The National Rifle Association is walking back its statement criticizing gun activists who carry loaded assault weapons in public as a form of protest, with the NRA's top lobbyist apologizing and calling the statement "a mistake."
In recent months Open Carry Texas and several other gun activist groups have made headlines for openly carrying loaded assault weapons in public and into restaurants in the Dallas area. This tactic of attempting to "normalize" open carry of rifles has spectacularly backfired, as gun violence prevention group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America has persuaded several restaurant chains where open carry rallies were staged to ask customers not to bring firearms into their businesses.
On June 2, Mother Jones reported on a statement on the NRA's website that criticized the open carry protests as "downright weird" and suggested that the practice was "downright scary" to onlookers and "counterproductive for the gun owning community." The Mother Jones report was widely circulated in media as it was an aberration from the NRA's typical absolutist position on firearm issues. Open Carry Texas called the NRA's statement "disgusting and disrespectful" and some gun activists cut up their NRA membership cards.
The NRA's top lobbyist, Chris Cox, appeared on the NRA's radio show Cam & Company on June 3 to repudiate the NRA's article criticizing the open carry movement. Cox said that the statement was "a mistake" and that "it shouldn't have happened," adding "our job is not to criticize the lawful behavior of fellow gun owners." Cox also blamed the statement on a "staffer" who Cox said "expressed his personal opinion." Referencing media interest in the statement, Cox termed it a "distraction."
Cox went on to describe the NRA's official policy: "The National Rifle Association unapologetically and unflinchingly supports the right of self-defense and what that means is that our members and our supporters have a right to carry a firearm in any place they have a legal right to be. If that means open carry, we support open carry. If it means concealed carry, it means concealed carry. So unequivocally we support open carry, we've been the leader of open carry efforts across this country, the leader in opposing efforts to curtail the ability to carry firearms, and that's something we're proud of and we do every day for our members."
Cox added that the NRA "apologize[s] again for any confusion that that post caused."
Although the National Rifle Association is refusing to comment on the recent mass murder in Isla Vista, California, the group has released a video complaining the media "race[s] to label anything with a gun as a shooting."
On May 23 a young man apparently motivated by hatred of women went on a killing spree where he stabbed three victims to death before shooting 11 people; three fatally. In the ten days since the killing spree, the NRA has declined to issue a comment, a common tactic of the gun group.
Without mentioning the Isla Vista killings by name, on May 30 the NRA published a video commentary called "Propaganda," in which "NRA News Commentator Dom Raso exposes the inaccuracy of the media - especially regarding their reports of mass shootings."
During a critique of the media, Raso warned viewers of a "trick" where media figures "race to label anything with a gun as a shooting, because they know how much more attention they are going to get with that word." According to Raso, the media use the word "shooting" so that viewers are being "subconsciously told to think about the tool they used" instead of the perpetrator.
Ken Blackwell -- who cited "the attack on ... natural marriage" as a reason for the May 23 mass murder in Isla Vista, California -- has longstanding ties to the National Rifle Association.
Blackwell, who is also a senior fellow at anti-gay hate group Family Research Council, was flagged by People for the American Way's Right Wing Watch linking gay marriage to the killing spree that left six dead. From FRC's radio show:
BLACKWELL: When you see there's a crumbling of the moral foundation of the country, you see the attack on the -- on natural marriage and the family that has been a part of the, not only the moral foundation and the upbringing of our children but the teaching of sexual roles and the development of human sexuality in our culture. When these fundamental institutions are attacked and destroyed and weakened and abandoned, you get what we are now seeing and that is a flood of these disturbed people in our society that are causing great, great pain. And as opposed to dealing with the foundational problems, we look for ways of blaming the Second Amendment, or blaming knives or blaming cars when they are used. At the end of the day, you have just underscored the problem. This is a convenient way of avoiding talking about what's at the root cause.
Fox News promoted Colion Noir, the host of a new National Rifle Association web series that aims to promote guns to young people, with a fawning interview.
In a May 20 interview on Fox & Friends, Elisabeth Hasselbeck termed Noir "really passionate," asking him "where does this come for you, the passion for the Second Amendment?" She offered up softball questions such as "will they succeed in silencing you, your critics?" Hasselbeck concluded the interview by promising, "we will continue to check you out there and all that you have to say with regard to our constitutional rights."
Fox News regularly provides a platform for gun misinformation from the NRA and its supporters.
