On April 25 the National Rifle Association kicks off its three-day annual meeting, hosted this year at the home of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts, which will feature far-right conservative media figures known for extreme rhetoric.
Tourism officials expect more than 70,000 attendees at the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium for the meeting, and attendees will be able to peruse more than 400,000 square feet of exhibition space to enjoy "over 600 of the most spectacular displays of firearms, shooting and hunting accessories in the world!" As in years past, the NRA expects that roughly 80 percent of attendees will be men.
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America -- part of the newly launched 1.5 million member Everytown for Gun Safety organization -- is planning on bringing 100 mothers and 20 gun violence survivors to Indianapolis in order to urge NRA leadership to support requiring background checks on gun sales.
Attendees can also view a number of presentations, the most prominent of which include the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum, the Annual Meeting of Members, and the Stand and Fight Rally. The NRA-ILA forum will feature several prominent GOP officials including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
Far-right conservative figures are a mainstay of these annual meeting events. During last year's Stand and Fight Rally, keynote speaker Glenn Beck depicted then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is Jewish, in a Nazi salute, leading to condemnation from Jewish groups. Other presentations at the 2013 meeting reaffirmed the NRA's hardline stance following the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, including the claim of new NRA president Jim Porter that President Obama would seek "revenge" against gun owners.
In addition to the NRA's own bombastic CEO and Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, this year's meeting will feature Ted Nugent, Sarah Palin, radio host Mark Levin, religious hardliner Franklin Graham, and others known for their extreme right-wing rhetoric:
Mark Levin is a conservative commentator best known as the host of The Mark Levin Show, which is a nationally syndicated radio program by Cumulus Media Networks. Levin delivered a video message at the 2013 annual meeting in which he claimed that the Second Amendment protected a "well-armed militia" in case "the federal government got out of control." (The Second Amendment actually calls for a "well regulated militia.") Levin is known for his inflammatory commentary, including the recent claim that the "key" to a Hillary Clinton presidential run in 2016 would be "her genitalia." He has also accused Obama of abusing children, compared marriage equality to incest, polygamy, and drug use, compared supporters of the Affordable Care Act to Nazi "brown shirts," and advocated for Obama to be impeached.
From the April 19 edition of SiriusXM's Media Matters Radio:
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Media consultant Holland Cooke highlighted the deceptive advocacy of right-wing talk radio hosts on behalf of sponsors such as tea party groups, arguing that listeners "might not understand that free speech had a price tag."
In a piece titled "The tea party radio network," Politico highlighted the relationship between conservative talk radio shows and tea party non-profit groups who often act as sponsors of the shows. The report "found that conservative groups spent nearly $22 million to broker and pay for involved advertising relationships known as sponsorships with a handful of influential talkers including Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh between the first talk radio deals in 2008 and the end of 2012."
On the April 17 segment on MSNBC's The Ed Show, Ed Schultz hosted talk radio consultant Holland Cooke and Ken Vogel, a co-author of the Politico piece. Vogel pointed out that the nature of right-wing radio's sponsorship "begs the question 'where does the line between the core ideological beliefs of the host end and where does the paid sponsorship start?'" Cooke pointed out that the conservative radio advertising landscape had shifted after Rush Limbaugh's notorious attacks on Sandra Fluke caused an advertiser boycott, due in large part to groups like Flush Rush, and explained that sponsors are often "treated like a news source," leaving many listeners not realizing that they are even listening to ads:
After Mitt Romney's loss in the 2012 presidential election, the GOP acknowledged it needed to change its stance on immigration and Hispanic outreach. But conservative media figures lashed out at Jeb Bush after he expressed compassion for undocumented immigrants.
Here's what right-wing media are missing in their rush to blame gun regulations and Democrats for the tragic shooting at Ft. Hood on April 2, in which a gunman killed three people and wounded 16 others before taking his own life.
In the wake of the shooting that left four dead, including the gunman, several conservative media figures are urging the Pentagon to change its policy that typically bars the carrying of concealed weapons or side arms by soldiers who are not involved in law-enforcement activities.
Conservative radio host Mark Levin asked "how many more deaths" it will take before service members are "allowed to have weapons." TownHall.com editor and Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich tweeted, "Should we stop giving soldiers guns? Oh wait, already did that. Result? mass shootings in gun free, defenseless military bases." Fox News host Martha MacCallum suggested that it's "highly possible" lives could have been saved at Fort Hood "if other people had been armed on that base."
But those who have commanded military bases and served as officers disagree, citing the concerns about increased violence and potential danger to innocent bystanders.
"My own personal feeling is that I would be against that. I don't think that's an appropriate solution to what we have seen at Fort Hood," said retired Lt. Gen. Edward Anderson, a 39-year Army veteran and West Point graduate. "This has to be very, very carefully thought out. The implications of what that would result in. There are other means by which you can enhance security on installations than arming everyone -- increasing security patrols, let's take a look at all the options."
He added that a broader access policy might not have stopped the Fort Hood shooter: "The person who shot the folks down there would have been able to have the weapon. You could make the case they would have gotten him; maybe yes, maybe no. But then you have a Wild West situation there. It is just not the right thing to do."
Paul Eaton, a retired Army major general and former commander at Fort Benning, Ga., stressed that anyone on military bases who carries weapons, such as military police, receives extra training.
"We train our military police to a higher standard, they are trained first as infantry and then additional training in law enforcement and how to handle situations like a law enforcement officer," he said.
Asked about the idea of expanding weapons access to all soldiers and even allowing concealed weapons on bases, Eaton stated, "I am not in favor of that."
Jamie Barnett, a former Navy rear admiral and 32-year veteran, called more weapons "a bad idea."
"We already have lots of weapons on base," he said in an interview. "We have great law enforcement personnel, we have great military personal who can protect us. It seems to me that the real focus should be on people who have some type of mental or emotional problem, we should concentrate on that."
Asked what the negative impact of more weapons access would be, Barnett stated, "It seems like it would interfere with the legitimate law enforcement function. It does not increase safety. The more weapons you have, the more potential to have them stolen, get out of hand."
Jon Soltz, chairman at VoteVets.org and an Iraq War veteran, said adding weapons to military personnel on bases would add danger.
Right-wing media are trumpeting a report from Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions claiming that the Obama administration has failed on border enforcement because nearly all of the immigrants the federal government deported last year were criminals, while undocumented immigrants without criminal convictions did not face high rates of removal. Indeed, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 98 percent of immigrants removed in fiscal year 2013 were classified as "convicted criminals, recent border crossers, illegal re-entrants or those previously removed," which is "in line with [the] agency's enforcement priorities."
The fact that conservative media see outrage over the news that the administration met its stated enforcement goals shows that the only action they will accept on border enforcement is really the mass deportation of all undocumented immigrants, regardless of their ties to the United States. But that is an impractical policy that has been derided even by Republican lawmakers.
On March 26, Sessions released a report condemning the Obama administration's record on border enforcement, claiming that the ICE record is evidence that "the Administration has carried out a dramatic nullification of federal law."
The Daily Caller seized on the Sessions report to blast Obama administration immigration policies that it claimed "have provided a de facto amnesty for most of the illegal immigrants living in the United States." It went on to complain that "99.92 percent of illegal immigrants and visa overstays without serious crime convictions or repeat immigration offenses did not face deportation."
National Review Online added that the administration is "shielding most illegal immigrants without separate criminal convictions from deportation" and uncritically quoted Sessions' claim that these priorities are "an open invitation for a future immigrant to overstay a visa, or enter the U.S. illegally, knowing that they will be immune from enforcement."
A Breitbart News article with the headline, "Sessions Report Demolishes Obama 'Deporter In Chief' Myth," stoked national security fears, stating that "Sessions' staff notes that ICE officers who communicate with his office say that there is likely some other serious security risk for allowing them to stay in the country that is cause for their removal." The article went on to highlight several instances in which undocumented immigrants were released from federal custody because they represented no threat to public safety.
On his radio show, Mark Levin used the report to make the point that "those terrorists on 9-11, they overstayed their visas."
The Department of Homeland Security has always maintained that ICE "must prioritize which individuals to pursue" because the agency "receives an annual appropriation from Congress sufficient to remove a limited number of the more than 10 million individuals estimated to unlawfully be in the United States."
This discretion has been widely applied by immigration officials for more than 30 years. And as the Immigration Policy Center has noted, the Supreme Court has made it clear that "an agency's decision not to prosecute or enforce, whether through civil or criminal process, is a decision generally committed to an agency's absolute discretion."
Will Mark Levin's vulgar analysis of Hillary Clinton finally be enough to keep top GOP officials off his show?
On the March 21 edition of his radio show, Levin highlighted a Gallup poll showing that the majority of respondents, 18 percent, feel Clinton's gender is the most positive aspect of her potential presidency. Levin summarized the results by asking "Hillary Clinton's gender? Do they mean her genitalia is her top 2016 selling point? Is that what that means?" Levin later said "But the key is it's her genitalia. That's why so many people would vote for her. I wonder if Bill Clinton would vote for her because of that. He seems to -- well, he likes genitalia but maybe not hers":
Levin has a long history of offensive commentary on his radio show. He has accused President Obama of abusing children, compared marriage equality to incest, polygamy, and drug use, compared supporters of the Affordable Care Act to Nazi "brown shirts," and advocated for Obama to be impeached.
Despite this rhetoric, prominent conservatives have given tacit approval to Levin's views by appearing on his show. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) called into his show as recently as February. Levin hosted House Budget Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to talk about the new budget agreement reached in December. Levin criticized Ryan's budget deal with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) later that month.
Levin's hateful rhetoric has also earned him praise from the conservative community -- he was recently named the winner of the Conservative Political Action Conference's Andrew Breitbart Defender of the First Amendment Award. He is also listed as one of the speakers on the NRA's "Leadership Forum" in April, speaking alongside other prominent conservative GOP leaders like Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) and Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Marco Rubio (R-FL).
Right-wing media stoked fears that the English language will soon disappear based on the decision by a Texas county school board not to renew the contract of a principal who reportedly mandated an English-only policy on campus. In fact, English-only policies have been found to discriminate against Latino immigrants and they fail to take into account that the majority of Latino immigrants speak fluent English.
Conservative radio host Mark Levin is receiving the "inaugural" Andrew Breitbart Defender of the First Amendment Award at noon today at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the annual conference for right-wing activists.
The award, named after the conservative media entrepreneur who passed away in 2012, will be presented by top executives at Breitbart News, the website he founded, and by Citizens United President David Bossie.
Levin has a long history of pushing conservative lies and hateful rhetoric, including recently comparing marriage equality to incest, polygamy, and drug use, comparing supporters of the new health care law to Nazi "brown shirts," claiming "middle class" is a "Marxist term," supporting racial profiling, and likening immigration reform to the "destruction" and "unraveling" of society.
According to Breitbart News, Levin is winning the award because he "fearlessly and passionately stands up for conservatives and everyday Americans whose voices the mainstream press often tries to marginalize or silence."
From the February 14 edition of Cumulus Media Networks' The Mark Levin Show:
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Right-wing radio has been urging Speaker of the House John Boehner to back away from the immigration reform guidelines he had outlined last month -- this week he cowed to their demands, prompting The Wall Street Journal to highlight his fear of a talk-radio backlash.
Republican strategists admitted to BuzzFeed that a "loud minority" of voices that includes conservative media have helped hinder congressional action on immigration reform. Strategists and lawmakers maintain that this "small cadre of Republicans in the House, talk radio hosts and activists," use the "perceived threat of xenophobia" to drive opposition to reform and make House Republicans leery of the issue.
Indeed, right-wing media figures have repeatedly used racially tinged language to stoke fears of immigrants and force lawmakers to obstruct immigration reform. In fact, the front page of the Drudge Report this morning provides the perfect example:
Drudge linked to a column by conservative pundit Ann Coulter, a frequent guest on Fox News, who wrote that the Republicans' planned push for immigration reform will "wreck the country" and "solves" only "the rich's 'servant problem.' "
Another example is Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham, who on her radio show today played on nativist fears of immigrants to raise opposition to immigration reform.
In a January 29 article, BuzzFeed reported:
[A]lthough there are a variety of reasons for inaction, one Republican lawmaker recently offered a frank acknowledgement for many members, there's one issue at play not often discussed: race.
"Part of it, I think -- and I hate to say this, because these are my people -- but I hate to say it, but it's racial," said the Southern Republican lawmaker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "If you go to town halls people say things like, 'These people have different cultural customs than we do.' And that's code for race."
There are a range of policy reasons for opposing plans to liberalize immigration or to regularize undocumented immigrants in the country, ones revolving around law-and-order concerns and the labor market. But that perceived thread of xenophobia, occasionally expressed bluntly on the fringes of the Republican Party and on the talk radio airwaves, has driven many Hispanic voters away from a Republican leadership that courts them avidly. And some Republicans who back an immigration overhaul, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and one of the Republican Party's most vocal champions of a pathway to citizenship, acknowledge that race remains a reality in the immigration debate.
BuzzFeed went on to report: "Talk radio, particularly regional and small-market talkers, have also kept up the pressure, Republicans said, explaining that the airwaves back home are constantly filled with talk of 'amnesty' that makes backing new laws difficult." The article quoted Republican strategist Brian Walsh saying that Republicans are " 'listening to a loud minority ... [but] those who oppose this haven't been challenged to say, 'What's their plan?'"
As Republicans gear up for an annual retreat later this month where leaders will reportedly unveil principles for immigration reform, conservative media are again misrepresenting facts to mislead about Americans' support for legalization.
As Roll Call reported, the retreat is set for January 29 and will include discussions about immigration reform: "To get their members energized and focused on the issue, Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and his top lieutenants are about to unveil a set of principles for an immigration overhaul. They could be distributed to lawmakers as early as Friday, but likely not until lawmakers have settled into the retreat, sources say." The article went on to note "that more and more GOP lawmakers from across the ideological spectrum appear to be growing receptive to giving undocumented immigrants a chance to receive legal status."
In an attempt to hijack the debate, however, radio talk host Mark Levin and the Daily Caller are using the occasion to mislead about Americans' support for immigration reform.
On his radio show, Mark Levin pointed to a poll by Rasmussen Reports to claim that "immigration increases are opposed by the majority of lower-income and middle-income voters," and by a "plurality of African-Americans."
Levin was apparently reading from the Daily Caller, which made the same points in an article previewing the GOP retreat:
A new poll shows that the wealthy and politically well-connected favor the sharp immigration increases that are included in pending House and Senate bills.
The immigration increases are opposed by the majority of lower-income and middle-income voters, and by political moderates and conservatives, according to the new Rasmussen poll of 1,000 likely voters. A plurality of African-Americans oppose the increases.
The article added: "In June, the Senate passed a bill that would triple the inflow of legal immigrants over the next decade."
But this is a false argument that was repeatedly debunked when conservative media first latched onto it in 2013, after its invention by anti-immigrant nativist group NumbersUSA in an online ad against reform.
Right-wing media are making sexist and outrageous claims in an attempt to smear Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis over her divorces.
The Dallas Morning News reported January 18th that Davis had been 21, not 19, by the time she got a divorce, a seemingly-minor contradiction to previous statements in which she had described herself as a teenage-single mother. In a statement to Buzzfeed, Davis explained that she had been separated from her first husband "on [her] way to a divorce" by 19, living alone with her daughter in a trailer for a time.
Exactly how young Davis was when she took care of her daughter on her own while facing economic hardship is a small, but understandable, question. Conservative media, however, are blowing the legitimate questions about Davis' backstory out of proportion while making sexist attacks on Davis' character and implying she is not fit for public office.
On January 20, Rush Limbaugh called Davis a "babe" and a "genuine head case," and claimed the new details proved she needed a man to be successful, as her second husband helped pay for her law school. Limbaugh concluded that her life story was full of "fraud and deceit ... her entire biography has been embellished and falsified by her."
Radio host Mark Levin also suggested that Davis was a "good Democrat gubernatorial candidate" because she is a "liar" and because there were "allegations -- I stress, allegations -- of adultery."
In two posts on his blog, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson used the divorce in an attempt to portray Davis as an unstable and unreliable mother, with two posts headlined, "Documents Show A Texas Court Ordered Wendy Davis to Stay Away From Drugs and Alcohol" and "Wendy Davis' Ex Asked a Court to Order Her Not to Use Drugs Before Seeing Her Kids."
But Erickson conveniently ignored that a temporary restraining order, or TRO, is common practice in divorce cases involving children, and can include restrictions on alcohol and drug consumption. Tommy Christopher at Mediaite effectively laid out how Davis' restraining order was typical, and an example of a petition form for the TRO is available on the Texas Law Help website, showing that drug and alcohol provisions are included on the form.
Erickson has repeatedly attempted to smear Davis, whom he demeaningly refers to as "Abortion Barbie." Last November, Erickson absurdly suggested that Davis was unfit for public office because she had claimed "mental health issues" in a 1996 lawsuit. Erickson once again showed his unfamiliarity with the law; the language he cited is required boilerplate for the Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED) claim Davis brought against a Texas newspaper.
These attacks on Davis are extreme, but they also follow a predictable pattern. The Barbara Lee Family Foundation has studied every female candidate for governor in the past, and found that women running for executive office often are placed on an "Ethical Pedestal," which perpetuates the myth that women are more innately honest than men -- allowing male opponents to undermine them by simply questioning their integrity:
To distract from what really matters -- the policies, priorities, and platforms of each candidate -- male opponents often strike early with attacks questioning a woman's integrity. It's a well-worn strategy.
We saw this happen in Senator Elizabeth Warren's race against then-Senator Scott Brown in 2012, when he repeatedly questioned her integrity, and we're already seeing it in State Senator Wendy Davis's race against Attorney General Greg Abbott in Texas.