Breitbart.com blogger Ken Klukowski has joined the ranks of right-wing figures hyping the bogus conspiracy theory that the ATF's botched Operation Fast and Furious was actually a secret Obama administration plot to undermine the Second Amendment rather than an operation to bring down Mexican drug cartels. However, the lead Republican investigating the Fast and Furious operation, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), has repeatedly released reports that have debunked this theory.
Klukowski wrote that "the NRA has been pushing for information regarding who knew what in the administration, and any related political objectives being pursued by Team Obama." Klukowski also quoted NRA chief lobbyist Christopher Cox as saying that "[a]ccording to their internal emails, it was all to advance their gun-control agenda."
But in a May 3 memorandum and accompanying report attempting to lay the groundwork for a contempt citation against Attorney General Eric Holder, Issa said that the Fast and Furious operation to allow straw purchasers to buy and transfer guns without being arrested was conceived because law enforcement officials "hoped the weapons, after they were recovered at crime scenes in Mexico, could be traced and linked to cartel operatives including possible high-level financiers, suppliers, and possibly even king-pins."
From Issa's memorandum:
Fast and Furious Conceived
The ATF Phoenix Field Division began Operation Fast and Furious in the fall of 2009 after suspicious weapons purchases led agents to the discovery of an apparent Phoenix-based arms trafficking syndicate. Having been encouraged to devise grander strategies to stop the transfers of weapons to Mexican drug cartels, the Phoenix based agents devised a strategy that went beyond simple arrests or weapons confiscations. They would allow the U.S.-based associates of a Mexican drug cartel to continue acquiring firearms uninterrupted. In doing so, they hoped the weapons, after they were recovered at crime scenes in Mexico, could be traced and linked to cartel operatives including possible high-level financiers, suppliers, and possibly even king-pins.
The operation sought to achieve its lofty goals by focusing on the ringleader of the weapons smuggling syndicate they had identified: Manuel Celis-Acosta. Celis-Acosta was using a then-unknown number of straw-purchasers, including Jamie Avila, to purchase weapons.
At no point in the 17-page memo or accompanying 44-page draft contempt citation against Holder did Issa assert that the program may have had a different, more nefarious purpose.
On May 15, Cam Edwards, host of Cam & Company on NRA News, hosted conservative commentator and Pajamas Media contributor Bill Whittle to discuss what Whittle termed "the demasculinization of men, the feminization of men, and the wimpification of men." Whittle concluded his thoughts by explaining that he is "genuinely disturbed" about the presence of "women butt-kickers in movies" like Scarlet Johansson in The Avengers, because instead of thinking they can fight large men women should be buying guns. Edwards could not agree more:
BILL WHITTLE, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: I am dealing with the pop culture. I'm in the film business out here. So what I'm dealing with is, I'm dealing with the source of hypnotism. What I mean by that is, I think the politics is downstream of culture. I think when people go to the movies and they sit there they are fundamentally hypnotized. You go to a horror movie, let's say, right, and you're scared out of your wits, but you're sitting in an air-conditioned building, you're surrounded by other people, you know there is no monster there, but you're still terrified. And so when the movies project to the American people this Woody Allen kind of ideal of kind of weakness and kind of "I'm going to issue a snappy comeback as I run for the hills and leave everybody to the bad guys." Well people to begin to think that's what's expected. While we both just talked a moment ago about heroism and women, one thing I am really genuinely disturbed about, you see this all over the place, are these kind of women butt-kickers in movies. Scarlett Johansson who is, you know, she's probably five foot four and maybe she weighs 110 pounds soaking wet taking down these 250 pound guys with karate chops and stuff.
CAM EDWARDS, HOST: Right.
WHITTLE: It's like bad things are going to happen if people think this is going to happen in the real world. Because number one, girls are going to get themselves badly hurt, and number two, when guys see movies about young girls, and young women doing all these physical moves in these wild kind of defense things, it takes away that fundamental inhibition that has been drilled into boys my age, and your age too, and that is you never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever hit a girl. Ever ever ever. When young boys go to movies and see girls doing all this butt-kicking and taking down all these guys, number one, girls think they are going to get away with that, there is not going to be an outcome where a 100 pound girl physically punches a 210 pound guy with a happy outcome for the girl. That's why you have guns.
EDWARDS: Absolutely. Absolutely right.
Beyond the sexist implications of Whittle's thoughts on what women can and can't do, this has to be one of the strangest ways that the National Rifle Association has highlighted the need to own a gun.
During a Fox & Friends discussion of airport pat downs by the Transportation Security Agency, Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham falsely claimed that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano issued an "edict" "brand[ing]" returning military veterans as "potential threats to the United States." The argument that Napolitano put forth an assessment demonizing veterans was debunked years ago ... by Fox News.
Furthermore, the TSA actually has a program developed in conjunction with the Department of Defense to "assist the military severely injured and their families traveling throughout our airport security checkpoints."
The genesis of Ingraham's claim is a since-withdrawn 2009 Department of Homeland Security intelligence assessment on the possibility of right-wing extremism. The assessment warned of a possible resurgence among extremist groups that "will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to exploit their skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat."
The assessment further stated: "The willingness of a small percentage of military personnel to join extremist groups during the 1990s because they were disgruntled, disillusioned, or suffering from the psychological effects of war is being replicated today." The DHS cited a 2008 FBI report -- authored during the Bush administration -- as evidence that "some returning military veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have joined extremist groups."
On April 15, 2009, Catherine Herridge -- Fox News' national correspondent for homeland security, Justice Department, and intelligence issues -- and Fox News host Shepard Smith debunked the attacks from the right-wing media that the assessment showed that Napolitano was targeting conservatives, veterans, and other groups.
In a May 14 op-ed for The Hill, Fox News correspondent Juan Williams decried politicization of the investigation of the ATF's botched Operation Fast and Furious and labeled House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa's inquiry into Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice (DOJ) a "monstrous witch hunt."
Williams' comments are in stark contrast to his network's coverage of the issue, which over the past year has promoted Issa's investigation at every turn while also giving airtime to those who would peddle conspiracy theories about the failed operation.
In his op-ed, Williams describes Issa as a modern day Captain Ahab, hell-bent on finding fault in Holder for Fast and Furious no matter how thin the evidence is suggesting that he had any involvement in the operation. According to Williams, the ultimate goal of Issa's inquiry is to "defame Holder and hurt the president." Warning about the potential consequences of Issa's contempt proceeding endgame, he concluded:
At the moment more than 100 House Republicans have already signed on to a resolution expressing no confidence in Holder.
That kind of politics is acceptable.
But a contempt citation for the top law enforcement official is a monstrosity breaking apart public trust and dragging the nation's already polarized politics to the bottom of the sea.
While Williams may be disturbed by the direction in which Issa's investigation is going, the truth is that his employer, Fox News, has served as a clearinghouse for politicized statements about Fast and Furious for over a year. In the last month alone, Issa and two of his lieutenants (Reps. Trey Gowdy and Jason Chaffetz) have appeared on Fox News at least nine times to promote their investigation into Fast and Furious.
Appearing on the May 10 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, former South Carolina Governor and current Fox News Contributor Mark Sanford became the latest media figure to push the bogus conspiracy theory that the botched Fast and Furious operation was actually a nefarious plot against the Second Amendment.
Fast and Furious was a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) investigation into illegal guns diverted from the United States to drug cartels in Mexico that took place between 2009 and 2011. It employed the controversial tactic of allowing guns to be trafficked into Mexico with the hope that these firearms could be traced to high-level cartel figures. Ultimately some 2,000 firearms were allowed to enter Mexico, after which many of them were lost, while others were recovered at crime scenes in Mexico and the United States.
Last year, Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA), who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, began an investigation into the failed operation. Issa and other House Republicans soon raised the possibility that Attorney General Eric Holder was involved in Fast and Furious, an allegation that Holder denies. The Department of Justice (DOJ) and Congressman Issa are currently engaged in a dispute concerning whether DOJ has disclosed to the House Oversight Committee all of the information required under federal law.
Sanford began his appearance by mouthing the standard Republican talking points, but then things got weird:
MARK SANFORD, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: A lot of people raise this question. Were the guns actually out there because this guy [Attorney General Eric Holder] happens to be against Second Amendment and would like to see more gun control in this country and therefore is there a whole lot of fire behind the little bit of smoke we have seen in frankly challenges to the Second Amendment that go to the core to what the constitutional makeup of this government is about?
Or put more simply, Sanford is saying that "a lot of people" want to know if "Fast and Furious" was a plot hatched by Attorney General Eric Holder to curb gun rights in the United States. The answer to this question is a resounding no.
Although the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has been in the spotlight in recent weeks for promoting legislation similar to the Florida "Kill at Will" law at issue in the Trayvon Martin case, for decades the organization has been quietly "ghostwriting the law" to the benefit of its big business funders and the detriment of consumers, investors and victims of corporate wrongdoing. Increased attention on the shadowy organization is revealing that ALEC's now-notorious and since-disbanded foray into gun rights and voter suppression was a tangent from a massive, concerted campaign to set aside laws that hold corporations accountable when they pollute the environment, sell dangerous products or defraud consumers. All the more effective for its stealthy nature, ALEC's war on corporate accountability has received only a fraction of the scrutiny the media has focused on the Kill at Will controversy.
