The false conservative media talking point that Umpqua Community College (UCC) was a "gun-free zone" was frequently pushed on CNN and Fox News in the aftermath of an October 1 mass shooting where a gunman killed nine and wounded several others on the Roseburg, Oregon, campus.
Conservative media figures often claim that mass shootings tend to happen in so-called "gun-free zones" in order to advocate for less restrictive gun laws. In reality, most mass shootings occur where firearms are allowed, and a Mother Jones review of mass public shootings over a 30-year period concluded, "In not a single case was the killing stopped by a civilian using a gun. And in other recent (but less lethal) rampages in which armed civilians attempted to intervene, those civilians not only failed to stop the shooter but also were gravely wounded or killed."
Within the first two hours of breaking news reporting on the UCC shooting, claims that UCC was a "gun-free zone" began to appear on CNN and Fox News. The claim, however, was untrue under any reasonable definition of what a "gun-free zone" could be. According to a Newsweek interview of more than a dozen people connected with UCC, it was "common knowledge" that "many students carried guns" on UCC's campus.
Under Oregon law, individuals with concealed carry permits are allowed to carry guns on the grounds of public colleges and universities. Public colleges and universities can create a policy to not allow guns within campus buildings. UCC did not allow guns in buildings "except as expressly authorized by law or college regulations," which was apparently interpreted by students as allowing concealed carry with a lawfully issued permit.
As one student explained to Newsweek, "You are allowed to conceal and carry on that campus. It's not a gun-free zone":
"You are allowed to conceal and carry on that campus," said Umpqua student and part-time wildland firefighter Jeremy Smith, 24. "It's not a gun-free zone."
Smith said he would never return to campus without a handgun.
"I'm an avid gun owner," he said. "I carry, like just about anybody else does."
Although Oregon state law allows concealed weapons, Umpqua's student handbook says firearms are prohibited on college property "except as expressly authorized by law or college regulations."
The school includes firearms training in its criminal justice program for people accepted into a Police Reserve Academy. Students use the Roseburg Rod and Gun Club, a short drive from campus, to shoot or get help registering for a concealed-carry permit, an employee there said.
While there were two unarmed security guards at the sprawling campus, several current and former students said legally carrying concealed handguns was not unusual, particularly among the hundreds of military veterans who attend classes and frequent the Student Veterans Center.
News reports also established that there were indeed armed students on campus at the time of the shooting. A student who also happened to be a U.S. military veteran described on MSNBC why he and other veterans he was with decided not to intervene, explaining, "Not knowing where SWAT was on their response time, they wouldn't have known who we were, if we had our guns ready to shoot they could think we were bad guys."
Despite this plethora of evidence that UCC was not a "gun-free zone," CNN and Fox News continued to advance the falsehood in the week after the shooting.
According to a review of internal Media Matters video archives of coverage between October 1 and October 6, the "gun-free zone" falsehood as it relates to UCC was mentioned 23 times on Fox News, with just two instances where it was explained that UCC was not a "gun-free zone." The falsehood appeared 25 times on CNN, with four of those instances being debunked with accurate information.
By contrast, the falsehood was advanced just once on MSNBC without pushback, and in two instances the "gun-free zone" claim was pro-actively debunked without someone first pushing the myth:
Fox News ran 23 segments where it was claimed that UCC was a "gun-free zone." The claims came from Fox News reporters, hosts, guests and soundbites of GOP presidential candidates making the claim. The claim was debunked in only two cases.
In one of these instances, during the October 1 broadcast of The O'Reilly Factor, guest David Jaques, the publisher of the Roseburg Beacon News, explained "it's not a gun-free zone," citing a statement from UCC's past president.
False claims about UCC being a "gun-free zone" were not limited to conservative punditry on Fox News. During breaking news coverage of the shooting on October 1, Fox News correspondent and breaking news anchor Trace Gallagher falsely reported, "As we know, and have been reporting, Umpqua Community College is a gun-free zone."
On October 2, Fox News correspondent William La Jeunesse falsely reported UCC was a "gun-free zone" during several news reports. During the October 2 broadcast of Happening Now, La Jeunesse falsely reported, "This was a gun-free zone." Later on Outnumbered, La Jeunesse editorialized further, saying, "This was a gun-free zone, so the gunman had no fear of being shot himself by other students."
CNN ran 25 segments that included claims that UCC was a "gun-free zone," with claims coming from CNN hosts, guests, and unchallenged soundbites of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump pushing the falsehood during a speech.
In four instances, other on-air individuals corrected the claim that UCC was a "gun-free zone."
