Right-wing media are trying to downplay a confrontation over gun sale background checks between a woman who lost her mother in the Newtown, CT, shooting and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) by promoting a report from an Ayotte donor whose wife is the former chair of the New Hampshire GOP.
Erica Lafferty, the daughter of Sandy Hook Elementary School principal Dawn Hochsprung, asked Ayotte during an April 30 town hall meeting in Warren, New Hampshire, "why the burden of my mother being gunned down in the halls of her elementary school isn't more important" than Ayotte's claim that conducting background checks would be burdensome for gun store owners. According to NBC News, the meeting "drew more than 100 people who came to condemn or support Ayotte's vote."
Reacting to news reports of the confrontation between Lafferty and Ayotte, Shawn Millerick, editor of the conservative New Hampshire Journal, complained of "liberal media bias" and wrote that reports of Ayotte being confronted over her failure to support expanded background checks were exaggerated by the national media. Millerick also posted photographs of cars with out-of-state license plates that he says belonged to the individuals who opposed Ayotte's background check vote.
Breitbart.com, The Daily Caller, The Blaze, RedState and NewsBusters are all promoting Millerick's report as evidence that the media was dishonest in its coverage of Ayotte's town hall meeting while also characterizing Millerick's online newspaper as a "local" media source and not mentioning its partisan slant. According to Breitbart.com's John Nolte, Millerick's report "expose[d] the leftist national media for the liars they are." The Daily Caller's Alex Pappas framed the issue as a discrepancy between "local" and "national" media:
From the May 2 edition of NRA News' Cam & Company:
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The Tampa Bay Times failed to note the extremist past of David Yerushalmi -- an anti-Muslim lawyer and activist -- who authored the model legislation for a Florida bill which would attempt to ban Sharia law in the state.
Florida's largest paper focused its coverage of the anti-Sharia bill on the comments made by politicians on both sides of the debate in a "he said, she said" fashion, including those of the bill's sponsor, Rep. Larry Metz (R-Yalaha), who couldn't name an instance when the law would be needed, instead calling it a preventative measure. In addition, while the paper mentioned that Yerushalmi drafted the model legislation in a blog post, it failed to go in depth into Yerushalmi's history with anti-Sharia laws and racist rhetoric. His role was not included at all in any of the paper's print coverage of the anti-Sharia bill.
Yerushalmi, who founded the Society of Americans for National Existence (SANE) and is senior counsel to anti-Muslim activist Frank Gaffney's Center for Security Policy, wrote the model legislation for the Florida bill and bills in several other states, entitled "American Laws for American Courts."
However, Yerushalmi has a history of negative rhetoric towards immigrants, Muslims and African-Americans. As the Anti-Defamation League pointed out in a report calling Yerushalmi "a driving force behind anti-Sharia efforts in the U.S.," he has previously called for creating "special criminal camps" to house undocumented immigrants, said that African-Americans are a "relatively murderous race killing itself" and discussed how some races are better "in Western societies and some better in tribal ones." He's also claimed that Muslims are our enemies and that "Muslim civilization is at war with Judeo-Christian civilization," while demonizing millions of Muslims worldwide:
Yerushalmi has created a characterization of Shari'a law (i.e., Islamic law) that declares there are "hundreds of millions" of Muslims who are either "fully committed mujahideen" or "still dangerous but lesser committed jihad sympathizers" who, because of Shari'a law, would be willing to murder all non-believers unwilling to convert, in order to "impose a worldwide political hegemony."
Yerushalmi's group, SANE, has previously called on Congress to declare war on the Muslim nation and asked them to define Muslim undocumented immigrants as "alien enemies 'subject to immediate deportation.'"
Yerushalmi also has strong connections with other anti-Muslim activists including Pamela Geller and Gaffney, both of whom have been criticized for their extreme anti-Muslim rhetoric and actions and were quoted in the manifesto of Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in a Norwegian mass murder to allegedly prevent "Islamization."
The Tampa Bay Times' oversight in not reporting Yerushalmi's influence on the Florida bill leaves its readers unaware that the bill is not a "preventative" measure as the bill's sponsor claims, but rather a systematic attempt to rid the United States of Islam by an anti-Muslim activist.
The Daily Caller discounted the experiences of some victims of gun violence who have promoted stronger gun laws by claiming they suffer from "hoplophobia," a fake psychological disorder defined by the gun rights movement as "the morbid fear of guns."
