When National Rifle Association (NRA) executive vice president Wayne LaPierre isn't pontificating about the purported "massive Obama conspiracy," there's a decent chance he's hurling personal insults and employing other types of overheated rhetoric in pursuit of his political agenda. Some of LaPierre's greatest hits:
LaPierre is free to say whatever he wants, but do the media really have to cover his comments? According to the Media Research Center (MRC), the answer yes, even when the NRA doesn't bother to the return its calls.
This morning, the MRC blog NewsBusters posted a critique of Reuters' coverage of a recent investigation of online guns sales by New York City that showed that many private sellers were willing to sell guns to people who identified themselves as unable to pass a background check.
MRC complained there was insufficient gun lobby criticism of Bloomberg in the article:
The next big misstep in this article is its one-sentence dismissal of Bloomberg critics. "The National Rifle Association, the powerful U.S. gun lobby, was not immediately available for comment on the study."
MRC's message to the media: Print overheated NRA talking points whether or not the NRA gets around to giving you a comment before your deadline.
What should Reuters have done according MRC? Dig through the NRA's website and find the most recently available blog posts written about Bloomberg's efforts with Mayors Against Illegal Guns. The blog posts the MRC identifies as appropriate representations of the NRA's views were written before the online gun sale investigation was announced, so naturally, they weren't responsive to the topic of the article.
The first of the two blog posts MRC suggests could have been represented in the Reuters report includes LaPierre's suggestion that Bloomberg could aptly be viewed as a "petty tyrant." The MRC:
In the first post, which deals with an earlier anti-gun address Bloomberg gave to students at MIT, the NRA's Wayne LaPierre made the observation that "Bloomberg should also remember that a 'ruler' (which is what he seems to think he is) that denies the people of their Right to Keep and Bear Arms while maintaining a large 'army' (the NYPD) is apt to be viewed as a petty tyrant, not a benevolent and wise leader."
The second post highlighted by the MRC suggested that by opposing the NRA's favored legislation, Mayors Against Illegal Guns was engaging in a "shameful attack on the individual liberties of law-abiding Americans".
LaPierre's history of demonizing those who disagree with him might well deserve more media attention than it gets, but it's hardly essential context for a news report documenting the ease with which criminals can get guns online.
In his December 14 Washington Times column titled, "Occupy stooges on parade: It's fun watching Democrats getting hauled off to jail," Ted Nugent wrote about the "hearty laugh[s]" he had after "watching the cops pounce on and pepper-spray a few Occupy stooges and then drag the dirtballs off to jail in shackles." Nugent, and NRA board member, went on to say that this was "good for my conservative soul and gold for my sense of humor." From the Times:
While I don't condone violence, watching the cops pounce on and pepper-spray a few Occupy stooges and then drag the dirtballs off to jail in shackles is good for my conservative soul and gold for my sense of humor. Everyone needs at least one hearty laugh every day.
You have to admit that watching a stinky, dirty hippie being dragged off to jail is as funny watching James Brown drive across railroad tracks on the rims of his pickup truck, listening to Joe Biden stick his foot in his mouth, or watching Moe hit Larry and Curly with a pipe wrench. This is funny stuff, funny stuff. Lighten up.
From the December 14 edition of Fox News' America Live:
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This morning, the right-wing Daily Caller announced the launch of a new website section called Guns and Gear. According to their press release, "The section will include everything from the latest news about armed citizens defending themselves and their property, to coverage of Second Amendment policies and politics, to reviews of the latest guns and gear."
Publisher Neil Patel is quoted in the release saying that "The millions of Americans who own and are interested in guns are currently without the sort of daily news coverage that is allotted to most other American interests." But if the section's current content is any guide, the Caller has decided that the best way to provide this "daily news coverage" is to republish articles and press releases directly from the National Rifle Association (NRA). Take a look:
The top of the web page currently features one op-ed from top NRA lobbyist Chris Cox; links to three previous Cox columns; a reposted November NRA press release highlighting "Twelve Big Wins for Gun Owners"; and a gun review from the NRA publication Shooting Illustrated. Oh, and two ads for the NRA; apparently purported news outlets can make money republishing content from interest groups.
Further down the section, readers find additional republished NRA press releases, more Cox op-eds, more NRA web ads, and reposted articles from NRA publications American Rifleman, Shooting Illustrated, and American Rifleman. There are currently only seven pieces of content on the section's front page labeled as coming from The Daily Caller. Of those, three are articles that were originally published at Human Events and three are sets of links to gun manufacturers, state gun clubs, and gun owner manuals. The last is an article headlined "The War on Christmas."
Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that the Caller has apparently decided to rely on the gun lobby for its "daily news coverage" of gun issues. The press release lists Mike Piccione as the section's editor, with editor in chief Tucker Carlson stating, "Mike Piccione knows more about firearms and self-defense than anyone in journalism. We're grateful to have him editing this new section." According to his Human Events bio, where he worked as editor of the newsletter Guns & Patriots, Piccione is "a NRA Marketing Manager."
For most publications, this kind of ethical cesspool would lead to apologies, internal debates about standards, and some soul-searching. At the Caller, it's just another Wednesday.
Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer again trumpeted an email that Justice Elena Kagan wrote in March 2010 to further Fox News' efforts to have Kagan disqualified from hearing a case on the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In the email, written on the day the House passed the ACA, Kagan wrote: "I hear they have the votes!! ... Simply amazing." What Hemmer failed to note however is that experts on judicial ethics, as well as his own Fox News colleagues, have rejected the idea that Kagan needs to recuse herself from the case.
On America's Newsroom, Hemmer stated: "There are two big court decisions due this spring: immigration and health care. And Justice Elena Kagan has recused herself of Arizona's immigration law but she has not done so when it comes to the president's health care law. Should she?" He later suggested that Kagan's email was "enough to build an argument that suggests that she is not neutral on this topic."
In fact, it is misleading to equate Kagan's substantive role in the Arizona immigration case with her lack of such a role in health care reform. As guest Jay Sekulow noted, in the Arizona immigration case, Kagan "was involved in the litigation" during her time as solicitor general in the Obama administration. But on health care reform, Kagan has said she was not involved in any substantive discussions of the health care reform law, the constitutionality of the law, or litigation involving the law. And with regard to the email, as Sekulow noted, while Kagan "expressed her pleasure with the legislation," she "didn't express her opinion on the constitutionality of it."
Hemmer's colleagues at Fox News also don't agree that Kagan should recuse herself from hearing health care cases: for example, the Special Report panel has rejected calls that Kagan is unfit to rule, as well as host Megyn Kelly. Judicial ethics experts also agree.
Daily Caller "reporter" Matthew Boyle's emerging second career as a gun lobby lackey is clearly on the fast track, judging from his recent coverage of Attorney General Eric Holder's testimony before the House Judiciary Committee. Having used his platform to amplify seemingly every Republican line of questioning asked to Holder about the failed ATF operation Fast and Furious, Boyle found time on NRA Radio to attack Rep. Hank Johnson's (D-GA) questioning at the hearing.
Not surprisingly given his embarrassing disregard for the facts, Boyle completely ignored the well-established factual basis of Rep. Johnson's questioning and even went so far as to smear Rep. Johnson with the false suggestion that he "played the race card".
Before asking about the gun lobby's role in blocking a permanent director of the ATF, Rep. Johnson asked Holder about the 'gun show loophole' and how many guns from gun shows had fallen into the hands of dangerous people (from Nexis):
JOHNSON: It's about 2,000 [guns trafficked through Fast and Furious]? Now, how many firearms are sold to Al Qaida terrorists, to other convicted felons, to domestic violence perpetrators, to convicted felons, to white supremacists?
Do you think the NRA and other Second Amendment rights radicals have -- have confidence that the U.S. will not have a competent ATF head if the Senate continues to deny a leader for that organization, thus rendering it rudderless? Is that -- is politics causing that, do you think?
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) later seized on the Johnson's use of the term "radicals" to suggest he was attacking the NRA's entire membership. Boyle dutifully wrote up an article uncritically echoing Issa's complaints. Speaking during the latest of what appear to be daily appearances with NRA News, Boyle bizarrely threw out the suggestion that Johnson's comments represented playing the "race card":
On last night's edition of Fox News' On the Record, host Greta van Susteren lauded the FBI credentials of Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY), then allowed him to baselessly claim that the ATF's failed Operation Fast and Furious was approved "all the way at the top of the food chain," by Attorney General Eric Holder.
The Justice Department has consistently said that the operation, in which ATF agents allowed suspected traffickers to transmit guns to Mexico as part of an attempt to build a case against a drug cartel, was a local operation and that Holder and other senior Justice officials were unaware of the controversial tactics involved. But according to Grimm, for such an operation "you have to have approvals at the highest level of DOJ."
VAN SUSTEREN: And I suppose we should say and just sort of put in perspective, not only are you a member of Congress, you're a former FBI agent.
GRIMM: Yes. That's correct.
