A local reporter's five-year investigation into rape kit backlogs in Ohio helped inspire state-level reforms and identify hundreds of serial rapists, evidencing how good reporting can bring about positive change to states' handling of sexual assault -- a stark contrast to conservative media's dismissal of sexual assault that may actually discourage victims from coming forward.
Reporter Rachel Dissell discovered a decades-long backlog of untested rape kits while researching sexual assaults for Cleveland's The Plain Dealer. As she told NPR's Fresh Air, the Cleveland police possessed at least 4,000 untested kits, which contain DNA evidence that could be used to identify and prosecute perpetrators. While many factors contribute to why the kits were left untested, Dissell explained that often times the perceived credibility of the victim played a role: "A lot of the victims whose cases didn't go forward and whose kits weren't tested were minorities. They were drug addicts. They had mental health issues -- all kinds of things like that that just really made them the most vulnerable and the least likely to be believed."
Dissell and The Plain Dealer's reporting helped inspire a groundbreaking Ohio law mandating that old and new rape kits be tested, leading to the reopening of nearly 2,000 rape investigations and the identification of over 200 serial rapists or potential serial rapists.
The positive impact of such reporting shines a light on conservative media's comparatively dangerous coverage of sexual assault, which actively reinforces the stigma surrounding sexual assault victims.
Conservative media have repeatedly attempted to discredit research showing that one-in-five women experiences a completed or attempted sexually assault at college, mocking those who do come forward and dismissing efforts to address the crime as proof of a "war" on men.
Glenn Beck's TheBlazeTV argued that the sexual assault epidemic is "completely untrue" by acting out sexual positions and labelling each skit "RAPE!", while George Will asserted that victim has become a "coveted status." Pundits from Rush Limbaugh to The Weekly Standard's Harvey Mansfield have blamed women for the epidemic, while other conservative talking heads stoke fears about a supposed increase in false reports of sexual assault. Others have explicitly blamed victims for their sexual assault, describing sexual assault survivors as "bad girls...who like to be naughty" and lecturing women about the burden of personal responsibility, saying, "It is the truth that if you are the victim of violent crime or the victim of an attempted violent crime, it is not the patriarchy that puts the burden on you to defend yourself, it is not rigid gender roles, it is -- it's a fact of life."
Such disparaging coverage not only stigmatizes victims, it can actually discourage victims from reporting the crimes and their attackers in the first place. And sexual assault is already a vastly underreported crime -- estimates show that sexual assault goes unreported nearly 70 percent of the time.
In her interview with Fresh Air, Dissell described how discrediting sexual assault victims helps their rapists go unpunished: "They knew if they chose the most vulnerable women - the least likely to be believed - that they would never get caught. And I just don't know how that happened. How did we let them outsmart us for all that time?"
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent attacked President Obama and gun safety advocates for calling attention to the deaths of children from guns, calling such efforts "The Big Lie" -- a phrase associated with Nazi propaganda.
Gun accidents and homicides involving children happen far more frequently in the United States than in other affluent nations.
In a May 13 column posted on conspiracy website WND (World Net Daily), Nugent wrote, "The Big Lie about guns is that innocent kids are being gunned down or are accidentally shooting each other."
Arguing that "very few kids under the age of 10 die or are injured as a result of gun-related accidents," Nugent wrote, "The vast majority of teenagers who die as a result of guns are involved in gangs. They are punks, thugs and street rats who have dropped out of school and let out of their cages over and over again by a so-called 'justice system' gone bad."
Hitler first wrote about "the big lie" in Mein Kampf. The Nazi leader accused Jews of telling "the big lie" to corrupt "the broad masses," who he claimed "more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie." The phrase is also associated with tactics used by chief Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.
It's hard to argue that accidental gun deaths involving children are not worth calling attention to, let alone that covering such tragedies is comparable to Nazi-style propaganda. And it is no surprise that accidental shootings involving children receive widespread media coverage, given how shocking and senseless they are.
According to a project of Everytown for Gun Safety, there have been at least 88 incidents just this year "in which a child 17 or under fired a gun unintentionally and someone was harmed as a result." In 2013, the group documented at least 100 accidental shooting deaths of children aged 14 or younger. A Mother Jones report that examined the same time period found 84 fatal gun accidents involving children aged 12 and under, 64 of which involved a child pulling the trigger, killing themselves or someone else, which debunks Nugent's claim that children are not "accidentally shooting each other."
The National Rifle Association's media arm is deliberately misrepresenting a proposed new law in North Carolina that would repeal background checks on private pistol sales, falsely claiming that it would merely shift required background checks from one government system to another.
In reality, the bill would eliminate a pistol permit requirement that currently ensures that buyers of pistols from private sellers at gun shows and online undergo a background check, thus creating a loophole for felons and other persons prohibited by law from purchasing firearms.
Members of the North Carolina House of Representatives are currently considering H.B. 562, a piece of legislation that would repeal a state requirement that anyone who wants to purchase a pistol first obtain a permit from their local county sheriff -- a process that involves undergoing a background check. H.B. 562 has so far passed two House committees, although an effort to fast-track it was recently abruptly canceled.
If the pistol permit requirement is repealed, individuals who buy from private sellers at gun shows or online would no longer have to undergo a background check before completing their purchase.
Following Loretta Lynch's historic confirmation as U.S. Attorney General, media have been silent about the implications for the National Rifle Association losing in a second consecutive high-profile nomination fight.
On April 23, Lynch was confirmed in the U.S. Senate by a vote of 56 to 43 following a protracted effort by many Republicans in the Senate to stall or sink her confirmation. She will be the first African-American female attorney general in United States history.
A Media Matters review of major U.S. newspapers and television transcripts in Nexis and internal video archives following her confirmation did not identify any instance where the NRA was discussed in relation to Lynch.
But Lynch's confirmation provides more evidence that the NRA does not win every time. According to a tired -- and incorrect -- media narrative, the NRA is always successful in its federal lobbying efforts and also has the ability to punish legislators who refuse to support the gun group's agenda. Research on election outcomes has long-indicated, however, that the NRA in fact has little effect on politicians' Election Day results through endorsements or campaign spending.
Now the failure of the NRA to stop the confirmation of two high-profile Obama nominees -- Surgeon General Vivek Murthy in December 2014 and now Lynch -- offers evidence that the NRA also does not always get its way in Congress
Newly elected National Rifle Association president Allan D. Cors riffed on the NRA's "Stand and Fight" slogan by appending the words "or die" to the end and offered blatant falsehoods about a new background check law in an interview promoted on NRA News.
Cors was elected to a two year term as president of the NRA during the April 10 - 12 NRA annual meetings in Nashville, Tennessee, and replaces Jim Porter, who began his term in 2013. Before becoming president, Cors was the NRA's first vice president. Pete Brownell, who owns a company that manufactures gun parts and ammunition, was elected as the new first vice president at the meeting, meaning that he will likely become NRA president in 2017.
Cors has served on the NRA's board of directors since 1972 and is a past president of the NRA Foundation. According to an NRA profile, Cors, who has a background in governmental affairs, "enjoys his work on Capitol Hill, advocating for or against legislation."
Under the NRA's organizational structure, the direction of the gun group will still be led by executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre, who was also reelected to his position at the meeting but made headlines for complaining about the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency by saying, "eight years of one demographically symbolic president is enough."
The NRA is now introducing Cors to its supporters with an interview that aired on the April 14 edition of NRA News show Cam & Company.
During the interview, Cors described the NRA as "stronger than ever" by comparing the modern day NRA to the NRA of the 1960s that he said did not do enough to oppose the passage of the Gun Control Act of 1968. That legislation, enacted in the wake of the gun assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bobby Kennedy, created the federal framework for the regulation of firearms.
The main provisions of the Gun Control Act prohibit the sale of guns to felons and other dangerous people, require individuals "engaged in the business" of selling guns to obtain a Federal Firearms License, give authority to the federal government to prohibit the importation of firearms that lack "sporting purposes," and require manufacturers to affix serial numbers to guns.
Speaking of his efforts during the legislation's consideration, Cors said, "we did as much as we could to hold back some of the really bad things, but we did get rolled finally when Martin Luther King was -- when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated."
A new survey of firearm experts reveals a consensus debunking the myths the gun lobby and conservative media use to try to infect the national dialogue on gun safety to create the appearance of legitimate debate.
National Rifle Association News host Cam Edwards lashed out at a Daily Tar Heel editorial that argued guns are not the solution to campus sexual assault by claiming that the "burden" of stopping sexual assaults and other violent crimes as they occur "is on the victim."
According to Edwards, "it is the truth that if you are the victim of violent crime or the victim of an attempted violent crime, it is not the patriarchy that puts the burden on you to defend yourself, it is not rigid gender roles, it is -- it's a fact of life."
In a March 22 editorial, independent student newspaper The Daily Tar Heel criticized national group Students for Concealed Carry for raising the issue of campus sexual assault in a gambit to loosen rules on carrying guns on public campuses in North Carolina.
The Daily Tar Heel wrote, "Concealed weapons would not significantly reduce sexual assault and would create inadvertent risks within other forms of interpersonal violence," and added that proponents of guns on campus "could reinforce rape culture because the burden of stopping assault would be further placed upon women." Noting that guns increase the risk of homicide in domestic violence situations, the Tar Heel concluded that "[t]o reduce sexual assault, focus should be maintained on preventative programs that challenge rigid gender roles and promote healthy relationships as well as intervention trainings that teach peers to be active bystanders rather than on measures that will not solve the problem."
