Oliver North | Media Matters for America

Oliver North

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  • In the wake of mass shootings at schools, conservatives blame everything but guns

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE, SANAM MALIK & NATALIE MARTINEZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    After nearly every school shooting, right-wing media scramble to find reasons why guns should not be blamed for gun violence.

    After 10 people were killed during a mass shooting at a high school in Santa Fe, TX, pro-gun proselytizers in the conservative media sphere insisted that gun safety laws would not have prevented the shooting and instead pointed to other aspects of American culture that they said required reform. Here are some of the excuses right-wing pundits offered for the May 18 shooting:

    In February, after the school shooting in Parkland, FL, claimed 17 lives, conservative media took the very same approach:

    • Fox News contributor Tammy Bruce claimed that talking about firearms doesn’t get to the “core issue” of “the human condition.” She and the hosts of Fox & Friends also blamed drugs, virtual reality, and video games for the shooting.
    • Radio host Michael Savage tweeted that “liberal judges and the ACLU” were to blame.
    • Fox guest Lou Palumbo blamed “the media, the entertainment industry,” and “the lack of parenting.”
    • Fox News contributor Kevin Jackson blamed “Leftist-run schools” and falsely claimed that the shooter was linked to antifa.
    • Fox News host Laura Ingraham blamed “mental illness”and “broken or damaged families” for the shooting on her show.
    • The Gateway Pundit suggested that the shooter supposedly being a registered Democrat was a factor. (He was not actually a registered Democrat; the blog was forced to correct the story.)
    • Townhall’s Kurt Schlichter blamed the FBI’s Russia probe for the shooting, tweeting, “The FBI was too busy trying to undermine the president to bother with doing it's (sic) freaking job.”
    • The Daily Caller’s Peter Hasson suggested that the shooting was related to the shooter growing up without a father.
    • Liberty One TV’s Joe Biggs (formerly of Infowars) tweeted that the FBI was “too busy chasing Trump/Russia nothing burgers” to have prevented the shooting.
    • Pamela Geller falsely claimed that the shooter was connected to antifa and Islamic terrorist groups.
    • Laura Loomer shared a fake photo of the shooter and speculated that he was a “radical leftist” with potential ties to antifa and Islamic resistance groups.
    • Infowars claimed that the “MSM” (mainstream media) was “already covering it up” that the shooter was likely a “Democratic voter” and had clothing “similar to the style worn by ISIS fighters in Syria.”

    But as others have pointed out, most of the phenomena listed above are also present in other countries that don’t experience nearly as much gun violence as the United States does.

  • NRA President-elect Oliver North smears Parkland survivors as criminals

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Incoming National Rifle Association President Oliver North, a former Fox News contributor and a national security aide in the Reagan administration, claimed that survivors of the February school shooting in Parkland, FL, are engaged in “intimidation and harassment and lawbreaking” in their advocacy for stronger gun laws.

    North, who was chosen president of the NRA by the group’s board of directors earlier this week, made the comments in an interview with The Washington Times.

    North commented on activism by survivors of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, saying they were involved in harassment, intimidation, and illegal activities. He did not provide any evidence for his claim. From the Times:

    He said the young survivor-activists who have emerged as representatives for gun restrictions — and as fierce opponents of the NRA — are getting swept up by a broader propaganda machine.

    “What they did very successfully with a frontal assault, and now intimidation and harassment and lawbreaking, is they confused the American people,” he said. “Our job is to get the straight story out about what happened there, and to make sure that kind of thing doesn’t happen again because the proper things are being done with the advocacy of the NRA.”

    Unlike the Parkland activists, North does know something about criminal activity. While serving in the Reagan administration, he was a central figure in the Iran-Contra scandal, which involved the U.S. secretly selling arms to Iran, and was convicted of three felonies for his role in it. North’s convictions were later vacated, although in 1994, a judge revoked his permit to carry a concealed gun in public, citing North’s “conviction for crimes involving moral turpitude.”

