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  • NRATV host: Allowing gun manufacturers to face civil liability is “tyranny”

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    NRATV host Grant Stinchfield called a proposal allowing gun manufacturers and dealers to face civil liability lawsuits a form of “persecution” and “tyranny.”

    Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) rolled out an eight-point plan to curb gun violence on June 17, presenting it outside the National Rifle Association’s headquarters in Virginia. The plan includes repealing the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) and allowing victims of gun violence to sue firearm manufacturers.

    Passed in 2005, the PLCAA prohibits “qualified civil liability actions” which “result from the criminal or lawful misuse” of firearms or ammunition from being brought against their manufacturers. Though there are a few specific exceptions to the law, no other type of industry has this kind of blanket civil immunity. Democrats in Congress recently proposed repealing the PLCAA by introducing the Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act.

    During the June 19 edition of NRATV’s Stinchfield, host Grant Stinchfield said repealing the protections for gun manufacturers would be using “your government to persecute a group of people” and called it “tyrannical behavior.” He went on to claim that Swalwell’s ultimate goal is to put gun manufacturers “out of business”:

    GRANT STINCHFIELD (HOST): It is an outrageous proposal, it is an anti-freedom proposal, and it is persecution. And in fact, I could also throw it onto the list of tyranny. Because when you use your government to persecute a group of people -- whether it’s gun manufacturers, whether it’s you or me -- that is tyrannical behavior and the only reason he does that is because he doesn’t believe in what they are producing or manufacturing, he doesn’t believe in what we are saying or supporting: the Second Amendment. So in the end, he wants lawsuit after lawsuit to pile up against these manufacturers, blaming them for crimes they have nothing to do with, to ultimately put them out of business so they can’t manufacture any more guns, so you can’t buy them, so ultimately they disappear after he buys them all back and the people who don’t sell them back are all thrown into prison. What a country. Is that what you want to live in? I don’t think so.

  • NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch employs lies in expressing opposition to bill to ban people convicted of a violent hate crime from buying a gun

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch referred to a bill aimed at preventing those convicted of a violent misdemeanor hate crime from obtaining a gun as “redundant,” “unconstitutional confiscations” of firearms and falsely claimed it’s creating a “new classification of felony.”

    In May, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) and Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) introduced Senate and House versions of The Disarm Hate Act , which would make it illegal for anyone who has been convicted of a misdemeanor hate crime to purchase a firearm. The bill defines “misdemeanor hate crime” as a misdemeanor under federal, state, or tribal law that “was motivated by hate or bias because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity ... or disability of any person” and that “involves the use or attempted use of physical force, the threatened use of a deadly weapon, or other credible threat to the physical safety of any person.” Currently, individuals convicted of such crimes can legally purchase firearms in many states.

    Loesch suggested the law would treat misdemeanors like felonies, saying it would create a "new classification of felony," but instead it simply expands the list of prohibited gun possessors. And some misdemeanor convictions already carry a gun-purchase prohibition under federal law, such as the federal prohibition on individuals convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence. Laws prohibiting individuals convicted of violent misdemeanors from buying guns have been repeatedly upheld by courts, casting doubt on Loesch’s suggestion that the Disarm Hate Act would be unconstitutional. The NRA spokesperson also managed to claim that this proposed law is redundant when it is actually an expansion of current federal law and when only 30 states currently have “misdemeanor hate crime” definitions and only six of those prevent someone convicted from purchasing a firearm.

    During the June 10 edition of her NRATV show, Relentless, Loesch also cast doubt on the premise that those convicted of a hate crime are more likely to commit another violent crime. She went on to suggest a hate crime definition isn’t actually necessary because “all crime is hate”:

    DANA LOESCH (HOST): Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey has decided that in order to stop shootings like the one that took place in Virginia Beach, lawmakers need to disarm those convicted of a hate crime.

    LOESCH: Sen. Casey is just the latest of many looking to expand the scope of unconstitutional confiscations further. With me now to discuss the Disarm Hate Act, columnist Salena Zito, who does great work, by the way, covering mid-America stuff, and she did great work doing that for the last election. Salena, this from Bob Casey. He seems to be doing a couple of things. He wants to create a new classification of felony, it seems, but also why is he just not going after the individuals who are committing these crimes and making sure these prosecutions for these felonious acts committed with a firearm, that these people aren’t prosecuted?

    SALENA ZITO: Well, first of all, I should tell you I’ve known David West almost all of my life and I was thrilled when that ruling came down. So that was really, really good news. In terms of what Sen. Bob Casey is doing, I think this is a way to chip away at gun laws and gun control until they finally sort of get where they want. And so it’s like going, it’s like a moth trying to go around into a light. At some point it finds its way into the light, sometimes. And I think that that’s what they’re trying to do with these different laws. And it really makes no sense not to go over quote unquote -- go after quote unquote “the bad guys” but instead going after people who have the legal right to own a gun.

    LOESCH: Yeah, and the actions that he is -- or the criminal actions that he’s talking about specifically, he’s looking at misdemeanor hate crime which he said often leads to violent felony with a gun. I would love to see his data on that. But it seems redundant. I mean, you know, hate crime -- all crime is hate, that’s almost an entirely separate issue here, but there is a larger discussion that has been taking place in the country with lawmakers trying to create even more classifications of felonies. I know that there is a crime-a-day account on Twitter that I love to look at every single day. There are so many things that people are doing every day that they don’t even realize or see that they don’t even realize are felonies. If someone commits one of the acts that’s already under law as being so awful that you become ineligible to have a firearm, I mean, doesn’t that really cover it? It seems like he’s kind of creating a redundancy also.

    In fact, individuals with prior violent misdemeanor convictions are nine times more likely to commit another violent crime and nine times as likely to commit other firearm offenses. According to The Giffords Law Center, researchers have said those who commit hate crimes are “an even greater risk to public safety because” they tend to escalate their offenses.

    Loesch used similar tactics to spread misinformation and outright lies about the Violence Against Women Act in April, criticizing a House bill to expand the definition of “intimate partner” under federal law to all dating partners by falsely claiming all dating partners were already included in the current federal law definition.

  • NRATV host takes seemingly veiled shot at NRA leadership

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    NRATV host Grant Stinchfield on Friday offered a scathing critique of his critics that seemed aimed at the leadership of the National Rifle Association. The NRA has been feuding with its ad firm, which produces NRATV.

    “If you think I’m too blunt, our words are too strong, quit your whining, get serious about this fight or move over and let someone else fight for you,” Stinchfield said during his June 7 show. He also denied that he has ever broadcast any extreme content on NRATV.

    In March, members of NRA’s leadership, including CEO and Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, publicly questioned the value of NRATV, which the NRA contracts ad firm Ackerman McQueen to produce, and expressed concern about the inflammatory content it airs.

    The NRA and Ackerman McQueen are now wrapped up in multimillion-dollar lawsuits and are making salacious allegations of financial misdeeds against each other. The infighting has resulted in the ousting of former NRA President Oliver North (who remains an employee of Ackerman McQueen) and has exposed a rift at the NRA that puts a pro-LaPierre faction that questions the value of NRATV against a pro-North faction that supports the network.

    On May 29, Ackerman McQueen submitted a notice of intent to terminate its nearly four-decade-long partnership with the pro-gun organization. The NRA responded with a statement that said it can now refocus its messaging back to issues related to firearms. As of June 2, the NRA acknowledged that the concept of NRATV “remains under review.”

    Even though the NRA and Ackerman McQueen have apparently agreed to terminate their relationship, NRATV has, for now, continued to air as usual. And during his June 7 broadcast, Stinchfield seemed to critique the leadership at the NRA. He also attempted to justify his decision to regularly cover issues unrelated to firearms on his show, saying, “Make no mistake: All the issues we face today, from immigration to spending to the battle over our guns to the war on terror and free speech, they are all connected. If you only fight for the Second [Amendment], you ignore the others”:

    GRANT STINCHFIELD (HOST): I laugh at those who claim the NRA is an extremist group. Some even call us terrorists. Others say NRATV is a right-wing propaganda machine. Have these people seen or heard what those on the left say and do? We don’t push hate, we push truth. I challenge anyone to tell me one thing I’ve said on this network that’s extreme. I call out the media’s bias, I point to their-almost daily lies, I back up my points with facts, I support the Second Amendment and I push and fight for freedom daily. But then again, to those on the left, all that is extreme. Supporting the values America was founded on, to them, is extreme.

