On February 22, Gun Owners of America (GOA) president Larry Pratt appeared on America Live and presented a variety of misleading reasons for his opposition to Andrew Traver, President Obama's nominee to head up the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Pratt's objections during the segment were political in nature, wholly ignored Traver's distinguished record as a law enforcement officer and veered into far-flung accusations of criminal conspiracies by the ATF.
Asked about why he and other gun lobbyists have opposed the Traver nomination, Pratt first pounced on the opportunity to link the ATF to the case of border patrol agent Brian Terry, who was tragically killed in a firefight with five armed assailants in December. Questions recently surfaced about ATF awareness of the purchase of two of the weapons used in the attack against Terry and his fellow agents.
PRATT: But with the, know the looming crisis that the agency breaking about how they were, their agents were literally running guns into Mexico to jack up the numbers to make it look like they needed more money for their agency. [1:27]
Pratt and the GOA have been advancing the accusation that "the ATF is actually helping to move illegal guns across the border." In fact, according to the Washington Post, the accused straw buyer linked to the Brian Terry shootings has been arrested by the ATF as have 33 others. The paper also reported that court records "do not indicate that the agents deliberately allowed weapons to cross the border into Mexico. On at least two occasions, agents stopped and seized arms shipments headed for the border." The Department of Justice has responded to Congressional inquires regarding this allegation in a February 4th letter saying:
At the outset, the allegation described in your January 27 letter- that the ATF "sanctioned" or otherwise knowingly allowed the sale of assault weapons to a straw purchaser who then transported them into Mexico- is false. ATF makes every effort to interdict weapons that have been purchased illegally and prevent their transportation to Mexico. [Emphasis added]
Pratt's accusation distracts from the role American-bought guns play in fueling cartel violence, and to discredit efforts by the ATF to clamp down on the southward flow of firearms. More then 65,000 guns recovered by Mexican law enforcement have been traced to the United States, so to suggest that American law enforcement -- and not Mexican cartels -- are behind this widespread trend is not only pure fantasy, but deeply dishonest. Finally, there have been zero reports that have linked Traver, who runs the Chicago area office of the ATF, to the Brian Terry case.
When pressed by host Megyn Kelly to actually discuss reasons he opposes Andrew Traver, instead of espousing conspiracy theories, Pratt continued to make unsubstantiated assertions and all but dismissed the relevance of Traver's record as a law enforcement officer.
PRATT: Well, if he wants to be the head of police agency where he has to get congressional confirmation he needs to get off his anti-gun kick. It's just totally unacceptable and we're not going to look at the rest of his record. If he thinks his job is to come after gun owners, legitimate guns owners in this country, then we're against him. And we just really don't care how many arrests he can tout, he will also be making arrests of gun owners who haven't done anything, because those are even easier arrests to make than going after real criminals. [2:50]
Pratt offered no explanation why he thinks that Traver would come after, "legitimate gun owners" as part of his "job." Reached for comment on what actions Traver has taken against "legitimate gun owners," Pratt told Media Matters he was referring to the Great Lakes Summit States Summit on Firearm Violence. Traver was a "Summit Advisor" but the summit did not advocate in any way targeting legitimate guns owners for arrest. Pratt did not respond with any examples of actions Traver took as a law enforcement officer to backup his assertion.
Pratt also seemed intent on exaggerating the influence of the ATF.
KELLY: How much power does he have? Because the Obama administration did not, uh, did not propose to reinstate the lapsed the assault weapons ban. So, can this guy do it as head of the ATF? [3:20]
PRATT: Sure, the ATF intervened with the State Department and got them to cancel permission to import 830,000, almost antique rifles now, M-1 carbines from Korea. That's a huge, that's probably the biggest gun ban in history. It was done all by regulation, by dictate from the FBI and BATF. [3:31]
In fact, Traver would have no authority to reinstate the assault weapons ban, as doing so would require Congressional action. While the State Department's decision to deny permission for the importation of the Korean War-era guns was regulatory in nature, the authority to do so was based in previous legislation and in no way beyond the legitimate authority of the State Department.