On the March 27 edition of NRA News program Cam & Company, Edwards said the editorial "could only be written by somebody on that college campus without a lot of thought and experience in the real world" and that he was "dumber [for] having read" the editorial.
In particular, Edwards took issue with the Tar Heel's argument that telling women that they should carry guns to prevent sexual assault places the "burden" of preventing such attacks on those women. Edwards repeatedly argued that the "burden" of stopping all violent crimes -- including sexual assault -- was in fact on the victim.
A new commentary video from the National Rifle Association argues that the Obama administration's policies on firearms are inspired by the murderous Amy Dunne character from Gone Girl.
In a March 18 video for the NRA News commentary series, NRA News commentator Colion Noir -- who is also the host of NRA webshow Noir -- said, "On the issue of guns, I'm starting to believe the Obama administration got their anti-gun playbook from that crazy character Amy from Gone Girl," following his criticism of a now-withdrawn plan by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to ban a type of armor-piercing ammunition.
"They consistently manipulate the public and the conversation on guns in this country, all the while painting Second Amendment advocates as paranoid fearmongerers," he explained.
Noir was referencing the protagonist of the 2012 thriller novel Gone Girl which was adapted into an acclaimed film in 2014. In the film, Amy Dunne falsely accuses a man of raping and kidnapping her as part of a plot to frame her husband for her own murder.
Cam Edwards, the host of the National Rifle Association's television and radio shows, is backtracking on a claim in his biography that he is the recipient of a Heartland Emmy Award.
After being contacted by Media Matters about multiple biographies listing Edwards' Emmy claim, Edwards updated his bio to say he "shared in" an Emmy Award as part of a documentary crew. According to the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Heartland Chapter, "only our official award-winners may" call themselves Emmy winners. Edwards is not listed as any of the five named crew members in the award citation.
The Heartland Chapter is one of 20 regional groups under the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences that annually gives out Emmy Awards for accomplishments in television. Prior to joining NRA News in 2004, Edwards worked in television and radio in Oklahoma, one of several regions covered by the Heartland Chapter.
Although it has since been changed, Edwards biography page at NRA listed him as the recipient of "the Heartland Chapter Emmy Ward [sic]." A similar biography on the website of NRA advertising agency Ackerman McQueen also lists Edwards as an Emmy winner.
Chris Cox, the National Rifle Association's top lobbyist, falsely claimed that a recent move by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to ban a type of armor-piercing ammunition is motivated by animus towards women. In fact, the proposal aims to protect law enforcement officers.
On February 13 the ATF published a letter describing its intent to ban the importation and manufacture of a type of armor-piercing ammunition commonly called "green tip" that is used in AR-15 and other "AR-type" assault weapons. Because the "green tip" round contains a steel penetrator, it is more powerful than some other types of ammunition used in such firearms, and its use is already banned at some shooting ranges, including the NRA's.
The ATF is moving to ban "green tip" because it can penetrate a law enforcement officer's body armor when fired from a pistol. While in the past "green tip" ammunition was subject to an ATF exemption, the agency has become concerned in recent years over the growing popularity of AR-15-style pistols that accept "green tip" ammunition.
During a February 27 appearance on the NRA's radio show, NRA Institute for Legislative Action executive director Chris Cox argued against ATF's action, stating, "now is the time for gun owners, whether you like that AR platform or not, to recognize that they're banning it for a reason."
He then claimed that the move was motivated because the Obama administration allegedly doesn't like that women use AR-15 rifles, saying, "They're banning that ammo because they don't like the fact that women like the adjustable stock and the low recoil" found on the AR-15 platform. In urging supporters to oppose the ATF's move, Cox added, "if we stick together and stick to the right message we can turn this thing back around."
National Rifle Association radio and television host Cam Edwards claimed that people who argue against concealed carry as a solution to rape on college campuses "are OK with" sexual assaults that could supposedly be prevented by guns.
At least 10 state legislatures are considering NRA-backed legislation to allow students to carry concealed guns on campus, and advocates for guns on campus have increasingly argued that arming students will help address the epidemic of campus sexual assault. Critics have pointed out that, among many other problems with this argument, campus sexual assaults often involve alcohol.
During the February 24 edition of the NRA News radio program Cam & Company, Edwards asserted that opponents of guns on campus believe that in "almost every sexual assault, there is alcohol involved," so a "gun wouldn't help." Because of this, Edwards said, opponents of guns on campus are "OK with some sexual assaults occurring when they could be prevented."
Edwards went on to describe the position of those who say that guns on campus are not a solution to sexual assault: "So what they're saying is, they are OK with real sexual assaults happening -- whether they acknowledge that they are saying this or not, ultimately their position is that they are OK with real sexual assaults happening because they are afraid of accidents that might take place if campus carry were allowed."