This baseless attack found in the featured article of Daily Caller's "Guns and Gear" section is the latest salvo from a conservative media that have launched vicious attacks on survivors of gun violence who support reforms to current gun laws.
The Daily Caller article purported to examine "hoplophobia" as an actual psychological condition, asking, "Is America required to accept psychological acting out as a legitimate form of legislative discourse?" However this "disorder" is not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association and instead is a term coined by the late National Rifle Association board member and famed shooting instructor Jeff Cooper.
In the May 1 article, the authors singled out Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) and prominent gun violence prevention campaigner Sarah Brady as allegedly suffering from psychological problems due to their direct experience with gun violence. The article further claimed that the promotion of gun violence prevention is "perilous" to the public:
At least three of the most virulent anti-gun-rights crusaders in the nation suffered extreme gun trauma before entering the fray: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (discovered Harvey Milk's body), Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (husband shot dead on commuter train) and Sarah Brady (husband disabled in assassination attempt on President Reagan). Are there others? Have they received counseling for the gun trauma they experienced? And to what extent, if any, does hoplophobic displacement influence and skew what otherwise seems like politics as usual? The biggest question here would be: Is America required to accept psychological acting out as a legitimate form of legislative discourse?
The debate over the precise nature of the condition is likely to continue for a long period of time. This is normal in the psychiatric and mental-health field. The more pressing concern, it seems to us, is the scope of the condition, the numbers of people who may be afflicted, and the extent to which they sublimate their fear by pressing politicians to act in denying the rights of their fellow citizens. That, it seems to us, is intolerable -- the idea that a festering and untreated psychological condition may have more influence over the acts of Congress than does intelligent consideration of life-or-death issues.
In seeking to quell their own turmoil, those so afflicted project their own fears and rage onto others. This is a fairly normal method for handling overwhelming fear and anger, but in doing so, politically active hoplophobes infringe on the rights of healthy law-abiding citizens and the stability of our society. This makes hoplophobia not only unique among all phobias, it makes it perilous. [emphasis in original]
The National Rifle Association's annual meeting on May 3-5 will feature a number of conservative media figures -- including Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Ted Nugent -- who often use violent rhetoric and promote gun-related conspiracy theories.
A Wall Street Journal columnist cited a new Urban Institute study on the increased wealth gap between communities of color and whites to both revive the debunked accusations that fair housing policies caused the subprime mortgage bubble and falsely link Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez to these claims.
Continuing the outlet's relentless attacks on current Labor Secretary nominee Perez, editorial board member Jason Riley wrote a WSJ column claiming Perez is responsible for the racial wealth gap documented by a recent Urban Institute report by purportedly "saddl[ing] a lot of minorities with foreclosed homes, huge debt burdens and bad credit scores."
The support for this backwards allegation was that as head of the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice under President Obama, Perez effectively pursued lawsuits against banks that impermissibly discriminated against communities of color during the administration of former President George W. Bush. From the WSJ:
Not surprisingly, neither the Urban Institute nor the New York Times have much to say about the federal policies that pushed lenders to loan money to people unlikely to be able to repay it. But the reality is that well-intentioned housing policies aimed at low-income minorities have ultimately left those folks worse off.
President Obama's nominee for labor secretary, Thomas Perez, made a name for himself in the Justice Department by shaking down some of these lenders for "racial discrimination" if blacks and Hispanic applicants weren't approved for some loans at the same rate as whites. Other lenders got the message.
Mr. Perez is getting a promotion, and the Obama administration is patting itself on the back for pursuing these so-called fair-lending cases. Of course, all they've really done is saddle a lot of minorities with foreclosed homes, huge debt burdens and bad credit scores.
The media have a responsibility to accurately report on the FDA's approval of Plan B emergency contraception for use without a prescription for women 15 years and older, without giving in to false right-wing narratives.
Plan B, also known as the "morning after pill," is an emergency contraceptive that prevents a pregnancy by delaying ovulation or immobilizing sperm. In April, U.S. District judge Edward Korman, a Reagan appointee, ruled that the Obama Administration had to eliminate age restrictions on access to this emergency contraception without a prescription. Recently, however, the FDA separetly approved an approval application for over the counter access for women over 15. As explained by the FDA:
On April 5, 2013, a federal judge in New York ordered the FDA to grant a 2001 citizen's petition to the agency that sought to allow over-the-counter access to Plan B (a two dose levonorgestrel product) for women of all ages and/or make Plan B One-Step available without age or point of sale restrictions. However, Teva's application to market Plan B One-Step for women 15 and older was pending with the agency prior to the ruling.
