The Gun Defenders At CNS
Following in the footsteps of its Media Research Center parent, CNSNews.com spent its time following a rash of gun massacres trying to defend guns and deflecting criticism of the right-wing-beloved race-oriented replacement theory.
By Terry Krepel
Like its Media Research Center parent, CNSNews.com followed the right-wing playbook in distracting from a rash of gun massacres this year by embracing the usual talking points in defending guns. The first order of business following May's gun massacre at a Buffalo, N.Y., supermarket, however, was to deal with a conspiracy theory it shared with the shooter.
And like the MRC, CNS was promoting the right-wing replacement theory well before the Buffalo supermarket shooter invoked it. ConWebWatch has already noted how CNS hyped its favorite group of right-wing rabbis, the Coalition for Jewish Values, defending Fox News host Tucker Carlson's embrace of replacement theory, but there are other pre-massacre examples as well:
After the shooting, CNS was -- again, like the MRC -- in full deflection mode and desperate to try and change the subject, as in this May 17 article by Susan Jones:
The effort to squelch conservative speech continues in this country, as liberals and leftists try to demonize Republicans and conservatives with the "white supremacy" label, especially those who object to President Biden's wide-open border, which appears to be a political liability for Democrats.
Jones then uncritically transcribed Carlson spouting replacement theory, as if she thought that would help. She also didn't mention that replacement theory had previously been promoted on the pages of CNS.
The same day, Melanie Arter complained that "President Biden called on Americans to reject the so-called replacement theory in the wake of the mass shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo, N.Y., that claimed the lives of 10 people and injured three more."
Jones also complained in a separate article that Biden was going to Buffalo and defended the theory without using its name (while also complaining that some critics wouldn't mention Fox News by name):
As some leftist pundits on cable television blame a rival conservative-leaning network for promoting racist "conspiracy theories," White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre on Monday refused to name names -- even when the reporter did.
Note that in Jones' world, the critics are "leftist" while Fox News is merely "conservative-leaning."
Jones returned on May 18 to complain that Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer called out Carlson's replacement theory obsession and wouldn't fall for an in-person Fox News ambush, then followed its MRC parent in pulling the ol' switcheroo to blame Democrats for the theory:
Instead of blaming the very troubled teenager who opened fire on shoppers in Buffalo, deliberately targeting them because of their race; and instead of blaming the adults who knew there was something wrong with the kid but failed to get him help; the top Democrat in Congress instead is blaming Fox News and, implicitly, Tucker Carlson for the violence.
Jones didn't mention that making note of demographic changes that might benefit Democrats and accusing Democrats of perpetrating an evil conspiracy to replace white people with swarthy foreigners, as Carlson and other Fox Newsers have been doing, are two separate things.
A May 19 article by Craig Bannister helped scandal-tarred lawyer Alan Dershowitz play whataboutism over the massacre by criticizing Democrats and non-white people, declaring that he said that "Biden needs to take the next and more difficult step, by going to other cities and calling on Black leaders to denounce Black-on-Asian and Black-on-Jewish crime" and "In particular, Biden should also call out radical Democrats in Congress, like those who call themselves 'The Squad,' who represent 'bigotry, anti-Semitism and racism.'"
CNS also used columnists to help promote the switcheroo argument. Ben Shapiro insisted that right-wingers' concern about swarthy foreigners replacing white people "is not the great replacement theory, which centers on racial purity rather than the idea that changing demographics have an effect on political orientation." And dishonest Catholic Bill Donohue ranted: "If these progressive members of the ruling class were better educated, they would know that the origins of 'replacement theory' can be traced to the ruling class members of the Progressive Era, people just like themselves, not with right-wing nuts."
Uvalde massacre defense mode
CNS went into defense mode after the gun massacre at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. A May 25 article by Jones grumbled about President Biden's remarks following the shooting:
The president blamed the "gun lobby," the reflexive response of people who believe gun bans are the solution. There was no mention of hardening schools with metal detectors or other serious security measures used to prevent mass shootings at airports, government buildings, even museums.
