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  • Conservative Media Distort 2004 Illinois Bill To Manufacture Obama Hypocrisy Claim

    Blog ››› ››› MIKE BURNS

    Right-wing media are misrepresenting an Illinois bill to falsely accuse President Obama of hypocrisy.

    On July 19, in remarks on Trayvon Martin, Obama called for a review of Stand Your Ground laws, which made it legal for people to defend themselves with lethal force if they believe their lives or safety are in danger, even if they can retreat. Conservative media figures responded by distorting a 2004 bill Obama supported while serving as a state senator in Illinois to accuse him of hypocrisy.

    During an appearance on Fox News' America's Newsroom, guest and conservative radio host David Webb, pointing to Obama's remarks, accused the president of "political hypocrisy," claiming, "In 2004, it was President Obama who co-sponsored a bill in Illinois that strengthened the Stand Your Ground law."

    John Fund, a Fox News contributor and National Review columnist, wrote that Obama "co-sponsored a bill that strengthened his state's 1961 Stand Your Ground law" despite spending "part of his surprise appearance at last Friday's White House press briefing urging that the Stand Your Ground laws that exist in 31 states be reexamined." 

    Likewise, conservative blogger Jim Hoft wrote: "On Friday Barack Obama called for a review of the controversial Stand Your Ground laws that were at the heart of the killing of Trayvon Martin. But back in 2004 Illinois state Senator Barack Obama co-sponsored legislation expanding the state's Stand Your Ground laws."

    But as Slate's Dave Weigel explained, the bill Obama supported, Illinois's 2004 SB2386, was "substantively different" from Stand Your Ground laws:

    "Stand your ground" is substantively different than what Obama backed in Illinois. He backed a tweak to the "castle doctrine," which reads like this.

    A person is justified in the use of force against another when and to the extent that he reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to prevent or terminate such other's trespass on or other tortious or criminal interference with her real property (other than a dwelling) or personal property, lawfully in his possession or in the possession of another who is a member of his immediate family or household or of a person whose property he has a legal duty to protect. 

    "Stand your ground" takes the concept of the castle doctrine and turns it into a traveling force field of sorts. Here's Florida's language:

    A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

    It should also be noted that Florida enacted the first Stand Your Ground law in 2005, a year after the Illinois bill in question had passed. 

  • Zimmerman Trial Triggers Right-Wing Media Black Crime Rate Obsession

    ››› ››› THOMAS BISHOP

    President Obama noted that analysis of the George Zimmerman trial has led to a misguided focus on black crime rates. Indeed, the right-wing media have repeatedly hyped black crime statistics in the wake of the trial, often without acknowledging factors contributing to the problem and perception of black men as criminals.

  • Fox Host Gregg Jarrett Denies Role Of Stand Your Ground In Zimmerman Trial To Attack Obama's Trayvon Martin Remarks

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Fox News host Gregg Jarrett falsely claimed that "Stand Your Ground had nothing whatsoever to do in the [George] Zimmerman case" as a means to attack July 19 remarks made by President Obama on the controversy surrounding the death of Trayvon Martin and Zimmerman's subsequent acquittal. Despite convincing evidence that Stand Your Ground was influential in the trial's outcome, Jarrett said that Obama was either "oblivious" or "simply trying to bring on more acrimony over a controversial subject" by discussing the law.

    From the July 19 edition of America Live:

    Jarrett's claim that Stand Your Ground (also called "Shoot First" or "Kill at Will") had no bearing on the Zimmerman case is contradicted by the statements of a Zimmerman juror who said the law, in part, provided a legal justification for Zimmerman's actions. The juror's statement was no surprise, as the text of Stand Your Ground was included in instructions to the jury explaining Zimmerman's possible defenses.

  • Right-Wing Media's Fake Outrage Over Claim That Attorney General Holder "Confiscated George Zimmerman's Gun"

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Right-wing media is disingenuously suggesting that Attorney General Eric Holder has disarmed George Zimmerman amid reports that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is holding all evidence -- including the gun used to kill Trayvon Martin -- from the Zimmerman trial as part of an ongoing civil rights investigation

    According to The Drudge Report, Zimmerman "can't have his gun back":

    Zimmerman, who was acquitted on July 13 of charges of unlawfully killing 17-year-old Martin, is allowed to own a firearm because he is not disqualified from doing so under state and federal law and the current hold on evidence does not prevent him from buying another weapon.

    Zimmerman reportedly already owned more than one handgun before the February 2012 shooting. Commenting on the handgun used to kill Martin, Zimmerman's attorney Mark O'Mara, told CBS, "that particular weapon, he should never carry again. There's no reason to carry a weapon that's already killed somebody."

  • Nugent: Zimmerman Should Sue Trayvon Martin's Parents For "Emotional Pain And Suffering"

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent suggested that George Zimmerman, who was acquitted on charges of unlawfully killing 17-year-old Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, should file a lawsuit to hold Martin's parents "liable for the emotional pain and suffering Mr. Zimmerman has been put through for the past 18 months."

    According to Nugent's reasoning, because Martin was a minor at the time of his death, his parents should be held responsible for his actions.

    From his July 17 column for conservative website Rare, where Nugent worried that "Zimmerman may also face a wrongful-death civil suit brought by Trayvon Martin's family, who refuse to admit their son was a troublemaker who brought about his own demise":

    Parents can be held responsible for the actions of their minor-age children until the children reach the age of majority (meaning adulthood), which is exactly why Mr. Zimmerman should explore filing a lawsuit against Martin's parents. The age of majority in Florida is 18-years-old. Trayon Martin was 17-years-old when he attacked Mr. Zimmerman, which potentially means that Trayvon's parents may possibly be held responsible for the stress, emotional pain and anguish their son caused George Zimmerman.