    The New York Times and The Washington Post have done everything in its power to disparage and destroy the NRA. These media outlets, along with MSNBC and CNN, know that to get to the Second [Amendment], they have to go straight through the NRA, and who do you think is on the front lines of that information war? NRATV.

    So yes, I will call out the left’s bullcorn. And I will tell the world again and again, you are either with us or against us. Because this battle that we are engaged in, yes it can be harsh, it is not for the faint of heart, but it is for the soul of this nation. Our rights are absolute. So is our straight talk. And make no mistake: All the issues we face today, from immigration to spending to the battle over our guns to the war on terror and free speech, they are all connected. If you only fight for the Second, you ignore the others. If you only fight for the others, the Second will be destroyed and the others will soon follow. My commitment is to never give up. If you think I’m too blunt, our words are too strong, quit your whining, get serious about this fight or move over and let someone else fight for you. 2020 is almost here, and if we lose that one election, we could lose so much more. So join us, join the five-and-a-half million members of the NRA. Stand and fight with us.

    While defending his rhetoric, Stinchfield challenged “anyone” to show him his extremism on NRATV, which is well-documented. It ranges, in topic, from immigration and sexual assault and includes white nationalist talking points and conspiracy theories.

  • Cable news covered Memorial Day Weekend shootings for less than two minutes

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    Shootings across the country over Memorial Day weekend got minimal attention from cable news networks, amounting to less than two minutes of coverage over six days.

    From Friday, May 24, until Monday, May 27, gun violence struck numerous cities across the country. While public mass shootings often capture the attention of national news media outlets, strings of one-off everyday shooting incidents, which account for the large majority of gun homicide, typically do not.

    Among the violent incidents over Memorial Day weekend, multiple shootings left three dead and 16 others wounded in the St. Louis area; a shooting in Seattle injured a woman and her three children; and in New Orleans there were “at least five homicides, seven other shooting incidents in which 13 people were wounded, two armed robberies, two armed carjackings and a pair of suicides, all involving guns, from Friday night through early evening Sunday, authorities reported.” Additionally, a May 25 shooting at a block party in Chesapeake, VA, left one dead and nine injured, and Chicago saw at least 43 people shot, including five fatally, over the holiday weekend, on par with last year’s 39 people shot around the same time. In Chicago, local NBC affiliate covered the shootings on May 28 in a nearly two-minute segment that included recently elected Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s plan to combat the violence.

    In Washington, D.C., 20 people were shot between Friday afternoon and just after midnight on Tuesday, including a 9-year-old girl who was shot in the foot and a 15-year-old boy who was fatally shot.

    Trenton, NJ, saw two mass shootings over the holiday weekend, one outside a bar early Saturday morning that left 10 injured and another late Monday night which left one dead and five injured.

    From noon Friday, May 24, to midnight Wednesday, May 29, cable news networks covered the weekend of violence for only one minute and 20 seconds. On May 26, CNN covered the Chesapeake, VA, shooting in two different segments, for 13 seconds and 28 seconds each -- amounting to just 41 seconds total. On May 28, Fox News mentioned the gun violence in Chicago twice in the 9 a.m. hour, for a total of 39 seconds of coverage. MSNBC neglected to cover the shootings at all.

    Chart by Melissa Joskow.

    Cable news has struggled to cover mass shootings as well; while some mass shootings spur wall-to-wall coverage, others do not. For example, MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News devoted a combined fewer than 45 minutes to an April 30 classroom shooting at University of North Carolina at Charlotte that left two dead and injured four more. When three separate mass shootings in Florida, Georgia, and Louisiana left a total of 14 people dead in January, cable news covered the violence for just over 40 minutes combined, focusing mainly on headline segments, which faded away within days. When mass shootings do receive television coverage, it often focuses on breaking news and updates and not conversations on how to address gun violence.

    Gun suicides, which account for nearly two-thirds of shooting deaths, also receive comparatively little media attention. The number of U.S. gun deaths in 2017 rose to 39,733, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, making it the deadliest year for gun violence in the U.S. on record.

