Conservative Media Smear Gun Safety Group Over American Sniper Internet Commenters
Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON
Fox News and other conservative media outlets are attacking gun safety group Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) by falsely claiming that the group insulted slain Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle. But CSGV did nothing of the sort. The attacks rely on blaming CSGV for statements made by commenters to its public Facebook page.
Kyle was a decorated veteran of the Iraq War who was well known for having 160 confirmed kills. In January 2013, Kyle published a book about his experiences, but was murdered just days later at a shooting range by a veteran allegedly suffering from PTSD. Kyle's life story has been turned into a movie, American Sniper.
During the January 13 edition of Fox & Friends, host Heather Nauert falsely claimed, "This morning the anti-gun group Coalition to Stop Gun Violence is blasting Kyle, inviting its Facebook users to trash the American hero." On-screen text included "Dishonoring A Hero" and "Anti-Gun Group Trashes Chris Kyle."
The January 13 edition of Fox & Friends First similarly claimed CSGV was "trashing Chris Kyle" and "taking swipes at the U.S. military's most lethal sniper," and later displayed a graphic asking, "Should This Group Be Trashing One Of Our Military Heroes Who Defended Our Freedom?"
The smear likely originated from a January 12 article at the conservative Washington Examiner that claims CSGV "is targeting Clint Eastwood's potential Oscar nominee 'American Sniper." As evidence, the Examiner links to an October 2, 2014, post by CSGV on its Facebook page that calls the upcoming movie an "Interesting project," while linking to a USAToday.com article about the film:
Some of the comments on the public post -- which can be commented on by anyone with a Facebook account -- are unkind towards Kyle, or worse. For example, the Examiner article points to one commenter who wrote, "Good Riddance," apparently referencing Kyle's death. According to the Examiner and other conservative media that have run with its story including Fox & Friends, Breitbart.com, and Fox Nation, CSGV is responsible for -- and even encouraged -- such commentary by writing about the film on Facebook.
As most Internet users know, comment sections for news articles and on social media can be awful places and it cannot be assumed that what people write in response to articles is endorsed by the author or news organization responsible for publishing the content.
Here are some comments unearthed by spending just a few minutes reading Fox Nation, including one where a commenter says "Iranian Witch" Valerie Jarrett, a senior Obama advisor, should be burned:
There are even offensive comments about Chris Kyle on Fox Nation, including this post that refers to Kyle as a "murderous psychopath":
The smear on CSGV appears to be a joint effort of Washington Examiner -- which broke the "story" -- and conservative group 2nd Vote that seeks to damage the gun safety group's funding.
Run by longtime conservative operative Chris Walker, the non-profit organization seeks to track the flow of money to liberal causes so that it can inform its conservative supporters' buying decisions. According to the Examiner, 2nd Vote "unearthed some of the disturbing comments" on CSGV's Facebook page. (In turn, 2nd Vote is now touting the Examiner write-up on its website.)
Citing 2nd Vote research on who funds CSGV, the Examiner wrote that CSGV's Facebook post opens up Pepsi, Walmart, Kroger, the NFL, and Macy's "to potential boycotts." The link is indirect, as the article explains those companies have given money to groups that have then provided grants to CSGV:
[American Sniper] is expected to be a hit, and the organizations and companies that support the coalition directly and indirectly could see fire from their right flank for not moving in to stop the attack on Kyle.
2nd Vote, a group that grades corporate politics, has identified several sponsors of the Coalition, such as the Urban League and YWCA, which get backing from Pepsi, Walmart, Kroger, the NFL and Macy's. Their support opens them up to potential boycotts.
"Americans' voices don't end on Election Day, they continue with the dollars they spend every day," said Chris Walker, executive director of 2nd Vote, which unearthed some of the disturbing comments.