Steven Crowder

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  • Conservatives Baselessly Blame Attack On Black Lives Matter Movement With “#BLMKidnapping” Hashtag

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Conservatives are baselessly blaming the Black Lives Matter movement after a white man was kidnapped and attacked in Chicago. Four black people were arrested on January 4 after a Facebook Live video surfaced of a young white man with special needs being tied up, assaulted, and threatened. In the video, one of the assailants said, “Fuck Donald Trump, fuck white people.”

    Chicago police have filed hate crime and battery charges against the four suspects.

    Several conservatives and “alt-right” figures blamed the attack on the Black Lives Matter movement and used the social media hashtag #BLMKidnapping in discussions about the event. Yet the video does not reference Black Lives Matter and thus far, no connection between the assailants and Black Lives Matter has been established. CNN reported “police said they have not been able to make any connection to the Black Lives Matter activist group, contrary to some reports circulating on social media.”

    Paul Joseph Watson, editor-at-large for conspiracy theorist and Donald Trump ally Alex Jones’ website Infowars, was among the first to tie the attack to Black Lives Matter, with a Twitter post instructing others, “#BLMKidnapping is the hashtag to get this story trending.” Watson’s own write-up of the story on Infowars, which he linked to in his tweet, makes no mention of Black Lives Matter or a connection between the attack and the movement.

    Watson later described the victim of the attack as “the BLM torture victim” on Twitter.

    Rape apologist and “alt-right” figure Mike Cernovich wrote, “#BlackLivesMatter activists in custody after filming kidnapping video,” then used Watson’s hashtag to write, “#BLMKidnapping suspects are in custody.” He also described one of the suspects as a “#BLMKidnapping ring leader.” On his blog, Cernovich made the same assertion, without evidence to back it up.

    Lee Stranahan, a Breitbart contributor, questioned Cernovich’s assertions, particularly his claim that the attackers were Black Lives Matters supporters. Stranahan also pointed out that mainstream media reports on the attack had not mentioned Cernovich’s claims.

    In contrast to Stranahan, fellow Breitbart contributor Katie McHugh referenced “the victim of the Chicago #BLMkidnapping.”

    Fake news promoter and “alt-right” figure Jack Posobiec recorded a Periscope video about the attack with the #BLMKidnapping hashtag and claimed that the attackers were “members of Black Lives Matter in Chicago.”

    Trump supporter Bill Mitchell described the attack as a “#BLM atrocity” that “proves that given enough time, evil always shows its true nature.”

    Michael Flynn Jr., son of incoming Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, also labeled the event with the #BLMKidnapping in several tweets. Flynn was removed from the presidential transition team after it was reported that he helped to spread several fake news stories and conspiracy theories.

    Gavin McInnes, who has a history of making racist commentary, also used the hashtag.

    Conservative Steven Crowder wrote, “#BLMKidnapping and the media's reaction is proof positive that the left doesn't care about racism.”

    Conservatives have frequently, without evidence, blamed the Black Lives Matter movement for violence. Radio host Rush Limbaugh called them “a terrorist group committing hate crimes,” while frequent Fox News guest David Clarke called them a “subversive movement” attempting to “overthrow” the government. Fox host Sean Hannity compared Black Lives Matter to the Ku Klux Klan, Bill O’Reilly compared them to Nazis, and a Fox News graphic described it as a “murder movement.”

  • Conservative Media And The NRA Tout Deceptive Undercover Video That Says "Gun Show Loophole" Is "Nonexistent"

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    A video released by conservative commentator Steven Crowder that dishonestly suggested that it is not possible to buy a firearm at a gun show without a background check was touted by the National Rifle Association and conservative media despite its false conclusion.

    In 32 states, laws regarding background checks for gun sales have not been expanded beyond federal law, meaning that it is possible to engage in a "private sale" to buy a firearm at a gun show -- or other venues including over the internet and through newspaper classified ads -- without a background check.

    Under current federal law, individuals who are "engaged in the business" of selling firearms must obtain a Federal Firearms License (FFL) and run background checks on customers, while so-called "private sellers" who say they only engage in "occasional sales" do not have to run a background check. This discrepancy is what is known as the "gun show loophole" or "private sales loophole." Recent executive actions announced by President Obama seek to limit the scope of this loophole by clarifying that high-volume commercial gun sellers do need to obtain a license.

    On January 28, Glenn Beck's The Blaze released a video of Crowder's "undercover stunt" purporting to determine whether the "gun show loophole" exists. At the end of the video, Crowder concluded that the "gun show loophole" is "nonexistent."

    The video, which was broken into two parts, featured Crowder approaching various firearm vendors at gun shows where he tries and then fails to purchase a firearm without a background check.

    In the first section, Crowder unsuccessfully attempted to buy fully automatic machine guns without a background check. But rules surrounding the sale of automatic weapons have nothing to do with the "gun show loophole." Under the National Firearms Act (NFA), people who wish to own fully automatic weapons must obtain a license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) that includes undergoing a background check. (People were, however, exploiting a loophole in the NFA that allowed the background check requirement to be avoided by purchasing weapons through a trust. The ATF is currently finalizing a rule to close that loophole.)

    The real issue covered by the "gun show loophole" is the purchase of semi-automatic and other firearms from private sellers at gun shows without a background check, an occurrence Crowder purported to debunk in the second part of his video.

    In his video, Crowder is seen approaching gun vendors at a gun show in Crown Point, Indiana. Debunking Crowder's premise is reporting that indicates "private sales" without a background check have been allowed at that gun show.

    Crowder is seen engaging in bizarre interactions with vendors that result in him not being able to purchase a firearm without a background check. In one interaction, Crowder tells a vendor that he has DUI conviction because he ran over a pregnant woman with his car and that he previously shot someone.

    One of two things is occurring when Crowder fails to buy a gun from the vendors he approaches. Either his overtly strange behavior is raising red flags with vendors, or he is simply approaching licensed dealers (not "private sellers") who are required to perform background checks on customers.

    Some of the scenes were not even filmed at a gun show. In at least two scenes, Crowder is seen attempting to buy a gun without a background check from a brick and mortar gun store, and then expressing exasperation when they refuse to complete the sale. At one of the stores, Crowder is seen filling out the paperwork for a background check, but fails to complete it after he draws a penis on the form.

    According to actual undercover investigations of gun shows, many private sellers are willing to sell a gun to someone who discloses in a more subtle manner that they probably cannot pass a background check.

    Despite the absurdity of Crowder's video, it was widely cited throughout conservative media in order to attack the notion of the "gun show loophole." The video was also promoted by the National Rifle Association:

    Crowder's stunt is not original. In May 2014, Media Research Center released a video attempting to make the same claim. Unlike Crowder's video, MRC's video was not released in an undercover format, but it used the same tactic of approaching licensed dealers to create the misleading impression it is not possible to buy a gun without a background check at a gun show.

  • Raining On Fox's Tax Parade

    The "Rain Tax" That Never Was

    Blog ››› ››› MAX GREENBERG

    Source: The State of Maryland

    Fox News is attacking a new Maryland anti-pollution measure as a "rain tax," adopting the misleading frame of local politicians. But the program doesn't tax rain -- it taxes surfaces that lead to more pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, a vital ecosystem that generates major revenue for surrounding states.

    The program was signed into law in 2012 to meet an Environmental Protection Agency-issued pollution diet for the states surrounding the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The diet was required under the national Clean Water Act and instituted in response to "continued poor water quality" in the Bay. In order to pay for pollution management and habitat restoration, Maryland is instituting fees based on paved surfaces, which funnel a huge amount of pollution-laden stormwater runoff into gutters, eventually contributing to algal blooms and "dead zones" that kill fish and shellfish. 

    But following the lead of some local politicians, Fox News is misleadingly labelling it as a "rain tax," attacking the program on nine different Fox News or Fox Business programs between April 11 and 14. For instance, Neil Cavuto criticized the program on his Fox Business show, incorrectly characterizing it as a fee levied because some homes "disproportionately benefit from mother nature":

    But Maryland's plan does not tax households that receive more rainfall -- it taxes surfaces that ferry more pollution to the Chesapeake Bay. As the EPA explains, the great size of the Chesapeake Bay watershed in comparison to the Bay itself -- "a ratio much higher than any other comparable watershed in the world" -- makes it "highly susceptible to actions taken on the land, including those associated with agriculture, development, transportation and wastewater treatment." A significant amount of the nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment that reaches the Bay from stormwater runoff comes from Maryland. Plain soil acts as something of a filter and buffer for this pollution, and impervious surfaces take that benefit away. 

  • Fox News Contributor: "A High Percentage" Of Muslims "Hate Christians And Jews"; "The Real Problem Is The Quran"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox News contributor Steven Crowder continued Fox News' pattern of inciting intolerance against Islam, accusing a "high percentage" of Muslims of "hat[ing] Christians and Jews" and saying that "the real problem is the Quran."

    Crowder made his comments on Sean Hannity's Fox News show. Hannity aired a clip from a French news program in which an Egyptian official affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood declined to answer questions from Israeli journalists. Crowder reacted to the clip by saying, "Well, I mean, what it really comes down to is, a Muslim here, not too fond of the Jewish people. I'm not shocked. Then again, I've actually read the Quran. ... I'm not saying all Muslims hate Christians and Jews. But there's a high percentage, and it's because of the Quran, if you've read it."

    When fellow Fox News contributor Pat Caddell responded, "Let's stay with the real problem," Crowder replied, "That is the real problem. The real problem is the Quran."

    Later Hannity tried to clarify, saying, "This is important for Steve. Because people are going to hear you say the problem is the Quran. Do you make a distinction between Islam and radical Islam? Those that believe that in sharia, jihad, holy war, infidels."

    Crowder replied, "Here's the thing. I make distinctions between Muslims who may be peace-loving Muslims. There are Muslims out there who are that way. But when you read the Bible versus the Quran, they're two very different books. And here, here. Don't take my opinion. Open up the Quran, read a few chapters in any direction."

    In 2010 on Hannity's Fox show, Crowder said that the "truth is that Muslims tend to be more violent than Christians."