    Methodology:

    Media Matters searched SnapStream for the words shot, shoot, kill, murder, gun violence, or wound from noon on May 24 until midnight on May 29. Repeat segments were not counted.

  • As turmoil within the NRA mounts, NRATV pretends nothing is wrong

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    A public feud between the National Rifle Association and its longtime ad firm Ackerman McQueen is escalating, creating a bizarre dynamic in which the ad firm continues its role producing the NRA’s media outlet even as it wages a scorched-earth campaign against the group’s leadership. Supporters of the Ackerman faction are now leaking embarrassing information about NRA CEO and Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre that could threaten his job as well as the NRA’s tax-exempt nonprofit status. Yet NRATV continues to put forward a facade of normalcy.

    The first public sign of trouble between the NRA and Ackerman -- which have worked together for nearly four decades -- was revealed in a March 11 article in The New York Times. Noting that NRATV “has adopted an increasingly apocalyptic, hard-right tone, warning of race wars, describing Barack Obama as a ‘fresh-faced flower-child president,’ calling for a march on the Federal Bureau of Investigation and comparing journalists to rodents,” the Times quoted NRA board members, including past NRA President Marion Hammer, expressing concern about NRATV’s direction. The Times reported that LaPierre was “livid and embarrassed” after NRA national spokesperson and Ackerman employee Dana Loesch aired an episode of her NRATV show -- first reported on by Media Matters -- that depicted Thomas the Tank Engine in a Ku Klux Klan hood in an attempt to criticize the children’s television show Thomas and Friends for adding diversity to its cast of characters.

    Then in April, the NRA sued Ackerman in Virginia state court, alleging that the ad firm has not fulfilled its contractual obligations to the NRA. The NRA’s complaint mentioned that it paid Ackerman $42.6 million in 2017 alone and alleged that Ackerman refused to turn over metrics that could be used to evaluate NRATV’s effectiveness and that it would not provide full details about a contract with then-NRA President Oliver North to produce an NRATV series. (The NRA would later update its legal complaint to accuse North of duplicitously attempting to draw a salary from both the NRA and Ackerman.)

    The conflict between the NRA and its own advertising firm came to a head during the 2019 NRA annual meeting, when a series of events pitted LaPierre and Brewer Attorneys & Counselors -- an outside legal contractor that allegedly costs the NRA nearly $100,000 per day -- against North and Ackerman McQueen. (Another strange aspect to the infighting: William Brewer, the CEO of Brewer Attorneys, is the brother-in-law of Ackerman McQueen CEO Revan McQueen.) As the meetings were unfolding, North sent the NRA board a letter alleging LaPierre participated in various financial misdeeds. LaPierre responded by accusing North of attempting to extort him and said he would not resign. In the end, LaPierre was reelected by the board of the directors, while North was ousted from the presidency after acknowledging he did not have the support of the board.

    That outcome appears to have done little to stem the infighting. In one recent major development, on May 10, the letter that North sent to the board leaked and its embarrassing claims about LaPierre’s spending became public. In recent years, LaPierre often used Ackerman to pay for things that the NRA would later reimburse. Among the expenses: more than $274,000 in clothing purchases from a single Beverly Hills, CA, clothing boutique, including as much as $39,000 spent in a single day, and an additional $267,000-plus for travel and rent, including $18,300 for a car and driver during a trip in Europe and $13,800 to rent an apartment for a summer intern. The letter also highlighted legal fees charged by Brewer that North said were exorbitant.

    NRATV has continued its regular broadcasts during this infighting, with no mention of any of these new developments. Ackerman has produced the NRA’s media operation since 2004, when the outlet was originally called NRA News. In 2016, NRA News changed its name to NRATV and massively expanded to become a 24/7 online broadcast. NRATV has three shows that broadcast live on weekdays; the rest of the airtime is filled with rebroadcasts, prerecorded series, and other videos from the massive NRATV archive.

