ConWebWatch home
ConWebBlog: the weblog of ConWebWatch
Search and browse through the ConWebWatch archive
About ConWebWatch
Who's behind the news sites that ConWebWatch watches?
Letters to and from ConWebWatch
ConWebWatch Links
Buy books and more through ConWebWatch

Protecting The Guns, Attacking The Protesters

The Media Research Center pushed several pet narratives in the aftermath of a Nashville school shooting: hyping the shooter's alleged transgender identity, complaining that guns were being blamed, and attacking state legislators who protested inaction.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 7/26/2023

The Media Research Center's initial reaction to the March 27 gun massacre at a private school in Nashville was a familiar one: complaining that people were criticizing guns. Curtis Houck complained that reporters "flaunt[ed] their liberal views" in a White House press briefing after the shooting, with "NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell channeled Rahm Emanuel by ghoulishly speculating the reports of the shooter being a woman could represent a 'breakthrough' against those backward Americans stuck in their 'gun culture.'" That was followed by a post from Nicholas Fondacaro ranting that a Tennessee congressman got called out for expressing sympathy over the massacre despite he and his family posing with guns in a recent Christmas card photo.

But then the real news (as far as the MRC was concerned) surfaced: the shooter was allegedly transgender. And, of course, the transphobes at the MRC totally ran with that. Typical was a rage-filled post by Kevin Tober:

On Monday, a transgender activist shot up a Christian school in Nashville Tennessee, killing three nine-year-old children and three teachers in an apparent hate crime against Christians. While all three networks mentioned a hate-filled transgender monster shot and killed six innocent Christians, the mentions were brief and CBS Evening News anchor Norah O’Donnell opened her program with a lecture on “gun violence.”

“Tonight, a targeted attack in Tennessee. A scene that has become all too common in America: A mass shooting. This time at a private Christian grade school in Nashville,” O’Donnell reported. She could've mentioned that once again a radical trans activist carried out a mass shooting, but she - like most leftists - was far more comfortable blaming guns.

“We just learned more about the six victims, the three children all 9 years old. The three adults in their 60s. One of them, Katherine Koonce, was the head of the school. The other adults, a substitute teacher, and a custodian,” O’Donnell noted.

O’Donnell’s only mention of the evil person who murdered six people was a brief mention of the suspect’s identity. She never mentions that the shooter was a mentally ill woman who pretended to be a man. She left that detail up to correspondent Janet Shamlian.

Tober offered no evidence the shooter was a "radical trans activist" or was "mentally ill" simply by allegedly being transgender.

Houck returned to whine about speculation that the shooter might have been motivated by right-wing anti-transgender laws like those recently passed in Tennessee:

Anchoring an ABC News Special Report early Monday evening on the deadly school shooting at Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee, senior national correspondent Terry Moran offered up one of the worst takes yet on the massacre by seeming to tie the transgender suspect’s premeditated attack on this Presbyterian school to Tennessee Republicans fighting back against gender mutilation and protecting children from graphic sexual content.

Moran offered this ghoulish insinuation after a press conference from Nashville officials in which they confirmed reporting and speculation of the gunman’s identity, their perceived gender identity, and how she left behind a manifesto and drawings of the school to chart the attack.

Speculating about motive does not equal approval of the motive, Curt.

Tober came back for more nastiness -- this time directed at President Biden -- while again calling the shooter "radical" without evidence:

Hours after a radical transgender activist shot and killed six people at a Christian school in Nashville, Tennessee, President Joe Biden’s first public comments on Monday were not about the heartbreaking mass shooting, they were a bizarre rambling rant about how much he loves ice cream, and how “good-looking” four of the kids in the audience were.

Imagine if former President Trump acted like this after a mass shooting. Creepy and thoroughly inappropriate comments like the ones Biden made would be aired and condemned on the nightly newscasts if Trump uttered them. Yet, sadly they were nowhere to be found on the big three evening newscasts of ABC’s World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, and NBC Nightly News.

Tober seems to have forgotten that President George W. Bush was reading a children's book to first-graders in Florida at the time of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

Alex Christy complained that another Tennessee politician's gun-laden Christmas card was called out. More whining about criticism of right-wing gun culture followed:

Christy groused in a related matter that late-night host Stephen Colbert mocked how right-wingers insisting that securing school doors was more important than gun regulation, huffing that Colbert was "apparently unaware of how doors work."

