Conservatives in media have adopted the false National Rifle Association claim that the term "assault weapon" was invented by proponents of assault weapons bans in order to arbitrarily single out certain firearms for further regulation. However, before the gun industry trade association attempted to rebrand assault weapons as "modern sporting rifles" in 2009 -- a change in terminology also adopted by the NRA -- the gun industry and firearm publications routinely used the term assault weapon to describe the very military-style semi-automatic rifles that would be covered by Sen. Dianne Feinstein's assault weapons ban.
As Sen. Feinstein prepares another hearing on gun violence for later this month, members of right-wing media are now dishonestly attempting to hide the history and special capabilities of assault weapons.
In a February 4 appearance on CNN's Piers Morgan Tonight, Ted Nugent, a NRA board member who uses his Washington Times column to argue against strengthening gun laws, covered up how assault weapons have been marketed when he claimed that President Obama's proposal to reduce gun violence "still calls personal defense weapons assault weapons, which is a nomenclature created by the anti-gun agenda."
As Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich, who writes about gun policy for the conservative Townhall website, put it, "the term 'assault weapon' is a made up political term." Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller has also attempted to rewrite history, recently claiming, "President Obama and his allies, such as Mrs. [Dianne] Feinstein, deliberately misuse the term 'assault weapon' to confuse the public. Assault weapons are machine guns, automatic rifles that continue to fire until the trigger is released."
On the January 19 edition of Fox News program Fox & Friends Saturday, Miller claimed that the term assault weapon was invented during the 1980s by gun violence prevention organizations for "fearmongering" purposes:
Pundits like Miller and Pavlich are merely adopting the NRA screed on this subject. Miller's claim about the origin of the term assault weapon mirrored a January 14 press release from the NRA's lobbying wing, the Institute for Legislative Action, that claims gun violence prevention advocates coined the term during the 1980s.
During January, NRA News host Cam Edwards frequently spoke about the definition of an assault weapon on his Cam & Company show. According to Edwards, the term assault weapon is "a made up phrase" and assault weapons can be defined as "gun I'm trying to ban" or alternately "gun I want to ban."
While polling has consistently shown that nearly all Americans support requiring a criminal background check on every gun sale, some conservatives in the media are writing in opposition to expanding background checks, a position also held by the National Rifle Association.
A January 23 Gallup poll indicates that 91 percent of Americans would vote for a law that required a criminal background check on every gun sale. Only eight percent of respondents would vote against such a law. As ThinkProgress notes, this polling indicates that opposition to strengthening background checks is less popular than human cloning, polygamy and the perennially unpopular Congress.
[ThinkProgress, accessed 1/30/13]
In recent columns, Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller, MSNBC host S.E. Cupp and Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich all expressed opposition to expanding background checks, even as research demonstrates that a significant proportion of firearms are sold and purchased without a check.
In a New York Daily News column, Cupp quoted the faulty logic of NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, who said before the Senate Judiciary Committee on January 30 that checks should not be strengthened "because criminals will never submit to them," before worrying about the "psychological" impact of background checks on gun purchasers.
Ultimately, Cupp compared criminal background checks -- the vast majority of which are completed in seconds -- to Arizona's infamous SB 1070 immigration law:
But even though we accept background checks as a necessary preemptive measure, there is a real psychological and cultural impact when law-abiding gun owners are routinely treated en masse like suspects.
If it sounds silly to worry about the hurt feelings of gun owners, let me point out that liberals are both familiar and comfortable with this argument. Arizona's so-called "papers please" law, which allowed law enforcement officials to determine an individual's immigration status during a lawful stop, barred the use of racial profiling as the sole basis for investigating immigration status. But that didn't stop liberal critics of SB 1070 from insisting it was offensive, prejudicial and unfairly treated minorities as if they were criminals.
During President Obama's January 16 speech on steps he supports to stem gun violence, conservative media figures responded with vitriol on Twitter and on the radio. A sampling:
Rush Limbaugh: Speech Is "The Children As Human Shields Show"
Fox News Radio Host Todd Starnes: "Freedom Ends. Tyranny Begins."
Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller falsely claimed that guns are used to prevent crimes about 2 million times a year, a defensive gun use statistic that has been repeatedly debunked.
Miller's claim comes in response to a statement by NBC sportscaster Bob Costas, who noted that "bad things happen" as a result of firearm use. Miller compared the defensive gun use statistic, which comes from the discredited research of criminologist Gary Kleck, to the 30,000 gun deaths that occur on average annually in the United States to conclude that firearm use is actually a net social benefit.
Mr. Costas expanded on his theme by saying, "Far more often, bad things happen -- including unintentional things -- than things where the presence of a gun diminishes or averts danger." He's only telling half the story. About 30,000 people are killed by firearms, but guns are are [sic] also used to prevent crimes approximately 2 million times a year.
In an October 16 column, Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller praised Mitt Romney's opposition to gun violence prevention legislation while fearmongering about President Obama' s support for an assault weapons ban. But Miller did not acknowledge that Mitt Romney has been a proponent of assault weapons bans -- as recently as the last time that he ran for president.
Criticizing former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens for backing some gun restrictions, Miller warned that Obama "would put another liberal justice -- or three -- on the bench if given a second term." Miller presented Romney in sharp contrast to Justice Stevens, and reprinted Romney's claim that his "Sportsmen for Romney" coalition, whose members include representatives of the National Rifle Association and the gun industry, "will have a friend in the White House" if he becomes president. Obama, who has not enacted any new restrictions on firearms while president, was characterized by Miller as "an outspoken gun-control advocate before he ran for president."
By presenting Romney as a vigorous defender of gun rights, while attacking Obama on the issue, Miller effictively hid Romney's own well documented past support for rigorous gun violence prevention measures.
President Obama has urged lawmakers to provide relief on student loan debt by preventing interest rates for federally subsidized loans from doubling. Conservative media have responded by ignoring the economic benefits of such a program and instead claiming Obama is trying to "bribe" college students with "gimmicks" and "giveaway[s]" in an effort to get reelected.
Few right-wing media outlets suffer more from Obama Derangement Syndrome than The Washington Times. Media Matters takes a look back at the Times' most outlandish, bizarre, and inflammatory attacks on President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama of 2011.
In an October 13 column, Washington Times opinion editor Emily Miller claimed that "the simple fact is the middle class isn't paying higher tax rates than the wealthy." But a recent Congressional Research Service analysis found that "[a]bout 25 percent of millionaires in the U.S. pay federal taxes at lower effective rates than a significant portion of middle-income taxpayers."
In her September 13 Washington Times column titled, "It is a Ponzi scheme," senior opinions editor Emily Miller wrote:
Texas governor [Rick Perry] is under attack for telling the unpleasant truth. At the GOP debate in Florida on Monday, CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked presidential contender Rick Perry whether he was changing his tune after other Republicans and pundits slammed him for saying Social Security is a "Ponzi scheme." The Lone Star State chief executive stood his ground: "It has been called a Ponzi scheme by many people long before me."
Mr. Perry is correct in his assessment, but Republicans shouldn't waste air time arguing semantics.
As the [SEC] defines the practice, "Ponzi-scheme organizers often solicit new investors by promising to invest funds in opportunities claimed to generate high returns with little or no risk." That's exactly what the Social Security law does when it guarantees seniors the full amount in benefits, no matter what happens with the markets.
The SEC adds, "With little or no legitimate earnings, the schemes require a consistent flow of money from new investors to continue." Thanks to the baby boomers hitting retirement, Social Security has more retirees receiving benefits than workers needed to meet payments. Consequently, Social Security was in the red last year - $49 billion more than came into the fund.
A Ponzi scheme always collapses. The question is whether the American people will elect a president who has the courage to rebuild FDR's Ponzi scheme into something that can last.
Washington Times senior editor Emily Miller falsely claimed that a bill under consideration in California would require only that undocumented students attend state high schools for three years to be eligible to receive financial aid. In fact, undocumented students must meet several requirements to qualify for aid and would receive certain grants only after every legal California resident has received awards for which he or she is eligible.
Following the Obama administration's decision to postpone the deportation of certain undocumented immigrants in order to prioritize "convicted felons" and "public safety threats," right-wing media have reacted by resorting to fearmongering, inflammatory rhetoric, and falsehoods.
In an August 23 Washington Times op-ed titled, "Obama's immigration shake-up, White House grants amnesty to anyone but convicted felons," Emily Miller wrote:
President Obama is using his executive authority to grant backdoor amnesty to millions of illegal aliens. In a letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Thursday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that the administration's immigration-enforcement efforts would ignore "low-priority cases." That means most criminal aliens can stay, and only convicted felons will get the boot.
This new case-by-case-basis interpretation of immigration laws will give illegals a work permit to stick around in the United States, taking jobs away from the 9.1 percent of Americans looking for work. Congressional Democrats, who couldn't get their laissez-faire immigration bill passed last year, applauded the White House move.
Basically, it's a free pass as long as you don't get convicted of a serious crime.
Mr. Obama might as well stand at the border with a sign saying, "Come on in. Do whatever you want, just don't get caught."
In a May 17 column, The Washington Times' Emily Miller wrote that Senate Democrats' attempt to end tax breaks for oil companies "would only increase prices at the pump this summer." In fact, as Media Matters has noted, energy experts have explained that cutting the tax incentives would have little to no effect on prices at the pump. Further, as Miller herself even acknowledged, a recent Congressional Research Service report stated that eliminating the tax breaks would have a negligible impact on gas prices.
From Miller's column:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's attempt to raise taxes on U.S. oil companies Tuesday night would not have lowered the $4 price tag on a gallon of gasoline. The political stunt fell short of the 60 votes needed for passage, but Mr. Reid vowed to bring back the attack on "big oil" before any final deal on next year's budget or the debt ceiling could be reached.
At a press conference just prior to the vote, Mr. Reid read notes from a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report that concluded the Democratic bill would not raise gas prices. I asked Mr. Reid if his legislation would lower the price at the pump, and Mr. Reid said no: "I think that it's not going to have any effect on the price of gasoline."
Although Mr. Reid insists that raising taxes on oil producers would not increase the cost of gasoline, Republicans beg to differ. The Democratic bill "will raise the price of gasoline at the pump," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Increasing domestic production, keeping taxes low and cutting out bureaucracy is exactly what is needed to tackle high gas prices. Unfortunately, Democrats appear more interested in scoring political points than helping American families. Mr. Reid's continued fight to push through a $20 billion tax hike on oil companies would only increase prices at the pump this summer.
Led by Fox's Andrew Napolitano, right-wing media figures have embraced yet another conspiracy theory aimed at attacking President Obama: that Osama bin Laden might not be dead. Right-wing media have previously promoted the false conspiracy theory that Obama was not born in United States and the myth that Obama is a Muslim.
From the November 8 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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