Right Wing Echo Chamber Inaccurately Smears Mother Jones Story on Gun Fanatics

photo of Jen Longdon on WRTV6 in IndianapolisBy now, everyone who follows the politics of guns in this country has probably heard the story first broken by Mark Follman in Mother Jones regarding the increasingly vituperative and often intentionally frightening manner in which some gun rights activists have been addressing supporters of gun control. Follman’s story showcases several documented instances of militant gun owners bullying, harassing and threatening gun control activists. Three of the anecdotes in Follman’s story have documentary video attached to the story itself.

Follman’s lead story, however, does not contain video, because it happened in a private, unscripted moment with no news cameras present. It is a truly shocking – and revolting – tale of how one unidentified gun supporter treated Jennifer Longdon, a gun owner who was shot in the back and is now confined to a wheelchair as a result. Ms. Longdon attended the recent NRA annual convention in Indianapolis to protest along with Every Town for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action. In the Indianapolis airport after the conference, Follman’s story relates, a television was showing a report of the convention which featured footage of Ms. Longdon. According to Longdon’s telling, a “tall, thin man” watching the report apparently realized that the woman on the television was the woman sitting near him in the airport, walked up to Ms. Longdon, spit in her face, and walked away.

My guess is Follman used the spitting anecdote concerning Ms. Longdon to lead off his story because it is truly shocking and disgusting, and because it showcases very clearly the lengths to which some gun advocates feel they are entitled to go for what they perceive to be their cause. Likely for the same reason – because the story paints such an unflattering portrait of the kind of extreme gun rights activists, but also because it is one of the few stories in Follman’s piece which obviously did not have video documentation to corroborate it – right wing mouthpieces decided it must be discredited to take away its power. Former CNN contributor and current BlazeTV (Glenn Beck’s channel) host Dana Loesch steps up. Loesch quotes from the article, then doubts its veracity:

Again, if true, awful, and I’ll be the first to go toe to toe with these folks. But I’m finding it hard to believe considering how many times this Bloomberg group has lied — about me as well — since its inception.

Note that Loesch understands the power of the story – she explicitly admits it – before expressing doubts it is true and tossing a research request out to listeners and readers of her blog. The challenge is picked up by “Progressives Today,” an even more explicitly ideological right-wing outfit co-founded by Jim “Gateway Pundit” Hoft, last seen charmingly gloating to users of the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag that the girls have probably already been sold into slavery. In short: Hoft is an ideologue with a stunted sense of decency and an apparent willingness to rationalize nearly any form of bad behavior as long as it is in service of “the cause.” PT follows-up Loesch’s hail-Mary thusly:

That’s odd – the TV report never made it on the Everytown for Gun Safety website.
And, since the Indianapolis airport airs CNN on their TV screens you’d think you could find their report on the protest on their website, right?

Nope. It’s not there.

CNN has no record of the protest.

TV Eyes also has no record of Jennifer Longdon on cable news on April 25.

It looks like Mother Jones was just caught in a lie. They really ought to do better research next time.

Let’s parse this. It certainly looks like research – it’s full of links, after all: there’s a link to the Everytown for Gun Safety website, links to both Google and CNN showing the absence of any such footage on CNN, even a link to TV Eyes, showing Longdon was never on cable news on April 25 as far as they know. Pretty damning.

Hoft’s entire chain of reasoning, however (to the degree you can call it that), is predicated upon the one assertion in his story which – perhaps unsurprisingly – has neither link nor attribution: “…since the Indianapolis airport airs CNN on their TV screens you’d think you could find their report on the protest on their website, right?” Not a link to be found for the assertion that the Indianapolis airport airs CNN on all of their TV screens. In such a well-documented piece, that omission seems curious, doesn’t it?

I called the Indianapolis airport and spoke with Joe Miller, the head of the Indianapolis airport’s IT department, which oversees the television contracts for the airport. He informed me that, while the TVs owned and operated by the airport itself do indeed show feeds from a contract with CNN, every vendor in the airport has (or can have) access to a cable feed, from which they are able to select any channel they wish (within reason, one presumes) to show their customers. That means bars, restaurants, news kiosks – all could be showing any channel at all on their televisions. Hoft and Co. over at PT have established it’s unlikely CNN aired such footage without it being available on their website today via search, so it seems correct that Longdon was not on CNN on April 25. But was Longdon perhaps on any other channels which may have been on in the Indianapolis airport?

Turns out, yes…yes she was:

The full story (and longer video) is at WRTV-6’s website…which, it should be unnecessary to mention, is as available to Jim Hoft and Dana Loesch as it was to me. The bottom line here is that Hoft’s “bust” (as he calls it) of Mother Jones and Longdon stems from believing there is no way footage of Longdon could’ve appeared in the Indianapolis airport on that day, since CNN didn’t show it, ergo either Longdon or Follman at Mother Jones – or both – must be lying. Follman’s story says only that Longdon was “waiting for her flight,” not that she was watching a TV operated by the airport itself. Though Follman’s story does refer to “a TV in the concourse,” that description is unlikely to have been intended to be specific enough to designate an airport-owned TV, just one of the many screen within the airport, many of which could quite easily have been showing local news instead of the CNN feed. I have no idea whether Longdon or Follman is telling the truth or stretching it, but the point is: neither does Hoft or Loesch. They just see a story with undeniable power, as Loesch flat-out admits, and so they attempt to smear its credibility.