CNN Paints Pro-Gun Conservatives as Conspiracy Theorists

On Friday's Anderson Cooper 360, CNN correspondent Drew Griffin filed a report painting conservative opponents of President Barack Obama's gun control initiatives as conspiracy theorists, following up on the previous report finding that a number of gun owners in Florida are suspicious that Obama wants to go further with gun control that he is letting on.

Host Anderson Cooper repeated President Obama's view as he introduced the report:

President Obama could not have said it plainer last night -- he flat-out denied he wants to confiscate any guns. As you just saw in Gary's report, though, a lot of people -- certainly gun owners there -- do not believe him. We asked Senior Investigative Correpondent Drew Griffin to drill down on the conspiracy theories that fuel these suspicions. That's what President Obama was calling them, at least. Where do they come from? And what do they encompass?

After beginning the report by recounting the case of a military exericise in Texas which inspired conspiracy theories about the U.S. government preparing for a civil war, Griffin moved to paint Republican Senators and presidential candidates as engaging in conspiracy theory-oriented thinking.

And if you think it's just a bunch of Internet kooks or fringe radio talk show hosts, former astronaut Mark Kelly -- husband of wounded former Congressman Gabby Giffords and a gun control advocate -- told President Obama he actually heard it in the U.S. Senate.

Then came a clip of gun control activist Mark Kelly from Thursday's CNN town hall on guns:

When we testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, we heard not only from the gun lobby but from United States Senators that expanding background checks will -- not may -- will lead to a registry which will lead to confiscation which will lead to a tyrannical government.

Griffin then indicted Iowa GOP Senator Charles Grassley's concerns about President Obama's gun control from 2013 as he continued:

DREW GRIFFIN: We checked it out, and it's true. One of the Senators was Iowa Republican Senator Charles Grassley at a hearing after the Newtown massacre in 2012. Here he is commenting on fears Obama was coming to take away guns.

SENATOR CHARLES GRASSLEY (R-IA): No wonder millions of Americans fear that the President might take executive action and Congress might enact legislation that could lead to tyrannical government.

The CNN correspondent recalled that talk of gun control has repeatedly led to temporary increases in sales of guns and ammunition, with Griffin using the liberal gun control terminology of "assault weapons" to refer to AR-15s. He then turned his attention to the GOP presidential campaign: "None of it has happened, but the conspiracy theories continue, and those who benefit from them allow them to swirl."

Then came of clip of Trump at a campaign event: "There's an assault on the Second Amendment. You know, Obama is going to do an executive order and really knock the hell out of it."

Griffin then turned his attention to Ted Cruz. Griffin:

True or not, bizarre or not, Republicans on the campaign trail won't let the gun theory go. Texas Senator Ted Cruz has even turned "Obama Wants Your Guns" into a fundraising poster, and he's all too willing to convince you Obama really does want to take your guns.

Then came a clip of CNN's Dana Bash in a recent interview accusing Senator Cruz of "fearmongering" on guns:

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: How is it anything but fearmongering?

TED CRUZ, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is actually quite accurate.

Griffin then appeared live in studio, and, after lamenting that conservative actor Chuck Norris and Texas GOP Governor Greg Abbott had not gone far enough to repudiate past conspiracy theories, he concluded by fretting that conspiracy theories will continue to plague President Obama. Griffin:

But these conspiracy theories just get more and more convoluted, even when they're proven false over and over again. I'm sure, by the commercial break, you and I will be wrapped up in the conspiracy theories going on in this country, which is, Obama wants to take away guns, despite what he says, the President is preparing for some kind of martial law, especially down on the border, and the new conspiracy theory with Jade Helm, which is the program that we're talking about in Texas, that might just be a dry run to see what they can get away with.

Below is a complete transcript of the report from the Friday, January 8, Anderson Cooper 360 on CNN:

8:42 p.m. ET

ANDERSON COOPER: President Obama could not have said it plainer last night -- he flat-out denied he wants to confiscate any guns. As you just saw in Gary's report, though, a lot of people -- certainly gun owners there -- do not believe him. We asked Senior Investigative Correpondent Drew Griffin to drill down on the conspiracy theories that fuel these suspicions. That's what President Obama was calling them, at least. Where do they come from? And what do they encompass? Here's his report.

DREW GRIFFIN: A two-month U.S. military exercise last summer across a half dozen states only added fuel to the fire of conspiracy theories swirling around President Obama.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We did a military exercise in Texas, and a whole bunch of folks were sure that this was the start of martial law.

GRIFFIN: It was in March, months before the exercises would even begin, that a conservative radio talk show called it a "preparation for civil war." Soon the conspiracy theory spread and got weirder if that's even possible when actor Chuck Norris posted on the World Net Daily website, "The U.S. government says it's just a 'training exercise.' But I'm not sure the term 'just,'" he writes, "has any reference to reality when the government uses it."

Even Texas Governor Greg Abbott gave the theory credence. His tweet: "I've ordered the Texas State Guard" to "safeguard Texans' constitutional rights, private property & civil liberties."

In a town hall conducted by the U.S. Army, one local resident wondered if the Army wasn't coming for his land.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #1: It is a preparation for martial law.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #2: It is not a preparation for martial law.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #3: That's what you say.

GRIFFIN: Nothing, of course, happened. The Army trained and went away. But the conspiracy theories never do. Among the right-wing conspiracy theories, President Obama wants to take away land, take away rights, and especially take away guns. And if you think it's just a bunch of Internet kooks or fringe radio talk show hosts, former astronaut Mark Kelly -- husband of wounded former Congressman Gabby Giffords and a gun control advocate -- told President Obama he actually heard it in the U.S. Senate.

MARK KELLY, HUSBAND OF FMR REP. GABRIELLE GIFFORDS (D-AZ): When we testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, we heard not only from the gun lobby but from United States Senators that expanding background checks will -- not may -- will lead to a registry which will lead to confiscation which will lead to a tyrannical government.

GRIFFIN: We checked it out, and it's true. One of the Senators was Iowa Republican Senator Charles Grassley at a hearing after the Newtown massacre in 2012. Here he is commenting on fears Obama was coming to take away guns.

SENATOR CHARLES GRASSLEY (R-IA): No wonder millions of Americans fear that the President might take executive action and Congress might enact legislation that could lead to tyrannical government.

GRIFFIN: During the Obama administration, there have been runs on ammunition for fear the government was buying up bulk ammo, even rumors the government was coming after people who stockpile ammunition. There have been runs on AR-15s and other assault weapons for fear assault rifles would be banned. And the general fear of guns being taken away has led to a general run on guns in stores in the last seven years. None of it has happened, but the conspiracy theories continue, and those who benefit from them allow them to swirl.

DONALD TRUMP, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's an assault on the Second Amendment. You know, Obama is going to do an executive order and really knock the hell out of it.

GRIFFIN: True or not, bizarre or not, Republicans on the campaign trail won't let the gun theory go. Texas Senator Ted Cruz has even turned "Obama Wants Your Guns" into a fundraising poster, and he's all too willing to convince you Obama really does want to take your guns.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: How is it anything but fearmongering?

TED CRUZ, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is actually quite accurate.

COOPER: And Drew joins now. After Jade Helm -- I mean, obviously the Army did not enact martial law -- did the Governor, Greg Abbott of Texas, or Chuck Norris ever admit that they were wrong?

GRIFFIN: No. Chuck Norris walked back some of his comments. The governor of Texas has gone on to move to guns now. He's worried about President Obama taking guns. But these conspiracy theories just get more and more convoluted, even when they're proven false over and over again. I'm sure, by the commercial break, you and I will be wrapped up in the conspiracy theories going on in this country, which is, Obama wants to take away guns, despite what he says, the President is preparing for some kind of martial law, especially down on the border, and the new conspiracy theory with Jade Helm, which is the program that we're talking about in Texas, that might just be a dry run to see what they can get away with.

COOPER: Drew Griffin. Drew, thanks very much.

Brad Wilmouth
Brad Wilmouth is a contributing blogger to NewsBusters