Guns

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  • Discussing Fresno Attack, The NRA Decides When A Shooting Can Be Politicized

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    NRATV attacked anti-gun-violence activists in anticipation of them attempting to “politicize” the recent deadly shooting in Fresno, CA. But an NRA host later used the shooting to compare an anti-gun-violence leader to the Fresno shooter and suggested people need to arm themselves when “a deranged lunatic praising Allah pulls his firearm.”

    On April 18, Kori Muhammad opened fire on four men in Fresno, CA, killing three. The shooting occurred two hours after Fresno police identified him as the suspect in the killing of an unarmed security guard. Despite earlier speculation, the police confirmed that the suspect isn’t connected to terrorism, and called the shootings “solely based on race.”

    During the April 18 edition of NRATV’s Cam & Company, host Cam Edwards briefly mentioned the shooting in the show’s 4 p.m. hour, and highlighted that the gunman said “Allahu akbar” when he was being arrested. Edwards went on to bemoan that gun violence prevention groups “will be jumping on this and trying to politicize this crime … if they have not done so already”:

    CAM EDWARDS (HOST): We are watching some breaking news out of Fresno, California. Kori Ali Muhammad, who apparently was wanted in a murder last week in Fresno, taken into custody after shooting and killing at least three people in Fresno earlier today. We will bring you more details on that story, apparently shouted Allahu akbar when police arrested him. [The police] chief said he expressed a hatred of whites, taken into custody again in Fresno, California. I am assuming that, if they have not already done so, gun control groups will be jumping on this and trying to politicize this crime in California before long, if they have not done so already.

    But just one day after Edwards complained that anti-gun-violence groups would “politicize” the shooting, NRATV host Grant Stinchfield did just that. During the April 19 edition of NRATV’s Live Updates, Stinchfield said it was “delusional and … deceitful” not to consider the shooting an act of terrorism and warned that “you better be ready, because the reality is, there will be no one there to defend you”: 

    GRANT STINCHFIELD (HOST): Kori Ali Muhammad calls white people the devil. He killed three of them yesterday while yelling in Arabic, “God is great” -- Allahu akbar. We’ve heard it too many times before. I call it a rampage, the media wants to call it a hate crime. What no one is calling it is a terrorist attack. The man yelled Allahu akbar. Call this heinous act what it is, terrorism on the streets of Fresno. Look at this article written by The Associated Press: Not once does it even mention the possibility of terrorism. It’s delusional and more likely deceitful. The media wants you to believe there is no such thing as radical Islam or the terrorists who practice it. Here is what Fresno police have to say:

    [...]

    STINCHFIELD: Come on, clearly radical Islam is alive and well. That is one example of it. And these holy warriors lurk on our streets; it is up to you to defend yourself from an attack like this. In the very moment a deranged lunatic praising Allah pulls his firearm, you better be ready. Because the reality is, there will be no one else there to defend you.

    Stinchfield began his 10-minute noon update by calling Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts “extreme” for promising to protest the NRA annual meeting at the end of the month and comparing her to to the Fresno gunman, who is “also extreme.” Stinchfield repeated that “Allahu akbar” is the “rallying cry of every Islamic holy warrior,” and therefore proof this attack is terror-related. NRA spokesperson and commentator Dana Loesch also slammed the police for calling this “a hate crime based on race,” and went on to state, “The guy is a terrorist, plain and simple.”

    The National Rifle Association has a well-established track record of hypocrisy when it comes to whether to politicize mass shootings and tragedies. The organization slammed gun violence prevention groups when they called to expand the national background checks system after the mass shooting in a Charleston church in June 2015. Edwards went as far as to say it is “completely inappropriate” to discuss gun policies the day after an incident. The NRA, however, quickly responded to a shooting at a naval facility in Chattanooga, TN, a month later and argued that it proved firearm regulations on military bases should be loosened. It seems that in the NRA's hypocritical worldview, calls for stronger gun laws are disrespectful, exploitative, and shameless -- while calls for less restrictions are sensible, timely, and relevant. Even worse, the gun group's post-shooting strategy operates from behind a façade of "respect" for the victims.

  • Chicago Urban League Calls On iHeartRadio To Break Silence On Racist Radio Host

    Chicago Urban League CEO Shari Runner: “There Is Zero Tolerance” For Segments On iHeartRadio That Ridicule The African-American Community 

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    Civil rights and gun violence prevention organizations are continuing to call on iHeartRadio to break its silence on conservative radio host Michael Berry, who hosted a weekly segment called the “Butcher Bill” and “The Chicago Weekend Crime Report” that was dedicated to mocking victims of Chicago gun violence.

