Kerry Picket | Media Matters for America

Kerry Picket

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  • The NRA’s attempt to deflect blame away from guns for the Parkland shooting just fell apart

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    National Rifle Association spokesperson Dana Loesch dismissed new findings that a school-based discipline program called Promise was not responsible for the Parkland, FL, school shooting after pushing the allegation for months that the program allowed the shooting to happen.    

    Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz had been referred to Broward County’s Promise program, an alternative option for students “who have committed a behavioral infraction that would normally lead to a juvenile delinquency arrest” in 2013 after he vandalized a bathroom in an area middle school. Despite claims that referring Cruz to the program contributed to the failures to report his behavior to law enforcement, a commission set up to investigate the mass shooting concluded the program was “irrelevant” to Cruz’s ability to obtain an assault weapon and carry out the massacre.

    During the months following the February 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 people dead and 14 others injured, NRA spokesperson and NRATV host Dana Loesch repeatedly shredded the “Obama-era” Promise program during her show, Relentless. During the May 29 edition of her show, Loesch suggested people should protest outside the house of President Barack Obama’s secretary of education, Arne Duncan, because it was his “Promise program initiative that assisted this murderer.”

    Loesch said “the real story” behind the Parkland shooting is Broward County Superintendent Robert Runcie “worrying about the appearance of complying with an Obama-era Promise program” which ultimately “guaranteed that this murderer’s red flags would being completely overlooked” during the June 1 edition of Relentless. Four days later, she insisted Duncan’s “policies that were implemented that coddled this murderer failed” Parkland students.      

    One day after the Miami Herald reported the commission’s findings, Loesch did a segment on the commission’s work that discussed the Promise program but ignored the revelation that it was found to have no causal relationship to the shooting. From the July 11 edition of NRATV’s Relentless:

    KERRY PICKET (NRATV CORRESPONDENT): Now, Cruz was sent into the Promise program despite initial denials from the school’s officials. But back in March, The Associated Press reported local Florida officials once suggested they wanted Cruz forcibly committed to a mental institution via Florida’s Baker Act two years before the Stoneman Douglas massacre, but their advice was never heeded. According to documents obtained by the AP, Cruz cut himself with a pencil sharpener and told a fellow student he wanted to buy a firearm. Cruz also told another student he had drank gasoline and later vomited. Dana.                 

    DANA LOESCH (HOST): Wow, yeah, those I think are -- that coupled with everything else that we know, the whole body of evidence that has to deal with his mental health and then of course the violent threats -- what was it -- some of the family members had said that he had held a gun to peoples’ head before, he had hit his mother so hard he knocked teeth out of her mouth. It is amazing, A) that she intervened and B) that there was not enough material there existing already for either mental health professionals or even  law enforcement to act when prosecutors say under Florida state statute you could have gotten him for a felony because of the threats and because of all of the stuff he demonstrated health-wise. You could have had him Baker Act-ed. I’m wondering, because I know that there is still an investigation ongoing, but I mean, with all of this discussion about red flag laws, this -- I mean, you couldn't have been more obvious about it if you took out a billboard in Times Square. Are they going to answer for actually not following up on what is clearly actionable items according to every prosecutor from Florida that I’ve spoken to and I think you as well have?

    PICKETT: Well, here’s the thing is that this particular school safety commission, they are going to be meeting tomorrow as well as the following day to discuss not just the questions that you’re bringing up but also questions as to why, for example, law enforcement, why their communications were so shoddy, specifically the radio communications between law enforcement. As well as the mental health history of Nikolas Cruz. So this is something that this particular commission really wants to clear up. Now, something else too, the Promise program. A lot of people wonder why this hasn’t been eradicated yet. It looks like the Promise program is going to stay, but it looks like it’s going to be reformed in some way, shape, so we’re going to have to wait and see what happens with that.

    LOESCH: Reformed in some way? And I’m sure we’re going to get details as to how they’re going to quote-unquote “reform” that program?

    PICKETT: Correct.

    LOESCH: Wow.    

    The Promise program was the first agenda item on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission’s July 10 meeting. According to the Miami Herald, commission chair and Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said the commission found that the program “would never in any way, shape, form, would’ve affected his ability to buy that AR-15.” He went all to call claims that the program contributed to the shooting “a rabbit hole” and a “red herring” and explained that even if Cruz had been taken to the Juvenile Assessment Center and charged with a first-time misdemeanor instead of entering the Promise program, his punishment would most likely have been community service which would have no impact on his ability to buy a gun.   

