Fox Hypes Bogus Theory That ATF Operation Meant To Lay Groundwork For Stricter Gun Laws

Continuing its pattern of hyping ridiculous conspiracy theories to attack the Obama administration, Fox News baselessly suggested that the ATF's Operation Fast and Furious was deliberately designed to go badly in order to justify stricter U.S. gun laws. In fact, even a report prepared for House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) refutes this theory.

Fox Forwards Theory That ATF Operation “Was Allowed To Happen To Justify Tougher Gun Laws In The U.S.”

Fox Correspondent La Jeunesse: “Some Say [Operation Fast And Furious] Was Innocent, Others Believe It Was Allowed To Happen To Justify Tougher Gun Laws In The U.S.” On the June 13 edition of Fox News' supposed “straight news” program Special Report, Fox News correspondent William La Jeunesse correctly noted that a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives operation “put thousands of guns into the hands of Mexican cartels with the intent of seeing where those guns were going.” But later in the segment, La Jeunesse treated the bogus theory that the operation “was allowed to happen to justify tougher gun laws in the U.S.” as an equally plausible explanation for the program. From the segment:

BRET BAIER (host): Congress today looked into a secret government project to track guns to Mexican drug cartels that allegedly backfired in a spectacular and deadly fashion. Correspondent William La Jeunesse reports on the inquiry into Operation Fast and Furious.


ISSA: The American people deserve prompt and complete answers to the questions surrounding this operation.

LA JEUNESSE: House Government Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa laid the legal groundwork to hold in contempt the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Director Ken Melson and potentially Attorney General Eric Holder over their refusal to hand over documents regarding Operation Fast and Furious, the administration's secret program that put thousands of guns into the hands of Mexican cartels with the intent of seeing where those guns were going. Yet publicly it blamed U.S. gun stores.

BARACK OBAMA: More than 90 percent of the guns recovered in Mexico come from the United States.

LA JEUNESSE: For months the administration ignored Issa's subpoena for reports explaining how Fast and Furious got started, communications between the FBI and the ATF over guns related to the death of Border Agent Brian Terry, and documents between the ATF and the DOJ regarding Fast and Furious.

ISSA: Now the question is “Will DOJ give us the documents or will law enforcement officials little by little, as whistleblowers, give us exactly what we want to show that this problem goes to the highest levels?”

LA JEUNESSE: Documents show ATF allowed Jaime Avila to buy 47 weapons after it knew he smuggled them to Mexico, including the one that killed Agent Terry. The ATF also let Uriel Patino buy more than 600 guns, including dozens of AK-47s, while agents watched him on video camera.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD): We can issue subpoenas, we can demand documents, and we can conduct depositions. But we have to exercise that authority responsibly.

LA JEUNESSE: Some Democrats and the Department of Justice fear releasing the documents could hurt an inspector general's investigation. Today's panel disagreed.



LA JEUNESSE: The president told Mexican TV Fast and Furious was a mistake. Some say it was innocent, others believe it was allowed to happen to justify tougher gun laws in the U.S. [Fox News, Special Report, 6/13/11]

Fox's MacCallum: “The Program's Aim Was To ... Build Up Evidence That Would Blame Cartel Violence On Gun Stores And Owners And Lax U.S. Gun Laws.” During a segment on the June 14 edition of Fox News' America Live discussing Operation Fast and Furious, guest host Martha MacCallum correctly reported that the operation's “aim was to try to track gun sales in Mexico, to Mexico, rather.” But MacCallum added, incorrectly, that the operation sought to “blame cartel violence on ... lax U.S. gun laws.” From the segment:

MacCALLUM: We have breaking news on the botched U.S. gun operation that intentionally put guns in the hands of drug cartel members in Mexico and the investigation into whether those guns were used in murders. Now, the House Oversight Committee is set to release a stunning new report today that we're hearing will suggest that the Justice Department supervised the program and then tried to stonewall attempts to find out what really happened when the program went awry in Mexico.


MacCALLUM: So we are now awaiting the official release of this report from the House Oversight Committee on what was called the Operation Fast and Furious. Now, the program's aim was to try to track gun sales in Mexico, to Mexico, rather, and to build up evidence that would blame cartel violence on gun stores and owners and lax U.S. gun laws, OK? Now, Attorney General Eric Holder claims neither he nor the president authorized this operation that essentially sent guns into Mexico in the hopes of following them and figuring out where they were going, and then they were used in murderous ways. [Fox News, America Live, 6/14/11] “Critics Of The Program” Say Project Aimed To Track Gun Sales “To Build Up Evidence To Publicly Blame Cartel Violence On U.S. Gun Store Owners And Lax American Gun Laws.” From a June 13 article by La Jeunesse:

Since Watergate, Congress has held just 12 senior U.S. government officials in contempt for failure to produce subpoenaed documents. On Monday, that process begins again.

A hearing in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is laying the groundwork to compel U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and the head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to turn over documents related to “Operation Fast and Furious,” a secret Obama administration program that put thousands of guns into the hands of Mexican drug cartels.

Fast and Furious aimed to track gun sales to Mexico, allegedly, say critics of the program, to build up evidence to publicly blame cartel violence on U.S. gun store owners and lax American gun laws. [, 6/13/11]

In March, Fox “Straight News” Program Hosted NRA's LaPierre To Push Theory That Government Tried To Create “A River Of Guns” Flowing Into Mexico For “Political Advantage.” On March 10, Fox News' Happening Now hosted National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre to discuss the ATF program. LaPierre asserted that “the Obama administration, Hillary Clinton and Attorney General [Eric] Holder have blam[ed] Second Amendment freedom” for Mexican drug violence, but “can only prove a trickle of guns going down to Mexico.” LaPierre then suggested that “someone in government decided to change that trickle into a river of guns going down there to seek political advantage.” From the segment:

JON SCOTT (co-host): Your point, Wayne, is that a lot of these gun sales, in your view, would have been squelched, some of these gun dealers wanted to question the sales, wanted to prevent guns from going, but Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms wouldn't let them.

LaPIERRE: Yeah, that's right. I mean, there needs to be a thorough congressional investigation on all this. What it looks like to a lot of people is the Obama administration, Hillary Clinton, and Attorney General Holder have spent the last two and a half years blaming the Second Amendment freedom in this country for what's going on with the cartels in effort to set the stage for more gun restrictions on the law abiding people in this country. And yet they can only prove a trickle of guns going down to Mexico. Someone in the government, it looks like to a lot of people, decided to change that trickle into a river of guns going down there to seek political advantage. I mean, they have almost no prosecutions, very few out of it. They sent thousands and thousands of guns over to the cartels, and there was such a long period of time while great law enforcement officers said, “It's crazy, it's idiotic. Why are you going it? It makes no sense and people are going to get killed.” [Fox News, Happening Now, 3/10/11, via Media Matters]

Even Issa's Report Found That “Purpose” Of Project Was To “Build A Large, Complex Conspiracy Case”

Issa Report: “The Purpose Was To Wait And Watch, In The Hope That Law Enforcement Could Identify Other Members Of A Trafficking Network And Build A Large, Complex Conspiracy Case.” Fox's conspiracy theory is not even supported by a report prepared by members of Issa's and Grassley's staff. A “joint staff report” prepared for House Oversight Committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) found that the ultimate purpose of Operation Fast and Furious was to “identify other members of a trafficking network and build a large, complex conspiracy case.” From the report:

In the fall of 2009, the Department of Justice (DOJ) developed a risky new strategy to combat gun trafficking along the Southwest Border. The new strategy directed federal law enforcement to shift its focus away from seizing firearms from criminals as soon as possible -- and to focus instead on identifying members of trafficking networks. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) implemented that strategy using a reckless investigative technique that street agents call “gunwalking.” ATF's Phoenix Field Division began allowing suspects to walk away with illegally purchased guns. The purpose was to wait and watch, in the hope that law enforcement could identify other members of a trafficking network and build a large, complex conspiracy case.


The operation's goal was to establish a nexus between straw purchasers of assault-style weapons in the United States and Mexican drug-trafficking organizations (DTOs) operating on both sides of the United States-Mexico border. Straw purchasers are individuals who are legally entitled to purchase firearms for themselves, but who unlawfully purchase weapons with the intent to transfer them into the hands of DTOs or other criminals. [Joint Staff Report on The Department Of Justice's Operation Fast And Furious: Accounts Of ATF Agents, 6/14/11]

  • Issa Had Promised To Hold The Obama Administration Accountable “Like They've Never Been Held Accountable.” Issa is unlikely to have let the Obama administration off the hook, given his reported promise that in his role as House Oversight Committee chairman, “the Obama Administration will be held accountable 'like they've never been held accountable.' ” [Human Events 10/19/10]

Issa Report: “Unfortunately, ATF Never Achieved The Laudable Goal Of Dismantling A Drug Cartel.” From the staff report prepared for Issa and Grassley.

Unfortunately, ATF never achieved the laudable goal of dismantling a drug cartel. In fact, ATF never even got close. After months and months of investigative work, Fast and Furious resulted only in indictments of 20 straw purchasers. Those indictments came only after the death of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. The indictments, filed January 19, 2011, focus mainly on what is known as “lying and buying.” Lying and buying involves a straw purchaser falsely filling out ATF Form 4473, which is to be completed truthfully in order to legally acquire a firearm. Even worse, ATF knew most of the indicted straw purchasers to be straw purchasers before Fast and Furious even began. [Joint Staff Report on The Department Of Justice's Operation Fast And Furious: Accounts Of ATF Agents, 6/14/11]

Fox Has A History Of Hyping Baseless Conspiracy Theories To Attack Obama

Fox Has Repeatedly Hyped Birther Conspiracy Theories. As Media Matters has documented, many of Fox's premiere personalities, including Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly, called on Obama to release his long form birth certificate following Donald Trump's lead. Even after the long form birth certificate was released, Fox Business host Eric Bolling tried to cast doubt on the document's authenticity, speculating that a portion of the document “had to be Photoshopped in.” [Media Matters, 4/20/11]

Fox Has Promoted Falsehoods About Obama's Faith. Fox personalities have also repeatedly spreading falsehoods about Obama's faith, including that Obama attended a “madrassa,” and questioning whether he is a Muslim. For instance, Fox News' Special Report aired a quote by Obama national security official Denis McDonough, in which he talked about how Obama “experienced Islam on three continents” and grew up in Indonesia with a Muslim father, and asked: “Islam or Isn't He?” [Media Matters, 11/29/10]

Fox Has Promoted Oil Spill Conspiracy Theories To Attack Obama. In addition, Fox personalities have promoted the theory that the Obama administration deliberately chose to let the BP oil spill “get really bad” so it would have an “excuse” to “shut down offshore drilling” and that Obama refused help with the spill in order to pass cap and trade. [Media Matters, 11/29/10]