Jones went on to gush that Fox News host Laura Ingraham "made the point that 51 people were shot and killed in Chicago, just in the month of April." By contrast, another article by Jones that day praised Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton for reliably spouting the gun lobby's post-massacre talking points:
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Texas Lt.-Gov. Dan Patrick told Fox News in separate interviews on Tuesday that one way to minimize school shootings is to "harden the targets."
Yet another "news" article by Jones that day cited a "bitter screed" by MSNBC host Joe Scarborough calling for increased gun regulation, then tried to reframe the massacre to distract from the fact that the shooter was heavily armed: "The 18-year-old gunman who killed 19 children and two teachers at an Uvalde, Texas elementary school came from a broken home. He reportedly shot and seriously wounded his grandmother, with whom he was living, before acting out the veiled threats he made on social media."
Craig Bannister served as stenographer for an anti-abortion fanatic, writing that "'It’s totally despicable' for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) to try to justify the mass slaughter of millions of unborn babies by vilifying Second Amendment supporters, pro-life advocate and Live Action Founder Lila Rose said Wednesday." Another Bannister article hyped pro-gun zealot Dana Loesch claiming that "Instead of blaming legal gun owners, Democrats should be looking at the influences that shaped the individual who was personally responsible for the shooting."
Like its MRC parent, CNS lashed out Democratic Texas gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke for channeling anger over the massacre during a press briefing led by his Republican opponent, Gov. Greg Abbott; a May 25 article by Melanie Arter was headlined "Democrat Beto O’Rourke Interrupts Gov. Abbott’s Press Conference on School Shooting to Make a Political Statement." Of course, CNS has never accused anyone spouting pro-gun talking points of making political statements.
The next day, Arter gave a platform to a Republican senator to uncritically spout more gun lobby talking points:
Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) told Fox Business’ “Mornings with Maria Bartiromo” on Wednesday that it’s “not acceptable” to say that the 18-year-old Uvalde school shooter is going to “wipe out gun ownership across the country” for “responsible gun owners.”
By contrast, a May 26 article by Jones highlighting Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin's call for a "good faith invitation" to Republicans to discuss gun regulation injected other viewpoints and much editoralizing. Jones sneered that Durbin "didn't say" that he supports "an 'assault' weapons ban" and added that "the National Rifle Association does oppose the two Democrat bills" regarding gun regulation.
More deflection came in a May 26 article by Bannister touting how "former NFL safety-turned-evangelist" Jack Brewer declared that "a godless upbringing, combined with the influence of media and godless teachers, has left the minds of children like the Uvalde shooter confused" and "embracing sin." Contrast that uncritical treatment with his hostile response later that day to Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer pointing out how Republicans refuse to do anything about gun violence:
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) used the deadly Uvalde, Texas shooting to repeatedly vilify Make-America-Great-Again (“MAGA”) Republicans, in a Senate speech pitching his "Domestic Terrorism Protection Act" on Thursday.
Bannister did not disprove anything Schumer said, making it impossible for him to claim there was any sort of "smear."
Arter returned to stenography mode with a May 26 article parroting a Republican congressman's claim that "The Bipartisan Background Checks Act (HR 8), which Democrats are demanding that the Senate pass, would not have stopped the Uvalde school shooter from purchasing weapons." Another article that day from intern Stephanie Samsel hyped right-wing radio host Mark Levin ranting that an NBA coach was a "moron" and "derelict" for having an opinion about the massacre that didn't agree with his.
CNS also made sure to hype claims that police on the scene did little to stop the shooter while the massacre was going on in another apparent attempt to shift blame away from guns:
Meanwhile, Arter was in stenography mode again. In a May 27 article, she let the mayor of Uvalde play politics by requesting that the government spend money on mental health instead of "sending billions of dollars to countries 'that don’t even like us,'" while being silent on the fact that the previous month, Texas Gov. Abbott cut $211 miliion in funding to the agency that oversees the state's mental health programs. And she wrote what was essentially a press release for the gun lobby in a May 28 article:
National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre addressed the Uvalde school shooting at the group’s national convention in Houston, Texas, on Friday, saying that restricting the rights of law-abiding citizens to own firearms is not the answer to gun violence.