    Berry hosted the racially charged segment for several years on his iHeartRadio syndicated show The Michael Berry Show, and in March Talkers magazine reported that he would be honored with a “Talk Personality of the Year” award at the 2017 iHeartMusic Awards. After mounting pressure from several local Chicago news outlets, Berry issued a disingenuous apology for his “Butcher Bill” segment and pledged to end it.

    But iHeartRadio refused to publicly comment on the controversy or say whether Berry had actually received the award during the March 5 ceremony.

    Despite a letter from 21 civil rights and gun violence prevention groups calling on the company to confirm whether it gave Berry the award, and a letter from the Chicago Urban League and other Chicago groups calling for Berry to be fired, iHeartRadio has refused to publicly address the situation.

    During the April 10 edition of WVON’s The Talk Of Chicago, Chicago Urban League president and CEO Shari Runner said that there can be “zero tolerance” for characterizing African-Americans “as people who are lawless, unprofessional, [and] uncaring,” as Berry’s segment did. Runner highlighted iHeartRadio’s large African-American audience and suggested that advertisers should consider whether they want to be associated with iHeartRadio’s brand:

    From the April 10 edition of WVON’s The Talk Of Chicago:

    RUFUS WILLIAMS (GUEST HOST): Have you been able to get caught up with what’s going on from your staff, and just give us some opening thoughts on what you think about this situation? Then we got a couple calls I’d like to take too.

    SHARI RUNNER (CHICAGO URBAN LEAGUE): Yeah, I think it’s very important that we talk about how we as African-Americans manage our narrative. This is not the kind of thing that we want to let happen and lay silent about. It doesn’t -- it hasn’t gotten the kind of press that Bill O’Reilly has. But it is equally if not more important that we understand how people hijack and think about what it is that we are doing as African-Americans to say this is who we are and this is where we should be.

    WILLIAMS: That’s a good point because it really does ask the question: What is our tolerable level of insult? And we’ve got to know that this beyond the pale. This is certainly beyond it, and we can stop and see all of the media that comes when Bill O’Reilly has a sex abuse, sex whatever, issue. And everybody pays attention and advertisers fall from that. There needs to be the same kind of outcry. There needs to be the same kind of reduction that happens when our -- when we are mocked as a people in the way in which this has happened.

    RUNNER: Yeah. No question about it. There is no tolerance. There is zero tolerance as we’ve heard in a number of different ways, that we can allow African-American people to be characterized as people who are lawless, unprofessional, uncaring. This is a big deal and we need to start with this one thing, if not many things, to make sure that our community is characterized in the right light.

    WILLIAMS: So Shari, where we stopped in leading up to our chronology for -- to today, and where we have been with this response is, we stopped at the point of having had the conversation last week with Greg [Ashlock] of iHeartMedia who runs the region that includes this guy’s show down in Texas. So he was supposed to get back to Paula [Thornton Greear, senior vice president of Chicago Urban League,] by Friday, which he did not do. So where we are now is talking about what our next steps will be. And I know we haven’t collectively sat down and talked about that, but, what I would like to do is to talk about that. Get some thoughts from you, get some thoughts from here, get some thoughts from our audience. What is it that we think our next step should be? Because we did talk about the lack of diversity in the C-suite, we talked about the lack of diversity on their board, we talked about the fact that we need to understand where their dollars gets spent, the huge influence that iHeart has on our community given the number of African-American, the number of black listeners who listen to iHeart stations. So let’s talk about what we think our next steps should be from this point, having not heard from them through today.

    RUNNER: Well it's very, very important. And I know that we have entertainment value around the people that are represented on iHeartRadio. Ninety seven percent of African-American listeners listen to a station, an urban radio station, that is owned by iHeart. And they do that. And iHeart makes money around creating dollars for advertisers who want to engage those listeners. So, how important is that to us? How important, as we’ve heard Nielson say over and over again, we have spending votes. It is not just the votes we do at the ballot box, it is a matter of how do we use those spending votes to make sure that we are available to create a movement that happens for us. And --

    WILLIAMS: So basically, you are saying, who are their advertisers? Who are the people who support iHeart? Who are the stations that we have been listening to and where we should pull back in effecting those things?

    RUNNER: Yes, absolutely. We do it and we think about it -- I hope everybody thinks about it as it relates to the Koch brothers, and who they are and what they do as it relates to our community. But really, how do we use our power as an African-American community in this country to make sure that we are doing the right things to get the things that benefit our community. 

  • NRA Readies Next Attack Against The First Amendment

    NRA To Launch Ads Against The “Anti-Freedom” “Propaganda Machine” New York Times

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    The National Rifle Association’s news outlet NRATV announced a new “series of messages” against The New York Times that will air on the Fox News Channel beginning Monday. The NRA previewed the ad with the claim that the newspaper has “gone on the offensive to take away your liberties.”

    The new NRA ad evidences a new phenomenon since the election of President Donald Trump where the gun group now routinely labels protected speech reporting that it doesn’t like as oppositional to traditional democratic values.

    On the April 7 edition of NRATV’s Stinchfield, host Grant Stinchfield called the Times “a liberal propaganda machine that is out of control,” and claimed the newspaper has carried out an “assault on journalism.” He then played a preview of a message featuring NRA’s CEO Wayne LaPierre in which LaPierre claimed the media has “weaponized the First Amendment against the Second,” and that America “would have fallen long ago” had people placed their trust in the “failing American news media.”

    From Stinchfield:

    GRANT STINCHFIELD (HOST): Well, they will lie, they will deceive, they will exploit the ignorance of so many Americans, all with one goal. They will lie, deceive it all, all with the goal to push an anti-freedom agenda that includes an assault on your Second Amendment rights. I’m talking, of course, about The New York Times. A liberal propaganda machine that is out of control. This machine has gone on the offensive to take away your liberties. This machine has gone on the offensive to make an assault on journalism and weaponize it. The New York Times is upping its fight, so are we here at NRATV. So sit back, we are going on the offensive with a series of messages that will air on Fox News Channel starting Monday. Here is a preview.

    [BEGIN CLIP]

    WAYNE LAPIERRE (NRA EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT AND CEO): To every dishonest member of the failing American news media, let me explain why you’ve never been less trusted, less credible, or less respected. For decades you ignored calls from millions of gun owners to just tell the truth. All you had to do was just get the facts right about our guns, and our freedom. But you never even pretended to listen. Instead, you weaponized the First Amendment against the Second. And now the whole country sees you for the mockery we’ve always known. Your claim to the truth is as legitimate as a thief’s. If the fate of individual freedom had rested in your hands, America would have fallen long ago. But Americans put their trust somewhere else, and now in that place stands the most trusted defender of individual freedom in American history. We’re the National Rifle Association of America, and we’re freedom’s safest place.

    [END CLIP]

    The NRA has previously run messages against The New York Times for fact-checking the Trump administration. On February 3, after the newspaper corrected Trump aide Kellyanne Conway for her “Bowling Green Massacre” falsehood, NRATV issued a tweet that claimed the Times was “aiding terrorists” by correcting Conway as opposed to covering the “threat of ISIS.” 

    On February 27, days after the Times aired a promotional TV ad during the Oscars about the importance of journalism in the Trump era, the NRA fired back with its own 75 second ad claiming Americans have “stopped looking to The New York Times for the truth.” The NRA ad claimed the Times ignored several major news stories because they didn’t show liberals in a positive light, but according to a February 28 ThinkProgress post, the ad missed “that the newspaper did, in fact, cover every event it mentions, often with extensive reporting.”

    Since Trump was elected, NRATV has effectively become a pro-Trump propaganda arm that routinely labels protected speech fact-checking and reporting on the president as an “assault against freedom and the Constitution,” and a plot to destroy the United States. Stinchfield has gone as far as to say the reports raising critical questions about Trump’s transition team were “anti-patriotic.” 

  • Conservative Radio Host Michael Berry: "We All" Miss My Canceled Segment That Mocked Chicago Gun Violence Victims

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    A week after ending a weekly segment that mocked victims of gun violence in Chicago, iHeartRadio’s Michael Berry said he hasn’t “had any racial conversations since I got in trouble, so maybe we’ll delve back into that” and added that he missed doing the segment.

    Berry previously hosted a weekly segment on The Michael Berry Show, which is syndicated in several major media markets and broadcast by iHeartRadio, in which he mocked victims of gun violence in Chicago. His commentary included making fun of victims’ names with racially charged comments and joking about where on their bodies the victims sustained the shooting injuries. Berry called the segment the “Chicago Weekend Crime Report” and the “Butcher Bill.”

    Controversy around the segment arose after a February 27 announcement in Talkers magazine said iHeartRadio would honor Berry with a “talk personality of the year” award at the March 5 iHeartRadio Music Awards.

    Following that announcement, Media Matters published a post documenting Berry’s history of mocking gun violence victims and using other extreme rhetoric, including his claim in 2010 that someone should blow up a mosque proposed for a site near ground zero in New York City.

    The Chicago Tribune and WGN reported on Berry’s comments, including his ridicule of the name of an innocent 14-year-old bystander gunned down in a drive-by shooting and his frequent call for listeners of his show to play “bingo” with victims’ gunshot injuries.

