A new CBS Evening News' series that examines gun violence in America has featured prominent conservative misinformers on the issue, including a guest who once suggested that mass shootings are staged by the government. While "Voices Against Violence" has also featured advocates for stronger gun laws, CBS has given airtime to Gun Owners of America head Larry Pratt -- whose group has donated money to a white supremacist group -- and Milwaukee County, Wisconsin Sheriff David Clarke, who has raised the idea of justifiable armed revolution against the government and is well-known for his inflammatory commentary, such as that Hillary Clinton "is willing to prostitute herself to secure the black vote."
From the October 23 edition of CBS' CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley:
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Larry Pratt, the leader of the firearm lobbyist group Gun Owners of America (GOA), suggested in a recent interview with FoxNews.com that Jews in Europe lacked "determination" to stop the Holocaust.
Although Pratt and GOA routinely promote such extreme views, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz said at the September 16 GOP primary debate that he was "honored" to be endorsed by GOA. Pratt was once a contributing editor at an anti-Semitic publication.
In an October 12 video posted on FoxNews.com, Pratt was asked by Fox News Radio's Alan Colmes to respond to a recent ahistorical and controversial claim by Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson that the Holocaust "would have been greatly diminished" if not for Nazi Germany's regulation of firearms.
Pratt replied: "Had the Jews had really good amounts of armament, they could have given the Nazis a real headache for a prolonged period of time, and in fact, had they had that determination to fight long before the [Warsaw] Ghetto, it might have been an entirely different story."
Colmes called Pratt's claim "an extremely offensive position to a lot of Jews and also historically inaccurate."
Claims that the Holocaust could have been averted were it not for Adolf Hitler's gun policies have been repeatedly called historically inaccurate by The Anti-Defamation League, a national civil rights group. In fact, Hitler loosened gun laws for his political allies while banning firearms for the people he wanted to oppress, which is an indictment of fascistic policies -- not laws regulating firearms.
Pratt is widely seen as one of the founders of the 1990s militia movement in the United States. In 1996, he was forced to leave the presidential campaign of Republican Pat Buchanan after it was revealed he had spoken at militia gatherings with representatives from white supremacist groups, including the leader of the anti-Semitic Christian Identity movement. He also previously served as a contributing editor to a publication of the anti-Semitic United Sovereigns of America.
Following press coverage of Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-TX) comment during the second GOP presidential debate that he was "honored" to have won the endorsement of Gun Owners of America (GOA), the group lashed out at media coverage documenting its long history of extremism. In an open letter posted on its website, GOA claimed it has "NEVER aligned ourselves with racist groups" -- despite the fact that the group's leader, Larry Pratt, once acknowledged that he directed GOA to donate "tens of thousands of dollars" to a white supremacist organization and shared the stage with white supremacists at rallies organized by the racist Christian Identity movement in the 1990s.
During CNN's September 16 GOP presidential candidate debate, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said he was "honored to be endorsed by Gun Owners of America as the strongest supporter of the Second Amendment on the stage today." GOA has donated money to a white supremacist group, opposes any background checks on gun sales, and advocates for guns in kindergarten classrooms. Its leader, Larry Pratt, has suggested mass shootings are staged by the government and has past ties to white supremacist and anti-Semitic organizations.
Larry Pratt, the head of extremist gun group Gun Owners of America (GOA), warned the U.S. federal government that "we'll point our guns at you if you try to act tyrannically" during an appearance on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' radio show.
GOA, which opposes any background checks on gun sales, recently endorsed Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (TX), who has called GOA's support "critical" to his 2012 election to the U.S. Senate and praised GOA's hardline stance on guns in remarks to the group's supporters.
Pratt was forced to leave the 1996 presidential campaign of Pat Buchanan after it was revealed he had spoken before high-profile white supremacists at militia gatherings. GOA donated money to a white supremacist group and Pratt previously served as a "contributing editor" for an anti-Semitic publication. Pratt has also suggested that mass shootings are staged by the government.
During a September 15 appearance on The Alex Jones Show, Pratt said, "Just like those Minutemen in Lexington, Massachusetts, we've got to be ready at a minute's notice to come to the defense of, as it was, Cliven Bundy or be [it] a milk producer in Elkhart County, Indiana -- could be anywhere where the government thinks they might have an advantage."
He later added, "The Second Amendment requires an adversarial relationship with the federal government. The Second Amendment says, 'Federal government, you can go here and no farther and if you try then the Second Amendment comes into play. To put it a little bit more crudely, we'll point our guns at you if you try to act tyrannically.'"
From the September 15 edition of Genesis Communications Network's The Alex Jones Show:
Extremist group Gun Owners of America (GOA) endorsed Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, noting that he is the only candidate "who has completed and returned the GOA presidential survey on the Second Amendment." GOA opposes any background checks on gun sales and advocates for guns in kindergarten classrooms, while the group's leader Larry Pratt has suggested mass shootings are staged by the government and has past ties to white supremacist and anti-Semitic organizations.
Larry Pratt, the leader of far-right Gun Owners of America (GOA), claimed that the murders of nine people at Mother Emanuel AME Church were a consequence of Reverend Clementa Pinckney's advocacy for "disarmament of people in the state of South Carolina."
Pinckney, along with eight others, was killed in a June 17 attack inside the Charleston, South Carolina church. A 21-year-old man with a history of racist beliefs was charged with the killings.
Pratt, who has suggested that politicians should fear being shot by GOA supporters and has flirted with the conspiracy theory that high-profile mass shootings are government-staged events, was forced to leave Pat Buchanan's presidential campaign in 1996 after his past ties to white supremacists were revealed. Still, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz heaped lavishly praise on GOA a recent town hall event.
During a June 24 appearance on Sky News to discuss the Charleston killings, Pratt said the parishioners "would have at least had a chance if they had a firearm to respond to the threat. As it was, their pastor, who was also a state senator, was a leading anti-Second Amendment advocate who had supported disarmament of people in the state of South Carolina. Ideas have consequences, and that's what we are talking about -- the idea of gun control is deadly."
Pratt went on to cheer the armed standoff between supporters of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and the federal government. Pratt said, "Even more recently there was an effort by our federal government to throw a man off land he had contractual rights to use, federal lands, and at Bunkerville, Nevada people came from around the region to defend him with arms until the government finally withdrew. So the Second Amendment is alive and well and that's its main function, to keep the government under control as a servant of the people."
Despite Pratt's decades-long history of inflammatory rhetoric and questionable associations, Cruz recently praised GOA while addressing its members in a May 27 "Tele-Town Hall." Cruz opened his remarks by saying, "GOA endorsed me early on when I ran for the Senate and played a critical part in helping get me elected and sending me from the State of Texas to represent 27 million Texans,"and added that GOA supporters are "patriots."
Later in his remarks, Cruz added, "I agree with Ronald Reagan, who said we must paint in bold colors and not pale pastels - that's why I'm running and that's one of the things I love about GOA - is GOA has never been accused of painting in pale pastels."
Pratt is not the first pro-gun advocate to attack Rev. Pinckney. Shortly after the shooting, NRA board member Charles L. Cotton wrote online that Pinckney "voted against concealed-carry. Eight of his church members who might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church are dead. Innocent people died because of his position on a political issue."
Larry Pratt, the head of extremist group Gun Owners of America, argued that "the Second Amendment was designed for people just like the president and his administration" in comments uncovered by Right Wing Watch.
Pratt, who has suggested that politicians should fear being shot by GOA supporters and has flirted with the conspiracy theory that high-profile mass shootings are government staged events, was forced to leave Pat Buchanan's presidential campaign in 1996 after his past ties to white supremacists were revealed. In spite of this track record of extremism, Pratt is still treated by Republican politicians and by certain media outlets as a credible authority on gun issues. On May 27, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz addressed Pratt's group, and said GOA support was "critical" to his election as a U.S. Senator. Pratt was on Fox News as recently as June 2 in order to defend comments about guns made by actor Vince Vaughn.
Right Wing Watch published audio on June 4 of Pratt appearing on a far-right radio show in April to talk about a since-withdrawn proposal by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to ban a particular type of armor-piercing ammunition. During the discussion Pratt said, "the Second Amendment was designed for people just like the president and his administration" and added that if the present government wants "to go tyrannical on us, we got something for 'em":
ROGER FREDINBURG, HOST: I think the next revolution is going to start and be won by people with rifles and Leupold [brand] scopes. I don't think it's going to be won by guys in the trenches with machetes.
PRATT: We figured that that was kind of what they were up to and the Second Amendment was designed for people just like the president and his administration. And, yes, if The New York Times and the Rolling Stone and whoever else wants to have a hissy-fit, yes our guns are in our hands for people like those in our government right now that think they want to go tyrannical on us, we got something for 'em. That's what it's all about. The Second Amendment is not about hunting, it's not about target shooting, it's about Democrats who want to take our rights.
The same day as Right Wing Watch's post, GOA put online audio of Cruz's May 27 "Tele-Town Hall" appearance. Cruz opened his remarks by effusively praising GOA, saying, "GOA endorsed me early on when I ran for the Senate and played a critical part in helping get me elected and sending me from the state of Texas to represent 27 million Texans" and that supporters of GOA are "patriots":
CRUZ: Let me start by just saying thank you to all the men and women of Gun Owners of America. GOA endorsed me early on when I ran for the Senate and played a critical part in helping get me elected and sending me from the state of Texas to represent 27 million Texans and to stand up and to fight for our rights and I'm grateful to be with each of you because the men and women on this call are fighters, you are men and women of action, you are patriots, and this is the time when that is exactly what is needed in our country.
Fox News hosts and guests relied and expounded upon recent comments by actor Vince Vaughn in support of carrying guns in public and in schools to push numerous falsehoods about gun violence that expert analyses have debunked.
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.
Gun Owners of America -- a far-right gun group whose leader has been linked to white supremacists and has suggested that mass shootings are staged by the government -- will host Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz to address the group's "activists."
GOA is headed by Larry Pratt, a conspiracy theorist who frequently espouses extreme views on gun regulation. The group is considered to be to the right of the National Rifle Association touts itself as "the only no-compromise gun lobby in Washington."
According to an e-mail sent to GOA supporters, Cruz will speak at a "Tele-Town Hall" meeting on May 27. GOA "is surveying and interviewing all of the candidates," but Cruz is the first to agree to address the group:
Cruz, who has received campaign contributions from GOA, previously praised the group as "strong defenders of the Second Amendment."
Although media sometimes ignore GOA's extremism, the group and its leader ascribe to a hard-right ideology. In 1996, Pratt was forced to leave Pat Buchanan's presidential campaign after it came to light that he had spoken at a militia conference alongside leaders of the white supremacist movement. GOA also donated "tens of thousands of dollars" to white supremacy group CAUSE in the 90s.
On the issue of gun violence, Pratt has flirted with the idea that the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting and the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater mass shooting were carried out by the government. Pratt has also suggested that politicians who support gun violence prevention laws should fear being shot and recently claimed that rioters in Baltimore should have been shot on sight. Among Pratt's lowlights:
Fox News Radio host Alan Colmes confronted Gun Owners of America (GOA) executive director Larry Pratt with several of Pratt's inflammatory comments. Media outlets frequently give Pratt a platform to push for weaker gun laws without pressing him on his extremist views.
Pratt, whose GOA group is considered to the right of the National Rifle Association, is one of the founding members of the 1990s militia movement and has had past associations with white supremacists. He often appears on fringe right-wing radio shows to offer incendiary commentary, recently stating that Obama supports stronger gun laws to keep Americans from using firearms "to keep people like him from becoming tyrants."
But Alan Colmes provided a textbook case of how interviewers should handle Pratt during a November 18 interview on his radio show, forcing the gun activist to address and expound on past comments suggesting politicians should fear being shot by GOA supporters and that President Obama may foment a race war.
Gun Owners of America executive director Larry Pratt said in an interview that President Obama "clearly doesn't like the fact that the American people can own guns because we might just want to use them to keep people like him from becoming tyrants."
Pratt, who heads a gun rights group considered to the right of even the National Rifle Association, made the comment during a November 17 appearance on Newsmax TV's America's Forum. He also bragged that his group was responsible for the 2013 defeat of a U.S. Senate bill to expand background checks on gun sales.
The latest inflammatory remark from Pratt comes hours after the release of a video project by The American Independent Institute (TAII) and gun safety group Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) on the state of the gun lobby that discusses how media turn to Pratt for commentary on the gun issue, often while ignoring his lengthy history of extremism and past association with white supremacists.
Pratt's claim on America's Forum came during a discussion of the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). The purpose of the treaty is to prevent the transfer of arms to human rights abusers and it would have no impact on domestic gun laws. Nonetheless, GOA, the NRA, and conservative media often advance the conspiracy theory that the ATT will be used by international entities to register or even confiscate privately held guns in the United States.
While the Senate has thus far refused to ratify the ATT -- as it has been dogged by right-wing conspiracy theories -- Pratt suggested that Obama would use "international community agreement" to unilaterally enact the provisions of the ATT. According to Pratt, Obama's motivation for this extra-constitutional action would be "because he clearly doesn't like the fact that the American people can own guns because we might just want to use them to keep people like him from becoming tyrants."
The media's short "attention span" has given Gun Owners of America executive director Larry Pratt access to a mainstream television audience despite his "long, multi-decade history of radicalism and extremism," according to journalist Alexander Zaitchik, who recently profiled Pratt for RollingStone.com.
Zaitchik discussed his investigation in a three-part series of videos chronicling the state of the pro-gun movement produced by The American Independent Institute (TAII), which funded Zaitchik's profile, and the gun safety group Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV).
In part one, released on November 12, Zaitchik and CSGV executive director Josh Horwitz discussed how media turned to Pratt for analysis during the gun debate following the Sandy Hook mass shooting in 2012, often while ignoring Pratt's history of extremism. Part two is a conversation about the gun rights movement's embrace of insurrectionist ideology, while part three covers the role of money in gun rights groups and the National Rifle Association's efforts to reach out to a younger and more diverse audience while retaining inflammatory figures like board member Ted Nugent.
Watch part one here: