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  • Alex Jones: Sandy Hook dad “needs to clarify” whether he actually held his son’s body and saw the bullet hole in his head

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones called on Neil Heslin, who lost his son during the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, to clarify whether he actually held his son’s body and observed a bullet hole in his head.

    Jones made the demand during the July 20 broadcast of The Alex Jones Show while complaining that he has come under attack for questioning official accounts of the December 2012 shooting, which claimed 26 lives.

    The statement that Jones wants Heslin to clarify was made during Megyn Kelly’s interview with Heslin as part of her June 18 profile of Jones for her NBC show Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly. Heslin rebutted conspiracy theories surrounding the shooting, telling Kelly, “I lost my son. I buried my son. I held my son with a bullet hole through his head.”

    Heslin’s son, Jesse Lewis, saved several classmates’ lives during the shooting by telling them to run when the gunman’s weapon jammed, according to investigators.

    During the July 20 broadcast, Jones played a June video report from Infowars reporter Owen Shroyer that claimed it was impossible for Heslin to have held his son.

    In the report, Shroyer said of Heslin, “The statement he made, fact-checkers on this have said cannot be accurate. He’s claiming that he held his son and saw the bullet hole in his head. That is his claim. Now according to a timeline of events and a coroner’s testimony, that is not possible.”

    As evidence of his claims, Shroyer played a video clip from shortly after the shooting where a coroner explained to press that the victims were identified by parents with photographs rather than in person. Shroyer ended his report by saying, “Will there be a clarification from Heslin or Megyn Kelly? I wouldn’t hold your breath. So now they’re fueling the conspiracy theory claims.”

    Shroyer’s report is easily debunked; according to news accounts, the bodies of the victims were released from the coroner and taken to funeral homes. Funerals where the children’s bodies were in the custody of their parents were widely reported on by the press.

    Jones vacillated on whether Heslin was lying about seeing his son’s body and called on him to “clarify” what happened during his July 20 broadcast.

    Before playing the Shroyer segment, Jones said, “Quite frankly, the father needs to clarify, NBC needs to clarify, because the coroner said none of the parents were allowed to touch the kids or see the kids and maybe meaning at the school. I’m sure later maybe the parents saw their children.”

    After showing the segment, Jones said he told Shroyer, “I could never find out. The stuff I found was they never let them see their bodies. That’s kind of what’s weird about this. But maybe they did. So I’m sure it’s all real. But for some reason they don’t want you to see [Shroyer’s segment].”

    Speaking more broadly about the shooting, Jones said, “Can I prove that New Haven (sic) didn’t happen? No. So I’ve said, for years, we’ve had debates about it, that I don’t know. But you can’t blame people for asking.”

    Jones is lying. In the years following the shooting, he definitively called the tragedy a hoax. For example, in December 2014, Jones said, “It took me about a year with Sandy Hook to come to grips with the fact that the whole thing was fake.”

    After Jones’ profile was raised by his close association with President Donald Trump, he was heavily criticized for these claims and has subsequently tried to sanitize them by saying he was merely asking questions or debating whether the shooting happened. The bottom line is that even this type of commentary casts doubt on the shooting and fuels conspiracy theories that are used to harass the victims’ family members.

  • Fox News is unusually focused on the nationality of the officer who shot Justine Damond (he's Somali-American)

    The network’s coverage mainstreams xenophobic narratives about immigrant crime

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    On July 17, developments emerged in two cases of fatal officer-involved shootings, but Fox News rushed to cover only one of them and focused disproportionately on the officer’s nationality in doing so.

    On the day Balch Springs, Texas, police officer Roy Oliver was indicted for the fatal shooting of Jordan Edwards, a black teenager, news broke of the July 15 shooting of an Australian woman by a Minneapolis, MN, police officer who was later identified as Mohamed Noor. Noor is Somali-American. While Fox News aired several segments about Noor, the network made not a single mention of the indictment of Oliver, who is white, continuing its disinterest in the case since Edwards was killed on April 29 in Dallas, TX.

    In the first three days of coverage following the shooting of Justine Ruszczyk (who went by the surname of her fiancé, Don Damond), Fox News covered the story in 11 segments, six of which mentioned that the officer was “Somali-American,” an "immigrant" from Somalia, the first Somali-American to patrol that precinct, or that Minneapolis boasts a “very significant Somali population.” A Fox News article online began both its headline and body with Noor’s Somali background. In the same period, MSNBC and CNN both dedicated seven and 14 segments, respectively, to the story. CNN reporters did mention his Somali-American identity twice when prompted by hosts for more details about his background. MSNBC did not mention that he is Somali-American.

    Fox News’ Tucker Carlson went so far as to claim the mainstream media is engaged in a deliberate cover-up of the officer’s nationality. On the July 18 edition of his show, Carlson said, "Mohamed Noor was an immigrant from Somalia. Is that a relevant fact? We don't know. But it's being treated as one by many news organizations. How do you know that? Because they're not reporting it."

    Carlson was wrong to claim news organizations didn’t mention that the officer is Somali-American. His rival network CNN mentioned it that same day, and while The Washington Post -- which Carlson referenced -- did publish an early article on the story that did not mention his name or nationality (officials had not yet confirmed the identity of the officer), the paper also published a piece the next morning entirely focused on Noor and reactions in the Somali community of Minneapolis, which is bracing for backlash in the wake of the shooting. Moreover, Minnesota state officials did not publicly release the identities of the two officers involved in the shooting until Tuesday night (July 18), meaning three of Fox’s reports on Noor’s Somali identity were seemingly based on early reporting by the Star Tribune that had not yet been confirmed by police.

    Carlson was also misguided in his implication that other outlets’ omission of Noor’s nationality is evidence that it’s relevant. While many questions about the incident remain, and there are legitimate grievances being voiced by Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, Damond’s family, and the Australian government over the police department’s lack of transparency in the case, none of them are focused on Noor’s identity. In fact, Damond’s hometown newspaper in Australia ran a front-page headline reading “AMERICAN NIGHTMARE” in reference to what Australians quoted in the piece see as a country “infested” with guns and a “very risky place in terms of gun violence.” Damond’s family, which just suffered a tragic loss at the hands of police, hasn't focused on Noor’s identity as particularly relevant in reports. Fox News is the exception, not the norm.

    In the cases of police brutality against Jordan Edwards, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, and many others, all of whom were black, Fox News assigned no particular relevance to the nationalities of the officers involved. But the network did, in various cases, invite guests to defend the officers’ actions, criticize the victims of the shooting, or use the incident to promote questionable or problematic policing tactics. The disproportionate attention Fox News paid to Noor’s immigrant background and its resistance to defend him elucidates the limits of its pro-police posture.

    And the network’s coverage, while an outlier for mainstream reporting on the story, is essentially a more sanitized version of stories with headlines like “First Somali-Muslim police officer in Minnesota KILLS blonde yoga instructor in cold blood” and “Unarmed White Woman Murdered In Minnesota, Dems SILENT After Shooter's ID Revealed…”. There are many more. Noor’s religion has not been obsessed upon outside of far-right blogs and Twitter.

    Minnesota’s Somali immigrant community has been a strangely popular target for Fox News and other right-wing media outlets. The network has previously fearmongered about Somali immigrants, called the area “ground zero” for ISIS recruitment, and attacked the Minneapolis mayor for giving her State of the City address in a mosque. Fringe media websites and fake news purveyors recently targeted Minneapolis in response to the city’s announcement that it was launching a hate crimes reporting hotline, claiming the move amounted to “fascism.”

    In its hyperfocus on Noor’s nationality, Fox News served to validate the racism, xenophobia, and debunked associations between immigration and crime espoused by pro-Trump fake news purveyors, conspiracy theorists, white nationalists, and notorious Islamophobes alike. Noor's background is only as relevant as it is in any officer-involved shooting, and if it's being touted as more than that, we should be asking why.

    Methodology:

    Media Matters searched SnapStream between 5 a.m. and midnight on both July 17 and 18 and between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m on July 19 for mentions of “Roy” or “Oliver,” “Edward” or “Jordan,” and “Somali,” "Noor," "Minneapolis," “Minnesota,” "Damond," "Ruszcyzk," and “Australia.” Teaser segments were excluded.

  • Here is the NRA's latest in a laundry list of attacks against the First Amendment

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    The National Rifle Association’s broadcast platform NRATV has launched its latest attack against freedom of the press, this time targeting The Washington Post, calling the newspaper a “fake news outlet” and claiming it is where “journalism dies.”

    On July 11, the Post published an article calling an NRATV video about political unrest in the U.S. “dark.” The article noted that the video condemned “Democratic politicians, the media and activists as the catalysts for political upheaval” in this country, “with one glaring omission: firearms.” According to the article, the video focused on “political discussions” around public safety during civil unrest, “with less clear connections to Second Amendment rights.”

    On July 17, NRATV released a response video featuring NRATV host Grant Stinchfield, who called out the Post reporter by name and slammed him for “tell[ing] us we can’t have an opinion unless it’s about guns.”

    The video also accused the Post of “spreading lies about those who disagree with their radical agenda” and said the newspaper is pushing “organized anarchy” that is “destroying our country.” Stinchfield went on to claim, “You people do more to damage our country with a keyboard than every NRA member combined has ever done with a firearm.”

    Less than one day after the video’s release, The New York Times’ Max Fisher tweeted that the video is “edging right up to the line of endorsing violence against journalists,” while HuffPost called it “disturbing.”

    Despite the mounting criticism, Stinchfield doubled down on his video during the noon edition of NRATV’s Stinchfield on July 18, claiming the newspaper uses its “keyboards as weapons of destruction”:

    GRANT STINCHFIELD: The Washington Post is out of line. They claim to uphold the standards of journalism when, in fact, they use their keyboards as weapons of destruction as they try to tear apart the Trump administration in an effort not just to destroy him, but to destroy America, and it is wrong.

    This video is just the latest in a growing number of attacks the NRA has launched against both the press and freedom of the press since Donald Trump won the Republican nomination for president and was ultimately elected. During an October 26, 2016, broadcast, Stinchfield characterized dissent against Trump as an “assault against … the Constitution.” A month later, during a November 29 broadcast, Stinchfield called “mainstream” media “dishonest and downright dirty,” suggesting that it is “anti-patriotic” to report critically on Trump and his transition team, and said that the media instead “needs to get on board.”

    After The New York Times ran an advertisement during this year’s Oscar awards about the importance of journalism, the NRA fired back with its own 75-second ad claiming Americans have “stopped looking to The New York Times for the truth.” And in April, the NRA announced a “series of messages” against the newspaper, which the organization claims has “gone on the offensive to take away your liberties.”

  • The Women’s March organized a protest at the NRA’s headquarters

    Blog ››› ››› MILES LE & DAYANITA RAMESH


    Miles Le / Media Matters

    The Women’s March group gathered at the headquarters of the National Rifle Association (NRA) in Fairfax, VA on July 14 to denounce the organization’s recent incendiary, hateful video and its silence around the death of Philando Castile. Media Matters was there and spoke to activists and protesters.

    Here's what they had to say about the NRA, gun violence, and the media:

  • A timeline of the NRA's divisive actions ahead of Friday’s Women's March

    ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    Following widespread criticism over an inflammatory video from the National Rifle Association that called on supporters to use the “clenched fist of truth” against critics of President Donald Trump, the organization has repeatedly doubled down and issued more statements that falsely conflate dissent against Trump with violence. The organization proceeded to lob smears against Women’s March participants and co-founders after they announced an 18-mile march to protest the NRA on July 14.

  • NRA’s news outlet smears Women's March as violent by equating it with a completely different and unrelated event

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The National Rifle Association’s news outlet, NRATV, attempted to smear the Women’s March in Washington as “certainly not peaceful” by conflating it with an entirely different event from another day.

    While discussing the upcoming July 14 Women’s March on the NRA, guest host and NRATV commentator Bill Whittle said these “so-called peaceful left-wing marches” are “not exactly as they’re advertised” said and that he was hosting NRATV correspondent Chuck Holton to talk about “a story about a woman's march.”

    Holton then discussed people who damaged property in Washington D.C. on Inauguration Day as the NRATV feed played footage of windows being broken on January 20. According to CBS News, 217 protesters were arrested and six police officers received minor injuries.

    But the Women’s March, an entirely different event that took place on January 21, made headlines because it was peaceful and there were “exactly zero arrests” that day.

    From the July 7 edition of the NRATV’s hourly updates: 

    BILL WHITTLE (GUEST HOST): Chuck, you’re probably wondering why we’d bring a tough guy like you into a story about a woman's march, but what I find very interesting is that you have in fact been on some of these so-called peaceful left-wing marches and they’re not exactly as they’re advertised, are they?

    CHUCK HOLTON: Well, they’re certainly not peaceful. And they’re certainly not even protests. What they are is sort of temper tantrums by spoiled children, is the best way I can describe them. And when I was at the Inauguration Day protest in Washington, D.C., this is the thing that really struck me is that these people have no sense of irony. They have -- they don’t get that here they are protesting fascism and they’re using fascist tactics. When they were going around breaking windows and setting cars on fire, and then the police came and did what police do when you break windows and set cars on fire. That is start arresting people. They started chanting, “This is what a police state looks like.” Over and over again. “This is what a police state looks like.” And I kept thinking, no, this is what it looks like when you act like an idiot. This is not what a police state looks like, this is what it looks like when you burn cars and break windows. 

  • NRA spokesperson "proud" of controversial NRA ad that smeared anti-Trump resistance movement

    NRA’s Dana Loesch on video that conflated dissent against Trump with violence: “It’s a fantastic ad”

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    National Rifle Association spokesperson Dana Loesch doubled down on her earlier video that characterized dissent against President Donald Trump as “the violence of lies” that needed to be countered with the “clenched fist of truth.” Loesch said she was “proud” of the video and “endorse[d]” it “personally.”

    In the ad, which was originally posted on the YouTube page of NRA’s news outlet NRATV in April 2017, Loesch claimed that in their opposition to Trump, left-wing Americans “scream racism, and sexism, and xenophobia, and homophobia, [and] bully and terrorize the law-abiding until the only option left is for the police to do their jobs and stop the madness.” She went on to say the only way to save “our country and our freedom” is with “the clenched fist of truth.”

    The video drew widespread criticism after NRATV reposted it on its Facebook page on June 28. In a June 29 article, Vox’s Zack Beauchamp called the video “chilling” and said it “comes this close to calling for a civil war against liberals.” The same day, ThinkProgress’ Aaron Rupar wrote a piece saying the video “stops just short of calling for violence against … progressives.”

    During the noon edition of NRATV’s program Stinchfield, which provides live updates at the top of the hour from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. EST, Loesch, who is also an NRATV commentator, doubled down on the spot, calling it a “fantastic ad” that “holds up a mirror to the violent aspects of the left.” Loesch denied that she was inciting violence in the ad, saying that she meant “meeting that violence with simple truth and simple peaceful ideas”: 

    GRANT STINCHFIELD (HOST): Dana, this video is like two and a half months old. I’m glad it's getting attention, it got some attention before. More people to watch it, the better in my book.

    DANA LOESCH: Absolutely, and Grant, I want to make one thing perfectly clear, I am proud of this ad and I endorse personally the message of this ad. It’s a fantastic ad and it holds up a mirror to the violent aspects of the left. And, Grant, we have seen this time and time again. We saw this violence in Chicago during the campaign for the general election. We saw this violence in the streets of Washington, D.C., during the inauguration -- where there were not just a few, mind you, but a number of a very far leftists who thought that breaking store windows, arson, property damage, physical assault, setting fires in the middle of the street, et cetera, et cetera -- that these were all forms of protected speech and that they were generally acceptable forms of dissent to a fair election. And then of course, Grant, we have seen time and time again on college campuses, individuals react so physically, hostilely to a simple difference of opinion. And so they set fire on their college campuses and once again we see arson, and we see property destruction, and we see physical assault over and over again. I know, Grant, that I don't have to remind you or anyone else of what happened sadly just two weeks ago when a leftist went to a ballfield with a list of Republican congressmen and decided to open fire on GOP congressional members because they were simply Republicans. Now with this ad, Grant, when I say the clenched fists of truth, I mean the clenched fists of truth. And this is where I get the inspiration for that line. Everybody knows what this is, right? Everybody can recognize this? It’s the symbol of the resistance movement. It’s the symbol of the movement that by and large has sanctioned the violence of which I speak. It has sanctioned the arson, and the property destruction, and it has sanctioned the physical assault. So, I didn’t say meet fist with fist. And I didn’t even mention anywhere in this ad to go and purchase a firearm. I specifically, Grant, said clenched fist, not of physical altercation like they promote, but of truth. Meeting in the battleground of ideas, meeting that violence with simple truth and simple, peaceful ideas. That is what we have always been about, and even in the face of continued aggression and violence and destruction from the left, that is what we will continue to be about. 

  • Fox News completely ignored the release of police footage showing Philando Castile's fatal shooting

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST & BOBBY LEWIS

    Dashcam footage showing the fatal shooting of Philando Castile by Officer Jeronimo Yanez was released on June 20, giving the public new insight into the encounter that ended Castile’s life. But, if you watch only Fox News, you wouldn’t know it existed. The footage, which was released just days after Yanez was acquitted of manslaughter, drew the attention of CNN and MSNBC, but Fox News shows spent no time airing the video or covering its release.

    On July 6, 2016, Philando Castile, a black man, was fatally shot in Falcon Heights, MN, after being stopped by police for a routine traffic stop. Castile had a valid permit to carry a concealed weapon, and the newly released footage makes clear that Castile had alerted the officer that he was armed. The footage shows Officer Yanez telling Castile not to reach for his gun, and Castile can be heard responding, “I’m not pulling it out” right before Yanez fired seven shots, fatally wounding Castile.

    Between the release of the footage on June 20 and noon on June 21, the three major cable news networks -- CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC -- spent 44 minutes covering the release of the footage. CNN spent 36 minutes and seven seconds on it, and MSNBC spent 7 minutes and 12 seconds detailing the new information from the video, while Fox News ignored the video’s release entirely. CNN’s seven segments on the video and MSNBC’s three all showed the newly released footage.

     

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Fox News contributor Eboni Williams made a passing comment on The Fox News Specialists about the “lack of empathy seen in the wake of the tragic death of Philando Castile” in a discussion about Otto Warmbier -- the American college student who recently died after having been detained in North Korea for over a year -- but none of her colleagues responded to the mention, and there was never a discussion of the video footage showing his fatal shooting. Fox’s glaring lack of coverage with regards to the video of Castile’s death is strikingly similar to the network’s lack of coverage following the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling, also a black man.

    Fox News’ coverage, or lack thereof, is also indicative of a larger problem: how right-wing media figures discuss (or don’t discuss) the deaths of people of color at the hands of police. In the aftermath of Castile’s shooting, Fox News host Sean Hannity and then-Fox News host Megyn Kelly both discussed Castile’s shooting only to criticize his girlfriend for not having done more to help him, and Fox News contributor Kevin Jackson used the case to blame Obama for violence against police officers. National Rifle Association (NRA) board member Ted Nugent smeared Castile and used his death to claim former President Barack Obama wanted to start a race war.

    Additionally, the shooting of Castile, a law-abiding gun owner, who, from the evidence available was following the officer’s requests, has prompted outrage from NRA members. The association, however, has made no statement on the verdict or video in Castile’s case, despite having defended other gun owners whose stories made national news.

    Methodology: Media Matters searched SnapStream for mentions of “Philando” and “Castile” between 5 p.m. June 20 and noon June 21, 2017. Time counts began when the segment was introduced and ended when the individual finished speaking. Teasers were not included.