Launched in late 2016, NRATV serves as the news outlet for the National Rifle Association, regularly defending President Donald Trump, slamming mainstream media outlets as “dishonest rags,” and viciously criticizing any politician or activist who speaks out against the president and his policies. While some of the outlet’s coverage focuses on gun policy, the newest developments in firearms technology, and tactical shooting, the programming has largely become a platform for far-right conservative talking points that are often unrelated to gun policy. As NRATV strayed away from gun coverage, it sparked a number of controversies and drew widespread criticism during its inaugural year. After the February 2018 school shooting in Parkland, FL, there were numerous calls for companies to end their business relationship with NRATV.
Standing before a raucous crowd of supporters in April 2015 during the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting, the group’s longtime leader Wayne LaPierre snarled into the microphone, “Eight years of one demographically symbolic president is enough!”
One and a half years later, LaPierre got his wish as an aging white man again captured the presidency.
In a promotional video published by the NRA on January 3, three weeks before President Donald Trump’s inauguration, LaPierre stood before a shadowy backdrop at the NRA studios, looked into the camera, and said, “We are Donald Trump's strongest, most unflinching ally. The powerful partner he needs to get things done on behalf of American freedom. Join our ranks. Donate to our cause. And together, we will truly make America great again.”
Though Trump had already won the election by that time, LaPierre still adopted a defiant and apocalyptic tone fitting of the NRA’s siege mentality; he castigated the press, called out conservative groups for abandoning Trump after he bragged on tape about sexually assaulting women, and warned viewers of enemies at every turn.
During the presidential campaign, the NRA had broken its own spending records in Trump's support and now it was time for the organization to try to cash in. In the video, LaPierre claimed that Trump was “the most openly pro-Second Amendment presidential candidate in history” -- glazing over the fact that Trump previously supported several gun safety measures that would normally be disqualifying violations of NRA orthodoxy.
Despite Trump’s past stances, the NRA and Trump were the perfect political match. The then-president-elect and the country’s foremost gun group shared an affinity for culture war rhetoric, driven by white racial grievances, retrograde views of women, and anti-immigrant, anti-free press, and pro-authoritarian sentiments. They also shared a penchant for spreading division through fearmongering and peddling conspiracy theories.
On Inauguration Day, the NRA flipped a switch, pivoting from a group that often raised the spectre of violent insurrection against a presidential administration it didn’t like to a group that now raises the spectre of violence against critics of a presidential administration it loves.
In its efforts to back the president’s every move during his first year, the NRA turned to its media outlet NRATV, the gun group’s primary messaging mechanism. The NRA has had its own media operation for 13 years. Launched in 2004, it was originally known as NRA News, and largely revolved around a weekday three-hour program inspired by talk radio called Cam & Company. In October 2016, the outlet was rebranded and expanded as NRATV, a 24-hour online stream of expanded live programming and pre-recorded segments.
The personalities brought on to fill the airtime were decidedly Trumpian.
The NRA hired Texas-based conservative radio host Grant Stinchfield to anchor the most prominent addition to the lineup, an eponymous news show providing hourly live updates in the morning and early afternoon. Stinchfield soon echoed Trump’s bellicosity, comparing a Jewish political opponent to a Nazi Gestapo member, suggesting that North Korea drop a nuclear bomb on California, and claiming that former President Barack Obama carried out an intentional plan to “inflict harm on America.” Another new hire was conservative commentator Bill Whittle, who had spent the previous year appearing on an “alt-right” web series to promote discredited theories about race and intelligence and to make racist claims, such as suggesting African-Americans are slaves of the Democratic Party, trading their supposed willingness to engage in voter fraud for welfare. NRATV also greatly expanded the role of NRA News’ Chuck Holton, who would go on to claim on NRATV that Black Lives Matter was poised to commit mass rape and murder against whites.
This new stable of personalities has cemented the media output of the self-proclaimed “oldest civil rights organization” as leading source of divisiveness in America.
Hand-in-hand with the hateful commentary on NRATV is a pattern of attacks on basic freedoms and rights in service of Trump’s authoritarian tendencies. One of these instances was an outrageous attack on those who use their First Amendment rights of speech and assembly to speak out against Trump.
Narrated by conservative radio host Dana Loesch, an NRATV commentator who was elevated to serve as the NRA’s national spokesperson in February, the one-minute spot depicted a dark version of America that is clearly at odds with reality. Using footage of isolated incidents of property damage and police confrontations, Loesch tarred the largely peaceful resistance movement as a violent force destroying America and delivered a line that was criticized as an incitement to violence against Trump critics: “The only way we stop this, the only way we save our country and our freedom, is to fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth.” The message was clear: Stop complaining about Trump in the public square or face the wrath of the nation’s premier firearm group.
The Washington Post reported that the spot had angered gun owners with its extremism, although the video found a fan in conspiracy theorist and Sandy Hook truther Alex Jones, who praised the NRA’s “more hardcore” direction. In response to criticism, Loesch and Stinchfield said the group would never apologize.