The FDA's approval of Teva's current application for Plan B One-Step is independent of that litigation and this decision is not intended to address the judge's ruling.
The Department of Justice is considering next steps in the litigation. In the meantime, the FDA took independent action to approve the pending application on Plan B One-Step for use without a prescription by women 15 years of age or older.
Nevertheless, National Review Online is already attacking this decision as a "compromise" that is "all about politics" because unrestricted access to Plan B, which it calls a "sometimes-abortifacient pill," was what the administration "wanted all along," in spite of the clear science that the judge relied on to strike down age restrictions.
Two studies have estimated effectiveness of [emergency contraceptive pills] by confirming the cycle day by hormonal analysis (other studies used women's self-reported cycle date). In these studies, no pregnancies occurred in the women who took ECPs before ovulation; while pregnancies occurred only in women who took ECPs on or after the day of ovulation, providing evidence that ECPs were unable to prevent implantation.
As Linda Greenhouse explained in a New York Times op-ed, the judge based his decision on this scientific evidence:
Judge Korman begins where discussions of emergency contraception should begin but almost never do: by defining the drug and how it works. Those challenging the requirement for employer-provided health insurance to cover birth control almost invariably train their attack on emergency contraception by calling it an "abortion pill" or abortifacient and asserting a religious objection to abortion.
But Judge Korman, citing a Government Accountability Office report that collected scientific articles on the mechanism of levonorgestrel, the synthetic hormone that is the drug's active ingredient, demonstrates that Plan B is not about abortion. It immobilizes sperm and prevents or delays ovulation. In other words, when taken shortly after unprotected intercourse, Plan B works as birth control, by preventing rather than terminating a pregnancy. (The F.D.A.-approved label for Plan B raises the possibility that the drug might also work by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus to begin a pregnancy, but the National Institutes of Health has removed language raising this prospect from its Web site, and the N.I.H. biochemist in charge of research on contraception has said the language should also be taken off the label. Judge Korman called the prospect that Plan B might permit fertilization but prevent implantation "scientifically unsupported speculation.")
The issue is also playing out in federal courts across the country that are considering employers' challenges to regulations implementing the preventive health services provision of the Affordable Care Act. Under the ACA, employer-provided health insurance plans must cover contraception. Owners of private, secular corporations such as the Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby have sued to block the mandate, claiming that the mandate requires them to cover abortion-inducing drugs in violation of their religious beliefs. Federal court rulings challenges to the contraception mandate have been mixed.
As Greenhouse points out , the question of whether Plan B is an abortion-inducing drug has some bearing on the contraception mandate cases:
The debate over the contraception-coverage mandate wasn't part of Judge Korman's case; that issue will be argued next month before the federal appeals court in Denver in a case brought by the owners of the Hobby Lobby retail store chain. I hope the judges who hear the Hobby Lobby case and the other such cases that are cropping up around the country are as precise as Judge Korman in defining what's at issue: evidence-based judging to go along with evidence-based medicine. If the challengers' real objection is to birth control, they shouldn't be able to hide behind the "abortifacient" label.
The question of whether for-profit corporations have religious liberty rights at all is debatable. However, if courts conclude that such religious liberty rights exist and they buy the right-wing "abortion pill" myth, employees nationwide could stand to lose reproductive health coverage.
Fox News host Megyn Kelly and frequent contributor Jay Sekulow attacked Attorney General Eric Holder for a speech he gave highlighting the work of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in combatting threats against Muslims, a timely topic given the anti-Muslim backlash seen in right-wing media following the Boston Marathon bombings.
On April 29, Holder spoke at the centennial summit of the ADL and commended the organization for its long history fighting anti-Semitism, stating the organization would continue to "find a committed and active ally in this Attorney General." Holder closed his remarks by noting that it was two weeks to the day of the Boston bombings and praised ADL for its additional work fighting anti-Muslim bigotry, a commitment Holder assured the audience the Department of Justice shares. As explained by Holder, "just as we will pursue relentlessly anyone who would target our people or attempt to terrorize our cities - the Justice Department is firmly committed to protecting innocent people against misguided acts of retaliation."