Even Kelly seemed to recognize the excessively political nature of Pratt's complaints as she unsuccessfully tried to get Pratt to address Traver's bipartisan support from Illinois' senators and his support from U.S. Attorney for Northern Illinois Patrick Fitzgerald, who called Traver's actions to combat gang violence "excellent."
Since 2006 the position of ATF director has been held by temporary appointees as the Senate has failed to confirm both Traver and President Bush's proposed director Micheal Sullivan. The ATF is going on 5 years without a permanent director -- is it time to ask if anyone can be confirmed by the Senate?
Today, NewsBusters decided to criticize ABC's Good Morning America over an interview host George Stephanopoulos conducted with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, complaining that Stephanopoulos didn't call Bloomberg a liberal and that the interview included a shot of a billboard truck that FixGunChecks.org is currently driving across the nation to highlight the deficiencies in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The truck's banner highlights the 34 Americans who are murdered with guns each day.
From the NewsBusters post by Scott Whitlock:
Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos on Wednesday conducted a softball interview with Michael Bloomberg, touting his new gun control campaign and never once calling the New York mayor a liberal.
GMA even featured a truck promoting Fixgunchecks.org, highlighting the parked vehicle just outside ABC studios. Ignoring ideological labels, Stephanopoulos introduced, "New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg joins us now. He's co-founder of Mayor's Against Illegal Guns and he's unveiling a new campaign today to toughen gun control." [Emphasis in original]
Highlighting the inclusion of FixGunChecks.org's truck and discussing the issue of background checks for less than two minutes is pretty thin gruel for the "liberal media bias" that NewsBusters purports to expose. FixGunChecks.org exists to highlight two common-sense policies -- entering the names of all people prohibited from buying guns into the NICS, and requiring a background check for every gun sale in America -- that are widely popular among all Americans.
Fixing the gaps in the government background check databases by adding missing records, which currently number over 2 million, is broadly popular according to a recent poll that shows 89 percent of Americans and 90 percent of gun-owning households support doing just that. Closing loopholes that allow people to buy guns without a background check is also broadly popular, 86 percent of Americans and 81 percent of gun-owning households support requiring all gun buyers to pass a background check at gun shows. Even 69 percent of NRA members support requiring all sellers at gun shows to conduct criminal background checks. It seems that NewsBusters has its facts wrong in trying to paint these policies are "liberal."
The practical reasons for these measures are laid out by Omar Samaha, who's sister Reema was shot and killed during the 2007 Virginia Tech mass shooting, in his explanation of why he joined the National Drive to Fix Gun Checks:
Our family's grief later turned into outrage when we were told that Reema's killer never should have been able to buy a gun. But because his mental health records hadn't been loaded into the background check database, he actually passed a background check and purchased the firearms that he used to murder 32 innocent people.
I looked for ways to get involved in the campaign to fix this broken system. I learned that flawed background checks are just one way guns fall into the wrong hands. The truth is, even if my sister's killer hadn't passed a background check, he could have gone to any private gun seller in Virginia and bought his weapons. All you need is cash, and you walk away with guns -- no questions asked.
From the February 15 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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From the February 12 coverage of CPAC 2011:
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From February 12 coverage of CPAC 2011:
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From the February 10 edition of Fox Business Network's Freedom Watch with Judge Napolitano:
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Conservative wannabe-whistleblower J. Christian Adams is banging the (same) drum again, repeating claims that his former employers, Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama's Department of Justice, are unwilling to protect the rights of white voters. Republicans sent him invitations to testify before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, he's scheduled to speak at CPAC, and now The Washington Times has provided him another opportunity to advance his fabrications, and therefore presumably his stature as a conservative icon, in his latest diatribe intended to promote the New Black Panther Party phony story.
The content of the latest Adams column is nothing new. He begins by claiming that scurrilous DOJ enforcement of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 are sufficient to make the Act unconstitutional under a theory of unequal enforcement on the basis of race... if only the U.S. Supreme Court were made aware of what's going on at DOJ (guess where Adams comes in?).