The MRC continued its transgender obsession as well:

Tim Graham had a fit in a March 31 post:

Alexandra Steigrad at the New York Post reported Thursday that CBS News ordered its staffers to avoid "any mention" of Tennessee school shooter Audrey Hale's identification as transgender. CBS has weirdly asserted that they haven't "confirmed" what the police said. It's interesting that in this case, their failure to accept official sources lines up with the GLAAD crowd.

Pay no attention to the shooter's identity, said the hardliners in identity politics!


For a "news" network to tell their reporters to dismiss all mention of transgenderism as irrelevant to this story is to say some facts, in this case, are too inflammatory or damaging to a cause or a "community" to mention. Politics is trumping facts.

By contrast, Graham was silent when Fox News ordered its staff to censor revelations about the channel made in filings in Dominion's defamation lawsuit against it, and definitely no lecturing about how it was refusing to report facts that were "too inflammatory or damaging."

The protest freakout

As if attacking the shooter's alleged transgender identity wasn't enough, the MRC found another reason to distract from the Nashville gun massacre. When protesters made a ruckus at the Tennessee Capitol by demanding state legislators do something abut gun violence, Fondacaro spent a March 30 post trying to maliciously portray it as "leftist violence" that was as violent as the Capitol riot, even calling it an "insurrection":

There was more leftist violence in America on Thursday as a mob of over 1,000 people descended on the Tennessee State Capitol. What started as just a protest to abolish gun rights quickly turned into a scuffle. Online videos showed people fighting with police officers as they tried to break into the legislative chamber, eventually succeeding. What some online were calling a violent insurrection went unreported on MSNBC, which was outside the building. Instead, they claimed it was just “people singing songs.”

Appearing on MSNBC’s Chris Jansing Reports, correspondent Lindsey Reiser described the crowd as “hundreds of people showed up today. I mean, probably about 1,500, maybe even upwards of that showing up. A lot of young people, a lot of young students, skipping school. A lot of parents bringing their young kids here as well.”

Note that Fondacaro's source for all this supposed violence is "some online." In reality, nobody was injured or arrested at the Nashville protest and were not trying to overthrow the government, as Fondacaro's right-wing buddies were trying to do on Jan. 6, 2021.

Nevertheless, Tober hyped the purported violence by a "mob" of "the left" in "what some described as a violent insurrection" in another post that day:

For the second time this week, the left turned violent Thursday when a mob of over 1,000 gun control activists stormed the Tennessee State Capitol in what some described as a violent insurrection. Much like their cable news colleagues from earlier in the day, the three evening news broadcasts either ignored or downplayed the violent riots at the Tennessee State Capitol. While the news of the indictment of former President Donald Trump soaked up much of the oxygen in the news cycle late Thursday, the three networks had plenty of time to cover the Tennessee mobs.

ABC’s World News Tonight and NBC Nightly News completely ignored the riots at the Tennessee Capitol in favor of stories on a snowboarder in Washington state being rescued after getting buried in the snow (ABC), and a sitdown interview with a disgruntled former Fox News producer to smear her former employer (NBC).

While CBS Evening News did cover the story, it was only briefly and when the footage of the leftist rioters clashing with capitol police was aired, CBS downplayed the violence.

Um, because there was no actual violence?

After Republican state legislators prepared to retaliate against three Democratic representatives who took part in the (non-violent) demonstration, Alex Christy complained in an April 6 post that the protesting legislators were getting support -- and like his co-workers, tried to make the protest sound worse than the Capitol riot:

As the Tennessee House of Representatives prepared to vote on Thursday to expel three Democratic lawmakers for disrupting proceedings by leading demonstrators with megaphones inside the House chamber, CNN Inside Politics host John King came running to their defense, claiming that “They were trying to get a discussion.” At the same time, chief national affairs correspondent Jeff Zeleny argued “no one cares about the rules of the Tennessee House.”

King began the panel discussion by suggesting expelling the lawmakers is excessive, “Now again, they broke the rules in speaking up. The question is okay, six people were shot and killed in your community. Emotions are raw. Do you expel them for speaking up?”


Sure, the lawmakers weren’t trying to get the governor out of office, but they literally did seize control of the chamber to the point where [Speaker Cameron] Sexton had to call for a recess. Furthermore, no GOP lawmaker stood on the House floor with a megaphone during January 6.

Tober clutched his pearls about "decorum" in a post later that day:

On Thursday afternoon, the Tennessee legislature voted to oust three Democrat [sic] members of the state’s House of Representatives due to their instigation of an insurrection earlier in the week over the left’s demand that the legislative body passes a gun control bill. Later Thursday evening, the big three evening newscasts were clearly angry that Republicans would dare enforce decorum and punish the three Democrats for acting like children rather than serious lawmakers.

