Media figures have smeared the Obama administration and promoted myths and falsehoods about gun policy in the days leading up to this week's release of the White House Task Force's recommendations to reduce gun violence.
Fox Business host Lou Dobbs pushed the extreme conspiracy theory that President Obama wants to destroy the Second Amendment as a first step in eliminating the entire Bill of Rights. But Obama has consistently voiced his support for the Second Amendment, including during the Monday press conference that Dobbs referenced on his show.
During his program, Dobbs aired a partial clip of Obama saying at the press conference, "The issue here is not whether or not we believe in the Second Amendment. The issue is: Are there some sensible steps that we can take to make sure that somebody like the individual in Newtown can't walk into a school -- "
Dobbs responded by claiming that Obama is "so committed to constraining or dismissing outright our Second Amendment rights, it makes you wonder why he's not ridding the Constitution of the First Amendment as well." He later said, "You've got to wonder why the president doesn't double down in his assault on the Constitution, taking on not only the Second, but the First Amendment, the Fourth, the Fourteenth." Dobbs then suggested that the reason Obama has "begun with the Second Amendment" is because "[w]ithout our rights under the Second Amendment, removing the rest of our Bill of Rights would be a lot easier."
The context of Obama's comments clearly shows that Obama was not "dismissing outright" Second Amendment rights.
From the January 14 edition of American Family Radio's AFA Today:
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From the January 14 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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What is it about President Obama's inaugurations that bring out the craziest of the right-wing crazies?
Four years ago, Obama's historic swearing-in sparked months' worth of teeth-chattering paranoia, trumpeted by the conservative media, about how the new Democratic president posed a mortal threat to America and that drastic action might need to be taken.
In 2009, a far-right Newsmax columnist determined that a "military coup "to resolve the 'Obama problem'" was not "unrealistic." That's about the same time Glenn Beck used his then-new program on Fox News to game out bloody scenarios for the coming civil war against the Obama-led tyranny. Note that the armed rebellion rhetoric was uncorked just weeks after Obama's first cabinet had been confirmed.
Now, four years later as Obama's second swearing-in approaches, the same misguided insurrectionist pageantry is back on display. (The fringe John Birch Society is probing the likelihood of "armed resistance" against the government -- "an unlikely prospect, for now at least.") And this time, Adolf Hitler stars in a leading role.
In fact, there's a disturbing collision now underway featuring two signature, conservative paranoid fantasies. One holds that Obama is like Hitler; that he's a tyrant ready to undo democracy at home. The other is that Americans need access to an unregulated supply of assault weapons in order to fight their looming insurrectionist war with the government.
In the last week we've heard more and more conservatives try to tie the two wild tales together: Obama's allegedly pending gun grab will prove he's just like Hitler, which will demonstrate the need for citizens to declare war on the government.
Ignoring nearly 250 years of our democratic history, conservative voices across the media landscape have been nodding their heads in agreement suggesting it's only a matter of time before the United States resembles a tyrannical dictatorship that will be either fascistic or Stalinist in nature (or both, if the rhetorician feels no obligation to historical accuracy).
So much for the notion of American exceptionalism -- "the conviction that our country holds a unique place and role in human history" -- that conservatives love to preach.
Washington Times columnist and National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent equated President Obama's decision to have Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder lead the administration's gun violence prevention efforts with asking serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer for child-rearing advice.
Nugent recently claimed gun owners will become the next Rosa Parks and offer nonviolent resistance if President Obama issues an executive order confiscating guns, a comparison that drew sharp criticism from civil rights leaders and advocates.
Nugent followed up that comment by appearing on the January 13 edition of WorldNetDaily reporter Aaron Klein's radio show and saying that having Biden and Holder lead a gun safety task force is "like hiring Jeffrey Dahmer to tell us how to take care of our children."
The Drudge Report and WorldNetDaily have promoted Nugent's comments on Klein's show, during which Nugent also said that Obama and others must be "psychotic" for trying to strengthen gun violence prevention laws.
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.
From the January 13 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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Fox News is emphasizing the decline in violent crime and murder rates since the 1990s to oppose calls for laws to prevent gun violence. But recent reporting indicates that the number of gunshot wounds has actually increased in recent years and that the lower homicide rate is partly due to improved care for gunshot victims.
Conservatives in media have been quick to draw comparisons between the Obama administration's reported proposals to crack down on gun violence and the actions of Adolf Hitler to suggest that President Obama will engage in firearm confiscation. These historically inaccurate comparisons owe part of their genesis to the National Rifle Association, which has compared proposals to regulate firearms to orders during the Holocaust.
In his book, America Disarmed: Inside the U.N. & Obama's Scheme to Destroy the Second Amendment, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre likened the United Nations Small Arms and Light Weapons Destruction Day, held on July 9, 2001, to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels' order that books authored by Jews be publicly burned.
LaPierre then suggested that the burning of guns could "help set the stage for mass executions of gun owners" just as Goebbels' order precipitated the mass killing of Jews.
A spokesperson for NBC Sports has reportedly confirmed that the network will remain a top sponsor for the nation's largest gun trade show. Organizers have billed the event, which comes during a fierce debate over strengthening gun laws, as a show of industry strength in the face of such laws.
Bloomberg News reports that the spokesman further stated that the network participates as a sponsor "as part of our commitment to our outdoor-programming block":
NBC Sports Network will remain the 2013 SHOT Show New Product Center Sponsor, said Greg Hughes, a spokesman for the channel. One of NBC's marquee broadcasters, Bob Costas, criticized gun laws weeks before the Connecticut shooting, after the murder-suicide of a Kansas City Chiefs football player.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation Inc.'s SHOT Show last year billed itself as "more than about selling and buying; it's a powerful display of industry unity and its resolve to meet any challenge affecting the right to make, sell and own firearms." The NSSF is headquartered in Newtown, Connecticut, where a gunman killed 20 children and six adults in an elementary school on Dec. 14 with a semiautomatic rifle.
