Broward County, Fla., Sheriff Scott Israel lectured NRA’s Dana Loesch in a media attack disguised as a “town hall.” Israel soon lost a vote of confidence from his deputies, and he was suspended for his leadership failures.
America’s 1st Freedom readers no doubt remember the so-called “town hall” meeting held by well-known fake news outlet CNN after last year’s mass murder at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. With the shooting still fresh in everyone’s mind, CNN used the program as a means to launch an all-out attack on the National Rifle Association and its spokesperson, Dana Loesch.
The result was nothing short of true hack journalism—an anti-gun, anti-freedom agenda thinly disguised as “news.” Ironically and tragically, the program was recently awarded the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Television Political Journalism.
The jury judging the awards called the town hall, in which crowds booed and shouted “murderer” at participants, a “compelling and powerful forum” that “helped advance the national conversation on gun control and violence.”
“Saying this advanced the national conversation on gun control is like saying the Salem witch trials advanced the conversation on women’s rights.”
However, CNN receiving the award didn’t sit well with Loesch, who knew from the very beginning that the town hall would be anything but newsworthy. She just didn’t know how bad it would really be.
“Saying this advanced the national conversation on gun control is like saying the Salem witch trials advanced the conversation on women’s rights,” Loesch said. “When I was told over a year ago that I would be attending CNN’s ‘town hall’ on the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, I knew it would neither be a journalistic endeavor nor a genuine town hall meeting where anyone would be permitted to speak.
“CNN’s own title said it all: ‘Stand Up: The Students of Stoneman Douglas Demand Action.’ So this was an advocacy event, not a journalistic undertaking, which makes the Walter Cronkite Award the news channel received for the program utterly undeserved.”
Despite knowing generally what was ahead, Loesch also knew that someone had to speak up for law-abiding NRA members and millions of other lawful gun owners.
“Millions of everyday Americans, many of them parents of school-aged children themselves, were concerned how gun owners would be portrayed,” Loesch said. “Many of them burned up the phone lines at the National Rifle Association headquarters and requested that their viewpoint be represented at CNN’s event.
“This is how I was sent to Parkland. I knew what I was walking into: an emotional assembly held days after an insurmountable loss of innocent life, many of them children the same ages as my own. CNN’s event was held on a Wednesday; I was informed that I would be attending on Tuesday. I learned only upon arriving in Florida that I would be on stage with Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel.”
Of course, since that town hall, much has been learned about Israel’s role. Israel’s department policies directly led to Broward County deputies waiting outside the school while children were slaughtered, only entering after the shooter had left. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission would later report: “It is well-known within the law enforcement community that the response after the shooting at Columbine High School is no longer to contain and wait for swat; the proper response is to move toward the sound of gunfire and engage the suspect(s).”
Months after the shooting, 85 percent of the deputies’ union voted “no confidence” in Israel’s leadership. The sheriff was removed from his position, and several deputies were disciplined for their inaction at the scene. Despite being greatly at fault for not protecting the school, Israel initially blamed everything on the NRA, firing up the media and town hall crowd against Loesch.
Loesch said that before the fiasco began, the producers seemed nervous. Host Jake Tapper did, too. She also met Israel, who approached her in the green room to thank her for participating, but who also seemed sheepish about the format, which began with Israel speaking onstage for about 30 minutes before the televised event began.
“Before the sheriff spoke, I had introduced myself to him and said I was fervently praying for his community,” Loesch said. “‘Oh, very nice to meet you, yeah,’ he responded. ‘I appreciate that. No hard feelings or anything.’
“This warning gave me a sinking feeling that CNN was pitting us against each other for a spectacular show, and he was perfectly willing to play along. As he warmed up the crowd, the sheriff referred to me as ‘the NRA lady’ while deflecting as much blame onto innocent NRA members as he could to hide his own cowardice and incompetence.”
Loesch’s feeling turned out to be correct. As the event unfolded, those responsible for Marjory Stoneman Douglas’ fateful security deficiencies were celebrated, while people like U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., were scapegoated for the school officials’ failures. When it was Loesch’s turn to go onstage, she was cued to walk into the center of the arena to the Black Eyed Peas’ “Let’s Get It Started,” an odd choice, considering the somber tone and grieving family members present.
“The arena was packed: 7,000 people, some from the community (including grieving families and students), some from outside it,” Loesch said. “People booed me immediately. The last friendly face I saw was that of student Jalen Martin, who ran up the aisle. Bracing myself for the worst, Jalen instead implored me to say something to stem the tide. He smiled encouragingly; in the middle of the overwhelming boos and epithets yelled I noticed he was wearing a usaf shirt. I asked him if someone in his family was serving.
