Fox News continued right-wing media attempts to dismiss the voices of the families of the Newtown, CT shooting victims, discounting their efforts to encourage Congress to pass stronger gun laws by suggesting that President Obama is "engineering them for political purposes" and "outright manipulating them."
Since the December 14 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, which left 26 people dead, family members of the victims have taken an outspoken role in pushing for tougher gun laws.
Following the tragedy, many of the families traveled to Hartford, Connecticut to help push for a tougher new state-level gun law that Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) recently signed into law. After Republican senators threatened to filibuster gun reform legislation, more than 30 families of Newtown victims released a statement criticizing the lawmakers. The families have also been lobbying lawmakers on Capitol Hill to push for new gun measures. The lobbying efforts of these families for stronger gun laws have been ongoing and effective.
This has led to an attempt by right-wing media figures to marginalize the Newtown families as little more than "props" being used by Obama and Democrats to strengthen gun laws. On April 9, Fox News White House reporter Ed Henry said the president "used the victims of the Newtown tragedy to make their case." That same day, Fox News host Mike Huckabee suggested that Obama bringing the families to Washington, DC on Air Force One to allow them to make their case for stronger gun laws was "an exploitation of those parents."
On April 10, Fox News host Sean Hannity accused Obama of "once again using families of tragedy as props for his agenda." On his April 11 radio program, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed that Obama was "using the Newtown families." On April 12, Rush Limbaugh accused Democrats of using the Newtown parents as "human shields."
Then, during the April 15 edition of America's Newsroom, guest co-host Gregg Jarrett continued the effort to marginalize the Newtown families, saying they are "still very, very emotionally vulnerable" and suggesting the president is "engineering them for political purposes" and is "outright manipulating them into taking a stand on a vital constitutional right." Jarrett also asked if the president is "exploiting this tragedy and the grieving families for political purposes."
Despite these efforts to paint the Newtown families as merely political props being exploited by Democrats and the president, the families have continued to push for stronger gun laws. On April 14, Francine Wheeler, the mother of a 6-year-old killed in the shooting, gave Obama's weekly address, in which she urged the Senate to pass gun reform legislation.
The National Rifle Association has released a new video that attempts to rebut a TV ad calling for stronger gun laws by pushing a false claim about that ad that originated in the right-wing media.
In March, several conservative media outlets including Fox News highlighted Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller's claim that ads released by Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) to promote expanding the background check system featured a man using unsafe gun handling. In particular, Miller and the right-wing media falsely claimed that the man's finger was on the trigger of the firearm.
The NRA used the same claims to undermine the ad in their own web video released April 15. According to the ad's narrator, "every gun owner watching probably noticed... the finger dangerously close to the trigger." The narrator suggests that this is not "responsible firearms handling."
From the April 12 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
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From the April 12 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Fox News is trying to shift the national conversation on public safety laws, pointing to recent mass shootings to question the effectiveness of expanding background checks on gun purchases. But Fox's criticism ignores several other mass shootings committed by people who bought weapons without undergoing background checks, as well as the significant gun violence that experts say background checks will prevent.
On Thursday, the Senate defeated a Republican filibuster threat against tougher gun laws on a vote of 68-31. The vote cleared the way for a full debate on gun safety measures, including expanded background checks, next week.
In response, Fox News ran a segment premised on the idea that background checks are largely unnecessary because they would not have prevented Adam Lanza and other recent mass shooters from acquiring the guns they used.
In fact, the loophole in federal law that allows prohibited persons to buy firearms without undergoing a background check has resulted in mass shootings. In October 2012, a shooting at a Wisconsin spa left three dead and four wounded. The Associated Press reported that the alleged shooter purchased a handgun from a private seller without a background check, and obtained the weapon two days after becoming the subject of a restraining order that required him to turn over all weapons to a county sheriff.
Other mass shootings in which shooters obtained their weapons from private individuals rather than licensed firearm dealers include the September 2011 shooting at a Nevada IHOP, which left 4 dead and 7 wounded, and the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School, which left 13 dead and 21 wounded.
Moreover, this criticism misses the point; while background checks will not prevent all gun violence, they will prevent a significant amount.
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."
From the April 11 edition of Cumulus Media Networks' The Mark Levin Show:
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CNN host Erin Burnett didn't ask NRA board member Ted Nugent a single question about his recent violent remarks concerning gun policy, which included doubling down on his previous claim that he would be "dead or in jail" if Obama was reelected.
Burnett hosted Nugent on the April 11 broadcast of her show Erin Burnett OutFront to discuss pending gun safety legislation.
At no point did Burnett ask Nugent about comments he made during an April 8 interview on NRA News, when he complained that not enough was done to stop Obama's reelection and asked, "When I kick the door down in the enemy's camp, would you help me shoot somebody?" Nugent clarified that his reference to shooting people was "a metaphor" and that he's "not recommending shooting anybody." He also doubled down on his claim last year that he would be "either dead or in jail" in a year if the president was reelected.
Nugent is not a credible voice in the gun policy debate, as evidenced by his long history of inflammatory rhetoric and misinformation about gun violence. Nevertheless, Burnett has attempted to mainstream Nugent before. In February, Burnett's show featured an interview with Nugent where he suggested the government could confiscate firearms, a conspiracy theory that Burnett and CNN reporter Deb Feyerick later treated as a serious argument.
During the April 11 interview, Burnett experienced some of Nugent's inflammatory rhetoric firsthand when Nugent asked Burnett if she would "support my recommendation that we arrest Eric Holder" in order to "stop gun trafficking."
From the April 11 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent will reportedly appear tonight on CNN's Erin Burnett OutFront to discuss firearm policy, despite his history of inflammatory rhetoric and misinformation about gun violence. In February, OutFront featured an interview with Nugent where he suggested the government could confiscate firearms, a conspiracy theory that host Erin Burnett and CNN reporter Deb Feyerick later treated as a serious argument.
Nugent's appearance comes just days after he doubled down on his infamous comments that he would be "dead or in jail" because of President Obama's gun policies. During that interview on NRA News, Nugent also complained that not enough was done to stop the reelection of Obama, asking, "When I kick the door down in the enemy's camp, would you help me shoot somebody?" Nugent clarified that his reference to shooting people was "a metaphor" and that he's "not recommending shooting anybody."
Nugent is not a credible figure in the debate over gun laws.
In a February 13 column for birther website WND, Nugent revived false reports to allege that the perpetrator of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre used handguns rather than an assault weapon during his attack. Nugent's claim was based on an erroneous news report often cited by individuals promoting the conspiracy theory that the mass shooting was a hoax. In that same column, Nugent also downplayed the damage done by assault weapons by falsely claiming the AR-15 has more in common with a "squirrel rifle" than a military assault rifle.
In addition to his long history of hateful rhetoric on the topic of race, Nugent has compared the alleged plight of gun owners to civil rights icon Rosa Parks and blamed gun violence on "leftist stooges." By contrast, Nugent has also compared Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder to serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer after they were chosen to lead the administration's gun violence prevention efforts. No stranger to violent rhetoric, Nugent claimed in January that 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."
From the April 11 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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With the U.S. Senate having voted to take up legislation to strengthen gun laws, which will likely include a bipartisan proposal to expand federal firearms background checks, Media Matters reviews myths the media has promoted about the background check system.
Conservatives have responded to the bipartisan Senate proposal to expand thebackground check system for firearms purchases with apocalyptic, conspiratorial, and absurd rhetoric.
On April 10, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) announced they had reached an agreement on an amendment that would require criminal and mental health background checks for those seeking to purchase firearms at gun shows and online. The proposal is likely to be added to legislation currently being debated in the Senate. Polls show that Americans overwhelmingly support requiring a background check for more gun buyers.
Right wing radio host Mark Levin compared the deal to policies that bring about "genocide," arguing that "the greatest inhumanities ever committed have been by centralized governments against their people."
From the April 10 edition of Cumulus Media's The Mark Levin Show:
I just want to remind you, ladies and gentlemen, that the greatest inhumanity -- the greatest inhumantity has been committed by centralized governments against their people. The greatest inhumanity ever committed has been by centralized government against their people. Whether we call it national socialism or communism or facsism, I just call it all statism to make it easy, borrowing from Aristotle to Reagan.
You and I can't commit genocide. You and I can't destroy a nation from within.
There are many sick people in this world. They're killers. They kill people. They'll be killing people today. They'll be killing people tonight. I wish it wasn't so, but it is so. There are many evil people on the face of this earth. The way we try to deal with them is through law enforcement. The way we try to deal with them is culling them out from the rest of society and punishing them.
But the more that we put down the law-abiding people, the more we herd and shepherd the law-abiding people, the more information we gather on the law-abiding people, put them in central government databases and all the rest, the more we're destroying our society.
We are free people. We are a good people. These politicians seek to define you and me, by the evil people. And so they project these images onto you and me, and then they try and pass laws to control us, and deny us of liberty.
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson claimed in a series of tweets that the mental health provisions in the agreement would allow a doctor to say someone was "crazy for believing in resurrected Jesus" which would lead to "liberal docs" barring the faithful from gun ownership.
Fox News host Eric Bolling argued that the deal was "knocking on the door to a national registry." In fact, creating a national registry is already illegal and the proposal reaffirms that illegal status andincreases the penalty for creating a registry.
As the Huffington Post reported, "In addition to a potential jail sentence of 15 years, officials who create a gun registry or misuse federal records on gun sales or ownership would face a monetary fine."
NRA News host Cam Edwards claimed that Buzzfeed promoted the views of Al Qaeda by reporting on a video of an Al Qaeda spokesperson encouraging terrorists to use gun shows to obtain weapons without a background check. This claim comes as a deal has reportedly been struck for legislation that would require a background check for all sales at gun shows.
Edwards also downplayed the well-documented patronage of gun shows by terrorists and other dangerous individuals.
On the April 10 edition of NRA News' Cam & Company, Edwards accused reporter Andrew Kaczynski of "approvingly citing Al Qaeda to bolster gun control arguments," and asked, "I wonder when Buzzfeed is going to start citing Al Qeada's pop culture criticism of the United States too?"
EDWARDS: So Buzzfeed's Andrew Kaczynski is now approvingly citing Al Qaeda to bolster gun control arguments. Remember the chairman of Buzzfeed has said I'm not going to give money to any Democrat candidates who don't vote for gun control. Kaczynski has a piece at Buzzfeed right now, "Even Al Qaeda Thought America's Gun Background Check System Was Weak." Right. I wonder when Buzzfeed is going to start citing Al Qeada's pop culture criticism of the United States too. Kaczynski gives this example of [American Al Qaeda spokesperson] Adam Gadahn who said back in 2011, "America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms. You can go down to a gun show at the local convention center and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle, without a background check, and most likely without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?" Now Al Qaeda was wrong about our gun laws. But hey, they actually repeated this, you know, President Obama made the same incorrect statement about fully automatic firearms. What the heck. Everybody gets it wrong I guess. It's just weird that Buzzfeed is like, "Well see look Al Qaeda said our gun laws are weak so we should totally change our gun laws." 17 Al Qaeda Cats.
Right-wing media are encouraging Republican senators to filibuster gun violence prevention legislation, continuing a long history of trying to influence GOP politics through recommended obstructionism.