Gun researcher John Lott, an economist well known for his thoroughly discredited "More Guns, Less Crime" theory, is the latest member of right-wing media to offer baseless attacks on surgeon general nominee Vivek Murthy. According to Lott, one of the "good reasons" to oppose Murthy is that he supports doctors advising parents to safely store firearms so they are inaccessible to children.
In recent weeks Murthy has come under attack from the National Rifle Association and its allies in conservative media because, like the rest of the medical community, he believes gun violence is a public health concern. Murthy has said his concern about gun violence stems from his experiences as a doctor, but has also said that he would not "use the Surgeon General's office as a bully pulpit for gun control," and instead would make his top priority "obesity prevention."
Continuing the National Rifle Association's smear of surgeon general nominee Vivek Murthy as anti-gun, the NRA's media arm is now claiming that "doctors are a lot more dangerous than gun owners in this country" because of deaths caused by medical errors.
Even though Murthy holds views on firearms that are conventional within the medical community and supported by many Americans and has said that obesity, not gun safety, would be his top priority as surgeon general, the NRA has launched a smear campaign to portray him as a threat to the Second Amendment. Conservatives in media have taken the NRA's lead to attack Murthy as anti-gun and unqualified for the job.
NRA News host Cam Edwards furthered the NRA's attack, claiming that the "Institutes [sic] of Medicine" had issued a study finding that there are as many as 440,000 deaths per year due to preventable medical errors and commenting, "[m]aybe there's an issue for the Surgeon General to take up instead of your gun ownership and my gun ownership, because it sure that appears doctors are a lot more dangerous than gun owners are in this country."
In fact, the study Edwards cited was actually authored by a medical error-focused non-profit organization that asserts "we are patients looking after each other in a health care system that could easily kill us." According to the Institute of Medicine's "widely accepted" finding, 98,000 people a year die due to hospital errors.
Bloomberg Businessweek senior writer Paul Barrett used reports that several Democratic senators may oppose surgeon general nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy to advance the tired media myth that the National Rifle Association can determine election outcomes at will.
Amid recent reports that Murthy's nomination could be delayed or withdrawn, Barrett wrote on March 17, "By all indications, the National Rifle Association and allied gun-rights groups have killed the nomination of Dr. Vivek Murthy to be the next surgeon general."
While Barrett acknowledged that "[i]t seems preposterous that Murthy's attitudes toward guns -- views roughly similar to those of the twice-elected president -- may preclude him from federal office," his analysis quickly veered off-track.
The New York Times repeated the unfounded claims from critics that Obama Surgeon General nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy is "antigun," without adequately explaining how Vivek's views on firearms are mainstream within the medical community.
As Murthy's nomination for Surgeon General moves towards a vote in the Senate, which may now be delayed, the National Rifle Association and its allies in conservative media are advancing the false narrative that Murthy is "radical" and "anti-gun" because he views gun violence in the United States as a public health concern and supports allowing doctors to ask patients about gun ownership, among other gun safety measures.
In a March 14 article, the Times devoted significant space to attacks on Murthy while only briefly noting that his views reflect those of many Americans. The article noted that an NRA message to supporters claimed that Murthy is "President Obama's radically antigun nominee," and also mentioned that a Democratic senator had received letters from constituents "who say they are alarmed by what they believe are Dr. Murthy's antigun views."
It took until the 14th paragraph of the article to note that Vivek's views on firearms are "in step with where many Americans stand on gun control," and the article made no mention of the fact that Vivek's views on guns are in keeping with the medical community.
From the March 12 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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After ducking the controversy over National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent calling President Obama a "subhuman mongrel," NRA leaders at last week's Conservative Political Action Conference tried to shield the organization from the fallout over those comments.
While some NRA supporters criticized Nugent, three NRA board members sought to downplay his actions and his connection to their organization, suggesting he isn't viewed mainly as an NRA representative or brushing the controversy off as unimportant.
Nugent issued the slur during a January interview, but the comments received new interest last month when Nugent campaigned with Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott. Following days of negative coverage for both Abbott and Nugent, including condemnations from GOP leaders, Nugent offered a half-hearted apology, though "not necessarily to the president," for his "subhuman mongrel" comment. He then attacked Obama as a lying, law-breaking racist who engages in Nazi tactics.