ALEC's Civil Justice Task Force drives this agenda under a banner of "tort reform." A "tort" is a wrong that gives rise to a legal claim. Tort lawsuits seek to compensate victims for physical, economic and psychological harm and deter future negligence or intentional wrongdoing. Because most tort law is made at the state level and many cases are tried in state courts, ALEC's state-focused Civil Justice Task Force is a crucial element of a broader corporate-driven "tort reform" effort.
ALEC shapes state law by drafting and promoting "model legislation," and the Civil Justice Task Force actively engages in this effort, as illustrated by two documents. The first, recently brought to light by the public interest organization Common Cause, is a spreadsheet titled "ALEC State Tracking: Good Legal Reform Bills." The spreadsheet tracks 160 pieces of legislation relating to "tort reform" from 38 states in great detail. Among the categories of information collected in the spreadsheet are the sponsor of each bill, his or her political party; the title of the bill, the related ALEC model bill, any hearings held on the bill and its status. Thus, when the Civil Justice Task Force took this snapshot in 2011, 160 pieces of legislation, each of them inspired by an ALEC model bill, had been introduced in the state legislatures of 76 percent of the states. The "Good Legal Reform Bills" document is proof of the sweeping scope and sophisticated nature of ALEC's campaign to limit corporate accountability.
A second document gets at the equally ambitious substance of the campaign. Titled The State Legislator's Guide: Tort Reform Boot Camp, the 44-page document sets out 13 pieces of model legislation, along with "talking points" in support of each provision; tips on "gauging your opposition;" and "steps in the right direction" that a legislator might pursue if political or legal barriers prevent full adoption of the proposal. The document is "tort reform" in a box, equipping corporate-friendly legislators to introduce, promote and enact the Civil Justice Task Force's agenda. The effectiveness of ALEC's techniques, as represented by Tort Reform Boot Camp, is illustrated by the organization's claim that between 1999 and 2011 43 states "enacted legislation based on ALEC Civil Justice Task Force legislation."
Fox News contributor Dick Morris told Sean Hannity that "one world government" is "happening." His evidence consists of false statements about a series of treaties, some of which enjoy bipartisan support, are important for U.S. national security, and protect children from exploitation.
From the May 5 edition of Sirius XM's Media Matters Radio:
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Sean Hannity devoted his Fox News show Friday to furthering misleading attacks on President Obama's record on national security.
Hannity opened his show by playing a misleading political ad from a right-wing political activist that deceptively edited statements President Obama made about the Osama bin Laden raid to make it look like Obama took all the credit for the success of the raid himself. Hannity then asked audience members whether they agreed that Obama "politicized the killing of bin Laden this week":
The reality is that President Obama has repeatedly thanked and praised the American troops and other military and intelligence individuals who participated in the mission.
Hannity later turned to birther and less than ethical Fox military analyst Gen. Thomas McInerney to criticize the Obama administration for attempting to negotiate with the Taliban. McInerney said "you can't negotiate with them." However, CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and many other national security experts have said that it is in America's interest to negotiate with the Taliban.
Perhaps the most disgraceful part of Hannity's special was when he brought up the topic of waterboarding and said that "President Obama calls that torture." Fox national security analyst KT McFarland then offered a full-throated defense of the practice:
McFARLAND: No, it's not torture. And there's a second issue, which is: Did it work? And it worked. And if it worked, it's kept the United States safe for this last 10 years -- even if it's torture, it's probably worth doing.
In fact, former interrogators, intelligence officials, and experts have stated that torture did not lead to bin Laden's whereabouts, and furthermore, that it doesn't provide trustworthy information.
And it's not just President Obama that "claims" waterboarding is torture.
National Rifle Association board member and Washington Times columnist Ted Nugent lost his cool during his first televised interview following the firestorm that surrounded his infamous claim that he would "be dead or in jail" if the president is reelected. During a May 4 appearance on CBS This Morning, Nugent took umbrage with interviewer Jeff Glor's suggestion that Nugent will have a hard time attracting moderate voters for Mitt Romney:
TED NUGENT: I'm an extremely loving, passionate man, and people who investigate me honestly, without the baggage of political correctness, ascertain the conclusion that I'm a damned nice guy, and if you can find a screening process more powerful than that, I'll suck your d--k.
Nugent then turned to a female CBS producer and said, "Or I'll f--k you, how's that sound?" CBS' video bleeped out some of Nugent's words at the end of his tirade, but they were transcribed by TMZ.com.
CBS reported that "Nugent's wife told him after the interview ended that Nugent owed an apology to the producer. And Nugent did. He also called Glor Thursday and said that, after the interview, he was rushed to the emergency room and had a kidney stone removed." Just earlier this week, Nugent appeared on NRA News to suggest that he could play a role in convincing moderates to not vote for President Obama this fall:
CAM EDWARDS, HOST: I think between now and November, I think you would agree, that the most important thing that anybody listening could possibly seek to do is to make sure that on election day we elect somebody other than Barack Obama.
TED NUGENT: Correct. And so -- I know it's that middle ground, it's the moderates. We've already got the Second Amendment community. I hope we have the hunting community and conservation community. I hope we have the most productive community in America. But I will learn from, maybe the greatest articulator and believable and revered man in the history of individual freedoms, and that's Charlton Heston. And I know that's quite a leap going from the "Motor City Madman" to the supreme eloquence of Charlton Heston, but officially on Cam & Company right now today May 2, 2012, I vow to my fellow patriots that I will work hard to be as efficient and effective for that middle ground to understand the right to keep and bear arms and to gut the abuses in our federal agencies, including Fish and Wildlife and EPA and FDA and USDA etcetera etcetera ad nauseam. I will try to be more -- I hate the word moderate -- but effective to the moderates because they're the voting block we need to access.
Nugent's appearance on CBS was not, of course, the first time that the "Motor City Madman" had a rather immoderate meltdown.
From the May 4 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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From the May 3 edition of Cumulus Media's The Mike Huckabee Show:
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This morning, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee announced that Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) "has distributed a staff briefing paper and draft of the contempt of Congress resolution against Attorney General Eric Holder to Members of the Oversight Committee" due to the Justice Department's refusal to provide documents the Committee subpoenaed concerning the ATF's botched Operation Fast and Furious. Fox News has since run several segments on the potential contempt citation, in one case issuing a "Fox News Alert" about the "bombshell developments" in the "big story" before conducting an extensive interview with Issa himself:
Given that Fox's The O'Reilly Factor and On The Record each ran segments on reports that such a citation had been drafted on Friday, this coverage is likely to continue. By contrast, the network's primetime lineup provided minimal coverage in 2007, when then-House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) sought and received contempt citations against two senior aides to President Bush. The network devoted less than nine minutes of time to the story during its evening lineup.*
The eight minutes and fifty-six seconds of coverage the network provided regarding the House Judiciary Committee's citation of then-White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers for contempt of Congress consisted of one news segment, two news briefs, and one panel discussion -- all on Special Report. Right-wing Fox hosts like John Gibson, Sean Hannity, and Bill O'Reilly did not weigh in on the story.
These instances are not perfectly analogous, but each involves contempt charges against senior administration officials whom a powerful committee chair of the other party alleged had failed to provide information to Congress that the chair believed Congress was entitled.
During a May 1 appearance on MSNBC's Daily Rundown with Chuck Todd, discredited gun "researcher" John Lott continued his whirlwind media tour in defense of the "Kill At Will" law (called "Stand Your Ground" by its proponents) that has been linked to the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman. In his appearance, Lott reiterated many of the misleading claims he pushed in his April 25 op-ed for the New York Daily News defending the controversial law.
Lott began his appearance by suggesting that prior to the widespread codification of "Kill At Will," victims of serious crimes had a duty to retreat from an attacker at his or her own peril. He told Todd, "You have to understand where the laws were before. Before people had to retreat as far as possible before they could go and act in self-defense." Just because Lott repeats this falsehood over and over does not make it true. States that did require duty to retreat largely did so only under the narrow circumstance where the victim could do so safely. What Lott is attempting to do is to set his defense of "Stand Your Ground" upon the premise that these laws were enacted to fix an existing problem. His argument, however, is not credible because it seriously mischaracterizes basic legal principles of self-defense.
In an April 25 op-ed for the Daily Caller, National Rifle Association CEO and Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre took to the opinion pages to once again deploy faulty logic to claim that the reelection of President Barack Obama will precipitate an "all-out war on the Second Amendment."
LaPierre's primary piece of evidence concerning what he calls "the web of lies spun about the president's phony, claimed support of the Second Amendment," is that current Chicago mayor and former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel has been "tapped as the star co-chair for Obama's re-election effort." LaPierre claims that this is "no honorary job" but rather "real power linking Obama's re-election with Emanual's fanaticism for destroying the Second Amendment." But if Emanuel wanted to work with Obama to push gun bans nationwide he most certainly missed his best chance, which would have occurred when he worked in the highest levels of the Obama Administration.
The record is clear that the Obama Administration did not enact any gun violence prevention legislation during the time that Emanuel served as the highly influential White House chief of staff. Between January 2009 and October 2010, President Obama signed only two gun-related bills into law, both of which expanded, rather than restricted, the right to carry firearms.
In May 2009 President Obama signed into law legislation allowing firearms to be carried in national parks. A later bill allowing guns onto Amtrak trains was enacted in December 2009. At the time, the NRA called the legislation "a major step forward." Gun violence prevention groups, however, were furious. The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence gave President Obama an "F" rating in every category that it assesses. The failing report card was accompanied by a scathing publication entitled, "President Obama's First Year: Failed Leadership, Lost Lives," that called the president's record on gun violence prevention "an abject failure."