Justice & Civil Liberties

Issues ››› Justice & Civil Liberties
  • Terrorists Have Praised The Gun Show Loophole, And A Furious NRA Now Has A Conspiracy Theory Why

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    The National Rifle Association's news outlet is pushing a conspiracy theory that alleges ISIS is attempting to “freak liberals out” so that they pass more restrictive gun laws, allowing the terror group to “disarm its enemy, then wage war.”

    The basis of this claim is a distortion of recent news reports about an ISIS magazine piece. The magazine, Rumiyah, urged its followers to buy firearms from private sellers at gun shows and online who, in many states, are not required to perform background checks on their customers.

    The Washington Post reported earlier this month that “in the most recent issue of Rumiyah, its glossy multilingual propaganda magazine, the Islamic State encouraged recruits in the United States to take advantage of laws that allow people to buy firearms without having to present identification or submit to background checks. Recruits should seek out gun shows and online sales in particular, said the write-up in the magazine, which was released Thursday.”

    The Post quoted the terror group’s magazine as saying, “In most U.S. states, anything from a single-shot shotgun all the way up to a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle can be purchased at showrooms or through online sales -- by way of private dealers -- with no background checks, and without requiring either an ID or a gun license”:

    “The acquisition of firearms can be very simple depending on one’s geographical location,” the piece read. “In most U.S. states, anything from a single-shot shotgun all the way up to a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle can be purchased at showrooms or through online sales — by way of private dealers — with no background checks, and without requiring either an ID or a gun license.”

    “With approximately 5,000 gun shows taking place annually within the United States,” it added, “the acquisition of firearms becomes a very easy matter.”

    A caption under a photo of what appeared to be a gun show read: “Gun conventions represent an easier means of arming oneself for an attack.”

    The exhortation by this ISIS magazine echoes similar calls in recent years from Al Qaeda.

    According to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, 32 states have no legislation going beyond federal background check requirements, meaning that individuals otherwise prohibited by law from buying guns can make purchases through private sellers at gun shows and in other locations without a background check. This state of affairs is commonly called the “gun show loophole” or “private sales loophole.”

    In 2013, following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, the NRA used falsehoods to orchestrate the defeat of modest federal background check legislation that would have required background checks for all sales at gun shows and over the internet.

    NRATV program Stinchfield, which offers lives news updates at the top of the hour on weekdays, twisted reporting on the ISIS magazine article into a nonsensical conspiracy theory.

    During a May 12 broadcast, host Grant Stinchfield falsely claimed that “in a recent piece in ISIS’ online magazine, they go all out for gun control” and that “ISIS all but calls for liberals to shut down the so-called gun show loophole.” But the magazine did the opposite. Instead of calling for more gun laws, it called for current gun laws to be exploited.

    In Stinchfield’s evidence-free theory, the magazine’s supposed call for restrictive gun laws would then be used to “scare the left into issuing a call for more gun control,” allowing ISIS to “disarm its enemy, then wage war.”

    There is another obvious reason Stinchfield’s theory doesn’t make any sense: Closing the “gun show loophole” wouldn’t disarm legal gun owners. “Gun show loophole” legislation instead merely requires that potential gun owners be checked against the background check system to ensure that they are not felons, convicted domestic abusers, or other prohibited persons. Current Supreme Court precedent says the Second Amendment guarantees the right of law-abiding Americans to keep a gun in the home for the purpose of self-defense.

    The NRA is very sensitive to calls by terror groups to exploit loopholes in gun laws that the NRA fights to keep open. In 2013, an NRA News program smeared BuzzFeed as “approvingly citing Al Qaeda” merely because the site reported on the existence of an Al Qaeda video that called for supporters to exploit loopholes in U.S. gun laws.

    From the May 12 broadcast of Stinchfield:

    GRANT STINCHFIELD (HOST): The New York Daily News is a left-wing rag, a tabloid that now takes its cues from not just liberals, but from ISIS. Yes, ISIS is pushing for more gun control in America, yet the Daily News, The New York Times, and The Washington Post are all blinded to see that as they’re being used as terror pawns.

    Of course ISIS wants gun control. Disarm its enemy, then wage war. In a recent piece in ISIS’ online magazine, they go all out for gun control. ISIS all but calls for liberals to shut down the so-called gun show loophole. How do they do it? By urging ISIS supporters to buy guns at gun shows. ISIS knows the call to do that would freak liberals out. So those liberals would push for more gun control.

    Now you and I know there is no such thing as a gun show loophole. It’s a scare tactic created by the anti-gunners to limit your rights to keep and bear arms. ISIS issues this calling not just to arm jihadists, but to scare the left into issuing a call for more gun control, and that’s exactly what these liberal papers are now doing. They fell for the terror trap. It’s bias by omission and it’s deception at its worst.

  • Trump Lied About Why He Fired Comey, And Right-Wing Media Helped Him Sell It

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE & NICK FERNANDEZ

    In a letter explaining his decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, President Donald Trump cited “letters from the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General of the United States recommending [FBI Director James Comey’s] dismissal as the Director of the” FBI. After removing Comey, various White House officials and right-wing media figures pushed the claim that Trump “took the recommendation of his deputy attorney general” and fired Comey, but days later, Trump himself admitted that he was thinking of "this Russia thing with Trump" and “was going to fire [Comey] regardless of [a] recommendation” from the Department of Justice or the deputy attorney general.

  • Protesters At The White House Speak Out About Trump, Russia, And The Media

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH & JOHN KERR

    Protesters gathered at the White House a day after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. Media Matters was there and spoke to activists, protesters, and people simply on their lunch break who wanted to take a stand. Here's what they had to say about Trump, Russia, and the media:

    Sarah Wasko created the drawing and visual elements in this video.

  • Meet The Anti-Abortion Group The NY Times Can’t Seem To Quit

    Human Coalition’s Founder Calls It “One Of The Larger” Anti-Abortion Groups That “No One Has Ever Heard Of”

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN & JULIE TULBERT

    Since January, The New York Times has published two op-eds by the anti-choice organization Human Coalition denouncing abortion access and care. Using big data and internet marketing strategies, Human Coalition targets “abortion-determined women” and tries to redirect them to crisis pregnancy centers. Here's what media need to know about Human Coalition, an organization designed to mislead people online. Given the organization's objectives and history, media should think twice before giving the group an uncritical platform. 

  • Contradicting Trump, Roger Stone Claimed The President Spoke To Him Several Times In Recent Months

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    President Donald Trump and his longtime adviser Roger Stone have given contradictory accounts of whether they have recently talked. Both are under fire after Trump dismissed FBI Director James Comey, who was heading the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and Russia’s potential collusion with the Trump campaign.

    Stone has had a relationship with Trump for roughly 40 years and worked as a paid consultant to his campaign in 2015. He now contributes to Alex Jones’ Infowars outlet and produces commentaries through his website and radio show. He recently began marketing “opportunities” for advertisers based on his access to the president.

    Politico and CNN have reported that Stone recently encouraged Trump to fire Comey. Media Matters documented that Stone had repeatedly attacked Comey and urged Trump to fire him in media appearances and on his Twitter account.

    Trump tweeted today that CNN was wrong because he has “not spoken to Roger in a long time - had nothing to do with my decision.”

    But Stone claimed in a May 5 appearance on SiriusXM Patriot’s The David Webb Show that he talked to Trump “less than a week ago” and after media appearances in March and April:  

    GUEST CO-HOST: When was the last time you talked to him?

    ROGER STONE: Been a little while now. I would say -- I don’t want to characterize it, but less than a week ago.

    GUEST CO-HOST: Good talk?

    STONE: From time to time. He’s easier to find on the weekends. He’s got more time on his hands. But I’m happy to say after I was on with George Stephanopoulos, he called. After I was on with Chuck Todd, he called. After the Netflix document trailer was released, he called.

    GUEST CO-HOST: What’d he say?

    STONE: Well, I mean, he was certainly pleased with those appearances because, of course, I was happy to defend Donald Trump.

    Stone appeared on George Stephanopoulos’ program on March 26 and on Chuck Todd’s program on April 13. The Stone trailer was released by Netflix on March 29.

    During an interview that aired on the March 28 edition of WNYC’s The Takeaway, Stone said: “I have not spoken to the president on the phone recently but I have heard from the president recently.” Stone also told the Daily Mail in a March 21 interview that “they had been in contact since the inauguration.”

    In late April, Stone told Jamie Weinstein that conspiracy theorist Alex Jones talks to the president “from time to time.” When Weinstein responded by pointing out that Stone characterizes his communications with Trump in a similar way, Stone said, “Right. And we’re smart enough not to characterize beyond that.”

    UPDATE: In an interview with WSVN (Miami, FL’s Fox affiliate) reporter Brian Entin, Stone said that Trump “certainly knows my views on Comey” but denied influencing his decision. He also refused to deny that he’s spoken to the president recently.

  • In Media And Online, Roger Stone Urged Trump To Fire Comey, Whose Agency Was Reportedly Investigating Stone

    Stone Has Called For Fox News Host Jeanine Pirro To Replace Comey

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Before President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey on May 9, longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone had repeatedly attacked Comey and urged Trump to fire him. Stone has reportedly been under FBI investigation since January regarding “possible links between Russian officials and associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump.”

