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On April 29, the Obama administration released a report on what federal agencies can do to further develop smart gun technology that prevents anyone other than authorized users from discharging a firearm. With the gun industry already attacking Obama’s technology push, it is important to note that while the NRA claims it doesn’t oppose the technology’s development, its media and lobbying arms routinely make false claims about its reliability and promote conspiracy theories about the federal government wanting to use the technology to spy on gun owners.
A Politico article on President Obama’s reported upcoming plan to “push” for smart gun technology quoted Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) executive director Jim Pasco attacking the technology without disclosing the FOP has received funding from the gun industry. Many of Pasco’s attacks on smart guns echoed the National Rifle Association and the gun industry.
Politico’s article also credulously repeated the NRA’s misleading claim that it merely opposes laws that mandate the adoption of smart gun technology and not the development of smart gun technology in general.
In an April 28 article, Politico reported President Obama “is opening a new front in the gun control debate, readying a big push for so-called smart gun technology -- an initiative that the gun lobby and law enforcement rank and file is already mobilizing against.” According to the report, “As early as Friday, Obama is set to formally release findings from the Defense, Justice and Homeland Security Departments on ways to spur the development of guns that can be fired only by their owner.”
The article extensively quoted Pasco, who offered various attacks on smart gun technology, claiming that law enforcement officers would be used as “guinea pigs” to test the technology; that Obama’s move placed politics over officer safety; that police officers oppose the technology; and suggesting the technology could put officers in greater danger:
“Police officers in general, federal officers in particular, shouldn’t be asked to be the guinea pigs in evaluating a firearm that nobody’s even seen yet,” said James Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police. “We have some very, very serious questions.
But at this point, the Obama administration already has frayed ties with rank-and-file cops, many of whom didn’t think the president took their side in his reactions to police violence and protests like those in Ferguson, Missouri. Pasco compared the push for smart guns to the decision to limit local departments’ access to surplus military equipment.
“They sit down among themselves and decide what is best for law enforcement, but from a political standpoint, and then tell officers they’re doing it for their benefit,” Pasco said.
Of the 330,000 officers in his union, Pasco said, “I have never heard a single member say what we need are guns that only we can fire,” noting that there might be moments in close combat when an officer would need to use a partner’s weapon or even the suspect’s.
Politico did not disclose that FOP's charity has received money from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the gun industry’s trade group. According to a 2010 Washington Post investigation, NSSF gave FOP Foundation $100,000 in 2010. In 2015, NSSF announced a $25,000 contribution to FOP Foundation. NSSF senior vice president Larry Keane has attacked smart gun technology. In 2014 he published a factually inaccurate and unfounded column arguing that two Massachusetts political candidates lost their races because of support for the technology.
The Politico article twice referenced FOP’s representation of “rank and file” police officers as explanation for FOP’s opposition to Obama’s reported proposal. But FOP has also been accused of representing corporate interests. The 2010 Washington Post profile -- which delved into Pasco’s other work as a lobbyist -- described him as “a product of the capital's revolving-door culture” with an “unusual” role as a lobbyist representing beer, cigarette, and entertainment companies that "raises questions about possible conflicts of interest," according to tax law specialists.
According to the Post's reporting, under Pasco's leadership FOP has accepted donations from the gun industry lobby after taking positions favorable to that group, and the organization's positions have repeatedly aligned with the priorities of lobbying clients of Pasco and his wife.
Washington Post pointed to several specific instances of apparent conflict:
The Politico article also repeated the NRA’s misleading claim about the gun organization’s position on smart guns, noting, “Gun rights groups, including the National Rifle Association, are not against funding research for smart guns or putting them on shelves. But the NRA does oppose any law that would prohibit people from buying a gun that doesn’t have personalized technology.”
The NRA’s attacks on smart gun technology go far beyond the group’s opposition to laws that mandate the adoption of the technology. While purporting to not oppose research into smart guns in a statement on its website, the NRA’s media arm routinely attacks the technology, often pushing either falsehoods about the reliability smart guns or by connecting the developing technology to conspiracy theories about the federal government.