    The 2017 iHeartRadio Music Awards passed without any indication of whether Berry actually received the award. iHeartRadio has not discussed Berry publicly and has not confirmed whether he was honored. (On March 24, Media Matters and 20 civil rights and gun violence prevention groups sent a letter to iHeartMedia CEO Robert Pittman asking him to publicly state whether Berry received the award.)

    For his part, Berry announced on March 10 that he was canceling the segment and offered an apology, promising to “make better decisions” about the words he uses. Berry’s apology also included the self-serving explanation that he merely meant to “highlight” the “precious lives” being lost in Chicago with a feature “that was tinged in humor.” A review of Berry’s “Chicago Weekend Crime Report” indicates that instead, his segments were filled with callous ridicule.

    Berry set aside any contrition for the segment during his March 24 broadcast, telling callers, “We haven’t had any racial conversations since I got in trouble, so maybe we’ll delve back into that,” and stating that “we all” miss the segment.

    CALLER: You got to bring up chaos from New York City.

    BERRY: “Chaos from Harlem,” yes, “Chaos” needs to be back. We haven’t had any racial conversations since I got in trouble, so maybe we’ll delve back into that. Caller, you’re up.

    CALLER: Michael?

    BERRY: Yeah?

    CALLER: Yeah, I miss you in the “Chicago Crime Report.”

    BERRY: Yeah, well, we all do. We all do.

  • Mass Shootings Still Happen All The Time, So Why Does The Press Look Away?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    The argument, first at a gas station and then outside a home, started over missing car keys.

    In the early hours of Monday morning, police stepped in to quell the dispute between Allen Cashe and his girlfriend, Latina Herring, at a Sanford, FL, gas station. Then hours later they responded to a 911 call for an "aggravated battery" and found Cashe arguing with Herring outside on the front yard of her home, WFTV 9 reported.   

    Just after 6 a.m. that day, the police were summoned once again, but this time they found a blood bath. "The scene was one of the worst scenes our investigators have ever walked into," Sanford police spokeswoman Bianca Gillett told reporters. "It was horrific."

    Police say Cashe had shown up that morning armed with an AK-47-style assault weapon, kicked down the door and shot and killed Herring. He then shot her father and her two sons, 7 and 8 years old, who were sleeping on the couch. The 8-year-old subsequently died. Fleeing the scene, Cashe opened fire on two strangers, including an 18-year-old high school student waiting at a nearby bus stop.

    That was Monday. One day before, in Cincinnati, OH, 17 people were shot at the Cameo nightclub when a “mini brawl” sparked gunmen to open fire on a crowd of approximately 200 revelers, according to WCPO Cincinnati. It marked the bloodiest shooting in the nation so far this year, according to Cincinnati.com and the Gun Violence Archive.

    “The hospital was so crowded, all the seats were taken in the emergency room,” one local pastor told The Cincinnati Enquirer. “The emergency room was literally standing room only." The city’s mayor said the gun rampage marked “one of the worst days in the history of Cincinnati.”

    Here’s what was so strange about the media coverage for the mass shootings that unfolded within one day of each other, and which involved 23 shooting victims: There wasn’t very much news coverage at all, outside of the local press attention.  

    For instance, The New York Times did not cover either gun rampage this week, according to search via Nexis. (Two AP articles were aggregated on the Times' website.)

    Broadcast news coverage of the Cincinnati nightclub mass shooting and Sanford shooting was equally light, according to a review of transcripts in Nexis and Snapstream for the terms "Cincinnati" or "nightclub" and "Sanford." The Florida shooting was mentioned on broadcast news just once, on ABC World News Tonight on Monday. CBS mentioned the nightclub tragedy just three times, including during Sunday's evening news broadcast and again Monday morning during CBS This Morning and CBS Morning News. ABC ran two segments on Sunday on the shows Good Morning America and World News Sunday, while NBC mentioned the shooting on its Sunday and Monday editions of Today. The outlets appear to have moved on from 2017's highest victim shooting as of Monday morning.

    The timid coverage of these shootings reminds us the extent to which horrific news, and specifically horrific gun-related news, gets quietly tabled and pushed aside.

    Gun violence in America represents a raging health epidemic, but you’d never know it based on the news coverage.

    That’s important because how can a nation have a debate about gun violence when even mass shootings aren't thoroughly covered as big news?

    And please note this: Virtually all of the 23 victims in both the Florida and Ohio gun rampages were people of color. Is it possible the national news media would have devoted more time and resources to the Cincinnati gun rampage if it had occurred at a mostly white nightclub on a college campus? I certainly think it’s likely.

    Meanwhile, what else would have triggered wildly different media responses to the Sanford and Cincinnati killings? Answer: any hint of a terrorism angle.

