The MRC's Gun Deflections Pile Up
The Media Research Center labored hard to try and distract from gun violence -- from attacking inconvenient statistics to post-massacre spin to defending a killer who expressed a desire to "shoot looters."
By Terry Krepel
It's standard practice for the Media Research Center to distract from gun massacres by focusing on anything else but guns and lashing out at anyone who points out the central role of the gun in the massacre. When a shooter killed three people on the campus of Michigan State University, the MRC followed that pattern again, beginning with a Feb. 14 post by Kevin Tober:
Late Monday night, a deranged gunman opened fire on students at Michigan State University, killing three and leaving five others in critical condition. On Tuesday evening, the three evening news broadcasts were quick to jump to their usual playbook of overblowing how frequent mass shootings in the United States are and turning to guests or victims to plea for gun control.
The "completely dishonest and inflated statistics" Tober is referring to come from the Gun Violence Archive, which describes its methodology for the numbers it uses so it cannot possible be dishonest; the MRC has attacked the GVA numbers before because they make gun activists look bad. (Also, it's the height of irony for an organization that made up "secondhand censorship" to complain about someone else's "dishonest and inflated statistics.")
Tober uncritically quoted the right-wing Free Beacon in accusing the prosecutor in question, Carol Siemon, of reducing Anthony McRae's original felony charge of concealed carry of a gun without a permit to a misdemeanor charge in which he served probation. But conservatives actually favor permitless concealed carry, so you think the MRC would be cheering this. The Free Beacon article put "race equity" in quotes as a reason McRae's charge was reduced, but at no point did it quote Siemon or anyone else saying those exact words in relation to McRae's case (or at all, in fact, raising questions about the article's overall credibility). As Siemon has pointed out, McRae was a first-time offender, who typically see reduced sentences, and plea bargains are commonplace, meaning that what she did was not out or the ordinary. But because she had tangental links to Soros -- whom the MRC constantly demonizes -- she too became a target for right-wing demonization even if her attackers can't identify any deviation from standard procedure.
Alex Christy served up the gun-distraction narrative in a Feb. 15 post, complaining that Democratic Rep. Maxwell Frost (whom the MRC weirdly hates for being young and "socialist") "continued the old tradition of claiming that the only reason why major gun control legislation fails in Congress is because of the National Rifle Association."
Nicholas Fondacaro opened a Feb. 15 post by grumbling that "In the wake of the tragic shooting at Michigan State University earlier this week, the unhinged gaggle of gals on ABC’s The View unleashed some truly crazy takes. Joy Behar was so unhinged that she seriously blamed Republicans wearing gun-shaped lapel pins for causing mass shootings." By contrast, the MRC didn't think it was "unhinged" to accuse members of Congress of acting "demonic" for wearing lapel pins expressing support for abortion rights.
Fondacaro returned to the blame-the-prosecutor angle in a Feb. 16 post:
During a Thursday appearance on CBS Mornings, Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio put liberal co-hosts Gayle King and Nate Burleson in their place after the former tried to suggest he was fine with continued mass shootings, and the latter misrepresented his stance on gun laws. Of course, this was all in service of the anti-gun rights narrative.Fondacaro went on to uncritically quote Rubio claiming that McRae "actually had gun charges in the past," suggesting there were multiple cases; in fact, there was just the one. He also didn't note that conservative gun activists support permitless concealed carry, the charge McRae originally faced.
Inconvenient gun stats
One of the things the MRC loves to do in order to distract from gun violence is quibble about how incidents of gun violence are counted -- and specifically attacking the statistics supplied by the Gun Violence Archive and cited by (non-right-wing) media outlets. Fondacaro played this card after one mass shooting in a Jan. 24 post (boldface in original):
Since the mass shooting in Monterey Park, California on Saturday, viewers of English and Spanish broadcast networks have seen the reported number of mass shootings in the United States jump from 33 to 39 in just three days. And as CBS Morning’s co-host Nate Burleson put it on Tuesday, “my logic says that has to be wrong, those numbers have to be exaggerated, and they are not.” But Burleson should’ve listened to his logic because his instinct was correct. Yet, these networks have also ignored a recent study that shows an average of 1.67 million defensive gun uses per year.
Fondacaro is lying when he claims the GVA's numbers are "untrustworthy" -- the GVA has made its methodology public. He simply doesn't like the numbers being high because they don't make right-wing pro-gun agendas look good. Indeed, he tried to spin things in an attempt to make guns look good: "While the liberal media is intent on trampling on the right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms with false statistics on mass shootings, they’re flat-out ignoring an academic study from Georgetown University that shows 'guns are used defensively by firearms owners in approximately 1.67 million incidents per year.'" Of course, defensive uses of guns mean nothing when guns are also used to kill -- not that Fondacaro will admit that, of course.
