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  • Alex Jones: Sandy Hook dad “needs to clarify” whether he actually held his son’s body and saw the bullet hole in his head

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones called on Neil Heslin, who lost his son during the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, to clarify whether he actually held his son’s body and observed a bullet hole in his head.

    Jones made the demand during the July 20 broadcast of The Alex Jones Show while complaining that he has come under attack for questioning official accounts of the December 2012 shooting, which claimed 26 lives.

    The statement that Jones wants Heslin to clarify was made during Megyn Kelly’s interview with Heslin as part of her June 18 profile of Jones for her NBC show Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly. Heslin rebutted conspiracy theories surrounding the shooting, telling Kelly, “I lost my son. I buried my son. I held my son with a bullet hole through his head.”

    Heslin’s son, Jesse Lewis, saved several classmates’ lives during the shooting by telling them to run when the gunman’s weapon jammed, according to investigators.

    During the July 20 broadcast, Jones played a June video report from Infowars reporter Owen Shroyer that claimed it was impossible for Heslin to have held his son.

    In the report, Shroyer said of Heslin, “The statement he made, fact-checkers on this have said cannot be accurate. He’s claiming that he held his son and saw the bullet hole in his head. That is his claim. Now according to a timeline of events and a coroner’s testimony, that is not possible.”

    As evidence of his claims, Shroyer played a video clip from shortly after the shooting where a coroner explained to press that the victims were identified by parents with photographs rather than in person. Shroyer ended his report by saying, “Will there be a clarification from Heslin or Megyn Kelly? I wouldn’t hold your breath. So now they’re fueling the conspiracy theory claims.”

    Shroyer’s report is easily debunked; according to news accounts, the bodies of the victims were released from the coroner and taken to funeral homes. Funerals where the children’s bodies were in the custody of their parents were widely reported on by the press.

    Jones vacillated on whether Heslin was lying about seeing his son’s body and called on him to “clarify” what happened during his July 20 broadcast.

    Before playing the Shroyer segment, Jones said, “Quite frankly, the father needs to clarify, NBC needs to clarify, because the coroner said none of the parents were allowed to touch the kids or see the kids and maybe meaning at the school. I’m sure later maybe the parents saw their children.”

    After showing the segment, Jones said he told Shroyer, “I could never find out. The stuff I found was they never let them see their bodies. That’s kind of what’s weird about this. But maybe they did. So I’m sure it’s all real. But for some reason they don’t want you to see [Shroyer’s segment].”

    Speaking more broadly about the shooting, Jones said, “Can I prove that New Haven (sic) didn’t happen? No. So I’ve said, for years, we’ve had debates about it, that I don’t know. But you can’t blame people for asking.”

    Jones is lying. In the years following the shooting, he definitively called the tragedy a hoax. For example, in December 2014, Jones said, “It took me about a year with Sandy Hook to come to grips with the fact that the whole thing was fake.”

    After Jones’ profile was raised by his close association with President Donald Trump, he was heavily criticized for these claims and has subsequently tried to sanitize them by saying he was merely asking questions or debating whether the shooting happened. The bottom line is that even this type of commentary casts doubt on the shooting and fuels conspiracy theories that are used to harass the victims’ family members.

  • Fox News is unusually focused on the nationality of the officer who shot Justine Damond (he's Somali-American)

    The network’s coverage mainstreams xenophobic narratives about immigrant crime

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    On July 17, developments emerged in two cases of fatal officer-involved shootings, but Fox News rushed to cover only one of them and focused disproportionately on the officer’s nationality in doing so.

    On the day Balch Springs, Texas, police officer Roy Oliver was indicted for the fatal shooting of Jordan Edwards, a black teenager, news broke of the July 15 shooting of an Australian woman by a Minneapolis, MN, police officer who was later identified as Mohamed Noor. Noor is Somali-American. While Fox News aired several segments about Noor, the network made not a single mention of the indictment of Oliver, who is white, continuing its disinterest in the case since Edwards was killed on April 29 in Dallas, TX.

