Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes equated New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo with arch-segregationist Bull Connor, distorting recent remarks by Cuomo to falsely suggest that the Democratic governor wants to "politically segregate the state."
Speaking with a reporter on January 17, Cuomo decried right-wing politicians who have opposed his policies in support of LGBT equality, abortion rights, and gun safety. Characterizing the Republican Party as riven by a schism between moderates and conservatives, Cuomo said that dynamic was playing out in New York:
The Republican Party candidates are running against the SAFE Act -- it was voted for by moderate Republicans who run the Senate! Their problem is not me and the Democrats; their problem is themselves. Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that's who they are and they're the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that's not who New Yorkers are.
While Cuomo explicitly referred to "Republican Party candidates" and said in the same interview that it's "fine" for people to disagree with him, right-wing commentators instantly mischaracterized the governor's comments to claim that he wished to rid the state of all conservatives. Starnes, in a January 20 FoxNews.com column titled "Governor Andrew 'Bull Connor' Cuomo," reacted with characteristic hyperbole and misinformation:
Get out of New York!
That's the message Empire State Governor Andrew Cuomo is sending to pro-life, pro-gun, pro-traditional marriage conservatives.
Take that in for just a moment. New York's Democratic governor believes people who are pro-life are extremists. Extremists.
Donald Trump? Not welcome. Cardinal Dolan -- you're outta here, pal. Cuomo just can't have those kind of people living on the streets of New York City.
When did Governor Cuomo become Bull Connor -- trying to politically segregate the state?
What's he going to do next, unleash the dogs and turn the hoses on conservative boys and girls?
Even yours truly, could be forced find a new place to live. I live among the intolerant liberal people of Brooklyn. I'm also a card-carrying member of the National Rifle Association and an evangelical Christian.
It's only a matter of time before the governor's foot soldiers knock on my door and give this gun-toting, Bible-clinging, son-of-a-Baptist the heave ho.
Starnes' column is merely the latest example of his willingness to make baseless claims of anti-Christian persecution in order to justify his own bigoted views. As Fox's in-house mouthpiece for anti-gay hate groups, Starnes views every gain for LGBT equality as an assault on religious liberty. He has claimed that "Christians are trading places with homosexuals" since the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." He has defended anti-LGBT business discrimination, writing that non-discrimination protections are efforts to replace "God's law" with "man's law." When the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Starnes tweeted, "Supreme Court overrules God" and predicted that it "[w]on't be long before they outlaw the Bible as hate speech."
Starnes' anti-Cuomo diatribe might be typical of his previous work, but equating the governor with Connor, the Birmingham Commissioner of Public Safety who sanctioned brutal attacks against civil rights activists and presided over "the most segregated city in America," marks a deplorable low for a reporter whose history of race-baiting exposes his own ugly bigotry.
From the January 16 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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Right-wing media are citing the claims of a high-level Mexican drug cartel figure, who faces life in prison for narcotrafficking, to advance its latest conspiracy theory about a failed federal law enforcement operation to stop the flow of guns into Mexico.
According to Vicente Zambada-Niebla, a high-level Sinaloa Cartel figure known as "El Vicentillo" who will soon face trial in Chicago, the purpose of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' (ATF) Operation Fast and Furious was to arm the Sinaloa Cartel so that it would have the firepower to destroy rival drug cartels. Zambada-Niebla's testimony is not credible for a number of reasons, the most glaring being that he was arrested in March 2009, more than six months before the ATF even conceived of Fast and Furious.
Despite this red flag, Zambada-Niebla's claims have been repeatedly promoted on the National Rifle Association's radio and television shows, by Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich, and throughout the fringe conservative blogosphere.
National Rifle Association board member and conservative columnist Ted Nugent compared film executive Harvey Weinstein, who is Jewish, to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels over Weinstein's plan to make an anti-NRA film.
Weinstein recently appeared on Howard Stern's radio show and announced he was planning to take the NRA "head on" with a new film project involving Meryl Streep.
Appearing on the National Rifle Association's news show Cam & Company on January 16, Nugent said viewers of Weinstein's film "will see that Joseph Goebbels and Saul Alinsky is alive in the form a fat punk named Harvey Weinstein and as he tries to destroy the NRA it will backfire on him."
Nugent also called Weinstein a "subhuman punk," a "brain-dead idiot," "a descendant of the ultimate putz," and added, "I don't know if Harvey Weinstein has had a lifetime of drug and substance abuse, but he certainly sounds like it. You have to be brain-dead to believe that the gun-free zones of Chicago and Nuremberg [Germany] in 1938 are a desirable condition." He concluded, "Harvey Weinstein is on the side of criminals. The NRA is on the side of innocent victims protecting themselves from criminals."
