentally ill to obtain weapons.
"Pew's question presents one side emphasizing the protection of individual rights versus restricting gun ownership. The question's implicit and incorrect assumption is that regulations of gun sales infringe on gun owners' rights and control their ability to own guns," the Center's director Daniel Webster explained. "The reality is that the vast majority of gun laws restrict the ability of criminals and other dangerous people to get guns and place minimal burdens on potential gun purchasers such as undergoing a background check. Such policies enjoy overwhelming public support."
Carroll Doherty, Pew's director of political research, has now reportedly "acknowledged the flaw" in the question. Mother Jones reported:
Carroll Doherty, PEW's director of political research, acknowledged the flaw. "Is it a perfect question? Probably not," he told Mother Jones. "This is in no way intended to say there's not support for background checks and some measures aimed at specific policies either [in Congress] or in the states. Mr. Webster is right to put it in context."
Doherty told Mother Jones that Pew "has asked that same question in surveys since 1993, with the aim of tracking general public sentiment on gun policy over time."
The National Rifle Association's news show Cam & Company hosted an attorney to attack as "frivolous" and "irresponsible" a lawsuit filed against NRA corporate donor Bushmaster for making the gun used in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
On December 13, several Newtown families sued Bushmaster under a "negligent entrustment" theory for the gun manufacturer's role in putting an assault weapon into the hands of a gunman who killed 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. The lawsuit also named Bushmaster's parent company, Remington Arms Company, as well as the seller and the distributor of the gun.
Steve Halbrook, an attorney who writes about the Second Amendment and other gun issues, joined Cam & Company on December 16 to repeatedly suggest that the lawsuit was "frivolous," call for the complaint to be dismissed, and argue that Bushmaster may be entitled to compensation for attorney's fees. Halbrook is also the author of a book that advances the ahistorical claim that gun restrictions were responsible for Hitler's rise to power and served as counsel for the NRA in the landmark Supreme Court case McDonald v. Chicago.)
During his appearance, Halbrook said that the plaintiffs -- who are family members of teachers and children who were killed at Newtown, as well as one survivor of the attack -- and their lawyers were "extremely irresponsible" to file the lawsuit.
Fox News used the Sydney, Australia hostage situation to question whether Australia's strict gun laws should be loosened, but offered no commentary on Pennsylvania's relatively looser gun laws in their reports the same day when a man went on a shooting rampage, killing six. Americans are murdered with guns at a rate more than ten times greater than Australians.
On December 15, Fox News heavily reported on a hostage situation in a Sydney, Australia chocolate shop. A man, who according to authorities had "a long history of violent crime, infatuation with extremism and mental instability," used a shotgun to hold café patrons hostage for 16 hours. After gunfire was heard police stormed the shop. The hostage-taker and two hostages were killed. One hostage was reportedly killed while trying to disarm the hostage-taker, while it is unclear if the other one was shot by the hostage taker or caught in the crossfire.
As Fox reported on developments out of Sydney, the conservative network also provided updates from Pennsylvania where Bradley William Stone allegedly went on a shooting rampage, killing his ex-wife and five of his former in-laws. One former in-law was wounded. Police are currently searching for Stone. (UPDATE: Stone has been found dead, reportedly of self-inflicted wounds.)
Tellingly, Fox News used the Sydney incident to raise questions about Australia's gun law system, while raising no such questions about looser gun laws in the United States during December 15 and December 16 mentions of the Pennsylvania spree killing on Fox programs Fox & Friends, Fox & Friends First, The Five, On the Record, America's News Headquarters, Special Report with Bret Baier, Shepard Smith Reporting, The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson, or America's Newsroom.
Conservative media had worked to cast Murthy as a radical for his uncontroversial stance that gun violence is a public health issue and criticized his supposed lack of qualifications.
The conservative media attacks against Murthy began in early March. Coverage of his nomination focused on his past acknowledgement that gun violence affects public health, which conservative media spun as evidence Murthy is obsessed with gun regulations. (Murthy has actually said his focus as Surgeon General will not be on gun violence, but rather obesity.)
Fox contributor Katie Pavlich claimed that Murthy is "rabidly anti-gun" and "must be stopped," and Fox & Friends co-host Peter Johnson, Jr. argued that, if confirmed as Surgeon General, Murthy would make the examining room about "about party registration or about gun registration" rather than medicine. Fox hosts also worked to downplay Murthy's considerable accomplishments and suggested that he was unqualified to be "our nation's doctor" because "he hasn't done much in his career yet," all while arguing he would turn the Surgeon General role "into a hyper-partisan position." These arguments became the basis for an extended smear campaign on Fox News and conservative blogs.
In fact, Murthy's stance on firearms is common within the medical community. The American Medical Association (AMA) agrees that gun violence "has reached epidemic proportions" and has argued that the medical profession carries an obligation to combat gun violence. The Institute of Medicine has also advocated for a "public health approach" to fight gun violence. Furthermore, Murthy's credentials were endorsed by a broad array of health care groups including the American Public Health Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, and Trust for America's Health.
Conservative activist Gavin Seim, the organizer of a December 13 protest against Washington state's new background check law, is an anti-government extremist who participated in the standoff at Cliven Bundy's Nevada ranch and defended the rancher's racist comments. He has also suggested a violent revolution may be necessary if he is not satisfied with the outcome of his protest.
Media outlets are heavily touting a poll from Pew Research Center supposedly showing "growing public support for gun rights," but Pew's polling question is flawed because it presents a false choice between regulating gun ownership and protecting gun rights. In response to the Pew poll, a prominent gun violence researcher said, "I could not think of a worse way to ask questions about public opinions about gun policies."
On December 10, Pew released the results of a periodic survey that asks respondents whether it is more important to "control gun ownership" or to "protect the right of Americans to own guns." Since January 2013, support for the gun rights answer is up seven points to 52 percent, while support for regulating guns has fallen five points to 46 percent.
According to experts, the question is flawed because respondents have to pick between support for gun regulation or gun rights, as if those premises were mutually exclusive.
Academics from a top gun violence research program are criticizing the wording of Pew's polling question. In a statement, Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, said, "I could not think of a worse way to ask questions about public opinions about gun policies."
The editorial board of the Reno Gazette-Journal concluded that a Nevada proposal to expand background checks on gun sales is unlikely to reduce gun violence, but their argument ignored how these measures stop dangerous individuals from obtaining guns.
On December 6, the Gazette-Journal published an editorial arguing that while the "sentiment" behind a likely 2016 initiative to expand criminal checks to most gun transfers in Nevada is "a good one," it would not prevent mass shootings like those in Aurora, CO, Newtown, CT, and Tucson, AZ and therefore "is unlikely to be effective" at reducing gun violence.
While the editorial focused heavily on the supposed non-effect of gun background checks in decreasing mass shootings, it glossed over the effectiveness of background checks in reducing the ability of violent criminals to obtain guns.
The primary purpose of a criminal background check on a gun sale is to stop people prohibited under federal or state law from obtaining firearms used in everyday gun violence. Since the early 1990s, the FBI-administered National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and state background checks systems have stopped more than two million gun sales to prohibited persons. Of more than one million federal denials processed by NICS since 1998, the majority of denials were for individuals convicted of felonies or serious misdemeanors. Status as a fugitive from justice or a having domestic violence conviction were the second and third most common reasons for a denial.