A new survey of firearm experts reveals a consensus debunking the myths the gun lobby and conservative media use to try to infect the national dialogue on gun safety to create the appearance of legitimate debate.
Emily Miller, chief investigative reporter for Washington, D.C. Fox affiliate WTTG (Fox 5), has given different accounts of a 2010 "home invasion" in order to "squeeze the story for additional terror" in support of her pro-gun advocacy, The Washington Post's Erik Wemple reported.
Miller has recently faced scrutiny because she works for Fox 5 as a reporter who frequently covers local gun laws while also appearing at local pro-gun rallies as an activist for gun rights. WTTG, for the first time, identified Miller as "a proponent of Second Amendment rights" before her latest report on D.C. gun laws.
In her book Emily Gets Her Gun ...But Obama Wants to Take Yours and while serving as the gun blogger for the conservative Washington Times, Miller described becoming involved as a gun advocate after a home she was watching for a friend was burglarized on January 1, 2010. The incident led Miller to write a series of articles on navigating the requirements to own a gun in D.C. which turned into a book that also alleged President Obama is plotting to disarm Americans. In conservative media circles Miller has become a go-to voice for pro-gun commentary and she often shares her burglary account to set up her often misleading arguments in favor of looser gun laws.
In a February 26 article, Wemple, who writes a reported opinion blog on the media, described how Miller has changed her account of the burglary in order to "please" a pro-gun audience.
In her first post for Washington Times' gun blog and in her book Miller described encountering "a man coming from the house" and hours later realized he had been inside and taken her wallet after receiving a phone call from her credit card company.
But in subsequent tellings, including a dramatization of the story by the National Rifle Association for it's All Access series, Miller claimed to have encountered the man inside of the home and needing to "talk him out of the house without" being harmed.
Emily Miller, a reporter for Washington, D.C. Fox affiliate WTTG (Fox 5), is facing strong criticism from journalism experts over her outspoken advocacy for gun rights, with one journalism professor suggesting her conflict of interest is a fireable offense.
Miller, Fox 5's chief investigative reporter, has openly advocated on behalf of gun rights groups, most recently speaking at a rally in Annapolis, Maryland on Tuesday that was organized by the National Rifle Association's lobbying arm and local gun rights groups. Washington Post writer Erik Wemple highlighted Miller's appearance and argued that her presence at events that advance a specific legislative agenda "puts WTTG in a bind vis-a-vis Maryland politics."
Gun safety group Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) has also criticized Miller for speaking at pro-gun rallies and has called for her firing. A CSGV petition drive accused Miller of violating the Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics with her appearances and stated, "This is the behavior of an activist and pundit, not a journalist. Given her record, D.C. and Maryland residents can't trust that Miller will provide objective coverage on matters of concern to their city."
Miller reportedly told Wemple that WTTG approved of her advocacy for gun-rights groups, but several journalism instructors near the nation's capital and others who monitor news ethics contend Miller's actions are at least a conflict, and at worst a violation of journalistic credibility.
"A journalist who advocates for an organization no longer has credibility as a reporter. Credibility is all we have to sell these days," said Gilbert Klein, a journalism professor at American University in Washington and former National Press Club president. "Even for a columnist, who has more leeway in expressing opinion, being a member of an advocacy group undercuts credibility. I tell my students from day one, if you want to be a journalist, you give up your right to be an advocate, even if your reporting work does not coincide with your advocacy."
Patrick Pexton, a former Washington Post ombudsman, offered a simple answer to whether Miller should be advocating for gun rights while still a reporter: "She shouldn't. Period."
He later said, "To call her a reporter is a stretch. She's more like an activist; there's no pretense of objectivity here. Emily Miller can call herself whatever she wants, it's a free country. Free enough that we can see right through her."
For Dr. Carolyn M. Byerly, a professor at the Howard University School of Communication in Washington, Miller's actions put her in "an untenable situation."
"By taking a clear position on a controversial issue at a high profile political event she has removed the possibility of reporting in a fair and balanced way on the gun control issues," Byerly said. "Reporters must avoid taking such public stances in order to maintain their credibility as journalists."
The Washington Post's Erik Wemple, who writes a reported opinion blog on the media, criticized Washington, D.C. Fox affiliate WTTG chief investigative reporter Emily Miller for speaking at a gun rights rally in Annapolis, Maryland, noting that "Miller's appearance puts WTTG in a bind vis-a-vis Maryland politics."
