National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre is the last person a responsible media outlet should have on its airwaves to comment on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). That's because LaPierre once referred to ATF agents as "jack-booted government thugs" and reportedly called for "lifting the assault weapons ban to even the odds in the struggle between ordinary citizens and 'jack-booted government thugs.' "
But that's just what Fox News has done. Today, Fox News did a report on a controversial ATF program that appears to have allowed weapons to flow into Mexico and hosted LaPierre to discuss the issue. LaPierre proceeded to attack the ATF and other federal government officials.
Although, Fox also hosted Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence president Paul Helmke during the segment, this does not excuse the decision to host LaPierre on this issue. The Washington Post reported on LaPierre's extreme rhetoric regarding the ATF in April 26, 1995:
"If you have a badge, you have the government's go-ahead to harass, intimidate, even murder law-abiding citizens," said a recent NRA solicitation letter signed by [NRA executive Vice President Wayne] LaPierre. "Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge . . . Waco and the Branch Davidians. . . . Not too long ago, it was unthinkable for federal agents wearing Nazi bucket helmets and black storm trooper uniforms to attack law-abiding citizens. Not today."
The solicitation calls for lifting the assault weapons ban to even the odds in the struggle between ordinary citizens and "jack-booted government thugs [who have] more power to take away our constitutional rights, break in our doors, seize our guns, destroy our property, and even injure or kill us." [retrieved via Nexis]
And the Associated Press reported on May 1, 1995:
The National Rifle Association's top official defended the inflammatory language his organization has used about federal agents, saying yesterday that references to "jack-booted government thugs" are accurate.
"Those words are not far, in fact they are a pretty close description of what's happening in the real world," NRA Executive Vice President Wayne La- Pierre said on NBC's "Meet the Press." The NRA's attack on federal agents, made in a fund-raising letter, has been cited as an example of the kind of rhetoric that creates a climate for violent acts such as the Oklahoma City bombing. LaPierre insisted that is not the case.
LaPierre later backed away from the "jack-booted government thugs" comments to some extent, saying: "If anyone thought the intention was to paint all federal law-enforcement officials with the same broad brush, I'm sorry, and I apologize."
Fox News has a particular responsibility to host credible voices when discussing the ATF after one of the network's contributors, Dick Morris, declared on Fox News in 2009 that the "crazies in Montana who say, 'We're going to kill ATF agents because the U.N.'s going to take over'" are "beginning to have a case."