    Stone has had a relationship with Trump for roughly 40 years and worked as a paid consultant to his campaign in 2015. He now contributes to Alex Jones’ Infowars outlet and produces commentaries through his website and radio show. He recently began marketing “opportunities” for advertisers based on his access to the president. Stone has claimed that he still communicates with Trump and sends him memos with “political thoughts.”  

    Politico reported that “Several Stone allies and friends said Stone, who has been frequently mentioned in the investigation, encouraged the president to fire Comey in conversations in recent weeks.” He tweeted this morning “Good Riddance” and claimed Comey gave Clinton “a pass” on her emails.

    CNN reported that a source said Stone “told Trump to fire Comey” while adding that that didn’t necessarily mean Stone’s opinion caused the decision. Trump tweeted, “The Roger Stone report on @CNN is false - Fake News. Have not spoken to Roger in a long time - had nothing to do with my decision.” Stone responded to Trump on Twitter: "With all due respect, I am not the source of CNN story and have made no such claim. I support the President's decision to fire Comey 100%." 

    Stone had repeatedly urged Trump to ax Comey prior to his firing yesterday and said Comey has no “public credibility.”

    While hosting Jones’ program on March 22, Stone claimed that Comey has repeatedly helped Clinton and said Comey “has no public credibility. They used him to blacken my name because you see when he says -- they ask a question about Roger Stone, ‘Is he under investigation?’ He says, ‘Well I couldn’t comment on that.’ You see, this is a Kabuki dance, it’s like a circus. That’s meant to hang in the air pregnantly implying yes. Let me say this: I fear nothing from an FBI investigation.”

    During a May 3 appearance on Jones’ program, Stone said that Fox News host Jeanine Pirro is “a great patriot” who “should be the FBI director in this administration.”

    While hosting the March 8 edition of The Alex Jones Show (with guest John Kiriakou), Stone said, “Comey has worn out his credibly. He has no more public credibility. It is time for Donald Trump to make Judge Jeanine Pirro the head of the FBI”:  

    ROGER STONE: How can you tell they’re lying at the CIA? Their lips are moving. I think that you are exactly right. The president, however, needs to clean house. You have an analogous situation at the FBI. Why he has allowed Mr. Comey, who covered up for the Clintons in the Sandy Berger affair, covered up for the Clintons in the Marc Rich affair, covered up for the Clintons in their initial illegal server controversy where incredibly he slices and dices all of the things Hillary did in violation of the law and then announces that she won’t be prosecuted. That in itself tells you that by Election Day, when he first on Thursday said he was reopening the investigation based on 650,000 additional new emails and then on Sunday night I believe it was, says “Well folks, we went through all 750 or 650, there’s nothing there." Mr. Comey has worn out his credibly. He has no more public credibility. It is time for Donald Trump to make Judge Jeanine Pirro the head of the FBI. She was a distinguished prosecutor with a reputation for integrity. And I guarantee you she is one tough lady, someone I have known for, jeez, I guess 30 years going back to her days as the Westchester County [New York] district attorney. She could clean up the agency, of that I have no doubt.

    During an April 29 broadcast of his Stone Cold Truth radio program, Stone accused Comey of committing a “perjurious lie” when he said Trump Tower wasn’t wiretapped.  

    He wrote on March 9 that Comey “must be held responsible” for his attempts “to destroy Donald Trump”:

    “The buck stops here” said our next-to-last anti-communist democratic President Harry S. Truman. Obama and his many minions, including former Attorney General Loretta Lynch and FBI Director James Comey, must be held responsible for a naked attempt to utilize the federal investigative machinery and their well-oiled leak machine to destroy Donald Trump all on the basis of an entirely manufactured talking points from the Clinton campaign.

    On his Twitter account, Stone has called on Trump to fire Comey and claimed the former FBI director is “in the tank for the Clinton Crime family,” that he has “committed perjury” for stating that Trump Tower wasn’t bugged, and that he “belongs in prison with” Hillary Clinton.

  • Charmaine Yoest Has A Long History Of Misinforming About Abortion, Science, And LGBTQ Rights

    Trump’s Pick For HHS Appointment Has Long Espoused Anti-LGBTQ, Anti-Science, And Anti-Choice Views

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN & JULIE TULBERT

    On April 28, President Donald Trump appointed Charmaine Yoest -- the former vice president of a hate group -- as the assistant secretary of public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Following her appointment, Yoest has been deleting posts from her joint blog with her husband that detail anti-LGBTQ ideology and push rape apologism. Outlets should note Yoest’s history of extreme views against abortion, LGBTQ rights, and basic facts of science, particularly now that she is the communications head of the government agency in charge of the health and safety of all Americans.

  • Wash. Post Relies On Anti-Choice Groups To Frame Coverage About Planned Parenthood

    In Story About “Defunding” Planned Parenthood, Wash. Post Favors Comments, Talking Points From Anti-Abortion Figures And Legislators

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    After the House Republicans passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA) -- a bill that would eliminate Medicaid reimbursements for essential services provided by Planned Parenthood -- The Washington Post’s new health care reporter, Paige Winfield Cunningham, framed her story around reactions of, and misinformation from, anti-abortion organizations and politicians.

    On May 4, House GOP members voted to strip health care from an estimated 24 million people by 2026, “including 14 million by next year,” CNN reported, as well as eliminate Medicaid reimbursements for Planned Parenthood. In Winfield Cunningham’s first story about the vote and its effect on Planned Parenthood, she framed the conversation around the “victory” the bill represented “for conservatives who have long sought to undercut the country’s largest abortion provider” and pushed anti-choice misinformation behind such claims.

    The only Planned Parenthood representation came in a line summarizing an organization statement as saying “Congress is unfairly singling it out.” In comparison, Winfield Cunningham included quotes from three anti-abortion advocates: Vice President Mike Pence, Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). In particular, Winfield Cunningham used statements from McCarthy and Dannenfelser to advance a lopsided narrative heavily favoring the anti-choice talking points that the bill stops “taxpayer funding for abortions” and that community health centers (CHCs) can easily replace Planned Parenthood.

    Planned Parenthood is not government-funded, but instead receives Medicaid reimbursements for providing care to low-income patients -- funds that are already prohibited by the Hyde Amendment from supporting abortion care. Although Winfield Cunningham acknowledged this reality -- and mentioned that losing the reimbursements “would be a heavy blow to the group” -- she undercut the point by writing that “conservatives say no abortion provider should get Medicaid reimbursements, even for health services such as cancer screenings and birth control,” because “money is all fungible.”

    Right-wing media and anti-choice organizations have long relied on the misleading claim that money is fungible to demand Planned Parenthood be defunded. However, as the Guttmacher Institute explained, this logic is deeply flawed: “Fungibility is an inherent possibility when involving the private sector in any government-subsidized activity, and the only way to avoid it would be for government agencies to exclusively provide any and all such services.” Slate’s Amanda Marcotte also previously debunked the fungibility myth in a 2015 article, noting:

    Republicans who tout the “money is fungible” line want you to imagine that Planned Parenthood draws on one big pot of government money for all its services. But since medical services are billed and funded individually, that's not actually how this works.

    Winfield Cunningham included a comment from Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL) that AHCA would “gut Planned Parenthood, … affecting women across the country” but again undercut his argument by immediately adding (with a supporting quote from Dannenfelser) that “Republicans contend that community health centers have the capacity to care for Medicaid patients” and that these centers allegedly “provide a broader range of services than Planned Parenthood.”

    Although anti-choice lawmakers and right-wing media say that CHCs can and should replace Planned Parenthood clinics, experts have heavily disputed this claim. For example, Sara Rosenbaum, a professor at the George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health, wrote:

    I have worked with community health centers for nearly 40 years, and no one believes more strongly than I do in their ability to transform the primary health care landscape in medically underserved low-income communities. But a claim that community health centers readily can absorb the loss of Planned Parenthood clinics amounts to a gross misrepresentation of what even the best community health centers in the country would be able to do were Planned Parenthood to lose over 40 percent of its operating revenues overnight as the result of a ban on federal funding.

    [...]

    What’s more, federal law requires that community health centers be located in communities where there are few other providers. As a result, the notion that there are plenty of community health centers available in those communities to compensate for the loss of Planned Parenthood clinics simply is untrue.

    Furthermore, while all Planned Parenthood clinics offer preventive and basic care services, other clinics can be classified as “community health clinics” even if they provide more limited care -- making direct comparisons between the overall numbers a misleading measure of actual health care provision capacity.

    Winfield Cunningham appears to be the anchor of the Post’s health care coverage, with the two stories published about Planned Parenthood since the May 4 vote listing her as author or co-author. Planned Parenthood is an essential care provider for millions of Americans -- 60 percent of them low-income patients covered through programs including Medicaid. If Winfield Cunningham is going to be leading the Post’s coverage on health care, she owes readers more than lopsided “both sides” reporting that vastly overrepresents anti-choice misinformation that can -- and already has -- resulted in decreased access to essential health care.

    *Graphic by Dayanita Ramesh and research support provided by Julie Tulbert