VAN SUSTEREN: OK. So -- and so the attorney general would be your boss, if you were still -- in theory.
GRIMM: Yes. Absolutely true.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. You want him out. Why?
GRIMM: I don't think we have the confidence. I think the attorney general has been misleading not only the Congress but the American people. Listen, you don't let guns and drugs walk. That's the general rule of thumb. So if you're going to do something like that, which is very rare, you have to have approvals at the highest level of DOJ.
Now, why is this more complicated? Because you're not just letting them walk within an area here in the United States. You're talking about an international border. So you're having guns walk across into another country.
There's no question in my mind that you needed approval all the way to top of the food chain, which leads directly to the attorney general.
But Fox News viewers have previously received the opposite information from a source with far more experience in the area. In a September interview, Michael Sullivan, acting director of the ATF under President Bush, said the operation was "well within the rights of the director [of ATF] to approve or reject," and "didn't require authorities outside of ATF... for the purpose of initiating it."
Not surprisingly, van Susteren never mentioned Sullivan's expressly contradictory analysis, nor the DOJ's denials.
Yesterday the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) put out the message that hunting with firearms is really, really, really safe. As you can see in their handy table, the gun-lobby group proclaims hunting with firearms is safer than golfing, bowling, or jogging. From the NSSF blog:
Don't let anyone tell you otherwise: Hunting with firearms is safe; in fact, hunting with firearms is one of the safest recreational activities in America.
Look just a little deeper and you can see that the NSSF's methodology is almost laughably shoddy. Safety analysis, according to the NSSF, need not include a relative measure of chance of death. Nor does it use a single source to form its estimated number of accidents, but rather mashes together two different data sources to make up for the lack of statistics about hunting in their primary data source.
The NSSF's blog post and its safety activity chart don't mention fatal hunting accidents at all. Perhaps sensing the obvious question coming from the reporters it hopes will write up its findings, the NSSF includes this factoid in the middle of a press release on the hunting safety report:
Though recent accurate figures on fatalities related to hunting are not available, statistics from 2002 show 99 fatal hunting accidents.
The NSSF makes no effort to evaluate the lethality or seriousness of different types of injuries in each activity it claims is less safe than hunting with firearms. A bullet to the chest and a sprained ankle are both counted as one injury in their statistics, and that's the basis of their claim that hunting with guns is safer then all but the least strenuous activities. According to a 2004 Good Morning America report, the International Hunter Education Association (IHEA) estimated that hunters were accidentally shooting more than 1,000 people a year in the United States and Canada.
Additionally, the methodology used to determine the number of injuries for every other activity is different than the methodology used to determine the safety of hunting. For every other activity, the NSSF relies on the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) 2010 data, but for hunting, it's data from CPSC combined with IHEA data to fill in the gaps. The NSSF never says if it has any reason to think that the IHEA collects data in a comparable way to the CPSC. It doesn't even say if it's using data from the same year, which it's also probably in the dark on, given that it apparently doesn't know the number of hunting related fatal accidents in 2010.
The media regularly go to NSSF for comment on articles related to gun statistics. The NSSF also publishes data on background checks that it claims are adjusted to properly reflect the number of gun sales made in the United States. The NSSF's shoddy hunting safety research casts serious doubts about the credibility of the organization as a source of accurate information.
Within a day of publication, the NSSF's hunter safety report was featured on the popular Truth About Guns blog under the title of "NSSF: Hunting Safer then Sex" and on the blog Shall Not Be Questioned under the title "Cheerleading More Dangerous Than Hunting With Guns." Outdoor-themed news sites have also picked up the story.
We've long chronicled the right-wing media's problem with undertaking basic research before trying to smear progressives. Nonetheless, this one was a doozy.
Last week, we debunked the claim from three conservative bloggers that President Obama repeatedly met with a Department of Justice official "keenly aware" of the failed ATF operation Fast and Furious at "the height" of the operation. In fact, no evidence has been presented showing that the official was aware at the time of the controversial details of the program, and in any case, the meetings in question were actually White House visits to attend major events related to a visit by the Mexican President and the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court.
As we pointed out, hundreds to thousands of people attended these supposed meetings, making it extremely unlikely that the DOJ official was using them to secretly brief the President. And as we noted, this information was easily available through the same White House Visitors Office records that the right-wing bloggers were using to drum up their conspiracy.
