Fox News hosted Larry Pratt, the leader of far-right group Gun Owners of America, to defend actor Vince Vaughn's recent comments on the Second Amendment, even though Pratt has repeatedly said politicians who support gun safety laws should fear being shot.
In a recent interview with British GQ, Vaughn argued that the purpose of the Second Amendment is "to resist the supreme power of a corrupt and abusive government":
"I support people having a gun in public full stop, not just in your home. We don't have the right to bear arms because of burglars; we have the right to bear arms to resist the supreme power of a corrupt and abusive government. It's not about duck hunting; it's about the ability of the individual."
During a June 2 appearance on Fox & Friends, Pratt defended Vaughn's insurrectionist view of the Second Amendment, stating, "I think Vaughn's point really needs to be emphasized. The right to keep and bear arms is enshrined in our Constitution in order to protect the people's right to protect themselves from tyrannical government."
Fox & Friends hosted Pratt despite his long history of inflammatory commentary and radical interpretations of the Second Amendment. Notably, he has repeatedly stated that politicians who endorse gun violence prevention laws should fear being shot by GOA supporters. During a November 2014 interview, when Pratt was asked about his oft-made claim that politicians should have a "healthy fear" of being shot, he responded: "Sure, that is what the Second Amendment is all about."
Pratt, who is considered to be one of the founding members of the 1990s right-wing militia movement, has engaged in extremism on the gun issue for decades.
In 1996, Pratt was forced to leave the presidential campaign of Republican Pat Buchanan after The New York Times reported "that he had spoken at rallies held by leaders of the white supremacist and militia movements" and published articles about guns the magazine of a white supremacist group. The Boston Globe subsequently reported Pratt "had attended a 1992 conference of militant white supremacists in Colorado in the aftermath of the shootout with federal agents at Ruby Ridge, Idaho," whose attendees included the leader of the racist and anti-Semitic Christian Identity movement, a former KKK leader, and Aryan Nation officials. Pratt reportedly spoke out in favor of the creation of "armed militia" units at the meeting.
In the wake of the 1995 Oklahoma City Murrah Federal Building bombing, Pratt suggested that far-right anti-government extremist Timothy McVeigh was justified in carrying out the attack as a response to the government's conduct during the 1993 Waco standoff at the Branch Davidian compound. And in 2014, Pratt claimed that President Obama supports stronger gun laws to prevent Americans from using firearms "to keep people like him from becoming tyrants."
In addition, Pratt has proposed that the government itself stages violence and civil unrest. Appearing on right-wing conspiracy theory radio shows, Pratt suggested that the 2012 mass shootings in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater and at Sandy Hook Elementary School may have been government-staged events.
More recently, Pratt claimed it was "reasonable" to suspect that Obama orchestrated the civil unrest in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray, going on to argue that police should have shot and killed rioters to bring calm to the city.
Despite Pratt's history of extreme right-wing views, national news shows sometimes treat him as a credible source on gun violence in the wake of mass shooting tragedies. Over the year-and-a-half following Sandy Hook, Pratt made 13 appearances on evening and Sunday cable news programs, even appearing on Fox News Sunday to discuss the one year anniversary of the mass shooting.
His reputation also hasn't been enough to scare away GOP presidential candidates. In May, Senator Ted Cruz agreed to remotely address a town hall meeting hosted by GOA.
Despite his history of extremism, Pratt continues to make appearances on cable television to discuss gun issues. When asked why major media outlets continue to host Pratt, freelance reporter Alexander Zaitchik, who has extensively written about Pratt, explained in a video series on Pratt's role in the gun-rights movement, "I think a big part of it is just attention span... and historical memory is getting shorter and shorter," explaining that news outlets "seemed to think he was you know, springing up out of the ground and didn't have this long, multi-decade history of radicalism and extremism." According to Zaitchik, Pratt also moderates his message while appearing on national television, saving his more extreme commentary for the fringe right-wing radio shows he frequents.
During a bizarre appearance on The Alex Jones Show, Fox News host Tucker Carlson suggested the Obama administration is engaging in "Nazi stuff" by using ethnic politics, and wants to confiscate all the country's firearms and put people "in jail for even having them."
Jones, America's leading conspiracy theorist, believes the government perpetrated mass catastrophes like the September 11 attacks, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, the Boston Marathon bombing, and several mass shootings. Jones has recently been pushing the conspiracy theory that a military training exercise, Jade Helm, is an attempt to create martial law in the United States (it isn't). Jones is an ally of Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul and helped launch his political career.
Fox News executive vice president Bill Shine has dismissed Jones, saying he "wishes he had a platform on Fox News ... That's not going to happen, so he should stick with trying to locate the black helicopters." Some of Carlson's colleagues have dismissed Jones as a "nut job radio guy" who owns a "radical far-right Web site."
Carlson, who is also the founder and editor in chief of The Daily Caller, claimed during the appearance that progressives use ethnic politics and identity politics to divert attention from their "policy failures." He said the strategy is "really dangerous," comparing it to countries where there is a violent ethnic divide. He said of the Obama administration: "They categorize people by race in a way that, you know, you can't even imagine -- 30 years ago you would have said, 'Wait a second, that's like Nazi stuff.'"
Presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is reportedly trying to downplay his connections to fringe conspiracy theorist radio host Alex Jones.
Bloomberg Politics' David Weigel reported that when "asked whether he regretted talking to Jones, Paul demurred," stating: "I've been pretty open to doing a lot of interviews with a lot of different people ... And people want to characterize one or two of them, whether they're on the right or left, you know, they're welcome to do it. But I've been pretty open to doing interviews and it's one way to get the information out."
Weigel added: "Asked if he listened to Jones's show, Paul said that he simply didn't listen to much news. 'When I'm brushing my teeth in the morning I turn on the news channel,' he said, 'but I'm busy all day.'"
Paul's suggestion that his connection to Jones was just a random media appearance is disingenuous: Paul has made numerous appearances on Jones' radio program since the 1990s and admitted Jones and his audience were integral to helping him win his first Senate race.
Further, Jones said yesterday that Paul has "been a listener of this show for years."
From the April 9 edition of Genesis Communications Network's The Alex Jones Show:
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From the April 8 edition of Genesis Communications Network' The Alex Jones Show:
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Conservative media are grossly distorting a recent study on aerosols' climate impact as a "death blow to global warming hysteria." But the study's author himself stated in response that his research does not contradict the scientific consensus on global warming.
A recent study provided new estimates for the rate at which aerosols -- tiny particles of matter suspended in the atmosphere -- deflect the sun's rays, measuring what is known as aerosol "radiative forcing." The study from Germany's Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, which analyzed data from 1850 to 1950, found that the level of radiative forcing from aerosols is "less negative" than commonly believed, suggesting that aerosols do not cool the atmosphere as much as previously thought.
According to right-wing media, the study represents a "death blow to global warming hysteria." The reasoning behind the claim, which originated in a Cato Institute blog post, is that climate models rely on aerosols to offset much of the projected greenhouse gas effect from carbon dioxide. So if aerosols offset less warming than commonly believed, Cato claims "the amount of greenhouse gas-induced warming must also be less" and "we should expect less warming from future greenhouse gas emissions than climate models are projecting." The Cato blog post was picked up by the Daily Caller, American Thinker, Alex Jones' Infowars, Investors' Business Daily, and Rush Limbaugh. Daily Caller even claimed that the recent study directly disputes the scientific findings of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, writing: "Basically, the IPCC says aerosols deflect a lot of warming -- the opposite of the Max Planck study's finding."
But the study does nothing to dispute the scientific consensus on global warming, according to the study's author himself. In response to media outlets using his study to make inference's about the climate's sensitivity to carbon dioxide, climate scientist Bjorn Stevens published a statement on the Max Planck Institute's website, debunking the notion that human-induced climate change is "called into question" by his study. He also wrote that his estimates of aerosol radiative forcing are "within the range" of the IPCC's previous findings (which he actually co-authored), and that "I continue to believe that warming of Earth's surface temperatures from rising concentrations of greenhouse gases carries risks that society must take seriously." From Stevens' statement:
A fringe right-wing radio host who believes the government was behind 9/11, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, and several other catastrophes, has been a key figure in the political rise of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who will reportedly announce a run for president on April 7.
