UPDATE: In a June 10 article, Mother Jones reported that a Department of Justice official said of Operation Choke Point, "There's been a lot of misunderstanding, there's been accusations were going after gun owners...None of our cases involve gun merchants":
Nonetheless, Issa's report alleges that the Justice Department is using the FDIC guidance as a hit list. "The FDIC's policy statements on firearm and ammunition sales carry additional weight in light of FDIC's active involvement in Operation Choke Point," the report reads. But a Justice Department official tells Mother Jones that this conclusion is incorrect. "We're not using the FDIC's list at all," the official says. "There's been a lot of misunderstanding, there's been accusations were going after gun owners...None of our cases involve gun merchants or porn."
Conservative media are advancing baseless claims about a Department of Justice program that targets fraud in order to manufacture a conspiracy theory that the Obama administration is trying to put gun retailers out of business.
The DOJ program in question is called Operation Choke Point and was conceived as a project of the DOJ Consumer Protection Branch in November 2012. Based on the suspicion that some banks -- acting with knowledge or willful blindness -- conducted business with fraudulent merchants or those merchants' third-party payment processors, an assistant United States attorney drafted a proposal to investigate banks for possible civil or criminal violations. As an early memo stated, Choke Point was designed as "a strategy to attack Internet, telemarketing, mail, and other mass market fraud against consumers, by choking fraudsters' access to the banking system." The memo called for an initial investigation of 10 banks and the creation of a "database to map relationships among fraudulent merchants (beneficial owners and trade names), third-party payment processors, and banks."
In April 2014, The Washington Post reported DOJ had "issued 50 subpoenas to banks and payment processors." In a May 7 blog post, DOJ described a settlement it obtained from Four Oaks Bank in North Carolina. The bank agreed to $1.2 million in fines to settle allegations it profited from its business relationship with a clearly fraudulent third-party payment processor. While touting the settlement, DOJ also noted, "We're committed to ensuring that our efforts to combat fraud do not discourage or inhibit the lawful conduct of these honest merchants." On May 29, The Wall Street Journal reported the existence of at least 15 DOJ investigations under Choke Point.
Conservative media, however, are hyping the evidence-free claims of various gun retailers that they have been targeted by Choke Point because of the Obama administration's supposed antipathy for guns. (Hysteria over Choke Point falls within a pattern of conservative media's embrace of conspiracy theories about the Obama administration attacking gun rights.) But recently released DOJ documents show that Choke Point is entirely focused on fraud, not firearms retailers.
Washington, D.C.'s Fox affiliate dispatched chief investigative reporter Emily Miller to report on Maryland's new law protecting transgender people from discrimination - allowing Miller to continue the baseless, fear-mongering attacks she waged on the law as a writer for the right-wing Washington Times.
On May 28, Fox 5 aired a segment on the Fairness for All Marylanders Act, which Gov. Martin O'Malley (D-MD) signed into law on May 15. The law, which mirrors measures passed in 16 other states and several Maryland counties, prohibits discrimination based on gender identity in employment, housing, credit, and public accommodations. Opponents havelaunched a petition drive aimed at overturning the law, peddling the myth that sexual predators will exploit the measure to sneak into women's restrooms and assault women and children.
Miller's May 28 report hyped those fears, citing a problematically-worded Rasmussen Reports poll indicating that most people oppose allowing "a man to use a woman's restroom" and suggesting that the law posed a danger to women's safety. The report also falsely claimed that Maryland was only the second state to adopt gender identity protections:
Maryland just became the second state after California to pass a law that prohibits discrimination based on what is called "gender identity." The law will protect transgender people in the workplace, with housing and public accommodations.
During a debate that followed Miller's report, Miller provided State Delegate Neil Parrott (R) - the leader of the petition drive - a platform to claim that the law would make it easier for predators to commit sex crimes:
Emily Miller, chief investigative reporter for Washington D.C.'s Fox affiliate, fabricated quotations to claim Hillary Clinton recently said, "Nobody should have guns" and "There's too many guns." In fact, Clinton expressed the opposite sentiment, referencing "the right of people to own guns."
During a May 19 appearance on FOX 5, Miller twisted Clinton's recent remarks at the National Council for Behavioral Health conference in order to suggest that the former secretary of state has held inconsistent positions on gun regulation. Miller claimed that Clinton had "talked about hunting and fishing and all that stuff, now she is like, 'We need to pull back guns, nobody should have guns'":
When guns are involved in domestic violence, women die.
