Even Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly isn't buying National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre's outrageous claims that a yet to be finalized United Nations treaty to regulate the import and export of small arms worldwide will strip Americans of their Second Amendment rights and cause American citizens "to be added to that pile of dead people left defenseless by the [United Nations'] policies."
The NRA has repeatedly offered such false and conspiratorial claims in response to the treaty, claims which in the past have been echoed on Fox. But during today's interview, Kelly repeatedly pushed back on LaPierre's talking points.
After LaPierre made the false claim that the proposed treaty "says to people in the United States turn over your personal protection and your firearms to the government," Kelly attempted to steer him back to reality by suggesting the treaty is about "global arms sales" not "domestic sales." On multiple occasions she urged him to justify his baseless claims.
The Daily Caller's Matthew Boyle is reporting that a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) memorandum in the possession of congressional investigators "described a specific operation in which guns were allowed to walk across the Mexican border" during Operation Fast and Furious. The memo was drafted and, according to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), "forwarded to DOJ headquarters" the day before the Justice Department told Congress that no such gunwalking had occurred. Boyle suggests that this indicates that DOJ knew gunwalking had occurred in Fast and Furious when they issued their statement to Congress, and thus that they "may have tried to cover up" the use of such activities. This assertion is false and is directly contradicted by the memo in question, which does not detail a gunwalking operation.
Instead the memo describes a case where ATF agents were forced to "leave the immediate area" of the stakeout of a suspected gun trafficker to avoid detection. While repositioning, the suspect left the area and eluded capture. From the memo:
Special Agent [Gary] Styers was asked to describe the operations and relayed that one of the operations was a suspected transaction that was to occur at a gas station and detailed agents were asked to cover the transaction. While positioning to observe the suspects, Special Agent Styers and other detailed agents were told by Special Agent [Hope] McAllister that the agents were too close and would burn the operation. Special Agent McAllister told all of the agents to leave the immediate area. While the agents were repositioning, the transaction between the suspects took place and the vehicle took possession of the firearms and eventually left the area without the agents following it.
What was described was an unsuccessful law enforcement operation, not ATF acquiescence to the illegal transfer of firearms. Boyle includes much of the text of that passage in his article, but nonetheless concludes that Styers was describing an operation "in which guns were allowed to walk across the Mexican border." Boyle also neglects to mention that Styers, the author of the memo, wrote that during his involvement in Fast and Furious "he did not see any firearms cross the border into Mexico."
This isn't the first time that Boyle has made false claims in his reporting that are easily contradicted by the very documents he cites. In September 2011, Boyle published an article claiming that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was attempting to hire 230,000 new workers at a cost of $21 billion per year. The legal documents cited by Boyle actually indicated that this was a scenario the EPA wanted to -- and eventually did -- avoid.
Marking the start of July's month-long United Nations conference to negotiate a small arms treaty, National Rifle Association top lobbyist Chris Cox authored an op-ed for The Daily Caller making the hysterical -- and baseless -- claim that the treaty could "seriously restrict your freedom to own, purchase and carry a firearm." In fact the proposed treaty seeks to regulate the international trade of firearms - curtailing the illicit arms trade that keeps weapons flowing to human rights abusers -- and will not change ownership rules domestically.
Cox also made the reality-defying argument, citing conditions in the Sudan, that a treaty to restrict illegal small arms proliferation would harm citizens in countries ruled by human rights abusers. To the contrary, the United Nations has noted that "[m]ore human rights abuses are committed with small arms than with any other weapon."
But according to Cox's theory "the world's socialist, tyrannical and dictatorial regimes" will use the treaty to "implement international gun registration requirements, bans on commonly owned firearms, tracking and registration of ammunition purchases, and create a new U.N. gun control bureaucracy" thus fulfilling "President Barack Obama's vision for America."
This laughable conspiracy has no place in reality. Top officials from the United Nations, the United States, and other high profile supporters have repeatedly and clearly said that the treaty does not aim to restrict anyone's "freedom to own" a gun. Indeed, the U.N. General Assembly's resolution on the treaty makes clear that countries will "exclusively" maintain the right within their borders to "regulate internal transfers of arms and national ownership, including through national constitutional protections on private ownerships."
The chair of the Preparatory Committee for the UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty, Ambassador Roberto García Moritán of Argentina, has stated that the definitive goal of the small arms treaty "is to try to have common standards to be applied by all countries when they export or import weapons."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also said that treaty is "opportunity to promote the same high standards for the entire international community that the United States and other responsible arms exporters already have in place to ensure that weaponry is transferred for legitimate purposes."
A senior policy advisor to the humanitarian organization Oxfam America has also pushed back against claims that the treaty has the nefarious purpose of interfering with domestic law:
"No government is discussing a treaty that would ever impact the right to bear arms, nor require regulation of domestic sales of arms," said Scott Stedjan, a senior policy adviser at the relief group Oxfam America. "This is totally about international transfer of arms so that they don't go to human rights abusers."
U.S. gun owners have nothing to fear from a treaty that essentially seeks to apply the standard for importing and exporting firearms already in place in the United States on a worldwide scale.
And there is no reason to believe that domestic manufacturers alone would be unable to ensure that the United States continues to have the most well-armed private citizenry in the world. According to the most recent figures available over 5.5 million firearms were manufactured in the United States in 2009 (The U.N. conservatively estimates that 7.5 to 8 million small arms are manufactured worldwide each year). Less than 200,000 of the firearms produced in the United States left the country as exports.
Last week's House vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt over documents related to the Operation Fast and Furious scandal has brought back the media myth that the National Rifle Association (NRA) is a hugely-powerful organization that swings elections with its money and endorsements. But there's no evidence -- aside from the organization's media-abetted campaign to inflate its own influence -- that the NRA is an electoral force.
All 17 Democrats who voted to hold Holder in contempt received donations from the NRA. Additionally, the NRA, in an attempt to scare up more support for the contempt vote, announced that it would be scoring the vote for its candidate rating system. And based on the vote, the tactics seem to have worked, to some extent. As a result, some media coverage has predictably inflated the NRA's supposed electoral influence. But the vote is merely evidence that the NRA's campaign to portray itself as the most important lobbying group in the country has been successful.
In a post pondering "Why Is the NRA So Powerful?," Slate's Brian Palmer reinforces many of the media's favorite myths about the NRA, writing that the group "is considered by many the most powerful lobbying group in the country, despite relatively modest financial resources and just 4 million members." According to Palmer, the NRA "can reliably deliver votes."
But in truth, the NRA can't "reliably deliver votes" -- far from it.
During today's edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy and guest Betsy McCaughey choose to ignore the significant role that the National Rifle Association played in yesterday's contempt proceedings against Attorney General Eric Holder.
Doocy twice highlighted the fact that 17 Democrats joined Republicans to cite Holder for contempt of Congress concerning Holder's failure to satisfy an inquiry led by the Republican-led House Oversight Committee investigation into the failed ATF Fast and Furious Operation. When Fox News contributor and Democratic strategist Joe Trippi suggested that the vote was about "politics," guest Betsy McCaughey, the former lieutenant governor of New York, disagreed, citing the decision of some Democrats to cross the aisle.
What was left unsaid is that every Democrat who voted to cite Holder in contempt has recently received money from the rabidly anti-Holder NRA.
DOOCY: As we've been telling you, the House of Representatives yesterday on a bipartisan basis voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt.
DOOCY: Joe [Trippi], it was a bipartisan vote, 16 Democrats went along with Republicans and said, You know, you really should give up those documents there is a dead guy we are talking about. A border patrol agent.
JOE TRIPPI: We don't do this like you know bullet vote [where] everyone has to vote the same way on the Democratic side of the aisle.
TRIPPI: I'm not talking about the credible facts [in Fast and Furious], whether they are there or not. It looks like its politics.
BETSY MCCAUGHEY: I don't think it does because Democrats voted for the contempt. And you know what, all of those Democrats walked out, the Congressional Black Caucus --
TRIPPI: 16 Democrats --
MCCAUGHEY: -- they didn't have the nerve to vote against the contempt motion. They posed this as a walk out. But you know what, that was cowardice. Either you vote for it or you vote against it. Walking out that's just stage show but with no convictions.
The NRA has, of course, been trying to effectuate Holder's ouster since the beginning. On April 30, 2011, in the earliest stages of the House Oversight Committee's investigation into Fast and Furious, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre declared, "Holder's got to go!" In media appearances, LaPierre continues to promote his insane belief that Fast and Furious was an Obama administration plot to destroy the Second Amendment.
In a June 20 letter to lawmakers in support of citing Holder for contempt, the NRA's top lobbyist, Chris Cox, informed Members of Congress that the NRA would score the vote for its candidate rating system. Of the 17 Democrats who voted for contempt, 16 protected their A or A+ NRA rating. Rep. Kathleen Hochul (D-NY) possesses an NRA endorsement, but no rating.
UPDATE: During yesterday's broadcast of Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends, Doocy predicted that Democrats who voted for contempt would be influenced by the NRA's decision to score the contempt vote. Even though his prediction appears to have come true, Doocy did not mention the NRA's influence during today's Fox & Friends and instead adopted the narrative that the bipartisan outcome suggested that partisanship was not a motivating factor.
DOOCY: Regarding how come there are going to be so many Democrats vote against Eric Holder is the fact that the NRA said, "Ok, you know what we're going to do? We're going to score that vote." And what happens in Washington is anytime there is something that involve gun control the NRA says, "We're going to score it." And if people want a good score with the NRA, and if you're in a district where the NRA is important, you vote with what the NRA wants, which is contempt of Congress for Mr. Holder.
From the June 28 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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From the June 28 edition of MSNBC's PoliticsNation:
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While discussing the walkout of House Democrats in protest of the contempt vote against Attorney General Eric Holder, Fox News' Eric Bolling claimed on The Five: "I don't think I've ever seen that before. I don't think I've ever seen people vacating the House like that before -- over a vote."
Obviously Bolling hasn't been paying attention. In February of 2008, House Republicans walked out during a vote that held two Bush aides (Josh Bolten and Harriet Miers) in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify about the politically motivated firings of U.S. attorneys.
Mike Vanderboegh, the ex-militia blogger who calls himself one of the "midwives" of the Operation Fast and Furious scandal, recently predicted that if the Supreme Court declared the health care reform bill to be constitutional, it would lead to violent insurrection against "government tyranny."
The blogger posted the statements, which come from a recent unpublished interview, the same day the House of Representatives voted to find Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt over his unwillingness to release documents related to Fast and Furious.
In the excerpts Vanderboegh posted on his blog "which deal with the decision today," he says of a then-potential decision upholding the health care law, "You may call tyranny a mandate or you may call it a tax, but it still is tyranny and invites the same response." He further predicts the response of his ilk: "If we refuse to obey, we will be fined. If we refuse to pay the fine, we will in time be jailed. If we refuse to report meekly to jail, we will be sent for by armed men. And if we refuse their violent invitation at the doorsteps of our own homes we will be killed -- unless we kill them first. ... I am on record as advocating the right of defensive violence against a tyrannical regime."
Vanderboegh gained fame in 2010 when he urged his readers to respond to the passage of health care reform by breaking the windows of Democratic offices, then took credit after vandals struck several such offices. The Alabama-based blogger has previously been part of the militia and Minuteman movements, and leads the Three Percenters, a group which claims to represent the three percent of gun owners who "who will not disarm, will not compromise and will no longer back up at the passage of the next gun control act" but will instead, "if forced by any would-be oppressor, ... kill in the defense of ourselves and the Constitution."
Vanderboegh was one of the first to break the story that ATF whistleblowers said that they had been ordered to knowingly allow gun trafficking suspects to take weapons across the border into Mexico. The operation was intended to allow law enforcement to identify other members of the trafficking network that for years has directed assault weapons into the hands of Mexican cartels, with the goal of bringing those cartels down. He has said that he and a fellow blogger were the "midwives of the scandal" who introduced the whistleblowers to congressional investigators. He has theorized that the operation was part of a secret plot against the Second Amendment directed from the highest levels of government.
Last year Fox repeatedly hosted Vanderboegh on their air to provide expert commentary on the story. Then in November, four Georgia men were arrested in connection with an alleged plot to kill federal employees and civilians using explosives and the biological agent ricin. According to the criminal complaint against him, one of the alleged domestic terrorists repeatedly cited Vanderboegh'snovel Absolved as the inspiration for their plot. Media subsequently noted that Vanderboegh had, in the words of the Associated Press, "appeared as a commentator on Fox News Channel." He has not done so since.
Today the United States House of Representatives will vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. The push for a contempt citation followed a lengthy investigation by the House Oversight Committee into Holder's supposed role in the failed ATF Fast and Furious operation, in which, according to whistleblowers, the agency allowed guns to be trafficked across the border as part of an investigation intended to take down a Mexican drug cartel.
Throughout the investigation members of the right-wing media have engaged in numerous distortions about Fast and Furious while sycophantically parroting allegations made by the Republican-led House Oversight Committee. Below some of these narratives are examined and debunked.
The National Rifle Association is one of the primary promoters of the conspiracy theory that Operation Fast and Furious was designed to create violence in Mexico, which in turn would be pointed to by the Obama administration as the justification for more restrictive gun laws, a bizarre claim that has gained a solid foothold in the right-wing media's Fast and Furious narrative. Conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh has frequently told his listeners that the failed ATF operation was a premeditated "attack on the Second Amendment," citing this theory.
But none of the people promoting this theory have ever provided any hard evidence to prove its existence. Townhall News Editor Katie Pavlich breathlessly hashed out the conspiracy theory in her book, Fast and Furious: Barack Obama's Bloodiest Scandal and its Shameless Cover-up, on the shaky premise that the fact that some members of the Obama administration have supported gun violence prevention measures was evidence enough of an anti-Second Amendment plot. But even Fox News host Bill O'Reilly dismissed such claims as a "conspiracy thing." And for good reason; the "evidence" offered by Pavlich and other promoters is circumstantial and the theory's logic entirely speculative. In fact, Obama has expanded, rather than restricted, the right to carry a gun during his first term.
When Obama asserted executive privilege over a set of internal Department of Justice (DOJ) documents on June 20, Fox News was quick to push the narrative -- straight from the GOP spin room -- that the president's use of privilege implied something sinister was afoot at the White House. As Happening Now guest host Gregg Jarrett put it, "If the president was not involved then executive privilege does not apply. If the president was involved, then three things, either Holder was not telling the truth in front of Congress, and or the White House was not telling the truth when it denied the White House and the president were involved, and the president himself may have not been telling the truth when he made statements."
There are two problems with this argument. First, Obama only asserted executive privilege over documents generated after February 4, 2011. Fast and Furious was terminated in January 2011. According to the letter that DOJ sent to Obama asking the president to assert his privilege, the documents in question "were created after the investigative tactic at issue in that operation had terminated and in the course of the Department's deliberative process concerning how to respond to congressional and related media inquiries into that operation."
Secondly, presidents have traditionally asserted executive privilege over matters in which they are not personally involved. When President George W. Bush first used executive privilege in December 2001, he acted to shield internal DOJ documents. In a separate instance in 2008, his Attorney General, Michael Mukasey, advised the president that he could shield Environmental Protection Agency documents because "[t]he doctrine of executive privilege also encompasses Executive Branch deliberative communications that do not implicate presidential decisionmaking."
As right-wing media cheer on a partisan Republican effort to find Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt with regard to Congress' inquiry into the ATF's Operation Fast and Furious, Fortune magazine has released a stunning investigation which concludes that ATF "never intentionally allowed guns to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels" in that case.
The Fortune piece is based on a six-month investigation that included the review of "more than 2,000 pages of confidential ATF documents" and interviews with "39 people, including seven law-enforcement agents with direct knowledge of the case." Its author, Katherine Eban, is an award-winning investigative reporter who writes for major national magazines and whose work has been featured on national broadcast news programs.
Operation Fast and Furious has long been presented by the politicians of both parties and by right-wing, traditional, and progressive media - including here at Media Matters - as a failed ATF operation in which agents were instructed to allow guns to be trafficked in order to build a complex case against a Mexican drug cartel. In that scenario, the guns were allowed to cross the border and were later recovered at crime scenes, including at the site of the murder of border patrol agent Brian Terry. Several members of Congress, including Oversight Committee chair Darrell Issa (R-CA), have followed the National Rifle Association and right-wing media in promoting a more sinister conspiracy theory: that the operation was conceived from the beginning to deliberately arm the cartels in order to promote a gun control agenda.
In contrast to both the conventional and conspiratorial narratives, Eban writes:
Quite simply, there's a fundamental misconception at the heart of the Fast and Furious scandal. Nobody disputes that suspected straw purchasers under surveillance by the ATF repeatedly bought guns that eventually fell into criminal hands. Issa and others charge that the ATF intentionally allowed guns to walk as an operational tactic. But five law-enforcement agents directly involved in Fast and Furious tell Fortune that the ATF had no such tactic. They insist they never purposefully allowed guns to be illegally trafficked. Just the opposite: They say they seized weapons whenever they could but were hamstrung by prosecutors and weak laws, which stymied them at every turn.
Eban's report raises important questions about the media's conventional wisdom on the case. As of publication, Fox News -- which has provided a constant flood of reports and commentary on every minor occurrence in Fast and Furious -- has not mentioned the story, which was published at 5 a.m. this morning.
From the June 26 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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Since President Obama's assertion of executive privilege over a set of internal Department of Justice (DOJ) documents, Fox News "straight news" anchors have repeatedly suggested that the president is attempting to "have it both ways" by invoking the privilege while also maintaining his longstanding position that he was not involved in the authorization or management of the failed ATF Fast and Furious operation. At times they have continued to do so even after their colleagues have informed them that these positions are not inconsistent.
Both Gregg Jarrett and Jamie Colby, the guest hosts of Happening Now and America's Newsroom, respectively, have pushed this baseless idea - echoing GOP talking points - during this week's broadcasts. Although Colby and Jarrett have been corrected by their colleagues on-air for their mistaken claims, Jarrett's revival of the specious claim during yesterday's show demonstrates that the idea that Obama's routine use of executive privilege evidences something sinister is alive and well at Fox News.
From the June 25 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
JARRETT: The president is on record as having said all along knew nothing about it, didn't deal with it, wasn't involved. And all of a sudden the president invokes executive privilege which suggests that there was some White House involvement. You can't have it both ways, can you?
From the June 26 edition of America's Newsroom:
COLBY: Can the president have it both ways, say that the White House had nothing to do with the Fast and Furious program, and at the same time exert executive privilege over documents that dealt with, as [White House press secretary] Jay Carney had said, the operation?
Jarrett aired out his idea about Obama even after he had been corrected by Fox News White House correspondent Ed Henry for making similar claims during the June 20 edition of Happening Now. During that show, Henry told Jarrett in plain terms that Obama's use of executive privilege "does not prove any sort of cover-up and it does not prove that the president was involved in Fast and Furious."
Colby was corrected in a more immediate fashion by conservative The Five co-host Andrea Tantaros who stated, "I will say this though, in fairness, the president does have a right to exert executive privilege in a deliberate process. In the [U.S. v.] Nixon ruling it said that it doesn't have to include the president or his advisors. It could include a decision that eventually will affect the president. Recommendations, deliberations, that kind of thing."
Today on Fox News' America Live, Megyn Kelly offered repeated tension-filled teases for an interview with a "former DOJ official" who she promised would explain how the White House "had to know" about the controversial tactics used in the ATF's failed Operation Fast and Furious and would provide "his take on what Mr. [Attorney General Eric] Holder likely knew and when he knew it." But Kelly's big get wasn't someone with any actual knowledge of the operation or its aftermath, but rather Andrew C. McCarthy, the resident anti-Obama conspiracy theorist at the right-wing National Review.
McCarthy's credentials to make broad claims about what the White House and senior DOJ officials would be limited even if his credibility was not; he served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in New York, not at DOJ headquarters in Washington, DC, and left public service in 2003.
But McCarthy's credibility certainly is in question. While McCarthy first gained fame for prosecuting the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, in recent years he has become known for his viciously anti-Muslim rhetoric and adoption of conspiracy theories.
Obama's radicalism, beginning with his Alinski/ACORN/community organizer period, is a bottom-up socialism. This, I'd suggest, is why he fits comfortably with Ayers, who (especially now) is more Maoist than Stalinist. What Obama is about is infiltrating (and training others to infiltrate) bourgeois institutions in order to change them from within -- in essence, using the system to supplant the system. A key requirement of this stealthy approach (very consistent with talking vaporously about "change" but never getting more specific than absolutely necessary) is electability.
McCarthy has also:
From the June 25 edition of Current's Talking Liberally with Stephanie Miller:
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