Fox News' defense of the gun lobby passed into the realm of fiction when host Martha MacCallum told viewers that what usually thwarts school shootings is "when there's a gun introduced into the situation." She followed up this myth with the long-debunked claim that the Holocaust could have been prevented if Hitler hadn't confiscated citizens' firearms.
On the January 16 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, MacCallum moderated a discussion between radio host Mike Slater and Fox contributor Jehmu Greene about a new anti-NRA film being produced by Harvey Weinstein.
During the segment, MacCallum broke into the debate to declare that "in most cases" the harm from mass shootings has been mitigated by adding more guns into the fray, saying the shootings generally end "when there's a gun introduced into the situation that stops [the shooters] from what they're doing."
MacCallum -- echoing a Washington Times column by senior opinion editor and pro-NRA activist Emily Miller -- later intimated that the Holocaust could have been prevented if the citizenry were armed, but "their guns were all confiscated under German law at the time."
Though MacCallum's statistic is clad as a statement of fact, it is anything but -- a study completed by Mother Jones found that "not one of 62 mass shootings in the United States over the last 30 years has been stopped" by an armed civilian.
National Rifle Association board member and conservative columnist Ted Nugent claimed that African-Americans must "admit to the self-inflicted destructo-derby they are waging" in order to honestly celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
Nugent, who recently became Outdoor Channel's spokesman, made this claim in his regular column for birther website WND. In a column titled, "What Would Dr. King Say About Black Culture?" Nugent sought to tie a viral video of a 2-year-old Omaha, Nebraska toddler being cursed at by adults to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, which is on January 20:
A truly disturbing and disgusting profanity-laced video of a 2-year-old little boy made national headlines recently after the Omaha Police Union posted the video on its website.
The street thugs who made the video and the little boy are black. This is important to note as the nation gets ready to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Jan. 20.
Nugent cited this single example of bad parenting as "the tip of the black gangster iceberg" and suggested that "[s]hould the boy ever be reunited with his family of gangsters, he will either end up in prison like his grandparents or dead like his dad."
New York Post state columnist Fred Dicker described the December 2012 mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 20 children and six educators as "a little convenient massacre" on his radio show Live from the State Capitol.
On the January 13 edition of his radio show, broadcast on Talk AM 1300 in the Albany, New York, area, Dicker claimed that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had "promised" not to support stronger gun laws "but then he had a little convenient massacre that went on in Newtown, Connecticut, and all of a sudden there was an opportunity for him." In January 2013, New York enacted a comprehensive gun safety package that Cuomo described as "the toughest gun laws in the nation."
News of Dicker's comment was first reported by New York Daily News, but did not include the audio of the remark which can be heard here:
January 14 kicks off a four-day gun industry trade show that gathers firearms industry professionals from around the country to unveil new weaponry and stand against the regulation of firearms.
The 2014 Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT Show), put on by the gun industry lobby group National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), is billed as "the largest and most comprehensive trade show for all professionals involved with the shooting sports, hunting and law enforcement industries" and is held at the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The NSSF promises nearly 11 football fields of exhibition space at the 36th annual SHOT Show for an expected crowd of 60,000 gun industry professionals. Because it is a trade show, the event is closed to the general public, although 2,500 members of media -- many affiliated with outdoor and gun publications -- are expected to attend. The estimated 1,600 exhibitors will represent every facet of the gun industry, although a list of exhibitors suggests like in past years the event will heavily promote an array of assault rifles, tactical shotguns, and pistols with high-capacity magazines. The trade show will be capped by a speech from NSSF President and CEO Steve Sanetti on the gun industry's "year of resiliency" in 2013, presumably a nod to backlash against the gun industry following the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.
While the National Rifle Association's annual meeting typically draws more media scrutiny compared to SHOT Show, both events are important to understanding the direction and goals of the gun industry. Here are five facts about this year's SHOT Show:
Daily segments on NRA News that push the false claim that guns are more likely to be used in self-defense than to commit a crime recently celebrated the actions of a shooter who police want charged with a felony and the case of a man whose murder conviction for shooting his tenant under disputed circumstances was recently overturned.
"The Armed Citizen File" and "Hero of the Day" are daily features on NRA News' televised show on The Sportsman Channel and radio show on SiriusXM, respectively. In both segments, host Cam Edwards shares media accounts of defensive gun use, which often conclude with the demise of alleged criminals. Online gun retailer ChaperThanDirt.com sponsors "The Armed Citizen File" segment.
