In an October 16 column, Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller praised Mitt Romney's opposition to gun violence prevention legislation while fearmongering about President Obama' s support for an assault weapons ban. But Miller did not acknowledge that Mitt Romney has been a proponent of assault weapons bans -- as recently as the last time that he ran for president.
Criticizing former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens for backing some gun restrictions, Miller warned that Obama "would put another liberal justice -- or three -- on the bench if given a second term." Miller presented Romney in sharp contrast to Justice Stevens, and reprinted Romney's claim that his "Sportsmen for Romney" coalition, whose members include representatives of the National Rifle Association and the gun industry, "will have a friend in the White House" if he becomes president. Obama, who has not enacted any new restrictions on firearms while president, was characterized by Miller as "an outspoken gun-control advocate before he ran for president."
By presenting Romney as a vigorous defender of gun rights, while attacking Obama on the issue, Miller effictively hid Romney's own well documented past support for rigorous gun violence prevention measures.
During tonight's presidential debate, Republican nominee Mitt Romney echoed a false claim from the National Rifle Association's radio show Cam & Company that whitewashes the former Massachusetts governor's record on guns.
News outlets will surely report on what was a contentious exchange between candidates on an issue that has thus far been ignored in the presidential race. But will they get to the bottom of Romney's past support for gun violence prevention measures?
Romney echoed the NRA talking point that an assault weapons ban he signed into law while governor of Massachusetts was agreeable to that state's leading gun advocacy group after moderator Candy Crowley suggested that his position on assault weapons has changed in recent years.
CROWLEY: Governor, if I could, the question was about these assault weapons that once were banned and are no longer banned. I know that you signed an assault weapons ban when you were in Massachusetts. Obviously with this question, you no longer do support that. Why is that given the kind of violence we see sometimes with these mass killings? Why is it that you've changed your mind?
ROMNEY: Well, Candy, actually in my state the pro-gun folks and the anti-gun folks came together and put together a piece of legislation. And it's referred to as an assault weapon ban, but it had -- at the signing of the bill both the pro-gun and the anti-gun people came together because it provided opportunities for both that both wanted.
The NRA has endorsed Romney and recently used its NRA News radio outlet to rewrite history in an attempt to hide Romney's past support for tough gun control measures.
During the October 2 edition of Cam & Company on NRA News, host Cam Edwards told viewers that Romney's gun policy while governor was in line with the positions of Gun Owners Action League (GOAL), the Massachusetts state gun advocacy group. Edwards also claimed that Romney loosened restrictions on assault weapons while governor instead of enhancing them. Neither claim is accurate.
The second presidential debate, moderated by CNN's Candy Crowley, featured a question and extended discussion on the potential reinstatement of an assault weapons ban. Previously, debate moderators in 2008 and Jim Lehrer of PBS' NewsHour, the moderator of the first presidential debate, had ignored the issue of gun violence prevention.
Introducing the town hall participant who asked the candidates what they would do to limit the availability of assault weapons, Crowley noted that the topic of gun violence is one "that we hear a lot, both over the Internet and from this crowd."
CROWLEY: Because what I -- what I want to do, Mr. President, stand there a second, because I want to introduce you to Nina Gonzalez, who brought up a question that we hear a lot, both over the Internet and from this crowd.
GONZALEZ: President Obama, during the Democratic National Convention in 2008, you stated you wanted to keep AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. What has your administration done or planned to do to limit the availability of assault weapons?
During today's meeting of a Florida taskforce that is investigating the "Kill At Will" law implicated in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, National Rifle Association representative Marion Hammer said that the NRA was "proud to have been a part of the process" in enacting the law in 2005.
We believe the law is doing what the legislature intended. It is protecting the rights of people who defend themselves against attackers and intruders. The NRA supported this law. We are proud to have been a part of the process. We are proud to say we worked with legislators from both sides of the aisle to protect self-defense rights. And although there may be other bodies of law that do not go far enough to protect the innocent and the righteous, we don't see any basic need to change the premise of this law.
Hammer, who in closing stated that the NRA "see[s] the law as protecting freedom," served as president of the National Rifle Association between 1995 and 1998 and remains the organization's top lobbyist in Florida. She is hardly the first member of National Rifle Association leadership to express full-throated support for "Kill At Will." In April, NRA chief lobbyist Chris Cox told attendees of the NRA's annual meeting that despite "post-media hysteria" in the weeks following Trayvon Martin's death the gun rights organization "will defend those laws." At the same annual gathering, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre blamed controversy surrounding the law, called "Stand Your Ground" by its proponents, on the national news media.
Hammer previously acknowledged in an interview with Media Matters that the NRA helped draft the law and "support[ed] it through the process." This account was confirmed by Florida Today reporter Paul Flemming who stated, "There is no doubt about it. Marion Hammer, the NRA lobbyist here, former president of the NRA wrote the legislation and she would tell you so."
If one scene defines last week's premiere of Ted Nugent's Gun Country, set in the survivalist-thick scrublands surrounding Waco, Texas, it is the show's unnervingly giddy and pony-tailed host standing behind a .50-caliber Browning armor-piercing machine gun and blowing a bunch of holes in the four-inch reinforced steel door used by a team of local "preppers" to protect their bunker armory against an attack of the undead. Neither the machine gun nor the vault hatch fills any conceivable civilian-defense need, but the show, like the gun culture it celebrates, is all about overkill. An excited Nugent declares his intent to upgrade the defenses around his own bunker gun closet, and after a commercial break appears on screen pumping off rounds from the preppers' Zombie Apocalypse chainsaw-shotgun.
It's the sort of weapon you'd expect to see wielded with glee in a Dawn of the Dead remake, not on the flagship network of a media behemoth claiming a science-educational mission. But such is the state of programming these days on the Discovery Channel, long overdue for an honest update of its tagline, "Science, History, Space, Tech, Sharks, News!"
It is admittedly quaint to say in 2012 that a billion-dollar cable corporation has failed to live up to its stated values, and we're at least several decades past debating whether television can become the productive social force some imagined during the medium's infancy. Indeed, Discovery's devolution was notable a full decade ago, when the science journalist Chris Mooney penned an op-ed for the Washington Post bemoaning its programming turn away from science documentaries and toward the paranormal, the sensational, and the idiotic. Discovery Communications, noted Mooney, touted its goal of helping young viewers "critically analyze" information even as its properties such as Animal Planet increasingly aired fare like The Pet Psychic. A spokeswoman for the company claimed at the time that such shows represented a "whimsical take" on the company's science mission.
The Pet Psychic is A Brief History of Time compared to many of the shows now airing on the channel. In recent years Discovery has joined other companies in its former documentary niche in largely abandoning in-depth science programming in favor of its antipode, what might best be called anti-science: shows that glorify stupidity and celebrate a giggling, Beavis and Butthead-style pleasure in blowing stuff up and killing things.
Discovery is not filling a munitions void here so much as chasing the lowest common ratings denominator; The Outdoor Network and The History Channel first pioneered programming for the demo Nugent calls "gun nuts." But Discovery has gone furthest down the rabbit-hunting hole. Among the channel's slew of reality shows are three and counting devoted to portraying the patriotic fun to be had with high-caliber automatic weapons: American Guns, Sons of Guns, and the special (or is it pilot?) that aired last week, Ted Nugent's Gun Country, which officially pushes the phenomenon beyond the reach of parody. It is as if ESPN began airing a show called Frog Baseball Tonight.
A wave of mass shootings have occurred over the past few years, often garnering extensive media coverage. Despite those tragic attacks and the roughly 30,000 deaths by firearms that occur every year, moderator Jim Lehrer of PBS' NewsHour failed to ask the presidential candidates about gun violence during the first presidential debate, the only forum specifically dedicated to domestic policy.
14 mass shootings have been committed over the past four years, according to an analysis by Mother Jones. These include recent tragedies that rocked the American public this year, such as the attack at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and an assault at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Last year, a mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona, nearly claimed the life of then-U.S. representative Gabrielle Giffords.
Nonetheless, in the first presidential debate for the 2012 election, Lehrer asked no questions on the topic of gun violence. This continues the troubling pattern established during the 2008 presidential debates, which similarly featured no discussion of the topic even in the wake of the mass shooting at Virginia Tech the previous year. Past presidential debates have featured this subject regularly: A Media Matters review found that in 1992, the second debate spent over six minutes on it; in 1996, the first debate gave it almost four minutes; in 2000, the second and third debates devoted more than 13 minutes combined; and in 2004, the third debate spent nearly three minutes on it.
On Wednesday, the Discovery Channel aired "an inside look at American gun culture" starring controversial National Rifle Association board member and Washington Times columnist Ted Nugent. Discovery Channel documented Nugent shooting a scimitar-horned oryx, an animal extinct in the wild, and also showed him spending time with a group of heavily armed doomsday "preppers."
Now the question remains: Will the Discovery Channel continue to allow Nugent to use the channel as a "resource" to help him win the "culture war"?
In a September 26 press release, Discovery Channel billed Ted Nugent's Gun Country as a "one-hour special." But during an appearance on Armed America Radio, Nugent stated that the Discovery Channel "want[s] to do it as a regular feature." He told listeners to "expect that there will be at least a dozen shows a year."
MARK WALTERS, HOST: Ted, is this going to be a regular series?
NUGENT: Well just the title, Ted Nugent's Gun Country, I mean even if Discovery doesn't air anymore shows it's still alive and well. They want to do it as a regular feature. We expect that there will be at least a dozen shows a year.
NUGENT: Every month. And we are really excited about it. I think it came off great. We trained with a bunch of zombie killers, we did a lot of ammunition testing.
A graphic accompanying an October 1 promotional appearance on NRA News described Ted Nugent's Gun Country as a "series."
Last night, the Discovery Channel aired "an inside look at American gun culture" featuring Washington Times columnist and National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent. Media Matters previously noted that Nugent often uses inflammatory language against the Obama administration, women, religious and ethnic minorities and members of the LGBT community.
On the day that Ted Nugent's Gun Country aired, Nugent accused the "lying enemies of America" Obama administration of treason and "criminal complicity to murder." In promotional radio appearances for his special, Nugent accused "anti-American" Barack Obama of only feigning respect for veterans and declared his intention to use the Discovery Channel as a resource to help him win the "culture war."
Ted Nugent appeared this past Sunday on Armed America Radio to promote his special on gun culture that will air on the Discovery Channel tonight. During his appearance, The Washington Times columnist and National Rifle Association board member went on a sustained rant against President Obama.
Nugent made a number of wild-eyed accusations against Obama and his policies, referring to the president as "a Mao Zedong wannabe." In his view, Obama's administration is "anti-American, anti-quality of life, anti-freedom, anti-liberty, and anti-being the best that you can be" while the president himself is "against the very spirit" of "the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution."
Nugent also accuses the president of implementing communist policies, while pretending to honor fallen U.S. soldiers at sites like the Vietnam Wall, an act which Nugent calls "one of the most vile, repugnant, obscene gestures in the history of American politics."
This morning Ted Nugent accused the Obama administration of treason and referred to them as "enemies of America." Tonight, the controversial Washington Times columnist and National Rifle Association board member will be the subject of a Discovery Channel special promoting "an inside look at gun culture" through his eyes.
Nugent issued the comments on his twitter feed minutes after using that outlet to promote the Discovery special:
Nugent has a long record of violent and inflammatory rhetoric about President Obama as well as women and ethnic and religious minorities. Discovery has nonetheless decided to promote Nugent, praising him as a "rock and roll legend" and "strong and vocal advocate for guns, hunting and all things America." For his part, Nugent has declared the special an opportunity to promote his side in the "culture war."
The Discovery Channel will be providing Ted Nugent with a platform to help him fight the "culture war" when it features him in a special this week, the controversial National Rifle Association board member and Washington Times columnist said in a recent interview.
Nugent has a lengthy history of making violent, inflammatory, and offensive remarks against women, the LGBT community, and racial and religious minorities. Earlier this year, he told attendees at the NRA's annual meeting that he would "be dead or in jail by this time next year" if Barack Obama was reelected president, which prompted scrutiny from the Secret Service.
But none of that stopped the Discovery Channel from contacting him to star in its programming, as Nugent detailed in an interview with NRA News. Discovery is promoting the October 10 special, Ted Nugent's Gun Country, as "an inside look at American gun culture through the eyes of" Nugent.
Speaking with Cam Edwards, Nugent explained how he hopes to use that platform as an opportunity to promote his position in the "culture war":
NUGENT: Cam, you know you and I have known each other a long time, I really have always celebrated and promoted the Second Amendment, all things guns, the good, the perfection, the good over evil that guns provide, the joys, the discipline, the marksmanship discipline, and the fact that the American Dream became available because brave patriots stood up with guns and fought the Evil Empire. So what we did with the Discovery Channel, they contacted me and went, "You know, if we are going to produce gun shows shouldn't we do it with this Nugent guy?"
NUGENT: "Because even his guitars are ballistically coefficient." I celebrate this every day of my life. I do media literally 300-plus days a year. Even during the hunting season I'm available between 11 and 1 pm because I really believe during this culture war we have talked about many times--
EDWARDS: Mm hmm.
NUGENT: --that it's imperative that those of us who cherish and believe and demand freedom, that we use every resource we have that we can cultivate and maximize to promote and celebrate all things Second Amendment and the perfection of gun ownership. So the Discovery Channel has some really wise souls there and they contacted me and said, "How would you like to do a TV show called Ted Nugent's Gun Country?" And I went, "I'm already doing it. You might as well start recording it."
Later in the interview, Nugent stated, "I believe if you hate the NRA, if you hate guns, if you hate Ted Nugent, then you clearly hate America. And I have never apologized, I've never defended -- there is nothing to defend -- but in this culture war we do sometimes have to explain ourselves."
During the October 3 edition of Fox & Friends, hosts Brian Kilmeade and Steve Doocy baselessly speculated that Border Patrol Agent Nicholas Ivie, who was fatally shot while on patrol near the Mexican border, was killed with weapons involved in the failed Operation Fast and Furious gun trafficking sting. News outlets later reported that Agent Ivie's death was the result of friendly fire. But Fox & Friends has remained silent on the story, even as several other Fox News programs have reported on the friendly fire incident.
Kilmeade stated that the border shooting "raises tons of new questions, including whether or not the guns that killed Agent Ivie were tied to Operation Fast and Furious." Later in the segment, Doocy fueled the speculation during a discussion with former U.S. Customs Service Special Agent Terry Kirkpatrick:
DOOCY: Terry, while it's still too early, the investigation is just barely started into the firearm that was used to kill our guy, would it surprise you if one of the guns from Fast and Furious was one of the guns used?
KIRKPATRICK: You know and honestly it would not surprise me if that was one of the guns that was lost in the ATF scandal.
At the time of the Fox & Friends segment on October 3, reports indicated that no weapons had been recovered in connection to the shooting.
State and local officials told NBC News that the ruling of friendly fire "is based on an analysis of the ballistics, the lack of evidence of other criminals in the area at the time, and other factors." According to the president of the National Border Patrol Council, Agent Ivie encountered two other agents in heavy brush and opened fire believing them to be smugglers. He was killed in the return fire. One other agent sustained nonfatal gunshot wounds.
On conservative pundit Frank Gaffney's radio show yesterday, Daily Caller reporter Matthew Boyle falsified congressional testimony by Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz concerning Operation Fast and Furious. Boyle incorrectly claimed that Horowitz testified that it was "unfathomable" that Attorney General Eric Holder was unaware of controversial tactics employed during the failed gun trafficking sting.
In actuality, when Horowitz was asked, "Did you find any evidence that Attorney General Holder approved of the gun walking tactics that are under investigation -- that have been under investigation by this committee?" during a September 20 House Oversight Committee hearing, he responded, "We found no evidence that the attorney general was aware in 2010, before Senator Grassley's letter, of Operation Fast and Furious and the tactics associated with it." [C-SPAN via Nexis, 9/20/12]
But in an interview, Boyle distorted this testimony. He indicated that Horowitz stated before Congress that Holder was aware of the tactics used in Fast and Furious. From Boyle's interview:
BOYLE: So the point is, is that at this point in time it's very hard to believe that Holder didn't know. And the IG [Inspector General] has actually said that before Congress. He has actually -- I can't remember the exact quote off the top of my head -- but he said something like that, "It's unfathomable that the Attorney General was unaware of this when everybody who works for him was." So basically what has happened here is there is there is a culture of plausible deniability that has been created around Holder. [emphasis added]
An independent report issued by the Office of the Inspector General on September 19 reached the opposite conclusion, stating, "We found no evidence that Attorney General Holder was informed about Operation Fast and Furious, or learned about the tactics employed by ATF in the investigation, prior to January 31, 2011."
In this presidential election cycle's only debate devoted solely to domestic issues, moderator and former PBS host Jim Lehrer did not ask the candidates what they would do to address gun violence in America. This silence comes in the wake of several high profile mass shootings and a high-profile campaign by survivors and advocates to push the candidates to detail their plans to deal with the issue.
Every year roughly 30,000 Americans die from gun violence. In early 2011, a gunman used a semi-automatic pistol with an extended magazine to kill six people and wound 13 others, including then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, at a town hall event held by the congresswoman. This year has featured prominent mass shootings at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater and a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.
Some in the media have distorted polling to claim that Americans are largely satisfied with gun laws. But other surveys show that large majorities of Americans support a wide array of specific laws that would bolster gun violence prevention, including requiring all gun buyers to pass a criminal background check and banning high capacity magazines and assault weapons.
Seeking to increase public discussion of an issue the American people have said they care about, the Brady Campaign asked Lehrer to ask the candidates to address the issue during this evening's debate, while Mayors Against Illegal Guns produced an ad featuring Aurora shooting survivor Stephen Barton telling viewers, "when you watch the presidential debates, ask yourself who has a plan to stop gun violence."
Thanks to Lehrer, Americans are no closer to an answer on that question.
NRA News is deliberately misleading its supporters about Mitt Romney's firearms policies while he served as governor of Massachusetts. During the October 2 edition of Cam & Company, host Cam Edwards suggested that any action taken by then-Governor Romney on assault weapons was supported by Massachusetts state gun rights group Gun Owners Action League (GOAL) and further stated that Romney "actually undid some of the damage" of the commonwealth's 1998 assault weapons ban. In fact, legislation signed by Romney in 2004 made the Massachusetts assault weapons ban permanent.
A July 1, 2004 press release issued by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, titled, "Romney Signs Off On Permanent Assault Weapons Ban," leaves little doubt that the former Massachusetts governor was involved in restricting access to assault weapons. Indeed, at the bill's signing ceremony Romney stated that the "sole purpose" of assault weapons is "hunting down and killing people." In response to the new law, GOAL stated that the Romney administration "took a major shot at lawful gun owners and showed their true colors."
CAM EDWARDS, HOST: Doc in Jacksonville, Florida says, "Cam, due to the fact that Mitt Romney signed a gun ban into law while he was governor of Massachusetts, does the NRA trust him to stand up for the Constitution and Second Amendment as president?" You know, I'm glad you asked this question, Doc. Last time -- I've got to promote this video because we've got it up I know on our YouTube page -- the last time we had Jim Wallace from the Gun Owners Action League in studio, that's the state-level organization in Massachusetts, we asked him about this. Because Mitt Romney did sign a bill as Governor of Massachusetts, but he did not institute an assault weapons ban. This was actually a bill that the Gun Owners Action League in Massachusetts supported. The quote unquote assault weapons bill, or excuse me the quote unquote assault weapons ban, was already law in Massachusetts. It was already permanent in Massachusetts. This bill actually provided some relief to gun owners in the state of Massachusetts. It was portrayed and it has been portrayed in the media as Governor Romney signed a bill to ban quote unquote assault weapons in the state of Massachusetts. But that's not the case. This was a bill, as I said, that was supported by the state gun owners' organization in Massachusetts because it actually undid some of the damage of that original legislation.