Yesterday, the Daily Caller attempted to identify just where those bloggers went wrong:
But on the dates in question, the logs specifically referred to formal arrivals and receptions related to a State Dinner for Mexican president Felipe Calderón. It's unclear whether the three writers noticed this feature of the visitor logs, since the spreadsheets' columns related to the purpose for the visits is hidden from view and only become visible when readers scroll a considerable distance to one side.
That's how pathetic even the Caller acknowledges the right-wing blogosphere must be: they are either too incompetent to "scroll a considerable distance to one side" in order to confirm their conspiracies before they run with them or they're simply uninterested in the truth.
For their part, the Caller was also apparently unable to pull off the scrolling trick on their own. Instead, after reading the claims of right-wing bloggers, they contacted the White House directly, who pointed them to our post. It remains to be seen whether the Caller has learned not to take such sources seriously in the future.
Civil-liberties advocates have expressed serious concerns about the defense-funding bill that is working its way through Congress, which at one point contained a provision that would have authorized the indefinite military detention of U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism. Another provision in the bill would mandate that the detention of non-citizen terrorism suspects be handled by the military.
Fox Business host Andrew Napolitano discussed this story on his December 2 show. His segment was a case study in Fox's journalistic malpractice and how Fox pushes its viewers toward extremism.
Napolitano presents himself as a staunch defender of our liberties, so much so that he is not only willing to call vast swaths of the federal government unconstitutional, but part of the Constitution itself, as well. Napolitano is possessed of such a powerful anti-government paranoia that he believes the government is lying about 9-11.
Given this attitude, it makes sense that Napolitano's guest for the segment wasn't a legitimate civil-liberties advocate or a constitutional lawyer. Rather, it was Richard Mack, a member of the board of directors for Oath Keepers.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, the Oath Keepers are an organization that encourages "members of the military and law enforcement to pledge not to follow certain hypothetical 'orders' from the federal government" if they believe these orders don't comport with the Constitution. The New York Times described the Oath Keepers as "a new player in a resurgent militia movement," and the group was part of the "Friends for Liberty," a coalition that included the far-right John Birch Society and an anti-vaccination activist group.
Mack used the segment to suggest that local officials shouldn't obey orders from the federal government: "I hope every American is watching your show today and especially every sheriff and local official and governor that realize now that we cannot depend on our politicians in Washington D.C., and our leaders in Washington D.C., to do a simple thing and that is keep their oath and follow and defend the United States Constitution."
Not only did Napolitano host Mack to discuss a subject that deserves a much more serious examination than a leader of the anti-government fringe could possibly provide, but the actual news content of the segment was amazingly misleading.
Rarely has the National Rifle Association's paranoia been more clearly on display than during yesterday's NRA News segment featuring Cato Institute fellow Daniel Mitchell. Mitchell was pretty straight forward: you need guns as a bulwark against the increasingly likely possibility of the world plunging into a "Mad Max dystopia."
Mitchell's recent Forbes article explaining his fears is surely destined for greatness on par with "Boston on Surviving Y2K," and his reportage appears so far to have been ignored by Alex Jones, so it's understandable why NRA News felt the need to amplify his message.
Mitchell's argument is largely based on talking to rich Europeans at a recent economic conference. The European elite, Mitchell reports, are gassing up their private jets in preparation to flee Europe in the event of societal collapse. Mitchell proposes people without the financial ability to leave Europe would be much better off in countries with high levels of gun ownership like Switzerland than they would in countries with more restrictive gun policies such as the United Kingdom. Mitchell on NRA News:
Based on my travels in Europe I started thinking, well, the Swiss are probably in good shape. I've been in lots of Swiss homes and people show me their guns, but if you're in the U.K. or a place like that where there's really no individual rights for firearms ownership.
I mean, imagine if society breaks down and the welfare state collapses into some sort of Mad Max dystopia, which we all hope of course never happens, but if it does where would I rather be Switzerland or England?
Examining Mitchell's core example of successful gun interventions you quickly see the hollow nature of his argument. Along with NRA News host Ginny Simone, Mitchell touts Korean shop owners defending their shops during the Los Angeles riots and contrasts that with shop owners during the London riots that were unarmed. Did more guns make the Los Angeles riots safer for citizens?
The numbers suggest the opposite. During the British riots 6 deaths were associated with civilian criminal activity. Of the two victims killed by gunfire one is believed to have been a looter himself. By contrast during the Los Angeles riots 53 people were killed, 35 by gunfire (10 of those by law enforcement or the National Guard).
Yet in the alternate reality presented by NRA News the Los Angeles riots are cited as a success story and the British riots as a travesty.