A new web series for young people produced by the National Rifle Association is being widely panned by critics as a phony and out-of-touch attempt at messaging. And for good reason -- the NRA's Noir is really about the same themes the NRA has been ranting on for decades, that the NRA is the only group that can stand up for persecuted gun owners and save America in the face of machinations by anti-gun elites.
Recently launched on the NRA's new "Freestyle" network, Noir promises to report on "the latest on firearms, fashion, pop culture and other hot topics." The show is hosted by NRA News commentator Colion Noir -- best known for his bizarre claim Martin Luther King Jr. was a gun proponent -- along with co-host Amy Robbins and is sponsored by gun manufacturer Mossberg.
Early reviews of Noir report that it reeks of inauthenticity. Indeed the 16-minute premiere episode is rife with product placements and lame pop culture and sports references, all awkwardly interspersed between features on high-powered, expensive-looking firearms.
In one cringe-worthy moment, Noir complains that the cardboard box his $5,000 rifle came in looks like "a Build-A-Bear beginning set of a homeless guy's apartment." During a glowing review of a compact Smith & Wesson handgun, Noir analogizes the pistol to Denver Nuggets guard Nate Robinson: "Sure he is small and unimposing, but the moment you drop your guard he will tear your ass up." There is also an obligatory twerking reference.
This fakery led Gawker's Adam Weinstein to describe the show as "hilariously bad poser garbage." Writing for Vocativ, Mike Spies summed up the show as "public-access television: Think Wayne's World, but with a focus on sleek weapons" and concluded that "NRA employs millenial-friendly tropes to attract younger members -- and fails miserably." While Spies imagined the show being "produced by aliens who spent an hour studying American pop culture," Weinstein poked fun at "the cringe-inducing 'urban' script copy dropping out of Noir's mouth like it was written by a white Mitch McConnell intern on summer break from Liberty University."
Beyond the widely noted production and messaging problems, the NRA has failed to create a different message that can resonate with young people with Noir. The NRA must realize that young people are unlikely to embrace the bombastic paranoid rants of its executive vice president Wayne LaPierre. But as the video below shows, Noir is more of the same from the NRA, only delivered with a less abrasive tone and buried between pop culture references.
Reports that the handgun used by Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev originated in Maine should come as no surprise given guns are routinely trafficked from states with weak gun laws to states with stronger gun laws like Massachusetts. Meanwhile, attempts to create a federal law to crack down on gun trafficking have been stifled by the National Rifle Association.
Following the April 15, 2013, bombings that left three dead and hundreds wounded, the Tsarnaev brothers attempted to elude a massive police manhunt. On the evening of April 18 a Ruger handgun was used by the brothers to kill MIT police officer Sean Collier. Hours later the pistol was used again in a firefight that left MBTA officer Richard Donohue seriously wounded. On May 12, Los Angeles Times federal law enforcement and terrorism reporter Richard Serrano reported that the firearm was purchased at a Maine gun store, and "passed" to a well-known Portland, ME gang leader, before being obtained by Tsarnaev.
Massachusetts has the sixth strongest gun laws in the United States and also has the second lowest gun death rate, according to rankings by The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. When guns are used in crimes in Massachusetts, they are most often trafficked from other states (although the National Rifle Association's official state affiliate has denied this regularly occurs).
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was able to determine the origin of 999 Massachusetts crime guns in 2012; 453 came from in-state while 546 were trafficked from other states. Maine accounted for the second largest number of out of state gun traces after New Hampshire. The top six crime gun importers to Massachusetts -- New Hampshire, Maine, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina -- all received a D or worse grade in the Brady Campaign/LCPGV gun law ranking. Overall the rankings found a correlation between weak gun laws and the exporting of crime guns into states with strong gun laws.
NRA News host Cam Edwards tied the kidnapping of scores of Nigerian schoolgirls by terrorist organization Boko Haram to the National Rifle Association's recent annual meeting. According to Edwards, the girls' would-be rescuers are not "Pajama Boy" or fans of MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes, but instead are men "who look like they just came from the NRA annual meeting."
The NRA frequently interjects itself into seemingly-unrelated situations involving heroism or sacrifice to enhance the NRA's brand. Just days after the April 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, NRA board member Ted Nugent claimed that the heroism of first responders to the attack "represents what the NRA is." A January 2012 NRA fundraising email marked the anniversary of the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster and also featured an image of President John F. Kennedy with the assassinated president's quote, "The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it." The NRA also used the tenth anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks to solicit donations.
From the May 8 edition of NRA News show Cam & Company:
The National Rifle Association has used its media arm to dissuade gun owners from embracing "smart gun" technology through falsehoods and the promotion of conspiracy theories about the federal government.
Advances in technology that uses RFID chips, fingerprint identification, or other measures to ensure that a gun can only be fired by authorized users have been in the news following a Maryland gun store's failed attempt to bring a smart gun to market.
Engage Armament, a gun store in Rockville, MD, planned to begin sales of the Armatix iP1 handgun -- the first U.S. market-ready smart gun -- but later changed course and apologized for being involved with smart gun technology after receiving death threats from pro-gun activists. An earlier plan by a California gun store to offer the iP1 suffered a similar fate.
In a separate development, New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg has promised to repeal New Jersey's smart gun law -- which makes adoption of the technology mandatory once smart guns come to market -- if the NRA promises to not interfere with the retail sale of smart guns nor target manufacturers who develop smart gun technologies.
While Armatix produced the first smart gun ready for sale to the public, a 2013 Department of Justice report identified 13 entities -- including gun manufacturers, universities, and other research entities -- working to develop smart gun technology. In its 2015 budget request, DOJ asked for $2 million "to support the Administration's challenge to the private sector to develop innovative and cost-effective gun safety technology." Ron Conway, a prominent Silicon Valley angel investor, has also announced a $1 million competition for the development of "technology that reliably authorizes approved use -- and blocks the unauthorized use -- of firearms."
That the NRA is attacking smart gun technology -- and by doing so putting negative pressure on companies that would develop the technology with the hope of selling guns -- is ironic given the organization's philosophy on firearm sales. In an unhinged February 2013 op-ed that urged NRA members to "stand and fight" against gun safety measures proposed in the wake of the Newtown massacre, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre urged gun owners to "buy more guns than ever." And during a paranoid 2014 address at the NRA annual meeting LaPierre said, "there is no greater freedom than the right to survive and protect our families with all the rifles, shotguns, and handguns we want."
INDIANAPOLIS-- The theme of last week's National Rifle Association annual meeting was an odd one: maternity.
It was not an official theme in the way macho slogans like "All In" and "Stand and Fight" have formally defined recent NRA congresses. But it was a thick running thread, one that signals the quickening of a broad shift underway across the gun rights movement, from the gun makers to the grassroots.
Red schwag set the tone. At tables throughout the complex, NRA staffers handed out "I'm an NRA MOM" buttons and t-shirts. At the building's main entrance hung an enormous banner of a woman, looking a little pouty, next to a populist taunt of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who recently said he would spend big on behalf of the gun safety movement.
While it is unclear if the woman is an NRA mom, she is notably not NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre or board member Ted Nugent. The billboard captures perfectly the NRA's double-pronged messaging campaign of the moment, best summarized as "Glocker Moms against Mayor Mike."
For years the role of women in the politics and business of guns has been growing. We may look back at 2014 as the year it flipped. In Indianapolis, women constituted a full quarter of NRA attendees for the first time -- up to a five-fold increase over the past decade, according to the group.
The NRA is pivoting quickly to adjust, and for the first time its convention program featured two major events for women. In addition to the $250-a-plate Women's Leadership Forum Luncheon and Auction, the group held the first annual Women's New Energy Breakfast, where female gun owners and NRA moms mixed and networked over a $15 breakfast buffet.
These same women are the target of a female-oriented media push, anchored by a running NRA web series called "Armed and Fabulous." An early episode looks admiringly at the Potterfield women of the Midway ammunition empire, whose scion, Larry, is one of the NRA's biggest industry donors.
The women-and-guns motif carried over into the male-dominated dog-and-pony show known as the Leadership Forum, where 2016 hopefuls bragged about their wives' gun racks. Rick Santorum boasted that his wife owns more guns than he does, and that his five-year old daughter is already an NRA member. Indiana Governor Mike Pence talked about falling in love with his wife for her handgun. Florida Senator Marco Rubio bemoaned the paperwork required for his female staffers to carry and conceal. And after two years in which Glenn Beck delivered the keynote, this year's honor fell to the pistol-packin' Mama Grizzly, Sarah Palin.
What's going on? The modern NRA is, above all, a thinly veiled industry group. Its "mom" offensive reflects basic gun industry economics: manufacturers' continued growth depends in no small part on making up for the duck and deer hunting demographic, which has been static or declining for generations.
The industry hopes that women can be their growth market. Thus far its degree of success is anyone's guess. Anecdotal evidence and some polling shows an increase in female gun ownership in recent years. But according to the General Social Survey, the gold standard for survey research, only 12 percent of women owned guns in 2012, a lower level than in the mid-1990s.
Whether or not there's a real demographic sea change at hand, the transformation is unfolding in the gun media, both popular and trade, where designers and analysts discuss the need for new models representing the past and future of the industry. Gun makers are rolling out more rifles fitted for arthritic fingers, as well as handguns like the Pavona pistol, "designed for the discerning woman."
Scott Bach, an NRA board member and head of the NRA's New Jersey affiliate, dismissed the family of a child who died during the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre as "a prop" in response to the family's support for a New Jersey bill that would limit gun magazine size.
The New Jersey legislature is currently considering a bill which would reduce the legal ammunition magazine capacity from 15 rounds down to 10. Supporters of the legislation have pointed to mass shootings where high-capacity magazines were used, including Sandy Hook, to argue that such magazines threaten public safety. On May 5, the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee will hold a hearing and possibly advance the bill to the full New Jersey Senate. The General Assembly version of the bill passed in March.
Bach, who is executive director of the official NRA affiliate group Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs, made an April 30 appearance on the NRA News show Cam & Company in order to warn NRA members about the hearing, but while doing so he insulted Newtown families who have supported the legislation. In claiming that the real purpose of the legislation is to make Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie "uncomfortable because of the emotional component," Bach claimed the bill's backers "brought out the Newtown victim's family and frankly used them as a prop or a show."
Right-wing media are heaping praise upon Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. over his remarks at the National Rifle Association's annual meeting, ignoring his association with extremists.
Clarke has drawn praise from conservative pundits for a speech at the NRA's annual meeting where he proposed that the words "keep your hands off our guns dammit" be appended to the Second Amendment. On Fox & Friends Saturday, co-host Anna Kooiman said Clarke delivered a "very powerful speech," while co-host Tucker Carlson said he was going to send Clarke fan mail, rated his speech "awesome," and fist-pumped as Fox's Peter Johnson Jr. said Clarke "put it out there in straight language that people can understand."
On April 28, Clarke joined Fox & Friends for a laudatory interview that co-host Steve Doocy introduced by saying, "He is one law enforcement officer doing more than protecting you on the streets, he's standing up for all of our constitutional rights as well."
Larry Pratt, the executive director of Gun Owners of America, praised lawless Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy's actions in a sparsely attended speech outside the National Rifle Association's annual meeting.
"I think that this is a very positive development that came out of the confrontation out on that ranch," said Pratt, who regularly sits for credulous interviews with mainstream media outlets. "And hopefully we will look back on what happened there as a turning point in modern American history. The American people are saying 'Enough, no farther.'"
After Bundy refused for decades to pay the government fees required for his cattle to graze on public land, federal officials attempted to execute court orders to confiscate and sell the cattle to pay off the more than $1 million he owes the public. Bundy became a right-wing folk hero after he threatened violence against those officials, drawing the support of both conservatives in the media and hundreds of armed men -- including militia extremists -- who descended on Bundy's ranch, triggering an armed standoff with the government.
When the government stopped the confiscation fearing an outbreak of violence, Bundy's supporters cheered, but most of those allies abandoned him last week after The New York Times reported Bundy's racist comments, in which he questioned whether black Americans were "better off as slaves" or "better off under government subsidy."
But on April 26 Pratt praised the rancher's standoff with the Bureau of Land Management, which he described as "an illegitimate entity" whose employees "shouldn't have guns, not as government officials." He linked the event to the surge in sheriffs who have said they will refuse to enforce expanded federal or state gun laws.
"I think we really are hopefully on an upswing," he said to a group of roughly 20 onlookers, including a Media Matters reporter. "We are seeing, finally, a proper, legitimate, lawful response to illegitimate, unlawful exercise of government power, particularly on the federal level."
Pratt frequently appears in the media as an advocate for gun rights, most recently responding to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's expanded gun safety efforts in a New York Times article earlier this month. The Times profiled Pratt and his "upstart group" that takes positions "farther right" than the NRA in April 2013, featuring praise from Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Dean Heller (R-NV), and reported that the organization has been successful in "freezing senators, particularly Republicans" from taking positions in support of gun violence prevention legislation.
But Pratt also has a long record of anti-government extremism; he was forced out of his position as co-chair of Pat Buchanan's 1996 presidential run following the "disclosure that he had spoken at rallies held by leaders of the white supremacist and militia movements," as the Times reported at the time. More recently, he has suggested that the shooting at the Aurora, CO, movie theater may have been staged and flirted with the claim that the Sandy Hook shooting was a government "programmed event" designed to build support for stronger gun laws.
Pratt's speech came during a "Safety & Self-Protection Showcase" held in the park across the street from the Indiana Convention Center, where 70,000 members of the NRA were meeting this weekend. The event was sponsored by groups including Moms With Guns Demand Action, Gun Rights Across America, American Gun Rights, Indiana Moms Against Gun Control, 1 Million Moms Against Gun Control, 2A Friendly, and Armed American Women. Other speakers included Jan Morgan of Armed American Women, Indiana state representative Jim Lucas, Doc Greene of Raging Elephants Radio, and Nikki Goeser, author of "Denied A Chance."
Fox News political correspondent Carl Cameron obscured results from a Gallup poll which found that most Americans dissatisfied with gun safety laws want them to be stronger.
On the April 25 edition of Special Report, Cameron reported on the NRA's annual leadership forum taking place in Indianapolis, Indiana. During the segment Cameron hyped the NRA's "defeat of gun control and background check legislation last year," and its efforts in getting concealed carry laws passed in all 50 states. Cameron ended his praise of the NRA by highlighting a Gallup poll, claiming the results found an increased dissatisfaction with gun laws because they are too strict.
CAMERON: Fifty-five percent of the country is unhappy with U.S. gun laws. And that's up 4 percent from last year, and it's because there's been a 10percent increase in people who think the laws are too strict.
What Cameron failed to mention was that the Gallup poll actually found that most Americans dissatisfied with gun laws in the U.S. want stronger gun laws. Gallup reported that those "who are dissatisfied have historically leaned heavily in the direction of wanting stricter rather than less strict laws.":
National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre took the stage today at his organization's most important event of the year and delivered a paranoid rant virtually identical to the one he gave to conservative activists last month.
LaPierre was speaking during the Leadership Forum at the NRA's Annual Meeting and Exhibits. Thousands of NRA members pay $10 to see LaPierre and other NRA and Republican leaders at what is billed by the group as "one of the NRA's premier events of the year."
But LaPierre apparently could not be bothered to come up with a new pitch for his members, instead delivering a speech virtually identical to the one he gave at the Conservative Political Action Conference on March 6.
During the CPAC speech, LaPierre acknowledged that some attendees might not be NRA members and urged them to join. During the NRA speech, he responded to a recent development. The remainder of the speeches were word-for-word the same.
Media Matters compared the text versions of both speeches posted on the NRA website, and found that both speeches contained LaPierre's trademark paranoia in identical passages -- LaPierre's fearmongering that America is becoming too dangerous for children to play outside; his claim that Americans are buying guns because of "reckless government actions" and because the "entire fabric of society" is in jeopardy; his description of the national media as one of the nation's "greatest threats"; his assertion that people need unlimited firearms to stand up to "knockout gamers" and "haters"; and his declaration that the NRA "will not go quietly into the night."
Here are the only substantive differences between the speeches.
LaPierre opened his CPAC speech by saying (differences bolded):
It's great to be here today, thanks for having me. I really appreciate your warm welcome.
There must be some NRA members out there! To each of you, I thank you for being here with me and for your support and vigilance in defending our freedom. You and NRA members all over the country have made a real difference in making this nation and our freedoms safer.
By contrast, in his NRA speech he said:
Welcome to this great celebration of American freedom! It's great to be here today and I really appreciate your warm welcome.
To all of you NRA members, I want to thank you with all my heart for your support and vigilance in defending our freedom. You and NRA members all over the country have made a real difference in making this nation and our freedoms safer.
On two occasions, LaPierre urged CPAC attendees to join the NRA, a call that was presumably unnecessary at the organization's annual meeting. From the CPAC speech, with text not also appearing in the NRA speech bolded:
So I'll put it to you -- do you believe in that declaration of individual liberty? Come on, let me hear you! Are you willing to stand and fight for your rights?
There are two things I need you to do. First, go to the NRA booth, right here at CPAC, and sign your name to a Declaration of Individual Rights. Sign that declaration today and add your name to millions of patriotic Americans just like you. Second, stand behind your declaration -- back it up -- by joining the NRA. America needs you as part of an even larger, stronger, tougher NRA. It's how you resist and tell the world that you're going to fight and protect everything you care about.
Then later in the CPAC speech:
Those NRA members -- those great Americans -- THEY are the real muscle of NRA's clout. Become one of THEM.
Join us and together we will stand and fight and win and take back our country. Stand up right now and you tell me, do you want to save this country and all that is good about America?
During his NRA speech, LaPierre responded to former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's announcement earlier this month that he will spend $50 million on gun safety efforts this year, playing a video that asked members to donate to the NRA. Text that did not also appear in his previous CPAC speech is bolded:
But mark my words. The NRA will not go quietly into the night. We will fight.
Now, some of you may have heard about Michael Bloomberg. Last week, he gave a big interview to The New York Times and the Today show.
Bloomberg vowed to spend $50 million to beat us in November. He said he would do everything he could with all of his $50 million to confront and defeat the NRA. Well, here's our response.
This election will be won or lost on every street, every corner, in every coffee shop or store or church in America -- where every NRA member lives and works and volunteers and campaigns.
Cliven Bundy's abhorrent, racist comparison of slavery to federal poverty assistance bears a striking resemblance to common claims from conservative media, who have frequently invoked slavery to describe the supposed damage "the welfare state" has done to black Americans.
Nevada rancher Bundy, who was praised by conservative media for engaging in an armed standoff with federal agents after refusing to pay decades worth of federal grazing fees on public land, on April 19 questioned whether black Americans were "better off as slaves" or "better off under government subsidy," telling a reporter in a racist rant:
"I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro," he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, "and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids -- and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch -- they didn't have nothing to do. They didn't have nothing for their kids to do. They didn't have nothing for their young girls to do.
"And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?" he asked. "They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I've often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn't get no more freedom. They got less freedom."
As Slate's Jamelle Bouie noted, Bundy's repugnant rhetoric sounds familiar -- it's the same logic behind many right-wing criticisms of the social safety net. Media Matters has been tracking this type of offensive rhetoric for years.
During the fight over health care reform, Rush Limbaugh claimed that "It won't be a matter of whether you have coverage or don't have coverage. What'll matter is that all of us will be slaves; we'll become slaves to the arbitrary and inhumane decisions of distant bureaucrats working in Washington where there's no competition, nobody you can go to if you don't like what you hear from the bureaucrats that you have to deal with."
When Glenn Beck was a host on Fox News, he had an obsession with comparing things to slavery, including the claim that progressive policies created "slavery to government, welfare, affirmative action, regulation, control," and that "big government never lifts anybody out of poverty. It creates slaves." In 2008, Jim Quinn, the co-host of the radio show The War Room with Quinn & Rose, was forced to apologize for comparing "slave[s] in the Old South" to welfare recipients today, when he claimed that the only "difference" was that the "slave had to work for" the benefits Quinn said they received.
In his 2008 book Let Them In, The Wall Street Journal editorial board member Jason Riley argued that the Great Society programs of the 1960s were ultimately worse for black families than slavery, writing "The black family survived slavery, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow, but the well-intentioned Great Society sounded its death knell."
More recently, Riley promoted the twisted logic of George Mason University's Walter Williams (who has often guest-hosted The Rush Limbaugh Show), who claimed that because more black children live in single-mother families now, welfare "destroy[ed] the black family" more than slavery:
During Reconstruction and up until the 1940s, 75% to 85% of black children lived in two-parent families. Today, more than 70% of black children are born to single women. "The welfare state has done to black Americans what slavery couldn't do, what Jim Crow couldn't do, what the harshest racism couldn't do," Mr. Williams says. "And that is to destroy the black family."
Ted Nugent, National Rifle Association board member and a favorite of conservative media, has become infamous for his extreme racism for calling President Obama a subhuman mongrel -- but Nugent also used the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech to claim that the Great Society programs were "responsible for more destruction to black America than the evils of slavery and the KKK combined." In a 2011 Washington Times column, Nugent also suggested that the Democratic Party is the "modern-day slave master" to low-income Americans.
Vox's Matt Yglesias noted the irony of Bundy criticizing the government for assisting Americans through federal programs, when he himself has benefited from federal subsidies which keep the cost of grazing low for ranchers like himself. And though the abhorrent comparison of slavery to welfare is ridiculous on its face, it's worth noting that federal benefit programs have been vital in keeping Americans out of poverty -- in fact, federal programs today are cutting poverty nearly in half, whereas in 1967 they only reduced poverty by a single percentage point.
Conservative media may finally renounce Bundy and his lawless cause following his racist remarks; but they should also renounce this harmful, inaccurate comparison.