    NRATV’s news-of-the-day show Stinchfield has continued its focus on the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, which the NRA terms the ”disarmament primary.” A snapshot of “disarmament primary” segments broadcast on May 15 and 16 shows the type of unhinged and apocalyptic claims that host Grant Stinchfield routinely makes about Democratic candidates:

    • On former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX): “The cornerstone of his [2018 Senate] campaign was to ban AR-15s, a dopey move, even if just by political standards. There are some 22 million gun owners in Texas, many of whom own AR-15s. So gaffe after gaffe put the privileged white kid from boarder school who goes by Beto in a dunce cap in the back of the disarmament primary room.” (Note: Texas has an estimated population of 28.7 million people, making Stinchfield’s claim about the number of gun owners in that state incredibly unlikely.) [NRATV, Stinchfield, 5/15/19]
    • On Sen. Kamala Harris’ (D-CA) comment that she would use executive actions to ban the imports of assault weapons: “She’s going to undermine the Second Amendment using executive orders. … The arrogance there, to think that she has a right to do that. We live in a representative government world here in the United States where we send people to Congress to have a say in the laws that are passed. She wants to make an end run around Congress, that’s what Kamala Harris is willing to do, use executive action in a tyrannical fashion to take away your rights.” [NRATV, Stinchfield, 5/15/19]
    • On New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio: “Another socialist gun grabber says he’s ready to be president. Let’s welcome New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to the disarmament primary. … He’ll take your money, he’ll take your guns and your home because that’s how his socialist mind works. But de Bozo is oh so late to this party.” [NRATV, Stinchfield, 5/16/19]
    • On former Vice President Joe Biden: “He declared that everyone is not entitled to a gun and … we should all ‘put a damn trigger lock on it, put it in a case, you have an obligation,’ he says. My only obligation, Sloppy Joe, is to keep my family safe. Don’t tell me how to store my firearm when you know nothing about them.” [NRATV, Stinchfield, 5/16/19]

    Stinchfield has also continued its regular attacks on the press. On May 16, Stinchfield ran three different segments on a local news story about preventing home burglaries. The reporter who wrote the story interviewed convicted burglars about what makes them more or less likely to target a home. According to the report, “That National Rifle Association (NRA) sticker on the door that once deterred burglars is now often viewed as a clue that valuable guns are in the home for the taking.” Stinchfield was apoplectic, apparently not grasping that the reporter wasn’t endorsing the interviewees’ views but was simply sharing what he was told. According to Stinchfield:

    The bottom line is this: The reporter’s apparent bias toward guns and the NRA got in the way of telling a meaningful story with some good tips. His credibility is shot now, to me, and sadly, most people will miss that little shot across the bow that he fires at the NRA in this piece. But this is what we’re up against: a mainstream media waging an information war against us. “How dare you be an NRA member,” they say. “How dare you show it proudly. If you do, you’ll be burglarized.” Give me a break.

    The theory that an NRA sticker could increase the odds of a burglary has come up in other recent local news investigations, and it has even been discussed in pro-gun media without allegations of a mainstream media conspiracy.

    NRATV’s two other live shows, Relentless, hosted by Dana Loesch, and Cam & Co., hosted by Cam Edwards, were unremarkable on May 15 and 16 , featuring criticism of Democratic presidential candidates and discussion of gun issues. In one segment characteristic of Loesch’s tendency to sometimes veer into bizarre commentary, Loesch cautioned NRATV viewers to make sure not to leave guns behind in public bathrooms or else “the disarmament left” could “use an accident in an attempt to get rid of your Second Amendment rights.”
     

    Despite his ouster as NRA president, North remains a prominent face at NRATV.com. That appears to be because he still works for Ackerman; his NRATV bio page currently describes him as “Past NRA President, Host.” (North also appears to continue to serve on the NRA board of directors. He was reelected to a three-year term at the annual meeting in voting that occurred before the latest NRA infighting became public.) On NRATV’s “series” page, North is seen alongside his nemesis LaPierre.  

    The show that North hosts, American Heroes, is a major part of the NRA’s lawsuit against Ackerman. In an updated legal complaint filed against Ackerman, the NRA alleged that the series did not deliver as many episodes as promised and did not generate as much sponsorship revenue for the NRA as expected. The few episodes that North and Ackerman have managed to produce so far are available for view at NRATV.com. Just four episodes have been released since the series’s launch in November 2018.