NRA News host Cam Edwards attacked laws to prevent children from accessing guns by positing that there should be no criminal penalty even when an admittedly careless adult allows a child access to a gun that the child then uses to kill themselves.
On the January 6 edition of NRA News program Cam & Company, Edwards attacked Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America founder Shannon Watts for advocating for state laws that create a criminal penalty for adults that negligently allow children access to firearms. In an interview with USA Today, Watts cited the fact that only 15 states have child access prevention laws and contended, "This idea that a shooting that involves a toddler is accidental is asinine. If I was drinking and driving and hit my son, I would immediately go to jail. But if I left my firearm on the top of the refrigerator and he found it and shot himself, everyone says, what a horrible accident."
Edwards responded to Watts' USA Today interview by suggesting that if "you are careless with a firearm and one of your own children accidentally kills themself" that the "horror" of the incident alone would be sufficient punishment for the adult. But in arguing against laws that criminalize negligently allowing children to access guns, Edwards ignores that research has shown that these laws are associated with a reduction in gun deaths among children resulting from accidents and suicide.
Someone alert Bill O'Reilly, Matt Drudge, Michelle Malkin and the rest of the right-wing media team that spent last year alternately belittling and hysterically hyping Chicago crime: their argument just fell apart.
Conservatives, led by O'Reilly, Drudge, and Malkin, callously used Chicago crime to attack President Obama and push back against his support for stronger gun laws. Pointing out that Obama's hometown is Chicago and his former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, is the city's mayor, they frequently highlighted the fact that the city struggled with well-publicized gang shootings despite some of the tightest laws in the country. The right tagged Chicago as a gun control test case and deemed it a miserable failure. (Fox contributor Katie Pavlich: "Slaughter in Gun Control Chicago")
O'Reilly has alternately compared Chicago's murder rate to "many Holocausts," and "Afghanistan." The Drudge Report linked to 134 "CHICAGOLAND" crime headlines last year, all meant to convey the image of a lawless city on the verge of bloody collapse. And Malkin let loose with her usual invective, denouncing Chicago as one of many Democratic-run "hellholes"; urban centers teeming with "juvenile delinquency, organized crime, ruinous government dependency, corruption and out-of-control spending."
Conservative conspiracists such as Rush Limbaugh even claimed Democratic politicians want the city's murder rate to remain high so they can use the killings to advocate for stronger gun laws. It's all part of a larger conservative media movement to portray Obama's former hometown as being driven under by murder and violence. They seem to want the city to become a symbol of doom and "urban decay," just as conservative pundits have enjoyed mocking Detroit's tough times.
It was also part of a larger, racially-tinged and hollow attempt in the wake of the Trayvon Martin trial to accuse Obama of ignoring crime, which according to the conservative media telling is raging out of control. (It's not; it remains on a steady decline.)
But suddenly the Chicago taunts have gone quiet. Suddenly the claims that strict gun laws are useless and that Democratic mayors oversee killings zones have disappeared. No more "CHICAGO LAND" links or cries of "Holocaust," and Malkin has for now stopped referring to Chicago as "America's Bloody City."
Why? Because even world-class misinformers like those would have a tough time making a case against "Obama's Chicago," given the fact that the murder rate there last year fell to its lowest level since Lyndon Johnson was president, while the booming metropolis welcomed a record number of 46 million tourists last year.
That's right, despite the endless right-wing attacks on Chicago and the permanent conservative depiction of the Second City as a hell hole, Chicago last year experienced the fewest murders since 1965; 413 in 2013. (Context: Chicago at its worst tallied 943 murders in 1992.) The city's overall crime rate in last year fell to a level not seen since 1972, and every one of the Chicago's 22 police districts registered a decrease in crime last year.
"The drop is legitimately stunning," noted The Atlantic's Philip Bump.
The Outdoor Channel announced the "expansion of its strategic partnership with the National Rifle Association" and a new "multi-year talent and endorsement agreement" with inflammatory NRA board member and conservative columnist Ted Nugent, pointing to the network's effort to eclipse its competitors as the channel of choice for the gun lobby and firearms enthusiasts.
Outdoor Channel announced an expansion of its relationship with the NRA including two new NRA shows to air on Outdoor Channel and sponsorship of the NRA's 2014 annual meeting in a January 6 press release. The new programs include NRA All Access presented by Taurus, which promises to "take a comprehensive look at the role the NRA plays in important Second Amendment issues and the outdoor lifestyle." NRA News' Cam & Company currently airs on rival network The Sportsman Channel, which recently announced an upcoming show to be hosted by former Alaska Governor and current Fox News contributor Sarah Palin.
