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Timothy Johnson

Author ››› Timothy Johnson
  • As turmoil within the NRA mounts, NRATV pretends nothing is wrong

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    A public feud between the National Rifle Association and its longtime ad firm Ackerman McQueen is escalating, creating a bizarre dynamic in which the ad firm continues its role producing the NRA’s media outlet even as it wages a scorched-earth campaign against the group’s leadership. Supporters of the Ackerman faction are now leaking embarrassing information about NRA CEO and Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre that could threaten his job as well as the NRA’s tax-exempt nonprofit status. Yet NRATV continues to put forward a facade of normalcy.

    The first public sign of trouble between the NRA and Ackerman -- which have worked together for nearly four decades -- was revealed in a March 11 article in The New York Times. Noting that NRATV “has adopted an increasingly apocalyptic, hard-right tone, warning of race wars, describing Barack Obama as a ‘fresh-faced flower-child president,’ calling for a march on the Federal Bureau of Investigation and comparing journalists to rodents,” the Times quoted NRA board members, including past NRA President Marion Hammer, expressing concern about NRATV’s direction. The Times reported that LaPierre was “livid and embarrassed” after NRA national spokesperson and Ackerman employee Dana Loesch aired an episode of her NRATV show -- first reported on by Media Matters -- that depicted Thomas the Tank Engine in a Ku Klux Klan hood in an attempt to criticize the children’s television show Thomas and Friends for adding diversity to its cast of characters.

    Then in April, the NRA sued Ackerman in Virginia state court, alleging that the ad firm has not fulfilled its contractual obligations to the NRA. The NRA’s complaint mentioned that it paid Ackerman $42.6 million in 2017 alone and alleged that Ackerman refused to turn over metrics that could be used to evaluate NRATV’s effectiveness and that it would not provide full details about a contract with then-NRA President Oliver North to produce an NRATV series. (The NRA would later update its legal complaint to accuse North of duplicitously attempting to draw a salary from both the NRA and Ackerman.)

    The conflict between the NRA and its own advertising firm came to a head during the 2019 NRA annual meeting, when a series of events pitted LaPierre and Brewer Attorneys & Counselors -- an outside legal contractor that allegedly costs the NRA nearly $100,000 per day -- against North and Ackerman McQueen. (Another strange aspect to the infighting: William Brewer, the CEO of Brewer Attorneys, is the brother-in-law of Ackerman McQueen CEO Revan McQueen.) As the meetings were unfolding, North sent the NRA board a letter alleging LaPierre participated in various financial misdeeds. LaPierre responded by accusing North of attempting to extort him and said he would not resign. In the end, LaPierre was reelected by the board of the directors, while North was ousted from the presidency after acknowledging he did not have the support of the board.

    That outcome appears to have done little to stem the infighting. In one recent major development, on May 10, the letter that North sent to the board leaked and its embarrassing claims about LaPierre’s spending became public. In recent years, LaPierre often used Ackerman to pay for things that the NRA would later reimburse. Among the expenses: more than $274,000 in clothing purchases from a single Beverly Hills, CA, clothing boutique, including as much as $39,000 spent in a single day, and an additional $267,000-plus for travel and rent, including $18,300 for a car and driver during a trip in Europe and $13,800 to rent an apartment for a summer intern. The letter also highlighted legal fees charged by Brewer that North said were exorbitant.

    NRATV has continued its regular broadcasts during this infighting, with no mention of any of these new developments. Ackerman has produced the NRA’s media operation since 2004, when the outlet was originally called NRA News. In 2016, NRA News changed its name to NRATV and massively expanded to become a 24/7 online broadcast. NRATV has three shows that broadcast live on weekdays; the rest of the airtime is filled with rebroadcasts, prerecorded series, and other videos from the massive NRATV archive.

    NRATV’s news-of-the-day show Stinchfield has continued its focus on the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, which the NRA terms the ”disarmament primary.” A snapshot of “disarmament primary” segments broadcast on May 15 and 16 shows the type of unhinged and apocalyptic claims that host Grant Stinchfield routinely makes about Democratic candidates:

    • On former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX): “The cornerstone of his [2018 Senate] campaign was to ban AR-15s, a dopey move, even if just by political standards. There are some 22 million gun owners in Texas, many of whom own AR-15s. So gaffe after gaffe put the privileged white kid from boarder school who goes by Beto in a dunce cap in the back of the disarmament primary room.” (Note: Texas has an estimated population of 28.7 million people, making Stinchfield’s claim about the number of gun owners in that state incredibly unlikely.) [NRATV, Stinchfield, 5/15/19]
    • On Sen. Kamala Harris’ (D-CA) comment that she would use executive actions to ban the imports of assault weapons: “She’s going to undermine the Second Amendment using executive orders. … The arrogance there, to think that she has a right to do that. We live in a representative government world here in the United States where we send people to Congress to have a say in the laws that are passed. She wants to make an end run around Congress, that’s what Kamala Harris is willing to do, use executive action in a tyrannical fashion to take away your rights.” [NRATV, Stinchfield, 5/15/19]
    • On New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio: “Another socialist gun grabber says he’s ready to be president. Let’s welcome New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to the disarmament primary. … He’ll take your money, he’ll take your guns and your home because that’s how his socialist mind works. But de Bozo is oh so late to this party.” [NRATV, Stinchfield, 5/16/19]
    • On former Vice President Joe Biden: “He declared that everyone is not entitled to a gun and … we should all ‘put a damn trigger lock on it, put it in a case, you have an obligation,’ he says. My only obligation, Sloppy Joe, is to keep my family safe. Don’t tell me how to store my firearm when you know nothing about them.” [NRATV, Stinchfield, 5/16/19]

    Stinchfield has also continued its regular attacks on the press. On May 16, Stinchfield ran three different segments on a local news story about preventing home burglaries. The reporter who wrote the story interviewed convicted burglars about what makes them more or less likely to target a home. According to the report, “That National Rifle Association (NRA) sticker on the door that once deterred burglars is now often viewed as a clue that valuable guns are in the home for the taking.” Stinchfield was apoplectic, apparently not grasping that the reporter wasn’t endorsing the interviewees’ views but was simply sharing what he was told. According to Stinchfield:

    The bottom line is this: The reporter’s apparent bias toward guns and the NRA got in the way of telling a meaningful story with some good tips. His credibility is shot now, to me, and sadly, most people will miss that little shot across the bow that he fires at the NRA in this piece. But this is what we’re up against: a mainstream media waging an information war against us. “How dare you be an NRA member,” they say. “How dare you show it proudly. If you do, you’ll be burglarized.” Give me a break.

    The theory that an NRA sticker could increase the odds of a burglary has come up in other recent local news investigations, and it has even been discussed in pro-gun media without allegations of a mainstream media conspiracy.

    NRATV’s two other live shows, Relentless, hosted by Dana Loesch, and Cam & Co., hosted by Cam Edwards, were unremarkable on May 15 and 16 , featuring criticism of Democratic presidential candidates and discussion of gun issues. In one segment characteristic of Loesch’s tendency to sometimes veer into bizarre commentary, Loesch cautioned NRATV viewers to make sure not to leave guns behind in public bathrooms or else “the disarmament left” could “use an accident in an attempt to get rid of your Second Amendment rights.”
     

    Despite his ouster as NRA president, North remains a prominent face at NRATV.com. That appears to be because he still works for Ackerman; his NRATV bio page currently describes him as “Past NRA President, Host.” (North also appears to continue to serve on the NRA board of directors. He was reelected to a three-year term at the annual meeting in voting that occurred before the latest NRA infighting became public.) On NRATV’s “series” page, North is seen alongside his nemesis LaPierre.  

    The show that North hosts, American Heroes, is a major part of the NRA’s lawsuit against Ackerman. In an updated legal complaint filed against Ackerman, the NRA alleged that the series did not deliver as many episodes as promised and did not generate as much sponsorship revenue for the NRA as expected. The few episodes that North and Ackerman have managed to produce so far are available for view at NRATV.com. Just four episodes have been released since the series’s launch in November 2018.

    The civil litigation between the NRA and Ackerman is in its earliest stages and there appears to be no end in sight for the gun group’s infighting. But for now, NRATV will continue to serve as the NRA’s messaging apparatus -- even as the PR company that produces it continues to cause massive public relations problems for the NRA.

  • Instagram is letting the NRA encourage harassment and threats against one of the gun group’s biggest critics

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The National Rifle Association is using social media to organize a harassment campaign against one of its prominent critics after she criticized the NRA for its opposition to the regulation of armor-piercing ammunition.

    In a May 8 Instagram post, the NRA criticized Shannon Watts, who leads gun safety organization Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, for taking issue with the group’s opposition to regulating armor-piercing ammunition.

    The NRA has long stymied attempts to restrict a particular type of armor-piercing ammunition known as “green tip” by promoting the falsehood that banning it would necessitate banning all other types of rifle ammunition. It also attacked the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in 2015 after the agency published a letter describing its intent to ban “green tip” pursuant to its interpretation of the Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act of 1985 (LEOPA). (While “green tip” was initially exempted from restrictions placed on armor-piercing ammunition in the LEOPA, the recent prevalence of the sale of handguns that can fire rifle rounds caused ATF to ask for the exemption to be removed. ATF’s request was not granted, but even if it was, all other types of rifle ammunition currently sold would have remained legal.)


    In its Instagram post about Watts, the NRA encouraged people to contact the advocate, writing, “Tell @ShannonRWatts (aka ‘Bloomberg’s chief lobbyist’) what you think about ammunition bans.” Unsurprisingly, Watts then received a torrent of harassment and death threats on the platform that targeted her and her family. She wrote on Twitter, “The @NRA just posted this to Instagram and now people are threatening to kill me. I guess the NRA is scared of a mom.”

    Following Watts’ tweet, the NRA doubled down with a new post that attacked her for moderating comments on her Instagram account with the claim, “Shannon Watts deleted 127 comments in 19 minutes.” In the caption, the NRA tagged Watts’ Instagram handle again, claimed that Watts was “deleting all of your thoughtful comments,” bizarrely claimed that Watts “despises” the First Amendment, and added the hashtag “#SorryNotSorry.”

    As Watts continued to be harassed, the NRA put up another post highlighting the fact that Watts had disabled comments on her Instagram page.The gun group again tagged Watts’ Instagram handle in the caption and pushed the falsehood that banning armor-piercing ammunition would mean banning “all rifle ammunition used for self-defense, sport, and hunting.”

    Many of the responses Watts got as a result of the NRA’s posts were vile. As the group encouraged people to contact her, Watts documented on Twitter the messages she received on Instagram, which included:

    The NRA could have claimed some plausible deniability about the threats and harassment that its initial Instagram post elicited. Instead, it openly encouraged a harassment campaign against Watts with its follow-up posts. And among the major social media platforms, the NRA picked a good one to use for a harassment campaign, as Instagram has been notably recalcitrant to take measures to stop harassment on its platform.

    As Taylor Lorenz explained in an October 2018 article in The Atlantic on Instagram’s harassment problem, “The platform is also a powerful discovery engine: On Instagram, it’s easy to search by hashtag or location and pull up thousands of people’s profiles and public images, and it’s simple for anyone who wants to mobilize an army to encourage trolls to pile on a specific person by tagging them in an image or story.”

  • New NRA President Carolyn Meadows: Rep. Lucy McBath won her House race because she is a “minority female”

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Update (5/7/19): Meadows released the following statement to The Washington Post apologizing for her comments: “I apologize to Rep. McBath and her supporters. My comments were insensitive and inappropriate. I did not intend to discredit the congresswoman or the merits of her campaign — only to reflect my view that the Second Amendment was not a prevailing factor in this election.”

    New National Rifle Association President Carolyn Meadows claimed that Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA) won her 2018 election to the U.S. House not because of her support for gun violence prevention, but because she is a “minority female.”

    Meadows was elected president of the NRA during an April 29 meeting of NRA board members following weeks of public infighting at the gun group. Her comments about McBath were reported in a May 5 article in the Marietta Daily Journal. As the Daily Journal related:

    Meadows’ own backyard will be part of the political battlefield as she and other right-leaning groups target U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, who represents Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District. Last year, McBath unseated then-incumbent Karen Handel, R-Roswell, who has announced her intention to run for the seat again.

    “There will be more than one person in the race, but we'll get that seat back,” Meadows said. “But it is wrong to say like McBath said, that the reason she won was because of her anti-gun stance. That didn't have anything to do with it — it had to do with being a minority female. And the Democrats really turned out, and that's the problem we have with conservatives — we don't turn out as well.”

    McBath ran for Congress in 2018 on a gun law reform platform following the murder of her son, Jordan Davis, by a man who later attempted to use the NRA-authored “Stand Your Ground” law as a legal defense in his criminal trial. Meadows also mentioned McBath in an interview published on April 30 in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, promising to direct NRA resources to the race in her home congressional district and saying that the NRA will endorse whoever runs against McBath in 2020.

    In addition to her work with the NRA, Meadows is the leader of an organization, the Stone Mountain Memorial Association (SMMA), that blocked a 2015 proposal to construct a monument to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Stone Mountain, GA. According to the SMMA board of directors, which Meadows chairs, the King memorial would have conflicted with the massive memorial to the Confederacy that the SMMA maintains at Stone Mountain. Stone Mountain is also the site where the second iteration of the Ku Klux Klan was launched with a cross burning ceremony in 1915. In his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech, King said, "Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia."

  • New NRA President Carolyn Meadows helped block construction of bell tower honoring Martin Luther King Jr. in 2015

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Newly elected National Rifle Association President Carolyn Meadows led an organization that blocked a proposal to construct a bell tower honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Stone Mountain, GA. The organization viewed the proposed tower as antithetical to a monument honoring the Confederacy located at the same site.

    Meadows, who sits on the NRA board of directors and was serving as the group’s second vice president, was elected president of the NRA during an April 29 meeting of NRA board members following weeks of public infighting that led to the ouster of President Oliver North. According to a report from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, following her election, Meadows declined to discuss NRA infighting but said the NRA was gearing up for the 2020 elections and focused in particular on defeating Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA), who represents the district where Meadows lives. McBath ran for Congress in 2018 on a gun law reform platform following the murder of her son Jordan Davis by a man who later attempted to use the NRA-authored “Stand Your Ground” law at his criminal trial.

    In addition to her work with the NRA, Meadows is the chairman of the Stone Mountain Memorial Association (SMMA), an organization that maintains the largest memorial to the Confederacy in the United States. Stone Mountain, GA, features an enormous relief carving that depicts Confederate leaders Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis on horseback. A 2017 article in Smithsonian magazine noted that “the monument in question is carved 42 feet deep and 400 feet above ground into a granite mountain” and “is a testament to the enduring legacy of white supremacy.”

    In 2015, the CEO of SMMA proposed constructing a tower with a replica of the Liberty Bell on top of Stone Mountain to honor King. In his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech, King said, "Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia."

    Press reports from 2015 indicated that the proposal would go forward, but the bell tower has not been built. As The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in January, “the park’s all-white governing board decided” that “such a monument would clash with the legislated purpose of the state-owned park as a memorial to the Confederacy.” Meadows is a member of that governing board, having served continuously since at least 2011 via appointments by former Republican Gov. Nathan Deal. According to SMMA meeting minutes, Meadows has served as the group’s chairman dating back to at least 2013.

    In addition to being the location of the largest Confederate memorial in the United States, Stone Mountain is closely associated with the Klu Klux Klan. KKK leader William Simmons “ushered in the modern era of the Ku Klux Klan, founding the Second KKK at the top of Stone Mountain on November 25, 1915,” in an event that included a cross burning and that signaled “a new era of white nationalist terrorism,” according to Smithsonian magazine. Plans for the Confederate memorial were already being made at the time of the Klan ceremony, but the project ended up being shuttered for several decades and was revived only following right-wing anger over the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision ending school segregation. The monument was eventually completed in 1972.

    The NRA -- which falsely calls itself the U.S.’s “oldest civil rights organization” -- and its media arm often use the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday to distort King’s comments and actions relating to gun ownership to portray King, a committed nonviolent activist who was felled by an assassin's bullet, as a pro-gun advocate.

    Attempts to build the King monument have recently been revived. According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the idea to erect a Liberty Bell on Stone Mountain to honor King was discussed at an April 2018 event Meadows attended. After the event, Meadows was asked by a reporter about the proposal and claimed she hadn't previously heard of the idea, even though the idea of a bell tower memorial to King on the mountain made national news in 2015. And according to SMMA meeting minutes from June 16, 2015, Meadows recognized Georgia resident Mark Pozner to speak at the meeting in favor of placing a plaque honoring King at Stone Mountain because of his “I Have a Dream” speech. The minutes say, “Ms. Meadows thanked Mr. Pozner for his comments and stated the board would look at his request.” The CEO of SMMA had in fact been considering a memorial as well, and he spearheaded the 2015 effort to get a bell tower built.

  • New NRA President Carolyn Meadows chairs the board of directors for the largest Confederate monument in America

    Smithsonian magazine: “The Georgia landmark is a testament to the enduring legacy of white supremacy”

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Carolyn Meadows, who is succeeding Oliver North as president of the National Rifle Association, is also the chairperson of the Stone Mountain Memorial Association, an organization that maintains the largest memorial to the Confederacy in the United States.

    Meadows, who sits on the NRA board of directors and was serving as the group’s second vice president, was elected president of the NRA during an April 29 meeting of NRA board members. She will succeed North, who was ousted from the NRA amid infighting that pitted a faction led by NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre against North and Ackerman McQueen, an ad firm that is deeply enmeshed with the NRA and produces the NRA’s media operation, NRATV. LaPierre, who North said engaged in financial improprieties in his role as NRA CEO, was reportedly unanimously reelected CEO by the board.

    Meadows is listed by the Stone Mountain Memorial Association website as chairperson of the organization’s board of directors. According to her site bio, “She has been actively involved in the Republican Party since 1964 and served as Georgia’s National Chairwoman for 12 years,” and she is also a board member of the American Conservative Union, the group that hosts the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

    Stone Mountain, GA, features an enormous relief carving that depicts Confederate leaders Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis on horseback. A 2017 article in Smithsonian magazine notes that “the monument in question is carved 42 feet deep and 400 feet above ground into a granite mountain” and “is a testament to the enduring legacy of white supremacy.”

    Stone Mountain is also closely associated with the revival of the Ku Klux Klan. KKK leader William Simmons “ushered in the modern era of the Ku Klux Klan, founding the Second KKK at the top of Stone Mountain on November 25, 1915,” in an event that included a cross burning and signaled “a new era of white nationalist terrorism,” according to Smithsonian magazine. Plans for the memorial were already being made at the time of the Klan ceremony, but the project ended up being shuttered for several decades and was only revived following right-wing anger over the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision ending school segregation. The monument was eventually completed in 1972.

    Meadows is not the only prominent NRA official to support Confederate symbols. NRA board member Ted Nugent, who was reelected during the 2019 NRA annual meeting, has long been an outspoken defender of the Confederate flag. Previous NRA President Jim Porter, who served two years as president beginning in 2013, was also an apologist for the Confederacy, having once stated, “NRA was started 1871 right here in New York state. It was started by some Yankee generals who didn't like the way my Southern boys had the ability to shoot in what we call the 'War of Northern Aggression.'”

    The NRA often calls itself the oldest civil rights organization in America, although that isn’t true.

  • NRATV host attacks Sen. Bernie Sanders over a fake Sanders Twitter account 

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    The National Rifle Association’s media operation NRATV aired a tweet sent by an obviously fake Bernie Sanders account, with NRATV host Grant Stinchfield falsely claiming that Sanders asked on Twitter, “Who cares about a few terrorists?”

    The April 25 broadcast of NRATV show Stinchfield had a segment on Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) position that all people in prison should be allowed to vote, regardless of the crime they were convicted for. Stinchfield mentioned that entertainer Cher had criticized Sanders' proposal on Twitter and creduously quoted a fake Sanders account that had responded to Cher's tweet. The account using the name “President Bernie Sanders” and the handle “@Ryan35186771” had written: “Why are you playing into this? Who cares about a few terrorists?”

    Stinchfield represented that Sanders actually sent the tweet, saying, “It may be one of Bernie Sanders’ responses to Cher that is the most offensive. ‘Who cares about a few terrorists,’ he writes.” The NRATV host went on to say: “We care, Bernie Sanders and your supporters. We care about terrorists not voting from behind bars. The 5 1/2 million members of the NRA care because we love this country”:

    GRANT STINCHFIELD (HOST): The fact is it may be one of Bernie Sanders’ responses to Cher that is the most offensive. “Who cares about a few terrorists,” he writes. Who cares about a few terrorists? I would argue the family members of hundreds of victims of the Boston bombings, that’s who, all of us who lived through 9/11, who knew people who died there and felt it first hand, what jihad means and what it is: Death to America. We care, Bernie Sanders and your supporters. We care about terrorists not voting from behind bars. The 5 1/2 million members of the NRA care because we love this country.

    Stinchfield often broadcasts patently false information on his NRATV show. On Election Day 2016, Stinchfield read from and discussed an article in an NRA magazine about the supposed horrors a Hillary Clinton presidency would bring while urging people not to vote for her. The article -- which raised the prospect of Syrian refugees establishing an “Islamic State in the United States” culminating in a nuclear attack on U.S. soil -- was labeled “fiction” by the NRA magazine.

  • Fox News gives credence to a nativist vigilante militia that allegedly was plotting to kill prominent liberals 

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON & LIS POWER

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    After a far-right militia received national notoriety over its detention of a large group of asylum seekers at gunpoint on the U.S.-Mexico border, Fox News segments on the incident credulously allowed the group to argue the legitimacy of its actions. Fox also mentioned a new way the group is fundraising after some payment processors said they would not work with the group.

    The militia, United Constitutional Patriots (UCP), received widespread attention last week after it posted a video to its Facebook page showing group members armed with firearms detaining almost 300 migrants on the U.S. side of the southern border. The militiamen forced the migrants to halt their movement, a fact the American Civil Liberties Union says constitutes illegal kidnapping. It is not illegal to enter the U.S. to seek asylum -- in fact, U.S. law requires claims to be made from within U.S. borders or at a port of entry. In the video, at least one militia member also falsely identified himself as a member of U.S. Border Patrol, echoing a common tactic of the group in which members seek to give migrants they encounter the impression they are law enforcement officers.

    On April 20, the FBI arrested UCP leader Larry Mitchell Hopkins on charges of possessing firearms and ammunition as a felon. Hopkins’ lengthy criminal record includes a conviction for impersonating a police officer. In charging documents, the FBI also noted that it received a tip in 2017 that the group was plotting to assassinate former President Barack Obama, former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, and philanthropist George Soros.

    Despite the group's criminal history, Fox News has treated its legitimacy as an open question. During an April 22 segment of Your World with Neil Cavuto discussing UCP, Fox News contributor and Fox Business host Charles Payne said, “Citizens that are taking up arms, trying to assist. … It's apparent to the world that we've got a crisis down there and they're trying to help out.”

    Other segments on Fox News credulously promoted the group’s claims of legitimacy, with a Fox News correspondent noting UCP members “see themselves, as their group name suggests, as patriots, not vigilantes,” and Fox News’ Melissa Francis highlighting UCP’s claim that it has come under law enforcement scrutiny for “stopping illegals” due to “political pressure.”

    Other segments on Fox News have mentioned a new way the group is attempting to raise money after the notoriety of the viral migrant detention video caused the group to be kicked off of PayPal and GoFundMe.

    Fox News has long shown sympathy to far-right armed groups. In 2014, Fox News personalities took the side of Cliven Bundy and his supporters, who were threatening violence against the government during an armed standoff sparked by a dispute over unpaid cattle grazing fees. Fox Business host Lou Dobbs was also a vocal supporter of the since-disbanded anti-immigrant vigilante Minuteman Project despite the obvious extremism of the group and its members. One of the founders of that group was later sentenced to death for murdering a 9-year-old girl and her father, while another group leader was later convicted of child molestation.

  • Facebook’s fact-checking operation partnering with division of Tucker Carlson’s toxic Daily Caller website

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Check Your Fact, a division of Tucker Carlson’s far-right and falsehood-laden Daily Caller website, is the newest member of Facebook’s fact-checking consortium.

    Facebook’s fact-checking program has struggled in its efforts to control the spread of misinformation on its platform. And the program’s new inclusion of Check Your Fact, a subsidiary of an odious right-wing platform with dubious funding sources, will do little to boost confidence. (Disclosure: In March 2018, Check Your Fact fact-checked a claim that I made about the National Rifle Association, rating the claim “true.”)

    The news about Check Your Fact possibly becoming a part of Facebook’s fact-checking project started circulating last year. In order to participate in Facebook’s program, fact-checking groups must become members of journalism school Poynter’s International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), and Check Your Fact was accredited by IFCN in 2017. According to The Wall Street Journal, in the summer of 2018, Facebook executive and former George W. Bush administration official Joel Kaplan started pushing for it to be included in Facebook’s fact-checking project. But other executives at Facebook were opposed to its inclusion because of falsehoods promoted by The Daily Caller, and debate over the matter ended after Check Your Fact lost its IFCN accreditation in November 2018:

    This summer, Mr. Kaplan pushed to partner with right-wing news site The Daily Caller’s fact-checking division after conservatives accused Facebook of working only with mainstream publishers, people familiar with the discussions said. Conservative critics argued those publications had a built-in liberal bias.

    Mr. Kaplan argued that The Daily Caller was accredited by the Poynter Institute, a St. Petersburg, Fla.-based journalism nonprofit that oversees a network of fact-checkers. Other executives, including some in the Washington, D.C. office, argued that the publication printed misinformation. The contentious discussion involved Mr. Zuckerberg, who appeared to side with Mr. Kaplan, and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. The debate ended in November when The Daily Caller’s fact-checking operation lost its accreditation.

    Indeed, according to public assessments of Check Your Fact published by IFCN, the operation has not always been in full compliance with requirements about public disclosure of funding. In Check Your Fact’s most recent application, which led to its new accreditation, the operation discloses that it is funded via Daily Caller's general operating budget, the website's ad revenue, and a $100,000 grant from The Daily Caller News Foundation (DCNF) that was provided by the Searle Freedom Trust.

    Searle Freedom Trust is a right-wing foundation that has funded a plethora of conservative groups -- including the American Legislative Exchange Council, Americans for Prosperity, and the American Enterprise Institute -- and has backed efforts to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act. The foundation has also given money to DonorsTrust, a pass-through organization affiliated with the Koch brothers that is used to anonymously fund right-wing causes.

    The DCNF, which was also founded by Tucker Carlson, presents itself as a charity, but questions have been raised about whether its purpose is actually to increase profits at the Daily Caller. As an investigation published by the Center for Media and Democracy explained, DCNF’s primary purpose appears to be to generate content that is then used by the for-profit Daily Caller website:

    The Daily Caller claimed in its 501(c)(3) application to the IRS and on its website that the foundation deserves its charity status because it “is a consumer research educational organization” whose goal is to provide “consumer news and research” to “mainstream consumers,” and because it licenses its content to other news outlets free of charge and has a mission “to train up-and-coming reporters and editors.”

    But CMD’s analysis indicates that one of the Daily Caller News Foundation’s primary activities is to provide The Daily Caller Inc. with a steady stream of content for its for-profit news website.

    The Daily Caller Inc. acknowledges this activity in its promotional materials for advertisers. In its 2016 advertising deck, The Daily Caller Inc. touts the nonprofit’s influence, stating, “The Daily Caller News Foundation has an advantage that most new media outlets do not: access to millions of views. Reporting created by The Foundation is automatically sent for consideration to the for-profit Daily Caller.”

    While Check Your Fact claims to have editorial independence from the Daily Caller, both entities are divisions of Daily Caller Inc. The Daily Caller is a fount of right-wing misinformation. According to an analysis conducted by data journalism professor Jonathan Albright, the Daily Caller is one of the leading online traffic drivers of misinformation alongside Breitbart News and YouTube.

    In particular, the Daily Caller has published false information about climate change for years. In a 2011 incident that reportedly embarrassed some employees of the outlet, the Daily Caller published a false report claiming the Environmental Protection Agency wanted taxpayers to fund the hiring of 230,000 new workers to implement climate regulations at a cost of $21 billion. The claim was made on a misreading of legal documents, but the Daily Caller refused to issue a correction to its clearly incorrect report. More recently, the Daily Caller has distorted academic research on climate change, falsely claimed that an increase in population of two penguin species disproves global warming, and pushed false information about the connection between climate change and extreme weather events.

    The Daily Caller is also home to right-wing extremism. Among some recent lowlights, the website has repeatedly published white nationalists and anti-Semites, hired a writer who pushed the Pizzagate child trafficking conspiracy theory and conspiracy theories about murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, promoted a Holocaust denier, and published and then deleted an anti-Semitic video that targeted a New York Times reporter.

    Alex Kaplan contributed research to this post.

  • NRATV has hosted a contributor to a white nationalist publication 32 times

    Eight of the appearances were on NRA national spokesperson Dana Loesch’s show

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    The National Rifle Association’s media operation NRATV has hosted anti-immigration activist Michael Cutler 32 times dating back to March 2018. Cutler, who worked as an agent for the now-defunct U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, has contributed a large number of articles to a white nationalist journal and has ties to other white nationalist-affiliated groups.

    The NRA has long used immigrants as a boogeyman to rile up its supporters, and Cutler has become the organization’s go-to commentator for its inflammatory media operation NRATV. Since March 2018, Cutler has made 24 appearances on NRATV program Stinchfield, a news of the day program, and eight appearances on Relentless, which is hosted by NRA national spokesperson Dana Loesch. Cutler’s most recent NRATV appearance was on April 15.

    In addition to being a frequent NRATV guest, Cutler is a contributor to white nationalist journal The Social Contract. The Southern Poverty Law Center notes that the publication “routinely publishes race-baiting articles penned by white nationalists” and that the group, The Social Contract Press, that publishes the journal was founded “by John Tanton, the racist founder and principal ideologue of the modern nativist movement.” According to SPLC, The Social Contract Press “puts an academic veneer of legitimacy over what are essentially racist arguments about the inferiority of today's immigrants.” A search of the journal’s website returns 20 articles Cutler authored, including six articles published since 2017. In 2018, Cutler wrote an anti-immigration booklet for The Social Contract, the foreword of which was authored by Social Contract Editor Wayne Lutton. Lutton is “a stalwart on the racist speaking circuit” who has ties to white nationalists and Holocaust deniers, according to SPLC.