    During the July 13 edition of NRATV’s Relentless, Loesch referenced a tweet Runcie wrote in which he echoed the commission's finding and said she questioned “how much” she believes him. She went on to place blame squarely on the superintendent, saying if the findings are true, “wouldn’t that just mean that it was his own personal incompetency then that contributed to this instead of a bad program? I mean, that seems like it’s worse.”

  • VIDEO: What Ever Happened To The Conservative Defenders Of Energy Research?

    Blog ››› ››› MAX GREENBERG

    As House Republicans try to slash funding for research and development of new energy technologies, conservative figures who once proclaimed their support for such initiatives have been curiously silent.

    Buoyed by Republican lawmakers, the House recently passed a spending bill that cuts funding for Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), the key federal program that invests in research and development of new energy technologies, by 81 percent. ARPA-E is a bipartisan Bush-era creation modeled on the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which spurred breakthroughs like the internet and stealth fighter. Now, even a midpoint reconciliation with the more generous Senate spending bill could leave funding for the program in tatters.

    These cuts are an extreme departure from the rare interparty comity that has typically surrounded research and development for alternative energy. Indeed, conservative media figures have frequently embraced such efforts -- as opposed to programs that award loans to address the so-called "valley of death" between development and commercialization -- echoing the pro-ARPA-E views of free-market groups and some Republican leaders. Among the latter was former presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who supported increasing funding. But with ARPA-E now in trouble, these figures appear tongue-tied.

  • Hires Double Down On The Bubble

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ is in the midst of a hiring spree that promises to generate more pageviews and money for the publication while keeping its readers chasing Obama administration conspiracies for the next four years.

    The publication is reportedly offering reporters from other right-wing outlets big salary increases and annual bonuses to sign four year contracts. It's no wonder that the website has money to spend; in at least one month this fall passed its rivals to take the lead as the highest trafficked right-wing news site. Traffic drives ad sales, which, together with venture capital, has filled the publication's coffers.

    What's significant is what has done to build the traffic, and who they're planning on hiring with the resulting profits. was an important piece of the right-wing media bubble that kept conservatives blissfully unaware of major events during the 2012 election and focused on flawed efforts to "vet" President Obama. The publication fixated on efforts to reveal aspects of Obama's youth and college years, claiming that the media hadn't sufficiently put the president under the microscope in 2008 and set out to correct their failures.

    Thus a major right-wing news site spent its resources during the last election running massive investigations into topics like the president's 20-year-old hug of a Harvard Law professor and the claims his literary agent made about his memoir in a 1991 pamphlet. Meanwhile, they worked overtime to try to discredit the vast weight of polling that suggested Obama was cruising to reelection. And shackled to their base, Mitt Romney and the rest of the GOP's officeholders were taken along for the ride, latching on to the sorts of claims that made sense inside the right-wing bubble and nowhere else.

    Woefully misleading their audience apparently brought in enough money for to make fat offers to staffers at other right-wing media publications. And they're using it to bring in more "talent" that will keep the gravy train running and their audience in the dark.

    Matthew Boyle was the first to "enlist in Andrew Breitbart's army" in order to "go to war" against "leftwing outlets" like "The New York Times, Politico, [and] NBC News" after several years working at The Daily Caller. His December 2 announcement came less than 14 days after his previous employer had all but retracted one of his stories.

  • Fox Pushes Idea That People On Welfare Are Democrats' "Natural Base"

    Blog ››› ››› TERRY KREPEL

    Fox News likes to promote the idea that President Obama is trying to buy votes through welfare benefits. Fox is now taking it a step further by explicitly pushing the claim that people who receive government benefits are the base of the Democratic Party.

    On Your World, Townhall's Guy Benson discussed an effort in Massachusetts to send voter registration forms to people who receive government benefits, which the state is required to do as part of a legal settlement. Benson said, "If I were a lefty or a liberal, I'd want the same thing. Get the natural base of the Democrat Party, people who are reliant on government, get them out to the polls."

    On Hannity, The Washington Times' Kerry Picket echoed Benson, claiming that the Massachusetts program was being used "to actually get the Democratic base vote out."

    On The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly echoed a similar theme. Discussing a Fox News poll showing Obama favored by 49 percent of respondents, O'Reilly said that "included in that 49 percent have to be everybody getting welfare payments, because Romney's saying he's going to do away with all that."

    But wasn't Ann Coulter saying just the other day that the Democratic base was "stupid single women"?

  • Conservative Media Freak Out Over Improvement To Welfare Reform


    In response to requests from Republican-led states, the Department of Health and Human Services announced it will consider allowing states to create more efficient ways to report on the work requirement for recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The conservative media have responded by falsely claiming that this is the "end of welfare reform" and that it "guts" the work requirement.

  • Wash. Times, Fox Still Baselessly Suggesting Top Chicago Dems Are Behind The Cain Leak

    Blog ››› ››› MIKE BURNS

    After Fox News' Chris Wallace dismissed an anonymous claim, reported by The Washington Times' Kerry Picket, that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was behind the sexual harassment allegations against Herman Cain, Picket is back at it again with help from the Fox Nation.

    Today, Picket's targets are former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and his one-time chief of staff.

    In a November 2 blog post, Picket reported a claim by an anonymous source that Emanuel likely leaked the story about sexual harassment allegations against Cain:

    Herman Cain's campaign is revealing suspicions about who is behind the story regarding the former unidentified employees who accused Mr. Cain of sexual harassment in the late 1990's.

    According to a source who is friends with the Cain campaign, not only is the Rick Perry campaign involved but also the Mayor of Chicago and former Obama White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is likely involved with the sexual harassment accuser attacks. A friend of the Cain campaign believes a National Restaurant Association (NRA) employee out of the Chicago office leaked the story to the Perry campaign via information and influence from Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office.

    When asked about Picket's report, Wallace said it "seems really thin." Wallace also suggested it doesn't make sense that Emanuel would leak the story, because it would not benefit Obama, whereas leaking it in "September or October of 2012" would. Nevertheless, right-wing media, including Fox, hyped the anonymously sourced claim about Emanuel to cast doubt on the allegations.

    Picket, an editor and opinion blogger at the Times, has now tried to cast suspicion on Illinois Restaurant Association president Sheila O'Grady, who served as chief of staff to Daley until 2007. But Picket's innuendo seems just as thin now as it did before.

  • Right-Wing Media Hype "Really Thin" Accusation That Rahm Emanuel Leaked Cain Story

    ››› ››› MIKE BURNS

    The conservative media is divided on anonymous sources: Some right-wing media figures have been hyping a claim by an anonymous source that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is "likely involved with the sexual harassment" allegations against Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain. At the same time, however, other conservative media figures have tried to cast doubt on the sexual harassment allegations against Cain by pointing out that they are based on anonymous sources.

  • Wash. Times Attacks DOJ For Enforcing The Law With Anti-Bullying Initiative

    Blog ››› ››› ADAM SHAH

    In a Washington Times piece, Kerry Picket criticized the Department of Justice for saying that its Civil Rights Division is "committed to ending bullying and harassment in schools" and for highlighting its "authority to enforce federal laws that protect students from discrimination and harassment at school because of their race, national origin, disability, religion, and sex, including harassment based on nonconformity with gender stereotypes."

    Echoing The Washington Times piece, a National Review Online blog post also attacked the Justice Department's initiative on bullying.

    What's wrong with the department's anti-bullying initiative? If harassment rises to the level of a civil rights violation, shouldn't the Department of Justice step in to do something about it?

    Not according to Picket. Picket writes that there is a "catch" to what the Department of Justice is doing. It is only targeting some types of bullying, and not dealing with the scenario in which an "overweight straight white male who is verbally and/or physically harassed because of his size."

    But here's the thing. If a person is harassed "because of his size," and his size alone, the Justice Department does not have the power to step in. And it's irrelevant whether the victim is straight, gay, or bisexual or white, Asian, black, or Native American. In this context, the Department of Justice enforces civil rights laws, and there is no current civil rights law dealing with discrimination on the basis of weight. On the other hand, if the white male were being bullied because of his race or gender, there may be a role for the Justice Department.

    Perhaps law professor David Bernstein at the libertarian Volokh Conspiracy blog put it best: Picket's piece "seems like a cheap rhetorical trick-trying to insinuate that the administration has something against 'straight white males' when the administration is simply staying within the limits of its legal authority."

  • Right-wing media push Kyl's flatly denied claim that Obama said he won't "secure the border"

    ››› ››› JOCELYN FONG

    Right-wing blogs have seized on Sen. Jon Kyl's (R-AZ) claim that President Obama is refusing to "secure the border" in order to force the GOP to support comprehensive immigration reform -- a claim the White House has since flatly denied. Indeed, the Obama administration has already taken numerous steps to boost border security but argues that "truly securing the border will require a comprehensive solution," which is a view shared by immigration experts as well as several Republicans.

  • Quick Fact: Wash. Times blog repeats climate change myths to attack Gore

    ››› ››› GREG LEWIS

    A February 15 post on Washington Times' Water Cooler blog, which was later highlighted by The Fox Nation, attacked Al Gore for "sticking to his guns" on climate change "[i]n the midst of heavy snow fall all over the United States and a recent admission from global warming advocate Phil Jones that there has been no warming since 1995." The Times also repeated the smear that apparently stolen emails from East Anglia University show that "scientists were covering up climate science."

  • Sorry, right-wingers, Whitehouse didn't call you all Aryan racists

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    The right-wing media have spent the year BEGGING for progressive leaders to call them Nazis.

    Back in April, media conservatives freaked out over declassified Department of Homeland Security report detailing potential increases in right-wing extremism. Ignoring the possibility that the election of a black president could have an actual effect on the radicalism and recruitment of actual hate groups - like, for instance, the Klan - the Limbaughs and Hannitys of the world were convinced that the report was actually aimed at them.

    Then in August, Nancy Pelosi commented that protestors are "carrying swastikas and symbols like that to a town meeting on health care." Sure enough, swastikas and other Nazi icons had appeared on signs carried by those protestors, who were suggesting that the Democrats' health care reform plans were reminiscent of Hitler's Germany. But the right-wing was sure that Pelosi was talking about them, and had been calling the protestors or opponents of health care reform "Nazis."

    Now, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) is getting the same treatment. In a floor speech yesterday, Whitehouse criticized Senate Republicans' rampant obstructionism of health care reform efforts, specifically their refusal to support cloture on a defense appropriations bill in hopes of slowing down attempts to move to a vote on health care. Whitehouse stated that Senate Republicans were "desperate to break this president," adding "They have ardent supporters who are nearly hysterical at the very election of President Barack Obama. The birthers, the fanatics, the people running around in right-wing militia and Aryan support groups, it is unbearable to them that President Barack Obama should exist."

    From Whitehouse's December 20 floor speech (about 115 minutes in):

    The lowest of the low was the Republican vote against funding and supporting our troops in the field in a time of war. As a devise to stop health care, they tried to stop the appropriation of funds for our soldiers. There is no excuse for that. From that, there is no return. Every single Republican member was willing to vote against cloture for funding our troops, and they admitted it was a tactic to obstruct health care reform. The Secretary of Defense warned us all that a "no" vote would immediately create "a serious disruption in the worldwide activities of the Department of Defense," end quote, and yet every one of them was willing to vote "no."

    Almost all of them did vote no. Some stayed away, but that's the same as "no" when you need 60 "yes" votes to proceed. Voting "no" and hiding from the vote are the same result. Those of us on the floor see it was clear. The three of them who did not cast their yes votes until all 60 Senate votes had been tallied and it was clear that the result was a foregone conclusion. And why? Why all this discord and discourtesy, all this unprecedented destructive action? All to break the momentum of our new young president.

    They are desperate to break this president. They have ardent supporters who are nearly hysterical at the very election of President Barack Obama. The birthers, the fanatics, the people running around in right-wing militia and Aryan support groups, it is unbearable to them that President Barack Obama should exist. That is one powerful reason. It is not the only one.

    Rather then assess the validity of Whitehouse's claims - do such people exist, and do they support Republcian senators? - the right-wing started screaming about how Whitehouse was accusing them all of membership in hate groups.

    Washington Times blogger Kerry Picket got the ball rolling, providing Whitehouse's full comment but doing so under the headline, "Sen. Whitehouse: foes of health care bill are birthers, right-wing militias, aryan groups." RedState's Erick Erickson took over from there, claiming that Whitehouse said that "If you oppose health care deform, you are a racist, hate-spouting, Aryan who roots for the assassination of Barack Obama" and "labeled everyone opposed to the legislation as racist hatemongers rooting for bullets against the President." The claim spread through the right-wing blogosphere from there, and just made the jump to Lou Dobbs' radio show.

    What seems oddest about the right-wing media's obsessive claims that progressives are calling them Nazis is the implication that comparing your political opponents to Hitler and company is out of bounds. If the right really believes that such comparisons are beyond the pale, maybe its time for them to stop informing us how much Obama and his politics remind them of Hitler.