Filling in for David Muir on ABC, Linsey Davis opened World News Tonight by disapprovingly reporting on the “dramatic fallout after that mass shooting at Covenant School in Nashville.” Davis bemoaned that “Tennessee lawmakers are voting to expel three Democrats from the state legislature after they protested for stricter gun control on the floor of that chamber.”


All three networks huffed over the Tennessee Republican legislature holding three Democrats accountable for attempting to incite an insurrection, yet they had no problem with then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) removing all of Kevin McCarthy's (R-CA) Republicans from her sham January 6 committee.

Tober is wrong -- Pelosi did not "remove" all of McCarthy's Republicans from the January 6 committee (which was very real and not a "sham"). Pelosi rejected two of the five Republicans McCarthy had named to the committee because they were pro-riot (we don't recall anyone from Al Qaeda being appointed to the 9/11 Commission, after all), and McCarthy pitched a hissy fit and withdrew all his nominees rather than work with Pelosi to seat Republicans both could agree on.

Actually, only two of the three Tennessee legislators targeted for removal were actually removed -- the two black ones, in fact; the third one, who is white, was ultimately not removed. When folks pointed out the optics of that, Christy complained in an April 7 post:

The Thursday edition of The 11th Hour came unhinged as Tennessee Lookout editor-in-chief Holly McCall responded to the expulsion of two Tennessee Democrats from the state House by asking if the state ever left it’s KKK past, declared the state to lead the way in “backwards and discriminatory legislation” and wondered if Gov. Bill Lee even cares about his own daughter and friends.

A third Democrat, Gloria Johnson, was not expelled and host Stephanie Ruhle was confident she knew why, “Let's lay it out there, three state representatives, all protested hand-in-hand together - two were black men, one was a white woman. Did she do anything different based on your reporting that would keep her in her position and keep these men out?”


Addressing expelled-Rep. Justin Jones, [former Repubican chairman Michael] Steele tried to wax poetic, “every last one of those bastards who voted you out will rue that moment… it makes a mockery of the very Constitution that you swore to uphold as a representative, so you continue to do you.”

No, using a bullhorn to shut down legislative proceedings makes a mockery of that oath. Not deterred, however, Steele continued, “Today, folks, what we saw was Tennessee telling two young African-American men to not get so uppity.”

This is an argument to also expel Johnson, not to not expel Jones and Justin Pearson. In any case, Johnson was likely spared because she was the least disruptive of the trio.

Mark Finkelstein similarly complained:

Right on, Don! Just because someone blatantly flouts the House rules, and uses a bullhorn to incite the crowd inside the Tennessee Capitol, it doesn't mean he's being "rude or boisterous" or "whatever." He's just expressing himself! And if you don't understand how "we" express ourselves, you're a racist!

That was part of Don Lemon's take on the expulsion of two black members of the Tennessee House, during Friday's CNN This Morning. And of course, Lemon concluded that it was due to "racism."

Lemon's spiel came after a clip was played of Kaitlan Collins' interview with the chairman of the Tennessee House GOP caucus, Jeremy Faison. He gave some interesting background: that this was far from the first episode of this nature. The representatives who were expelled had a history of disrupting proceedings on the floor as well as in committee meetings.

Finkelstein huffed that the ousted legislators were being turned into martyrs with a platform: "But being expelled could well turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to the two men. Overnight, they went from being obscure state representatives to hero status for a swath of Americans. Not to mention the liberal media. Witness the fact that one of the reps was treated to an interview on Friday's show for a second day running." He didn't blame the Republican legislators who made that possible.

Meanwhile, Fondacaro was still pushing the bogus "violent insurrection" narrative:

A little over a week and a half after a leftist trans terrorist shot up a Christian school in Nashville, Tennessee, CBS Mornings spent part of their Friday newscast telling Republicans in the state that they could be the target of more leftist violence. And according to CBS Prime Time host John Dickerson, the violence would be caused by Republican state legislators voting to expel Democrats, who led a violent insurrection at the state Capitol and disrupted official proceedings on the floor of the House.

“Well, politics needs some cartilage. It needs some give. It can't be totally brittle,” Dickerson described the situation. He went on the warn that Republicans supposedly took a “maximalist” approach and left “no give” for Democrats. “[T]here are a series of steps to punish. But when you go to the maximalist, when you kick them out, that's brittle. There's no give,” he huffed.

Dickerson then suggested that Republicans should not be surprised if their actions led to Democrats getting violent:


Earlier in the newscast, they treated the legal vote to remove the Democrats like a travesty of justice and tried to compare it to elements of the civil rights movement. “We begin this morning with the growing uproar after two black lawmakers were expelled from Tennessee's legislature,” fill-in anchor Natalie Morales announced, trying to inject race into the situation.

“Never before has a Tennessee lawmaker, never mind two Tennessee lawmakers, been expelled on partisan grounds. But in a polarized country, the gloves are off,” correspondent Mark Strassmann clutched his rhetorical pearls.

Strassmann declared them “the Tennessee Three,” an apparent attempt to frame them as akin to the kids of the Little Rock Nine, who were the face of the desegregation of schools and faced angry mobs of racists.

(Fun fact: In the early part of his career, Johnny Cash's backing band was called the Tennessee Three, but the name was changed to the Tennessee Two for a while, then back to the Tennessee Three. So the actual name alludes much more to in-state heritage than to the Little Rock Nine stretch Fondacaro is trying to make.)

Tim Graham rehashed all of this in his April 7 podcast:

When leftist agitators storm state capitols, you can’t use those words. Leftist media won’t use labels for their own kind, and they won’t use “storm” for a left-wing disturbance inside a state capitol building, unless someone is shot by police. Two black legislators in Tennessee became instant media heroes when the Republican House majority expelled them for creating a disturbance on the House floor and violating House rules.

On NPR, Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep was upset when the Republican leader of the Tennessee House of Republicans compared the screaming and shoving matches with the January 6 riot. No policeman shot a protester in Tennessee's state capitol. But Inskeep grew snarky and minimized the Nashville circus to “three lawmakers talked out of turn.” That sounds a lot like comparing January 6 to a Capitol tourist trip.

The scrum did help the liberal media try to change the subject from a transgender shooter murdering six at a Christian school. The words "transgender" and "Christian" are being dropped out of the narrative.

From there, the MRC's main focus of complaint was that the two expelled legislators got attention. An April 8 post by Christy complained that one outlet noted the indisputable fact that the two expelled legislators were black:

NBC Today hosts Peter Alexander and Kristen Welker welcomed recently expelled Tennessee State Rep. Justin Jones on to the Saturday show by putting the ball on the tee for him to routinely denounce Republicans as racist for his role in shutting down legislative proceedings with a bullhorn.


Ideally, Welker would also have asked how the minority party shutting things down constitutes democracy because after Jones doubled down on the race card, he laughably claimed what he did was “good trouble” and “First Amendment activity.”

Neither Welker no Alexander followed up by challenging that absurdity, how holding people accountable for their actions is racist, or with any meaningful distinction between the actions of three representatives, instead choosing to move onto gun control.

The "meaningful distinction" Christy claims exists is that, according to the link he supplied, the lawmaker who wasn't expelled didn't make use of a bullhorn. Of course, the meaningful distinction that everybody noted was that the non-expelled lawmaker was white, while the two expelled ones were black.

Another April 8 post, by Kathleen Krumhansl (also in Spanish), claimed that a Spanish-language news anchor told "the truth" about the expulsion of the lawmakers after the demonstration because of a reference to "incitement of violence very similar to what happened during the January 6th assault on the Capitol." But she didn't cite an example of any lawmaker issuing any "incitement of violence."

Tober spent an April 9 post being upset that one of the expelled lawmakers appeared on TV:

On ABC’s This Week, co-moderator Jon Karl invited Justin Pearson, one of the expelled former Democrat Tennessee representatives on the program to let him play the victim because he was held accountable for his actions. Opening the program on Easter Sunday, Karl still insisted on lying on this holy day.

Karl claimed the “two young black lawmakers [were] expelled from the state house of representatives after they took a stand on gun violence.” As NewsBusters Executive Editor Tim Graham noted on Twitter earlier on Sunday in response to Karl’s comments, it was like claiming “January 6 being ‘a stand for Trump's victory.’ You're moving the goalposts on shooting up a Christian school.”

Introducing the disgraced radical former representative, Karl asked the leading question: “You have spoken with great passion on the issue of gun violence. And I was wondering if you can tell us. I know you lost a classmate of yours to gun violence shortly before you were sworn in as a representative, what can you tell us about how that motivates you?”

This led Pearson to tell his sob story about experiencing so-called “gun violence” and how “over two thousand cars have gotten broken into” in his city. Which ironically is another reason why more Americans should be allowed to own firearms.

Tober whined again later in the day:

ABC's Good Morning America kicked off their Easter Sunday broadcast by hyping so-called "growing community outrage" over the two insurrectionist Democrat Tennessee state representatives who were expelled for whipping up a mob on the House floor. Not only did Good Morning America parrot the Democrat Party line on this controversy, but they barely aired any opposition from Republicans. The only soundbite played was a brief clip of Tennessee Republican House Speaker Cameron Sexton from his interview on Fox News Channel's morning show Fox & Friends.

Fondacaro repeated the bogus "insurrection" narrative again in an April 10 post:

Judging from the liberal media’s behavior, insurrections are good when leftists carry them out. That’s the gist of the tone shared by the broadcast networks on Monday as ABC’s Good Morning America, CBS Mornings, and NBC’s Today celebrated the likely return of former Democratic state Representatives Justin Jones and Justin Pearson after they led a violent and disruptive takeover of the Tennessee State Capitol two weeks ago.

Fondacaro's evidence the protest was "violent" was a link to an earlier post of his that embedded a tweet from a reporter who stated that "This was a peaceful protest" and cited only "shoving" by protesters. Nevertheless, he presented the falsehood again in another post that day, laughably calling the protest a"violent insurrection" and dismissing the expelled legislators as "disruptive and disrespectful Democrats"who "have a history of disruptions and got insulting with their defense speeches before the vote," while the media was "smearing the Tennessee GOP with false claims of racism."

Tober raged that one of the ousted legislators was reinstated by other officials in his own post that day:

On Monday night's CBS Evening News, senior national correspondent Mark Strassmann stuck his finger in the eyes of Tennessee Republicans who voted to oust two of the three attempted insurrectionist Democrat legislators. The obnoxious gloating came after one of the misbehaved Democrats, Justin Jones, was reinstated by the Nashville council.

Suddenly interrupting a legislative session is a good thing, according to CBS. Anything goes so long as it's in pursuit of the Democrat Party's [sic] radical anti-American agenda.

Tober doesn't seem to realize that deliberately getting the name of the Democratic Party wrong makes people want to take him less seriously as a credible "media researcher."

Graham did something similar in his April 10 podcast, huffing that "the networks continue to bathe the Bullhorn Justins -- radical black Democrat [sic] legislators Justin Jones and Justin Pearson -- in glory for being expelled by the Republicans in the Tennessee House of Representatives. They completely downplayed the screaming on the House floor about 'no action, no peace,' making it sound like the Republicans would expel them just for gentle protesting. The goal remained to make Americans forget that a crazed transgender 'man' shot and killed six inside a Christian school."

The shooter being transgender is the only thing that Graham wants his right-wing listeners to take away from all this -- certainly not that guns are a problem.

It wouldn't be the MRC if there wasn't a coverage-count item, and Geoffrey Dickens predictably whined that non-right-wing channels didn't follow right-wing narratives attacking the legislators:

The Big Three (ABC, CBS, NBC) fell in love with their new heroes, the so-called “Tennessee Three” as they devoted a full week to cramming their evening and morning shows with clips of the unruly gun-grabbing trio and their supporters.

MRC analysts looked at 92 minutes, 22 seconds of network evening and morning coverage of the ousting of the disruptive and disrespectful Democrats from April 6 to April 13 and discovered a whopping disparity in clips with the leftist Tennessee threesome and their supporters overwhelming conservative Republicans by a 107 to 24 count.

Yes, viewers of these programs were four times (4 to 1) more likely to hear from the leftist Tennessee State Representatives Justin Jones, Justin Pearson, Gloria Johnson and their vocal supporters like Vice President Kamala Harris than Tennessee Republican House Speaker Cameron Sexton and State Representative Sabi Kumar.

Instead of focusing on how the three Democrats had flouted the rules, network anchors and hosts largely spent their time advancing the narrative that these two Democratic black legislators and one white female were bravely facing down a bunch of racist pro-gun GOP lawmakers.

Not only did the networks quickly brush-past the disorderly conduct of the “Tennessee Three,” they completely ignored State Representative Justin Jones’ charges for misconduct for his assault of a driver at a 2020 “racial-justice” protest.

As usual, Dickens failed to document how Fox News covered the story to provide an example of how he presumably believes the story should have been handled -- you know, with lots of right-wing bias.

Send this page to:

Bookmark and Share
The latest from

In Association with
Support This Site

home | letters | archive | about | primer | links | shop
This site © Copyright 2000-2023 Terry Krepel