Former NRA president and current board member David Keene said the "subhuman mongrel" comments do not reflect on the gun-rights organization because "Ted is seen as Ted more than as an NRA board member."
Grover Norquist, another NRA board member, said the comments were "not a good idea," but added they are not bad enough to hurt the NRA's image because Nugent is viewed differently than other NRA leaders.
"He's a rock star and people know he's talking as him and he is talking outrageously," Norquist said following a CPAC "meet and greet" he hosted for fans. "If an establishment Republican said that, you'd go, 'whoa Nellie.' Rock stars and hip hop artists are cut some slack in American society."
Despite their attempts to suggest Nugent's comments don't reflect directly on the NRA, as a musician and conservative commentator, Nugent is to many the public face of the organization. He has had a longstanding relationship with the group, serving on its board of directors since 1995. In the group's 2013 board elections Nugent was second only to Fox News contributor Oliver North for most votes in favor of reelection.
After the 2012 meeting, Nugent drew the attention of the Secret Service for saying he would be "dead or in jail" if Obama was reelected as president. An NRA memo indicated that he was paid $50,000 by the group for a "spoken presentation" in 2011. Nugent has also recorded the song "I Am The NRA," which includes the lyrics: "If you hate tyrants and dictators and are ready to give freedom a whirl/Celebrate the NRA and the shot heard round the world."
Oliver North denied knowing about the "subhuman mongrel" comments during an interview at CPAC. He accused Media Matters of trying to instigate criticism from him. Questioned at CPAC's radio row, North said, "I'm not necessarily sure how to take your word for what he said since I didn't hear it I am not going to comment about it."
It is no secret that National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre is known to use over-the-top conspiratorial and paranoid rhetoric to make it appear that the NRA is constantly locked in a life or death struggle to save America from nefarious forces -- while also raising a few dollars in the process.
LaPierre offered more of the same at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) where he fearmongered about large-scale societal collapse and attacks by terrorists, "knockout gamers" and "haters." According to LaPierre, Americans are buying guys because "sooner or later reckless government actions and policies have consequences." Even worse, opponents of the NRA are purportedly supporting Hillary Clinton for president "to finish the job, to fulfill their commitment, their dream, of fundamentally transforming America. Into an America that I guarantee you won't recognize." In typical fashion, LaPierre positioned the NRA as salvation for a collapsing America, promising the gun rights organization "will not go quietly into the night."
Here are five over-the-top moments from LaPierre's speech:
1. LaPierre On America Becoming Too Dangerous For Children To Play Outside
"All across America, everywhere I go, people come up to me, and they say, 'Wayne, I've never been worried about this country until now.' And they say it not with anger, but they say it with sadness in their eyes. 'I've never been worried about this country until now.' We're worried about the economic crisis choking our budgets and shrinking our retirement, we're worried about providing decent healthcare and a college education for our own children. We fear for the safety of our families. It's why neighborhood streets that were once filled with bicycles and skateboards and laughter in the air now sit empty and silent. In virtually every way, for the things we care about most, we feel profound loss. We're sad, not because we fear something is going wrong, but because we know something already has gone wrong."
Speaking at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference, conservative columnist Ken Blackwell, who also holds leadership positions at the National Rifle Association (NRA) and Family Research Council (FRC), used health care reform to compare the Obama administration to a "totalitarian" or "authoritarian" regime and conspiratorially claimed that Obamacare was designed to "destroy the family" and "silence the church."
Blackwell, Ohio's former Secretary of State, sits on the NRA's public affairs committee and has served on the organization's board of directors. He is also the Senior Fellow for Family Empowerment at FRC, an organization designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-gay hate group.
When asked about the "unintended consequences" of Obamacare during a panel discussion titled "Healthcare After Obamacare: A Practical Guide for Living When No One Has Insurance and America Runs Out of Doctors," Blackwell spoke of a "deliberate strategy by the Obama administration to fundamentally take over that section of our economy" before comparing the current administration to an oppressive regime:
From CPAC 2014:
BLACKWELL: It is really hard for me to talk about unintended consequences around Obamacare because I actually think the consequences that we are experiencing are part of a deliberate strategy by the Obama administration to fundamentally take over that section of our economy.
BLACKWELL: Probably from their stand point, they've assumed -- they have assumed that the American people are asleep at the switch and what CPAC and organizations that are affiliated with this forum know that American people are wide awake and we are brighter than the administration gives us credit for. Look, if you go back over the whole span of human history and you look at authoritarian regimes, totalitarian regimes, or big welfare states had to do a couple of things, they've had to destroy the family and they've had to silence the church.
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent is fundraising for Republican Colorado gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo weeks after Texas gubernatorial hopeful Greg Abbott caused a firestorm of controversy for campaigning with Nugent after the NRA figurehead made a racist comment about President Obama.
According to a March 4 article in The Colorado Independent, Nugent sent a fundraising e-mail on behalf of Tancredo that asked for donations of $25 or more to be entered into a raffle for an AR-15 assault weapon. In a letter addressed to "Real Americans," Nugent warned that "Barack Obama and his radical America-hating leftist goons are perilously close to taking away our guns and nullifying the Second Amendment." According to Nugent, "Tom Tancredo is running for Governor in one of the most anti-gun states in the union, so he urgently needs our help. That's why we're giving away a free AR-15 to a fellow gung-ho supporter." Nugent praised Tancredo for "opposing President Bush's wasteful spending spree, amnesty for illegal immigrants, and of course, insane infringements to our sacred Second Amendment rights."
Nugent also sent a fundraising email for Tancredo in December where he wrote, "[L]ike you, I'm terrified by where Barack Obama and his radical America hating leftist goons are leading this great country."
Nugent's presence on the campaign trial recently caused headaches for a different Republican gubernatorial candidate. In Texas, Greg Abbott received widespread criticism for hosting campaign events with Nugent, who is also a spokesman for the Outdoor Channel, after Nugent recently termed Obama a "subhuman mongrel." Abbott was also widely criticized for campaigning with someone who had made numerous profane and derogatory comments about women, including calling Hillary Clinton a "toxic cunt" and "worthless bitch." Even prominent members of the GOP condemned Nugent, with Arizona Sen. John McCain adding, "That kind of thing is beyond the pale, and I hope that our candidate down there learned a lesson." Nugent eventually offered a disingenuous apology -- "not necessarily to the president" -- for his "subhuman mongrel" comment and Abbott stated publicly he had no plans to hold future events with Nugent.
Nugent's fundraising comes as Tancredo -- known for his hardline stance on immigration -- recently reversed his longtime vow to never campaign in Spanish. Nugent, however, is well known for his hateful and violent rhetoric against immigrants.
Facebook has announced new policies that aim to prevent illegal gun sales through the social media website, following a petition campaign by gun violence prevention group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
In a March 5 posting, Facebook says it will post language where firearms transactions are set up that "clearly reminds people of the importance of understanding and complying with relevant laws and regulations." Facebook will also limit postings about gun sales to users over the age of 18. Moms Demand Action reportedly entered into "formal discussions" with Facebook in February.
During the petition campaign, the National Rifle Association's media arm attempted to discredit Moms Demand Action by falsely claiming that the group's campaign sought to ban any gun-related speech on Facebook.
On the March 4 edition of NRA News show Cam & Company host Cam Edwards said it was "true" that Moms Demand Action was moving to "ban" pro-Second Amendment speech on Facebook. Edwards claimed that Moms Demand Action wanted to ban "a conversation" and suggested that the group sought to "ban fan pages or pages related to guns and the Second Amendment." Edwards concluded by claiming that Moms Demand Action are "not just anti-Second Amendment, oh no. Apparently they have issues with the First Amendment too."
On his radio show, also called Cam & Company, Edwards claimed on March 4 that there's a "real push" on "the left right now" for "a war on the idea of freedom of speech." He added, "For the left -- supposedly espouses tolerance and acceptance of others -- man there's a lot of oppression and intolerance I'm seeing these days."
Edwards' claims greatly mischaracterized the goals of the Moms Demand Action campaign. Furthermore the First Amendment constrains the government's restriction of speech, not a private company like Facebook. The social media network is free to create policies that seek to limit behavior it finds unacceptable, as it has already done through other community standards. (Right-wing media frequently misinterpret the First Amendment to accuse businesses of victimizing conservatives.)
Conservative website The Daily Caller published in its entirety an over-the-top fundraising pitch from National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre that suggested the only way to save America is to buy an NRA membership.