    Cutler is also listed as a former fellow on the Center for Immigration Studies website. Like The Social Contract, CIS is a project of Tanton’s that has promoted white nationalism. Additionally, Cutler has written extensively for Californians for Population Stabilization, a group that employed a neo-Nazi and received funding from the now defunct pro-eugenics Pioneer Fund.

    During Cutler’s April 15 NRATV appearance, he and NRATV host Grant Stinchfield fearmongered about the prospect of terrorism being carried out by undocumented immigrants. The appearance was typical of NRATV’s false characterization of undocumented immigrants as a public safety threat. Here are a few more examples from some of Cutler’s other NRATV appearances:

    • During a January 3 appearance on Relentless, Loesch and Cutler discussed their false claim that nearly 8 million undocumented immigrants attempted to buy firearms at gun stores in 2018. The claim appears to have come from a since-corrected Washington Examiner column written by NRA shill Paul Bedard that grossly misinterpreted government data. During his appearance, Cutler also suggested giving driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants would spur vehicle terror attacks in the U.S.
    • While introducing Cutler during a May 17 appearance on NRATV, Stinchfield said, “I’ve gone from one crime scene to the next over and over again. I’ve seen people with their throats slit. I’ve seen people raped and murdered and tortured. I’ve seen child and children molested by illegals -- yes Americans too. They’re all animals.” Cutler responded by saying, “Thank you for having me and thank you for telling the truth to your audience.” Later in the appearance, Cutler speculated that “Iranian sleeper cells” and other terrorists could take advantage of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that protects undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children from deportation.
    • During an October 25 broadcast that featured Cutler, Stinchfield described caravans of immigrants from Central America as “giant mobs of migrants” that are attempting an “invasion” of the U.S. and claimed “very, very dangerous” migrants are being brought to the U.S. so that they can vote for Democrats. For his part, Cutler suggested Hezbollah and Hamas could be behind the migrant caravans.

    Beyond hosting Cutler, NRATV has relentlessly demonized undocumented immigrants. According to a Media Matters analysis, Stinchfield broadcast 54 segments that fearmongered about undocumented immigrants during the 2018-2019 government shutdown, which was a result of President Donald Trump’s demand that Congress fund a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

    NRATV also repeatedly promoted the conspiracy theory that claimed George Soros was funding migrant caravans. In October 2018, a gunman inspired by a similar conspiracy theory carried out a mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA. NRATV continued to promote the Soros conspiracy theory following the shooting. White nationalist talking points about immigration have also been broadcast on NRATV, including the claim that liberals are attempting to “import a new populace” from “the Third World” to replace U.S. voters.

    The extremism broadcast on NRATV, which is produced by PR firm Ackerman McQueen for the NRA, may be causing a problem at the gun organization. The Wall Street Journal reported on April 15 that the NRA is suing Ackerman McQueen for allegedly failing to turn over information about NRATV metrics and other matters. As The New York Times reported, the lawsuit appears to be connected to concerns by some members of NRA leadership about NRATV’s inflammatory broadcasts:

    Since Ackerman created NRATV in 2016, it has often been “perceived by the public as the voice of the N.R.A.,” according to the rifle association’s complaint. It has also taken on an apocalyptic tone, warning of race wars, calling for a march on the Federal Bureau of Investigation and portraying the talking trains in the children’s show “Thomas & Friends” in Ku Klux Klan hoods.

    The New York Times reported this year that two prominent N.R.A. board members were among those voicing alarm inside the association that NRATV was often straying beyond gun rights. The Times article also revealed that Ackerman had a previously undisclosed financial relationship with [NRA President Oliver North].

  • What to know about ADOS, a group targeting Black progressives

    ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G. & TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    American Descendents of Slavery (ADOS) is an obscure pro-reparations group that has been attacking prominent Black progressives who also support reparations. There is evidence that ADOS is actually advancing a right-wing agenda, and while it calls itself progressive, it pushes anti-immigrant views. Supporters of ADOS have carried out harassment campaigns against political activist, rapper, and reparations supporter Talib Kweli and against progressive radio host Mark Thompson. Thompson is in favor of reparations, but he criticized ADOS on MSNBC and got into an altercation with an ADOS supporter who was harassing him and now ADOS supporters are attempting to get him fired from his job at Sirius XM.