After a week on the defensive, the National Rifle Association is trying to shift blame to the media, making journalists play defense instead.
"The media loves mass shootings" is the new NRA talking point.
It's a sickening claim -- but NRA national spokeswoman Dana Loesch stood by it during an interview with CNN's Alisyn Camerota on Friday.
"You're wrong on every single level," Camerota said, calling the NRA's attacks against the media "malicious."
One possible explanation for Loesch's claim: She's trying to portray the news media as an enemy at a time when many outlets are covering the aftermath of the Florida mass shooting. An emerging student-led effort to reduce gun deaths is dominating the news.
The NRA's new anti-media talking point was promoted by the organization's TV arm on Wednesday.
Then Loesch repeated it on stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday.
"Many in legacy media love mass shootings. You guys love it," Loesch said. "Now, I'm not saying that you love the tragedy. But I am saying that you love the ratings. Crying white mothers are ratings gold to you."
Offensive. Toxic. Just plain wrong. Many journalists felt compelled to respond and rebut Loesch's claim -- from a HuffPost reporter, Matt Ferner, who tweeted "there's nothing more horrific, crushing, draining and painful than covering mass shootings," to a TV news director in Idaho, Melissa Luck, who asked, "Do people believe this garbage?"
On Friday morning, Loesch said she does believe what she said.
She insinuated that the anti-media attack was fair because some news commentators vilify the NRA members on TV.
Camerota asked Loesch on "New Day:" "You think we love mass shootings?"
Loesch: "I said many. I said many, not all, but I do think--"
Camerota: "Who? Who loves mass shootings?"
Loesch: "Many in the media do because they like the ratings aspect of it."
Loesch: "And it's true because it's wall to wall coverage. They put the murderer's face up on loop, on televisions all across America, more than they discuss even the victims or survivors."
In fact, many journalists at CNN and other outlets have purposefully limited their coverage of shooting suspects in recent years. The idea, sometimes called "no notoriety," is to deprive fame-seekers of attention.
During the interview with Camerota, Loesch went off on a tangent about CNN's Wednesday night town hall with politicians and shooting survivors.
At the town hall, Loesch was booed and heckled by some of the attendees. One woman could be heard shouting "you're a murderer" at her.
When Camerota brought the conversation back to Loesch's "malicious" comments about the media, Loesch said, "On your network, you've allowed accusations against me and millions of law-abiding Americans -- to be indicted as child murderers."
"We've never said that, Dana," Camerota said. "We've never said that you were a 'child murderer.'"
The back and forth heated up as Camerota tried to focus on Loesch's word choice.
"You know that you're using heated rhetoric. You're using inflammatory rhetoric," she said. "How is that part of the solution?"
Loesch: "Inflammatory rhetoric? Again, You've allowed millions of law-abiding Americans' characters to be impugned and indicted as child murderers. That's inflammatory."
Camerota disputed that again and asked why Loesch used inflammatory language at CPAC.
Loesch: "Because it's true, Alisyn. And maybe the truth hurts, but it's true--"
Camerota: "We love mass shootings? It's not true. You know this!"
Loesch is a member of the media herself. In the past, she has been a CNN commentator, a conservative website editor, and a talk show host.
Camerota added, "That's just not true. How dare you." Loesch repeatedly tried to change the subject.
The NRA's call to arms against the media
Gun rights groups have decried "media bias" for decades, but the critiques have become much more intense in recent years. In a recent web video, Loesch held up a lighter flame to a copy of The New York Times and talked about "burning down" the paper's "reputation."
Some analysts have speculated that the NRA has ramped up its anti-media messaging to motivate existing members and to recruit new ones. In the absence of a Democratic president in power to focus their attacks, the NRA has taken to criticizing media outlets instead.
Condemning the news media doubles as a way to market the NRA's own publications and TV shows.
While Loesch alleged that "many," not "all," journalists love mass shootings, the NRA went even further in a YouTube video published on Wednesday titled, "The media loves mass shootings."
"The mainstream media love mass shootings. I'm going to say it again: the mainstream media love mass shootings," host Colion Noir said on camera.
He said he doesn't believe journalists wish for the deaths of innocent people, but he said "tragedy is their business model." He claimed journalists use mass shootings to "juice their ratings and push their agenda."
Some of his claims were highly misleading. For example, Noir said shootings in Chicago are written off as "local news" stories, when in fact there has been national news coverage of Chicago's gun problem for years.
Loesch also brought up grieving parents in Chicago at her CPAC appearance, saying, "You don't see town halls for them, do you?"
MSNBC's Chris Hayes actually hosted a prime time town hall about gun violence in Chicago last year. So he tweeted out a link to his special broadcast.
"Oddly enough, the legions of people who cynically invoke the suffering of Chicagoans when it suits them didn't seem to make the time to watch," he wrote.
The Radio Television Digital News Association also issued a statement and YouTube video about the NRA's new anti-media talking point.
The statement was a defense of journalism: "We cannot make our communities better if we do not understand them, and as journalists we have dedicated our lives to uncovering challenges, understanding issues and uplifting each other's voices."
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