    I'm just your simple Motor City guitar player, and generally despise lawyers and all of their bureaucratic layers or legal maneuvering, but Mr. Zimmerman should hire a legal shark to determine if he has grounds to sue Trayvon Martin's parents for the actions of their son.

  • Fox, Daily Caller Mislead On Stand Your Ground To Claim Black Americans "Benefit" From The Law

    Blog ››› ››› HANNAH GROCH-BEGLEY

    Fox News and the Daily Caller claimed that Stand Your Ground self-defense laws in Florida "benefit" black Americans, ignoring the fact that fatal shootings with black victims were more likely to be found "justified" than those with white victims, and that black shooters who killed whites were the most likely to be found guilty.

    Stand Your Ground laws (Also termed "Shoot First" or Kill At Will) allow individuals who believe their life or safety is in danger to use lethal force in self-defense without being required to retreat in certain situations. Such laws have been passed in more than 20 states, and attained notoriety due to their role in the Florida trial over the shooting of teenager Trayvon Martin. The laws have been found to increase the rate of homicide and have a racially disproportionate impact on black victims that has triggered an inquiry by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Attorney General Eric Holder questioned the laws while speaking at the NAACP national convention on July 16, suggesting that they encourage "violent situations to escalate in public" and have "victimized too many who are innocent."

    Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade attacked Holder for his comments on July 17, calling the remarks "divisive" and citing the Daily Caller to claim "when it comes to the Stand Your Ground rule ... the law has helped African Americans" in Florida. According to the Daily Caller, black individuals "benefit" from Florida's Stand Your Ground law at a "disproportionate rate" because those who used the defense were successful 55 percent of the time, while white individuals were only successful in 53 percent of cases (including pending cases).

    But the data the Daily Caller cited, from The Tampa Bay Times, reveals that contrary to the claim that blacks largely "benefit" or have been "helped" by Florida's Stand Your Ground law, those who killed black people and cited Stand Your Ground got off at a higher rate than those who killed white people. Additionally, a comprehensive review of Stand Your Ground states found that black individuals citing the statute whose victims were white were less likely to go free than any other perpetrators.

    For fatal cases that have reached a verdict in Florida, the attack was more likely to be considered justified if the victims were black (78 percent) than if the victims were white (56 percent), according to the Times database.

    Research conducted by John Roman, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute's Justice Policy Center, has also suggested that blacks do not necessarily "benefit" from such laws. Roman found that in states with Stand Your Ground laws, "the killings of black people by whites were more likely to be considered justified than the killings of white people by blacks." Roman found that white people were 354 percent more likely to be found justified in killing a black person than another white person across Stand Your Ground states. He found that white shooters with black victims were disproportionately more likely to be found justified in non-stand your ground states as well, but to a lesser extent. 

    Graph showing gun homicides ruled justified from 2005-2010

    Data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation similarly showed that nationwide, 34 percent of cases involving a white shooter and a black victim were deemed justifiable, while "in similar situations, when the shooter was black and the victim was white, the homicide was ruled justifiable only 3.3% of the time."

  • Nugent: "The Black Problem" Could Be Solved If Blacks Put "Heart And Soul Into Being Honest" And "Law-Abiding"

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent continued his ongoing racial tirade, appearing on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' radio show to claim that that African-Americans could fix "the black problem" if they just put their "heart and soul into being honest, law-abiding, [and] delivering excellence at every move in your life."

    Nugent has faced criticism over the past two days for a pair of columns he wrote for conservative websites WND and Rare that variously termed deceased Florida teenager Trayvon Martin as a "dope smoking, racist gangsta wannabe," an "enraged black man-child" and a "Skittles hoodie boy."

    During his appearance on The Alex Jones Show, Nugent used the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Martin as a platform to offer advice to black America and make a number of unfounded claims about racism.

    From the July 16 edition of The Alex Jones Show:

  • Media Neglect That "Stand Your Ground" Is Centerpiece Of Florida's Self-Defense Law

    ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Media reporting on the verdict that George Zimmerman is not guilty in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin suggested a misleading distinction between the defense attorneys' supposed use of "conventional" self-defense principles and Florida's controversial "Stand Your Ground" law (also known as "Shoot First" or "Kill at Will"), ignoring the fact that the sole justifiable homicide law in Florida incorporates "Stand Your Ground."

  • O'Reilly Dismisses Overrepresentation Of Blacks In Criminal Justice System

    Blog ››› ››› THOMAS BISHOP

    Fox News host Bill O'Reilly ignored his guest's statement that the disproportionately high incarceration among blacks rates pose a threat to young black males.

    On the July 15 edition of his Fox News show, O'Reilly hosted Fox News contributor Rev. Jacques DeGraff to comment on his views about race following George Zimmerman's acquittal in the death of Trayvon Martin, which has sparked protests around the country. Responding to O'Reilly's question about "what do you want to change" following the trial, DeGraff said that it has been "open season on black young men" in the criminal justice system, which has disproportionately targeted black men across the country. O'Reilly dismissed his statement, saying, "That's not true, I don't believe that for a second." Asked by DeGraff to "explain the disparity" of black men disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system, O'Reilly insisted that "high-crime districts" were to blame, "where police flood in to protect the citizens and make more arrests than they would make in low-crime districts." DeGraff then tried to point out again that there is a "disparity in sentencing."

    But O'Reilly ignored the fact that black men are incarcerated more often and given longer sentences than whites for the same crimes.