Suzanne Malveaux | Media Matters for America

Suzanne Malveaux

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  • REPORT: Conservative Media's "Gun-Free Zone" Myth Infects CNN And Fox News Following Oregon Community College Shooting

    CNN, Fox News Allowed False "Gun-Free Zone" Claim To Go Unchallenged More Than 20 Times Each

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    The false conservative media talking point that Umpqua Community College (UCC) was a "gun-free zone" was frequently pushed on CNN and Fox News in the aftermath of an October 1 mass shooting where a gunman killed nine and wounded several others on the Roseburg, Oregon, campus.

    Conservative media figures often claim that mass shootings tend to happen in so-called "gun-free zones" in order to advocate for less restrictive gun laws. In reality, most mass shootings occur where firearms are allowed, and a Mother Jones review of mass public shootings over a 30-year period concluded, "In not a single case was the killing stopped by a civilian using a gun. And in other recent (but less lethal) rampages in which armed civilians attempted to intervene, those civilians not only failed to stop the shooter but also were gravely wounded or killed."

    Within the first two hours of breaking news reporting on the UCC shooting, claims that UCC was a "gun-free zone" began to appear on CNN and Fox News. The claim, however, was untrue under any reasonable definition of what a "gun-free zone" could be. According to a Newsweek interview of more than a dozen people connected with UCC, it was "common knowledge" that "many students carried guns" on UCC's campus.

    Under Oregon law, individuals with concealed carry permits are allowed to carry guns on the grounds of public colleges and universities. Public colleges and universities can create a policy to not allow guns within campus buildings. UCC did not allow guns in buildings "except as expressly authorized by law or college regulations," which was apparently interpreted by students as allowing concealed carry with a lawfully issued permit.

    As one student explained to Newsweek, "You are allowed to conceal and carry on that campus. It's not a gun-free zone":

    "You are allowed to conceal and carry on that campus," said Umpqua student and part-time wildland firefighter Jeremy Smith, 24. "It's not a gun-free zone."

    Smith said he would never return to campus without a handgun.

    "I'm an avid gun owner," he said. "I carry, like just about anybody else does."

    Although Oregon state law allows concealed weapons, Umpqua's student handbook says firearms are prohibited on college property "except as expressly authorized by law or college regulations."

    The school includes firearms training in its criminal justice program for people accepted into a Police Reserve Academy. Students use the Roseburg Rod and Gun Club, a short drive from campus, to shoot or get help registering for a concealed-carry permit, an employee there said.

    While there were two unarmed security guards at the sprawling campus, several current and former students said legally carrying concealed handguns was not unusual, particularly among the hundreds of military veterans who attend classes and frequent the Student Veterans Center.

    News reports also established that there were indeed armed students on campus at the time of the shooting. A student who also happened to be a U.S. military veteran described on MSNBC why he and other veterans he was with decided not to intervene, explaining, "Not knowing where SWAT was on their response time, they wouldn't have known who we were, if we had our guns ready to shoot they could think we were bad guys."

    Despite this plethora of evidence that UCC was not a "gun-free zone," CNN and Fox News continued to advance the falsehood in the week after the shooting.

    According to a review of internal Media Matters video archives of coverage between October 1 and October 6, the "gun-free zone" falsehood as it relates to UCC was mentioned 23 times on Fox News, with just two instances where it was explained that UCC was not a "gun-free zone." The falsehood appeared 25 times on CNN, with four of those instances being debunked with accurate information.

    By contrast, the falsehood was advanced just once on MSNBC without pushback, and in two instances the "gun-free zone" claim was pro-actively debunked without someone first pushing the myth:

    Fox News

    Fox News ran 23 segments where it was claimed that UCC was a "gun-free zone." The claims came from Fox News reporters, hosts, guests and soundbites of GOP presidential candidates making the claim. The claim was debunked in only two cases.

    In one of these instances, during the October 1 broadcast of The O'Reilly Factor, guest David Jaques, the publisher of the Roseburg Beacon News, explained "it's not a gun-free zone," citing a statement from UCC's past president.

    False claims about UCC being a "gun-free zone" were not limited to conservative punditry on Fox News. During breaking news coverage of the shooting on October 1, Fox News correspondent and breaking news anchor Trace Gallagher falsely reported, "As we know, and have been reporting, Umpqua Community College is a gun-free zone."

    On October 2, Fox News correspondent William La Jeunesse falsely reported UCC was a "gun-free zone" during several news reports. During the October 2 broadcast of Happening Now, La Jeunesse falsely reported, "This was a gun-free zone." Later on Outnumbered, La Jeunesse editorialized further, saying, "This was a gun-free zone, so the gunman had no fear of being shot himself by other students."

    Several segments on Fox News included some attempt to explain Oregon law or UCC policy relating to guns, but still reached the false conclusion that the campus was a "gun-free zone."


    CNN ran 25 segments that included claims that UCC was a "gun-free zone," with claims coming from CNN hosts, guests, and unchallenged soundbites of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump pushing the falsehood during a speech.

    In four instances, other on-air individuals corrected the claim that UCC was a "gun-free zone."

    CNN figures who pushed the "gun-free zone" falsehood included anchors Brooke Baldwin, Carol Costello, and Suzanne Malveaux and national correspondent Deborah Feyerick.

    During the early morning hours of October 2, CNN ran a report several times that erroneously reported UCC was "technically ... a gun-free zone" in a botched attempt to explain Oregon law and UCC policies.


    The claim that UCC was a "gun-free zone" was made just once on MSNBC, by co-host Willie Geist during the October 2 broadcast of Morning Joe.

    In two other instances, the notion that UCC was a "gun-free zone" was preemptively debunked, once by Mark Kelly, whose wife, then-Congresswoman Gabby Giffords (D-AZ), was wounded in a 2011 mass shooting, and once by MSNBC correspondent Jacob Soboroff who explained, "This was not a so-called gun-free zone" while relaying reports of concealed carry on campus and students who were carrying guns during the shooting.


    Media Matters reviewed internal video archives for MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News beginning at 2 P.M. EST on October 1 and ending at 11:59 P.M. EST on October 6, searching for the term "gun-free zone." Segments that included this term were reviewed to determine whether the claim that UCC was a "gun-free zone" was either advanced, debunked, or both advanced and debunked. Segments that referenced Oregon gun law or UCC gun policy but ultimately concluded that UCC was a "gun-free zone" were coded as "Segments Pushing 'Gun-Free Zones' Myth."

    Chart by Craig Harrington. 

  • WSJ to Fox to CNN: Malveaux legitimizes "death book" distortions

    ››› ››› JOCELYN FONG

    Echoing distortions advanced by former Bush administration aide Jim Towey and Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace, CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux introduced a report by correspondent Brian Todd by stating, "Are [military veterans] forced to face a variation of the so-called 'death panels,' as administration critics have called them?" In fact, as Todd's report indicated, the end-of-life educational booklet used by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), which Towey has called a "Death Book," does not encourage veterans to end their lives.

  • OMG you guys, who's gonna be HuffPo's next most favoritist White House correspondent?

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    Yes, as Politico's Michael Calderone points out, Huffington Post is asking readers to vote for their favorite White House correspondent:

    Current nominees: Chuck Todd, Savannah Guthrie, John Yang, Suzanne Malveaux, Ed Henry, Bill Plante, Jake Tapper, Major Garrett and Wendell Goler.

    Henry would like your vote. But some think there are some notable exemptions: Former White House press office staffer Pete Seat wants Chip Reid and Washington Times White House correspondent Christina Bellantoni thinks Mark Knoller was robbed.

    Personally, I can't wait for class favorites like "Most likely to ask questions devoid of substance." I'm looking at you Ed Henry.

    Not my cup of tea, but if you like this sort of thing, go vote.

  • CNN's Keilar, caption falsely claimed Geithner's financial takeover request was "unprecedented"

    ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    CNN correspondent Brianna Keilar, along with several other CNN correspondents and hosts and instances of CNN on-screen text, described Timothy Geithner's proposal for Congress to pass legislation allowing the federal government to take over failing nonbank financial institutions as "unprecedented." In fact, former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and FDIC chairman Sheila Bair -- both Bush appointees -- stated in 2008 that the federal government needed and should have such power.

  • Asserting that Dems "like their earmarks," CNN's King, Bash ignored own reporting on GOP-sponsored earmarks

    ››› ››› LILY YAN

    On State of the Union, Dana Bash remarked that the Obama administration has "got a big problem on their hands because if they -- if the president really thinks he's gonna stand up and say, 'No earmarks,' the Senate majority leader and other Democrats said, 'Uh-uh. That's the way we do business, and that's the way it's gonna stay.' " King replied, "They like their earmarks." But while Bash and King have both previously noted that Republicans requested many of the earmarks in the bill, neither gave any indication during the discussion that they did so.

  • In Obama Revealed special, CNN's Malveaux baselessly suggested Obamas got special deal on house

    ››› ››› TOM ALLISON

    In a CNN special titled Obama Revealed, Suzanne Malveaux baselessly claimed that convicted Chicago businessman Antoin "Tony" Rezko "enable[d] Obama to buy his house at $300,000 below the asking price." According to Bloomberg News, "[t]he couple who sold Barack Obama his Chicago home said the Illinois senator's $1.65 million bid 'was the best offer' and they didn't cut their asking price because a campaign donor bought their adjacent land, according to e-mails between Obama's presidential campaign and the seller."

  • CNN claims "Chicago-style politics" in Obama's signature challenges in state Senate race -- while ignoring McCain's Arizona-style politics

    ››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN

    In a special report on Sen. Barack Obama, referring to Obama's challenges to signatures on his opponents' nominating petitions during his 1996 run for the Illinois state Senate, CNN's Suzanne Malveaux described Obama as "an avid student of Chicago-style politics" and aired remarks by a Chicago reporter calling the practice "cutthroat." But CNN's special on Sen. John McCain made no mention of McCain's reported petition challenges in at least two U.S. Senate races, aired no one labeling McCain "cutthroat" for those challenges, or at any point pronounced McCain an avid student of Arizona-style politics for those challenges.

  • CNN's Malveaux: Sen. Clinton's "Come on" translates to telling Bill, "Stop sucking the air out of my campaign"


    On The Situation Room, John King and Suzanne Malveaux discussed a video clip of Bill Clinton talking to reporters in which Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton can be heard in the background saying, "We've got to go. These kids are waiting for us. Come on." King commented that he had a "[s]neaky suspicion, Suzanne, you might be able to translate that 'Move [sic] on' to 'Please stop talking.' " Malveaux responded, "Yes. 'Stop sucking the air out of my campaign,' yes."

  • CNN's Malveaux noted H.W. Bush's defense of son on Iraq, but not his assertion in 1990s that invasion would have been "disastrous"

    ››› ››› BEN ARMBRUSTER

    In a report on CNN's Late Edition, Suzanne Malveaux reported that President George H.W. Bush recently came out "very forcefully defending" his son against critics of his decision to invade Iraq "because he feels that he does have some experience when it comes to dealing with Saddam Hussein, and he absolutely believes that the criticism against his son has just not been fair." But Malveaux did not mention that the former president declined to order an invasion of Iraq in 1991, saying that after coalition forces expelled Iraqi troops from Kuwait, "going into Baghdad" and "going to be an occupying power ... with no allies on our side ... would have been disastrous."