    The civil litigation between the NRA and Ackerman is in its earliest stages and there appears to be no end in sight for the gun group’s infighting. But for now, NRATV will continue to serve as the NRA’s messaging apparatus -- even as the PR company that produces it continues to cause massive public relations problems for the NRA.

  • Instagram is letting the NRA encourage harassment and threats against one of the gun group’s biggest critics

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The National Rifle Association is using social media to organize a harassment campaign against one of its prominent critics after she criticized the NRA for its opposition to the regulation of armor-piercing ammunition.

    In a May 8 Instagram post, the NRA criticized Shannon Watts, who leads gun safety organization Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, for taking issue with the group’s opposition to regulating armor-piercing ammunition.

    The NRA has long stymied attempts to restrict a particular type of armor-piercing ammunition known as “green tip” by promoting the falsehood that banning it would necessitate banning all other types of rifle ammunition. It also attacked the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in 2015 after the agency published a letter describing its intent to ban “green tip” pursuant to its interpretation of the Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act of 1985 (LEOPA). (While “green tip” was initially exempted from restrictions placed on armor-piercing ammunition in the LEOPA, the recent prevalence of the sale of handguns that can fire rifle rounds caused ATF to ask for the exemption to be removed. ATF’s request was not granted, but even if it was, all other types of rifle ammunition currently sold would have remained legal.)


    In its Instagram post about Watts, the NRA encouraged people to contact the advocate, writing, “Tell @ShannonRWatts (aka ‘Bloomberg’s chief lobbyist’) what you think about ammunition bans.” Unsurprisingly, Watts then received a torrent of harassment and death threats on the platform that targeted her and her family. She wrote on Twitter, “The @NRA just posted this to Instagram and now people are threatening to kill me. I guess the NRA is scared of a mom.”

    Following Watts’ tweet, the NRA doubled down with a new post that attacked her for moderating comments on her Instagram account with the claim, “Shannon Watts deleted 127 comments in 19 minutes.” In the caption, the NRA tagged Watts’ Instagram handle again, claimed that Watts was “deleting all of your thoughtful comments,” bizarrely claimed that Watts “despises” the First Amendment, and added the hashtag “#SorryNotSorry.”

    As Watts continued to be harassed, the NRA put up another post highlighting the fact that Watts had disabled comments on her Instagram page.The gun group again tagged Watts’ Instagram handle in the caption and pushed the falsehood that banning armor-piercing ammunition would mean banning “all rifle ammunition used for self-defense, sport, and hunting.”

    Many of the responses Watts got as a result of the NRA’s posts were vile. As the group encouraged people to contact her, Watts documented on Twitter the messages she received on Instagram, which included:

    The NRA could have claimed some plausible deniability about the threats and harassment that its initial Instagram post elicited. Instead, it openly encouraged a harassment campaign against Watts with its follow-up posts. And among the major social media platforms, the NRA picked a good one to use for a harassment campaign, as Instagram has been notably recalcitrant to take measures to stop harassment on its platform.

    As Taylor Lorenz explained in an October 2018 article in The Atlantic on Instagram’s harassment problem, “The platform is also a powerful discovery engine: On Instagram, it’s easy to search by hashtag or location and pull up thousands of people’s profiles and public images, and it’s simple for anyone who wants to mobilize an army to encourage trolls to pile on a specific person by tagging them in an image or story.”

  • NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch says "psychotropic drugs" may be to blame for school shootings

    On Fox, Loesch echoed a right-wing myth pushed by conspiracy theory sites like Infowars

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    National Rifle Association spokesperson and NRATV host Dana Loesch blamed the recent school shooting in Highlands Ranch, CO, on “psychotropic drugs” -- a common talking point from right-wing conspiracy theory outlets such as Infowars.  

    On May 7, one student was killed and eight others injured when two shooters opened fire in STEM School Highlands Ranch. Two students, Brendan Bialy and Kendrick Castillo, reportedly tried to tackle the alleged shooters with the help of an unidentified third student. Castillo was shot as he rushed one of the attackers and died at the hospital.