In fact, Edwards is mischaracterizing recent arguments against guns as a solution to campus sexual assault, which have pointed out that guns will not actually make women on campus safer.
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent made a rare appearance on the NRA's radio show to call his critics "subhuman mongrels" and to claim people who "attack" the NRA are "not the same species as we are."
During his January 15 appearance on the NRA's radio show, Cam & Company, Nugent discussed his upcoming appearance on Sarah Palin's Sportsman Channel reality show Amazing America with Sarah Palin. No mention was made by Nugent or host Cam Edwards of how the musician and conservative commentator recently mocked people with mental disabilities on Facebook while using the word "retard." Palin has previously called for people who use that word to be fired (while making an exception for Rush Limbaugh). The topic also did not come up during a January 15 appearance by Palin on the NRA's television show on Sportsman Channel, which is also called Cam & Company. Instead, Palin called Nugent her "blood brother."
Nugent turned from hyping his appearance on Palin's show to offering a rant against critics of him and the NRA, reviving his infamous "subhuman mongrel" slur. As Nugent's rant reached a crescendo, NRA News apparently muted him for several seconds:
NUGENT: So Cam [Edwards], don't ever question what you're doing because I know you get attacked like I do and remember that those that attack us are such subhuman mongrels, and if that offends anyone, tough. The people who attack us and freedom and gun owners and the NRA, they're not the same species as we are. They are some strange inbred Martian -- [audio cuts out] -- individuality, doesn't believe in independence, doesn't believe in freedom and you and I can be very proud that those kind of punks hate us.
The National Rifle Association's news show Cam & Company hosted an attorney to attack as "frivolous" and "irresponsible" a lawsuit filed against NRA corporate donor Bushmaster for making the gun used in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
On December 13, several Newtown families sued Bushmaster under a "negligent entrustment" theory for the gun manufacturer's role in putting an assault weapon into the hands of a gunman who killed 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. The lawsuit also named Bushmaster's parent company, Remington Arms Company, as well as the seller and the distributor of the gun.
Steve Halbrook, an attorney who writes about the Second Amendment and other gun issues, joined Cam & Company on December 16 to repeatedly suggest that the lawsuit was "frivolous," call for the complaint to be dismissed, and argue that Bushmaster may be entitled to compensation for attorney's fees. Halbrook is also the author of a book that advances the ahistorical claim that gun restrictions were responsible for Hitler's rise to power and served as counsel for the NRA in the landmark Supreme Court case McDonald v. Chicago.)
During his appearance, Halbrook said that the plaintiffs -- who are family members of teachers and children who were killed at Newtown, as well as one survivor of the attack -- and their lawyers were "extremely irresponsible" to file the lawsuit.
Conservative media are freaking out after Jay Leno canceled an upcoming gig at the gun industry's 2015 trade show, the National Shooting Sports Foundation's (NSSF) SHOT Show, calling the comedian a "coward" who has "no spine." The NSSF had responded to the deadly 2012 school shooting in the association's hometown of Newtown, CT, by opposing all proposed gun safety measures.
National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre warned that "all we've worked for" with regard to "our freedom since the founding of the country could be in jeopardy" in the 2016 elections while also stating that "every American owes NRA members and gun owners a debt of gratitude" for the 2014 election outcomes.
The NRA frequently rallies its supporters by suggesting each election cycle could bring about the destruction of the Second Amendment or even the entire United States of America while baselessly giving itself credit in instances where Republicans do well at the polls.
During a November 6 appearance on the NRA's radio show Cam & Company, LaPierre wasted no time turning to 2016, stating, "We've won the first half here of the game, but we won't win the battle until we win all the game and 2016 is a big deal."
"I mean if we end up with an anti-Second Amendment president in 2016, I mean all we've worked for in the last 30 years or our freedom since the founding of the country could be in jeopardy," LaPierre added.
Arguing that "we need to get NRA stronger," LaPierre went on to describe the 2016 election as "the fight of our lives for American freedom." LaPierre also said in the 2014 elections that the NRA had "beat the Bloombergs, we beat the Clintons, this time, but they're not going away and if they win in '15 and '16 the damage that they can do to the Second Amendment is unimaginable. (Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a prominent gun safety activist and was the primary backer of an "historic" 2014 ballot initiative to expand background checks on gun sales in Washington state.) LaPierre concluded his remarks by saying, "we are never going to have a bigger challenge than what we have to pull off together in 2016."
That sentiment from the NRA is one that observers have heard time and again.
Just days ago the NRA warned that the "the future of our Second Amendment rights comes down to one day -- Election Day 2014," which is "the most important of our lifetime" because "[o]ur fundamental right to keep and bear arms has never been in greater jeopardy."