During the early morning hours of October 2, CNN ran a report several times that erroneously reported UCC was "technically ... a gun-free zone" in a botched attempt to explain Oregon law and UCC policies.
The claim that UCC was a "gun-free zone" was made just once on MSNBC, by co-host Willie Geist during the October 2 broadcast of Morning Joe.
In two other instances, the notion that UCC was a "gun-free zone" was preemptively debunked, once by Mark Kelly, whose wife, then-Congresswoman Gabby Giffords (D-AZ), was wounded in a 2011 mass shooting, and once by MSNBC correspondent Jacob Soboroff who explained, "This was not a so-called gun-free zone" while relaying reports of concealed carry on campus and students who were carrying guns during the shooting.
Media Matters reviewed internal video archives for MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News beginning at 2 P.M. EST on October 1 and ending at 11:59 P.M. EST on October 6, searching for the term "gun-free zone." Segments that included this term were reviewed to determine whether the claim that UCC was a "gun-free zone" was either advanced, debunked, or both advanced and debunked. Segments that referenced Oregon gun law or UCC gun policy but ultimately concluded that UCC was a "gun-free zone" were coded as "Segments Pushing 'Gun-Free Zones' Myth."
Chart by Craig Harrington.
From the September 2 edition of CNN's CNN Newsroom With Carol Costello:
Conservative media defended Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee's recent claim -- that President Obama's negotiated agreement with Iran over its nuclear program will take Israelis "to the door of the oven" -- by praising the Holocaust comparison as "absolutely true" and "an accurate description."
A popular right-wing activist with extreme, discredited views about LGBT people is making the media rounds to talk about Caitlyn Jenner, peddling the myth that many transgender people end up regretting transitioning.
Walt Heyer, contributor for the rabidly anti-LGBT web magazine The Federalist, appeared on the June 2 edition of CNN Newsroom to comment on Vanity Fair's cover story about Caitlyn Jenner's decision to publicly identify as a transgender woman.
Heyer's life story has made him a pseudo-celebrity in anti-LGBT circles; in his forties, he decided to transition to living life as a woman, only to transition back to living as a man less than a decade later. Since then, he's pushed the debunked claim that transgender people often experience regret after transitioning, arguing that what transgender people actually need is "psychiatric or psychological help."
On CNN, Heyer warned that Jenner might regret her decision to transition, comparing transitioning to "going down to the bar" and "wak[ing] up with a hangover":
CNN glossed over how harmful Republican policies threaten women in order to question why female members of the GOP aren't typically considered feminists.
During the May 27 edition of CNN Newsroom, host Carol Costello interviewed former media strategist for the Republican National Committee (RNC), Molly Finn, to discuss why more conservative women aren't considered feminists. Framing the discussion around presidential candidates Hillary Clinton (D) and Carly Fiorina (R), Costello asked "why conservative women rarely come to mind when we think about feminist leaders," while Finn argued, "Just because some people are not necessarily aligning with the feminist label doesn't mean they aren't advocates for women's equality and success." Finn went on to claim that the "women's organizations that came out of the feminist movements of the 60s and 70s, it was kind of a narrow conversation. Women's power, women's political power might have been limited to talking about reproductive rights." Costello then asked whether feminism is "outdated," wondering if "that word feminism [is] sort of deepening the chasm between liberal women and conservative women":
Such a conversation on feminism and conservatism misses an opportunity to examine why conservative women are not generally labeled as feminists in the first place -- their policies and legislation often hurt women. Presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, whom Costello cited as an example, is roundly in support of policies that are detrimental to women, opposing legislation to address the gender pay gap, access to reproductive health services, and the Affordable Care Act which "greatly improves women's access" to health care. Republicans more broadly have spent years in a concentrated effort to roll back women's access to reproductive health care, general health care and equal pay.
From the May 4 edition of CNN's CNN Newsroom With Carol Costello:
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CNN highlighted religious support for LGBT equality in its coverage of Indiana's "religious freedom" law, avoiding the common 'God versus Gays' trope that typically defines coverage of debates over LGBT issues. CNN's coverage is in line with polls that show increasing support for marriage equality and LGBT rights by a variety of major religious groups.
During the April 1 edition of CNN Newsroom with Carol Costello, Costello invited Matthew Vines, a gay Evangelical Christian, to discuss Indiana's widely-criticized "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" (RFRA). The law has been at the center of controversy over concern that it provides a legal defense for individuals or businesses to cite religious beliefs as a justification for refusing service to LGBT people.