    In the first three days of coverage following the shooting of Justine Ruszczyk (who went by the surname of her fiancé, Don Damond), Fox News covered the story in 11 segments, six of which mentioned that the officer was “Somali-American,” an "immigrant" from Somalia, the first Somali-American to patrol that precinct, or that Minneapolis boasts a “very significant Somali population.” A Fox News article online began both its headline and body with Noor’s Somali background. In the same period, MSNBC and CNN both dedicated seven and 14 segments, respectively, to the story. CNN reporters did mention his Somali-American identity twice when prompted by hosts for more details about his background. MSNBC did not mention that he is Somali-American.

    Fox News’ Tucker Carlson went so far as to claim the mainstream media is engaged in a deliberate cover-up of the officer’s nationality. On the July 18 edition of his show, Carlson said, "Mohamed Noor was an immigrant from Somalia. Is that a relevant fact? We don't know. But it's being treated as one by many news organizations. How do you know that? Because they're not reporting it."

    Carlson was wrong to claim news organizations didn’t mention that the officer is Somali-American. His rival network CNN mentioned it that same day, and while The Washington Post -- which Carlson referenced -- did publish an early article on the story that did not mention his name or nationality (officials had not yet confirmed the identity of the officer), the paper also published a piece the next morning entirely focused on Noor and reactions in the Somali community of Minneapolis, which is bracing for backlash in the wake of the shooting. Moreover, Minnesota state officials did not publicly release the identities of the two officers involved in the shooting until Tuesday night (July 18), meaning three of Fox’s reports on Noor’s Somali identity were seemingly based on early reporting by the Star Tribune that had not yet been confirmed by police.

    Carlson was also misguided in his implication that other outlets’ omission of Noor’s nationality is evidence that it’s relevant. While many questions about the incident remain, and there are legitimate grievances being voiced by Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, Damond’s family, and the Australian government over the police department’s lack of transparency in the case, none of them are focused on Noor’s identity. In fact, Damond’s hometown newspaper in Australia ran a front-page headline reading “AMERICAN NIGHTMARE” in reference to what Australians quoted in the piece see as a country “infested” with guns and a “very risky place in terms of gun violence.” Damond’s family, which just suffered a tragic loss at the hands of police, hasn't focused on Noor’s identity as particularly relevant in reports. Fox News is the exception, not the norm.

    In the cases of police brutality against Jordan Edwards, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, and many others, all of whom were black, Fox News assigned no particular relevance to the nationalities of the officers involved. But the network did, in various cases, invite guests to defend the officers’ actions, criticize the victims of the shooting, or use the incident to promote questionable or problematic policing tactics. The disproportionate attention Fox News paid to Noor’s immigrant background and its resistance to defend him elucidates the limits of its pro-police posture.

    And the network’s coverage, while an outlier for mainstream reporting on the story, is essentially a more sanitized version of stories with headlines like “First Somali-Muslim police officer in Minnesota KILLS blonde yoga instructor in cold blood” and “Unarmed White Woman Murdered In Minnesota, Dems SILENT After Shooter's ID Revealed…”. There are many more. Noor’s religion has not been obsessed upon outside of far-right blogs and Twitter.

    Minnesota’s Somali immigrant community has been a strangely popular target for Fox News and other right-wing media outlets. The network has previously fearmongered about Somali immigrants, called the area “ground zero” for ISIS recruitment, and attacked the Minneapolis mayor for giving her State of the City address in a mosque. Fringe media websites and fake news purveyors recently targeted Minneapolis in response to the city’s announcement that it was launching a hate crimes reporting hotline, claiming the move amounted to “fascism.”

    In its hyperfocus on Noor’s nationality, Fox News served to validate the racism, xenophobia, and debunked associations between immigration and crime espoused by pro-Trump fake news purveyors, conspiracy theorists, white nationalists, and notorious Islamophobes alike. Noor's background is only as relevant as it is in any officer-involved shooting, and if it's being touted as more than that, we should be asking why.

    Methodology:

    Media Matters searched SnapStream between 5 a.m. and midnight on both July 17 and 18 and between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m on July 19 for mentions of “Roy” or “Oliver,” “Edward” or “Jordan,” and “Somali,” "Noor," "Minneapolis," “Minnesota,” "Damond," "Ruszcyzk," and “Australia.” Teaser segments were excluded.

  • The Women’s March organized a protest at the NRA’s headquarters

    Blog ››› ››› MILES LE & DAYANITA RAMESH


    Miles Le / Media Matters

    The Women’s March group gathered at the headquarters of the National Rifle Association (NRA) in Fairfax, VA on July 14 to denounce the organization’s recent incendiary, hateful video and its silence around the death of Philando Castile. Media Matters was there and spoke to activists and protesters.

    Here's what they had to say about the NRA, gun violence, and the media:

  • A timeline of the NRA's divisive actions ahead of Friday’s Women's March

    ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    Following widespread criticism over an inflammatory video from the National Rifle Association that called on supporters to use the “clenched fist of truth” against critics of President Donald Trump, the organization has repeatedly doubled down and issued more statements that falsely conflate dissent against Trump with violence. The organization proceeded to lob smears against Women’s March participants and co-founders after they announced an 18-mile march to protest the NRA on July 14.

  • Fox News completely ignored the release of police footage showing Philando Castile's fatal shooting

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST & BOBBY LEWIS

    Dashcam footage showing the fatal shooting of Philando Castile by Officer Jeronimo Yanez was released on June 20, giving the public new insight into the encounter that ended Castile’s life. But, if you watch only Fox News, you wouldn’t know it existed. The footage, which was released just days after Yanez was acquitted of manslaughter, drew the attention of CNN and MSNBC, but Fox News shows spent no time airing the video or covering its release.

    On July 6, 2016, Philando Castile, a black man, was fatally shot in Falcon Heights, MN, after being stopped by police for a routine traffic stop. Castile had a valid permit to carry a concealed weapon, and the newly released footage makes clear that Castile had alerted the officer that he was armed. The footage shows Officer Yanez telling Castile not to reach for his gun, and Castile can be heard responding, “I’m not pulling it out” right before Yanez fired seven shots, fatally wounding Castile.

    Between the release of the footage on June 20 and noon on June 21, the three major cable news networks -- CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC -- spent 44 minutes covering the release of the footage. CNN spent 36 minutes and seven seconds on it, and MSNBC spent 7 minutes and 12 seconds detailing the new information from the video, while Fox News ignored the video’s release entirely. CNN’s seven segments on the video and MSNBC’s three all showed the newly released footage.

     

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Fox News contributor Eboni Williams made a passing comment on The Fox News Specialists about the “lack of empathy seen in the wake of the tragic death of Philando Castile” in a discussion about Otto Warmbier -- the American college student who recently died after having been detained in North Korea for over a year -- but none of her colleagues responded to the mention, and there was never a discussion of the video footage showing his fatal shooting. Fox’s glaring lack of coverage with regards to the video of Castile’s death is strikingly similar to the network’s lack of coverage following the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling, also a black man.

    Fox News’ coverage, or lack thereof, is also indicative of a larger problem: how right-wing media figures discuss (or don’t discuss) the deaths of people of color at the hands of police. In the aftermath of Castile’s shooting, Fox News host Sean Hannity and then-Fox News host Megyn Kelly both discussed Castile’s shooting only to criticize his girlfriend for not having done more to help him, and Fox News contributor Kevin Jackson used the case to blame Obama for violence against police officers. National Rifle Association (NRA) board member Ted Nugent smeared Castile and used his death to claim former President Barack Obama wanted to start a race war.

    Additionally, the shooting of Castile, a law-abiding gun owner, who, from the evidence available was following the officer’s requests, has prompted outrage from NRA members. The association, however, has made no statement on the verdict or video in Castile’s case, despite having defended other gun owners whose stories made national news.

    Methodology: Media Matters searched SnapStream for mentions of “Philando” and “Castile” between 5 p.m. June 20 and noon June 21, 2017. Time counts began when the segment was introduced and ended when the individual finished speaking. Teasers were not included.

  • Days before Megyn Kelly interview airs, Alex Jones pushes more Sandy Hook conspiracy theories

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Just days before NBC is set to air an interview with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on Megyn Kelly’s new show, Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly, Jones once again pushed several conspiracy theories about the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

    Kelly and NBC’s decision to interview Jones has created a firestorm of controversy, with some family members of Sandy Hook victims calling for NBC to shelve the recorded interview given that Jones has pushed toxic conspiracy theories about the shooting that spurred some of his followers to harass the families. Page Six reported that following harsh criticism of the decision to give Jones a platform, Kelly invited Sandy Hook families to be interviewed for the episode as well.

    During the June 15 broadcast of The Alex Jones Show, Jones promoted several conspiracy theories that he and others have previously used to deny that the tragedy ever happened.

    Citing the U.S. government’s use of misinformation to justify wars in the Middle East, Jones said, “If they’ll do that, then am I supposed to question Sandy Hook when it happens and they’ve got the kids going in circles in and out of the building, and they don’t call the rescue helicopters, and then instead an hour later there’s port-a-potties and food being delivered and PR firms are there and Anderson Cooper says he’s on location but he’s clearly faking the location.”

    It should go without saying that Jones’ claims about the shooting that took 26 lives are false.

    On his show, Jones continued to lie about what he has said about the Sandy Hook tragedy in the past, saying he has “looked at every angle of” the shooting and claiming that he has said previously, “It could have been totally true, could have been totally fake.” (In recent months, Jones has repeatedly claimed he was merely playing “devil’s advocate” when commenting on the shooting.)

    As Media Matters documented, in the years following the tragedy, Jones definitively stated on several occasions that the shooting did not happen. In 2014, for example, Jones said, “It took me about a year with Sandy Hook to come to grips with the fact that the whole thing was fake.”

    Jones has been lying about his past comments on Sandy Hook since his statements started drawing heightened scrutiny following his claim after the 2016 election that President Donald Trump would soon appear on his show. (Trump appeared on Jones show in 2015 and praised the conspiracy theorist’s “amazing” reputation.)

    Kelly’s interview is set to air June 18 at 7 p.m. EST.

    Jones’ June 15 comments on Sandy Hook:

    ALEX JONES (HOST): It is a fact that on the eve of the Gulf War in 1990 a PR firm was hired, and the daughter of the owner of the PR firm, who’d never been to Kuwait and who spoke fluent English and had been brought up in the U.S., went and testified to seeing Iraqi soldiers ripping babies out of incubators and bashing their brains out by the hundreds. This was used as the pretext to launch that war that was meant to legitimize the U.N. as a global government body and bring in a new world order as George Herbert Walker Bush said, or Bush 41. Now, if criminal elements of our government will do something like that to launch now three wars in the Middle East, back radical jihadists to take over Iraq, Syria, Libya, other areas, overthrow our allies in Egypt, kill millions of people, starve millions more, and have Madeline Albright, Clinton’s secretary of state, say a half-million kids is an OK price to pay -- in fact, let’s cue that up. If they’ll do that, then am I supposed to question Sandy Hook when it happens and they’ve got the kids going in circles in and out of the building, and they don’t call the rescue helicopters, and then instead an hour later there’s port-a-potties and food being delivered and PR firms are there and Anderson Cooper says he’s on location but he’s clearly faking the location. We looked at every angle of that. And so they’ve now misrepresented what we’ve said, that I said it could have been totally true, could have been totally fake. I didn’t progenerate. I didn’t create. I wasn't the fount of that. The things that I am the fountain of, I’ll tell you. 1776 worldwide. Rebooting America. Nationalism.

  • Trump ally Michael Savage cites white nationalist website, warns college students will be shot

    Savage: “Just think of the Kent State massacre. That’s how this is going to end.”

    Blog ››› ››› MADELINE PELTZ

    In the wake of the shooting at a GOP congressional baseball team practice, right-wing radio host and Trump ally Michael Savage cited the white nationalist website American Renaissance and invoked the Kent State shootings of 1970 as a warning for anti-Trump protesters.

    On June 14, James Hodgkinson gunman opened fire on a congressional baseball practice and shot five, including Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA). The attacker was shot by U.S. Capitol Police and later died from his injuries. 

    Savage responded to the shooting by citing the white nationalist website “American Renaissance” referring to “an interactive map” they published that identifies “two hundred acts of violence and hatred against Donald Trump supporters that have taken place since he declared his candidacy.”

    American Renaissance is a online magazine, published by white nationalist Jared Taylor. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Taylor “believes black people are genetically predisposed to lower IQs” than white peoples and that black peoples “are sexually promiscuous because of hyperactive sex drives.”

    Later in the show Savage warned, “acting out children who just think that they can shoot congressmen,” by saying “it’s not going to end well” for them. In his warning to anti-Trump protesters, Savage invoked the Kent State shootings, warning “I’ve lived through this before and I know how it ends. Just think of the Kent State massacre. That’s how this is going to end.” On May 4, 1970, 4 college students were killed by the Ohio National Guard during a campus protest against the Vietnam War.

  • Conservatives need to cut the bullshit and stop exploiting a tragedy to blame the left

    Right-wing media show no self-awareness of their role in influencing violent incidents

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    James T. Hodgkinson, a man with a record of domestic violence, a legally purchased assault rifle, and a valid concealed carry permit, on June 14 opened fire on Republican congressmen and staffers practicing for the congressional baseball game.

    The FBI is still investigating the incident, but one thing is already clear about this latest example of unhinged gun violence. The overwhelming evidence of conservative media's influence on a significant number of deadly incidents makes their attempt to deflect attention from their role in creating a toxic political culture both cynical and exploitative.

    According to reports, the gunman had shared anti-Republican sentiments publicly online and had been critical of the president. Reports of the shooter’s political background immediately prompted unscrupulous right-wing hacks to pounce on the tragedy, looking to exploit the terrifying gun violence incident as a way to score cheap political points by blaming the left. In a new display of audacious defiance of reality, conservative voices have put the blame of the shooting not only on the left, but also on the press and various celebrities as well. But, blaming the left or the media for Hodgkinson’s actions is equivalent to blaming Jodie Foster for the attempted assassination of former President Ronald Reagan.

    The gimmick, however, is deplorable not just for its cynical exploitation of fear, pain and human tragedy; it’s also a hollow attempt to distract from the conservative right’s own responsibility in creating a political culture that inspires violence by fanning the flames of hatred. It’s a red herring aimed at avoiding the obvious, and very concrete, policy-centered conversation that needs to happen around gun violence.

    Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, two of the loudest conservative voices, immediately blamed the shooting on “the left” and “left-wing news media.”

    Additionally, the NRA, an organization that customarily deflects conversations about gun violence by blaming fatal shooting incidents on video games, political correctness, and strict gun laws, skirted its own precedent to also blame the left at large for the shooting.

    Right-wing figures’ opportunistic attempt to draw direct correlation from out-of-context phrases from progressive politicians to the actions of a violent man with easy access to assault weapons also points to a critical lack of self-awareness when it comes to their own role in influencing violent incidents.

    Take Byron Williams and his failed plot to shoot people at the Tides Foundation and the ACLU. Williams explicitly pointed to Glenn Beck’s now-defunct TV show and Alex Jones’ websites as the information sources that prompted his violent actions on the Tides Foundation, a relatively unknown organization that Beck repeatedly vilified on his program. Or the assassination of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, which followed continuous vitriol from former right-wing star Bill O’Reilly, who told his “audience of millions over and over again” that Tiller was “an executioner.” Or the murder of three people at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, CO, at the hands of Robert Dear, a man whose “paranoid delusions, misogynist beliefs, and violent fantasies” matched “perfectly” the usual narratives that come out of “Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones and Bill O’Reilly and countless far-right web sites.”

