Fox figures used part of a 1995 speech by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to press the conservative narrative that the administration plans to launch an assault on gun owners and the Second Amendment. In fact, in that 1995 speech, Holder addressed efforts to teach young residents of the District of Columbia that it was “not hip to carry a gun anymore.” At that time, Holder was serving as the District's U.S. Attorney and it was then illegal to own a handgun in the city.
On Thursday's edition of The Five, the co-hosts discussed a series of meetings Vice President Joe Biden is holding with gun owners' groups, including the National Rifle Association, as part of the White House's review of gun laws. During the discussion, co-host Andrea Tantaros introduced Holder's 1995 comments as “the reason why, I think, people are slightly nervous.”
After playing video of Holder's speech, Tantaros said to co-host Eric Bolling, “He's saying that smoking used to be cool. But when was it ever cool to commit a crime or to shoot somebody?” Bolling responded by saying that Holder's speech was an example of the Obama administration “mentality” of “brainwash[ing] the people who don't agree with what our administration stands for.”
Likewise on his radio show, Fox News host Sean Hannity cited Holder's speech as proof of the administration's “anti-gun” values, claiming that “they're now advocating brainwashing to get their way.” He went on to accuse the administration of “forcible indoctrination” and “persuasion by propaganda,” adding: “We have to deal with a liberated, more radical, the real Obama, ambitious Obama, and he meant it when he said he wanted to transform America. That's why we have got to save America.”
On Special Report, anchor Bret Baier introduced Holder's comments by saying that Holder “has been an advocate of doing something on guns for a long time.” After playing a video of Holder's speech, Baier said that Holder “went on to say that we should start to, quote, brainwash people about guns,” and speculated that Holder's statements indicate that the administration “wants to go beyond magazines or what they're talking about with these regulations.” Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano responded that he fears the administration will “diminish the right to bear arms.”
In fact, when Holder gave the speech in 1995, it was illegal to possess a handgun in the District of Columbia. In advocating efforts to teach young people that “it's not hip to carry a gun anymore,” Holder, who was the city's chief prosecutor, was basically advocating for a campaign to encourage citizens of his jurisdiction not to break the law.
None of the Fox personalities hyping the tape mentioned this fact however.
As Holder pointed out at the beginning of his speech, the office of U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia is “charged with the responsibility of enforcing not only federal law, as all U.S. Attorneys Offices are in the country,” but also “enforcing the local law here in the District of Columbia.” He explained: “I am in essence the D.A. [district attorney] as well as the United States Attorney.”
For that reason, Holder was responsible for enforcing the Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975, the statute that banned the possession of handguns in the District. (In 2008, the Supreme Court overturned D.C.'s handgun ban.) As the one responsible for prosecutions under that law, he was simply supporting efforts to encourage District residents not to break it.
That none of these Fox figures acknowledged that guns were illegal in D.C. in 1995 and that Holder was U.S. Attorney for the District when he made those comments is hardly surprising, as Fox figures have been aggressively stoking fears about President Obama's gun policies.