In a "Fox News Alert" segment on America Live, Kelly attacked this speech by asking, "Has there been backlash against Muslims in the wake of Boston? And is this a time for the attorney general to be effectively scolding Americans, not to be bigoted and not to be ignorant?" Kelly also claimed that because Holder said this at the ADL's summit, "the context could be perceived by some to be somewhat offensive." In addition to pushing the argument that the bombing suspect should have been treated as an un-Mirandized "enemy combatant," Sekulow admonished Holder because "the attorney general of the United States needs to do us all a favor. Catch the terrorists. That's what he needs to be doing."
From the April 29 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Over the objections of their own legal experts, right-wing media continue to argue the alleged Boston bomber should be denied constitutional rights unlike the hundreds of terrorists before him who have been successfully tried and convicted.
Prominent right-wing media figures have advocated a wide range of unconstitutional treatment for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old U.S. citizen accused of complicity in the Boston marathon bombing and subsequent murder of a police officer. Echoing GOP politicians from Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) to Rep. Michelle Bachman (R-MN), right-wing media have called for Tsarnaev to be denied the constitutional protections regularly given to domestic or foreign terrorists in this country, both before and after the September 11, 2001, attacks.
Fox News hosts have suggested using torture on Tsarnaev because not all American citizens are "worthy of the constitutional rights that we have." The Wall Street Journal joined the dangerous clamor (fueled by Graham and Bachman) to indefinitely detain Tsarnaev in military custody as an "enemy combatant." Conservative pundit Ann Coulter told Fox's Sean Hannity she wanted authorities to "shoot up the boat" when they found Tsarnaev unarmed and "get him an automatic death penalty there."
When the Department of Justice initiated criminal proceedings against Tsarnaev, right-wing media turned their ire upon Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama for not preventing the federal judge from following the law. National Review Online's John Yoo accused the president of the "elevation of ideology over national security." Fox host Megyn Kelly continues to pretend "the public safety exception to Miranda lasts only 48 hours." A Washington Times columnist called for President Obama's impeachment because he is "unwilling" to protect America.
Fox News contributor Judith Miller wrote a highly speculative Wall Street Journal op-ed that claimed New York City police surveillance practices "may well have... prevented" the Boston bombing, ignoring that the constitutionality of these programs is currently being challenged in court and their efficacy is questioned.
In the April 24 op-ed, Miller lauded the New York Police Department (NYPD) for its blanket surveillance of American Muslim communities, which has extended beyond the jurisdiction of New York City. According to Miller, this extensive spying program "is a model of how to identify and stop killers like the Tsarnaev brothers before they strike" and should be emulated by other cities. From the WSJ:
[T]he city has developed a counterterror program that is a model of how to identify and stop killers like the Tsarnaev brothers before they strike. The 1,000 cops and analysts who work in the NYPD's intelligence and counterterrorism divisions, for instance, would likely have flagged Tamerlan Tsarnaev for surveillance, given Police Commissioner Ray Kelly's insistence on aggressively monitoring groups and individuals suspected of radicalization.
The NYPD maintains close ties to Muslim preachers and community leaders, as well as a network of tipsters and undercover operatives.
Once the department had Tamerlan under surveillance, the NYPD's cyberunit might have detected his suspicious online viewing choices and social-media postings. Other detectives might have picked up his purchase of a weapon, gunpowder and even a pressure cooker--an item featured in an article, "How to Build a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom," in the online al Qaeda magazine Inspire.
Even if the NYPD hadn't been watching Tamerlan, it might have been tipped off to such suspicious purchases thanks to its Nexus program. Since the program's launch in 2002, the department has visited more than 40,000 businesses in the metropolitan area, encouraging business owners and managers to report suspicious purchases or other activities potentially related to terrorism.
The right wing media's promotion of a widely-debunked Alex Jones conspiracy theory about the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) ammunition acquisitions prompted House Republicans to hold a hearing to investigate. The theory, which assigns some sinister motivation behind the recent ammo purchases, first gained traction on the websites of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones before finding its way to Fox News and Fox Business and finally to the halls of Congress.
On April 25, Republican Reps. Jim Jordan (OH) and Jason Chaffetz (UT) held a joint hearing "to examine the procurement of ammunition by the Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General." The hearing followed right wing media reports speculating about the reasons for the acquisitions.
The conspiracy theory picked up steam in March 2012 after a series of reports were posted to Alex Jones' InfoWars.com, including one that claimed "it's not outlandish" to conclude that the government, "is purchasing the bullets as part of preparations for civil unrest." An opinion piece at The Daily Caller cited the reports to suggest that the Obama administration is planning to kill thousands of American citizens. The DHS purchases were brought up on Fox News, prompting Fox and Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade to ask, "why they need all those bullets." And while covering the story, Fox Business host Lou Dobbs wondered why the government was "arming up" while trying to "disarm American citizens."