    Or the racially motivated massacre that ended nine black lives in Charleston, SC, perpetrated by a habitual commenter at the Trump-supporting, neo-Nazi outlet The Daily Stormer. After a man opened fire at a Washington, D.C., family pizzeria, it was hard to forget Alex Jones asking his audience to investigate the conspiracy theory that alleged the restaurant was hiding a child sex-trafficking ring. In the same way, Jones also exhorted Trump to use force against his opponents and threatened violence against supporters of “parasitical maggot” Bernie Sanders.

    So no, right-wingers don’t get to exploit this tragedy. They should not be able to get away with using pain and fear to avoid important policy conversations about gun access in American society. Not when the evidence of their role in promoting violence over politics is so overwhelming.

  • Here is exactly what Alex Jones has said about the Sandy Hook massacre

    Jones on Sandy Hook: “Staged,” “inside job,” “undoubtedly there’s a cover-up,” “giant hoax,” “the whole thing was fake,” “in my view, manufactured”

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones is calling for his upcoming interview with NBC’s Megyn Kelly not to air because he says Kelly misrepresented his views on the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.

    A short promotional video released by Kelly on June 11 showed Jones attempting to obfuscate and spin his past statements about Sandy Hook, with the prominent conspiracy theorist and ally of President Donald Trump calling Sandy Hook “complex,” claiming he has advocated both for and against concluding that the shooting actually happened, and claiming he “looked at all the angles.”

    Following the release of this promo, Jones wrote on Twitter, “I'm calling for @megynkelly to cancel the airing of our interview for misrepresenting my views on Sandy Hook.” Jones’ tweet included a link to a 40-minute video in which he complained about the interview. The interview is scheduled to air June 18.

    While we don’t know how the Sandy Hook exchange will play out in the full interview, what can be proved is that Jones is a liar who -- since developing a high profile during the 2016 election -- has attempted to sanitize his definitive past claims that the shooting was a “hoax.”

    In 2013, Jones called the shooting “staged” and said, “It’s got inside job written all over it.”

    In March 2014, Jones said, “I’ve looked at it and undoubtedly there’s a cover-up, there’s actors, they’re manipulating, they’ve been caught lying, and they were pre-planning before it and rolled out with it.”

    In December 2014, Jones said on his radio program, “The whole thing is a giant hoax.”

    Jones continued: “The general public doesn’t know the school was actually closed the year before. They don’t know they’ve sealed it all, demolished the building. They don’t know that they had the kids going in circles in and out of the building as a photo-op. Blue screen, green screens, they got caught using.”

    Making it clear he didn’t view the occurrence of the shooting as an open question, Jones explicitly said that the Obama administration was behind the shooting, noting, “It took me about a year with Sandy Hook to come to grips with the fact that the whole thing was fake.”

    Jones made similar comments the following January, saying the shooting was “a synthetic, completely fake with actors, in my view, manufactured. I couldn’t believe it at first. I knew they had actors there, clearly, but I thought they killed some real kids. And it just shows how bold they are that they clearly used actors.”

    In July 2015, Jones said cast doubt on whether children were actually killed during the shooting, before citing prominent Sandy Hook hoaxer Wolfgang Halbig.

    Jones began to spin his past Sandy Hook statements in earnest following the victory of Donald Trump as his past statements came under increased scrutiny because of his association with Trump and his claim that the new president would appear on his show in the near future.

    Despite his recent contradictory claims about the shooting, Jones continues to make statements that fuel Sandy Hook conspiracy theories.

    Here are some headlines that advance Sandy Hook conspiracy theories that are still active on Jones’ website, Infowars.com:

    [Infowars.com, accessed 6/13/17]

    [Infowars.com, accessed 6/13/17]

    [Infowars.com, accessed 6/13/17]

    [Infowars.com, accessed 6/13/17]

    [Infowars.com, accessed 6/13/17]

    [Infowars.com, accessed 6/13/17]

    [Infowars.com, accessed 6/13/17]

    [Infowars.com, accessed 6/13/17]

    [Infowars.com, accessed 6/13/17]

    [Infowars.com, accessed 6/13/17]

    [Infowars.com, accessed 6/13/17]

    [Infowars.com, accessed 6/13/17]
     

    [Infowars.com, accessed 6/13/17]