NRA News On CT Primary: “Hillary Clinton Did Not Win Newtown, Donald Trump Won Newtown”
The National Rifle Association’s media arm offered a faulty and misleading analysis of Connecticut’s presidential primary results to suggest that Hillary Clinton’s support for stronger gun safety laws is a detriment to her campaign, while arguing that she somehow lost the primary to Donald Trump.
During the April 27 broadcast of the NRA’s radio show Cam & Company, host Cam Edwards attacked a Huffington Post article headlined “Hillary Clinton Wins Newtown, After Making Gun Control Central To Her Campaign.”
Newtown was the site of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting which claimed 26 lives.
Clinton won a seven point victory over Bernie Sanders in Newtown, beating her overall state victory margin of five points during Connecticut’s April 26 primary.
Edwards attacked the notion that Clinton’s focus on gun safety and subsequent win was “significant” by fallaciously arguing that “Hillary Clinton did not win Newtown, Donald Trump won Newtown” because Trump received more total votes in the primary:
EDWARDS: On the Republican side, in Newtown, Connecticut, Hillary Clinton didn’t beat Donald Trump in terms of the vote numbers. … So in terms of all of the candidates that residents and voters in Newtown could vote for, no, Hillary Clinton did not win Newtown, Donald Trump won Newtown. I don't think you’re going to see that headline at Huffington Post. ... So if Hillary Clinton's win in Newtown in the Democratic primary is significant, well then what is the significance of (a) a Republican candidate actually getting the most votes of all of the candidates on the ballot there in Newtown, (b) one who has expressed support for the right to keep and bear arms. What's the significance there ya think?
Trump received 1,654 votes in the Republican primary in Newtown while Clinton received 1,362 votes in the Democratic primary.
Edwards also said, “It's worth noting that statewide, Hillary Clinton actually did get more votes than Donald Trump, she got about 50,000 more votes than Donald Trump, but not in Newtown, Connecticut. ... I just think it's worth pondering what the significance of the fact that Hillary Clinton did not actually get the most votes in Newtown might be.”
Edwards’ comparison between vote totals for Clinton and Trump is nonsensical. By definition, primaries are not contests between candidates of different parties -- and Connecticut has a closed primary system meaning voters can only vote for candidates of their registered party.
Edwards claim that “Clinton did not win Newtown, Donald Trump won Newtown” also doesn’t make sense when voter trends in Connecticut are analyzed:
LaPierre Cites Interview In Which Ginsburg Actually Praised The “Wonderful Words” Of The “Genius” U.S. Constitution
National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre distorted past comments by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in a column warning that “our guns and our culture would be a favored target for eradication” if Hillary Clinton and other Democrats are successful in the 2016 elections.
In order to attack the possibility of Clinton being elected president and filling multiple vacancies on the Supreme Court with nominees like Justice Ginsburg, LaPierre smeared Justice Ginsburg by distorting her past comments about what new democracies should consider when adopting a constitution.
In 2012, Ginsburg traveled to Egypt to offer advice to the country as it began the process of adopting a constitution. In an interview, Ginsburg said she advised Egypt to look at “all the constitution-writing that has gone on since the end of World War II” and that she “would not look to the U.S. Constitution, if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012.” Ginsburg then singled out the South African constitution, Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the European Convention on Human Rights as modern examples for drafting constitutions.
During the interview, Ginsburg also praised the U.S. Constitution, saying, “The United States in comparison to Egypt is a very new nation, and yet we have the oldest written Constitution still enforced in the world. And it's a Constitution that starts out with three wonderful words: It's we the people.” Ginsburg praised the U.S. Constitution several other times during the interview, calling the document “an instrument that endured” and referencing “the genius of the Constitution.”
But in his monthly “Standing Guard” column in the May 2016 edition of America’s 1st Freedom, LaPierre smeared Ginsburg as part of his rallying cry that the NRA "must defeat Hillary Clinton."
LaPierre wrote of Ginsburg, “In an Egyptian television interview in January 2011 [sic], she disavowed the U.S. Constitution.” Distorting Ginsburg’s remarks, LaPierre added, “You might ask, why would a U.S. Supreme Court justice prefer another constitution to that which was forged in Philadelphia more than 200 years ago? What makes the South African Constitution so superior?”
LaPierre went on to claim that the South African Constitution encourages “civil disarmament,” writing, “It’s senseless, but here we have a U.S. Supreme Court justice who might find herself in the majority embracing the very essence of undefined and unknown ‘social justice.’”
LaPierre’s smear of Ginsburg is recycled from claims the NRA made about the 2012 elections and the prospect of President Obama’s reelection. The NRA’s lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, released an article that distorted the Egypt comments to argue “most troubling of all is the possibility that if elected to a second term, President Obama could appoint even more justices who share Justice Ginsburg's views.”
During the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference, LaPierre also attacked Ginsburg in a speech, calling her a “giddy school girl” for hugging Obama at the State of the Union and again distorting her Egypt comments.
The host of the National Rifle Association's radio show drew a false parallel between being LGBT and being a gun enthusiast while discussing a controversy involving a college professor.
The NRA has a lengthy history of comparing the treatment of gun owners to the treatment of people with immutable characteristics, including drawing false parallels between legal regulations on guns and Jim Crow-style laws that discriminated on the basis of race.
Cam Edwards, the host of the NRA's radio show Cam & Company, compared gun owners to LGBT people while discussing an April 18 opinion piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education. In the piece, an anonymous college professor grappled with mixed feelings and asked for advice after being asked to write a letter of recommendation to a teacher-credent
I lay all of this out here now because I don’t know what to do about the recommendation.
It’s so complicated. On one side are all of my ideas about supporting students, honoring their individuality and their journeys, creating a safe space for them (and myself), not taking things out of context, not overinterpreting. On the other side are my memories of growing up in a situation where guns, people, and bullets had to be rigorously kept apart, lest they find each other in a tragic moment of instability.
Edwards responded to the opinion piece by attacking the anonymous professor and drawing a false comparison between gun owners and LGBT people, claiming during the April 19 broadcast of his show, "Now imagine this piece written but instead of a gun owner, they’re talking about, I don’t know, any other group out there. ... Member of the LGBT community. A transgendered [sic] student. Any other identifying factor":
CAM EDWARDS (HOST): Now imagine this piece written, but instead of a gun owner, we're talking about, I don’t know, any other group out there. Vegetarian. Member of the LGBT community. A transgendered [sic] student. Any other identifying factor -- I don’t want to help this person because I don’t agree with them. Well this professor is in for a world of controversy, aren’t they? Probably have students demanding to know who this professor really is. Professor would probably worried about being dismissed from her job for being so intolerant. But when it comes to a woman who wants to own a firearm for self defense, nah it's OK for this professor to try to treat that student like dirt. As long as the student is not aware of it, mind you.
Edwards and the NRA have a well-established track record of comparing conditions placed on gun ownership to the experience of racial discrimination. In June 2013, Edwards compared gun owners in Colorado to victims of “segregation” following Colorado's adoption of stronger gun laws after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre and Aurora movie theater shooting. Edwards has also claimed that a requirement that Colorado students who own guns on campus must live in a designated dorm means "we are back to segregation now."
A July 2014 commentary video from the NRA compared modern gun regulations to “Jim Crow laws,” claiming current gun laws are “equally as unconstitutional” as laws that codified racial discrimination.
And in January 2013, former NRA president Marion Hammer compared Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) then-proposed ban on assault weapons to racial discrimination, claiming on the NRA's radio show, "Well, you know, banning people and things because of the way they look went out a long time ago. But here they are again. The color of a gun. The way it looks. It's just bad politics."
The NRA is now expanding this inaccurate and offensive comparison to the LGBT community.
NRA's Colion Noir: “You Don’t Have To Watch The News Longer Than An Hour To Realize That The Structure Of Society Can Go Downhill In A Heartbeat”
A bizarre video released by an NRA News commentator touted several reasons to own body armor, including the claim that “if you don’t like guns and want nothing to do with them, you have every right to make less than smart decisions with your life, but I can’t think of a more passive way to protect yourself from being shot than owning body armor.”
The video, “5 Reasons You Should Want Body Armor,” offers several arguments in favor of buying a plate carrier vest -- a piece of tactical gear that holds body armor -- and body armor plates to keep at home or carry while in public.
While most of Noir’s suggestions were apparently geared toward gun owners, he also recommended people who make “make less than smart decisions with your life” and “want nothing to do with” guns should still own body armor because he “can’t think of a more passive way to protect yourself from being shot”:
NOIR: Look, if you don’t like guns and want nothing to do with them, you have every right to make less than smart decisions with your life, but I can’t think of a more passive way to protect yourself from being shot than owning body armor. I’m not saying you have to channel your inner 50 Cent and wear a vest general purpose. But have armor in your home or bag, you have nothing to lose. You may not like guns or me for liking guns, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care about your safety.
In the video, Noir explains, “When people come to my place, it’s not the Rifle Dynamics AK-47 sitting on a coffee table that gives them pause; it’s my body armor,” before describing several other scenarios where he recommends owning body armor:
Noir often intertwines his commentary on guns with his commentary on women. In recurring segments on his show Noir, he narrated videos that appeared to be praising the appearance and personality attributes of an attractive woman, but at the end it is revealed that instead he was talking about the features of a high-end military-style assault weapon.
Noir’s pro-gun commentary is often inflammatory. In February, Noir said that a tax that he had to pay on a firearm purchase was “rape.” He later apologized for the claim.
Following the high-profile murder of two Virginia journalists who were shot to death during a live television broadcast in August 2015, Noir warned the victims' parents not to "become so emotional" in response to the shooting that they become advocates for stronger gun laws.
A National Rifle Association video falsely claims that President Obama gave Mexican drug trafficker “El Chapo” a .50-caliber sniper rifle in order to claim that the president may be on the “side” of drug cartels.
But the NRA video never mentioned that the gun in question was manufactured by an NRA board member or that the NRA has strongly opposed efforts to ban the sale of .50-caliber sniper rifles. The class of firearm is “among the most destructive weapons legally available to civilians” and has been linked by law enforcement to “terrorism, outlaw motorcycle gangs, international and domestic drug trafficking, and violent crime.”
In an April 15 video, NRA News commentator Dana Loesch criticized President Obama over news reports that a .50-caliber sniper rifle associated with Operation Fast and Furious was recovered at the hideout of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, who is widely known as “El Chapo,” following the narcotrafficker’s January arrest.
Fast and Furious was a failed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) operation to track firearms sold to traffickers at retail stores in the United States to high-level drug cartel figures in Mexico. The ATF lost track of many of the guns after they crossed the border, and the operation, which was terminated in 2011, became public knowledge after one of the guns was used to kill a U.S. Border Patrol agent. Fast and Furious was spun off of the botched Bush administration Operation Wide Receiver, which also failed to track trafficked guns to high-level targets.
While an independent investigation found that the failure of Fast and Furious was due to “flawed” tactical decisions on the ground, the NRA has long conspiratorially claimed that Obama and former Attorney General Eric Holder hatched the operation as a secret plot to cause violence in Mexico and thus justify more restrictive gun laws in the United States.
In NRA video, Loesch claimed, “El Chapo did not get that .50-cal from a [concealed handgun license] holder in Texas; he got it from Barack Obama and Eric Holder,” before asking, “Who's side are they on?”
It is well-established that Obama and Holder were not aware of Fast and Furious while the operation was underway. While the NRA continues to push conspiracies about the operation, even Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the primary congressional investigator into the failed sting, has said it is “important” to acknowledge that an independent investigation found that Holder was unaware of the program during its existence.
The independent investigation, undertaken by the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General, found that “ATF's Phoenix Field Division, together with the U.S. Attorney's Office, bore primary responsibility for the conduct of Operations Wide Receiver and Fast and Furious.” The investigation also debunked the NRA’s conspiracies about the purpose of Fast and Furious, finding “no evidence that the agents responsible for the cases had improper motives or were trying to accomplish anything other than dismantling a dangerous firearms trafficking organization.”
The NRA video also failed to mention the organization’s own role in making the .50-caliber sniper rifle -- a gun whose round “can penetrate structures and destroy or disable light armored vehicles, radar dishes, helicopters, stationary and taxiing airplanes” -- easily available to the public.
There is no federal law that specifically regulates .50-caliber rifles, meaning they can be purchased by anyone aged 18 or older who passes a background check at a licensed gun dealer (and in many states the rifle can be bought without a background check through the private sale loophole).
The NRA has long opposed proposals in Congress to ban the sale of the .50-caliber rifle, falsely arguing that .50-caliber weapons pose no danger to the public. In 2013, the gun organization successfully urged New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) to veto a .50-caliber rifle ban. The NRA also lobbied against a 2005 U.S. House of Representatives bill to restrict .50-caliber rifle ownership -- which it misleadingly labeled as a "hunting rifle ban" -- and has opposed state efforts to regulate the .50-caliber rifle in California and Hawaii. Other material from the NRA-ILA has falsely claimed, ".50 caliber rifles are not used in crimes -- .50 caliber rifles are too large and heavy to be employed in normal criminal behavior," and attacked critics of the .50-caliber sniper rifle as engaging in "phony terrorism hype."
The NRA has a financial interest in promoting access to the .50-caliber rifle. The inventor of the .50-caliber rifle, Ronnie Barrett, sits on the NRA board of directors. Barrett has maintained a close relationship with the NRA, and his company has donated between $50,000 and $99,000 to the gun group. In 2010, the NRA gave Barrett an award that recognized "exemplary achievement by individuals who were responsible for the development, introduction, and promotion of equipment that has made a profound and enduring impact on the way Americans shoot and hunt."
A commentary video from the National Rifle Association (NRA) falsely claimed that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found there were up to 3.3 million defensive gun uses each year in the United States. But the CDC has never released a study with that conclusion.
Moreover, the CDC is actually prevented from researching gun violence due to decades of NRA lobbying efforts.
In an April 7 video, NRA News commentator Dana Loesch, who is also a radio host for Glenn Beck’s The Blaze network, criticized Cosmopolitan for running recent features on women and gun violence, claiming the magazine is “sexist” and believes “women are less valuable than their potential rapists, and its rapists' feelings which we should prioritize rather than women’s safety.”
To support this claim, Loesch fabricated a statistic, stating a “CDC report commissioned by Barack Obama … shows that there are anywhere from 500,000 to 3.3 million instances of defensive gun use annually” and that the “CDC said that concealed carry is ‘a great deterrent to crime.’”
Loesch is likely referring to a 2013 Institute of Medicine and National Research Council (NRC) report requested by Obama in order to provide the CDC a possible research agenda should the agency be allowed to research gun violence.
One of the contributors to the report was criminologist Gary Kleck and included in the report is his repeatedly discredited research that claims that there are between 500,000 and 3 million defensive gun uses each year. The citation of Kleck's research in an NRC report is not indicative of the CDC’s conclusions about defensive gun uses, as Loesch falsely claimed.
The consensus view among gun violence researchers is that guns are used far more often to commit crimes than they are used to prevent crimes. Research has also found that defensive gun uses are so rare they are difficult to measure.
The NRA’s claim that the “CDC said that concealed carry is ‘a great deterrent to crime’” is also fabricated. Loesch may have been referring to more Kleck research in the NRC report which found “self-defense can be an important crime deterrent,” although the words quoted by Loesch do not even appear in the NRC report.
Loesch previously included fake historical Second Amendment quotes in her 2014 book about firearms, Hands Off My Gun: Defeating the Plot to Disarm America.
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent posted a racially derogatory image on his Facebook page that he said was an advertisement for a moving company called "2 niggers and a stolen truck."
In a March 31 post, Nugent shared the image with his comment: "Before all the braindead dishonest lying scum politically correct racist hatepunks get all goofball toxic on us here, I am simply promoting a brilliant entrepreneur in Detroit that created a clever bussiness. His words, not mine. Ya gotta luv this guy!! When in doubt whip it out!"
In addition to racist language, the image also has racial caricatures of black people:
Nugent, who wrote a column last year for conspiracy website WND praising the use of the word "nigger," even as a racial insult, frequently makes racially charged and otherwise inflammatory comments. Earlier in 2016, he caused widespread controversy for sharing anti-Semitic material on his Facebook page.
Nugent is up for re-election to the NRA's board during the gun organization's May 2016 annual meeting.
As the National Rifle Association (NRA) smears Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland as a threat to the Second Amendment by misrepresenting his judicial record, one of the NRA's top constitutional litigators is heaping praise upon Garland and his judicial temperament.
The NRA began its false attacks on Garland moments after he was nominated, repeating smears from the Judicial Crisis Network (JCN) -- a discredited right-wing group spending millions of dollars opposing Garland -- that dishonestly distorted Garland's involvement as a judge on the D.C. Circuit in two gun-related cases.
Running with JCN's smears, the NRA has baselessly claimed that Garland joining the Supreme Court "would mean the end of the fundamental, individual right of law-abiding Americans to own firearms for self-defense in their homes" and that the "fight over the confirmation of Judge Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court represents what could be a life-or-death decision for the right to keep and bear arms in this country."
Although widely viewed as a moderate whose disposition as a judge was routinely praised by conservative jurists, the NRA has unconvincingly claimed that Garland's nomination "could be the most divisive -- and to the Second Amendment, most dangerous -- appointment to the Court in history."
The NRA's dishonest and fiery rhetoric on Garland is at odds with the views of one of the organization's top constitutional litigators, conservative lawyer Charles J. Cooper.
Cooper, "a longtime stalwart of the Federalist Society" who often represents the NRA and other conservative interests in his private appellate litigation practice, praised Garland in a March 28 interview, saying his respect for Garland has only grown since he supported Garland's nomination to the D.C. Circuit in 1997.
In a 1997 letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Cooper noted that his legal philosophy differed from Garland's, but also wrote, "Not only is Merrick enormously gifted intellectually, but he is thoughtful as well, for he respects other points of view and fairly and honestly assesses the merits of all sides of an issue," and that should he be confirmed, "He would comport himself on the bench with dignity and fairness."
Asked about the letter by The Washington Post, Cooper said his "high opinion of Judge Garland has not changed -- indeed, it has only strengthened -- over the course of the 19 years since I wrote these words." (Cooper, however, does support Senate Republicans in obstructing Garland's nomination for political reasons.)
Cooper is one of the top conservative Second Amendment litigators in the country. In fact, the same day the Post published its interview with Cooper, he filed a brief on behalf of the NRA in a case involving a legal challenge to a Florida law that prevents doctors from asking patients certain questions about gun ownership.
He was involved in the landmark Second Amendment decision District of Columbia v. Heller, the opinion that the NRA baselessly claims Garland would overturn. Cooper is listed as the counsel of record for an amicus curiae brief filed on behalf of former employees of the Department of Justice in support of the conservative legal argument that the Second Amendment is an individual right. After Heller was decided, with a conservative majority finding the existence of an individual right, the NRA called Cooper's brief "especially worthy of note" when describing the "debt of gratitude" the NRA owed to other participants in the case.
Cooper continues to represent the NRA and NRA state affiliates in some of the group's most high-stakes litigation -- cases that have advanced to U.S. courts of appeal -- including the NRA's constitutional challenges to post-Newtown gun laws in Maryland and New York, cases involving challenges to age restrictions on gun ownership and carrying guns in public , and NRA challenges to states' use of discretion in issuing permits to carry concealed guns.
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent shared a sexist chain letter on social media, which claimed that "men prefer guns over women" because "guns function normally every day of the month."
Nugent's post is the latest example of a phenomenon where the NRA increasingly tries to attract women to the organization even as the organization's leadership engages in sexist and degrading commentary.
Nugent's March 24 post on Facebook listed several other reasons that "men prefer guns over women," including, "A gun doesn't mind if you go to sleep after you use it," and, "You can buy a silencer for a gun":
Nugent has a lengthy history of misogynist commentary, including calling women "worthless bitch," "worthless whore," "toxic cunt," "fat pig," and "dirty whore." He recently claimed -- while defending Donald Trump -- that he watches Fox News host Megyn Kelly's program "to just look at her. And I usually sit naked on the couch dropping hot brass on my stuff."
On March 16, President Obama announced his nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. Before the nomination, Media Matters explained how right-wing media would respond: by following their deceptive conservative playbook against the nominee, regardless of who it was. And that's exactly what they did. Right-wing media resurrected the same tired tactics they've used before to oppose Obama's judicial nominees -- distorting the nominee's record to push alarmist rhetoric, purposefully taking past statements out of context, and lobbing attacks based on the nominee's race, gender, or religion. In the last week, we've already seen many of these plays put into action, with conservative media predictably propping up dishonest talking points and false claims dedicated to obstruction.
The discredited conservative group Judicial Crisis Network (JCN) -- known as the Judicial Confirmation Network during the Bush administration, but now committed to opposing Obama judicial nominations -- has led the way in fearmongering around "one more liberal justice," attempting to re-cast Garland's record as that of an anti-gun, job-killing judicial extremist.
JCN began its misinformation campaign well before Garland's March 16 nomination, pushing myths about the records of several potential nominees at the National Review's Bench Memos legal blog, in press statements and attack ads, and in media appearances by JCN chief counsel Carrie Severino. On March 11, Severino authored a post on the Bench Memos blog attempting to smear Garland as "very liberal on gun rights" by grossly distorting actions he took on two cases pulled from his nearly two decades of judicial service, one of which did not even concern the Second Amendment. Severino cited Garland's 2007 vote to rehear a case on D.C.'s handgun ban and his 2000 ruling in a case related to the national background check system for gun purchases to draw this baseless conclusion. But she failed to note crucial context -- voting to rehear a case in what's called an en banc review does not indicate how a judge might theoretically rule, and in both cases, Garland either acted in agreement with colleagues or other courts across the ideological spectrum. Veteran Supreme Court reporters and numerous legal experts quickly and summarily debunked these misleading claims, but other right-wing outlets have further distorted them, and JCN has pushed the myths in subsequent attack ads and media appearances.
Following Garland's formal nomination, JCN released a series of "topline points" outlining its opposition, further misrepresenting Garland's guns record to falsely suggest he had "voted to uphold" D.C.'s handgun ban and "demonstrated a remarkable level of hostility to the Second Amendment," as well as contending Garland was "the sole dissenter in a 2002 case striking down an illegal, job-killing EPA regulation." Like its earlier attacks on Garland's supposedly "very liberal" guns record, JCN's newer claims about Garland's ruling in the 2002 EPA case also grossly distorted the facts.
Some mainstream outlets have uncritically echoed JCN's debunked "topline points" and attack ads on Garland's record, and these reports -- in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal, and on National Public Radio -- lend an air of undeserved legitimacy to the group's misinformation campaign against Garland.
National Review's Supreme Court coverage to date has continued its tradition of injecting context-free talking points into mainstream reporting on the nominee. Its legal blog, Bench Memos, has served as a testing ground for new smears against Garland, hosting several misinformation-filled posts from JCN's Severino that eventually made their way into mainstream reporting and broadcast coverage. In giving space for JCN and other right-wing legal pundits like contributor Ed Whelan to distort Garland's record, Bench Memos quickly made it clear that a lack of evidence is no reason to avoid making sweeping claims about the nominee.
Before Garland was nominated, National Review featured posts from both Severino and Whelan that attempted to smear several potential nominees. On March 7, Whelan questioned the intelligence of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson absent any evidence to suggest the accomplished federal judge was anything but qualified. That same day, Severino attempted to smear Judge Jane Kelly for fulfilling her constitutional duty of providing legal representation for an unsavory client while working as a public defender. In subsequent posts, Severino attacked Judges Sri Srinivasan and Paul Watford in a series aimed to undermine their reputations as "moderates" by misrepresenting a handful of their past decisions as "extremist."
Attacks on Garland, too, began before the March 16 nomination announcement; Severino's March 11 post on Bench Memos first floated what have since become widespread and false conservative talking points on Garland's record on guns. In the post, Severino claimed that Garland's vote to rehear a 2007 case related to the D.C. handgun ban and his joining of a ruling in a 2000 case related to the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System for gun purchases together indicated "a very liberal approach" to the Second Amendment and a desire to overturn the 2008 Heller Supreme Court decision on the Second Amendment. These attacks, which legal experts quickly and repeatedly debunked, continue to pervade media coverage of opposition to Garland's nomination.
Fox News figures have predictably latched onto conservative talking points to oppose Garland, broadcasting already debunked claims about Garland's record.
On March 16, Bret Baier, host of Fox's Special Report With Bret Baier, claimed in an interview with White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest that Garland "opposed Justice Scalia's take on the Second Amendment in the Heller case," misrepresenting both Garland's 2007 vote to rehear the D.C. handgun case and the case's relationship to a Supreme Court decision issued the following year. On Fox's The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly further distorted JCN's talking point, incorrectly stating that Garland had "voted to keep the guns away" from private citizens in D.C., another claim about the Supreme Court nominee that PolitiFact labeled false.
As Media Matters warned, the National Rifle Association (NRA) quickly began pushing these right-wing media claims to justify its involvement in obstruction efforts and to fearmonger about Garland.
Immediately following Garland's nomination on March 16, the NRA declared him "bad on guns." In a series of tweets reacting to the nomination, the NRA linked to the debunked March 11 Severino post on Bench Memos to claim that Garland would "vote to reverse" the Heller decision, and a Washington Times article pushing the same discredited claims with quotes from Severino, a spokesperson from the opposition research group America Rising Squared, and the extremist group Gun Owners of America.
Later that day, the NRA formally announced its opposition to Garland's nomination. The move predictably mirrored the NRA's efforts to distort Sonia Sotomayor's record and to launch an unprecedented and largely ineffective ploy to threaten senators' records over their votes to confirm Sotomayor to the Supreme Court in 2009. Days later, the executive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action explained the group's opposition in an op-ed in The Washington Post, regurgitating JCN's dishonest claims about Garland's 2007 en banc vote in the Parker case to fearmonger about the moderate judge.
The NRA's opposition to Garland helped elevate JCN's long-debunked talking points on Garland all the way to Senate Republicans leading the obstruction efforts. In a March 20 appearance on Fox News Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) explicitly cited the NRA's opposition to Garland as a sticking point for ongoing Senate obstruction, explaining that he "can't imagine that a Republican majority in the United States Senate would want to confirm, in a lame duck session, a nominee opposed by the National Rifle Association."