On the morning of Saturday, April 14, 2012, things were going well for the National Rifle Association. The gun rights organization's annual meeting was in full swing. Bloggers crowed about record attendance at the St. Louis, Missouri event. Friday's "Celebration of American Values Leadership Forum" went off without a hitch--all 13 featured speakers were Republican men. Barack Obama was called a "post-American President," "incompetent," and the most "radically liberal" president since Jimmy Carter. But the most incendiary comments about the president had yet to come.
On Saturday afternoon, Ted Nugent, a member of the NRA's Board of Directors, addressed the NRA faithful. Nugent implored NRA members to support the Republican ticket in the fall, declaring, "Your goal should be to be able to get a couple of thousand people, per person who's here, to vote for Mitt Romney in November." After that rather innocuous endorsement, Nugent turned his sights on President Obama, and things quickly spiraled out of control.
"If that dead Marine isn't worth it to you to demand that the enemies in the White House are ousted, then you probably ought to just move to France," ranted Nugent. He continued, "If Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year. Why are you laughing? Do you think that's funny? That's not funny at all. I'm serious as a heart attack." Nugent then characterized the Obama administration as "vile," "evil," and "America-hating," before concluding his diatribe with a call for the audience to "ride into that battlefield and chop [Democrats] heads off in November."
For some reason The New York Times decided to give a trend piece on concealed carry clothing for the "fashion aware gun owner" prime placement on the front page of today's paper. Shockingly, the Times decided that the piece was not complete without commentary from economist and gun researcher John Lott:
After a campaign by gun rights advocates, 37 states now have ''shall issue'' statutes that require them to provide concealed-carry permits if an applicant meets legal requirements, like not being a felon. (A handful of other states allow the concealed carrying of handguns without a permit). By contrast, in 1984 only 8 states had such statutes, and 15 did not allow handgun carrying at all, said John Lott, a researcher of gun culture who has held teaching or research posts at a number of universities, including the University of Chicago. ...
A majority of states have long allowed the open carrying of handguns, said Mr. Lott, who also provided the data on gun permits. But the reality, said Mr. Lott and other gun experts, is that people do not want to show others that they are carrying a weapon or invite sharp questioning from the police.
It's curious that the Times went to Lott for comment, given that the paper has previously noted that studies of his work "have found serious flaws in his data and methodology."
Lott first gained fame in the 1990s for his claim that the passage of laws allowing for the concealed carry of handguns causes levels of violent crime to drop -- a claim that hassince been debunked. Lott has since been convincingly alleged to have fabricated data to claim that 98 percent of defensive gun uses don't involve the firing of a weapon, cited data that doesn't exist to claim that the end of the assault weapons ban reduced murders, altered blog posts after the fact to eliminate false claims for which he had been criticized, and invented facts that don't appear in a study he cited, among other instances of fabricated, misrepresented, and sloppy research.
Notably, as the Times noted in 2006, Lott "acknowledged in 2003 using the online pseudonym 'Mary Rosh' for more than three years to attack his critics and praise his own work."
Was there really no one else the Times could have found to provide data on how many states allowed concealed carry permits in the 1980s? And does the Times truly think that describing Lott as a "researcher of gun culture" is sufficient?
Last week we broke down the variety of falsehoods and misrepresentations Townhall news editor Katie Pavlich employs in her new book, Fast and Furious: Barack Obama's Bloodiest Scandal and its Shameless Cover-up. But more insidious than her sloppy adherence to the facts is the conspiracy theory she weaves as the heart of the book.
It is universally acknowledged that the ATF's Operation Fast and Furious was a debacle that never should have been allowed to happen. No one questions that it is a complete disaster that federal agents knowingly allowed guns to be trafficked across the border to Mexico, resulting in tragic consequences including deaths on both sides of the border.
Heads should roll in response; several individuals involved in the case have resigned or been reassigned and Attorney General Eric Holder has said further personnel changes could come in the wake of the inspector general's report.
But Pavlich is unsatisfied with simply investigating who approved of this flawed operation; instead she succumbs to the paranoid conspiracy theory from the National Rifle Association that the operation was originally conceived not as an attempt to build a case to bring down a Mexican drug cartel, but rather as part of a sinister plot to push a gun control agenda.