Paul has credited Alex Jones, who heads conspiracy website Infowars.com and an eponymous radio program, for being a vital part of his 2010 Senate campaign. Jones endorsed Paul, turned out followers to his events, and partnered with Paul for fundraising, at one point crashing his website. Since Paul's election to the Senate, Jones has continued to serve as a key Paul booster, including endorsing him for 2016.
The fringe nature of Jones' program is apparent during the introduction of one of Jones' YouTube videos featuring Paul. The video begins with images of Nazi soldiers goose-stepping next to a Nazi flag-draped White House, and a poster claiming the government covered up 9/11. Such material is regular fodder for Jones, who is "one of the earliest and most influential 9/11 conspiracy theorists."
Paul has been a longtime guest on The Alex Jones Show, originating from Jones' friendship with Rand's father, former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX). Jones said last year he first interviewed Rand in 1996 and was "probably one of the first people to ever interview" him.
Jones hosted Paul several times during his 2010 Senate race, telling listeners that he "can't stress enough how important this race for the Kentucky Senate is." Jones called Paul the "real McCoy" who will fight "against the New World Order" and "stop the thieving, stop the gang raping" in Washington. Jones said on his January 26, 2015, broadcast that he privately encouraged Paul to run for Senate.
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones brandished an assault weapon and criticized a gun safety PSA as a "full out assault on the basic underpinnings of this country" during a recent broadcast.
On March 11, in conjunction with comedy website Funny or Die, gun safety group Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence launched a parody video in which two actors playing criminals facetiously advised other criminals to visit CrimAdvisor.com -- a play on TripAdvisor -- to learn which states have the weakest gun laws making it easy for criminals to get guns.
CrimAdvisor.com has information on which states have laws making it easier or harder for felons and other dangerous individuals to obtain firearms and also lists the top source states for illegally trafficked firearms. The website asks supporters to sign a petition in support of expanding background checks to all gun sales, noting that, "Brady background checks have stopped 2.4 million gun sales to prohibited purchasers, but only 60% of current gun sales include a background check."
Jones, however, saw the pitch for more background checks -- a measure overwhelmingly popular with the American public -- as a piece of "propaganda" that is part of an effort by globalists to enslave Americans.
From the February 4 edition of MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show:
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Alex Jones defended ally and "listener" Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) from media attacks over his controversial vaccination remarks by lashing out at a CNBC anchor who challenged Paul. Jones, who helped Paul get elected to the Senate in 2010, called CNBC's Kelly Evans a "whore" and "pimp" for "signing on to a system of murder, you little piece of trash, tramp, filth, scum woman!"
Paul has been heavily criticized after he said this week that vaccines should be voluntary because there are purportedly "many tragic cases of walking, talking, normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines." Paul has faced further criticism for attempting to shush CNBC's Evans during their contentious conversation about vaccines.
Jones is a leading conspiracy theorist. His own biography states he "is considered one of the very first founding fathers of the 9-11 Truth Movement." He has also alleged bizarre conspiracies about the Aurora movie theater shooting, the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, among many others.
In a February 3 video posted to his YouTube channel, Jones lashed out at critics of Sen. Paul.
Rand Paul's connection to leading conspiracy theorist Alex Jones is under new scrutiny after the Republican senator recently claimed vaccines could lead to "mental disorders."
In 2009, Paul was interviewed for Jones' Infowars.com and claimed "martial law" could lead to "mandatory" vaccinations. Paul is one of Jones' biggest enablers even though the radio host has pushed fringe theories about 9-11, mass shootings, and the federal government.
Paul has been heavily criticized after he said this week that vaccines should be voluntary because there are purportedly "many tragic cases of walking, talking, normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines." Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also recently said parents should have "some measure of choice" about vaccinations.
The Washington Post reported that "Medical experts reacted with alarm" to their remarks. MIT professor Seth Mnookin, who has written extensively on the "devastating" anti-vaccine movement, said the comments were "incredibly, incredibly irresponsible." University of Pittsburgh Dr. Amesh Adalja said people like Paul are "giving credence to things that have been completely debunked" and "called the comments from Paul particularly troubling because Paul is a doctor."
Paul raised the specter of big government and "martial law" when talking about vaccines during an August 21, 2009 interview, as Media Matters Action Network reported in 2010. He said that "the first sort of thing you see with martial law is mandates. And they're talking about making it mandatory. I worry because the last flu vaccine we had in the 1970s, more people died from the vaccine than died from the swine flu."
Paul, who was a U.S. Senate candidate at the time, added that he would have taken the smallpox and polio vaccine, but urged caution on vaccines in general, stating: "I say you have to be careful, you have to weigh the risks of the disease versus the risks of the vaccine, but I'm not going to tell people who think it's a bad idea that they have to take it because everybody should be allowed to make their own health care decisions, and that's the problem with allowing more and more government."
Conservative media haven't had the best luck in recent years when choosing which fringe protests or figures to elevate into the national conversation, often mistakenly tying themselves to extremism and bizarre conspiracy theories. In 2013, Fox News, Glenn Beck, Drudge, and other conservatives helped promote a rally of truckers planning to clog the Beltway to protest the government. The protest -- which eventually fizzled -- turned out to have been organized in part by someone who thinks President Obama and Osama bin Laden are literally the same person.
This year, conservatives threw their weight behind a Nevada rancher fighting against the federal government over grazing fees, only to be burned when he was videotaped giving his thoughts on "the Negro." 2014 also featured an unhinged conspiracy about President Obama trying (and apparently failing) to spark a domestic Ebola outbreak and a staggering amount of outlandish comments from Fox News contributor Allen West.
Media Matters looks back at the year on the fringe.
Right-wing media figures are accusing President Obama of purposely wanting "to infect the nation with Ebola" because he wants a "redistribution" of wealth, and a new "civil war."
Conservatives have previously claimed Obama "deliberately" "planned" the humanitarian border crisis; deliberately abandoned Americans to die in Benghazi; was "purposefully creating drama" like the Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash; and tried to intentionally destroy the economy as payback.
The Ebola conspiracy theory is also making its way into politics. As Right Wing Watch noted, Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) wondered if Obama is intentionally delaying a Ebola response "to create a greater crisis to use it as a blunt force to say, well in order to solve this crisis we're going to have to take control of the economy and individuals and so forth."
Here's a look at media figures who have suggested President Obama is purposely trying to infect Americans with Ebola.
Laura Ingraham: Obama Willing To Expose Military To "The Ebola Virus To Carry Out This Redistribution Of The Privileged's Wealth." Ingraham, a contributor to ABC News and Fox News, suggested on her September 26 radio program that Obama is willing to expose American soldiers to Ebola to atone for colonialism:
INGRAHAM: [T]he military is just another tool in his arsenal to level the playing field, right? I mean, in other words, Africa really deserves more of America's money because we're people of privilege. We're people of great privilege, so we should do what we can, we the American taxpayers, to transfer wealth over to Africa. It's his father's rage against colonialism, as Dinesh D'Souza wrote about, and maybe this is a way to continue to atone for that.
INGRAHAM: If a few American military personnel have to be exposed to the Ebola virus to carry out this redistribution of the privileged's wealth, then so be it.
Alex Jones: Obama Is "Letting Ebola In" As Part Of Plan To "Bankrupt Us" And "Start A Civil War With Obama As Its Head As The New Lincoln." Jones, a prominent conspiracy theorist, alleged on his October 8 radio program that "the military knows Obama and others are funding radical Islam. They know the borders are open, they know they're letting Ebola in ... this is to bankrupt us under Cloward and Piven. But it's beyond that and now they want to start a civil war with Obama at its head as the new Lincoln."
Jones's YouTube channel includes videos with headlines such as "Ebola Threat Is Just The Crisis Obama Needs To Stay in Office," "Obama Using Military as Ebola Guinea Pigs," "The Federal Government Wants Ebola To Spread" and "Why Obama Brought Ebola To U.S. Exposed: Special Report."
As first lady, Michelle Obama has campaigned against childhood obesity. In response, male right-wing media figures have launched personal attacks at her, culminating in Fox News host Keith Ablow declaring that Obama should "drop a few" pounds before commenting on nutrition.