The controversy seems to have only emboldened the NRA’s attacks on Trump critics, with follow-up videos employing similarly incendiary language to attack those who use their First Amendment right to protest the president, including one that claimed opponents of Trump will “perish in the political flames of their own fires.”
Tellingly, when deadly violence was actually unleashed on peaceful protesters -- after a man who admired Hitler drove his car into a crowd of protesters in Charlottesville, VA, injuring 19 people and killing activist Heather Heyer -- NRATV was conspicuously silent.
For years, the NRA has regarded the media as a participant in a conspiracy by elites to attack gun ownership. While that has continued during the Trump administration, NRATV also began to advance the narrative that critical reporting on the president is oppositional to American values and -- bizarrely enough -- incompatible with the U.S. Constitution.
Authoritarian claims about the role of the press since the launch of NRATV include:
positioning reporting on Trump’s admission of sexaul assault as part of “the mainstream media’s assault against freedom and the Constitution”;
claiming it’s “anti-patriotic” and part of a plot to “destroy our republic” to critically report on the Trump administration;
saying it was “anti-American” for media to report on Trump’s inflammatory comments on North Korea; and
NRATV personalities have also been willing to serve as Baghdad Bobs for Trump by relaying patently false accounts of real world events. Among the lowlights:
purporting to offer a “direct quote” of what former FBI Director James Comey said about Trump and obstruction of justice during his testimony before Congress, but instead offering a fabricated quote that absolved Trump of wrongdoing;
advocating for the confirmation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions by telling an alternate history of a racially charged prosecution Sessions spearheaded in the 1980s; and
tarring the Women’s March as violent by playing footage of a completely different protest where some participants broke windows.
The obvious question is: What has the NRA’s divisiveness on steroids in 2017 achieved for the gun group’s agenda? The answer is thankfully little -- at least thus far.
With Republican control of the White House and Congress, it is expected that the NRA agenda would move forward to some extent; but there is no way it is moving fast enough presently for the NRA to be satisfied. The group’s number one legislative priority, a bill to force states to recognize concealed carry permits issued by all other states, has not been made law. It took until December for the NRA to convince Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) to hold a House vote on the bill -- it passed, but with less support than a version of the legislation voted on in 2011. The measure has also lost support in the Senate, where the bill would need 60 votes, with several former backers saying they wouldn’t vote for the bill again. Hearings for the NRA’s second biggest priority, a bill which would deregulate firearm silencers, were canceled following the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) in June and the bill was then shelved by Ryan following the October Las Vegas massacre.
Despite the lack of accomplishments in this first year, it’s important to always remember how intertwined much of Congress is with the gun lobby, making the advancement of NRA legislation a constant threat while anti-gun safety members hold a majority.
The speed with which the NRA could advance its agenda also depends on the outcomes of future elections. Thus far, the NRA has been inept in its electoral activities in the era of Trump. In November, statewide elections in Virginia, the NRA-endorsed candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general all lost. The NRA was also unsuccessful in its attempt to make reported child predator Roy Moore the junior U.S. Senator for Alabama.
While the NRA failed to secure several victories it surely thought it would achieve in its first year serving as a de facto media arm for the Trump White House, its luck could change in a moment’s notice. 2018’s nationwide elections are on the horizon -- and the NRA’s divisive messaging operations require continued vigilance.
An NRA op-ed argues the gun group is being unfairly attacked as racist. But its actions speak for themselves.
In the October edition of the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) magazine America’s 1st Freedom, NRA executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre takes on what he calls the “false notion” from the “gun-ban media” that “somehow the NRA is racist.”
Outlets covering the NRA and race should consider these examples -- starting with LaPierre himself -- in evaluating his claims:
After Hurricane Sandy struck New York City and other parts of the East Coast in 2013, LaPierre was criticized for writing an op-ed in which he falsely claimed that “looters ran wild in south Brooklyn” and fearmongered about “Latin American drug gangs.” Conservative commentator Joe Scarborough described the claims as “so laced with racial overtones.” Progressive commentator Touré pointed out that LaPierre “spoke of supposedly rampant crime and murder in some place he called South Brooklyn. … Put aside that no reporting bears that out. I live in Brooklyn, I have for a long time, and there is no place referred to as South Brooklyn, but I think it’s safe to say that when he says that, much of the country envisions a place clogged with black people.”
During the NRA’s 2015 annual meeting, LaPierre referenced the end of the Obama administration and told the crowd, “Eight years of one demographically symbolic president is enough.” Reacting to the comment, Pulitzer-winning columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. wrote, “LaPierre traded his dog whistle for an air horn.”
During a 2014 speech, LaPierre adopted conservative media’s racially charged claims about the (nonexistent) “knockout game” phenomenon -- in which black youths supposedly assault unsuspecting, mostly white, victims on the street for fun -- to hype gun ownership.
Despite its purported hyperfocus on terrorism, the NRA’s news show was silent after a neo-Nazi rammed his car into a group of anti-racist demonstrators, killing activist Heather Heyer and wounding 19 others, during a white nationalist protest in Charlottesville, VA, in August.
NRATV, one of the NRA’s media outlets, recently hired conservative commentator Bill Whittle, who has a long track record of making race-baiting comments. Whittle has promoted discredited theories that posit black people are less innately intelligent than members of other races and claimed that African-Americans commit voter fraud on behalf of Democrats as a condition of ongoing slavery. Whittle also once said that people in inner cities are “unemployable -- unemployed and unemployable -- they’ve been on assistance their entire lives, they’ve never had to work before,” and that these people should get jobs because a job “beats the laziness” out of people and “disciplines” them into “civility.”
Another recent NRATV hire, Grant Stinchfield, who anchors the NRA’s “news” show, once wrote on social media concerning gun violence: “Blame minorities killing each other not law abiding conservatives.”
Following Donald Trump’s presidential election victory, Chuck Holton, an NRATV correspondent who is a daily guest on the gun group’s programming, wrote on Twitter that the “party’s over” and it's time to scrub “Obama’s mocacchino stain off of America!” using a term for a chocolate coffee drink.
In 2016, Holton claimed on an NRA program that white privilege is “just simply the culture that we have created, that our fathers and grandfathers have worked hard to create,” before saying that it would be nice if blacks joined whites in “respecting authority and taking responsibility for your own actions.”
In July, Holton warned on NRATV about the prospect of Black Lives Matter members committing mass murder and rape against whites in the United States.
Long-serving NRA board member Ted Nugent devoted an entire 2015 column at conspiracy website WorldNetDaily to praising the word “nigger,” including its use as a racial slur.
In 2016, Nugent posted a racist meme on Facebook about a fake moving company called “2 niggers and a stolen truck.”
Nugent attempted to smear Philando Castile on social media by promoting a false report that Castile was a suspect in an armed robbery implying Castile did not have “enuf brainmatter (sic)" to avoid being shot.
Nugent responded to a critic on Facebook with a Spanish name by calling the man “beanochimp.”
Amid controversy over Nugent’s labeling of murdered black teenager Trayvon Martin as a "dope smoking, racist gangsta wannabe,” Nugent made racist claims in several media interviews, including saying people should profile African-Americans in the same way members of a community might profile a breed of dog that was biting children, that African-Americans could solve “the black problem" if they were more honest and law-abiding, and that the African-American community has a "mindless tendency to violence" and an inability to "read or speak clearly."
Nugent infamously called Obama a “subhuman mongrel” in 2014.
The NRA did not publicly condemn or dispute any of Nugent’s comments, and he was re-elected for another term on its board in 2016.
NRA News, the prior name for NRATV, attempted to rewrite the history surrounding a series of incidents after Hurricane Katrina in which white residents in the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans shot at least 11 black people in racially motivated attacks.
In August 2016, the NRA told its supporters to read a “laugh-out-loud funny” newsletter that was published by the late Jeff Cooper, a former NRA board member. Called “Jeff Cooper’s Commentaries,” the newsletter frequently defended slavery, often featured racial slurs, and compared black South Africans to orangutans.
A leaked 2006 NRA graphic novel was filled with racial overtones including via images of “illegal alien” gang members included to promote gun ownership.
In 1996, an NRA researcher attempted to blame race rather than gun availability for high rates of gun violence in the United States, leading then-Rep. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to respond, "The NRA has consistently refused to admit the obvious: The number of guns on our streets increase the number of murders of police, children and others. Now they are going to a new extreme. To say it's not guns, but the genetics of race, is a tawdry and evil form of race-baiting."
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Bill Whittle, a host for the National Rifle Association’s news outlet NRATV, claimed that the country’s first black president “set race relations back 100 years” with his administration, effectively comparing today’s America to a time when state-sanctioned segregation was permitted and lynchings were commonplace.
Whittle is the host of NRATV’s newest program, Bill Whittle’s Hot Mic, a show that supposedly focuses on “left-wing pop culture’s war on our freedom and rights,” but which routinely veers off topic to discuss race, with African-Americans bearing the brunt of the criticism. On his program, Whittle has repeatedly slammed Black Lives Matter for focusing on police brutality instead of “black-on-black homicide,” has claimed “90 percent or more of the racial problems that we have in this country are manufactured by the left,” and has accused both cities run by Democrats and mainstream news organizations of being racist.
Whittle has also made racially insensitive comments as a regular guest on NRATV’s news program Stinchfield. He previously called CNN’s Don Lemon a “miserable racist” against white people for noting that President Donald Trump sounds different when using a teleprompter, and he has claimed the country doesn’t need the Democratic Party because there is no “genuine black oppression as there was in the past.”
During the August 28 edition of Bill Whittle’s Hot Mic, Whittle claimed the goal of the Democratic Party over the last two decades has been “to take America, … divide it up into little tribes, and set the tribes at war against each other.” He went on to claim that the Obama presidency “set race relations back 100 years in this country”:
BILL WHITTLE (HOST): Ladies, I want to talk to you about something real quick here. I had a friend who was talking about this today on camera. He said he watched a little clip of All In The Family last night and it was an episode where Lionel Jefferson had a girlfriend whose parents were mixed race or something. And he said you simply couldn't air that show today, that episode of All In The Family, because it was so open, it was so honest about the discussion of these things. And it's pretty clear to me that the entire job of the left over the last 20 years has been to take America, which is essentially unbeatable if it’s one country, divide it up into little tribes, and set the tribes at war against each other. And it seems to me that Barack Obama’s presidency set race relations back 100 years in this country.
Whittle also has a long history of promoting academic racism, including endorsing discredited theories that posit black people are intellectually inferior to other races, while appearing as a regular guest on “alt-right” commentator Stefan Molyneux’s YouTube channel. During interviews with Molyneux, Whittle described African-Americans who support the Democratic Party as literal slaves who prefer to remain in captivity because they can trade a willingness to commit voter fraud for welfare benefits. During one 2016 appearance, Whittle called inner city residents “unemployed and unemployable” and said that they should get jobs because a job “beats the laziness” out of people and “disciplines” them into “civility.” He also called then-President Barack Obama an “unqualified, unknown individual” who was elected “specifically and only because he is black” during a January 2016 appearance and said that by electing Obama, “we’re atoning for our slavery.”
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.
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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.
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The National Rifle Association’s news outlet NRATV used Saturday night’s terror attack in London to push a variety of conservative and pro-Second Amendment talking points, including calling for surveilling mosques and arming British citizens.
Seven people were killed in London on June 3, after three assailants used a vehicle to run into pedestrians on the London Bridge and then got out of the van to attack other victims with knives in nearby Borough Market. About 50 people were injured before police shot and killed all three suspects. Saturday’s attack came 12 days after a suicide attack at an Ariana Grande concert which left 22 dead, and a little over two months after a March attack in London that left four dead.
While NRATV program Stinchfield, which provides live news updates at the top of the hour from 9 a.m. EST to 1 p.m. EST, offered significant coverage of the London attack on June 5, the show ignored a mass shooting that took place that morning in Orlando, FL. (The Orlando incident was briefly mentioned on the NRA’s talk radio program, which airs later in the day.)
Covering the Orlando attack would have brought the nonsensical nature of the NRA’s arguments surrounding guns and terrorism into clear focus: The United States has much more permissive gun laws and availability compared to the U.K. and as a consequence experiences much higher rates of gun homicide and homicide generally.
While first reporting on the latest London attack during the June 5 9 a.m. edition of Stinchfield, host Grant Stinchfield said that just one armed police officer could have stopped the “carnage” and asked, “When is London going to wake up?” Stinchfield went on to fearmonger that it is “only a matter of time before these things start happening here on a regular basis” and blamed the attack on “politically correct politicians” before suggesting British citizens should carry guns to stop attacks. From the June 5 update:
GRANT STINCHFIELD (HOST): It took just eight minutes for three Islamic jihadists to kill seven people and wound nearly 50 more. Eight minutes. They didn’t use guns, but a truck and some knives. The reality of this attack is one police officer could have stopped this early on. What few people are talking about is that the attackers came upon the first officer just after exiting their van on the London Bridge, after running over so many unsuspecting Londoners. We have to assume the officer, like so many in England, was unarmed. The attacker stabbed him and then moved on to attack others. When is London going to wake up?
STINCHFIELD: It is only a matter of time before these things start happening here on a regular basis. We already see them happening in the United States. Now, since March, in London there have been three attacks and 34 people dead. In Europe the terrorists are winning. Submissive policies by submissive, politically correct politicians are getting people killed. How many times does America need to be warned? Does the world need to be warned these evil jihadists are for real? And they are brutal killers? As I watched Londoners flee in panic, I thought in that crowd of thousands, not one citizen had a chance. Not one citizen had a gun because the government bars them from having one. It took eight minutes for armed officers to arrive and save the day with a simple tool called a firearm. Eight minutes of carnage that could have been stopped if only that first officer was armed in the early seconds of that attack. [NRATV, Stinchfield, 6/5/17]
During the 11 a.m. update, Stinchfield again turned his attention to the citizens of England, who, he said, could not defend themselves “because the government disarmed them all.” He referred to this as “delusional” before slamming a British man as an “idiot” who was photographed “running away from the terror with a beer in his hand.” Stinchfield went on to claim that the British government has “made him this way” and “tricked” him into thinking he is safe, before rhetorically asking, “How sad is that?”
GRANT STINCHFIELD (HOST): For too long, left-wing leaders failed to realize that radical jihad is a real threat. Now in Europe, attacks are nearly a daily occurrence. With Saturday night’s attack in London, terrorists have killed 34 people in England since mid-March, and wounded countless more. All of this should serve as a global wake-up call. For Americans, these daily attacks are soon to come here. Are you ready? England was not. Look at the people fleeing. Not one could stop the attacker or defend themselves because the government disarmed them all. Now in the height of English delusion, England is hailing a probable drunk as its national hero. Look at the man running from the terror with a beer in his hand. The people of England thinks the terrorist won’t deter him. To me, anyone under attack who hangs on to a beer is simply an idiot, not a hero. But his government made him this way. They tricked him into thinking he is safe. So safe, the attack he is fleeing couldn’t really be real to him or a danger. My guess is, he looks at all of this as it’s simply some kind of office fire drill. How sad is that? How sad is that’s their hero, not the first police officer to come face-to-face with a terrorist just seconds into the attack. That police officer couldn’t be a hero, because he never stood a chance. He was unarmed. The jihadist stabbed him and moved on to attack so many others. For eight minutes they had their way until what? An armed unit showed up and killed them. [NRATV, Stinchfield, 6/5/17]
NRATV also took issue with London police’s suggested response to the attack. Police sent out a tweet on Saturday night advising people to “run,” “hide,” and “call” authorities in case of an attack. The strategy has previously been promoted by England’s National Police Chiefs Council, which said that during an attack, “people should first run to a place of safety,” or hide if they can’t, and call the police when it is safe to do so. (In the United States, the Department of Homeland Security recommends that in an active shooting situation, people first try to evacuate, then hide, and then confront the attacker as a last resort.)
During the June 5 1 p.m. update, NRATV commentator Bill Whittle called this strategy a “passive, weak kind of reaction” that only encourages the terrorists. During the June 5 10 a.m. update, Stinchfield said that “one armed citizen could have stopped the carnage early on” and that a better strategy for the people of England would be to “hide, fight, and fight,” before claiming, “Cowards always lose, sheep always get slaughtered. With the ever increasing threat we face, ... I refuse to become a coward or a sheep.”
Stinchfield doubled down on his stance in a June 5 tweet, saying his message to England is to “be a fighter!”:
— Grant Stinchfield (@stinchfield1776) June 5, 2017
Beyond pushing more permissive guns laws, during the 9 a.m. update, Stinchfield said that the government in the United States should “surveil” mosques.
During all of NRATV’s June 5 Stinchfield updates, neither Stinchfield nor his guests brought up Monday’s attack in Orlando, which left five people including the gunman dead. NRATV host Cam Edwards mentioned the attack briefly during his three-hour show, but used it to push for more gun ownership.
Despite Stinchfield’s repeated claim that the U.K. was unprepared for the attack because the government has “disarmed” its people, the country actually has drastically lower rates of gun homicide and homicide generally compared to the U.S. The U.K. also has much more restrictive gun laws.
Firearms are used in more than two-thirds of homicides in the United States. High gun availability has been linked to increased gun homicide rates, with one review of academic research finding that “case-control studies, ecological time-series and cross-sectional studies indicate that in homes, cities, states and regions in the U.S., where there are more guns, both men and women are at a higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide.” (The same trend is seen in comparisons between high-income countries.)
Academic research has also found that guns are used in the U.S. far more often to commit crimes than to stop crimes. A 2000 study by Harvard Injury Research Control Center found that as a ratio, "guns are used to threaten and intimidate far more often than they are used in self defense. Most self reported self defense gun uses may well be illegal and against the interests of society."
In fact, the odds of people needing a gun to protect themselves are so low that it’s difficult to accurately measure the total number of defensive gun uses each year. Meanwhile, gun violence is so frequent in the United States that more than 100,000 gunshot injuries are recorded every year (a figure that does not include crimes committed with guns where no one is shot).
In contrast to a lack of evidence that civilians can effectively use guns to stop mass shootings -- a frequent claim that the NRA makes -- terror attacks involving firearms in the United States, which often involve AR-15-style assault weapons, have been incredibly deadly over the years. A December 2015 terror attack in San Bernardino, CA, involved a gunman shooting and killing 14 and wounding 22 with an assault rifle at an office holiday party. The perpetrator of a June 2016 terror attack in a nightclub in Orlando, FL, also used an assault weapon to kill 49 people and wound at least 53.
Donald Trump Jr., the son of President Donald Trump, was interviewed by NRATV commentator Bill Whittle during the NRA’s 2017 annual meeting, which is being held in Atlanta, GA.
In the past, Whittle has promoted the racist notion that black people are inherently intellectually inferior to people of other races, cited a white nationalist to claim people in inner cities “don't have access to cognition,” and claimed African-Americans are compliant “slaves” of the Democratic Party who trade a willingness to engage in voter fraud for welfare.
Trump will speak later today at the NRA Institute for Legislative Action Leadership Forum.
Whittle interviewed Trump Jr. during NRATV’s broadcast from the NRA annual meeting exhibition hall alongside NRATV host Grant Stinchfield.
During the interview, Whittle claimed that former President Barack Obama’s administration had “weaponized” the government against “half of the country” and suggested that Obama was a dictator.
