The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Rupert Murdoch

As the country reels from yet another horrific mass shooting, right-wing media outlets like Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News are doing all they can to halt any progress on reforming the country’s gun laws. But a totally different story is being told in Australia — the original home of the Murdoch family’s media empire — where Murdoch outlets have instead touted the importance of gun safety, and are now highlighting the dangerous conditions of gun proliferation in the United States.

In response to a mass shooting in 1996, in which 35 people were killed, Australia’s conservative Prime Minister John Howard undertook a comprehensive program of outright gun buybacks and confiscation, targeting the kind of high-power rifles used in such massacres. Today, Australia requires a person to show a “genuine reason” for them to obtain a license for the categories of firearms that are still legally available. They must also pass a background check, complete a firearms safety course, and practice safe storage of their weapon. As a result, Australia has suffered just one mass shooting resulting in 5 or more deaths since 1996. In the United States, according to the Gun Violence Archive, seven mass shootings on that scale have occurred in the first five months of 2022, including two horrific mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, just 10 days apart.

Howard has long touted the success of these laws as an important legacy of his administration, writing in a January 2013 guest column in The New York Times: “After this wanton slaughter, I knew that I had to use the authority of my office to curb the possession and use of the type of weapons that killed 35 innocent people. I also knew it wouldn’t be easy.” (Howard wrote the column in the wake of the terrible mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012.)

A little over a year ago, Howard sat for an interview with Murdoch-owned Sky News Australia, looking back on his gun laws as a major accomplishment that no Australian government would dare to undo today.

Sky News reporter Andrea Crothers asked Howard, “Do you think we’ll see an overhaul of U.S. gun laws in your lifetime?”

“I would hope and pray I do,” Howard responded. “I have my doubts, but I’d like to think that it could happen.”

It is impossible to even imagine Fox News giving such a friendly interview to an American political leader on the subject of gun control.

Looking at the latest events, Sky’s coverage of the Uvalde school massacre is also sharply different from Fox News’ coverage. Here in America, Fox hosts immediately denounced any calls for “sweeping massive changes,” while blaming everything but guns for the atrocity and calling for all manner of absurd solutions that are proven not to work. (Fox has even blamed the school-age victims of mass shootings for not doing enough to warn police.)

Perhaps the most egregious coverage was the prime-time responses to President Joe Biden’s speech calling for the country to stand up to the gun lobby, and to stop the proliferation of assault weapons designed exclusively to kill lots of people. In Fox’s telling, this was a “bitterly partisan” speech, “desecrating the memory of recently murdered children with tired talking points of the Democratic Party,” and Biden allegedly delivered the speech not to express sincere beliefs but instead because “politics is selfish.”

One of Sky’s conservative opinion hosts, Andrew Bolt, took a very different stance while cueing up those same clips of Biden’s address. “Now again, we’re getting as we always do with these American shootings, heartfelt appeals for more action to control guns,” Bolt said. “And sitting here in Australia, you're wondering why this even needs saying.”

The panel discussion that followed provided an interesting mix of talking points that could normally be seen on Fox News, such as invoking violence in cities like Chicago or crime in California, falsely attributing violent crime to only Democratic-governed areas, and even throwing in empty talking points about the non-existent defunding of the police. At the same time, the panelists still diagnosed the proliferation of guns in the United States as one of the key problems contributing to the gun violence epidemic.

One particularly sharp comment came from Adam Creighton, Washington correspondent for Murdoch paper The Australian, describing America’s “globally unusual” gun culture to his audience back home. “I think it's only the U.S.A. and Mexico of the large countries that enshrined these gun-carrying rights,” Creighton observed. “And it leads, at least in my view, to the extraordinary increase in murders and homicides and and mass shootings.”

To reiterate the point, these are comments that we would simply never see from Fox News and other Murdoch properties in the United States.

Just to be clear, Sky News Australia is hardly a bastion of bipartisan moderation, with the Murdoch empire’s past political domination of the country being especially atrocious on climate issues. In the network’s coverage these past few days of their country’s election — in which the progressive Labor Party ousted the conservative Liberal Party after nine years in office — the channel has been crowing about a “hardcore, left-wing government that will destroy the fabric of this nation,” pushed for right-wing leadership from the defeated conservatives, trashed moderates, and continued to promote a failed candidate who ran on a transphobic platform.

In short, Sky News Australia’s usual content would be quite recognizable on Fox News — even down to its coverage of Biden. But, as it turns out, even they understand that standing up to the gun lobby and getting rid of high-powered killing machines are such an obvious course that as Bolt observed, “you’re wondering why this even needs saying.”

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters


Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Former President Donald Trump, left, and former White House counsel Pat Cipollone

On Wednesday evening the House Select Committee investigating the Trump coup plot issued a subpoena to former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, following blockbuster testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who said the lawyer had warned of potential criminal activity by former President Donald Trump and his aides.

The committee summons to Cipollone followed long negotiations over his possible appearance and increasing pressure on him to come forward as Hutchinson did. Committee members expect the former counsel’s testimony to advance their investigation, owing to his knowledge of the former president's actions before, during and after the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Keep reading... Show less

Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

{{ }}