NBC Sports Network, formerly called Versus, has been a sponsor of the show for "several years," according to Hughes. The cable channel airs hunting and fishing shows and participates as a sponsor "as part of our commitment to our outdoor-programming block," Hughes said in a telephone interview.
Media Matters first reported on the network's sponsorship of the Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT Show) earlier today. In addition to hunting rifles, the gun manufacturers and dealers who attend the SHOT Show will view an array of assault rifles, tactical shotguns, and pistols with high-capacity magazines.
According to the event's organizer, the gun manufacturer and dealer trade association National Shooting Sports Foundation, "Any SHOT attendee will tell you the show is more than about selling and buying; it's a powerful display of industry unity and its resolve to meet any challenge affecting the right to make, sell and own firearms."
The event appears to promote the same dangerous "gun culture" that NBC Sports' Bob Costas referenced in his now-famous Football Night in America commentary following the murder-suicide committed by Kansas City Chiefs football player Jovan Belcher.
Fox News host Alisyn Camerota deflated the network's bogus attack that past comments from President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden demonstrated hypocrisy on gun rights.
Biden met with gun rights activists at the White House Thursday to discuss possible courses of action to curb gun violence. Fox & Friends responded to discussion of a comprehensive gun violence prevention program by accusing the White House of hypocrisy, suggesting the White House would renege on past statements and attempt to take away guns.
To support his charge of hypocrisy, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy cited a 2008 rally in which Biden said: "Barack Obama ain't taking my shotguns, so don't buy that malarkey." He also played the following deceptively cropped 2008 campaign speech by Barack Obama:
OBAMA (VIDEO CLIP): So I don't want any misunderstanding. When ya'll go home and you're talking to your buddies, and they say, "He wants to take my gun away," you've heard it here, I'm on television so everybody knows it, I believe in the Second Amendment, I believe in people's lawful right to bear arms. I will not take your shotgun away, I will not take your rifle away, I won't take your handgun away.
The charges of hypocrisy are fatally flawed, however, as co-host Alisyn Camerota quickly pointed out. After playing the segments, Camerota asked: "How is that hypocrisy? [Obama is] not talking about taking -- confiscating people's guns." Indeed, the White House has not yet made any concrete proposals and continues to meet with gun violence victims, gun rights advocates, and other stakeholders.
The hypocrisy charge is even more flawed than Camerota said because a given that part of Obama's 2008 comments were missing from the clip Fox aired. In the full clip, President Obama explicitly says: "There are some common-sense gun safety laws that I believe in. But I am not going to take your guns away."
Right-wing rhetoric on potential gun control measures in the wake of the school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, continued to come unhinged as right-wing radio host Mandy Connell (Kentucky's WHAS-AM) compared a proposed firearms policy to the Nazi practice of forcing Jewish Germans to wear yellow stars.
Louisville radio station WFPL described the exchange between Connell and Congressman John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) which took place on January 10:
In a tense exchange over gun control, WHAS radio host Mandy Connell told Congressman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., some regulations could be the first step in total citizen disarmament.
Yarmuth has co-sponsored a bill that would ban high-capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds and is a proponent of other regulations in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary school massacre.
In an on-air interview with Yarmuth on Thursday, Connell said responsible gun owners should also be concerned about further regulations, and compared attempts to register legal gun owners to the Nazi regime tagging Jewish Germans.
"Every country in the world that has taken and de-armed its citizenry started with incremental gun measures," she said. "This is not unprecedented in history and anybody that pays attention is right to be concerned of an overly intrusive government. Things like Diane Feinstein requiring gun owners to register if they're already a legal gun owner. Why don't we make them wear yellow stars as well? Why don't we tag everybody?"
Connell's statements aren't isolated. Right-wing media figures ranging from Matt Drudge to personalities on Fox News have dipped into the Nazi analogy pool in recent days. Drudge linked to a report about a potential executive order regarding guns by placing photos of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin adjacent to the headline. A variety of Fox News' guests and contributors, as well as other right-wing pundits, have made similar comparisons.
Right-wing bloggers are promoting a proposed Wyoming law that aims to nullify new federal laws to prevent gun violence, but the Supreme Court has ruled that state nullification is unconstitutional and even conservative legal experts have agreed with this assessment.
Conservative media have reacted to pledges by Democrats to strengthen gun violence prevention laws after the massacre of 20 young children at Sandy Hook Elementary School by invoking Hitler and warning of revolution. Now several conservative media outlets are promoting a proposed Wyoming law that aims to nullify several possible federal gun violence protection measures.
State lawmakers in Wyoming have proposed a bill that aims to nullify any federal laws banning assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, or requiring firearms to be registered. The bill states that federal employees who attempt to enforce such laws can be imprisoned for up to five years. Major conservative blogs and news websites are promoting the law, cheering it as a move against "gun grabbers."
Fox Nation hyped the story with the headline: "Wyoming Tells Washington Gun Grabbers To Back The Hell Off."
The Drudge Report also highlighted the Wyoming legislation with the headline: "WY Lawmakers Propose 'Gun Protection' Legislation To Thwart Feds."
And Breitbart.com stated that "Wyoming threatens arrest for federal gun grabbers."
But the Supreme Court has rejected attempts by states to nullify federal law.