    On that front, news consumers know the drill: When a mass shooting involves the possibility of terrorism, media outlets compete to see who can produce more reports and, usually, who can produce the most heated analysis. For instance, it sure seemed to me like cable news interest in the mass shooting at the Fort Lauderdale, FL, airport in January dropped when it became clear that the gun massacre was committed by a homegrown shooter unrelated to jihad terror. 

    There’s obviously been a normalization over the years for mass shootings, as the lacking coverage from Sanford and Cincinnati indicates. And who benefits from that normalization? The National Rifle Association and the Republican Party, which supports the gun group’s every radical initiative.

    Of course the NRA and the GOP don’t want the press to treat gun violence as the health crisis that it is. And of course the NRA and the GOP do want to the press to casually look away as mass shootings unfold with random deadliness. The conservative movement is in favor of normalizing gun violence and of the media omitting context about the epidemic.

    Many conservatives don’t want the press to constantly connect the dots between American gun rampages, or to chronically mention that roughly 100,000 people are shot in America each year. Or that each week, approximately 1,565 patients are treated in emergency rooms for firearm-related injuries. Or that among the world's 23 wealthiest countries, 87 percent of all children killed by guns are American children.

    Interestingly, just days before the deadly Florida and Ohio shootings, CNN.com did what more news outlets ought to be doing: It published a comprehensive piece that put American gun violence in perspective by detailing the extraordinary economic cost the country pays each year to treat our gun epidemic.

    Note that the death toll is likely to rise in coming years because “patients are now more likely to die from a gunshot wound than they were even 10 years ago,” presumably thanks to the increasingly powerful and sophisticated guns being manufactured and sold in the U.S. 

    “To be blunt, instead of a 2-centimeter hole, you are seeing a 3-centimeter hole with more damage. And there are more wounds, so the team has to repair more damage," the study’s author told CNN.

    Following the shootout in Cincinnati, where panicked clubgoers were forced to flee rampaging gunmen, the Cincinnati Enquirer stepped forward with a truth-telling editorial (emphasis added):

    We hear a lot from politicians these days about the threat of a foreign enemy, yet terrorism happens every day on city streets around the country. This madness has to stop. Too many lives are lost every year in Cincinnati and nationwide to savage, mindless and inhuman gun violence. Mass shootings in America, tragically, are becoming too commonplace.

    One way to address the madness is for the press to see the country’s gun violence for what it is -- a uniquely American epidemic.

  • Why Did The NRA Attend Trump's Signing Of An Anti-Hunting Law?

    NRA And Trump Stab Hunters In The Back To Serve Oil And Gas Interests

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    The National Rifle Association’s top lobbyist, Chris Cox, bragged about attending a White House ceremony where President Donald Trump signed legislation repealing an Obama-era regulation favored by conservation and hunting groups that gave citizens a greater say in corporations’ plans to mine, log, and drill on federally managed public lands.

    During the March 28 edition of NRATV’s news show Stinchfield, Cox said he was “honored” to be invited to the White House to represent the NRA, and claimed that repealing this “last-minute Obama" regulation would be good for “sportsmen's access” as well as good for “business interest.” Host Grant Stinchfield praised the president’s invitation as “another sign that we have a friend in the White House”: 

    GRANT STINCHFIELD (HOST): So first off before we get to the [Neil] Gorsuch confirmation, you were at the White House yesterday. This just seems to me -- they invite you there as another sign that we have a friend in the White House, the NRA does.

    CHRIS COX: Well they invited the National Rifle Association there and I was honored to represent our members all across the country. The president was signing a number of different bills into law through the Congressional Review Act. All of these last-minute Obama regulations that they put through, they’re taking a look at all of those. We saw one recently with the Social Security Administration where we were able to fix that. What this one yesterday, the one of particular interest to us, was the Bureau of Land Management, BLM. They manage almost 250 million acres, that’s about the size of Texas and Oklahoma combined -- a little bigger than Texas and Oklahoma combined. So whether it's sportsmen’s access or business interest, removing that power out of D.C., putting it back to the states is good for sportsmen, it's good for America. So I was honored to be over there and it's a nice change because we know Hillary Clinton wouldn't have been doing that.

    The repeal invalidated the Bureau of Land Management’s Planning 2.0 rule, which was created to “increase public involvement and incorporate the most current data and technology to decide whether and where drilling, mining and logging will happen on public land.” Rolling it back would also prevent the agency from creating similar regulations in the future because it was repealed under the Congressional Review Act.

    In February, 19 sportsmen and conservation groups, including Oregon Hunters Association, the Wildlife Management Institute, and Pheasants Forever, wrote a letter to the Natural Resources Committee opposing efforts to repeal the Planning 2.0 rule, saying the rule both increased “federal agency transparency” and incorporated “best practices in land-use planning” while also maintaining the “cooperating agency role of .... local governments.” When the rule was enacted in 2016, the Montana Wildlife Association called the regulation “a boon to Montana hunters,” explaining that “Planning 2.0 will allow sportsmen (and every citizen) to have a bigger role in deciding how they want to see their favorite spots to hunt and fish managed.”

    This is not the first time the National Rifle Association has sided with corporate interests over hunters and conservationists. According to a 2014 Mother Jones feature, oil and gas companies are some of the biggest donors to the NRA, donating between $1.3 million and $5.6 million in 2012. Following large donations, the NRA has repeatedly “teamed up” with these companies to lobby for anti-conservation legislation in Congress. From Mother Jones:

    The NRA calls itself "the number-one hunter's organization in America." But two new reports published by the Center for American Progress (CAP) and the Gun Truth Project and Corporate Accountability International show that, following contributions from oil and gas companies, the NRA lent its support to legislation that would open up more federal public lands to fossil-fuel extraction, compromising the wilderness that many hunters value.

    In 2012, six oil and gas companies contributed a total of between $1.3 million and $5.6 million to the NRA, according to CAP. (The companies are Clayton Williams Energy, J.L. Davis Gas Consulting, Kamps Propane, Barrett Brothers Oil and Gas, Saulsbury Energy Services, and KS Industries.)

    [...]

    Despite these concerns from parts of its longtime constituency, the NRA teamed up with oil and gas interests—including the American Petroleum Institute and the National Mining Association—to lobby for the bill. The NRA explained its position with an appeal to hunters and a dig at conservationists. McCarthy's bill, it said, "will make public hunting lands not suitable for wilderness designation available to millions of Americans that are unfairly closed out from them now…protecting the ability of the American people to access lands that belong, not to the government, or to extremist environmental groups, but to the people."

  • Activists Call On iHeartRadio To Break Its Silence On Racist Radio Host

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    A coalition of 21 civil rights and gun violence prevention groups signed a letter expressing concern that iHeartRadio has not confirmed whether it gave a “talk personality of the year” award to a conservative radio host who regularly featured a racially charged segment dedicated to mocking victims of Chicago gun violence.

    For several years, conservative syndicated radio host Michael Berry hosted a “Butcher Bill” segment in which he ridiculed Chicago’s gun violence victims and smeared the Black Lives Matter movement. Berry also played “bingo” with the victims’ injuries and mockingly suggested that if “you don’t want to hear shots and feel pain” in Chicago -- referring to the common police blotter description of what happened to victims -- you should wear “earmuffs.” In a February 27 press release, Talkers magazine announced that Berry would receive an award for “best news/talk” personality of the year at the March 5 iHeartRadio Music Awards in Los Angeles.

    After receiving criticism for his segment, Berry announced that The Michael Berry Show would stop airing the weekly “Butcher Bill” segment, saying he has “to make better decisions.” But it is not clear whether he actually received the award, and iHeartRadio has not answered questions about the matter.

    Media Matters and 20 other civil rights and gun violence prevention groups are asking iHeartRadio to break its silence and publicly state whether it honored Berry. From the March 24 letter:

  • NRATV Nonsensically Uses London Car And Knife Attack To Promote "Gun Rights" In US

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    Following reports of a knife and vehicle attack in London, the National Rifle Association’s news show used the incident to promote “how important our gun rights are here in America," suggesting guns could help Americans combat such an attack. But the show's commentary ignored the reality that the United States, which has more permissive gun laws than the United Kingdom, also has a much higher homicide rate, and it is largely driven by gun violence.

    After at least four people were killed and 20 injured in the London knife and car attack, NRATV host Grant Stinchfield claimed Europeans are “unprepared for an attack” because “the government has all but disarmed” citizens and claimed that “this attack should serve as a reminder of how important our gun rights are here in America.”

    From the March 22 edition of NRATV’s Live Updates with Grant Stinchfield

    GRANT STINCHFIELD (HOST): It has happened once again, details are still being revealed but it appears terror has struck in the U.K. An attack on Parliament by a possible terrorist, he apparently used a car to run over as many as 12 people. The suspect then used a knife to stab a police officer. It is still unclear if the suspect who used the vehicle and the suspect who stabbed the cop are the same person. Parliament is in lockdown after law enforcement shot the knife wielding terrorist. This is a stark reminder that our enemies are real. They will do anything they can to destroy us and our allies, using a vehicle now seems to be the new method of choice for these evil holy warriors who kill in the name of Islam. Most citizens in Europe are unprepared for an attack like this as the government has all but disarmed law-abiding citizens. This attack should serve as a reminder of how important our gun rights are here in America.

    After a mass school shooting in 1996, the U.K. enacted highly restrictive measures on gun ownership that banned most military-style firearms and handguns. But while British gun laws are much stricter compared to those in the U.S., the European nation also has drastically lower rates of gun deaths, gun homicides, and homicides by all methods. 

    Firearms are used in more than two-thirds of homicides in the United States. High gun availability has been linked to increased gun homicide rates, with one review of academic research finding that “case-control studies, ecological time-series and cross-sectional studies indicate that in homes, cities, states and regions in the U.S., where there are more guns, both men and women are at a higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide.” (The same trend is seen in comparisons between high-income countries.)

    Academic research has also found that guns are used in the U.S. far more often to commit crimes than to stop crimes.

    A 2000 Harvard Injury Research Control Center found that as a ratio, "guns are used to threaten and intimidate far more often than they are used in self defense. Most self reported self defense gun uses may well be illegal and against the interests of society."

    In fact, the odds of needing a gun to protect yourself are so low that it’s difficult to accurately measure the number of defensive gun uses each year. Meanwhile, gun violence is so frequent in the United States that more than 100,000 gunshot injuries are recorded every year (a figure that does not include crimes committed with guns where no one is shot).

    In contrast to the lack of evidence that civilians effectively use guns to stop mass shootings, terror attacks involving firearms in the United States, often involving AR-15-style assault weapons, have proven incredibly deadly over the years. A December 2015 terror attack in San Bernardino, CA, involved a gunman shooting and killing 14 and wounding 22 at an office holiday party, and the perpetrator of a June 2016 terror attack in a gay nightclub in Orlando, FL, shot and killed 49 and wounded at least 53.

  • Conservative Syndicated Radio Host Ends Segment Mocking Chicago Gun Violence Victims

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    Nationally syndicated conservative radio host Michael Berry announced that he will discontinue his weekly segment mocking victims of Chicago gun violence, and he apologized for the feature, saying he has “to make better decisions” about the words he uses.

    Until now, The Michael Berry Show, which is syndicated by iHeartRadio, has featured a “racially charged” “Butcher Bill” weekly segment that ridiculed the city’s gun violence victims and criticized the Black Lives Matter movement. Berry repeatedly claimed that “black people don’t believe black lives matter.”

    Berry’s decision to discontinue the segment follows controversy over iHeartRadio’s recent announcement that it would give Berry a “talk personality of the year” award. After the announcement of the award, Media Matters published a piece on March 1 highlighting some of the worst examples from Berry’s “Butcher Bill.”

    Amid the ensuing controversy, iHeartRadio refused to comment to Media Matters and news outlets covering the story to explain why he was being honored. The award was to be given during the March 5 iHeartRadio Music awards, but no indication has been made that Berry was actually honored at the ceremony, and iHeartRadio did not return multiple requests for comment asking whether Berry received the award. iHeartRadio has also not responded to requests for comment on Berry’s apology and discontinuation of the segment.

    During the March 10 evening edition of his show, Berry announced he would “discontinue” the segment. He initially defended the segment, with a self-serving explanation that claimed the purpose was to “highlight” the “precious lives” being lost in Chicago with a feature “that was tinged in humor.” Calling himself a “comedian wanna-be,” Berry said that “comedians make people laugh as a way to make people think.”

    While this explanation purported to show sympathy for victims of gun violence in Chicago, the actual segments he ran were full of heartless mockery. For example, in September 2015, Berry ridiculed 14-year-old Tyjuan Poindexter just days after he was murdered as the innocent bystander of a drive-by shooting. Mocking the youth’s name, Berry said, “Tyjuan Poindexter. Ha ha. Tyjuan Poindexter was standing outside with some friends when some people drove by and opened fire. Young Mister Poindexter was shot in the head and died at the scene. He won't have to live with that name anymore.”

    In 2017, Berry often played “bingo” with Chicago residents’ gun violence injuries and encouraged listeners to play along by guessing where victims were shot on their bodies. He also sarcastically suggested that the way to avoid “hear[ing] shots and fe[eling] pain” in Chicago is to wear “earmuffs.”

    Despite attempting to sanitize the content of his segment, Berry conceded on March 10 that he had received “valid criticism” and that those who had complained about the segment “deserve an apology”: 

