CNN host Erin Burnett and reporter Deb Feyerick gave serious treatment to National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent's baseless claim that President Obama will attempt to confiscate firearms, even discussing what would happen if the government tried to “take all the guns away tomorrow.” Significantly, none of the proposals to reduce gun violence supported by the Obama administration in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut elementary school massacre involve firearm confiscation.
Even though Nugent, who in part blamed the Newtown massacre on an “embarrassing, politically correct culture,” is not a credible figure in the gun policy debate, Feyerick repeated his wild-eyed conspiracy theories on Erin Burnett OutFront:
BURNETT: President Obama has said he doesn't have any intention of confiscating guns, that that is not his goal, he's not trying to attack the Second Amendment. Nugent, though, doesn't believe him, why?
FEYERICK: No, he doesn't believe him at all. Because the way he sees it, he says, look, the majority of guns, 310 million guns, are in the hands of law-abiding citizens. The minority are in the hands of criminals, they're the ones who are committing the crimes. And that's why he says, look, why is the government coming after us saying we are going to ban these guns when we are not the ones who are doing anything. And so he focuses on criminality, on people who have mental illness, on making sure people stay in prisons long enough. But he says it's not the gun. And that's really the point that the NRA is trying to convey as part of this debate that is going on in the country right now.
BURNETT: So what would you do if there were a gun ban, just ignore it?
FEYERICH: Well, in many cases, yes. Because how do you enforce a gun ban? What do you do? If you take all the guns away tomorrow, people are out there who are going to find and get their hands on guns --
BURNETT: And as you said there are hundreds of millions already out there.
FEYERICH: Absolutely. What do you do? Do you give them -- do you hand in your guns? And that's the slippery slope that [Nugent] sees. That in fact once you start in that direction you're going to be giving up these things, or law enforcement is going to be coming, and trying to register them. So there is a whole series of reasons why they simply do not trust any sort of gun restriction in that way.
While much of Obama's plan to reduce gun violence involves strengthening the background check system for gun transactions, improving mental health services and making schools safer, the proposals that directly regulate firearms don't involve confiscation.
Obama has expressed support for legislation to ban assault weapons, and the legislation introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to do so grandfathers in assault weapons that are legally owned, meaning that no confiscation would take place.
But even without evidence that Obama supports gun confiscation, CNN treated Nugent's “slippery slope” theory as a serious argument. In previewing her interview with Nugent on February 1, Feyerich described him as someone with a “very firm grasp of the facts” concerning the gun policy debate.
During the segment, Feyerich described Nugent as “the sometimes fanatical face of the National Rifle Association,” but failed to note his history of making highly inflammatory remarks often directed at minorities, women, or LGBT individuals.
Even during the past year Nugent has made myriad outrageous statements about guns and towards Obama.
During a January 9 interview with conspiracy theory clearinghouse WorldNetDaily, Nugent said that, “there will come a time when the gun owners of America, the law-abiding gun owners of America, will be the Rosa Parks and we will sit down on the front seat of the bus, case closed.” His comparison was condemned by a number of civil rights leaders. On January 13, Nugent made another outlandish comparison while discussing firearms, claiming on WorldNetDaily reporter Aaron Klein's radio show that having Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder lead a gun safety task force is “like hiring [serial killer and cannibal] Jeffrey Dahmer to tell us how to take care of our children.”
Nugent has also made a series of vitriolic comments towards Obama over the past year, even attracting the attention of the Secret Service after telling an audience at the NRA's April 2012 annual meeting that he would be “dead or in jail” if Obama was reelected.
In the weeks before the 2012 election, Nugent accused the “Obama gang” of treason and “criminal complicity to murder” and also alleged that Obama himself of only feigns respect for veterans. After Obama was reelected, Nugent had a Twitter meltdown, describing the president's supporters as “subhuman varmint[s]” and expressing his belief that, “Pimps whores & welfare brats & their soulless supporters hav [sic] a president to destroy America.” In a follow-up piece for The Washington Times, where Nugent is a columnist, he wrote, “If you voted for Mr. Obama, you are thunderously dumb and incredibly naïve.”
Nugent also created waves in January after appearing the Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show, a gun industry trade event, and telling gathered reporters that the Obama administration “is attempting to re-implement the tyranny of King George” and that “if you want another Concord Bridge, I got some buddies.” He went on to claim that Obama “is an evil dangerous man who hates America and hates freedom. And we need to fix this as soon as possible.”