Alan Gottlieb, the founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, appeared on cable news twice last week to discuss President Obama's plans to "take away everybody's guns." Given the tone of the tough questioning from CNN's Rick Sanchez and MSNBC's David Shuster, Gottlieb may very well have been invited on to expose the absurdity of right-wing claims about gun control. While I applaud the effort to hold someone accountable for the hyperbolic rhetoric about gun bans -- just one meme in the growing culture of conservative paranoia -- hosting an advocate who is willing to advance blatant lies while fear-mongering about the Obama administration, even if his lies are challenged or debunked, not only gives them an undeserved platform, it runs the risk of actually furthering the smears.
Gottlieb appeared April 6 on MSNBC's Hardball and when asked by Shuster, "Do you believe that the Obama administration and the feds are coming to take away everybody's guns?" Gottlieb replied: "I believe that's what they would like to do."
You see, according to Gottlieb, "People have legitimate reasons to be fearing the government right now." During the interview, he asserted: "It is a dangerous situation. It's dangerous because the government shouldn't be doing it [infringing on gun rights]. It's a legitimate fear that Americans have, based on statements made by elected public officials."
But when asked to support his claim about "statements made by elected officials," Gottlieb offered falsehoods, distortions of fact, and even blatant lies about Obama and his administration's position on gun control.
Among the blatant lies advanced by Gottlieb, when asked, "[B]e honest, do you believe that that's what they're planning? Do you believe that they are planning to come and take everybody's guns away?" he asserted: "Attorney General Eric Holder has already made that announcement that he would like to do it. Hillary Clinton has talked about it." Think you might have heard about it if the U.S. attorney general had "made that announcement" that they "are planning to come and take everybody's guns away?" Of course you would. And why haven't you heard about Holder's announcement? Well, because he has said no such thing, of course. Nor has Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "talked about" anything approximating plans by the federal government "to come and take everybody's guns away."
Gottlieb also asserted: "Barack Obama has voted for handgun bans." That's another lie. Obama has not voted to ban handguns.
Gottlieb also claimed the Obama administration was "infringing on gun rights in lots of different ways, with executive orders and things the administration is doing behind the scenes." I don't know what the Obama administration is doing "behind the scenes" to infringe on gun rights, but apparently Gottlieb doesn't either, as he offered no evidence to support this assertion. Moreover, Gottlieb is simply lying when he asserts that the Obama administration is "infringing on gun rights" with "executive orders." Here's a list of the executive orders and presidential memorandums signed by Obama; not one of them deals with gun control, let alone "infring[es] on gun rights."
Gottlieb also claimed that Clinton "blam[ed] Americans owning guns for crime happening in Mexico, which is totally absurd." Yes, it is absurd, because Clinton said no such thing. And when Shuster told Gottlieb that Clinton had said no such thing and to "[t]ry again," Gottlieb did, once again lying, stating: "Oh, yes. She did say that. I'm sorry. I have the quotes." But Gottlieb did not have "the quotes," and no fair read of Clinton's remarks about violence in Mexico can be interpreted as "blaming Americans owning guns."
Two days later, on the April 8 edition of CNN Newsroom, when Sanchez asked Gottlieb, "[W]hat makes you believe that President Obama is coming for your guns?" it didn't take long for Gottlieb to begin advancing falsehoods and lies.
First, Gottlieb asserted that "as a U.S. senator [Obama] supported every gun-control measure that was before him." Not only is this claim highly misleading given that Obama voted on just two gun-control measures, it is also false because Obama voted for an amendment to the fiscal year 2007 Homeland Security appropriations bill that prohibited the confiscation of firearms during an emergency or major disaster. Obama's vote for "gun control" in the U.S. Senate was a "No" vote on the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which prohibited "civil liability actions from being brought or continued against manufacturers, distributors, dealers, or importers of firearms or ammunition for damages, injunctive or other relief resulting from the misuse of their products by others."
Next, Gottlieb willfully distorted Holder's comments from an April 2 press conference in Cuernavaca, Mexico, claiming that Holder said the administration was "not going to let the Second Amendment stand in the way of any gun control that they want to put forth." In fact, Holder was specifically asked about "whether gun rights under the U.S. Constitution complicated the effort" to work with Mexico on gun trafficking by drug cartels. According to The Wall Street Journal, Holder said: "I don't think our Second Amendment will stand in the way of the efforts we have begun and will expand upon." The Second Amendment Foundation issued a press release similarly distorting Holder's remarks, which is now all over right-wing websites.
Discussing the reported spike in U.S. gun sales, Gottlieb said, "The reason why people are buying guns is that [Obama's] polarizing them." This is similar to what Gottlieb said on Hardball, where he blamed the administration for people's fears that Obama was coming for their guns. Gottlieb said, "Believe me, there's a lot of fear out there. It's being propagated by the administration. All they have to do is say we're not going to do these things and life would be fine." Of course, that, too, is a lie. Obama and members of his administration have made clear that they do not plan to take away anyone's guns -- and yet everything is not "fine." Obama said repeatedly during the campaign that he was not going to take people's guns away. Additionally, during Holder's confirmation hearing on January 15, when asked by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) if he "accept[ed] and underst[ood] that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms," Holder said: "I understand that the Supreme Court has spoken. ... And that is now the law of the land. I respect the Supreme Court's decision. And my actions as attorney general, should I be confirmed, will be guided by that Supreme Court decision [D.C. v. Heller]."
At the conclusion of his Hardball appearance, Gottlieb said: "We have every right to organize our people and get them active and energized so they know what's happening."
To his credit, Shuster told Gottlieb: "You don't have every right to essentially inspire some of the crazies out there to do something violent because they think fascism is on the march."
Indeed, while Gottlieb has "every right to organize [his] people and get them active" and even to lie about "what's happening," he doesn't have the right to appear on cable news to promote those lies and engage in fear-mongering. Call me old-fashioned -- hell, call me naive -- but I believe that when someone is willing to distort basic facts and utter transparent lies, they should not be afforded the platform of a credible advocate to debate issues on national television.
Gottlieb should have his media pass revoked.
And before conservatives become apoplectic and accuse me of trying to silence Gottlieb, that's not the issue here. The question is not whether Gottlieb has a right to challenge the administration on gun control. Of course he does. The issue is whether he deserves to appear on national television to make his case. Gottlieb is free to say and publish whatever he wants about Obama's plans for gun control; his organization can continue issuing press releases with disregard to the facts. But that does not mean that the press has an obligation to report them, or that Gottlieb has any right to appear on national television.
Check out a video summary of Gottlieb's most egregious lies here.