Arter stayed in stenography mode for a May 31 article in which she uncritically transcribed a Republican congresswoman blaming single-parent families for the massacre. A June 2 article by Jenny Olohan promoted Ingraham's baseless conspiracy theory that the shooter's marijuana use caused the massacre. And Bannister gushed that day how "In May, U.S. firearm sales surpassed one million for a record 34th straight month, as Americans sought protection from mass shootings - as well as from politicians pushing for more laws infringing on citizens’ gun rights," apparently obvious to the fact that the right-wing "more guns, less crime" trope has failed.
Highland Park massacre
After the gun massacre at an Independence Day parade in Highland Park, Ill., CNS' first reaction was a July 6 "news" article by Jones seemingly mocking Biden for visiting previous massacre sites while not immediately rushing to this one, while also emphasizing that each massacre was perpetrated by a "troubled young white man" (who just happened to have access to guns):
President Biden made time to visit Buffalo, New York on May 17, three days after a troubled young white man targeted black grocery shoppers, killing 10 people. During his visit, Biden described "white supremacy" as a "poison running through our body politic."
The next day, intern Ben Kelley emphasized that the shooter "passed four background checks when purchasing firearms despite being flagged as a 'clear and present danger' in 2019," in another apparent attempt to deflect from guns. That was the last "news" article CNS devoted to the Highland Park massacre.
Blaming everything but guns
CNS' opinion side followed the bias of its "news" side in pushing pro-gun narratives. Bill Donohue kicked off the stream of deflection in his May 26 column:
The ruling class, especially the media, are consumed with race and guns in America, yet the mass shootings in Uvalde, Tex. and Buffalo, like those in Dayton and El Paso in 2019, have little to do with either. It is not as though there aren't some common causes, threads of behavior that link all mass shootings. There are. But the media are looking in all the wrong places, thus providing the wrong diagnosis. This, in turn, ensures the wrong remedies.
So what has happened in our culture that teenage boys have been marginalized to the point of losing their vision of a better future? When I look at the listing of student clubs at my local high school, I see Young Women in Engineering, Chicas Poderosas (“Powerful Girls”), and several clubs for LGBT students, African-Americans, and Muslims.
A June 1 column by CNS editor Terry Jeffrey touted how John Adams talked about "morality, religion and God" in the first presidential address inside the Capitol, adding:
What would John Adams think if he were told about the recent mass murders in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas? Would he think they were manifestations of a gun problem in America or a moral problem?
A June 2 column by R. Emmett Tyrrell also wanted to distract from guns:
Possibly some people are going, in light of these shocking events, to conclude that America is confronted with something far more serious even than gun violence. They are right. We are confronted with living in a violent culture. No one ever mentions it, but we are. I seldom watch television. I watch the evening news, and that is about all. But even in watching the evening news, I see trailers for astoundingly coarse shows that are thought to be entertainments. Recently, I saw a man put a revolver to another man's head. After that, I lost interest. Who knows what happened? I saw monstrous vehicles running down pedestrians; I guess they were pedestrians. I saw monstrous monsters. The world of Televisionland is inhabited by the monstrous and the fanciful.
The Stupid Party says, "Just arm the teachers." You want to train and arm teachers and faculty staff members to protect your kids? Have you seen what falls under the category "teacher" and faculty? Seen the people who zealously inculcate ungrammatical pronoun illiteracy? Who promote and further entrench systemic anti-white racism and exotic age-inappropriate sexuality? Have you seen these mountains of flesh videoing themselves gyrating obscenely, sexual exhibitionists in flagrante delicto, under whose tutelage “sexual curiosities, once called perversions, flourish”? Give guns to the same "dedicated" pedagogues who took two years off for COVID?
These slaughters always raise the same questions: Why do such tragedies occur? Were there no warning signs which someone might have spotted? How did security procedures fail so miserably?
No mention, of course, of the inconvenient fact that the shooter couldn't have killed that many kids in that short of time if he didn't have a gun.