Miller addressed gun advocates at a rally organized by Maryland Shall Issue, the National Rifle Association's lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, and other Maryland gun groups on February 10 outside of the Maryland State House. After the rally, which also featured speeches by representatives from Maryland gun rights groups and Maryland legislators, attendees were urged to lobby lawmakers to loosen Maryland's gun laws.
As a reporter for WTTG, Miller often covers gun-related issues. Prior to joining WTTG in 2014, Miller was the senior opinion editor for the conservative Washington Times and ran the paper's guns blog. Miller has been a frequent source of conservative misinformation about gun violence.
Emily Miller, the chief investigative reporter for Washington, D.C.'s Fox affiliate WTTG, told the crowd at a January 19 gun rights rally in Richmond, Virginia that the District "is not part of America" and told gun advocates in attendance that she is part of "this fight that we're all in."
Miller was one of several speakers at a rally organized by the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), an extremist gun rights organization. VCDL participates in an annual Lobby Day event held each year at the Virginia State Capitol on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Many of VCDL's supporters attend the event with openly carried handguns and assault weapons, which is legal in Virginia. Advocates for gun safety also hold a separate rally each year.
While flanked by a man armed with an AR-15 style assault weapon and an openly carried handgun, Miller told the crowd, "It's great to be in Virginia, which is part of America where you recognize the Second Amendment. I came from D.C. this morning, which is not part of America, because they don't recognize the Second Amendment."
Emily Miller, the chief investigative reporter for Washington, D.C.'s Fox affiliate WTTG, is scheduled to speak at a rally organized by Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), a far-right pro-gun group. VCDL has previously published racially charged content in its newsletter and suggested violent action against the government may be an "option" for gun advocates.
For years, gun safety advocates and VCDL have held opposing Lobby Day events at the Virginia State Capitol on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Carrying guns is permitted inside the Capitol and the General Assembly Building -- many VCDL supporters show up to Lobby Day armed. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, during Lobby Day 2014, "The gun-rights advocates of the VCDL occupied the area of the Capitol Bell Tower in the morning, carrying a variety of weapons ranging from handguns to AR-15 rifles and wearing blaze orange stickers proclaiming 'Guns Save Lives.'"
Miller, who is a frequent source of conservative misinformation about gun violence, is scheduled to speak at a VCDL capitol grounds rally, according to the group's press release. Miller will share the stage with gun extremist Larry Pratt, who leads the far-right Gun Owners of America organization. Pratt is one of the founders of the militia movement of the 1990s and was forced to leave Pat Buchanan's 1996 presidential campaign after it was revealed he had spoken before white supremacist groups. Pratt has made headlines for his repeated insistence that politicians should have a "healthy fear" of being shot by one of GOA's supporters.
VCDL has also expressed extreme positions on gun regulation. During an April 2013 appearance on The Daily Show, VCDL president Philip Van Cleave said of background checks on gun sales, "We don't do background checks for the First Amendment."
Reporter Emily Miller has claimed during recent appearances on Fox News that the United States has not been subject to terrorist shootings like the one at the office of French satire newspaper Charlie Hebdo because private gun ownership in the United States dissuades terrorists from launching attacks.
Miller, the chief investigative reporter for Washington, D.C.'s Fox affiliate WTTG, also pushed false information about gun violence, including the claim that "gun-free zones" attract mass killers and that civilians with concealed weapons have stopped mass shootings.
During the January 11 edition of Fox & Friends Sunday, Miller (the former senior opinion editor of the conservative Washington Times who also contributes columns to FoxNews.com) claimed the reason "terrorists don't come here is because of civilian's ownership" of firearms. Miller continued with the confounding argument that terrorists use bombs but not guns in the United States because of civilian gun ownership:
MILLER: They come here and they bomb us, unfortunately, which is horrible, but they're not coming here with guns because Americans can shoot back.
During a January 12 appearance on Fox & Friends, Miller added, "The Second Amendment is what keeps us safer from terrorist attacks because foreigners know we have guns." (Al Qaeda has actually encouraged its followers to exploit loose gun laws in the United States to get weapons without a background check.)
Miller offered a number of untrue claims about gun violence built upon her false premise that there is no civilian gun ownership in France during her Fox appearances.
UPDATE: In a June 10 article, Mother Jones reported that a Department of Justice official said of Operation Choke Point, "There's been a lot of misunderstanding, there's been accusations were going after gun owners...None of our cases involve gun merchants":
Nonetheless, Issa's report alleges that the Justice Department is using the FDIC guidance as a hit list. "The FDIC's policy statements on firearm and ammunition sales carry additional weight in light of FDIC's active involvement in Operation Choke Point," the report reads. But a Justice Department official tells Mother Jones that this conclusion is incorrect. "We're not using the FDIC's list at all," the official says. "There's been a lot of misunderstanding, there's been accusations were going after gun owners...None of our cases involve gun merchants or porn."
Conservative media are advancing baseless claims about a Department of Justice program that targets fraud in order to manufacture a conspiracy theory that the Obama administration is trying to put gun retailers out of business.
The DOJ program in question is called Operation Choke Point and was conceived as a project of the DOJ Consumer Protection Branch in November 2012. Based on the suspicion that some banks -- acting with knowledge or willful blindness -- conducted business with fraudulent merchants or those merchants' third-party payment processors, an assistant United States attorney drafted a proposal to investigate banks for possible civil or criminal violations. As an early memo stated, Choke Point was designed as "a strategy to attack Internet, telemarketing, mail, and other mass market fraud against consumers, by choking fraudsters' access to the banking system." The memo called for an initial investigation of 10 banks and the creation of a "database to map relationships among fraudulent merchants (beneficial owners and trade names), third-party payment processors, and banks."
In April 2014, The Washington Post reported DOJ had "issued 50 subpoenas to banks and payment processors." In a May 7 blog post, DOJ described a settlement it obtained from Four Oaks Bank in North Carolina. The bank agreed to $1.2 million in fines to settle allegations it profited from its business relationship with a clearly fraudulent third-party payment processor. While touting the settlement, DOJ also noted, "We're committed to ensuring that our efforts to combat fraud do not discourage or inhibit the lawful conduct of these honest merchants." On May 29, The Wall Street Journal reported the existence of at least 15 DOJ investigations under Choke Point.
Conservative media, however, are hyping the evidence-free claims of various gun retailers that they have been targeted by Choke Point because of the Obama administration's supposed antipathy for guns. (Hysteria over Choke Point falls within a pattern of conservative media's embrace of conspiracy theories about the Obama administration attacking gun rights.) But recently released DOJ documents show that Choke Point is entirely focused on fraud, not firearms retailers.
Washington, D.C.'s Fox affiliate dispatched chief investigative reporter Emily Miller to report on Maryland's new law protecting transgender people from discrimination - allowing Miller to continue the baseless, fear-mongering attacks she waged on the law as a writer for the right-wing Washington Times.
On May 28, Fox 5 aired a segment on the Fairness for All Marylanders Act, which Gov. Martin O'Malley (D-MD) signed into law on May 15. The law, which mirrors measures passed in 16 other states and several Maryland counties, prohibits discrimination based on gender identity in employment, housing, credit, and public accommodations. Opponents havelaunched a petition drive aimed at overturning the law, peddling the myth that sexual predators will exploit the measure to sneak into women's restrooms and assault women and children.
Miller's May 28 report hyped those fears, citing a problematically-worded Rasmussen Reports poll indicating that most people oppose allowing "a man to use a woman's restroom" and suggesting that the law posed a danger to women's safety. The report also falsely claimed that Maryland was only the second state to adopt gender identity protections:
Maryland just became the second state after California to pass a law that prohibits discrimination based on what is called "gender identity." The law will protect transgender people in the workplace, with housing and public accommodations.
During a debate that followed Miller's report, Miller provided State Delegate Neil Parrott (R) - the leader of the petition drive - a platform to claim that the law would make it easier for predators to commit sex crimes:
Emily Miller, chief investigative reporter for Washington D.C.'s Fox affiliate, fabricated quotations to claim Hillary Clinton recently said, "Nobody should have guns" and "There's too many guns." In fact, Clinton expressed the opposite sentiment, referencing "the right of people to own guns."
During a May 19 appearance on FOX 5, Miller twisted Clinton's recent remarks at the National Council for Behavioral Health conference in order to suggest that the former secretary of state has held inconsistent positions on gun regulation. Miller claimed that Clinton had "talked about hunting and fishing and all that stuff, now she is like, 'We need to pull back guns, nobody should have guns'":
When guns are involved in domestic violence, women die.
This simple fact was the basis for a tweet from Everytown for Gun Safety, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg's new gun violence prevention group, which noted that the presence of a gun makes it five times "more likely that domestic violence will turn into murder." Everytown has stated that they want to help prevent these deaths by closing "the loopholes that make it easy for domestic abusers to get guns without a background check." While federal law prohibits a convicted domestic abuser or individual subject to a permanent restraining order from owning a gun, abusers subject to temporary restraining orders can still buy firearms in many states, and abusers can avoid background checks by purchasing their firearms through private sales.
But conservative media ignored these facts to falsely claim Everytown wanted to "disarm women," not their abusers, and argued women would be safer if they had increased access to guns to use as self-defense. Breitbart.com's AWR Hawkins wrote that Everytown was putting victims in danger because "the gun may be the only thing that gives the victim of abuse a fighting chance of survival." Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich told NRA News that the gun safety group was playing on the fears of "ignorant, emotional women." And former Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller claimed on Fox that all of Everytown's gun safety efforts were merely an effort "to lure in women voters," arguing that because gun murders are down, it was somehow impossible that domestic murder could be a significant problem facing women.
But the data shows that Everytown is right. Having a gun in the house doesn't make women safer -- in fact, studies have shown that domestic violence involving guns is significantly more likely to result in women dying.
After Attorney General Eric Holder discussed his support for developing and improving technology that would allow guns to only be fired by authorized users, members of the right-wing media concocted a baseless conspiracy theory that the technology would be used by the government to spy on lawful gun owners.
Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller launched a baseless attack on a Maryland bill that protects transgender people from discrimination, repeating the debunked myth that sexual predators will exploit non-discrimination protections and sneak into women's restrooms.
On March 27, the Maryland House of Delegates approved the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014, which prohibits discrimination against transgender people in employment, housing, credit, and public accommodations. Gov. Martin O'Malley (D-MD plans to sign the bill into law, but opponents seized on the bill's public accommodations protections to claim that the so-called "bathroom bill" would lead to a spike in sexual assaults.
In an April 2 column for the Times, Miller echoed that attack, denouncing the bill as "dangerous" and warning that it "endangers every single female":
The most dangerous impact of this new law is that a man cannot be stopped from going into a women's bathroom, locker room or pool changing room.
The state does not specify that a person must have undergone a sex-change operation to have their legal rights of "gender identity" protected.
A man doesn't even have to dress like a woman.
To be considered transgender, you just have to give a "consistent and uniform assertion" of believing you are supposed to be the opposite sex. Or, a person has to provide evidence that the non-biological sex is "sincerely held as part of the person's core identity."
No one knows exactly how many people believe they were born the wrong sex and want to act out on it. A Los Angeles County Department of Public Health report in 2012 estimates that 0.2 percent of the population is transgender.
Even if we accept this very high count, that means 12,000 of the 6 million Marylanders will benefit by this law that endangers every single female.
Fox News host Steve Doocy told 9-year-old competitive shooter Shyanne Roberts that "she would have to give up her favorite sport" as a result of a New Jersey legislative proposal to restrict high-capacity gun magazines. But Doocy's warning completely misrepresents the legislation in question, which is intended to minimize mass shootings and save lives.
The New Jersey legislature is currently considering a bill, A2006, which would reduce the legal ammunition magazine capacity from 15 rounds down to 10. The bill was motivated by mass shootings that involved high-capacity magazines including the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School and the 2011 mass shooting at a constituent meeting held by then-Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ).
According to The Star-Ledger, "Parents of Newtown victims have traveled to New Jersey twice to support the bill, saying many students escaped death because the shooter had to reload his magazine." One of the sponsors of the bill noted in an op-ed that 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green was killed by the 13th bullet fired during the Tucson shooting, which claimed five other lives. The shooter in that incident was only stopped when bystanders tackled him as he paused to reload after emptying a 33-round magazine into a crowd in just 16 seconds.
But by misrepresenting the legislation as a threat to competitive shooting on Fox & Friends, Doocy hid the bill's life-saving intentions. According to a report from gun violence prevention group Mayors Against Illegal Guns on mass shootings that occurred between January 2009 and September 2013, shootings involving assault weapons or high-capacity magazines are characterized by a significantly higher death and injury rate:
Fox Business host Stuart Varney was visibly stunned as Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller dismissed concerns about 700 people dying in firearms accidents in the United States annually.
After Varney said that "There's an enormous number of problems with guns in homes, people getting shot and killed," Miller, who writes regularly on guns, replied, "No there's not." She added that it's "very rare" for people to be killed in homes with guns, stating that 700 people are killed annually in gun accidents. Referencing Miller's 700 deaths figure several times and stating "that poses a danger to 700 people," Varney appeared incredulous that such a death toll was so easily set aside.
From the March 13 edition of Varney & Co. on Fox Business:
During her appearance, Miller made a number of misleading claims to downplay the problem of firearm-related death in the United States: