Earlier this year, the National Rifle Association released a creepy ad ripping the New York Times.
“We the people have had it,” says ad narrator Dana Loesch, an NRA spokeswoman. “We’ve had it with your narratives, your propaganda, your fake news.” The ad was part of a back-and-forth with the New York Times in which the NRA accused the outlet of under-covering a number of key stories, among other alleged fouls. “We’ve had it with your constant protection of your Democrat overlords, your refusal to acknowledge any truth that upsets the fragile construct that you believe is real life. And we’ve had it with your pretentious, tone-deaf assertion that you are in any way truth- or fact-based journalism. Consider this the shot across your proverbial bow. We’re going to fisk the New York Times and find out just what deep, rich means to this old gray hag, this untrustworthy, dishonest rag that has subsisted on the welfare of mediocrity for one, two, three more decades? We’re going to laser-focus on your so-called honest pursuit of truth. In short, we’re coming for you.”
Bolding added to highlight what many took as a threat. In an interview with Fox News’s Dana Perino in August, Loesch denied as much. “What surprised me the most was that people would think that a promise to fact-check a media organization is a physical threat, which it’s not,” she said.
Digital Content Next, a group representing digital companies including 21st Century Fox, the New York Times, The Washington Post and Fox News Digital, isn’t buying Loesch’s assertion of fact-checking innocence. “When you use such incendiary language as ‘we’re coming for you,’ it is our right to suggest in the strongest terms that your behavior is blatantly irresponsible as it may incite violence against journalists,” writes Chris Pedigo, senior vice president of governmental affairs for DCN in a Tuesday letter to the NRA. “Ninety-nine people out of a hundred would interpret this language as threatening and to suggest otherwise is disingenuous at best and dangerous at worst. Bottom line: It is un-American to threaten journalists.”
However you wish to interpret Loesch’s words, tough rhetoric — and actual bullying — against the media these days is in vogue. Greg Gianforte, a Republican candidate for Montana’s sole congressional seat, body-slammed a Guardian reporter just before his special-election contest in the spring; he won. President Trump recently questioned whether journalists love their country, and earlier this year he claimed that certain news outlets were the “enemy of the American people.” After the media denounce such provocations, there’s occasionally some chatter that it’s overreacting.
Loesch has provided the following statement to the Erik Wemple Blog:
I never received this letter, as this organization gave it to the press, but not to me. I’m genuinely concerned that certain members of our media refer to a free people fact-checking their press as “un-American” and characterize their right to do so as “inciting violence.” There is deliberate effort by some in media, not all, to limit free people’s ability to fact-check reporting by calling said act “incendiary” and smearing those who engage in it.
Media is free to report however they wish, truth or propaganda. It is their right under our Constitution. Perhaps though, Digital Content Next could host a forum at their event to reacquaint themselves with the right of Americans to criticize and fact-check media’s reporting, as is also our right, even if they virulently disagree with our criticisms.