This simple fact was the basis for a tweet from Everytown for Gun Safety, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg's new gun violence prevention group, which noted that the presence of a gun makes it five times "more likely that domestic violence will turn into murder." Everytown has stated that they want to help prevent these deaths by closing "the loopholes that make it easy for domestic abusers to get guns without a background check." While federal law prohibits a convicted domestic abuser or individual subject to a permanent restraining order from owning a gun, abusers subject to temporary restraining orders can still buy firearms in many states, and abusers can avoid background checks by purchasing their firearms through private sales.
But conservative media ignored these facts to falsely claim Everytown wanted to "disarm women," not their abusers, and argued women would be safer if they had increased access to guns to use as self-defense. Breitbart.com's AWR Hawkins wrote that Everytown was putting victims in danger because "the gun may be the only thing that gives the victim of abuse a fighting chance of survival." Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich told NRA News that the gun safety group was playing on the fears of "ignorant, emotional women." And former Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller claimed on Fox that all of Everytown's gun safety efforts were merely an effort "to lure in women voters," arguing that because gun murders are down, it was somehow impossible that domestic murder could be a significant problem facing women.
But the data shows that Everytown is right. Having a gun in the house doesn't make women safer -- in fact, studies have shown that domestic violence involving guns is significantly more likely to result in women dying.
After Attorney General Eric Holder discussed his support for developing and improving technology that would allow guns to only be fired by authorized users, members of the right-wing media concocted a baseless conspiracy theory that the technology would be used by the government to spy on lawful gun owners.
Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller launched a baseless attack on a Maryland bill that protects transgender people from discrimination, repeating the debunked myth that sexual predators will exploit non-discrimination protections and sneak into women's restrooms.
On March 27, the Maryland House of Delegates approved the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014, which prohibits discrimination against transgender people in employment, housing, credit, and public accommodations. Gov. Martin O'Malley (D-MD plans to sign the bill into law, but opponents seized on the bill's public accommodations protections to claim that the so-called "bathroom bill" would lead to a spike in sexual assaults.
In an April 2 column for the Times, Miller echoed that attack, denouncing the bill as "dangerous" and warning that it "endangers every single female":
The most dangerous impact of this new law is that a man cannot be stopped from going into a women's bathroom, locker room or pool changing room.
The state does not specify that a person must have undergone a sex-change operation to have their legal rights of "gender identity" protected.
A man doesn't even have to dress like a woman.
To be considered transgender, you just have to give a "consistent and uniform assertion" of believing you are supposed to be the opposite sex. Or, a person has to provide evidence that the non-biological sex is "sincerely held as part of the person's core identity."
No one knows exactly how many people believe they were born the wrong sex and want to act out on it. A Los Angeles County Department of Public Health report in 2012 estimates that 0.2 percent of the population is transgender.
Even if we accept this very high count, that means 12,000 of the 6 million Marylanders will benefit by this law that endangers every single female.
Fox News host Steve Doocy told 9-year-old competitive shooter Shyanne Roberts that "she would have to give up her favorite sport" as a result of a New Jersey legislative proposal to restrict high-capacity gun magazines. But Doocy's warning completely misrepresents the legislation in question, which is intended to minimize mass shootings and save lives.
The New Jersey legislature is currently considering a bill, A2006, which would reduce the legal ammunition magazine capacity from 15 rounds down to 10. The bill was motivated by mass shootings that involved high-capacity magazines including the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School and the 2011 mass shooting at a constituent meeting held by then-Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ).
According to The Star-Ledger, "Parents of Newtown victims have traveled to New Jersey twice to support the bill, saying many students escaped death because the shooter had to reload his magazine." One of the sponsors of the bill noted in an op-ed that 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green was killed by the 13th bullet fired during the Tucson shooting, which claimed five other lives. The shooter in that incident was only stopped when bystanders tackled him as he paused to reload after emptying a 33-round magazine into a crowd in just 16 seconds.
But by misrepresenting the legislation as a threat to competitive shooting on Fox & Friends, Doocy hid the bill's life-saving intentions. According to a report from gun violence prevention group Mayors Against Illegal Guns on mass shootings that occurred between January 2009 and September 2013, shootings involving assault weapons or high-capacity magazines are characterized by a significantly higher death and injury rate:
Fox Business host Stuart Varney was visibly stunned as Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller dismissed concerns about 700 people dying in firearms accidents in the United States annually.
After Varney said that "There's an enormous number of problems with guns in homes, people getting shot and killed," Miller, who writes regularly on guns, replied, "No there's not." She added that it's "very rare" for people to be killed in homes with guns, stating that 700 people are killed annually in gun accidents. Referencing Miller's 700 deaths figure several times and stating "that poses a danger to 700 people," Varney appeared incredulous that such a death toll was so easily set aside.
From the March 13 edition of Varney & Co. on Fox Business:
During her appearance, Miller made a number of misleading claims to downplay the problem of firearm-related death in the United States:
New research confirms that providing women access to free birth control does not result in women having sex with more partners -- a false claim that has been repeatedly pushed and promoted by conservative media, and which contributes to their efforts to stigmatize women's sexuality.
Providing women with no-cost contraception did not result in "riskier" sexual behavior (defined by the researchers as "sex with multiple partners") but did reduce unintended pregnancies and abortions, according to a comprehensive study from the Washington University School of Medicine.
As Amanda Duberman noted at the Huffington Post, having new empirical data to push back on the moralizing arguments against birth control is helpful, but raises the question: "why do we care?" The fact that researchers felt the need to study this particular claim about birth control at all reveals an "implicit stigmatization" of women's sexuality (emphasis added):
It is a small, pervasive set of voices that leads researchers to consider "multiple sexual partners" over the course of an entire year "risky sexual behavior."
The past decade of research has confirmed what women's health advocates already knew: the benefits of reducing barriers to birth control access far outweigh any subjectively determined adverse effects.
What's unfortunate is that making a case for something many women need relies on the implicit stigmatization of their sexuality. That researchers and health advocates need to presume harsh judgement of sexually active women to convince skeptics of birth control's utility just reminds us how far we have to go.
Duberman is right; it should not matter whether women have more or less sex when taking birth control pills. But it's not just a small set of conservative political voices pushing this offensive criticism of women's sexuality and inspiring scientific research. Conservative media have played a role in forcing this conversation, repeatedly slut-shaming women who use birth control and insisting that anyone who supports government funding for free contraceptives is equivalent to a prostitute.
A man accused of violating Washington, D.C.'s gun laws is conservative media's latest dubious "hero" in its ongoing effort to attack stronger gun laws.
Right-wing media are defending a Washington, D.C. man on trial for possessing unregistered ammunition by making a flawed comparison between his situation and NBC News host David Gregory's display of a high-capacity ammunition magazine on Meet the Press following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
Conservative media's complaint that Washington, D.C. financial advisor Mark Witaschek faces trial while Gregory faced no criminal charges ignores that those two situations rest upon entirely different circumstances.
On the December 23, 2012, edition of Meet the Press, Gregory showed, for demonstration purposes, a 30-round high-capacity ammunition magazine like the one used in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that claimed 26 lives nine days earlier. In Washington, it is illegal to own a magazine that holds more than 10 rounds. NBC apparently ran the segment after a miscommunication with law enforcement. Gregory's display of the magazine angered conservative media including Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller who wrote that Gregory "should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law." In January 2013, Washington prosecutors announced that Gregory would not be charged with a crime in a letter that explained, "Influencing our judgment in this case, among other things, is our recognition that the intent of the temporary possession and short display of the magazine was to promote the First Amendment purpose of informing an ongoing public debate about firearms policy in the United States."
Witaschek's legal problems began in the summer of 2012. Following alarming allegations that Witaschek threatened his "estranged wife" with a gun, police visited his home on two occasions. During both visits, police found unregistered ammunition in Witaschek's home. In Washington, D.C., only individuals who have registered firearms may possess ammunition. Witaschek was charged with violating Washington's gun laws. The charge from the first police visit was thrown out because even though Witaschek consented to a search, the visit was conducted without a warrant. Witaschek was offered a plea deal that included no jail time and a $500 fine to resolve the charge from the second police visit, which was performed with a warrant. Witaschek rejected the offer and plans to go to trial on the remaining charge.
Right-wing media figures capitalized on provocative advertisements for Obamacare from non-profit groups in Colorado to attack a woman who uses free birth control as a "slut," "whore," and "prostitute."
From the November 8 edition of CNN's CNN Newsroom:
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Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller offered false information about gun violence during an appearance on MSNBC's Morning Joe where she promoted her recently published book, Emily Gets Her Gun... But Obama Wants to Take Yours.
In her book, Miller advanced the National Rifle Association's conspiracy theory that President Obama is planning to confiscate privately held firearms and offered false information about the incidence of mass shootings and the capabilities of assault weapons, while distorting academic research on gun violence.
Miller's Morning Joe appearance offered more of the same as she misled on research about the effectiveness of gun violence prevention measures and made false claims about assault weapons, including advancing the notion that an AR-15 assault weapon is "not any functionally different than a hunting rifle."
Miller claimed that "no gun control law reduces crime, and that's fact," citing a "CDC study, Harvard study." Opponents of stronger gun laws often distort a 2003 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study and a 2007 study from Harvard's Journal of Public Law and Policy to attack gun violence prevention proposals.
In Emily Gets Her Gun, Miller wrote about the 2003 CDC study at length and deceptively quoted from it to make it seem as if the study concluded that gun violence prevention laws are ineffective. Miller wrote:
There has been only one extensive government research study on firearms laws in America. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) -- an agency with a known bias against guns -- looked at the various statutes from the local to national level. The two-year investigation evaluated the following laws: bans on specified firearms or ammunition (which includes the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban), restrictions on firearm acquisition, waiting periods for firearm acquisition, firearms registration and licensing of firearm owners, "shall issue" concealed weapon carry laws, child access prevention laws, and zero tolerance laws for firearms in schools.
The final 2003 CDC report concluded, "The Task Force found insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of any of the firearms laws or combinations of laws reviewed on violent outcomes." [Emily Gets Her Gun: ...But Obama Wants to Take Yours, pg. 47, 9/3/13]
But when quoted in full, the very next line of the study undermines Miller's characterization:
The Task Force found insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of any of the firearms laws or combinations of laws reviewed on violent outcomes. (Note that insufficient evidence to determine effectiveness should not be interpreted as evidence of ineffectiveness.) [emphasis added]
The CDC did not conclude that gun violence prevention laws do not work, rather it called for further research on the topic, finding the current body of research insufficient to draw conclusions.
Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller mischaracterized President Obama's remarks at a September 22 memorial for victims of the Washington Navy Yard mass shooting to claim that the president "outright trashed our nation" during his speech.
In a September 25 opinion piece, Miller claimed that Obama used his speech to "drive support to restrict Second Amendment rights" and falsely stated that the president "said that the United States is not as good as other developed nations because of our crime rates."
Just as he did at the prayer vigil two days after the horrific Newtown, Conn., school shootings last December, the president used the memorial service for the victims of the Washington Navy Yard tragedy to drive support to restrict Second Amendment rights.
Mr. Obama railed about politics for more than half of his remarks at the Sunday service for the 12 innocent people killed last week. He said the mass shooting by an apparently psychotic schizophrenic who claimed to hear alien voices should "obsess us" and "lead to some sort of transformation."
Mr. Obama has never believed in American exceptionalism, but he outright trashed our nation. He said that the United States is not as good as other developed nations because of our crime rates. He claimed that after the total bans on firearms in the United Kingdom and Australia, "mass shootings became a great rarity."
As his remarks demonstrate, Obama didn't trash America. In fact, he said that the 12 victims who lost their lives in the rampage did "the unheralded work that keeps our country strong." While Obama referenced the fact that the United Kingdom and Australia took legislative action after mass shootings, he did not say that the United States was "not as good" as those countries:
OBAMA: So these families have endured a shattering tragedy. It ought to be a shock to us all as a nation and as a people. It ought to obsess us. It ought to lead to some sort of transformation. That's what happened in other countries when they experienced similar tragedies. In the United Kingdom, in Australia, when just a single mass shooting occurred in those countries, they understood that there was nothing ordinary about this kind of carnage. They endured great heartbreak, but they also mobilized and they changed, and mass shootings became a great rarity.
No other advanced nation endures this kind of violence -- none. Here in America, the murder rate is three times what it is in other developed nations. The murder rate with guns is ten times what it is in other developed nations. And there is nothing inevitable about it. It comes about because of decisions we make or fail to make. And it falls upon us to make it different.
NRA News host Cam Edwards issued a correction the day after after Breitbart.com's A.W.R. Hawkins claimed on his show that the mass shooting at Washington Navy Yard "happened because Bill Clinton mandated that" military bases "be gun-free zones." In truth, the policy cited by Hawkins to support this claim allows guns to be carried on military bases under a substantial number of circumstances and was actually enacted during the George H.W. Bush administration.
The myth that a Clinton-era policy was responsible for the shooting, which claimed the lives of 12 victims, was the centerpiece of right-wing media's failed attempt to establish that the Navy Yard shooting took place in a "gun-free zone."
Edwards issued a correction during his September 18 broadcast, citing a Media Matters blog that addressed Hawkins' claim, during a segment with Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller. After Edwards acknowledged that the policy was enacted under George H.W. Bush, Miller said, "Then I've written that wrong too," and she added, "Are you sure that's correct before I change it too? ... Because I don't believe anything Media Matters says."
Hawkins' claim in a Breitbart.com article about the supposed Clinton-era policy originated from a 2009 Washington Times editorial that falsely stated, "Among President Clinton's first acts upon taking office in 1993 was to disarm U.S. soldiers on military bases." Miller promoted that editorial on September 17 on Twitter.
After Edwards issued the correction, Miller attempted to downplay the importance of whether Clinton disarmed members of the military, suggesting that Hawkins' claim was inconsequential to the "public's knowledge of the issues." In reality, Miller was just one of many right-wing media figures who seized on Hawkins' false claims to politicize the mass shooting in its immediate aftermath.