Conservative media are freaking out after Jay Leno canceled an upcoming gig at the gun industry's 2015 trade show, the National Shooting Sports Foundation's (NSSF) SHOT Show, calling the comedian a "coward" who has "no spine." The NSSF had responded to the deadly 2012 school shooting in the association's hometown of Newtown, CT, by opposing all proposed gun safety measures.
Conservative media outlets are misleadingly promoting the report that a Washington state museum will return some firearms on display to their owners following the passage of a new background check initiative, while ignoring statements from law enforcement that there is no legal reason to remove the guns.
On November 4, a majority of Washington voters passed Initiative 594, a proposal to require a background check on nearly all gun sales in the state, with some exceptions for temporary transfers and transfers between family members.
In response to the new law, which takes effect December 4, the Lynden Pioneer Museum released a statement claiming, "we have to return some unique WW2 era firearms to their owners on Dec 3rd" because "as of Dec 4th, we would be in violation of the law if we had loaned firearms that had not undergone the background check procedure."
The museum is misreading I-594. The law is not retroactive, so the museum is not required to take any action when I-594 becomes law. Furthermore, the founder of the Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum told the Associated Press that it was unlikely a museum returning a loaned firearm to its owner would require a background check either:
Seattle police officer James Ritter, who founded the Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum, said he doubted that returning a gun to its rightful owner would be considered a "transfer" under the law. Regardless, he said it was exceptionally unlikely that investigators would target museum exhibits for prosecution.
Fox News Radio host Alan Colmes confronted Gun Owners of America (GOA) executive director Larry Pratt with several of Pratt's inflammatory comments. Media outlets frequently give Pratt a platform to push for weaker gun laws without pressing him on his extremist views.
Pratt, whose GOA group is considered to the right of the National Rifle Association, is one of the founding members of the 1990s militia movement and has had past associations with white supremacists. He often appears on fringe right-wing radio shows to offer incendiary commentary, recently stating that Obama supports stronger gun laws to keep Americans from using firearms "to keep people like him from becoming tyrants."
But Alan Colmes provided a textbook case of how interviewers should handle Pratt during a November 18 interview on his radio show, forcing the gun activist to address and expound on past comments suggesting politicians should fear being shot by GOA supporters and that President Obama may foment a race war.
Gun Owners of America executive director Larry Pratt said in an interview that President Obama "clearly doesn't like the fact that the American people can own guns because we might just want to use them to keep people like him from becoming tyrants."
Pratt, who heads a gun rights group considered to the right of even the National Rifle Association, made the comment during a November 17 appearance on Newsmax TV's America's Forum. He also bragged that his group was responsible for the 2013 defeat of a U.S. Senate bill to expand background checks on gun sales.
The latest inflammatory remark from Pratt comes hours after the release of a video project by The American Independent Institute (TAII) and gun safety group Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) on the state of the gun lobby that discusses how media turn to Pratt for commentary on the gun issue, often while ignoring his lengthy history of extremism and past association with white supremacists.
Pratt's claim on America's Forum came during a discussion of the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). The purpose of the treaty is to prevent the transfer of arms to human rights abusers and it would have no impact on domestic gun laws. Nonetheless, GOA, the NRA, and conservative media often advance the conspiracy theory that the ATT will be used by international entities to register or even confiscate privately held guns in the United States.
While the Senate has thus far refused to ratify the ATT -- as it has been dogged by right-wing conspiracy theories -- Pratt suggested that Obama would use "international community agreement" to unilaterally enact the provisions of the ATT. According to Pratt, Obama's motivation for this extra-constitutional action would be "because he clearly doesn't like the fact that the American people can own guns because we might just want to use them to keep people like him from becoming tyrants."
The media's short "attention span" has given Gun Owners of America executive director Larry Pratt access to a mainstream television audience despite his "long, multi-decade history of radicalism and extremism," according to journalist Alexander Zaitchik, who recently profiled Pratt for RollingStone.com.
Zaitchik discussed his investigation in a three-part series of videos chronicling the state of the pro-gun movement produced by The American Independent Institute (TAII), which funded Zaitchik's profile, and the gun safety group Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV).
In part one, released on November 12, Zaitchik and CSGV executive director Josh Horwitz discussed how media turned to Pratt for analysis during the gun debate following the Sandy Hook mass shooting in 2012, often while ignoring Pratt's history of extremism. Part two is a conversation about the gun rights movement's embrace of insurrectionist ideology, while part three covers the role of money in gun rights groups and the National Rifle Association's efforts to reach out to a younger and more diverse audience while retaining inflammatory figures like board member Ted Nugent.