    Shortly after the shooting, Loesch went on Fox News to accuse gun safety activists of politicizing the tragedy because of their tweets condemning gun violence. Loesch returned to Fox on May 9, appearing on Fox & Friends to offer as possible causes for the Highlands Ranch school shooting a lack of “respect for life,” a lack of “boundaries for our youth,” and a lack of “that solid family home.”She went on to suggest “psychotropic drugs” as a possible reason for the uptick in school shootings, claiming one of the gunmen was “abusing illegal drugs”:

    AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): What is the problem? You said there is “a heart problem” in our country. How do we prevent this from happening again?

    DANA LOESCH (NRA SPOKESPERSON): You know, Kendrick is the same age as my oldest son. And I understand Kendrick Castillo is graduating this week and my oldest son is graduating this week. So, you know, as a mother you look every single kid out there -- and you know this, Ainsley, every single kid out there is your own child. And it makes me so angry his life was taken so prematurely from him by someone so evil and so horrendous. And I think that’s -- I wish that is the discussion we could have in this country.

    There is something wrong with our youth, everybody. There is something that is happening in our culture because we have always had firearms, but we have never had this many incidents. We also have more restrictive laws and more regulations. I mean, Colorado has a lot of gun laws. We have a number of things that are taking place. But what we are lacking is a respect for life. What we are lacking are clear boundaries for our youth. We're lacking that solid family home, and I don't know if all of this or if some of this playing into why we keep seeing individuals reacting this way.

    Is it psychotropic drugs? We know a couple of things that one of the individuals apparently, according to reports in law enforcement, had been abusing illegal drugs and was in therapy. If we’re gonna discuss warning signs, how about that? They stole two handguns, they're illegal to carry and possess by people under age 21. And I hope, by the way, that more people check out the NRA School Shield program so we can get more armed security guards in some more of these schools so that we can prevent anything like this from ever happening again.

    Blaming shootings on “psychotropic” and “psychiatric drugs” instead of access to firearms is a favorite talking point of the right-wing conspiracy theory outlet Infowars. The website has attempted to blame mass shootings in Las Vegas, NV, Parkland, FL, and Jacksonville, FL, on the shooters’ reported medications.  

    In reality, people struggling with mental health issues are more likely to be victims of violence rather than perpetrators. According to Duke University professor Jeffrey Swanson, a leading researcher on violence and mental health, “If we were able to magically cure schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression, that would be wonderful, but overall violence would go down by only about 4 percent.” As Julia Fast, an expert in bipolar disorder, wrote in Psychology Today:

    It’s not a chicken or the egg problem. There is the mental health concern and then there are drugs as a response, not a cause. The NRA and other gun rights lobby groups are conveniently skipping the most important part of the problem: the shooters are on drugs because there were signs that something was not right in their brains from the beginning.

  • Fox News anchor misleadingly splices together tweets of anti-gun violence activist to accuse her of politicizing Colorado school shooting

    NRA's Dana Loesch went on Fox to dismiss calls for gun safety legislation as a rush "to politicize" a tragedy

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Yesterday, a shooting at a school in Highlands Ranch, CO, left one student dead and eight injured. To discuss the tragedy, Fox anchor Shannon Bream on Fox “news”-side show Fox News @ Night brought on NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch, who derided people for blaming guns after shootings.

    Loesch also accused actress Alyssa Milano and gun safety activist and founder of Moms Demand Action Shannon Watts of politicizing the tragedy in their tweets condemning the school shooting and criticizing the NRA, asking, “What is wrong with these ladies’ hearts that their first response to a tragedy, before we even know who the victim is, is to rush to politicize it?”

    Fox featured on screen a tweet attributed to Watts that was actually two tweets the network had misleadingly spliced together -- one posted after the shooting and part of another she had posted the day before. Fox has a history of propping up the NRA and the embattled organization’s legislative priorities. The NRA frequently accuses activists of politicizing deadly shootings.

  • Cable news cover UNCC mass shooting for less than 45 minutes

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

     Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    A deadly rampage at University of North Carolina at Charlotte that left two dead and four injured got less than 43 minutes of cable news coverage from April 30, the day of the shooting, till May 3.