Adams repeats the bogus claim that the Obama administration's actions in Noxubee County, MS, show that the DOJ engages in a racial double standard with regard to enforcing election laws. He opines in The Washington Times:
Eric H. Holder Jr.'s Justice Department has become notorious for enforcing election laws with a racial double standard. From the corrupt dismissal of the New Black Panther voter-intimidation case to the refusal to enforce voter integrity laws, Mr. Holder's tenure has been politicized and race-based.
The Supreme Court may be surprised to learn that the Justice Department refuses to conduct any analysis under Section 5 when the racial minority is white, as is the case in many towns and counties covered by Section 5.
This failure to enforce the law equally is not simply a theoretical problem. There are real victims.
During the George W. Bush years, the department brought and won a discrimination case in rural Noxubee County, Miss., against a black official who used fraud and lawlessness to discriminate against the white minority. Yet when a submission under Section 5 was made by this same wrongdoer to facilitate continued discrimination in 2010, the Holder Justice Department didn't even review the discriminatory proposal under Section 5.
Why not? Because Mr. Holder's Justice Department believes as a matter of policy that its resources should not be used to enforce Section 5 on behalf of white victims.
However, as we've noted, this is entirely inaccurate. What the DOJ actually did when the Noxubee County Democratic Executive Committee submitted their request was state that only the "Referee-Administrator" assigned during the Bush years had standing to make a determination. The Justice Department then asked the court to prohibit those plans from moving forward. DOJ stated that by submitting the request in the first place, the defendants were in violation of the Bush-era injunction, concluding:
The Defendants have violated the Remedial Order in this case in two ways. First, the Defendants have assumed electoral duties that this Court has exclusively reserved for the Referee-Administrator. Second, the evidence surrounding the Defendants' decision to implement this new party loyalty standard indicates that, like the party loyalty standard previously implemented by Defendants in Noxubee County, its genesis is one that is, at least in part, racially motivated.
DOJ also sought to extend the injunction against the NCDEC and their leader, Ike Brown, specifically citing potential harm to white voters. The DOJ filing read:
The current effort by the Defendants is a part of the same pattern of behavior described by the Court in its liability opinion, in which Mr. Brown was seen to combine partisan motives with underlying racial motives. In the liability opinion, the Court noted that the list of 174 voters Mr. Brown threatened to challenge on party loyalty grounds included only white voters, despite the presence of black voters who met the terms of his party loyalty standard. Brown, 494 F. Supp. 2d at 476. These facts established that Mr. Brown's actions were motivated in part by racial concerns.
The United States therefore respectfully requests that the Court enjoin the Defendants from making any attempt to enforce the provisions of their "Motion to close Democratic Primary."
There's no doubt that, as a career attorney and a conservative, the strength of Adams' personal brand depends upon the credibility of his Holder/DOJ attacks. Unfortunately for him, the DOJ's actions in the Noxubee case are in fact a "smoking gun" of proof that the administration is keeping a just and vigilant eye on the concerns of all U.S. voters, regardless of race.
Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson writes:
[T]hough it is hard to identify a distinctive Catholic voter, there is certainly a distinctive Catholic teaching on politics - a highly developed and coherent tradition that has influenced many non-Catholics, myself included. Human life and dignity, in this view, are primary.
Gerson never gets around to explaining what he means by human dignity, so it's worth remembering that Gerson (like so many Post columnists) defends the Bush administration's use of torture:
Gerson pays lip service to opposing what he tactfully calls "harsh interrogations," but when you get past the throat-clearing, Gerson argues that firm opposition to such tactics simply "is not an option for those in government." And he has bitterly denounced efforts to investigate Bush administration interrogation methods, using rhetoric Nathan Jessep would appreciate:And now Obama has described the post-Sept. 11 period as "a dark and painful chapter in our history." In fact, whatever your view of waterboarding, the response of intelligence professionals following Sept. 11 was impressive. ... Now the president and his party have done much to tarnish those accomplishments. So much for the thanks of a grateful nation.
Kelly O'Brien, whose fiancee was murdered in the Tucson shooting, appeared on Good Morning America to make the case that regulating high-capacity magazines made sense. O'Brien stated:
I absolutely support it...And it is so sad to see 19 people gunned down in just 15 seconds by one of these extended capacity clips
As you know Jared was stopped when he ran out of bullets. And I believe, even if not Gabe, other people could have been saved that day. And absolutely more people could have not had the injury and stuff that they had to sustain.
O'Brien's support for regulating high-capacity magazine follows similar calls from both Democrats and Republicans, including former Vice President Dick Cheney.
Even Robert A. Levy, who was co-counsel in the landmark legal case that established the Second Amendment as protecting an individual's right to bear arms, acknowledges that regulating high-capacity magazines would be constitutional. As reported by NBC:
Robert A. Levy, who served as co-counsel in the landmark Supreme Court case that established a Second Amendment right to bear arms, said there was no reason the court's decision in that case should apply to the purchase of high-capacity gun magazines.
"I don't see any constitutional bar to regulating high-capacity magazines," Levy said in an interview with NBC. "Justice [Antonin] Scalia made it quite clear some regulations are permitted. The Second Amendment is not absolute."
John Lott responded to a post here at Media Matters that debunked his assertions that, "Virtually no criminal guns are obtained from gun shows," and that "Background checks do not stop criminals from getting guns."
It is apparent from his history that John Lott does not understand the basic concepts of science,statistics or ethics, so it is not surprising that his latest post offers as "proof" only a reassertion of the debunked claims.
First is his attempt to reassert that background checks do not stop criminals from getting guns:
LOTT: "Background checks do not stop criminals from getting guns." These guys at Media Matters are pretty dense because they seem to believe that these initial denials are stops that involve criminals when in fact they are almost all false positives. Over 99.9 percent of those purchases initially flagged as being illegal under the law were later determined to be misidentified. Take the numbers for 2008 (http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/bjs/231052.pdf), the latest year for which data are available. The 78,906 initial denials resulted in only 147 cases involving banned individuals trying to purchase guns.
In our original piece we used FBI data that shows that the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) has in fact stopped 800,000 sales since 1998-- more than 600,000 of which involved convicted criminals.
Lott asserts that we must be pretty dense to think that these 800,000 instances "involve criminals." He states that "[o]ver 99.9 percent of those purchases initially flagged as being illegal" were later determined to be misidentified.
Lott is either willfully or ignorantly misunderstanding the background check system. The federal background check system prohibits certain buyers, such as convicted felons, anyone convicted of a crime of domestic violence, and other categories. The NICS system is set up to prohibit certain buyers from obtaining weapons, during the course of the background check sometimes the NICS system identifies persons who are then prosecuted.
M. Kristen Rand, Legislative Director for the Violence Policy Center explains further:
RAND: The act of trying to buy a gun when you are in a prohibited category is not a crime per se. The bottom line is that when Lott says "The 78,906 initial denials resulted in only 147 cases involving banned individuals trying to purchase guns," he is not accurately describing the category.
The 78,906 represents the universe of denials evaluated for referral for potential prosecution. Of those, 5,573 were referred to ATF field divisions for further review. Ultimately, the field offices referred 147 cases to prosecutors. This has absolutely nothing to do with whether the NICS accurately identified the 1 percent of people denied for being in a prohibited category, e.g. the system identifies that a buyer has a felony record and the transfer is denied. That person is a "banned individuals trying to purchase guns," as Lott describes it. The fact that that person is not later singled out for prosecution is irrelevant to the fact that he is in fact a prohibited purchaser.
Bottom line is that the NICS system and the background check system in place before NICS prevented1.9 million attempted gun purchases by prohibited persons, convicted felons, domestic violence offenders and other prohibited groups. So yes, in fact background checks do keep guns out of the hands of criminals.
Ann Coulter claims Tucson shooter Jared Loughner was at a "disadvantage" due the the 33-round high-capacity magazine he used:
In fact, high-capacity mags put a predator like [Jared] Loughner at a disadvantage because they are so long, unwieldy and difficult to conceal.
Coulter does not indicate whether she asked any of the people present when Loughner killed six people and shot 13 others if they thought he was "at a disadvantage" because of the "unwieldy" high-capacity magazine he used. I'll go ahead and assume she did not. For the record, Loughner was subdued when he eventually had to stop to re-load after firing 31 shots.
Coulter's rather odd views on guns are unsurprising when one considers the "experts" she relies upon:
There's only one policy of any kind that has ever been shown to deter mass murder: concealed-carry laws. In a comprehensive study of all public, multiple-shooting incidents in America between 1977 and 1999, the highly regarded economists John Lott and Bill Landes found that concealed-carry laws were the only laws that had any beneficial effect.
The "highly regarded" John Lott has been caught using fraudulent data (and lying about it to cover his tracks) in his concealed-carry studies. And the National Research Council's Committee to Improve Research Information and Data on Firearm said of its examination of research conducted by Lott and others on concealed-carry laws: "despite a large body of research, the committee found no credible evidence that the passage of right-to-carry laws decreases or increases violent crime."
Finally, Coulter appears unaware of actual public attitudes about high-capacity magazines:
During the presidential campaign, Obama said: "I don't know of any self-respecting hunter that needs 19 rounds of anything. You don't shoot 19 rounds at a deer, and if you do, you shouldn't be hunting." It would have been more accurate for him to end that sentence after the word "hunter."
It's so adorable when people who wouldn't know a high-capacity magazine from Vanity Fair start telling gun owners what they should want and need.
According to a recent bipartisan poll, a strong majority of Americans, and a plurality of those who live in households with guns, think the sale of high-capacity magazines should be banned.
At first glance, it might seem problematic that this Newsmax piece about gun regulations makes flat assertions about gun sales without referencing any data or citing any sources. But when you consider that the author of the post, John Lott, has been caught using fraudulent data, lying about it, and using a fake internet persona to tout his bogus work, the lack of specificity may actually be a positive: At least Lott didn't fake a study to support his assertions. Unfortunately, that appears to be the result of laziness rather than a newfound commitment to the truth.
Lott asserts "Virtually no criminal guns are obtained from gun shows." He offers no data or expert opinion to support this contention. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms, on the other hand, has concluded:
The access to anonymous sales and large numbers of secondhand firearms makes gun shows attractive to criminals. ... The access to anonymous sales and large numbers of secondhand firearms makes gun shows attractive to criminals. ... Firearms that were illegally diverted at or through gun shows were recovered in subsequent crimes, including homicide and robbery, in more than a third of the gun show investigations.
So, on the one hand, we have the unsupported assertion of a person who has previously been caught using fraudulent data about guns ... and on the other, we have a report by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms.
Next, Lott asserts: "Background checks do not stop criminals from getting guns." Again, Lott just expects readers to trust him. Now, just because Lott has previously used bogus data and lied about it doesn't mean he isn't telling the truth this time. Still, it's probably a good idea to check in with the FBI on this one. According to the FBI, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) has denied more than 800,000 sales -- more than 600,000 of which involved convicted criminals. Another 100,000 were either fugitives from justice or the subjects of restraining orders for domestic violence. So, John Lott, who has been caught using bogus data, says background checks don't stop criminals from getting guns. The Federal Bureau of Investigation says that has happened 600,000 times. Who to believe?
More Lott: "With all the delays found in background checks, this imposes a real cost on law-abiding citizens who need guns quickly for protection and a one, two or three day delay can take the prevent a sale from even taking place at a gun show." Again, Lott offers no data or citations. Contrary to his suggestion that background checks routinely involve onerous delays, the FBI says that more than 90 percent of NICS background checks are completed immediately -- while the seller is still on the phone. That's why they're called "Instant criminal background checks."
UPDATE 3/31/2011: from the author of the report titled, "Enforcement of the Brady Act, 2008: Federal and State Investigations and Prosecutions of Firearms Applicants Denied by a NICS check in 2008.", which Lott cites to justify the NICS inaccuracy claim.
You [Media Matters] asked me if it was accurate for an article to state that "Over 99.9 percent of purchases initially flagged as being illegal under the [Brady] law were 'false positives' - law-abiding citizens incorrectly identified as banned individuals." That statement cannot be supported by statistics on Brady Act background checks that have been collected since 1999.
A person whose firearm transfer application is denied by a background check pursuant to the Brady Act may appeal the denial. Statistics on appeals of denials have been collected since 1999 in a series of publications entitled Background Checks for Firearm Transfers, and are summarized in Trends for Background Checks for Firearm Transfers, 1999-2008. During that ten year period, nearly 1.5 million firearm transfer applications were denied and nearly 237,000 of those denials were appealed. Over 86,000 appeals resulted in a reversal of the denial, which would calculate to about 6% of the 1.5 million denials. Some of the reversals may have occurred because a person was mistakenly identified as being prohibited; however, no data is available on the reasons for reversals. The URL for Trends for Background Checks for Firearm Transfers, 1999-2008 is http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/bjs/grants/231187.pdf.
Ed Whelan has posted his second attack on judicial nominee Caitlin Halligan for supposedly having a record that suggests she is "hard left." Previously, Whelan tried (but failed) to paint Halligan as outside the mainstream on the issue of same-sex marriage. His new attack is that she is too far left on national security issues. Unfortunately for Whelan, her position on one of the issues he highlights is the same as that taken by Justice Antonin Scalia.
Whelan argues: "The NYC Bar report maintains (p. 110) that the congressional Authorization for Use of Military Force (enacted September 18, 2001) does not authorize indefinite detention of enemy combatants." He paints this as out of the mainstream because a majority of the Supreme Court held in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld that the Authorization of the Use of Military Force did allow such detentions. Be that as it may (and the majority opinion in that case did not support the Bush administration's detention policies), four justices disagreed with that holding, and one of those was Scalia (the judge for whom Whelan clerked).
Scalia -- in an opinion joined by Justice John Paul Stevens wrote:
Where the Government accuses a citizen of waging war against it, our constitutional tradition has been to prosecute him in federal court for treason or some other crime. Where the exigencies of war prevent that, the Constitution's Suspension Clause, Art. I, §9, cl. 2, allows Congress to relax the usual protections temporarily. Absent suspension, however, the Executive's assertion of military exigency has not been thought sufficient to permit detention without charge. No one contends that the congressional Authorization for Use of Military Force, on which the Government relies to justify its actions here, is an implementation of the Suspension Clause. Accordingly, I would reverse the decision below.
Justices David Souter and Stephen Breyer also dissented from the view that the Authorization for Use of Military Force authorized the detention in Hamdi's case.
One final point: Whelan attempts to buttress his argument by saying that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the court to which Halligan has been nominated, has "adopted that broad construction" of the Authorization for Use of Military Force. However, Whelan cites only cases dealing with detainees at Guantanamo, and the report Halligan signed explicity said: "a large group of alleged 'enemy combatants' seized abroad is being held at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba (see p. 29, above), detentions which present distinct issues not addressed in this report."
So, in essence, either Whelan is providing evidence that Scalia is "hard left" or it's a bogus argument against Halligan. I suggest it's the latter.
Here is Pat Gray, the Hobbes to Glenn Beck's Calvin, outlining his position on torture:
BECK: Look, here's the thing: if you're gonna torture somebody. Every single American -- And this includes you, Pat, because I know you're like, "I just don't wanna know about it."
BECK: If you say you're for torture, you have to put yourself in a frame of mind where you could walk into a room where torture is happening and then watch it and walk out -- not necessarily do it -- but watch the whole thing and walk out and put your hand on the shoulder of the guy who did it and say, "Whew. One of the worst experiences of my life just watching you. But thank you, it had to be done." If you can't see it being done, if you can't-- if you couldn't put yourself in there, then you should never allow yourself to ask somebody else to do it for you. It's like war.
GRAY: That's why I love my position of, uh-- I've never said I'm for torture, because I'm not. I just don't wanna know.
BECK: Yeah, I know, I know. You just don't wanna know.
GRAY: Just don't tell me about it. I don't wanna know.
BECK: See, that's the bad thing. That's why we get into bed because of people like Mubarak.
Fox News has debuted a new segment called "Taking Liberties" in which it purports to investigate "challenges to the individual's constitutional rights." In its first installment, Fox took the side of a right-wing activist group that is representing a mother in a divorce dispute, repeating its false claim that she was deemed "too religious" to home-school her daughter; Fox all but ignored the father's side of the case.