Watch part one here:
From the November 12 edition of MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show:
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National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre warned that "all we've worked for" with regard to "our freedom since the founding of the country could be in jeopardy" in the 2016 elections while also stating that "every American owes NRA members and gun owners a debt of gratitude" for the 2014 election outcomes.
The NRA frequently rallies its supporters by suggesting each election cycle could bring about the destruction of the Second Amendment or even the entire United States of America while baselessly giving itself credit in instances where Republicans do well at the polls.
During a November 6 appearance on the NRA's radio show Cam & Company, LaPierre wasted no time turning to 2016, stating, "We've won the first half here of the game, but we won't win the battle until we win all the game and 2016 is a big deal."
"I mean if we end up with an anti-Second Amendment president in 2016, I mean all we've worked for in the last 30 years or our freedom since the founding of the country could be in jeopardy," LaPierre added.
Arguing that "we need to get NRA stronger," LaPierre went on to describe the 2016 election as "the fight of our lives for American freedom." LaPierre also said in the 2014 elections that the NRA had "beat the Bloombergs, we beat the Clintons, this time, but they're not going away and if they win in '15 and '16 the damage that they can do to the Second Amendment is unimaginable. (Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a prominent gun safety activist and was the primary backer of an "historic" 2014 ballot initiative to expand background checks on gun sales in Washington state.) LaPierre concluded his remarks by saying, "we are never going to have a bigger challenge than what we have to pull off together in 2016."
That sentiment from the NRA is one that observers have heard time and again.
Just days ago the NRA warned that the "the future of our Second Amendment rights comes down to one day -- Election Day 2014," which is "the most important of our lifetime" because "[o]ur fundamental right to keep and bear arms has never been in greater jeopardy."
A Media Matters study on the coverage of key policy issues in nightly news' midterm election broadcasts finds that 65 percent of network news segments that dealt with the midterm elections failed to discuss the policy issues most important to the American people.
The National Rifle Association and its allies in conservative media are attempting to downplay the significance of an "historic" victory for gun safety in Washington state, where voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative to expand background checks on gun sales.
On November 4, Washington voters backed Initiative 594, a proposal to require a background check on nearly all gun sales, with some exceptions for temporary transfers and transfers between family members. In doing so, Washingtonians closed a loophole in federal law that allowed guns to be bought without a background check at gun shows, over the Internet, and through other venues from non-licensed sellers.
Voters also rejected I-591, a competing initiative that would have prohibited the enactment of any background check law that was stricter than the loophole-riddled federal law. The NRA stayed neutral on 591 and spent nearly $500,000 opposing 594.
Journalists labeled the successful ballot initiative approach to a background check law as "historic," while the head of Everytown for Gun Safety, a prominent backer of I-594, said the outcome "proved the polls right -- when Americans vote on public safety measures to prevent gun violence, gun safety wins."
Prior to Election Day, an NRA spokesperson expressed concern about the potential passage of I-594 stating, "If [gun safety advocate Michael Bloomberg] is successful in this ballot initiative in Washington, we are very concerned that he will replicated this across the country and we will have ballot initiative like this one across the country. That is why we are so concerned."
In an attempt to spin the unfavorable outcome, conservative media and the NRA are offering weak arguments to downplay the significance of this major victory for gun safety advocates:
Media are promoting Republican gains in the House and Senate in Tuesday's midterm elections as evidence that the country has shifted to the "center-right" on political issues, despite the fact that ballot initiatives and national polling reveal broad support for progressive positions.
Media commentators are highlighting "historic" gun safety victories on election night, including the passage of a background check ballot initiative in Washington state, the reelection of governors who passed the toughest gun safety laws in the wake of Newtown, and the recapture of Colorado state senate seats targeted by gun activists in a 2013 recall campaign. The media attention given to these victories stands in contrast to frequent reporting advancing the myth of the National Rifle Association's electoral dominance.
From the November 3 edition of CNN's The Lead with Jake Tapper:
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Sharyl Attkisson's new book attempts to cast the former CBS News reporter as an intrepid reporter fighting against intractable barriers. But the book's sloppy inaccuracies and absent context reinforce her image as a journalist more interested in a biased narrative than uncovering the facts.