These claims may pass muster before an NRA audience, but they are not credible for most. Here's Bill O'Reilly - not someone inclined to think well of the administration - interviewing Pavlich about what he calls her "conspiracy thing." Even he's not buying it:
The fallout continues over the American Legislative Exchance Council's support of the National Rifle Association's "Kill at Will" self-defense laws. On his RedState.com site, CNN contributor Erick Erickson reported today that an "NRA representative took issue with ALEC getting rid of his public safety section" at last Wednesday's weekly conservative discussion hosted by NRA board member Grover Norquist.
Last Tuesday ALEC announced that they were eliminating their Public Safety and Elections task force, which drew fire for its role in promoting NRA-backed gun laws and voter restrictions, and refocusing solely on economic legislation. Over the previous week at least 10 companies had left the organization in the wake of Color of Change's campaign to encourage corporations to end their association with the group due to their promotion of those laws.
At Grover Norquist's Wednesday meeting a discussion about the ongoing assault against ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, came up. Multiple sources (there are hundreds in the room) tell me that the NRA representative took issue with ALEC getting rid of his public safety section. That section has drafted a model "stand your ground" law, which Florida passed.
The NRA representative claimed that if ALEC was going to run away from the fight on these public safety issues, ALEC might just run away from other issues too, e.g. immigration.
Erickson further reported that an ALEC representative present at the meeting complained that the NRA had refused to help his organization push back on attacks they were receiving.
It was only a matter of time before conservative media rallied behind National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent. In the space of a few days, he has garnered support from CNN contributor Dana Loesch, Fox News host Mike Huckabee, and frequent Fox guest Lars Larson, who have defended the firebrand rocker and Washington Times columnist for recent comments he made about the Obama administration. Those comments alarmed the Secret Service enough to seek a meeting with Nugent. (The Secret Service has since announced that "the issue has been resolved" and the agency "does not anticipate any further action.")
During the NRA national convention on April 14, Nugent accused Obama of having a "vile, evil America-hating administration" that is "wiping its ass with the Constitution" and told the crowd that "[w]e need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November." He added: "If Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year."
Those comments, by the way, have now been scrubbed from the organization's official YouTube account and from the NRANews.com website.
Loesch, Huckabee, and Larson have denied that Nugent was making any kind of threat -- Nugent himself has disclaimed this point -- and by way of defense, have offered their own interpretations of what Nugent, whom they all referred to as a friend, was really saying. But in casting doubt and trying to deflect attention from the inflammatory comments, these commentators are fueling an old myth that Obama is a "gun grabber" out to "take away" Nugent's freedoms and Americans' guns.
Regardless, why would it be OK for Nugent to stoke fears that Obama will come for Americans' guns and liberties -- and that people will die as a result? How this is acceptable is anyone's guess.
In her new book, Fast and Furious: Barack Obama's Bloodiest Scandal and its Shameless Cover-up, Townhall news editor Katie Pavlich offers up a number of false and misleading claims about the ATF's fatally flawed Operation Fast and Furious. In doing so Pavlich baselessly suggests that high-ranking Justice Department officials were aware of that operation's use of the tactic of gunwalking, in which agents knowingly allowed guns to be trafficked across the border to Mexico in order to identify other members of a trafficking network.
Don't take our word for it. He literally wrote a song about it. Here's video of the National Rifle Association board member rocking out to his song, titled "I am the NRA," at the 2008 NRA annual meeting, where it debuted:
Keep that in mind as the gun lobby attempts to distance itself from the aging rocker over his incendiary comments at this year's convention. Nugent is a longtime spokesman for the organization and a linchpin of their Trigger the Vote voter registration campaign.
Nugent's statement over the weekend that the Obama administration is a "vile, evil America-hating administration" that is "wiping its ass with the Constitution" was startling but not surprising. His claim that "If Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year" represented the sort of rhetoric that may be news to the Secret Service, but certainly isn't to the NRA.
Indeed, Nugent has a long, long record of inflammatory, offensive, and extreme comments, on stage, in his Washington Times columns, and on NRA Radio. His remarks over the weekend simply echo that record - and indeed, echo vicious comments made by many members of the NRA's board.
