Fox News hosted Larry Pratt, the leader of far-right group Gun Owners of America, to defend actor Vince Vaughn's recent comments on the Second Amendment, even though Pratt has repeatedly said politicians who support gun safety laws should fear being shot.
In a recent interview with British GQ, Vaughn argued that the purpose of the Second Amendment is “to resist the supreme power of a corrupt and abusive government” :
“I support people having a gun in public full stop, not just in your home. We don't have the right to bear arms because of burglars; we have the right to bear arms to resist the supreme power of a corrupt and abusive government. It's not about duck hunting; it's about the ability of the individual.”
During a June 2 appearance on Fox & Friends, Pratt defended Vaughn's insurrectionist view of the Second Amendment, stating, “I think Vaughn's point really needs to be emphasized. The right to keep and bear arms is enshrined in our Constitution in order to protect the people's right to protect themselves from tyrannical government.”
Fox & Friends hosted Pratt despite his long history of inflammatory commentary and radical interpretations of the Second Amendment. Notably, he has repeatedly stated that politicians who endorse gun violence prevention laws should fear being shot by GOA supporters. During a November 2014 interview, when Pratt was asked about his oft-made claim that politicians should have a “healthy fear” of being shot, he responded: “Sure, that is what the Second Amendment is all about.”
Pratt, who is considered to be one of the founding members of the 1990s right-wing militia movement, has engaged in extremism on the gun issue for decades.
In 1996, Pratt was forced to leave the presidential campaign of Republican Pat Buchanan after The New York Times reported “that he had spoken at rallies held by leaders of the white supremacist and militia movements” and published articles about guns the magazine of a white supremacist group. The Boston Globe subsequently reported Pratt “had attended a 1992 conference of militant white supremacists in Colorado in the aftermath of the shootout with federal agents at Ruby Ridge, Idaho,” whose attendees included the leader of the racist and anti-Semitic Christian Identity movement, a former KKK leader, and Aryan Nation officials. Pratt reportedly spoke out in favor of the creation of “armed militia” units at the meeting.
In the wake of the 1995 Oklahoma City Murrah Federal Building bombing, Pratt suggested that far-right anti-government extremist Timothy McVeigh was justified in carrying out the attack as a response to the government's conduct during the 1993 Waco standoff at the Branch Davidian compound. And in 2014, Pratt claimed that President Obama supports stronger gun laws to prevent Americans from using firearms “to keep people like him from becoming tyrants.”
In addition, Pratt has proposed that the government itself stages violence and civil unrest. Appearing on right-wing conspiracy theory radio shows, Pratt suggested that the 2012 mass shootings in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater and at Sandy Hook Elementary School may have been government-staged events.
More recently, Pratt claimed it was “reasonable” to suspect that Obama orchestrated the civil unrest in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray, going on to argue that police should have shot and killed rioters to bring calm to the city.
Despite Pratt's history of extreme right-wing views, national news shows sometimes treat him as a credible source on gun violence in the wake of mass shooting tragedies. Over the year-and-a-half following Sandy Hook, Pratt made 13 appearances on evening and Sunday cable news programs, even appearing on Fox News Sunday to discuss the one year anniversary of the mass shooting.
His reputation also hasn't been enough to scare away GOP presidential candidates. In May, Senator Ted Cruz agreed to remotely address a town hall meeting hosted by GOA.
Despite his history of extremism, Pratt continues to make appearances on cable television to discuss gun issues. When asked why major media outlets continue to host Pratt, freelance reporter Alexander Zaitchik, who has extensively written about Pratt, explained in a video series on Pratt's role in the gun-rights movement, “I think a big part of it is just attention span... and historical memory is getting shorter and shorter,” explaining that news outlets “seemed to think he was you know, springing up out of the ground and didn't have this long, multi-decade history of radicalism and extremism.” According to Zaitchik, Pratt also moderates his message while appearing on national television, saving his more extreme commentary for the fringe right-wing radio shows he frequents.