Attkisson resigned this year after two decades at CBS and promptly launched a media tour attacking her former employer for supposedly protecting the Obama administration from her reporting. Her new book has been published and promoted by conservative interests, who clearly see this narrative as a confirmation of their worldview that the "liberal" media is biased against them.
But Attkisson doesn't portray herself as a conservative folk hero pitted against "liberal bias." In fact, she sees that kind of rhetoric as distracting "from the real issues," and the real reasons she left CBS. Instead, Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama's Washington is meant to confirm her place in the pantheon of nonpartisan journalists, who will "follow a story wherever it leads, no matter how unpleasant, no matter whom it touches or implicates." In her account, Attkisson is one of the few reporters who have been trying to hold the Obama administration accountable by investigating its supposedly scandalous behavior in the face of "forces" who seek to protect the White House.
Attkisson organizes the book around her coverage of four major news stories -- the botched law enforcement Operation Fast and Furious, the bankruptcy of a few green energy companies that had received federal funding, the Benghazi attacks, and the rollout of the Affordable Care Act's website, Healthcare.gov -- which she casts as symbolic of her desire to investigate administration failures. But Attkisson claims her efforts were repeatedly stymied by CBS.
Attkisson's claims of the opposition she faced at CBS News are difficult to confirm, as they rely on private conversations and anonymous sources. (The Washington Post's Erik Wemple has been attempting to identify and reach out to some of them, but has received few confirmations.) But her account inflates those supposed scandals by hiding key facts in favor of pushing conservative talking points -- the sort of behavior that led CBS officials to fear that she was "wading dangerously close to advocacy" in her reporting.
Attkisson was one of the first reporters to cover Operation Fast and Furious, under which Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) agents allowed firearms to be trafficked across the U.S. - Mexico border, hoping to follow the guns to high-level Mexican drug cartel targets. ATF lost track of the guns, some of which ended up at crime scenes in Mexico, while others were found at the scene of the fatal shooting of a U.S. Border Patrol agent in Arizona.
Stonewalled details Attkisson's role in reporting the story, for which she won an Emmy. However, her book also floats a number of debunked conservative conspiracy theories about the botched operation, while promoting the 2012 Department of Justice Inspector General report that undermines those same theories.
For instance, Attkisson falsely suggests that her reporting proved Attorney General Eric Holder was lying about his knowledge of Fast and Furious. Holder testified under oath that he was unaware of the operation until it became public knowledge in early 2011, but Attkisson claims Holder was aware several months earlier:
Unfortunately for Holder, it wasn't long after his testimony that we obtained internal documents showing he was actually sent weekly briefings on Fast and Furious as early as July 2010, ten months before. The briefings came from the director of the National Drug Intelligence Center and from Holder's own Assistant Attorney General Breuer.
However, the Inspector General report found that Holder did not personally review those reports, and that those reports did not refer to the agent's major failure to stop the firearms from crossing the border. The report went on to completely exonerate Holder, placing the "primary responsibility" for Fast and Furious on the ATF's Phoenix field office and the Phoenix U.S. Attorney's Office. Even House Oversight Chair Darrell Issa (R-CA) has acknowledged that he has "no evidence" or even a "strong suspicion" that Holder was aware of the gunwalking tactics.
Attkisson calls the Inspector General report "scathing" while acknowledging that its findings contradicted some of her reporting. Nevertheless, she misleadingly concludes by blasting the press for accurately exonerating Holder, accusing them of a "generous interpretation of the facts."
Attkisson goes on to attack the Obama administration's electric vehicle initiative, a part of the Department of Energy's clean energy loan program. She focuses on several failed companies that received federal funds, including Fisker Automotive and A123, and falsely claims their eventual bankruptcies were representative of the entire program:
Were these failed enterprises alone among an overwhelming body of successful green energy initiatives funded by tax dollars? No.
This is false. Despite conservative media's fixation on the few beneficiaries of clean energy loan programs that failed, such as Fisker and Solyndra -- and despite Attkisson's previous error-ridden report on what CBS called "new Solyndras" -- 98 percent of clean energy funds went to successful ventures:
Attkisson criticizes the media for a double standard when covering the bankruptcies, insisting that journalists gave President Obama a pass that they wouldn't have afforded President Bush -- all while insisting that she would have covered each president fairly (emphasis added):
Imagine a parallel scenario in which President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney personally appeared at groundbreakings for, and used billions of tax dollars to support, multiple giant corporate ventures whose investors were sometimes major political campaign bundlers, only to have one (or two, or three) go bankrupt. At a cost to taxpayers of hundreds of millions of dollars. During a presidential election. When they knew in advance the companies' credit ratings were junk. News headlines would have been relentless with images of Bush and Cheney smiling and waing at one contrsuction-start ceremony after another, making their invalidated claims about jobs and untold millions...contrasted with images of empty plants and boarded-up warehouses. And I would have been proposing those stories.