Forbes contributor Ralph Benko wrote that "It's Time For A National Conversation," and called for Congressional action:
If Obama doesn't show any leadership on this matter it's an opportunity for Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, to summon Secretary Napolitano over for a little national conversation. Madame Secretary? Buying 1.6 billion rounds of ammo and deploying armored personnel carriers runs contrary, in every way, to what "homeland security" really means.
Reps. Jordan and Chaffetz answered that call.
As Media Matters has previously noted, the claim that DHS is stockpiling ammunition for some ominous purpose is simply wrong. In reality, the Associated Press reported that while DHS did buy 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition, the government bought the bullets in bulk to save money on ammunition used in training and in the field. As the AP noted, "More than 90 federal agencies and 70,000 agents and officers used the department's training center last year." On a separate occasion, Media Matters reported that DHS responded that ammunition purchases are lower than in previous years and that while the law allows DHS to set purchase contracts of billions of rounds in order to reduce prices and save money, the government hasn't actually purchased nearly that many rounds.
Alex Jones, who has called President Obama the "global head of Al Qaeda," and claimed that the terrorist attacks in Boston, New York City, and Oklahoma City were carried out or sponsored by the government, has gained influence with the right wing media. Recently, Drudge Report's Matt Drudge promised that 2013 would be "year of Alex Jones."
UPDATE: The hearing on Alex Jones' conspiracy theory inspired new legislation that's now before Congress. On April 26, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) introduced bills in both chambers of Congress in order to limit federal agencies from stockpiling ammunition. From Inhofe's statement (emphasis added):
"President Obama has been adamant about curbing law-abiding Americans' access and opportunities to exercise their Second Amendment rights," said Inhofe. "One way the Obama Administration is able to do this is by limiting what's available in the market with federal agencies purchasing unnecessary stockpiles of ammunition. As the public learned in a House committee hearing this week, the Department of Homeland Security has two years worth of ammo on hand and allots nearly 1,000 more rounds of ammunition for DHS officers than is used on average by our Army officers. The AMMO Act of 2013 will enforce transparency and accountability of federal agencies' ammunition supply while also protecting law-abiding citizens access to these resources."
Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin incorrectly wrote that Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) is proposing to "ban explosive powder" as a response to the Boston Marathon bombings when in fact Reid has proposed requiring a criminal background check for individuals who buy explosive powder.
The Senate proposal, originally sponsored by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), but being shepherded by Reid in his absence, would require a background check to "purchase black powder, black powder substitute, or smokeless powder, in any quantity." Furthermore the legislation would allow the Attorney General to stop explosives sales to suspected terrorists. Under current law inclusion on the terrorist watch list alone does not prohibit individuals from buying explosives or firearms.
While Rubin's apparent aim was to make Reid's response to the Boston bombings seem ridiculous -- explosive powder has many legitimate uses -- explosive powder is a common component in domestic bombings. Furthermore, because of lobbying by the National Rifle Association, it is currently legal to purchase up to 50 pounds of black or smokeless powder without undergoing a background check.
Decades before the Boston bombings -- where the perpetrators reportedly may have used black or smokeless powder -- explosive powder has been known to be regularly employed by domestic bombers. According to a 1980 report issued by the Office of Technology Assessment, a now defunct office of Congress, in incidents involving both successfully detonated and undetonated bombs, "black and smokeless powders and cap sensitive high explosives all occur with high frequency." A 2005 report from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) found that "because black powder is relatively inexpensive (between $5 and $15 per pound), it is the most common explosive used in pipe bombs." The report also found that explosive powders were present in the most fatal of bombings between 2002 and 2004:
According to National Repository data, 8 people were killed and 49 people were injured by explosives from January 2002 through December 2004. Explosive powders, which may be obtained legally in quantities up to 50 pounds without a license or permit, were the largest cause of deaths and injuries. Over 50 percent of those killed and injured during this period were victims of explosive devices containing black powder. Twenty-five percent of those injured were victims of improvised explosives devices, many of which containing common chemicals.
Still the NRA has spent decades lobbying against the regulation of black and smokeless powder -- which can be components of gunpowder -- and is largely responsible for the current background check exemption for purchasers of up to 50 pounds of explosive powder.
From the April 24 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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From the April 24 edition of Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends:
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