From the March 23 edition of CNN's CNN Newsroom With Carol Costello:
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Media are promoting Republican gains in the House and Senate in Tuesday's midterm elections as evidence that the country has shifted to the "center-right" on political issues, despite the fact that ballot initiatives and national polling reveal broad support for progressive positions.
From the August 13 edition of CNN's CNN Newsroom:
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Right-wing media have spent nearly a decade making false claims about birth control -- and now those falsehoods have found their way into the mouths of Supreme Court justices.
The Supreme Court on March 25 heard consolidated arguments in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius, which examine whether for-profit businesses can deny employees health insurance coverage based on the owners' personal religious beliefs, a radical revision of First Amendment and corporate law. The owners of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga argue they should not be forced by the government to provide their employees insurance which covers certain forms of contraception, because they believe those types of birth control can cause abortions.
The owners are wrong. Medical experts have confirmed they are wrong, repeatedly and strenuously, including experts at the National Institute of Health, the Mayo Clinic and the International Federation of Gynecology. The contraceptives Hobby Lobby objects to -- which include emergency contraceptives like Plan B and long-term contraceptives like Intrauterine Devices (IUDs) -- delay an egg from being fertilized, and as the former assistant commissioner for women's health at the FDA noted, "their only connection to abortion is that they can prevent the need for one."
Despite this overwhelming medical evidence, the myth that some of the contested forms of birth control are "abortifacients" has gone all the way to the Supreme Court -- and now has been repeated by some of the justices themselves. During the oral arguments in the Hobby Lobby case, Justice Antonin Scalia responded to a point made by Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, the lawyer for the government, by referring to "birth controls ... that are abortifacient."
JUSTICE SCALIA: You're talking about, what, three or four birth controls, not all of them, just those that are abortifacient. That's not terribly expensive stuff, is it?
GENERAL VERRILLI: Well, to the contrary. And two points to make about that. First, of course the -- one of the methods of contraception they object to here is the IUD. And that is by far and away the method of contraception that is most effective, but has the highest upfront cost and creates precisely the kind of cost barrier that the preventive services provision is trying to break down.
Justice Stephen Breyer, while describing the position of the Hobby Lobby owners, also referred to "abortifacient contraceptives."
This misunderstanding matters because it could determine the outcome of the case. In order to win, a majority of justices may have to understand there is a compelling government interest in facilitating equal access to contraceptives across health insurance plans. It is an entirely different and more difficult question if the justices examine whether there is a compelling interest in the government facilitating access to abortion. Even though federal law explicitly prohibits federal funding of abortion and these birth control methods are not abortifacients, if the justices mistakenly think abortion is involved, this case becomes far more dangerous.
So whether the employees of for-profit companies like Hobby Lobby are guaranteed access to basic preventative health care could ultimately come down to whether the justices act on the reality that these forms of birth control do not cause abortions. Whether for-profit companies are considered religious persons, a drastic change to constitutional corporate law, could come down to whether the justices act on the reality that these forms of birth control do not cause abortions. Whether the rights of gay and lesbian employees are respected, and whether taxes, vaccines requirements, minimum wage, overtime laws are all upheld could come down to whether the justices act on the reality that these forms of birth control do not cause abortions.
This simple lie about birth control could set up a chain of events that drastically alter health care by rewriting First Amendment and corporate law in this country -- and it's a lie that comes straight from the media, who have been pushing it for almost a decade.
Studies came out as early as 2004 pushing back on the idea that Plan B caused abortions, but Media Matters has repeatedly noted the tendency of journalists to get their facts wrong when addressing the issue. In 2005, CNN host Carol Costello gave a platform to a pharmacist who refused to fill a prescription for birth control pills because she thought they were equivalent to "chemical abortion." In 2007, Time magazine called the morning-after pill "abortion-inducing," while an AP article pushed the false Republican claims that emergency contraception destroys "developing human fetuses." In 2010, The Washington Times repeatedly equated emergency contraception to abortion.
And there was Lila Rose, the anti-abortion activist who in 2011 released videos heavily edited to deceptively portray practices at Planned Parenthood clinics, and who has equated contraception to "abortion-inducing drugs" which she claims exploit women. Rose and her mentor, James O'Keefe, defended their manipulation and falsification of evidence as "tactics" against the "genocide" of abortion, and she was supported and promoted on The O'Reilly Factor, Hannity's America, The Glenn Beck Show, The Laura Ingraham Show, while her work was been featured by Reuters, the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Times, and National Review.
When the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, and medical experts including the Institute of Medicine recommended including comprehensive coverage for contraception as part of the preventative care provisions, right-wing media freaked out, calling it "immoral" and "a way to eradicate the poor." Fox News ignored the overwhelming support for the resulting contraception policy, instead pretending that Catholic hospitals and employers were being victimized -- even as exemptions and accommodations were included for churches and religious nonprofits. By 2012, Fox News' Michelle Malkin was referring to the contraception regulations as an "abortion mandate." Now, right-wing media figures have used the Hobby Lobby case and others to bring back this lie, from Fox News to the Wall Street Journal, while Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham have become particularly fond of discussing these "abortifacients."
As Media Matters has previously explained, right-wing talking points demonizing birth control made their way into the amicus briefs presented to the court before the case was even argued, and Justice Scalia in particular has been known to repeat verbatim right-wing myths, such as the dubious idea that if the Supreme Court upheld the ACA the federal government could ultimately require consumers to purchase broccoli.
But the presence of the "abortifacient" lie during oral arguments takes this worrying tendency to a new level, raising the prospect that right-wing media's lies could potentially determine the outcome of a crucial case for religious and corporate law, hugely damaging reproductive rights in the process. If women lose the guarantee for their basic preventative health care, and corporations are granted even more flexibility as "persons" with religious rights, right-wing media will be partly to blame.
CNN's Carol Costello shot down conservative talking points disparaging the minimum wage, correctly noting that raising it would increase incomes and decrease poverty.
On February 18, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released estimates of the economic impacts of proposals to lift the minimum wage to $9.00 and $10.10, respectively. Among the report's summary conclusions was the revelation that the $10.10 option would raise the wages of 16.5 million workers while lifting up to 900,000 Americans out of poverty. Ignoring these positive side-effects, conservative media have focused heavily on estimates that increasing the minimum wage to such levels could reduce full-time employment by approximately 0.3 percent, the equivalent of roughly 500,000 positions.
On the February 19 edition of CNN Newsroom, host Costello was joined by Wall Street Journal editorial board member and Heritage Foundation chief economist Stephen Moore to discuss the CBO report. Moore, a prominent right-wing media figure, rehearsed standard talking points about the alleged disastrous impacts of increasing the minimum wage for low-skilled and entry-level workers.
Despite Moore's efforts, Costello checked his spin at every turn, continually pointing to the positive impacts of increasing the minimum wage.
Costello's strong reporting highlights the important role of media in sifting through misinformation to present unbiased results. While the median estimate of a $10.10 per hour minimum wage was decreased full-time employment, the CBO's projection also concludes that job loss could be "very slight" -- a fact highlighted by Costello. She also noted the positive income effects of increasing the federal minimum wage -- effects that are being ignored in media coverage of the CBO report -- and argued that many Americans would accept marginal job loss in exchange for lifting hundreds of thousands more out of poverty.
Costello's coverage of the minimum wage hopefully reflects a mainstream media trend of actually analyzing policy news, rather than allowing right-wing media to spin the narrative.
One economic study, two news outlets, and two very different reports on its findings.
When the nonpartisan CBO released its Budget and Economic Outlook for the years 2014 to 2024 this week, right-wing media distorted its projection that the supply of labor would decline by about 2 million workers over the next three years, due to the ACA allowing workers the option to work less and still maintain health coverage. In the conservative echo chamber, pundits from Jennifer Rubin to Fox anchors argued that the CBO report proved the ACA is destroying jobs.
CNN's Carol Costello corrected the record about this conservative "spin" on the CBO report on February 5, explaining, "To be clear, the CBO did not say jobs would actually be lost. It said workers could choose to work fewer hours to meet Obamacare requirements for coverage," and calling out the misinformation surrounding the report:
COSTELLO: [C]ritics say a new nonpartisan report proves the law will indeed kill jobs. But when you cut through the spin, this is all about workers' choices, not job cuts.
As Costello was clarifying the CBO's findings, the very "spin" she highlighted was underway on Fox News. Anchor Bill Hemmer dismissed the notion that the CBO projection concerned workers' choice, arguing that it boiled down to "job losses" caused by the ACA. Frequent Fox guest Art Laffer added, "If you don't love your work, it doesn't mean you should be paid not to work so you can sit at home and dream. That's just silly."
Fox has attacked health reform at every turn, pushing myths and phony scandals to argue for its repeal. The network's repeated misinformation on the CBO report in order to continue its war on the ACA, no matter what the facts, is just another example of Fox prioritizing politics over accurate reporting.
Mainstream media outlets echoed a deceptive framing, created by the conservative media and amplified by House Republicans, of comments by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), leaving the false impression that he dismissed the plight of cancer-stricken patients denied care by the government shutdown.
From the October 2 edition of CNN's CNN Newsroom:
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