But the program that started the Fisker loans -- called the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program -- did begin under Bush.
In fact, Fisker itself was approached by the Bush administration and encouraged to apply for the loan, and they were in charge when the application was filed. Attkisson does not mention this context in her description of Fisker; instead, all she offers is a brief note that she had broadly investigated "the backgrounds of some troubled green ventures that benefited from federal tax dollars, whether under Bush or Obama."
Attkisson hides basic facts to suggest the Obama administration is trying to cover up the truth about September 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
She narrates a moment in November 2012 when she attempted to find a photograph of President Obama on the night of the Benghazi attacks as a way to account for his "actions that night." Conservative media, and Fox News in particular, have repeatedly questioned the whereabouts of various administration officials the night of the attacks.
Attkisson claims the White House isn't being forthright about the President's whereabouts, which she characterizes as suspicious and politically motivated, given that "tax dollars pay to have a professional photographer cover most every aspect of the president's work life."
A photo of the president in the Oval Office taken the night of the attacks has been available on the public White House Flickr account since October 11, 2012, three weeks before Attkisson claims she started looking for a photo.
The photo depicts Obama meeting with Denis McDonough, then-Deputy National Security Advisor, Vice President Joe Biden, then-National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, and then-Chief of Staff Jack Lew. The existence of the photo has been repeatedly documented. Attkisson apparently did not know about the photo at the time, but she does not attempt to reconcile the facts now.
Attkisson criticizes her CBS bosses for not letting her repeatedly report on theoretical security problems the Affordable Care Act's insurance exchange website faced -- while hiding key testimony that confirmed there had been no security breaches.
Attkisson highlights the closed-door House Oversight Committee testimony of Teresa Fryer, a lead cybersecurity official on the project, who Attkisson holds up as "a knowledgeable insider" whose testimony is worth trusting as a "current, sitting, senior manager." Fryer testified that there had been two high-risk security findings on Healthcare.gov "after it went live October 1" (emphasis original), which Attkisson claims is a "bombshell" and reveals that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has misled journalists when they confirmed that "all fears about security risks in the past never came to pass."
What Attkisson fails to note is that during her testimony Fryer also explained there had been "no successful breaches" of the website; the "several layers of security" in place had performed as expected. The two findings Fryer mentioned were simply red flags -- they did not result in any real security failures, according to Fryer herself.
Attkisson notes that according to HHS one of the findings was a "false alarm" and the second was fixed, but insists "that may or may not be true. No proof is offered." She insists until evidence is produced it's simply the government's "side of the story," and derides media figures who accept the HHS "claims." She does not mention that Fryer made the exact same claims.
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent weighed in on the Texas governor's race in his column for conspiracy website WND, attacking the "America-hating" campaign of Democratic candidate Wendy Davis.
In his October 29 column, Nugent wrote, "Thank God there are still way more Texans that stand in defiance of the lying, scamming, America-hating, Texas-hating scammers and scoundrels that infest and steer the Wendy Davis campaign of deception."
In February, Nugent set off a lengthy controversy when he appeared at a campaign event with Republican candidate Greg Abbott and called him his "blood brother." Abbott was criticized for appearing with Nugent after the NRA figure had recently called President Obama a "subhuman mongrel" and because of Nugent's history of demeaning attacks on women.
A paranoid column from National Rifle Association leader Wayne LaPierre appearing in the gun group's magazine fearmongered about terrorist attacks and "angry mobs" rioting "just for the sheer hell of it" in the United States before calling on supporters to "vote our guns" on Election Day.
As part of a "special two-cover election issue," the NRA's magazine, America's 1st Freedom, depicted a flag and gun-toting ISIS fighter along with the headline, "Chaos At Our Door?" Other text on the cover added, "Your Second Amendment Freedom Has Never Been More Important And Necessary. Vote Your Guns In November."
LaPierre's column was illustrated with a graphic that combined an image of a suburban house and an ISIS militant who has been seen in recent videos beheading U.S. and British hostages:
The image used by the NRA comes from an Islamic State propaganda video showing the execution of British aid worker David Haines.