    MICHAEL BERRY (HOST): Well, it came to our attention, most of you listening right now would never know what I’m talking about. We do a -- on our morning show, on Monday mornings, we do a segment called the Chicago Weekend Crime Update. And the genesis of that, several years ago, was to say, “Every week there are people, a dozen or more people being murdered and usually multiple dozens being wounded on the streets of Chicago and we’re arguing over guns when precious lives are being lost. Children, walking to school, being gunned down or in their own home. A mom walking her baby in a pram, and gets shot and killed in front of their own home.” So, in an effort to highlight that, we started a segment that was tinged in humor -- and that might seem weird. But comedians, and I’m a comedian wannabe, comedians make people laugh as a way to make people think. It’s why they’re very effective at stoking discussions. And through the course of that, some people said to me, and I read some comments that people had posted, that I was mocking crime victims. And my immediate reaction is, you’re stupid, you’re dumb, you’re criticizing me, I’m not going to listen to you. But I sat down with my wife, and we read through them, and I realized I could see where somebody would say that. I would come off -- you’re right. That is a valid criticism, and I have thought over that a lot in the last week. And that bothered me. It bothered me a lot. And we decided that we would discontinue that segment, as much as we think it's important to highlight the problems of crime. And I also wanted to apologize, because some people took the time to post to me that that bothered them and why. In very thoughtful comments, and they deserve an apology. And I have to make better decisions with the words I use.

    Berry has previously apologized for making disparaging comments about American Indians and for his suggestion that someone blow up a mosque, but these apologies did not temper his proclivity for using dehumanizing rhetoric

  • iHeartRadio Won’t Say Whether It Honored Conservative Radio Host Who Mocks Chicago Gun Violence Victims

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    iHeartRadio is refusing to say whether it honored conservative radio host Michael Berry -- who routinely mocks Chicago victims of gun violence -- at the 2017 iHeartRadio Music awards. The online radio broadcasting company previously announced that Berry would be named “talk personality of the year” at the March 5 award ceremony.

    Talkers, the radio industry’s trade publication, reported on February 27 that iHeartRadio was giving a “news/talk personality of the year” award to Berry, writing that the award “is a first” and that the “competition was open only to talk hosts who work for iHeartMedia stations.” The report quoted Berry claiming that he hosts “a show that dares to be funny.”

    The Talkers article originally included the line “The award will be given in Los Angeles on March 5 at the iHeartRadio Music Awards,” but that language was subsequently removed without explanation. During the February 23 broadcast of The Michael Berry Show, Berry talked about being chosen for the award, saying, “It’s the first time our company has done this -- they have a big awards ceremony next month.”

    On March 1, Media Matters published a piece documenting Berry’s regular ridicule of Chicago gun violence victims in a weekly “Butcher Bill” segment, which often includes playing “bingo” and other games with victims’ gunshot injuries. For example, during a February 20 broadcast, Berry said of a slain gun violence victim:  “Saturday, 4:25 a.m., po-po responding to a call of shots fired, found 36-year-old John Gonzalez with a gunshot wound to -- to his head. To his head, everybody. B4, his head.”

    The piece also mentioned that Berry frequently picks on teenage victims of gun violence in Chicago. After 14-year-old Tyjuan Poindexter was killed in a drive-by shooting, Berry joked that the teenager, who was an innocent bystander, “won't have to live with that name anymore.”

    Following the piece’s publication, Media Matters sent multiple requests for comment to iHeartRadio asking them to explain the rationale behind honoring Berry, but received no response. A March 2 Chicago Tribune article on Berry’s propensity to mock gun violence victims noted that “Berry and his producer did not respond to calls from the Chicago Tribune this week. Nor did bosses at Berry's Houston station, KTRH, nor did representatives of its parent company, iHeartMedia.” (The Tribune article references the deleted line from the Talkers report -- “Talker magazine also reported the award, which it said would be given to Berry in a televised ceremony Sunday in Los Angeles” -- indicating the line was removed after Media Matters’ piece was published.)

    Similarly, a March 2 WGN News broadcast reporting that Berry “makes fun of shooting victims with racially charged commentary” noted that iHeartRadio had not responded to a request for comment.

    On March 5, the iHeartRadio Music awards show was held in Los Angeles. The event was broadcast on TNT, TBS, and TruTv. With the event now concluded, it is unclear whether Berry was honored during the ceremony. A search of iQ media turned up no evidence that Berry was honored during the televised portions of the event, and on March 6, iHeartRadio published a “complete” list of winners from the event, which does not include Berry, instead listing the musicians who won awards, including Justin Timberlake, Adele, and Justin Bieber.

    Media Matters has again sent iHeartRadio multiple requests for comment, asking the company to confirm whether Berry received the award at the event as previously planned. iHeartRadio has not responded.

    It is important that leadership at iHeartRadio clarify whether they stand with the values represented by Berry’s show and believe that a host like him should be elevated by receiving an award alongside high-profile performers.

    If iHeartRadio decided to honor Berry in secret, that suggests the company is comfortable giving an award to someone who ridicules gun violence victims, but also doesn’t want to face any public backlash over the situation. If the award was rescinded, that is an important point too, and iHeartRadio should explain its rationale for not going forward with the honor.

    Additional reporting by Media Matters' Joe Strupp.