Shocking news. The right wing media misled their readers again.
That “Sandy Hook father” who was testifying on “the Hill” about his anti-gun safety legislation stance is not actually a Sandy Hook father, was not actually testifying on the Hill, and while he wrote to at least one right wing media outlet to correct their incorrect reporting, few (if any) have made the corrections.
Mark Joseph Stern at Slate reported:
On Sunday, roughly a week after Stevens spoke at the hearing and the same day the clip in question was posted, the Examiner reported matter-of-factly that Stevens’ daughter, Victoria, “attended Sandy Hook Elementary school, scene of the mass shooting in December.” The following day, Brietbart.com stated plainly that she had “survived the crime at Sandy Hook.” On Tuesday, the Daily Caller did the same, explaining that she had “survived the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary shooting.” We heard a similar story from Townhall.com, as well as from a spate of other conservative sites.
Stern noted that several of the articles went live after the correction was made by the father. The father emailed The Examiner to ask that they correct the article so as not to be like the left (insert cognitive dissonance here). See, his daughter does not attend Sandy Hook and was not present at Sandy Hook during the tragedy.
Yet, the Breitbart writer asserted, “Stevens’ daughter Victoria attends Sandy Hook, and was there on Dec. 14 when Adam Lanza committed his heinous crime.” No corrections were made anywhere except on the Town Hall article, written by their “news editor”, who corrected where the testimony took place, but left her wildly inaccurate title, “Sandy Hook Father: ‘My Child Is Safer at Home Where I am Armed'” standing with no correction.
Stern points out that the misleading video was posted on Youtube by the same people who are pushing the Sandy Hook conspiracy theory, which should have been a clue to Breitbart et al. But they’ve never rebuffed an opportunity to climb up onto the cross of persecution.
Watch the video titled “SANDY HOOK FATHER OWNS CONGRESS”, upon which Right wing media hung what’s left of its credibility:
Let’s see. This same right wing media claimed that MSNBC deceptively edited the heckling video of Neil Heslin, an actual Sandy Hook father, testifying in favor of gun control. They claimed that the person who interrupted him was responding to an “invitation” to speak (also known in the civilized world as a rhetorical question).
This meme has now become fact.
Follow me down the rabbit hole of desperate false equivalence wherein you must pretend you don’t understand what “testimony” is and also never learned to raise your hand in school. Since MSNBC can’t play the entire tape of testimony, they have to make edits. They made a choice to include the last part of the father’s testimony before he was interrupted.
Right before MSNBC begins the clip, the father says “It’s not a good feeling to look at your child lying in a casket or looking at your child with a bullet wound to the forehead. It’s a real sad thing.” Then he paused, clearly struggling, before rhetorically asking, “Is there anybody in this room that can give me one reason, or challenge this question, (and this is where MSNBC picked it up) why anybody in this room needs to have one of these assault-style weapons or military weapons.”
This is when he was so rudely interrupted. Still thinking what a great time this would be to impose NRA talking points on him? It’s obvious why the right didn’t transcribe what the father said in their claims of misleading editing, because then they would have to include the part about his child in a casket with the bullet in his head, and that wouldn’t sell the right’s attempt at painting themselves as the victim very well. Imagine if MSNBC had included that part — the accusations of politicizing the tragedy would have echoed off of the imaginary mountains of right wing persecution for months to come.
The father used the rhetorical question as a form of address. He looked around the room the way people do when testifying and wanting to make a point to all present. He was most likely referring to the testimony given by or via the presence of the anti gun safety legislation supporters in the room. You’ll have to forgive him if he wasn’t perfect at it; he’s under a bit of strain, having just lost his child in a horrific tragedy. This was not meant as an “invitation” to insensitively hurl NRA talking points at him. Really.
Apparently, had we only known that he asked if anyone in the room could explain to him why, after burying his son with a hole in his head, anyone needs an assault weapon (in the same manner as a grieving person asks God why and does not expect an answer), we would have found the behavior of the heckler acceptable.
The right wing says the father “invited” others to comment by asking his rhetorical question, when in fact, right after the heckler (yes, heckler) interrupted the father, the moderator made it clear that this was not the case. The moderator scolded, “Please, please, no comments while Mr. Heslin is speaking. We’ll clear the room.” This is all we need to know about whether or not it was appropriate. The devastated pain etched onto the father’s face was also a clue to human beings that he should be allowed to say his piece.
But just in case anyone is still confused, the definition of the verb to heckle is, ‘Interrupt (a public speaker) with derisive or aggressive comments or abuse” and “to harass and try to disconcert with questions, challenges, or gibes.” The second amendment “don’t tread on me” outburst was certainly an aggressive challenge to the father’s position, and could be seen as abusive given the context.
The same people who spent last week screaming about an allegedly unfair edit on the heckling of Heslin by MSNBC did not bother to correct their obscene attempt to use Sandy Hook for their own agenda. They incorrectly identified a man, who has been lucky enough to not have to see his child’s face ripped apart, as a Sandy Hook father. Stevens is not a Sandy Hook father. According to Stern, the right did this in many cases after the father wrote to the Examiner with the correction. Their articles still stand days later, uncorrected.
Ms. Jones is the editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah has won two Telly Awards and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.