    On Tuesday, a 22-year-old former UNCC student opened fire on campus with a legally purchased handgun, killing two students and wounding four more. One of the victims, Riley Howell, charged the gunman after he had shot five people and pinned him to the ground until police arrived. During a press conference, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said, “Absolutely, Mr. Howell saved lives. … Unfortunately, he gave his life in the process. But his sacrifice saved lives.”

    The night the shooting occured, Fox News was the only cable network to mention it, covering the incident for just over one minute (the general lack of breaking news coverage was no doubt linked to emerging news about special counsel Robert Mueller’s letter to Attorney General William Barr).

    In the days following the shooting, from May 1 to May 3, MSNBC covered the shooting for just under five minutes, CNN devoted nearly 24 minutes, and Fox News covered it for a little over 14 minutes -- amounting to just under 43 minutes total.

    Chart by Melissa Joskow.

    On broadcast channels, during ABC News’ coverage of the shooting on May 1, World News Tonight with David Muir aired footage of a reporter attempting to question the handcuffed gunman about what happened as he was being lead away by police. This type of unnecessary focus on the gunman has been linked to a “contagion effect” in which mass shooters “model their attacks on previous incidents, and often appear to desire recognition.”

    The Sunday news shows -- CNN’s State of the Union, ABC’s This Week, NBC’s Meet the Press, Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday, and CBS’ Face the Nation -- all ignored the UNCC shooting.

    According to Gun Violence Archive, the shooting at UNCC is the 104th mass shooting this year in the U.S., and according to an NBC News tracker, it is the third school shooting, in 2019.

    Methodology:

    Media Matters searched SnapStream for shot, shoot, gunman, kill, murder, charged, UNCC, UNC, university, Charlotte, North Carolina, Howell, Parlier, or Terrell from 5 a.m. till midnight between April 29 and May 3 and on Sunday, May 5. Media Matters searched those same terms during the May 5 Sunday news shows. All mentions of the shooting, including teasers, headlines, and full segments, were timed.

  • New NRA President Carolyn Meadows: Rep. Lucy McBath won her House race because she is a “minority female”

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Update (5/7/19): Meadows released the following statement to The Washington Post apologizing for her comments: “I apologize to Rep. McBath and her supporters. My comments were insensitive and inappropriate. I did not intend to discredit the congresswoman or the merits of her campaign — only to reflect my view that the Second Amendment was not a prevailing factor in this election.”

    New National Rifle Association President Carolyn Meadows claimed that Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA) won her 2018 election to the U.S. House not because of her support for gun violence prevention, but because she is a “minority female.”

    Meadows was elected president of the NRA during an April 29 meeting of NRA board members following weeks of public infighting at the gun group. Her comments about McBath were reported in a May 5 article in the Marietta Daily Journal. As the Daily Journal related:

    Meadows’ own backyard will be part of the political battlefield as she and other right-leaning groups target U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, who represents Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District. Last year, McBath unseated then-incumbent Karen Handel, R-Roswell, who has announced her intention to run for the seat again.

    “There will be more than one person in the race, but we'll get that seat back,” Meadows said. “But it is wrong to say like McBath said, that the reason she won was because of her anti-gun stance. That didn't have anything to do with it — it had to do with being a minority female. And the Democrats really turned out, and that's the problem we have with conservatives — we don't turn out as well.”

    McBath ran for Congress in 2018 on a gun law reform platform following the murder of her son, Jordan Davis, by a man who later attempted to use the NRA-authored “Stand Your Ground” law as a legal defense in his criminal trial. Meadows also mentioned McBath in an interview published on April 30 in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, promising to direct NRA resources to the race in her home congressional district and saying that the NRA will endorse whoever runs against McBath in 2020.

    In addition to her work with the NRA, Meadows is the leader of an organization, the Stone Mountain Memorial Association (SMMA), that blocked a 2015 proposal to construct a monument to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Stone Mountain, GA. According to the SMMA board of directors, which Meadows chairs, the King memorial would have conflicted with the massive memorial to the Confederacy that the SMMA maintains at Stone Mountain. Stone Mountain is also the site where the second iteration of the Ku Klux Klan was launched with a cross burning ceremony in 1915. In his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech, King said, "Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia."