Numerous online and cable news outlets dismissed a North Carolina gun store billboard that implicitly threatens four freshman Democratic congresswomen of color, either suggesting the image was simply “mocking” the women or ignoring it altogether.
Cherokee Guns in Murphy, NC, recently put up a billboard depicting Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) as “idiots” and referring to them as “the 4 horsemen,” a reference to the Bible’s apocalypse. The billboard was “signed” by “the Deplorables” -- a reference to supporters of President Donald Trump -- and it advertised that the gun store is “1 mile on right."
The billboard was slammed by gun safety organizations and other advocacy groups as “dangerous” and “hateful rhetoric” that is “encouraging gun violence” against members of Congress. The ad was also criticized by two of the congresswomen themselves before the advertising company that operates the billboard reportedly promised to take it down. However, Cherokee Guns is standing by its message and has started offering bumper stickers of the image instead.
At least one outlet -- The Washington Post -- highlighted the billboard's inherent threat in its headline, but many online and print news outlets simply shrugged at the message. In headlines, CBS News, USA Today, Fox Business, Fox News as well as a host of local outlets characterized the billboard’s threat as merely “mock[ing]” the targeted representatives.
Cable news has so far ignored the story almost completely. A Media Matters search found no mention of the gun store’s billboard on CNN or Fox News during live programming between 5 a.m. on July 28 -- shortly after Cherokee Guns posted an image of the billboard to Facebook -- and the time of this publication on August 1. MSNBC mentioned the story only once during that same time period, discussing it briefly as part of a larger segment on Trump’s racist attacks against the congresswomen.
The threatening billboard follows a long and well-established pattern of rhetoric from right-wing media harassing the four congresswomen -- often referred to collectively as “the Squad.” Fox News has spent months attacking Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Tlaib, and Pressley as “dangerous” and claiming they are fighting against the interests of America. The network’s hosts and contributors have also repeatedly defended Trump’s racist attacks against them.