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  • NRATV hosted members of the MSD commission to push for arming teachers in the year following the Parkland shooting

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    In the year after the mass shooting at a Parkland, FL, high school, the National Rifle Association’s broadcast outlet NRATV developed a relationship with members of the state commission set up to analyze the response to the shooting and suggest security improvements, which included arming classroom teachers.  

    The 16-member panel was put together to “investigate system failures” and recommend policies for active shooter situations as part of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, a “sweeping school-safety law” signed by Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott a month after the Parkland school shooting left 17 dead. NRATV host Grant Stinchfield praised the legislation on the one-year anniversary of the shooting, calling the law “amazing” and reminding viewers that “the NRA worked hard to get [it] passed.” Among its recommendations, which were released in December, the commission called for arming teachers who undergo background checks and training.

    Commission members were chosen by state Republicans -- Scott, then-Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, and then-Senate President Joe Negron. They initially included three Parkland parents in the commission, though Andrew Pollack, whose daughter was killed in the shooting, later resigned. The panel held its first meeting on April 24.

    On August 16, Pinellas County Sheriff and commission Chairman Bob Gualtieri appeared with NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch on her NRATV show Relentless and echoed a common NRA talking point that “police officers cannot be everywhere.” He claimed, “The unfortunate reality is is cops can’t be everywhere all the time, and if there had been a good guy with a gun on that campus or in that building, there’s no doubt in my mind that they would have been able to minimize the carnage.”

    Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, a commission member, has made at least five appearances on NRATV’s Stinchfield and Cam & Co. since his appointment to repeat NRA talking points and push for more guns in schools. On November 28, Judd appeared on NRATV with host Grant Stinchfield to take credit for guiding his “dear friend” Chairman Gualtieri toward supporting armed teachers after he initially expressed discomfort with the idea:

    GRANT STINCHFIELD (HOST): Here we have another recommendation that teachers should be armed. Not surprising to you, but what do you think about this recommendation? Was it surprising to others in Florida?

    GRADY JUDD: Well, do you know, I don’t think it was a surprise to others in Florida because Senate Bill 7026, which we pushed through, mandates armed guardians or school resource officers on every campus. Sheriff Gualtieri is a dear friend of mine and chairs the commission -- I’m on that commission with him. I established that position early on as, you know, through my sentinel program. Bob originally -- Bob Gualtieri, the chair -- was not really comfortable with that. And as I worked with him -- and he and I are dear friends and are on several committees together. And the research we developed through this shooting, it was abundantly evident had teachers -- not all teachers; those that wanted to and were capable of and completed thorough training -- could have and would have saved lives that day. We know one teacher that was shot by our suspect, had actually pulled himself over into a corner, and then the suspect came back and shot him again, fatally killing him, obviously. But we know he would have shot and killed the active shooter had he had a firearm. Had he had that firearm, not only would his life have been saved but so would have a lot of other children in school that day. As I’ve said over and over, Grant, this is not something we want to do. When I was a kid in school, we didn’t have to have armed security on campuses. But this is a new normal and a new day. And we have to have someone there so if we can’t discover this active murderer, shooter, ahead of time, that when they arrive on campus, somebody is there to stop them before they can hurt our students and our teachers.

    STINCHFIELD: You know, sheriff, to me this is all common sense. I mean, I don’t really even think you need research to understand the very basic premise that [NRA executive vice president and CEO] Wayne LaPierre coined the phrase “The best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” I know that research has been done, it backs up your case, but to me it comes down to just simple common sense. You’ve got to meet a threat with equal or greater force. That’s the only way to stop a threat. This does that, doesn't it?

    JUDD: It absolutely does.     

    Two weeks later, on December 12, the commission released a draft report that listed “a series of failures by Broward County agencies and recommendations for avoiding a similar tragedy in the future,” the Sun-Sentinel reported. Among its other recommendations, the commission voted 14-1 to allow classroom teachers to carry guns provided they undergo background checks and training.  

    Less than a week after the draft report was released, Loesch revealed that Gualtieri told her information about the shooting that was released to the commission but not to the public. On her December 18 radio show, she said CCTV footage from inside the school showed that the gunman took seven to 10 seconds to reload, a longer time compared to “an adequately trained person” who “can reload in a second.” The commission submitted its final report to the governor and state legislature on January 2.

    The NRA has long advocated for putting armed personnel in schools, and even though NRATV ramped up its advocacy following the Parkland mass shooting, there is little to no evidence putting guns in schools will stop mass shootings. An FBI study of 160 active shooter incidents between 2000 and 2013 found that only four incidents were stopped by “armed individuals who were not law enforcement personnel” (three security guards and one licensed and armed citizen) -- compared to 21 incidents stopped by unarmed citizens. A working paper released in March 2018 by Johns Hopkins University education professor Sheldon Greenberg that relies in part on analyses of police officers’ confrontations with armed suspects also concluded that arming teachers would do more harm than good.  

  • During the shutdown, the NRA embraced white nationalism in support of Trump’s wall

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    More than half of the live news updates from the National Rifle Association’s media operation, NRATV, fearmongered about undocumented immigrants during the recent government shutdown, which was caused by President Donald Trump’s demand that Congress fund a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

    During the 35-day shutdown, which ended on January 25, NRATV broadcast 95 segments on its news program Stinchfield. The show, hosted by conservative radio host Grant Stinchfield, consists of 10- to 20-minute hourly updates on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. EST. According to a Media Matters review, 54 of the segments aired during the shutdown fearmongered about undocumented immigrants to agitate for Trump’s fantastical and racist border wall proposal. In three instances, NRATV invited Michael Cutler, a frequent contributor to a white nationalist publication, on to the outlet to advocate for Trump’s wall. Additionally, NRATV correspondent Chuck Holton pushed explicitly white nationalist talking points during one of his appearances.

    While it may seem odd that an outlet dedicated to gun-related issues would devote so much time to pushing for Trump’s wall, NRATV is actually best understood as a pro-Trump propaganda network with an explicit aim of promoting whatever his agenda happens to be that day. (In once instance, Stinchfield did connect immigration to the NRA’s goal of loosening concealed carry laws nationwide, saying we should do so because of “the issues we face with immigration and crime.”)

    In this report:

    NRATV host Grant Stinchfield demonized undocumented immigrants as violent criminals

    Stinchfield frequently used the slur “illegals”

    Stinchfield made up a statistic and repeatedly used the same inflammatory talking points on immigration

    NRATV hosted a contributor to a white nationalist publication three times

    NRATV featured homegrown white nationalism from NRATV correspondent Chuck Holton

    Other ways NRATV fearmongered about undocumented immigrants

    The truth about NRATV and public safety

    NRATV host Grant Stinchfield demonized undocumented immigrants as violent criminals

    NRATV’s scapegoating of undocumented immigrants for problems in the U.S. began on December 28 -- the first day that the network broadcast Stinchfield after the partial government shutdown began. Throughout his broadcasts that day, Stinchfield repeatedly raised the murder of California police officer Ronil Singh by an undocumented immigrant to create the false perception that undocumented immigrants often pose a public safety threat to those in the U.S. Falsely claiming that Trump’s wall proposal would “stop the large majority of those sneaking in today,” Stinchfield said, “We are tired and fed up of seeing innocent people slaughtered at the hands of illegal immigrants,” and added, “It is time now to stand firm with President Trump. Let’s build this wall.” During another update later that day, NRATV correspondent Chuck Holton connected without evidence the murder of a Swiss man in Acapulco, Mexico, to a migrant caravan poised to enter Mexico from Central America. (Speaking of the migrants in the caravan, Holton also added, “You can bet that these are not doctors and accountants coming along. These are unskilled laborers coming to a place that’s absolutely chock full already of unskilled laborers. So you can imagine how that’s going to go.”)

    That trend would continue: During the 20 days NRATV broadcast during the shutdown, only one -- January 25 -- did not feature a segment fearmongering about undocumented immigrants. The implication that undocumented immigrants pose a grave public safety threat is meant to scare NRATV’s viewers, but it is not based on reality. Research has proved that undocumented immigrants commit crimes -- including murder -- at lower rates than people born in the U.S. do. There is no evidence that the wall would improve public safety (although Stinchfield stated that it “will instantly make us all safer” during a January 2 broadcast).

    Stinchfield frequently used the slur “illegals”

    Throughout shutdown broadcasts, Stinchfield repeatedly slurred and dehumanized undocumented immigrants with the term “illegals.” Some examples:

    • Stinchfield on January 4: “We’ve talked over and over again about people driving drunk, getting killed by illegals. … I argue that drunk driving among anybody -- but especially illegals who shouldn’t have been here -- put more people at risk than the gangbangers even do.”
    • Stinchfield on January 9: “With so many illegals in America today, and sadly so many of them that have turned to crime, no one is immune to the toll illegal aliens who turn to crime can take on all of us.”
    • Stinchfield on January 18: Singer Cardi B needs to talk to “people who lost loved ones to violent illegals who never should have been here in the first place.”

    Stinchfield made up a statistic and repeatedly used the same inflammatory talking points on immigration

    Stinchfield made up an outrageous statistic to push for the wall; during the January 8 and January 9 broadcasts, he claimed without evidence that undocumented immigrants have killed “tens of thousands” of people in the U.S. in recent years.

    Making matters worse, Stinchfield’s claims about immigration were often not off the cuff -- instead they were scripted and packaged, with the same talking points appearing during multiple Stinchfield updates. Some examples:

    • Stinchfield used similar language to repeatedly suggest that Trump deliver the 2019 State of the Union address at the border while surrounded by family members of people killed by undocumented immigrants. (That idea was pitched to him by Daily Caller White House correspondent Amber Athey, who was recently forced to apologize after racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-gay tweets she sent surfaced.)
    • Stinchfield repeatedly said that the impacts of undocumented immigrants “end in your hometown” with violence.
    • Stinchfield repeatedly claimed that the U.S. has “a problem with violent illegal aliens.”
    • Stinchfield repeatedly said that the U.S. is “under siege” by violent undocumented immigrants.

    NRATV hosted a contributor to a white nationalist publication three times

    NRATV hosted Michael Cutler during broadcasts on December 28, January 3, and January 21, identifying him in on-screen graphics as a “former INS agent.” Cutler, who is also a former fellow at the nativist Center for Immigration Studies, is a frequent contributor to white nationalist journal The Social Contract. The Southern Poverty Law Center notes that the publication “routinely publishes race-baiting articles penned by white nationalists” and that it was founded “by John Tanton, the racist founder and principal ideologue of the modern nativist movement.” According to SPLC, The Social Contract Press “puts an academic veneer of legitimacy over what are essentially racist arguments about the inferiority of today's immigrants.”

    A search of the journal’s website returns 21 articles authored by Cutler, including six articles published since 2017. Echoing Stinchfield, Cutler emphasized undocumented immigrant criminality during his appearances on the show. During his January 21 appearance, Cutler claimed that Democrats are betraying “national security and public safety,” and Stinchfield closed the segment by saying that Cutler “has a long history of defending our nation’s borders.”

    NRATV featured homegrown white nationalism from NRATV correspondent Chuck Holton

    Chuck Holton, an NRATV correspondent with a history of making racist remarks and promoting white nationalism, pushed a conspiratorial white nationalist talking point during a January 4 appearance. Holton alleged that Democrats are “trying to import a new populace that will vote for them by offering them all these free benefits” via the southern border from “Third World” countries such as India, Cameroon, Pakistan, Nepal, Afghanistan, and those “all over Africa.” Describing immigration as “trying to import a new populace” from “the Third World” is a common tactic advanced by white nationalist publications including VDare and American Renaissance.

    While speaking about immigration on NRATV before the shutdown, Holton repeatedly pushed the conspiracy theory that philanthropist George Soros was behind a migrant caravan -- a remarkably similar conspiracy theory to the one that motivated a gunman who carried out a mass shooting in a Pittsburgh, PA, synagogue in October. He has also said that the migrant caravan is “an invasion under the guise of migration.”

    Other ways NRATV fearmongered about undocumented immigrants

    On NRATV, Stinchfield mostly depicted undocumented immigrants as criminals poised to commit everyday violence like robbery or murder, but there were some exceptions. In one instance, he fearmongered about the prospect of undocumented immigrants getting national voting rights.

    In several other cases, Stinchfield and Holton took cues from the Trump administration to raise the prospect of undocumented immigrant terrorists. For example, citing a terrorist attack in Africa and incidents in the U.S., Holton said during the January 16 broadcast of Stinchfield, “This is yet another reason why we need that wall on the southern border.” While providing no examples of terrorists crossing the southern border, Stinchfield said during a January 18 update, “Look at what happens when terrorists make their way into this country. If you want to secure the border, you do it, you build a wall.” According to the libertarian Cato Institute, no U.S. terror attack has ever been carried out by someone who crossed the border illegally.

    The truth about NRATV and public safety

    The sickening irony of NRATV’s obsession with the supposed criminality of undocumented immigrants is that if the outlet was truly concerned about public safety and murder, it would devote its time to reporting that high gun availability and lax firearm laws are the driving factors behind the U.S.’s shockingly high homicide rate, with the vast majority of murders committed by people born in the U.S. But it doesn’t. The NRA, of course, opposes any meaningful action on gun laws to stem that epidemic of violence.

  • There were three mass shootings last week that left fourteen dead, but cable news barely covered them

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    In the span of only a few days last week, three shooters killed a total of 14 people in three separate mass shootings in Florida, Georgia, and Louisiana -- but you might not have heard about these incidents at all if you watched cable news. The shootings were barely discussed on the major cable networks, and the minimal coverage quickly faded away within days.

    On January 23, five women were killed in a SunTrust bank in Sebring, FL, after a 21-year-old gunman walked in and reportedly “shot every person he encountered.” The gunman then called the police himself and surrendered to a SWAT team after a brief standoff. He is now charged with five counts of capital murder for the deaths of Ana Piñon-Williams, Marisol Lopez, Cynthia Lee Watson, and two other victims who have not been named.

    In the days following the public mass shooting, cable news devoted scant coverage beyond mentioning the incident in headlines. From January 23-26, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC together covered the shooting for just over 20 minutes, including reading headlines and short teasers. The majority of the coverage occurred the day immediately after the incident. Fox News devoted about 12 minutes in total to the shooting, followed by CNN with just over 7 minutes, and MSNBC with only 22 seconds.

    The next day, January 24, a gunman in Rockmart, GA, killed four people -- Helen Rose Mitchell, Jaequnn Davis, Arkeyla Perry, and Dadrian Cummings -- and injured one more before fleeing to Indianapolis, IN, where he was taken into custody. The Polk County coroner said it was the worst crime experienced by the local community and compared the shootings to an “execution.”

    All three major cable networks ignored the Georgia mass shooting entirely.  

    Only two days later, on January 26, another 21-year-old gunman fatally shot his parents, Elizabeth and Keith Theriot, in Ascension Parish, LA. The gunman then drove 30 miles northeast to Livingston Parish and allegedly fatally shot his girlfriend, Summer Ernest, along with her father, Billy Ernest, and brother, Tanner Ernest. A manhunt ensued before he was apprehended in Richmond County, Virginia on January 27. The Ascension Parish sheriff called the pair of shootings “one of the worst domestic violence incidents I’ve seen in quite a while.”        

    Yet the major cable news networks devoted similarly little coverage to the Louisiana shootings beyond immediate breaking news headlines. All together, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC again spent just over 20 minutes covering the incident, including reading headlines and short teasers, in the the three-day window following the shootings. From January 26-29, CNN gave the incident just over 11 minutes of coverage, followed by Fox with a little more than 9 minutes, and MSNBC with only 24 seconds.

    While both CNN and Fox did mention the sheriff’s statement that the shootings were considered “domestic violence incidents,” none of the minimal coverage of the Louisiana shootings provided viewers with any context about the well-documented links between easy access to firearms, domestic violence, and mass shootings. Here are some of the relevant facts they could have mentioned:

    • In the United States, one in three women and one in four men have been physically abused by an intimate partner, and “nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused.”
    • One study published in 2016 found that among women living in the United States at the time, “about 4.5 million have had an intimate partner threaten them with a gun and nearly 1 million have been shot or shot at by an intimate partner.”
    • According to Everytown for Gun Safety, in more than half of U.S. mass shootings from 2009 through 2016, “the perpetrator also shot a current or former intimate partner or family member.”
    • A 2016 Associated Press analysis of FBI data concluded that “an average of 760 Americans were killed with guns annually by spouses, ex-spouses or dating partners between 2006 and 2014.”
    • Access to firearms only increases the likelihood that intimate partner violence will end with a woman dead.

    Methodology:

    Media Matters searched SnapStreamHD for “shoot” OR “shot” OR “gunman” OR “kill” or “Florida” OR “Sebring” OR “SunTrust” after January 22. All mentions of the shooting were timed, including teasers, headlines, and full segments.  

    Media Matters searched SnapStreamHD for “shoot” OR “shot” OR “gunman” OR “kill” OR “Rockmart” OR “Georgia” OR “Indianapolis” OR “Polk County.” All mentions of the shooting were timed, including teasers, headlines, and full segments.

    Media Matters searched SnapStreamHD for “shoot” OR “shot” OR “gunman” OR “kill” OR “Louisiana” OR “Virginia” OR “Livingston” OR “Ascension” after January 25. All mentions of the shooting were timed, including teasers, headlines, and full segments.

  • Dan Bongino’s rise from the swamps of Infowars and NRATV to contributor at Fox News

    ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    Dan Bongino, the latest addition to Fox News’ lineup of contributors, is a former NRATV host and tea party congressional candidate who honed his conspiracy theories on the fringe platform Infowars. He is now bringing his attacks and smears on the investigation into whether President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to win the 2016 presidential election to Trump’s favorite network.  

  • Gun pitchman Sean Hannity got his firearm permit through an allegedly fraudulent scheme

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    Radio and Fox News host Sean Hannity has highlighted his gun ownership to push membership in the U.S. Concealed Carry Association. But a former NYPD lieutenant says he didn’t meet the qualifications for his New York City concealed carry permit and that he got it thanks to a “culture of corruption” in the New York Police Department’s License Division.

    According to a January 23 New York Daily News article, an ex-NYPD lieutenant spoke about what the paper described as “culture of corruption within the unit responsible for processing city gun permits” in the department and “favors for powerful people ordered by his supervisor.” One of those alleged favors was approval of a gun license for Hannity, who did not meet license qualifications, said the former lieutenant who is facing sentencing for his role in the gun permit bribery scheme.  

    A spokesperson for Hannity told the paper he has had a gun permit for the majority of the more than 20 years he’s been at Fox News, “has followed every legal and proper procedure,” and does not have a relationship with anyone in the NYPD licensing department.

    Hannity has repeatedly used his radio show to shill for the U.S. Concealed Carry Association (USCCA), “the largest organization that’s dedicated to protecting those of us that are responsible gun owners before, during, and, God forbid, after any self-defense incident,” as he described it. He has advertised a USCCA giveaway offering “10 chances to win whatever your dream gun happens to be” and promoted membership following mass shootings. He said the association has a “family defense guide,” and if you read it you will “learn … how to survive a mass shooting” and “how to detect your attackers before they see you.”

    Hannity is also a longtime opponent of efforts to strengthen gun laws. The radio and TV host has insisted it’s a “misconception” that guns are dangerous and claimed, “They're only dangerous in the hands of a criminal.” Following the 1999 Columbine school shooting, Hannity pushed a common National Rifle Association talking point that instead of having stronger gun laws, the laws on the books should be better enforced, saying, “What good is the laws we have if we don't even enforce them?”

    During the April 11, 2013, edition of his Fox News Show, Hannity called the effort to strengthen gun laws after the Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, CT, “naked exploitation of dead children and grieving families”:

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): If you look at Aurora, and you look at Newtown, there is nothing that’s been proposed here, not a single thing, that would have prevented the tragedy. Now I have a solution: I would put retired military, retired police in every school in the country, just like we protect presidents, politicians, Hollywood liberals, sports stars, and our money. Why not do that?  

    ...

    ANN COULTER: [Democrats] will exploit and play with these victims and say that their gun laws are going to do something. No, their gun laws are going to hurt the defense of the innocent.

    HANNITY: Listen, I got to tell you: It’s more than that. It’s naked exploitation of dead children and grieving families. It’s play acting, it’s feel good-ism, and I got to tell you something, the whole thing is grotesque, because not one of these -- not one of their proposals would have prevented what happened.             

    Hannity has also repeated common pro-gun talking points by insisting that mass shootings are “not a gun issue,” that “guns are not the problem, but they can be part of the solution,” and that it’s “shameful” to talk about gun safety after a mass shooting.  

    In perhaps his most unhinged act as both gun owner and gun shill, Hannity allegedly pointed a gun at Fox News contributor Juan Williams during an off-air incident at Fox News’ studios.

    Update (1/28/19): Approximately an hour after this story was published, Hannity read a new ad for USCCA during the first hour of his radio program. He said that “terror attacks can happen to anybody, any place, any time.” But instead of feeling “helpless in stopping them,” listeners can get a “complete mass shooting survival guide” from USCCA for free.      

  • Multiple polls show vast support for background checks. NRA's Dana Loesch says none of them count.

    Loesch discounted data as House prepares to consider an expanded background checks bill

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    National Rifle Association spokesperson and NRATV host Dana Loesch said that she has “not seen any cross-tab data” showing almost unanimous support for requiring background checks on all gun sales despite years of polling showing just that.

    During the January 7 edition of her NRATV show Relentless, Loesch previewed the forthcoming introduction of a bipartisan U.S. House bill to expand background checks on gun sales and read House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s statement that “it is an honor” to introduce a bill “which 97 percent of the American people support.” Loesch took issue with the statistic, claiming she has “not seen any cross-tab data that at all supports that assertion whatsoever” and that she is “awaiting all of that.” In an interview with Loesch, NRA Institute for Legislative Action spokesperson Lars Dalseide claimed Pelosi is either “unaware of the facts” or is “spreading yet another false rumor”:

    DANA LOESCH (HOST): House Democrats are set to introduce their first salvo of gun control bills tomorrow. California Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Mike Thompson have chosen tomorrow’s date, January 8, for the unveiling -- the eighth anniversary of the Tucson shooting, which left six dead and 15 wounded including former Rep. Gabby Giffords, who will join Pelosi and Thompson in the Capitol. Says Pelosi, “It is an honor to join Congressman Mike Thompson and former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords to answer their call by taking the first step to pass commonsense background checks, which 97 percent of the American people support.” Now Congresswoman Pelosi must be unaware that we have a background checks system, a system that is made possible thanks to the NRA. I’ve seen that 97 percent thrown around for quite some time, but yet have not seen any cross-tab data that at all supports that assertion whatsoever. And still am awaiting all of that. Joining me now to discuss is Lars Dalseide, spokesman for NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action.      

    In fact, a February 20, 2018, Quinnipiac poll -- conducted nearly one week after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL -- showed both 97 percent of all Americans and 97 percent of gun owners supported requiring all gun buyers to undergo a background check. The background check issue has been polled repeatedly over the last several years by different polling firms, and the results always show near-universal support for requiring checks.

    Dalseide echoed Loesch’s falsehood. And he made a dishonest comparison between polling on the background check issue and the outcomes of two 2016 state background check ballot initiatives -- i.e. not polls -- to falsely accuse Pelosi of spreading incorrect information:

    LARS DALSEIDE: As for Speaker Pelosi and her “97 percent,” if that were true then you have to wonder about why that’s not reflected when it comes to the polls. There were two huge universal background check ballot initiatives that came up in 2016, for example. And neither -- well, one of them broke 50 percent and the other one hit 50 or 48 percent. So to say that 97 percent of the public supports these universal background checks, either she’s unaware of the facts or just spreading yet another false rumor when it comes to gun control.      

    Notably, the NRA ran false attack ads against the Maine and Nevada background check ballot initiatives suggesting that the laws could easily land law-abiding gun owners in jail. When the public is plainly asked about support for requiring background checks for all gun sales, the answer is consistently near-universal support.            

  • 2018 was marked by anti-abortion extremism, lies, and harassment

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Anti-abortion figures and right-wing media continued to push misinformation about reproductive health in 2018 and tried to insert abortion into nearly every major news story -- no matter how tenuous the connection. The past year also included ample efforts by anti-choice groups to influence federal policy under President Donald Trump, as well as several anti-abortion acts of harassment and violence. Here are some lowlights of anti-abortion extremism this year:

    Right-wing and anti-abortion media attempted to distract from various news stories by drawing inaccurate comparisons to or blaming abortion

    As the Trump presidency entered its second year, right-wing and anti-abortion media attempted to deflect from the administration’s various crises by drawing ridiculous comparisons to reproductive rights or blaming abortion.

    Parkland shooting and the gun-control debate


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    • After a February 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, left 17 dead, Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan compared the debate around gun violence prevention policies to calls from the anti-abortion movement to restrict access to abortions after 20 weeks. Noonan argued that lawmakers should “trade banning assault weapons for banning late-term abortion. Make illegal a killing machine and a killing procedure. In both cases the lives of children would be saved.”
    • LifeNews.com’s Steven Ertelt tweeted:
    • During a February 22 appearance on Fox News’ Fox News @ Night, Townhall's Guy Benson talked about the supposed media bias of outlets reporting on the NRA’s political donations but not covering donations from Planned Parenthood’s political arm.
    • Writing for Townhall, conservative blogger Erick Erickson also compared Planned Parenthood to the NRA, saying that “elite opinion makers in America champion Planned Parenthood, which actually does kill thousands of children each year, while savaging the National Rifle Association, which has never killed a child and whose members have actually saved others' lives.”
    • On the March 1 edition of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight, host Tucker Carlson asked Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI), “What would drive a 19-year-old to want to murder strangers?” In response, Duffy partly blamed abortion, saying, “We dehumanize life in those video games and in those movies, and with abortion.”
    • During the March 2 edition of Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle, host Laura Ingraham claimed that people should be angier about Planned Parenthood performing abortions than about the role that the NRA plays in facilitating easier access to firearms. Ingraham stated, “If we're going to judge people based on an organization’s blood spilled, well, I hope Planned Parenthood is going to lose all of its partnerships or affiliations given the fact that we have about 57 million babies who never got to see the light of day.”
    • During the March 4 edition of Fox News’ Fox and Friends Weekend, conservative radio host Kathy Barnette said that although the Parkland shooter “killed 17 little souls on that day, but Planned Parenthood kills over 800 babies on a daily basis, and where is the moral outrage on that?”

    Family separation policy


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    • On the June 18 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, Carlson attacked Democrats for opposing the Trump administration’s policy requiring the separation of immigrant children from their parents as they cross the U.S. border, saying that the “same people who support third-term, post-viability abortion for purposes of sex selection” were “lecturing” others about “the holiness of children.”
    • Rep. Steve King (R-IA) tweeted:
    • On Westwood One’s The Mark Levin Show, host Mark Levin said that “suddenly the Democrats care about children” after Trump’s family separation policy went into effect. Levin went on to claim inaccurately that “when it comes to abortion,” Democrats support it “right up to the last second. It can be eight months, 29 days, and they still support abortion.”
    • Anti-abortion outlet LifeNews.com responded to a tweet from Planned Parenthood saying children shouldn’t be separated from their parents by alleging that Planned Parenthood was “ignoring how its own practices permanently and violently separate children from their fathers and mothers” and that the organization “does that 876 times a day in abortions.”
    • An article on the website for CRTV’s Louder with Crowder claimed that Planned Parenthood “separates babies from mothers every day. With surgical brutality. These babies are not being stored in chain-linked cages, waiting for processing. Planned Parenthood stores their children in jars. A calvarium in one jar, legs in another. Parts shipped, and sold, separately.”
    • Media Research Center’s Dan Gainor posted this since-deleted tweet:

    Confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    • On September 16, The Washington Post published an exclusive interview with Christine Blasey Ford, sharing her previously anonymous account of being assaulted by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh when they were both in high school. On September 17, Erick Erickson wrote a post claiming that "the left" was amplifying her account as a tactic to keep abortion legal: “This entire thing is about the right to kill kids, not about the veracity of the accusation.” He continued, “The left is perfectly willing to destroy a man's reputation in order to keep destroying children,” adding that Democrats would use an “uncorroborated, single sourced, 35 year old claim … to protect the right to kill girls in utero.”
    • During the September 17 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, Carlson made a similar argument, claiming that Ford’s report came out only because Kavanaugh would likely be the deciding vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. “Does anyone really believe this story would have surfaced if Brett Kavanaugh had pledged allegiance to Roe v. Wade?” he asked. “Of course it wouldn't have. … Whatever the story is, it's not about protecting women. Don't buy that spin.”
    • From the Washington Examiner:

    • Micaiah Bilger, who writes for anti-abortion outlet LifeNews.com, tweeted at the Planned Parenthood Action Fund account: “If allegations are enough to disqualify someone from something, shouldn't all the allegations against you, Planned Parenthood, disqualify you from getting half a billion of our tax dollars every year?”
    • Anti-abortion group Operation Rescue tweeted a link to a bizarre website that claimed Ford’s account was politically motivated because of the potential impact Kavanaugh’s confirmation would have on the production of a so-called abortion pill. This is a false claim attempting to conflate her research for a pharmaceutical company that developed mifepristone to treat hyperglycemia related to Cushing's syndrome with pills used in medication abortions:
    • On Fox & Friends, Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera said that Ford’s motivation was “all about abortion” because “Kavanaugh is a pro-life guy and this is what it's all about.”
    • Right-wing site RedState argued: “The whole reason Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is in the crosshairs of a sexual assault allegation ... is because the left is 100 percent focused on making sure their ability to abort children and profit from it goes uninterrupted.”
    • Religious news site The Stream wrote, “The anti-Kavanaughs — i.e. the Left, the Democrats — could not care less whether he’s innocent or guilty.” Rather, “this is about abortion. It’s about the larger sexual ideology as well, but abortion first and foremost,” because “abortion is both sacrament and god” to those groups.

    Some right-wing media and anti-abortion groups pushed extremist narratives or engaged in harassment

    Harassment, extremism, and violence are not new tactics to the anti-abortion movement. But 2018 featured some particularly notable instances when anti-abortion groups and right-wing media engaged in perpetuating harmful misinformation, conspiracy theories, and extreme narratives about abortion, or fueled anti-abortion harassment:


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    • In January, the extreme anti-abortion group Operation Rescue started signal-boosting a series of posts targeting Planned Parenthood originating from a far-right message board on 8chan as the organization began delving into the QAnon conspiracy theory. The group leaders Troy Newman and Cheryl Sullenger -- the latter having served time for conspiring to bomb an abortion clinic -- further slid into full embrace of the QAnon conspiracy theory over the course of the year.
    • The founders of a group connected to Operation Rescue, Abortion Free New Mexico, also started promoting QAnon-related conspiracies, which the outlet New Mexico Political Report called “a concerning shift in focus and organizing, contradicting their stated goals of non-violence and inclusive outreach.”


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    • In March, National Review writer Kevin Williamson was hired by The Atlantic even though Williamson had previously expressed misogynistic and homophobic viewpoints. Among these was his statement that “women who have had abortions should face capital punishment, namely hanging.” After initially defending Williamson’s hiring as an exercise in ideological diversity, Atlantic Editor-in-Chief Jeffrey Goldberg announced in April that the outlet was “parting ways” with Williamson. In particular, Goldberg noted that Williamson’s doubling down on his argument that those who have had abortions should be hanged -- made in a podcast uncovered by Media Matters the day before Williamson’s firing -- “runs contrary to The Atlantic’s tradition of respectful, well-reasoned debate, and to the values of our workplace.”
    • On June 1, right-wing outlet Infowars livestreamed a protest at a Planned Parenthood clinic the day after the anniversary of the murder of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller. This stunt continued a long line of right-wing media fostering or encouraging anti-abortion harassment, including the 2015 Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooter who had a penchant for right-wing media such as Fox News and Infowars.
    • In November, right-wing media and anti-abortion figures had a tantrum over what they called a "horrible new ad” attributed to Planned Parenthood -- despite the so-called ad actually being a 2015 video from a political action committee, not Planned Parenthood. However, as conservative figures continued to express disgust, people on social media started to make threats of violence against the health care organization citing shares of the 2015 video online.

    Right-wing media celebrated the Supreme Court giving a boost to anti-abortion fake health clinics

    Fake health clinics (also known as anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers) engage in deception and manipulation in their advertising and interactions with clients with the goal of stopping that person from accessing an abortion. This year, fake health clinics were front and center at the Supreme Court in a case called National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra. The Supreme Court decided in favor of the NIFLA, stopping the implementation of a California law designed to deter some of the manipulative practices of these fake health clinics. Right-wing media celebrated the decision as a “win” for free speech:


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    • National Review’s editors lamented that the vote was only 5-4, writing that it “should not have been a narrow one,” and that the closeness occurred because “four of the Court’s justices were so hell-bent on promoting the manufactured right to abortion that they were prepared to jettison” the right to free speech. The editors called the California law “an obvious and malicious violation of the First Amendment” and argued that it was “perhaps the best example of the rapidly growing extremism of the abortion-rights movement.”
    • National Review's Alexandra DeSanctis:
    • The Catholic Association’s Andrea Picciotti-Bayer wrote an op-ed for Fox News arguing that the decision “vindicates women and the pregnancy centers who help them” because “the most important service found at a pregnancy center is caring.”
    • In a Newsmax article titled “SCOTUS Gives America a Free Speech, Pro-Life Birthday Gift,” Priests for Life National Director Frank Pavone celebrated the NIFLA decision as “a victory to the fundamental rights which America promised to guarantee at its inception.”
    • Alliance Defending Freedom’s Jessica Prol Smith wrote for The Federalist that "even Americans who call themselves ‘pro choice’ can celebrate this court’s decision to protect authentic options and protect freedom for a woman to choose motherhood.”

    Anti-abortion groups continued to push misinformation about abortion and to allege that they were being censored to rally support and raise money

    Anti-abortion groups continued to promote misinformation on reproductive rights and to use claims that they were being censored by social media companies and news outlets as a tactic to rally support and raise money:


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    • In honor of the annual anti-abortion rally the March for Life, right-wing outlets published several articles claiming that the anti-choice movement has science on its side. For example, Fox News’ opinion page published an article by Lauren DeBellis Appell about the March for Life that praised the anti-abortion movement and said it was “winning” in the United States because of technological advancements, including ultrasounds. Christianity Today similarly quoted Denise Harle, legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, as saying that “science and technology are on our side” specifically in the context of the myth that fetuses feel pain at 20 weeks. As The Atlantic noted in a January 18 piece, the anti-abortion movement’s embrace of science could be seen as a “dramatic reversal” because “pro-choice activists have long claimed science for their own side.” Demonstrating support for this view among anti-abortion groups, the January 18 article was picked up by organizations such as the March for Life, Democrats for Life, and the Charlotte Lozier Institute. The March for Life rally adopted the idea that “pro-life is pro-science” as part of its official theme for 2019.
    • Anti-abortion outlet LifeSiteNews asked for donations in light of supposed censorship by social media companies. The site posted in March 2018 about the “surprising and disturbing reason why LifeSite’s Spring campaign is struggling.” The reason, according to LifeSiteNews, “is an almost declared war by the globalist social media giants – Facebook, Google, Twitter and YouTube against websites, blogs and individuals who promote conservative views.” LifeSiteNews pleaded to its readers, writing, “To those of you who were not blocked from reading this letter, we are depending on you much more than normal to help us to reach our goal.” Unsurprisingly, the outlet provided zero evidence of the censorship it was allegedly experiencing.
    • Following Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony before Congress in April 2018, anti-abortion organization Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List) emailed supporters to detail instances where the group claimed to have been censored by social media companies. SBA List then asked supporters to “please make a generous donation of $250 to help win the fight against pro-abortion Silicon Valley elites!”
    • On October 24, SBA List tweeted that Facebook was “censoring” the organization because it had pulled two of its 2018 midterm elections ads which urged people to “vote pro-life” and to oppose a candidate who allegedly “supports painful late-term abortions.” After the ads were pulled, the group sent out a fundraising email asking people to “Please RUSH a contribution … to help us fight back and get this ad in front of voters in key swing-states DESPITE the ongoing censorship of pro-life voices by the abortion lobby.” SBA List also tweeted that “deleting these ads just weeks before the midterm elections advances the pro-abortion argument" and again claimed that “censoring a #prolife ad that respectfully exposes the brutality of late abortions” meant that Facebook was “publicly taking a stand that they SUPPORT painful late-term abortions of VIABLE children.”


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    • A 12-month-long Media Matters study of evening cable news programs found that Fox News dominated discussions of abortion and reproductive rights, but the network’s coverage was wrong 77 percent of the time about four common abortion-related topics: the discredited anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress (CMP), abortion funding rules, Planned Parenthood’s essential services, and so-called extreme abortion procedures.
    • On One America News Network’s Tipping Point with Liz Wheeler, host Liz Wheeler frequently alleged that liberals were ignoring right-wing anti-abortion conspiracy theories about Planned Parenthood misusing federal funds, supposedly promoting abortion for profit, or engaging in the cover-up of sexual abuse of minors.

    Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services continued to be a hot bed for anti-abortion groups and misinformation

    Last year, Media Matters documented how Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) was filled with appointees promoting anti-choice “alternative science” about contraception and abortion. While some of those people have moved to other areas of the administration or just moved on, Trump’s HHS has continued to employ and promote the work of anti-abortion movement darlings in 2018:

    • In January, Politico reported that people like Roger Severino, the head of the Office of Civil Rights in HHS, and Shannon Royce, the director of the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, are part of “a small cadre of politically prominent religious activists inside” HHS who “have spent months quietly planning how to weaken federal protections for abortion and transgender care — a strategy that's taking shape in a series of policy moves that took even their own staff by surprise.” Royce used to be chief of staff and chief operations officer at the anti-LGBTQ group Family Research Council and had previously promoted harmful “ex-gay” conversion therapy.
    • Scott Lloyd became known for denying abortion care to unaccompanied immigrant teens in his custody as the head of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). Lloyd left his position at ORR in November, but he still works with HHS as part of the Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives and is also planning to write an anti-abortion book. Before his move, Lloyd had reportedly inquired whether a teenager in HHS custody could have her abortion “reversed,” an anti-abortion scam that is not based in science. According to The New York Times, Lloyd also kept a weekly spreadsheet of the “unaccompanied minors who have asked” for an abortion, with information about “how far along” their pregnancy was during his time at ORR. Lloyd was also responsible for slowing down the release of detained children under Trump’s family separation policy as he decided “to personally review requests” for “hundreds of kids.” This resulted in detained children spending “extra time in the jail-like facilities, which have been associated with far more allegations of abuse and mistreatment than the shelters and homestays that hold most of the children in ORR custody.”
    • In May 2018, Diana Foley became deputy assistant secretary for the Office of Population Affairs, which oversees the Title X family planning program. As Rewire.News noted, Foley had “served as the president and CEO of Life Network, which, according to its website, promotes ‘life-affirming alternatives to abortion’ and operates two anti-choice clinics.” Beyond this, Foley had also given a 2016 presentation in which she expressed support for the discredited idea that people pathologically experience emotional and physical difficulties as a direct result of having an abortion.
    • In 2018, Steven Valentine became the chief of staff for the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health. As Rewire.News reported, Valentine served as SBA List’s interim legislative director where he actively worked to draft and pass anti-abortion legislation. His brother Billy Valentine still works for SBA List as the organization’s vice president of public policy.
    • Before Matthew Bowman became deputy general counsel at HHS in 2018, he worked for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) as part of the organization’s team “litigating some of ADF’s most prominent religious imposition cases.” Rewire.News wrote that during these cases, “Bowman repeatedly promoted the false claim that intrauterine devices and emergency contraceptives cause abortions. His distaste for ensuring access to contraceptives extended to writing a January 2015 post for the conservative site TownHall.com with the headline: ‘How the contraception mandate may spread measles.’”

    Anti-abortion violence and harassment continued against abortion providers and clinics

    Every year, the National Abortion Federation releases a report documenting the previous years’ incidents of anti-abortion harassment and violence against providers, patients, and clinics. This year’s report found that “trespassing more than tripled, death threats/threats of harm nearly doubled, and incidents of obstruction rose from 580 in 2016 to more than 1,700 in 2017. We also continued to see an increase in targeted hate mail/harassing phone calls, and clinic invasions, and had the first attempted bombing in many years.” The harassment of abortion providers, clinics, and supporters continued in 2018:


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    • In February, a man crashed a stolen vehicle into a Planned Parenthood in New Jersey “injuring a pregnant woman and two others.” According to prosecutors, the man had begun “researching the locations of Planned Parenthood clinics more than a year before.” He was later charged with terrorism, but pleaded not guilty.
    • Flip Benham, the former head of anti-abortion extremist group Operation Save America, was arrested in North Carolina and “charged with communicating threats” outside of a clinic in Charlotte, according to The Charlotte Observer.
    • In March, a man in West Virginia was “charged with making threats on Facebook against the Pittsburgh office of Planned Parenthood,” according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Before the alleged threats, he had written on Facebook “that his girlfriend got an abortion against his wishes in 2010. He said he found out who the clinicians were who aborted his child and said he knew five houses where he could steal an AR-15.”
    • A man suspected of setting off a series of bombs in Austin, TX, was reported to have “previously wrote online that he was opposed to abortion and same-sex marriage.”
    • A Planned Parenthood in San Diego was vandalized twice in six weeks.
    • In April, a man who crashed his car into barriers outside of a Planned Parenthood in Seattle was “charged for the assault and the damage but not for targeting the provider of women’s health services,” though he told police in an interview, “Damn right … I blew up Planned Parenthood...Blew Planned Parenthood the fuck up.”
    • A man in New Hampshire pleaded guilty “to leaving a 9 mm bullet at a Beverly medical office where his girlfriend had just terminated a pregnancy.” He told police, “I left the bullet there because they killed my baby."
    • A Planned Parenthood clinic in California closed because a partner organization “received ‘hostile communications’ from anti-Planned Parenthood activists.”
    • Abortion clinics in California and Iowa sustained property damage from targeted actions. In July, a Planned Parenthood in California was set on fire and caused “moderate damage” before being put out. In September, a man was arrested “after allegedly grabbing a log and throwing it at a window of an abortion clinic” in Iowa.
    • A man who was a “self-proclaimed misogynist,” according to BuzzFeed News, killed two women at a yoga studio in Florida in November. In a series of videos he had posted in the years before the attack, “he said that he resented having to subsidize as a taxpayer ‘the casual sex lives of slutty girls’ through the Affordable Care Act’s contraception provisions.”
    • In December, a man was charged with threatening “to murder a United States official” after he left death threats in a voicemail with an unidentified female U.S. Senator’s office. According to Newsweek, the man “became ‘very angry’ after watching online video clips of the senator discussing reproductive rights and criticizing Trump.”
  • The head of Florida’s school safety commission is reportedly feeding the NRA nonpublic information about the Parkland mass shooting

    The commission recently recommended arming teachers, a policy favored by the NRA

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    National Rifle Association spokesperson Dana Loesch purported to share nonpublic information about the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to bolster her argument that teachers should be armed. Loesch, who made the claim on her non-NRA affiliated radio show, said that she was given the information by Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who chairs a Republican-appointed school safety commission created after the February 14 mass shooting in Parkland, FL.

    The commission recently released a draft report that recommends arming teachers who receive training and undergo a background check. This finding is contrary to analyses by experts that conclude arming teachers would actually increase danger to teachers and students. A final report from the commission will be sent to Florida’s governor and state legislature by January 1.  

    While discussing the commission’s recommendation to arm teachers during the December 18 broadcast of her radio show, Loesch purported to share information about the shooting she received from Gualtieri that “was released to the commission, but wasn’t released publicly.” According to Loesch, CCTV footage from inside the school showed that the gunman took seven to 10 seconds to reload, a longer time compared to “an adequately trained person” who “can reload in a second.” Loesch continued:

    It took him seven to 10 seconds, enough for apparently a half a classroom to walk across the hallway while he was trying to reload and get to safety. Imagine if the teacher that was walking out with them was armed. Even adequately trained was better than [the gunman’s] lack of training. Would have taken him out.

    It’s true that the time period when a mass shooter has to reload is an opportunity to stop the attack. A common argument in favor of banning high-capacity ammunition magazines is that these pauses in shooting are more frequent when the gunman is forced to reload more often, creating more opportunities for intervention.

    But there is no evidence that guns carried by civilians are the best way to intervene. For example, the 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, AZ, where then-Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) was shot was stopped by unarmed bystanders who tackled the gunman as he attempted to reload. In fact, a man carrying a concealed handgun during the Tucson shooting drew his weapon and was about to fire, only to realize that he was about to shoot a person who had wrestled the gunman’s firearm away from him. An FBI study of 160 active shooter incidents between 2000-2013 found that just four incidents were stopped by armed security guards and only one was stopped by a licensed and armed citizen -- compared to 21 incidents stopped by unarmed citizens.

    Gualtieri and another member of the commission, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, have worked in concert with the NRA’s media operation NRATV to push the idea of arming teachers. Gualtieri appeared on Loesch’s NRATV show in August to push for more guns in schools, and Judd has appeared on NRATV at least six times to push for arming teachers -- including one appearance where he discussed that Gualtieri was initially skeptical of the idea, but was convinced to adopt the view.