The plain subtext of Mitchell's argument is that economic collapse will be caused by politicians not following his preferred economic policies. Mitchell in Forbes:
If politicians destroy the economic system with too much debt and too much dependency, firearms will be the first and last line of defense against those who would plunder and pillage.
So to review: invest in guns, cut social programs like Medicare and Social Security.
"Enforce the laws on the books already before passing more" is the plea of the National Rifle Association (NRA) when proposals are made to strengthen guns laws. In April NRA executive vice-president Wayne LaPierre told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette "We support all kinds of behavioral requirements, restrictions ... there are dozens of laws on the books that we support. The problem is they're not being enforced."
So what happens when a state starts enforcing gun laws at gun shows? Long-winded jeremiads complaining of "entrapment" by the "anti-gun cabal." Maybe it's time to change the slogan to "enforce the laws on the books, but make sure it's not a law we don't like you jack-booted thugs."
On Wednesday New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced the arrest of ten people for selling guns at a gun show without performing a background check on the buyers as is required by state law. Mirroring previous undercover gun show investigations, Schneiderman reports that the sales happened even after indications were made that the buyer couldn't pass a background check, saying at a press conference: "I'm very sorry to report that every gun show they visited, undercover investigators who explicitly stated that they could not pass background checks were able to obtain firearms."
Only hours after the announcement NRA News was hosting a gripe session with Tom King of the New York Rifle and Pistol Association in a segment they titled "Bloomberg's Bogus Gun Show Sting". King told NRA Radio host Ginny Simone that the sting was "entrapment," it's purpose to "foster a political agenda" by a "anti-gun cabal." King's depiction of "entrapment" included such tricky methods as asking if the guns were for sale and saying they were looking to buy those types of guns.
King also told Gannett Pressconnects, "I guarantee you there's not a gun owner in New York state who was aware of that law before today." Contradicting King's depiction of the law was Budd Schroeder of the Shooters Committee on Political Education, who told a reporter for The Buffalo News that he's seen security guards at every gun show he'd attended check to see if gun buyers had proof that they'd undergone a background check. Hopefully moving forward the New York gun lobby will get it together and decide if the law is highly obscure or rigorously enforced.
Additionally transcripts of the purchases showed the seller suggested an illegal straw purchase saying, "I can sell it to you, and you can give it to him" after being informed that one of the undercover investigators couldn't pass a background check because of a domestic abuse incident.
Failing to perform a background check at a gun show is currently a misdemeanor offense in New York state.
From the November 30 edition of Fox Business' Follow the Money with Eric Bolling:
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From the November 30 edition of Fox Business' Follow the Money:
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"RED ALERT: Deputy A.G. behind 'Fast and Furious' met with President Obama four times during the height of the operation" read the headline to a post in Doug Ross's DirectorBlue blog on Monday. The post then proceeds to weave a narrative suggesting President Obama was repeatedly meeting with a Department of Justice official "keenly aware" of the failed ATF operation Fast and Furious at "the height" of the operation.
Sipsy Steet Irregulars conspiracist Mike Vanderbough, quickly picked up Ross' post, asking "Well, well, well. What do you know about this, Mr. President?" Surely the intrepid journalists at Daily Caller cannot be far behind.
As underwhelming as it is to establish that a series of "meetings" happened without a bit of information about what was discussed, Ross doesn't even get the facts straight on that. A closer look -- scrolling right -- at the White House Visitor Records data Ross is citing strongly suggests he's established nothing more than Grindler's attendance at speeches and events at the White House where between one hundred and several thousand other people were present. Looks like it's to time to cancel the draft impeachment articles.
Ross' big find is that Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler is listed in the White House visitor log records that were recently released as having visited Obama -- "POTUS" -- four times. Grindler received a briefing on the failed ATF operation Fast and Furious and although the documents related to the briefing did not mention the controversial "gun walking" tactics and the Department of Justice has said the briefing did not include "the operational tactics that have since raised concerns" it was enough for Ross to posit that Grindler "was keenly aware of all aspects of Fast and Furious." Ross:
Item 3: Newly released White House Visitor Logs list Grindler as having visited the White House 40 times, but only four times with the President himself. All four meetings with the President occurred over a two-week period, between 7 May 2010 and 19 May 2010.
According to The Los Angeles Times, these dates just so happened to represent the run-up to "the height of [Operation] Fast and Furious":
Ross concludes: "So my question is this: What did President Obama know -- and when did he know it?"
Looking at the complete visitor log entries the whole thing falls apart instantly. The four meetings appear to actually be three visits to attend heavily-reported public or diplomatic events where many, many other people were present.