    North also said that the NRA was receiving threats and that a “cyberwar” was being carried out against the organization, and he compared the NRA to victims of the Jim Crow era:

    Mr. North said the NRA is now the victim of “civil terrorism” after vandals splashed fake blood on the Virginia home of a top NRA official and other opponents aimed personal “threats” at NRA leaders and members.

    “They call them activists. That’s what they’re calling themselves. They’re not activists — this is civil terrorism. This is the kind of thing that’s never been seen against a civil rights organization in America,” he said.

    “You go back to the terrible days of Jim Crow and those kinds of things — even there you didn’t have this kind of thing,” he said. “We didn’t have the cyberwar kind of thing that we’ve got today.”

  • Disgraced Iran-Contra figure Oliver North to become NRA president

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Oliver North, a central figure in the 1980s Iran-Contra arms dealing scandal, will become the NRA’s president during the next few weeks, according to a report from CNN’s Dana Bash:

    North’s ascendancy to the presidency is a deviation from the group’s standard succession for the position. In recent years, NRA presidents have served two-year terms. Current president Pete Brownell, a gun, ammo, and accessory retailer, was elected in 2017, meaning that he will leave his term a year early.

    Additionally, for the past several terms, after serving two years, the NRA president has been succeeded by the group’s first vice president. For example, Brownell was first vice president during the term of NRA President Alan D. Cors between 2015 and 2017. Cors had served as first vice president during Jim Porter’s two-year term, which began in 2013.

    A statement released by the NRA confirming North will become president noted that “to devote his full time and energy to his family business,” Brownell would not seek re-election. The statement did not explain why Brownell is leaving before his term expires.

    It is also unclear whether the change in succession will change the role of the president; NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre has far more control over the organization's direction.

    North is a current member of the NRA board of directors, with a term that expires in 2019, and is also the co-host of a show on the NRA’s media operation NRATV. He has also been a longtime contributor for Fox News but will leave that position effective immediately, according to the NRA statement.

    Along with his involvement in the Iran-Contra arms dealing scandal -- for which his convictions for several felonies were overturned in 1990 -- North has a history of using inflammatory rhetoric and has been enmeshed in other controversies:

    • During a 1993 GOP fundraising dinner that proceeded North’s failed run for Senate, North “told the crowd that he tried to telephone [Bill] Clinton, but the White House switchboard wouldn’t let him through until he disguised his voice with a lisp,” according to the Williamson Daily News. When asked to apologize by an LGBT group, North responded, “If it angered some subset, that’s their problem.”
    • During a 2010 appearance on Fox News, North argued that repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would lead to pedophiles being admitted into the armed forces. North also wrote a Fox News opinion piece in which he argued that, by repealing the policy, Obama would succeed where Adolf Hitler and other dictators failed in destroying the U.S. military.  
    • North claimed in 2010 that Obama had a “core philosophy of being anti-American.”
    • North’s charity Freedom Alliance was accused from the left and right of misappropriating funds meant for scholarships.
    • Writing at The Patriot Post in 2010, North recounted a conversation he had with a man who told him, “I believe slavery was evil. But the way our government is acting today, I think I understand why the South seceded.” North said that the man’s comments were “strong stuff” before comparing Obama to President James Buchanan.
    • During a 2011 speech at the NRA annual meeting, North said, “We need a commander-in-chief who cares more about the troops he leads than his birth certificate,” referring to Obama addressing the smear that he wasn’t born in the United States.
    • In 2012, North was accused of plagiarism after language from a Vietnam veteran’s memoir appeared in his column for Fox News without attribution.
    • While appearing on Fox News in 2012, North called a remote Afghan region “Injun country.”
    • During a 2013 appearance on NRA News, North called the Civil War “the War Between the States,” a Confederate term.
    • As recently as 2013, North was still falsely insisting that Iraq's late President Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
    • The Intercept reported in 2017 that North and Blackwater founder Erik Prince were in talks with the Trump administration about the creation of a “a global, private spy network” that would serve “as a means of countering ‘deep state’ enemies in the intelligence community seeking to undermine Donald Trump’s presidency.”
  • Torture fan Sean Hannity still hasn't been waterboarded like he promised

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Gina Haspel’s nomination to be director of the CIA has reinvigorated the long-simmering controversy over the George W. Bush administration’s decision to turn America into a torture state. Haspel, who oversaw the torture of one detainee at a CIA black site in 2002 and later engineered the destruction of videotaped evidence of torture, is being held up as a hero by conservative pundits who celebrate her “toughness.”

