MSNBC Live with Ali Velshi | Media Matters for America

MSNBC Live with Ali Velshi

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  • MSNBC doesn’t tell the full story in segment on rogue sheriffs refusing to enforce local gun safety laws

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    In a lengthy segment, MSNBC highlighted the growing trend of local sheriffs refusing to enforce gun safety laws they claim are unconstitutional. The segment focused on recent efforts in New Mexico to pass extreme risk protection order (ERPO) laws, which allow firearms to be temporarily taken from people who are a danger to themselves or others, but it failed to note that the National Rifle Association helps the New Mexico sheriffs behind the scenes and that these laws, which the sheriffs say violate people’s Second Amendment rights, are actually constitutional. 

    The July 9 segment looked at the trend that started off largely as a symbolic gesture after Effingham County, IL declared itself a “Second Amendment Sanctuary” in reaction to five gun safety bills were proposed in the state legislature. Since then, “more than half of the counties in Illinois have declared themselves gun sanctuaries,” and counties in 12 other states have also passed some form of a “Second Amendment Sanctuary” resolution. The sheriffs who support these resolutions insist what they’re doing is no different than what some “sanctuary cities” are doing as they refuse to participate in enforcement of federal enforcement of immigration. 

    But despite the similar names, there is a major difference between the immigration-related “sanctuary city” and the gun law-related “sanctuary county.” It is settled law that cities can decline to assist federal authorities in enforcing federal immigration law -- ironically because of an anti-commandeering constitutional principle established by an early 1990s NRA-backed lawsuit. But sheriffs in so-called sanctuary counties are refusing to enforce state laws, such as the ERPO, that have been declared constitutionally valid under the Second Amendment. While counties or individual sheriffs may claim the laws they refuse to enforce are unconstitutional, that claim does not come from any legal adjudication and is merely an opinion. 

    In the segment, MSNBC gave a platform to New Mexico Sheriff Tony Mace who drew a comparison -- without any pushback from the reporter -- between sanctuary cities and “Second Amendment sanctuary” counties, stating that even “bad people” have “constitutional rights that need to be protected”:

    GADI SCHWARTZ (NBC REPORTER): Why choose the word sanctuary?

    TONY MACE (CIBOLA COUNTY SHERIFF): So you have these sanctuary cities that basically say, “hey, you know, we’re going to ignore federal immigration laws,” right? And -- so why not have a Second Amendment sanctuary county that’s going to protect people’s constitutional rights. 


    MACE: It’s hard to say this, but even if they’re bad people, they still have rights -- constitutional rights that need to be protected. And as a sheriff and a law enforcement officer, that’s my job to protect those rights -- good, bad, or indifferent. 

    The MSNBC segment failed to mention that Mace is the chairperson of the New Mexico Sheriffs’ Association and has “received extensive and significant behind-the-scenes support from the NRA” in his “crusade” against the new gun violence prevention laws, according to the Brady group. Records obtained by the group show that “the NRA authored and sent Mace and the sheriffs documents such as op-eds to send to their local newspapers (in the sheriffs’ own names) and letters to send to state and local politicians opposing the GVP legislation.” In return, Mace asked New Mexico sheriffs to attend the NRA Institute for Legislative Action workshops. Mace also wrote an email to Democratic state Sen. Clemente Sanchez declaring, “The sheriff is the CEO of all the courts in his/her county and can easily strike down any court ruling or verdict as he sees fit,” echoing the language of the extreme anti-government Posse Comitatus movement. 

    In a live discussion following the packaged MSNBC segment, host Ali Velshi asked reporter Gadi Schwartz about the fear among New Mexico gun owners that any gun safety law will lead to confiscation (25 of the state’s 33 counties have passed gun sanctuary resolutions). The conversation revolved specifically around an ERPO law that passed the New Mexico state House in February but didn’t pass the state Senate. 

    Schwartz said gun owners “cling” to cases where red flag laws have been invoked and said they don’t want law enforcement taking their guns just “because somebody may say that they’re crazy”:

    ALI VELSHI (HOST): The assumption that any red flag law, any kind of control whatsoever leads to a gun registry, which leads to confiscations of guns. How common is that in a place like New Mexico?

    GADI SCHWARTZ (NBC REPORTER): They, you know -- they get a lot of their news from social media, and what they are seeing is those outlier cases where you do have police going in without necessarily a court order from a judge to try and take somebody’s guns in states where it has been decided that if somebody is claimed a threat, that the police can go in and try to remove those guns, and then there’s a shoot out, and somebody dies in their own home without ever going before a judge, without ever having due process. So, those are the types of cases that they see on social media and that they cling to saying that this is where the slippery slope begins. And they don’t want to see law enforcement coming into their homes because somebody may say that they’re crazy, to take their guns. So that’s kind of where their argument begins. But there’s -- those debates just go on and on, and it’s really interesting to hear these conversations because it really shows this divide between rural America and some of the urban areas that we’ve seen.

    Schwartz failed to mention that most states where ERPO laws have already been passed also make it a crime to falsely petition for gun removal to ensure the law isn’t abused. Courts also require actual evidence -- not mere hearsay -- that the person is indeed a threat before ordering a temporary removal of firearm, and a final order of removal is issued only after a hearing is held and typically lasts up to a year.

    While the details depend on the state, due process is built into the ERPO laws and orders require more proof than just someone claiming a person is “crazy.” 

  • The most enlightening media coverage of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Salvadoran immigrants included Salvadoran immigrants

    Oscar Chacón: “These people stopped being temporary long, long ago”

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    On January 8, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it would not renew Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Salvadoran immigrants who have been residing in the country since the 2001 earthquakes in El Salvador, giving 200,000 Salvadorans until September 2019 to leave the country or face deportation. In their coverage of the move, CNN and MSNBC both hosted Salvadoran immigrants familiar with the program to discuss the decision, providing unique and crucial insight that rarely appears on cable news.

    In one appearance, Orlando Zapata, a TPS recipient who first arrived in the United States in 1984 after fleeing the violence of El Salvador’s civil war, appeared on CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper and explained that returning to El Salvador would be a dangerous situation for him and his family. Zapata stated that “the situation is worse than when I left El Salvador because now we have the other problems like the gang members that are … forcing kids to join them.” Zapata underscored the danger those being forced to return to El Salvador would face:

    On MSNBC Live with Ali Velshi, guest host Chris Jansing interviewed Oscar Chacón, co-founder and executive director of Alianza Americas. Chacón echoed Zapata’s point that the conditions in El Salvador haven’t improved, stating that “it would be, frankly, very fictitious, very much imaginary to say that El Salvador is in great conditions to receive 200,000 of its own nationals,” adding, “ The conditions today are no better than they were back in 2001.” Chacón also rebutted the argument that TPS recipients can apply for legal permanent residence, explaining, “If you are a recipient of temporary protected status, you do not qualify, by virtue of being in that situation, to apply for anything else other than renewing the work permits.” (This is true, and the process of applying for a green card through other means can take several years.) Chacón added that “these people stopped being temporary long, long ago” and highlighted the social and economic contributions Salvadoran immigrants under TPS have made to American communities:

    Cable news has a bad habit of excluding immigrants from conversations pertinent to their lives. These interviews further exemplify the fact that including immigrants and immigration experts in relevant discussions adds important context that media pundits simply cannot provide. 

  • Fox News guest makes incorrect claims about Native Americans being hurt by national monuments

    MSNBC, in contrast, invites Native American leaders to speak for themselves

    Blog ››› ››› LISA HYMAS

    A guest on Fox News made inaccurate claims when he said Native Americans have been hurt by national monument designations in southern Utah, and his Fox interviewer failed to question or push back against his claims.

    Boyd Matheson, president of the conservative, Utah-based Sutherland Institute, was interviewed by host Shannon Bream on Fox News @ Night on December 4:

    BOYD MATHESON: Grazing goes down with these big national monuments. Ranchers are hurt, farmers are hurt. The local Navajo tribes are really hurt because they're not able to access these lands which they use not only for their wood to heat their homes and gathering herbs and berries and doing their spiritual traditions there on the mountain. So it's an important day. This was critical. We got involved in this whole process because those voices weren't being heard.

    The segment aired a few hours after President Donald Trump signed proclamations to dramatically shrink two national monuments in southern Utah -- the Bears Ears National Monument, which was established by President Barack Obama at the end of 2016, and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which was designated by President Bill Clinton in 1996. Both designations were made under the Antiquities Act of 1906, which was intended to protect Native American ruins and artifacts.

    Matheson was flat-out wrong to say that national monument protections prevent Native Americans from gathering herbs, foods, or wood on the land. Obama's proclamation establishing Bears Ears calls for the federal government to "provide access by members of Indian tribes for traditional cultural and customary uses ... including collection of medicines, berries and other vegetation, forest products, and firewood for personal noncommercial use." Some Native Americans endorsed the creation of Bears Ears specifically because they saw it as a way to protect their rights to hunt and gather on the land.

    Matheson was also wrong to suggest that Native American communities broadly supported Trump's move to shrink the monuments and roll back protections from about 2 million acres. Some members of the Navajo Nation backed Trump, including a few who were present at the signing ceremony. But Bears Ears has been widely endorsed by Native Americans, many of whom consider the area sacred. The monument was created in response to a proposal from a coalition of five Native American tribes in the region, including the Navajo Nation. The coalition pushed for years to get Bears Ears protected, with the backing of an additional 25 tribes.

    Now the Native American coalition is outraged over Trump's rollback and intends to fight it in court.

    MSNBC does a better job

    Contrast that Fox segment -- which featured a white man pretending to represent Native American views and misrepresenting the impacts of Trump's action on tribes -- with coverage on MSNBC in the wake of Trump's move.

    MSNBC host Ali Velshi conducted substantive interviews with three Native American leaders, all of whom opposed shrinking the monuments: Shaun Chapoose, a member of the Ute Indian Tribe Business Committee; Jonathan Nez, vice president of the Navajo Nation; and Ethel Branch, attorney general for the Navajo Nation.

    Chapoose was interviewed by Velshi on MSNBC Live with Katy Tur:

    SHAUN CHAPOOSE: I sat and listened to the president's speech, and what is interesting is nowhere in that discussion do we as Native Americans even take any recognition as far as protecting our rights. People forget, we were the first residents of the state of Utah, long before it was a state. And the areas in question have historical artifacts, they have graveyards, they have all kinds of things which are sacred to not just my tribe but all the tribes in the state of Utah and outside the state of Utah.

    Nez and Branch were guests on MSNBC Live with Ali Velshi:

    JONATHAN NEZ: It's a sad day in Indian country. It’s a sad day for Americans to where the president says that the law of the land, and Antiquities Act is the law of the land, but he is overstepping his own authority by doing this type of action, and it's quite saddening to see this happen today here in the state of Utah. But for us, we hold that area as [a] historic place.


    ETHEL BRANCH: [Trump] is completely missing, completely misunderstanding, what an Indian nation is and is ignoring the fact that we are sovereigns, we're governments, and we expect to be engaged on a nation-to-nation basis, and we have treaties, federal law, federal statutes, federal common law that define that relationship and there's absolutely no understanding of that from the actions we've seen from both President Trump, as well as [Interior Secretary Ryan] Zinke. They think that talking to one Native American person, one Navajo person, constitutes consultation with the Navajo Nation, and they're both gravely mistaken. We have our own tribal laws that define who can speak on behalf of our nation and we want those laws to be respected.

    This would be a good time to reiterate a key lesson from Journalism 101: Don't let a white man speak on behalf of Native Americans or any other communities of color. It's a lesson Fox has long neglected.