The March 3 column posted in the Caller's "Guns and Gear" section included the phone number for an NRA membership hotline and a link to a website where Caller readers can purchase a discounted NRA membership:
Like other material published by the NRA at the Caller, the fundraising pitch was filled with paranoid rhetoric based on the conspiracy theory that the Obama administration is plotting to confiscate privately owned firearms.
Controversy surrounding Republican Texas gubernatorial hopeful Greg Abbott's decision to campaign with National Rifle Association board member and conservative columnist Ted Nugent -- after Nugent called President Obama a "subhuman mongrel" -- demonstrates how far-right media figures can damage the GOP brand.
While the Abbott campaign initially feigned ignorance of Nugent's hateful and alienating rhetoric, the "subhuman mongrel" slur received substantial media attention when it was made public in January.
As the controversy unfolded, Nugent, who is also a spokesman for the Outdoor Channel, was also widely derided for his profane and derogatory descriptions of women, leading some to point out that Abbott's campaign decision was at odds with the GOP's purported plan to provide better outreach to women and minorities.
A look back at the how the story progressed is below.
The National Rifle Association's Connecticut lobbyist detailed a plan to remove from office lawmakers who voted for bipartisan gun safety legislation following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School and boastfully suggested that the NRA was responsible for the decision of two pro-gun safety legislators not to run for reelection this year.
The NRA's claims about being able to influence the outcome of elections -- often advanced by a lazy media conventional wisdom -- are overstated. In fact research has shown that the NRA's endorsement and campaign contributions have little impact on the outcomes of elections, clearly evidenced by the NRA's disastrous 2012 federal election spending where more than 95 percent of $18 million spent by the NRA went to elections where the NRA-backed candidate lost.
Appearing on an NRA News program, the NRA's Connecticut state liaison Anna Kopperud said that 2014 will be "the year where we pick up our baggage and move forward" and spoke of a need to "correct some of the wrongs that we saw last year" following the enactment of gun safety legislation in the state.
While requiring background checks on gun sales is overwhelmingly popular with the general public, members of conservative media have used false statements and paranoid rhetoric to fight legislation to require checks for more than 20 years.
This week marks the 20th anniversary of the enactment of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, commonly known as the Brady Bill or Brady Act. Signed by President Clinton in 1993 after a multi-year legislative effort, the law requires licensed firearms dealers to perform background checks on customers to prevent felons and other dangerous people from acquiring firearms. While a legal challenge invalidated a waiting period requirement in the Brady Bill created so local law enforcement could process background checks, in 1998 the FBI-administered National Instant Criminal Background Check System was launched, allowing gun dealers to perform often instantaneous background checks on customers. Since then, the law has stopped more than 2 million gun sales to prohibited individuals.
The law derives its name from President Ronald Reagan's press secretary Jim Brady, who was shot and seriously injured during an assassination attempt on Reagan on March 30, 1981, at the Washington Hilton. Reagan was shot in the chest and arm and underwent lifesaving emergency surgery. In a 1991 letter published in The New York Times, Reagan ruminated on the anniversary of the 1981 shooting, writing, "This nightmare might never have happened if legislation that is before Congress now -- the Brady bill -- had been law back in 1981." Jim and his wife Sarah Brady continue to advocate for gun violence prevention polices through their close work with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
PolitiFact reports that National Rifle Association board member and Outdoor Channel spokesperson Ted Nugent exaggerated his law enforcement credentials, which included his claim that he is "a cop in Lake County, Michigan" and that he "conduct[s] federal raids with the DEA and ATF and U.S. Marshals and the FBI and Texas Rangers."
In giving Nugent's claims a "pants on fire" designation, PolitiFact said none of the agencies mentioned by Nugent confirmed his participation in raids. The Texas Rangers issued a flat denial, telling PolitiFact, "In regards to your question about the Texas Rangers, that did not occur." The ATF, the federal agency tasked with enforcing gun laws, said "[w]e are not aware of him conducting any raids with us." The U.S. Marshals confirmed that Nugent had shot footage of a ride-along in 2005 when a raid was conducted for his Spirit of the Wild TV show, but that civilian observers of raids "cannot go with us into private residences."
PolitiFact concluded, "He is not a cop in Michigan by any conventional meaning of the word. No agency said that he presently plays any role in any of their raids."
While PolitiFact only rated Nugent's claims about his law enforcement credentials that were made during a recent appearance on CNN's Erin Burnett OutFront, Nugent has also previously claimed that for decades he has received "official" training from elite military units.