    One of those pundits, Fox News’ Sean Hannity, has spent the past week defending Haspel and advocating for the torture techniques she implemented. “We can't have evil exist in this world without doing something to counter it,” he said on his March 13 show. “And if it means that terrorists caught on the battlefield are forced to answer questions, well, sadly that’s what you have to do because you are dealing with evil.”

    This line of argument resurrects an issue related to the torture controversy that has remained conspicuously unresolved for nearly a decade: Sean Hannity promised to be waterboarded but still hasn’t done it.

    Hannity has long been an advocate for torture, and one of his more curious pro-torture strategies is to dismiss its unpleasantness while simultaneously lauding its effectiveness. Back in April 2009, while speaking to actor Charles Grodin on his Fox News show, Hannity said: “Is it really so bad to dunk a terrorist's head in water and make him talk? Tell me what's wrong with that.” Later in the program, the two had this exchange:

    CHARLES GRODIN: Have you ever been waterboarded?

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): No, but Ollie North has and I've talked to him about it.

    GRODIN: And how -- would you consent to be waterboarded?

    HANNITY: Yes.

    GRODIN: So we could get the truth out of you?

    HANNITY: Yes. Sure.

    GRODIN: We can waterboard you?

    HANNITY: Sure.

    GRODIN: Are you busy on Sunday?

    HANNITY: I'll do it for charity. I'll let you do it.

    GRODIN: I wouldn't do it.

    HANNITY: I'll do it for the troops' families.

    That was almost nine years ago, and Hannity still has not been waterboarded, but not for lack of trying. Keith Olbermann, then an MSNBC host, tried to get Hannity to live up to his promise by pledging $1,000 to charity for every second of torture Hannity could endure. Four years after his initial promise, ThinkProgress called into his radio show to ask when he was going to follow through, and Hannity snapped at the reporter for being rude. “Here I am, nice enough to bring you on the program and give you an opportunity to give your pretty radical left-wing point of view,” he said, “and that’s kind of -- you know what -- the way you treat me.”

    And now here we are in the year 2018 and Hannity is still noticeably unwaterboarded and still hiding behind the fact that his buddy Oliver North knows what it’s like. “Have you been waterboarded in your life, in your career in the military as a marine that served his country and have a Purple Heart or two,” Hannity asked North on his March 15 show. North said yes he had as part of SERE training, a program soldiers go through to learn how to resist -- you guessed it -- torture. “I waterboarded at least 150 people,” North said, “some of whom I'm sure are right now wondering what the heck is going on because it was all legal before.”

    Look, Sean, one of the sad consequences of the utter lack of torture accountability and your status as a premier advocate of state-sponsored barbarism is that the torture issue isn’t going away, which means this whole “I volunteered to be waterboarded” issue isn’t going away -- that is, until you get waterboarded. No one is saying you’re a coward, Sean. In no way am I implying that the reason you haven’t followed through on your nine-year-old promise to be waterboarded for charity is that behind the bravado lurks a secret terror of what the “dunking” entails.

    Quite the contrary, in fact. I think your promise to volunteer to put yourself through this physically debilitating and psychologically horrifying torture technique is the height of manliness. A total alpha move. And the fact that you’re going to do it for the troops is just patriotic icing on the testosterone cupcake.

  • All the right-wing lies about Trump’s transgender military ban, debunked

    ››› ››› REBECCA DAMANTE

    Right-wing media figures have helped promote a series of myths about transgender service members in the U.S. military in response to President Donald Trump’s announcement that he would ban them from serving. These debunked myths include the claim that the cost of medically necessary health care for transgender service members would be in the billions, that allowing transgender members to serve would interfere with military readiness and cohesion, that a majority of transgender people are unable to be deployed due to their health care needs, and that being transgender is a mental illness that makes people unfit to be in the military.

  • Fox News and fake news purveyors praise Trump’s North Korea threat that experts call irresponsible

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ & ZACHARY PLEAT

    Various Fox News personalities and fake news purveyors are praising President Donald Trump’s statement that he would unleash “fire and fury” against North Korea should Kim Jong Un’s regime endanger American interests. While pro-Trump media are thrilled with the president’s threat, nuclear experts have explained that “threats from the US will only increase tensions” on the Korean Peninsula, where, should war accidentally break out amid heightened tensions, armed conflict would likely cause “hundreds of thousands of deaths, mostly in South Korea.”

  • 20-Plus Years Of Anti-Gay Hate From The NRA

    ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    While the NRA is ostensibly an organization focused on gun rights, members of its leadership have attacked LGBT people for years, including blaming a mass shooting on gay marriage, calling societal acceptance of transgender people “perverted,” claiming gay people “created” the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and labeling gay people “despicable,” “perverts,” and “degenerates.”

  • Fox's Oliver North Hypes Conspiracy Theory That State Department Holding Secret Bids For Gitmo Detainees

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    Fox News' Oliver North suggested that the Obama administration's State Department is holding "secret auction[s] to the high bidder" for countries willing to take Guantanamo Bay detainees.    

    On the January 21 edition of On The Record with Greta Van Susteren, Oliver North speculated that the Obama administration and Secretary of State John Kerry engaged in a "quid pro quo" scheme with the country of Oman, who he claimed agreed to take Guantanamo Bay detainees in exchange for weapons:

    OLIVER NORTH: Unfortunately, this president in his campaign promise way back in 2008, he made the campaign promise that he was going to close Gitmo within a year of taking office. Well, that didn't happen for very good reasons. Even his own investigation sent down there to go to Camp Delta there were no people there that were harmless goat herders, these were terrorists. These were bad people who tried to kill Americans and in some cases succeeded. Think about this. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11/01 attack on the United States, and with four airliners fly into buildings and killed nearly 3,000 people. He is one of the last to go. Where will he go? Think about what just happened with Oman. Ten detainees here are released to Oman and a week later Oman gets --

    GRETA VAN SUSTEREN (HOST): A weapons deal. 

    NORTH: Yes, a $51 million weapons deal that they've been asking for, for years. 

    VAN SUSTEREN: It's incredible. Said it's a coincidence. Obama administration says it's a coincidence. We're not that stupid. 

    NORTH: Think about this. Is the Kerry State Department holding a secret auction to the high bidder, secret sealed bids on who will take Khalid Sheikh Mohammed? Think about it. I mean, if you look at what's happening with this administration, there is no concern for the safety of American troops or American citizens. This administration ought to be held accountable. 

    [...]

    NORTH: I'll give you a prediction. Within six months of the new administration in Washington there will be an investigation that finds quid pro quo and things were provided to these governments for taking these incredibly bad people.

    Van Susteren invited North to push his baseless conspiracy theory without disclosing North's own relationship with illegally selling weapons in the Iran-Contra affair in 1985. North, then a Lieutenant Colonel, was fired after it was discovered that he" had been diverting funds from the arms sales [with Iran] to the Contras," anti-communist rebels in Nicaragua.

    In 1985, while Iran and Iraq were at war, Iran made a secret request to buy weapons from the United States. McFarlane sought Reagan's approval, in spite of the embargo against selling arms to Iran. 

    [...]

    With the backing of the president, the plan progressed. By the time the sales were discovered, more than 1,500 missiles had been shipped to Iran. Three hostages had been released, only to be replaced with three more, in what Secretary of State George Shultz called "a hostage bazaar."

    [...]

    While probing the question of the arms-for-hostages deal, Attorney General Edwin Meese discovered that only $12 million of the $30 million the Iranians reportedly paid had reached government coffers. Then-unknown Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North of the National Security Council explained the discrepancy: he had been diverting funds from the arms sales to the Contras, with the full knowledge of National Security Adviser Admiral John Poindexter and with the unspoken blessing, he assumed, of President Reagan.

    Poindexter resigned, and North was fired.