He also suggested that Obama was lazy compared to Trump, telling Trump Jr., “There was a picture, very early, it might have been the very first or second day after the inauguration, where you’re looking at the Oval Office and there is the Resolute Desk and there’s just all these piles of paper. It’s almost like it’s an executive who's got work to do and is ready to actually do some work. There’s one picture I think of Barack Obama where there is a piece of paper on the desk and he is kind of looking down at it disdainfully whether he should grace the presence of this thing. It’s nice to have a businessman, and the hours that he puts in, the organizational skills, it’s making a real difference.”
During a 2016 appearance on the webshow of libertarian-turned-“alt-right”-commentator Stefan Molyneux, Whittle revealed he accepted theories commonly called “academic” or “scientific” racism that tie together IQ scores, race, and crime.
In addition to positively citing prominent white nationalist Linda Gottfredson and widely denounced book The Bell Curve in advancing the claim that there are inherent intelligence differences between races, Whittle made a racist comment about aboriginal Australians and cited an episode of Star Trek in trying to explain his belief that races can be divided along the lines of “civilized man” and “barbarian.” (Biologists and anthropologists have long-rejected the theories that Whittle promoted).
Unsurprisingly, Whittle’s appearance on Molyneux's show was lauded by infamous neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer.
In addition to promoting “scientific” racism, Whittle frequently offers racist commentary, particularly on Muslim immigrants and African-Americans.
While discussing “black America” during a December 2015 appearance on Molyneux’s program, Whittle described African-Americans who support the Democratic Party as literal slaves who prefer to remain in captivity. He said that the party has “30 million” slaves and the “terms of their slavery are very simple -- there’s a word for somebody who is fed, and clothed, and housed, and whose health care is taken care of by another person, and that word is slave.”
Whittle then suggested that African-Americans commit voter fraud on behalf of Democrats as a condition of their slavery, claiming, “On the voting plantation that the Democratic Party has set up in America, we demand two hours of work from you every two years. Every two years we demand that you go down to the voting places and vote, once, twice, three, four times, however [many] times as you can imagine, or manage, and that’s the work we expect for you in exchange for keeping you in bondage.”
During another 2015 appearance on Molyneux’s show, Whittle said there is an “Islamic invasion of Europe” which he compared to “inner cities” in America “that are absolutely toxic, violent, enraged, bitter, [and] racist.” He went on to claim Black Lives Matter is “the street muscle” of the Democratic Party and that the group will make sure “everything’s gonna burn” if welfare is reduced.
Again drawing a comparison between Europe and the United States, Whittle said, “We have the exact same problem here with these same kind of communities. They’re unemployable -- unemployed and unemployable -- they’ve been on assistance their entire lives, they’ve never had to work before,” and he said that these people should get jobs because a job “beats the laziness” out of people and “disciplines” them into “civility.”
During a January 2016 appearance on Molyneux’s show, Whittle called Obama an “unqualified, unknown individual” who was elected “specifically and only because he is black” and said that electing Obama was “atoning for our slavery.” Moments later he said, “I didn’t own any slaves, and therefore I’m not responsible for slavery. I’m not benefiting from slavery because I never owned any slaves,” and he said, “There’s nothing in this country that survived the Civil War that was the result of slavery.”
Continuing to discuss the Civil War, Whittle said the “greatest tragedy in American history” is “not slavery, it’s not the Civil War, it’s what happened after,” before complaining about the philosophy of W.E.B. DuBois.
White nationalists have thrown their support behind Trump and have been particularly fond of Trump Jr. During the presidential campaign, Trump Jr. made a “gas chamber” reference, retweeted an anti-Semitic author, and compared Syrian refugees to Skittles, endearing himself to neo-Nazi websites.
NRATV’s Bill Whittle Has Promoted “Scientific” Racism On Intelligence And Crime
Bill Whittle, a newly hired commentator for the National Rifle Association’s news outlet NRATV, has promoted the racist notion that black people are inherently intellectually inferior to people of other races and suggested that races could be divided along the lines of "civilized man" and "barbarian."
Whittle is a commentator for the NRA who appears on a daily basis during the NRA’s live updates, which are broadcast at the top of the hour between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. He typically appears during the 1 p.m. hour, where he discusses issues of the day with host Grant Stinchfield.
According to his website, Whittle began his gig with the NRA on January 3. “Since then, he has guest-hosted for Grant and [NRATV host] Collion (sic) Noir” and co-anchored the NRA’s afternoon coverage of the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference, the site notes. The NRATV website lists more than 80 appearances by Whittle on NRA programming this year. In addition to his employment with the NRA, Whittle is a longtime conservative commentator who is best known for his work with conservative outlet PJ Media.
Whittle will be part of NRATV’s broadcast crew during the outlet's live coverage of the NRA’s annual meetings, which will be held this year in Atlanta, GA, from April 27 through 30.
During a 2016 appearance on libertarian-turned-“alt-right”-commentator Stefan Molyneux’s webshow, Whittle revealed his acceptance of theories commonly called “academic” or “scientific” racism that tie together IQ scores, race, and crime. He also positively cited a white nationalist to claim people in inner cities “don't have access to cognition.”
In the February 12 broadcast, which was released with the title “Why Liberals Are Wrong About Inequality,” Molyneux premised his discussion with Whittle with claims that in terms of average IQ scores, Ashkenazi Jews “clock in at about 115” and “after the Jews come the East Asians, right, the Koreans, the Chinese, the Japanese, and so on. They clock in at 105, 106, but very good on visual-spacial skills and very, very fast reaction times, which is another way that they measure intelligence. Caucasians come in at about 100 and then below that are Hispanics, clocking in at around 90, and then American blacks, clocking in at around 85 -- partly because they have 20 percent European mixture in their gene pool -- and then sub-Saharan Africans, clocking in at around 70, which is obviously very tragic, but this is the reality of what's happened. And slightly below that are the aboriginals in Australia, clocking in around 67 or whatever.”
The attempt to classify certain races as genetically inferior on the basis of IQ scores is a classic example of academic racism promoted by white nationalists like Richard Lynn, and it has served as the premise for widely denounced “research” by writers like Charles Murray in The Bell Curve and Jason Richwine in his infamous proposal on Latino immigration.
This type of sorting of the races by supposed genetic differences relating to intelligence has been widely discredited by scientists and anthropologists, even as white nationalists have increasingly attempted to revive the theories to push a racist agenda.
During his conversation with Molyneux, however, Whittle accepted and promoted ideas based on these discredited theories.
At the top of Whittle’s appearance, he cited The Bell Curve in indicating his acceptance of the notion there are differences in intelligence between races while offering an analogy he said Molyneux has used -- that “you can’t put somebody on a basketball team to make them taller” -- and linking race and intelligence to crime:
STEFAN MOLYNEUX: We, of course, have had a whole bunch of experts from both the left and the right on talking about IQ differences between ethnicities, and I think that helped to bring the issue more to the forefront of your thinking, is that fair to say?
BILL WHITTLE: Yeah, I mean obviously that's the controversial part of The Bell Curve is the IQ difference between ethnicities, but I think the deeper issue is since IQ seems to -- general IQ, g, right is the term they use -- since it so closely correlates to both poverty and crime on one hand and generally success and wealth on the other, it would be useful to be thinking about what a society that was recognizing these differences looked like. You can't -- I just love your example, I’ve used it every time with attribution, although it’s hard for me because it’s such a damned good analogy, but it’s like you said, you can’t put somebody on a basketball team to make them taller.
Later in the broadcast, Whittle turned to the “enormous societal problems” we have “to solve,” and said of research claiming to show differences in intelligence among races: “It's not a question of whether or not this is true; it's a question of what do we do with what appears to be overwhelming information that IQ correlates to a lot of our social problems.”
Whittle then cited Linda Gottfredson, saying, “She said that when you really get down to it, it's not that we have a -- that in terms of like really rigid poverty, it's not that we have a money problem; we have a cognitive problem. They don't have access to cognition, I think is what she said.”
Gottfredson is a well-known white nationalist who has received funding from the Pioneer Fund. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), “Gottfredson argues that racial inequality, especially in employment, is the direct result of genetic racial differences in intelligence.” SPLC notes that the Pioneer Fund’s “original mandate was to pursue ‘race betterment’ by promoting the genetic stock of those ‘deemed to be descended predominantly from white persons who settled in the original thirteen states prior to the adoption of the Constitution.’” It says the organization “still funds studies of race and intelligence, as well as eugenics, the ‘science’ of breeding superior human beings that was discredited by various Nazi atrocities.”
In his appearance, Whittle also made a racist characterization of aboriginal Australians, claiming that members of that ethnicity would be unable to learn how to do a job such as Molyneux’s to make the point: “That’s the thing about intelligence is it can adapt down, but you can’t adapt beyond your ability”:
WHITTLE: Well it's interesting when somebody would say that a bushman in Australia survives in the desert much better than you could -- that's undoubtedly true -- but the part that they're leaving out is that with several months or weeks or a year of being with the Aborigines, you could learn those techniques about as well as they could or certainly well enough to survive. The question is could they learn the techniques that you use in order to do what you do for a living and the answer apparently is not. That’s the thing about intelligence is it can adapt down, but you can’t adapt beyond your ability.
Arguing that an IQ difference among the races “certainly seems to be real,” Whittle also offered an analogy to a Star Trek episode in suggesting his claims of IQ differences among races is like comparing a “civilized man” to a “barbarian”:
WHITTLE: If this IQ difference is real -- certainly seems to be real -- then it is not a two-way street. Forgive me for going back to my entire studio, which is nothing but a museum of Star Trek, right, but I mean there was a really fascinating point and I remember hearing it when I was probably 7, 8, 9 years old when I heard it. And it's from the classic, classic episode called Mirror, Mirror where they teleport into the alternate universe and Spock has a goatee … and Kirk in the alternate universe succeeds because of his savagery and his ruthlessness, right? Here's the whole line -- they finally solve all the stuff, they beam back to their own ships and the universes go their separate ways and Spock says to Kirk, he says, “You as a civilized man had a much easier time portraying a barbarian than a barbarian ever could as a civilized man.” And I thought yeah, yeah, yeah that's it, right?
Perhaps most disturbingly, Whittle made clear that his beliefs about intelligence differences among races should inform public policy, claiming during his appearance that “if we don’t understand, as you said, that this cognitive ability has an impact on society in the same way that a height ability has an impact on the society of the NBA, for example, we’re going to just be throwing money at problems.”
The week following Molyneux’s broadcast, Andrew Anglin, the neo-Nazi operator of The Daily Stormer, celebrated the episode with an article headlined “Stefan Molyneux has Gone Full Shitlord.” (Although “shitlord” seems like an insult, neo-Nazis have appropriated the term as a compliment.)
The Daily Stormer is a virulently racist and anti-Semitic website. For example, it recently characterized offensive claims about the Holocaust made by White House press secretary Sean Spicer by saying Spicer “confirms Hitler never gassed anyone” while joking (warning: disturbing image) that Nazis instead drowned Jewish babies “in buckets.” Anglin was recently sued by the Southern Poverty Law Center for allegedly orchestrating a harassment campaign against a Jewish woman.
In his write-up of Molyneux’s broadcast, Anglin said, “Here’s a good interview with Bill Whittle,” and wrote, “As I predicted would happen, Stefan Molyneux has pretty well entirely abandoned his libertarian claptrap and family counseling nonsense and gone full shitlord. Ultimately, everyone who is honestly looking for the truth is going to come to the same conclusions that we have, and he has, for the most part, come to these conclusions.”
Claims that genetic differences make certain races inherently less intelligent, often linked to the IQ test -- like those pushed by Whittle and Molyneux -- have been discredited by mainstream science.
To begin, race is no longer viewed as a biological phenomenon by the majority of scientists. As explained in a 1992 article in peer-reviewed academic journal Ethnicity & Disease, “For some time, biologists and anthropologists have overwhelmingly rejected the partitioning of modern humans into biological ‘races.’ An examination of recent human evolutionary history suggests that the zoological definition of race, based on significant genetic differences, cannot be legitimately applied to contemporary humans.”
As Ta-Nehisi Coates explained at The Atlantic, claims that are premised on supposed racial differences in intelligence proceed “from a basic flaw -- no coherent, fixed definition of race actually exists.” The leading view among scientists is that race is a “social construct without biological meaning.”
On race and intelligence specifically, research published in 2012 found that “heritability of IQ varies significantly by social class,” and that “almost no genetic polymorphisms have been discovered that are consistently associated with variation in IQ in the normal range.” Put another way, the findings offered strong evidence that non-genetic factors are primarily responsible for intelligence.
According to the late Robert Sussman, who worked as an anthropology professor at Washington University, “There is no indication from any scientific evidence that different populations have any specific physical or intellectual attributes, or abilities. Those characteristics relate back to one’s socialization or upbringing (or nutrition).”
Strong evidence that intelligence is a product of environmental factors rather than genetics is found in the Flynn effect, which is “the observed rise over time in standardized intelligence test scores, documented by [psychologist James] Flynn ... in a study on intelligence quotient (IQ) score gains in the standardization samples of successive versions of Stanford-Binet and Wechsler intelligence tests.”
Rejecting claims that linked race and intelligence on the basis of IQ scores, science journalist John Horgan wrote in 2013 that “to my mind the single most important finding related to the debate over IQ and heredity is the dramatic rise in IQ scores over the past century. This so-called Flynn effect, which was discovered by psychologist James Flynn, undercuts claims that intelligence stems primarily from nature and not nurture.”
Whittle has offered racist commentary during appearances on Molyneux’s other broadcasts, in videos released under his own brand, and on NRATV:
Whittle’s outlet, NRATV, was launched in October 2016 as a rebranding of the NRA’s long-running news outlet NRA News with the aim of offering more live programming created by the gun group and its advertising firm Ackerman McQueen.
While NRA News flagship program Cam & Company, which continues to air on NRATV, serves as a font of misinformation about the debate over guns in the United States, new NRATV programming, such as the live updates on which Whittle appears, are better characterized as pro-Trump propaganda with a heavy dose of xenophobic commentary, particularly on the topic of Islam.
NRATV is strident in its defense of Trump, and the overall NRA organization has said that it will serve as “Donald Trump’s strongest, most unflinching ally.” For example, shortly after launching NRATV, host Grant Stinchfield attacked the media for covering numerous reports of sexual assault against Trump, saying outlets should instead cover instances where guns were used in self-defense.
While the NRA has long claimed that the media are part of a conspiracy against everyday Americans, the group’s attacks against the press in defense of Trump have entered new territory in recent months, with the gun outlet labeling both dissent against Trump and protected-speech reporting about Trump and his administration as oppositional to the U.S. Constitution and American values.