At a concert in August 2007, Nugent brandished two assault rifles while yelling, "Obama, he's a piece of shit. I told him to suck on my machine gun," adding, "Hey Hillary, you might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless bitch."
Nine months later he was singing "I am the NRA" at their convention, with no indication that the group's leadership disagreed.
From the April 19 edition of Fox News' America Live:
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Today, CNN highlighted comments National Rifle Association board member and Washington Times columnist Ted Nugent made on Dana Loesch's radio show but repeatedly avoided telling viewers that Loesch is a paid CNN contributor. Nugent appeared on Loesch's show yesterday to defend his inflammatory comments about the Obama administration, saying he stood by his remarks at the NRA and that his message had been "100 percent positive."
Speaking at the NRA national convention on April 14, Nugent accused President Obama of having a "vile, evil America-hating administration" that is "wiping its ass with the Constitution." He went on to tell the crowd that "[w]e need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November" and said: "If Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year." Politico reported that the Secret Service heard Nugent's comments and is "conducting an appropriate follow-up."
During the Loesch interview, Nugent added more derogatory comments about Democrats, describing Democratic chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz as a "brain-dead, soulless, heartless idiot," and saying that House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi was a "sub-human scoundrel."
Loesch also accused Democrats of "using" Nugent "to distract from the president's low poll numbers, the disaster with Fast & Furious, which I know was a topic as well at NRA, at the convention, Solyndra, high gas prices." She added: "You're a scapegoat. They're trying to suggest that you said something that you emphatically did not say."
She later told Nugent:
LOESCH: You made this statement that well, "if Barack Obama becomes president in November again, I'll either be dead or in jail by this time next year." I think, quite honestly, most -- every conservative would be in jail because we wouldn't be going along with the Obamacare mandates.
In reporting on the comments, CNN's early morning show, Early Start, did note that Loesch is a "CNN contributor and tea party activist" during the 5:00 and 6:00 am ET hour. But after that, CNN repeatedly neglected to mention Loesch's affiliation with CNN.
CNN either described Loesch as a "conservative talk show host" or did not identify her at all.
From the July 14 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
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|NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre at the |
NRA's 2012 annual meeting.
ST. LOUIS -- The hotel minibus had barely left the airport when the guy to my left dropped the Obama assassination joke.
There were eight of us on our way to the National Rifle Association's annual convention downtown, rolling past a domino-row of highway billboards advertising the event's "Acres of Guns and Gear." The banter suggested the minibus crew was microcosmic of the NRA's claimed four million members, more than 70,000 of whom made the election-year pilgrimage. There was a soft-spoken father from Long Island and his teenage daughter headed to the University of Akron on a Division-I marksmanship scholarship. There were retired New Hampshire hunters from NRA families going back generations. There was a Russian immigrant whose only hobby is fully automatic machine guns.
And there was a professional Second Amendment extremist named Stephen Burke. An Endowment Life Member of the NRA and an attorney from Springfield, Massachusetts, Burke specializes in getting guns into the hands of ex-cons whose licenses have been revoked or downgraded for criminal activity.
Burke is a loud and boastful retired lance corporal who displays a photo of himself with NRA Executive Vice President & CEO Wayne LaPierre on his professional website. The only thing he abhors more than gun control is silence. When a conversation about former New York Governor George Pataki's pro-gun record entered a lull, he asked the group what sounded like an American history riddle or piece of trivia: "What do Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and Barack Obama have in common?"
The collective intelligence of the minibus was stumped. After a few beats, he delivered the answer: "Nothing. Yet."
Most of the bus erupted in laughter, but the father from Long Island looked out the window, embarrassed.
Parents who want to shield their children from presidential assassination jokes should consider vacation destinations other than NRA conventions. The group's leadership has in recent years expertly cultivated a very profitable hatred and paranoia among its membership. This fact was on majestic display in St. Louis, where NRA officials painted the president as a dedicated "enemy of freedom" quietly implementing the early stages of a master gun confiscation plan. The convention marked the opening salvo in the group's campaign to defeat Obama and his gun control allies in November. The official battle cry for this effort, unveiled on Friday, is "All In."
The NRA's election-year slogan is meant to evoke a bit of the Wild West tough guy imagery that remains central to American gun culture. The phrase comes from poker, the card game of the frontier, and the desired picture is that of a noble, steely-eyed gun lobby pushing its mountain of chips across the table of America's destiny, betting everything on one last high-stakes hand. In NRA land, where impending Second Amendment Apocalypse is a state of mind and a business strategy, the next election is always the final hand. As he did in 2008, chief NRA spokesman Wayne LaPierre describes 2012 as "the most important election of our lifetime."
As companies cut ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) following a campaign led by ColorOfChange, Fox News has defended the conservative legislation organization, accusing ColorOfChange of using "fascist tactics" and inviting ALEC supporters and officials on to defend their actions. ALEC, an organization that drafts model bills for conservative state lawmakers, has pushed for controversial "Stand Your Ground" and voter ID laws across the country.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has announced that they are eliminating their Public Safety and Elections task force, which has drawn fire for its central role in promoting legislation similar to the Florida "Stand Your Ground" self-defense law that experts say may prevent the successful prosecution of Trayvon Martin's killer.
In a statement issued on behalf of the group's Legislative Board of Directors, ALEC national chairman David Frizzell said that in a meeting last week the legislative board unanimously agreed to "eliminating the ALEC Public Safety and Elections task force that dealt with non-economic issues, and reinvesting these resources in the task forces that focus on the economy."
Last month Media Matters was the first to report that shortly after Florida passed their 2005 "Stand Your Ground" law at the behest of the National Rifle Association, a nearly identical bill was adopted by ALEC as model legislation. NRA lobbyist and former NRA president Marion Hammer, who was the driving force behind Florida's bill, was the one who presented it before the Criminal Justice Task Force (which became the Public Safety and Elections task force).
Since ALEC adopted Florida's bill as model legislation, similar statutes have passed in dozens of states, with Public Safety and Elections resident fellow Michael Hough acknowledging in a 2008 interview with NRA News that ALEC and NRA were working together to get those bills passed. The NRA and ALEC have also teamed up to push bills allowing concealed carry permit holders to bring guns on college campuses and banning governors and local officials from seizing firearms during emergencies.
Following Media Matters' report, ALEC's ties to "Stand Your Ground" laws have drawn increasing scrutiny from the media and progressive organizations. In late March "a broad coalition of progressive groups -- including the NAACP, the Urban League, Color of Change, Common Cause, People for the American Way and MoveOn.org" held a protest of ALEC's ties to those laws outside the group's Washington, DC headquarters. At least 10 companies have left the organization in the wake of Color of Change's campaign to encourage corporations to end their association with ALEC due to its work on "Stand Your Ground" and voter ID legislation.
In response, ALEC has apparently decided to end its work on those issues, eliminating a key NRA ally.
At an event during last weekend's National Rifle Association annual meeting, NRA chief lobbyist Chris W. Cox said that the group doesn't "apologize" for its support for "Stand Your Ground" self-defense legislation in the wake of the killing of Trayvon Martin, adding, "We will defend our efforts. We will defend those laws."
Cox's comments came during an appearance at Friday's workshop on "Grassroots Campaigning in a National Election Year" attended by Media Matters. The head of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action was asked by an NRA district organizer to defend the NRA's support of "Stand Your Ground" legislation given the controversy currently swirling around such laws.
COX: There's support across the board for the Second Amendment, there's support across the board, even post-media hysteria over the last few weeks, there's support across the board for legitimate self-defense. We don't apologize for supporting -- whether you call it a national right or a God-given right, legislation that recognizes our right to defend ourselves. The fact that other groups and other business entities and others are supportive of that concept of constitutional freedom, whether they're concerned about it from a Second Amendment standpoint or an economic freedom standpoint, that's not my position to be, you can call them and ask them, that's not my position to take, for debate, for them. We stand in strong defense of any effort to allow law-abiding, good people to defend themselves against criminal attack. We don't apologize for that. It's not a problem in this country. We will defend our efforts. We will defend those laws, and if others want to join that fight we will.
During a Saturday speech at the annual meeting, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre attacked the media for their coverage of Martin's killing, accusing them of "manufactur[ing] controversy for ratings." The NRA's role in helping to author Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law and promoting similar laws across the country has in recent days become a focus of media attention.
From the April 16 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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