“‘Yes, ma’am—my brother,’ he replied above the boos and shouts of ‘Murderer!’ I grasped his hand and said, ‘Thank you.’”
During the broadcast, Israel played the hero and CNN encouraged it, even though the network’s own reporting had revealed that his department had received 39 calls about the 19-year-old murderer—and did nothing to stop him. Prior to his rampage at the school, the murderer had beaten his adoptive mother so badly she lost several of her teeth, had taken knives and bullets to school and had threatened to kill his fellow students (they reported him to school officials on numerous occasions). School counselors wanted him forcibly committed, and he had even called the police on himself (in addition to his own family calling them, begging for his firearms to be removed).
“Although Sheriff Israel knew all these things prior to the CNN event, it was made clear that the carnage at that school was my responsibility,” Loesch said. “If CNN was practicing journalism instead of advocacy that day, the sheriff would have been held to account. We’ve learned more since the shooting as well. In the weeks following, I spoke with one MSD teacher on NRATV who informed me that the school had no security plan in place for what had happened. I discussed on my radio program that a Secret Service agent had performed a risk assessment months before the massacre and none of his recommendations were put into effect.
“If I could discover this kind of information, CNN, with its vast editorial resources, easily could have as well. There was no discussion about mental health awareness. No discussion about school security procedures. Instead, the discussion focused entirely on blaming the Second Amendment, Republican lawmakers, the NRA and law-abiding gun owners.”
CNN went the extra mile to work as much emotion into the program as possible, seeking to convince viewers that those on the pro-gun, pro-freedom side of the political argument were somehow evil and didn’t care about children.
“I watched from the stage as one camera focused on the pained face of a mother in agony, a mother mourning the loss of her child,” Loesch said. “She read a statement, pausing to compose herself as best she could, tears streaming down her face, while the camera zoomed in to capture her suffering. I don’t think some of those who attended realized that the network intended for this to be a spectacle.”
Through the course of the mostly one-sided program, some in the crowd even became irate enough to accost Loesch at the conclusion.
“When the event ended, I stood to leave and a woman in front of the stage attempted to rush forward and jump on the stage, presumably to attack me,” she said. “She was physically stopped by a member of my three-person detail. I’d be interested to know if CNN has footage of this. The other two, stationed on the left side of the stage, had to lift me off the stairs as another woman had angrily grabbed my arm and would not let go, making it awkward for me to step down from the last step onto the floor to exit.
“Meanwhile, many of the thousands in the arena hugged, shook hands and took photos with Israel and Robert Runcie, the local school superintendent whose policies of not arresting students who committed crimes made it possible for the gunman to legally purchase firearms.”
This horrible display of true “journalism,” which would later be honored with the Cronkite Award, had turned into just what Loesch had feared—an agenda-driven outlet to fuel animosity toward NRA and its more than 5 million members.
“I hadn’t gone to argue with anyone, I was simply there to be a voice for millions of people who choose to associate as NRA members, many of whom were watching the CNN event with their own children at home,” Loesch said. “We are just as concerned with school security, which is why we support the NRA School Shield program to improve security and training within schools across the country, free of charge.
“Our support for Second Amendment rights doesn’t make us complicit in crimes we didn’t commit, nor responsible for failing to prevent these crimes—not any more than Scott Israel and Robert Runcie, who had years’ worth of advance knowledge and tips that we did not.”
Loesch said that in the days and months following the event, CNN allowed to air, unchallenged, accusations that NRA “owned” Congress, that gun owners are monsters and that any lawmaker who supports the Second Amendment is complicit in mass murder.
“That CNN celebrates winning an award for this event demonstrates that the network cannot distinguish between political activism and reporting,” Loesch said. “At best, its event was network-organized tragedy voyeurism—a selfish intrusion into a community’s fresh, days-old pain—with the purpose of settling political scores and dividing the country instead of fostering genuine discussion on solutions and practical means of school security.”
While disgusted with CNN and many other so-called “mainstream” media outlets, Loesch said outstanding reporting by some local media let the truth be known, despite CNN trying to turn the conversation in a completely different direction.
“If anyone should have won an award,” Loesch concluded, “it should be the local media in Florida, particularly the reporters at the Sun-Sentinel, the Fort Lauderdale daily newspaper whose original, dedicated focus on the truth exposed much of what we now know about the missed warnings leading up to the massacre.
“CNN should give its award to the Sun-Sentinel—and to everyone else, an apology.”