Fondacaro lashed out at the GVA and someone citing its numbers in a post two days later:
In response to a teacher getting shot by a 6-year-old in a Virginia school, where officials blatantly ignored multiple warnings that the kid had a gun that day, ABC co-host Joy Behar lashed out at law-abiding gun owners and other gun rights activists via The View on Thursday. She accused those millions of Americans of having a “mental illness” and demanded they “be stopped immediately.”
Again, the GVA numbers are not "false" and have not been "debunked."
Fondacaro complained about a different set of numbers he didn't like in a Jan. 31 post:
In a supposed “fact-check” on Tuesday, Washington Post editor and “fact checker” Glenn Kessler published an analysis to tackle the understood notion that a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun. But the piece, titled “ What’s more common: A ‘good guy’ without a gun or with one?”, muddied the waters and argued that the data is incomplete and inconclusive.
Fondacaro did praise Kessler for citing numbers manufactured by right-wing research John Lott, but then got mad he ultimately dismissed his numbers:
But Kessler does cite gun rights researcher John R. Lott Jr., who had compiled his own list “of more than 100 instances between 2014 and 2021, linked to news reports, when a citizen with a lawful firearm ended an active-shooting situation.”
Fondacaro repeated his praise of the Georgetown defensive-use study and took another shot at the GVA numbers, this time whining they were "inflated."
Fondacaro lashed out at more gun statistics he didn't like in a March 14 post:
With President Biden announcing new executive orders on guns Tuesday, CNN Newsroom invited Jennifer Mascia, senior writer for The Trace (an anti-gun rights publication), to share her dubious study. According to Mascia, a CNN contributor, gun manufacturers were directly in control of gun deaths in America as she suggested “when gunmakers ramped up production, gun deaths rose.” Of course, CNN gushed for this purported evidence to back their anti-gun rights agenda.
Fondacaro then asserted that Mascia made an "outrageous accusation that gun makers were driving gun deaths":
In her study, Mascia seemed to suggest that gun makers held the puppet strings when it came to the correlation between guns produced and gun deaths: “When we charted gun manufacturing and imports alongside annual gun deaths going back to 1968, we found that when gunmakers ramped up production, gun deaths rose.”
When it was pointed out that handguns saw a surge in sales starting in the early 1990s, Fondacaro continued to read from the gun lobby's talking points:
But what was going on in America 30 years ago in the late 80s and early 90s? Out-of-control crime in American cities around the country. The correlation then becomes a chicken-and-the-egg scenario: did making guns lead to violence or did violence lead to more people buying guns thus production met demand? There's also the correlation of increased moves for gun control driving sales and demand, which we saw with President Obama and she notes in her report (although she tried to tie it to race).
And what was driving that "rash of attacks on Asian Americans"? Irrational right-wing fear -- driven in part by then-President Donald Trump -- that Asians were to blame for the COVID virus. Fondacaro didn't mention that part. He went on to try to dismiss the large number of gun suicides:
Another tripping point in Mascia’s deductions was the fact that suicides have historically made up about two-thirds of all gun deaths in America; it’s something even PolitiFact admits. In fact, Mascia actually tried to discount the correlation. “…[W]e found that the relationship between gun production particularly handgun production and suicides is stronger than gun deaths overall. But correlation is not causation,” she reported.
But most motor vehicle deaths are by accident -- few people use a car intending to kill themselves. By contrast, every gun suicide is a deliberate act, one that might not have happened had there not been ready access to a gun. Which means Fondacaro is the one who's tripping here.
Fondacaro concluded: "Mascia's assertions only work if you look at them in a vacuum and don't take into account what happening in the country at these times." So once again, context is important at the MRC, though it likes to complain when conservatives are called out for not adding it.
In the wake of the Nashville massacre, Curtis Houck took a whack at the numbers again in a March 30 post:
CBS co-host, Democratic donor, and Obama family friend Gayle King opened the show’s “Eye Opener” by touting First Lady Jill Biden’s visit to Nashville “amid passionate pleas on Capitol Hill for changes to gun laws.” After that, CBS played a clip of [Rep. Jamaal] Bowman’s staged meltdown in which he asked whether Massie was “listening to what I’m saying.”
The GVA can't possibly be "cooking their books" when its methodology is public.
Fondacaro whined about yet another set of gun violence numbers he disapproved of in an April 12 post:
The liberal media are all for live fact-checks and dishing out Pinocchios when they’re targeting conservatives, but their obsessive desire to nitpick and say “It’s accurate, but...” goes right out the window when it’s for their agenda. This was the case on Wednesday’s CBS Mornings when they pushed a dubious “gun violence” study from the Kaiser Family Foundation that wrapped firearm accidents, suicides, and defensive uses together with mass shootings and crime for an anti-gun rights message.
It's almost as if Fondacaro doesn't think gun suicides should be counted as "real" deaths -- and that any numbers that don't mesh with right-wing narratives must be dismissed as "dubious."
Fondacaro used an April 17 post to dismiss a gun-related poll he didn't like:
As part of their Monday coverage of a tragic mass shooting at an Alabama birthday party, CBS Mornings revealed the results of new a CBS News/YouGov poll that purportedly showed 62 percent of Americans were in favor of a ban on AR-15s. Those findings flew in the face of similar recent polling that showed growing opposition to a ban.
The Reload is a right-leaning pro-gun website run by former MRC employee Stephen Gutowski, so of course Fondacaro doesn't disclose its bias.
(Fondacaro's alleged evidence that Dokoupil is a "socialist," by the way, is a link to a segment he did three years ago explaining the inequitable distribution of wealth in the U.S. No evidence was offered that the segment represented Dokoupil's personal views or how explaining such inequities makes one a "socialist.")
Another massacre, another deflection
With the May gun massacre at an outlet mall in Texas, the MRC continued its pattern of refusing to actually talk about the gun's central role. Fondacaro tried to steer things toward mental health, and away from guns, in a May 8 post:
Following yet another mass shooting where the shooter showed warning signs of struggling with his mental health, on Monday, the ladies of ABC’s The View denied that there was a mental health crisis in America as they turned their nose up at efforts in Texas to address it. They even went so far as to suggest mass shooters weren’t mentally ill and wildly assert that “war weapons” and murders only exist in America.
Fondacaro then played games with polls:
Citing an outlier poll from Fox News, Farah Griffin opined that “87 percent of Americans support background checks for guns.” Background checks already existed and are required in all states, they're federally mandated. She also boasted that “81 percent support raising the minimum age to get a buy a firearm to 21,” which would effectively make many adults second-class citizens who can’t exercise their constitutional rights.
That's right -- Fondacaro is trusting a poll from the hated "liberal media" instead of his beloved Fox News because it better fits his narrative. Oh, and he also raged at co-host Sunny Hostin for being "mentally unstable and racist" because he doesn't understand how metaphors work.
A few hours later, he lashed out at "The View" again, this time for pointing out reports of the shooter's white supremacism despite apparently being of Hispanic heritage:
As a follow-up to their earlier conversation on Monday where they denied that mental illness played a key role in mass shootings, even proclaiming that the mentally ill were immune from committing mass shootings, the radical cast of ABC’s The View dove to a new level of lunacy as faux-conservative co-host Ana Navarro proclaimed that blacks and Hispanics were not “immune” from “being a white supremacist.” It’s an accusation that has been leveled at black and Hispanics just for voting Republican.
Fondacaro then whined that an authority on law enforcement was referenced:
Before doing her habitual quotation of FBI Director Christopher Wray, she lashed out at those who call out her racism. “And so, you know, Christopher Wray These are not my words. So people don't start with the I’m a race-baiter crap!” she spat.
In fact, the shooter had Nazi tattoos and a fascination with neo-Nazi ideology, so Fondacaro looks like slightly less of a clown for making his concession. Fondacaro didn't want to talk about that any further, though.
Then it was time to move on to other anti-gun control narratives, with a post by Curtis Houck cheering how a Republican congressman enter the "far-left lair" of "CBS This Morning" to spout those narratives. Houck even dismissed the fact that one massacre victim's face was blown off, callously declaring that it "would be the case with any gun if they’re shot point blank or enough times."
The vast majority of Americans are not as weirdly blase about gun violence as Houck.
Defense of killer didn't age well
Fondacaro ranted in an April 11 post:
We all remember the liberal media’s Orwellian portrayal of the Black Lives Matter riots of 2020 as “fiery but mostly peaceful.” Well, ABC kept the gaslight flowing on Tuesday with hate crime hoaxer John Quinones spinning lies and misleading Good Morning America viewers about a July 2020 self-defense shooting of a BLM “protester” by Army Sargent Daniel Perry, and the possible pardon he could receive from Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott; even lying about what transpired during the altercation.
Fondacaro worked hard to name-check all the requisite right-wing bogeymen -- BLM! Soros! Gaslighting! Quinones was wrong about the ownership of the handgun -- it belonged to Perry, not Foster -- but Fondacaro offered no evidence to prove the error was deliberate, making his shrieking about a "LIE" premature and unproven. He went on to try and disprove Quinones not by citing established facts but, rather, Perry's attorneys, who have a certain bias:
Quinones scoffed that “attorneys for Perry say he had no choice but to shoot Foster for his own protection,” adding that “prosecutors say Perry could have fled the scene instead.”
Fondacaro omitted that prosecution witnesses stated Perry initiated the confrontation by driving into the midst of a crowd of protesters, and that no witness to the incident saw Foster point his rifle at Perry.
But it turned out that not only was Fondacaro's "LIE" attack on Quinones premature and unproven, so was his entire defense of Perry. A few days after this post was written, unsealed documents from the case revealed that Perry had a history of making racist and violent comments on social media, stating just a couple months before the shooting that “I might go to Dallas to shoot looters," and stating in another post that “It is official I am a racist because I do not agree with people acting like animals at the zoo."
Fondacaro did not update his post to reflect this new information about a man he was defending, but neither he nor the MRC has written anything more about the case.