In a separate press release Outdoor Channel, which has long aired Nugent's hunting show Spirit of the Wild, said that Nugent will work on behalf of the network "through traditional, digital and social media promotional initiatives, in addition to making talent appearances on the network's behalf at top consumer and industry trade events" and also announced a weekly podcast featuring Nugent.
Nugent will represent Outdoor Channel at the 2014 Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT Show) in January, the largest gun industry annual gathering, and at the NRA's new Great American Outdoor Show. At last year's SHOT Show, Nugent created controversy by suggesting that it was time to violently overthrow the federal government because of an attempt to re-implement "tyranny" by the Obama administration.
Outdoor Channel President and CEO Jim Liberatore heaped praise on Nugent's character in his channel's statement, claiming that the NRA board member "symbolizes everything that is right in our industry":
"Ted Nugent symbolizes everything that is right in our industry and represents our viewers as an outspoken patriot, a skilled outdoorsman and a devoted family man; we are proud that he can be found exclusively on Outdoor Channel," said Jim Liberatore, President and CEO of Outdoor Channel. "His programs have a powerful, zealous fan base with unmatched engagement levels. And, under this agreement, we will join forces with Ted to become advocates for all enthusiasts who love and live in the outdoors."
The recent firing of a prominent gun journalist for publishing a column arguing that gun ownership is subject to at least some regulation is representative of a firearm publication industry norm where gun makers exercise editorial control over publications, The New York Times reports.
In a January 4 article, Times reporter Ravi Somaiya reports on the circumstances surrounding Dick Metcalf's firing from Guns & Ammo magazine. Metcalf authored a column for the December 2013 edition of Guns & Ammo that stated, "[W]ay too many gun owners still seem to believe that any regulation of the right to keep and bear arms is an infringement. The fact is, all constitutional rights are regulated, always have been, and need to be." Following outrage from the gun rights community, Metcalf was fired and Guns & Ammo editor Jim Bequette, who had approved the column for publication, apologized to readers and announced his own resignation.
According to the Times, Metcalf -- who also faced death threats and had his television show cancelled -- lost his job after "two major gun manufacturers" told his editor "in no uncertain terms" that they would no longer do business with Guns & Ammo publisher InterMedia Outdoors (IMO) if Metcalf continued to work at the publication. IMO is the publisher of 15 sportsman themed magazines and owns The Sportsman Channel which is known for its Ted Nugent hunting specials and airing of the National Rifle Association's daily news show.
In his Times article, Somaiya also interviewed several former and current editors of Guns & Ammo who explained that gun publications will often cede editorial control to gun manufacturers who buy advertisements. While claiming Guns & Ammo has editorial independence, Garry James, a current senior editor, nonetheless told the Times, "advertisers obviously always have power, and you always feel some pressure."
Viewing gun rights as under attack after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, the National Rifle Association and its backers in conservative media spent 2013 using inflammatory rhetoric to attack critics and promote an uncompromising pro-gun agenda.
Both the NRA and its conservative media allies frequently attempted to draw modern-day parallels between Adolf Hitler's murder of millions during the Holocaust and the Obama administration's post-Newtown proposal to advance gun safety. One ugly event at the NRA's annual meeting saw the NRA's main political opponent illustrated as a Nazi, leading to condemnation from Jewish organizations.
Even victims of gun violence and the families of those killed at Sandy Hook could not escape the wrath of right-wing media, who insultingly called them "props" of the Obama administration, as if they were unable to think for themselves. The NRA similarly politicized the armed protection of President Obama's daughters in a widely criticized TV spot.
Ted Nugent, perhaps the best known member of NRA leadership, turned heads when he dubbed Trayvon Martin a "dope smoking, racist gangsta wannabe" after the deceased Florida teenager's killer was acquitted. Even given his past racially inflammatory rhetoric, Nugent shocked many by piling on his Martin comment with a weeks-long tirade in which he endorsed racial profiling and claimed that the African-American community has a "mindless tendency to violence." The NRA declined to comment.
The year also featured a number of bizarre claims from the NRA, including the host of an NRA-produced television show comparing critics of his elephant hunting to Hitler, NRA head Wayne LaPierre's claim that gun ownership was essential to "survival," and NRA past-president Marion Hammer's comparison of an assault weapons ban to racial discrimination.
What follows are 12 lowlights from a year punctuated by extreme NRA rhetoric:
From the December 27 edition of CNN's CNN Newsroom: