Fox News continued right-wing media attempts to dismiss the voices of the families of the Newtown, CT shooting victims, discounting their efforts to encourage Congress to pass stronger gun laws by suggesting that President Obama is “engineering them for political purposes” and “outright manipulating them.”
Since the December 14 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, which left 26 people dead, family members of the victims have taken an outspoken role in pushing for tougher gun laws.
Following the tragedy, many of the families traveled to Hartford, Connecticut to help push for a tougher new state-level gun law that Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) recently signed into law. After Republican senators threatened to filibuster gun reform legislation, more than 30 families of Newtown victims released a statement criticizing the lawmakers. The families have also been lobbying lawmakers on Capitol Hill to push for new gun measures. The lobbying efforts of these families for stronger gun laws have been ongoing and effective.
This has led to an attempt by right-wing media figures to marginalize the Newtown families as little more than “props” being used by Obama and Democrats to strengthen gun laws. On April 9, Fox News White House reporter Ed Henry said the president “used the victims of the Newtown tragedy to make their case.” That same day, Fox News host Mike Huckabee suggested that Obama bringing the families to Washington, DC on Air Force One to allow them to make their case for stronger gun laws was “an exploitation of those parents.”
On April 10, Fox News host Sean Hannity accused Obama of “once again using families of tragedy as props for his agenda.” On his April 11 radio program, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed that Obama was “using the Newtown families.” On April 12, Rush Limbaugh accused Democrats of using the Newtown parents as “human shields.”
Then, during the April 15 edition of America's Newsroom, guest co-host Gregg Jarrett continued the effort to marginalize the Newtown families, saying they are “still very, very emotionally vulnerable” and suggesting the president is “engineering them for political purposes” and is “outright manipulating them into taking a stand on a vital constitutional right.” Jarrett also asked if the president is “exploiting this tragedy and the grieving families for political purposes.”
Despite these efforts to paint the Newtown families as merely political props being exploited by Democrats and the president, the families have continued to push for stronger gun laws. On April 14, Francine Wheeler, the mother of a 6-year-old killed in the shooting, gave Obama's weekly address, in which she urged the Senate to pass gun reform legislation.