Fox News Report Blaming Right for Shootings Officially Debunked

January 12, 2011 15:02

Department of Homeland Security memo saying that Arizona shooter Jared Loughner was influenced by American Renaissance (AR), a controversial conservative publication, does not exist and there is no evidence of such a tie.

By Cliff Kincaid

A Fox News report by Jennifer Griffin on the memo about AR suggested official inside information at the highest levels of the Obama Administration that Loughner was motivated to assassinate Rep. Gabrielle Giffords because she was Jewish and because of the immigration controversy in Arizona.

While many liberal commentators recklessly tried to link the shootings to Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, or other conservatives, the Griffin report on Fox News seemed to give official credence to the notion that conservatism was a factor motivating Jared Loughner.

For this reason, the report, which prompted a bomb threat and hate mail against American Renaissance, was seized upon by dozens of media organizations and left-wing websites such as Media Matters and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Politico, which was among many news organizations publicizing the erroneous Fox News story, has now reported that the document in question came from the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center (ACTIC) and not DHS. Politico said that David Denlinger, identified as a commander of ACTIC, acknowledged that it “contained errors and overstated the link” between Loughner and American Renaissance.

In fact, Denlinger has no evidence of a link.

As AIM was the first to report, the contents of the alleged memo were characterized by false claims and erroneous information. Simple research showed no evidence in Loughner’s Internet writings or videos which displayed any link to or awareness of American Renaissance.

Instead, his behavior was strongly suggestive of paranoid schizophrenia and drug abuse.

Adding to this evidence, Loughner friend Zachary Osler is quoted by ABC News as saying that he spent “excessive amounts of money” on drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, psilocybin mushrooms and the hallucinogenic salvia.

ACTIC is also known as the Arizona Fusion Center, “a joint effort between the Department of Public Safety, Arizona Department of Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation and other participating agencies.”

Denlinger said the memo was written by two people he did not name and that he has “no reason to believe” that Loughner “had any direct connection or was being directed by American Renaissance.” He said the two people had “put a quick summary together for their bosses in terms of here are some of the things that are being looked at right now.”

It is still unclear where the erroneous information came from. But suspicions would naturally fall on left-wingers anxious to smear conservatives and tie them to the shootings by using an “official” source.

Jared Taylor of American Renaissance told AIM that ACTIC phoned him “to try to explain what happened” but that they are “still not certain just what prompted someone to tie the killer to us…” Taylor was also told that ACTIC does not have a file on AR.

While it is now reporting the truth about the fake memo, Politico had given credence to the Fox News story and even suggested a Tea Party connection to the shootings. “The group’s website features what appear to be paid advertisements for tea party versions of the ‘Don’t tread on me’ flag,’” Politico reported. This added fuel to the charge that conservatives were behind the shootings.

The Politico story by Maggie Haberman and Carrie Budoff Brown ran under the false headline, “DHS probing shooter’s ties to hate group.” It quoted the Southern Poverty Law Center, a discredited organization recently condemned for labeling the respected Family Research Council as a hate group.

A controversial right-wing publication, AR publishes articles criticizing racial preference and “diversity” programs that favor minority groups at the expense of majority rights. It also examines racial differences, a taboo subject for much of the media that gives rise to frequent leftist charges of “racism” and “hate.”

Jared Taylor had told AIM that a review of the records of American Renaissance showed no indication that Loughner was ever involved in any way with the publication or its conferences. He said the memo demonstrated that those charged with protecting America are at the very least incompetent. “If this is the level of research we are getting from DHS, then Heaven help us,” he said.

Apparently using the bogus Griffin story as his source, Fox News commentator Juan Williams had cited the alleged tie between Loughner and AR on the Fox News Sunday show. AR’s denial of the charges to Fox News correspondent James Rosen was posted on the Fox News website—but only after Juan Williams regurgitated the Griffin report. Griffin had never sought a response from AR.

Two days after the original Griffin report, Fox News correspondent James Rosen acknowledged on the air there was no such DHS memo or evidence.

In response to the latest explanation of where the phony information came from, Taylor told AIM, “We are tremendously relieved that the truth is finally coming out, namely, that the initial reports about us got it all wrong. It was obvious from the start that the memo was something someone scratched out in a hurry and was never intended for the public. Fox should have been more skeptical of it, but several Fox correspondents passed the nonsense along verbatim. At least James Rosen thought to check with us before he went on the air. Hats off to him for that. After being deluged with hate mail and a bomb threat, we look forward to getting back to work.”

In the meantime, left-wing publications eager to blame conservatives for the shooting of a Democratic Representative had found themselves jumping in bed with their ordinary nemesis Fox News.

The George Soros-funded blog Think Progress asserted, without any basis in fact, that Loughner “may have ties to the anti-government and anti-Semitic American Renaissance website.” For the record, American Renaissance is neither anti-government nor anti-Semitic.

The Soros-funded Media Matters, which usually treats information from Fox News with ridicule, jumped on the report, running items on its “research” page under the headlines, “Law Enforcement Memo Links Arizona Assassin To ‘Anti-Immigration’ American Renaissance,” and “Memo: Loughner ‘Possibly Linked’ To ‘Anti Immigration’ American Renaissance.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which claims to ferret out “hate groups,” described the document cited by Fox News as “a leaked DHS memo.” This ran under a “Hatewatch” headline and was linked to an item on Fox News host Greta Van Susteren’s blog about the original Griffin report.

“This is an internal memo obtained by Fox News put out by DHS compiling facts known so far about the case,” Van Susteren’s blog reported, citing Griffin.

In fact, as we now know, there was no such official DHS document.

After AIM raised questions about the report, a Washington Post blogger by the name of Greg Sargent published a report noting that DHS denied having any such memo or any evidence of any such link. He reported, “The Fox report caused a splash, with some news orgs reporting that anonymous officials had confirmed such possible ties. Some conservatives railed at DHS for supposedly trying to tie the shooter to the right for political reasons, and others disputed the suggestion that this displayed the shooter’s ideological leanings. But DHS has not officially provided any such information to any law enforcement officials, the DHS official says.”

The official told him, “We have not established any such possible link.”

The New York Times said, “Officials at the Homeland Security department said Sunday morning they do not believe the document is from their department.”

In a follow-up story on the official debunking of the memo, Sargent says, “it’s really surprising people weren’t a bit more cautious.”

Those on the left were not cautious because they wanted to exploit the shootings for political gain. Fox News, perceived as the “conservative” channel, was the perfect vehicle for the smear.

This will go down as a case study of how the left used a conservative news source to smear conservatives. They all ended up with egg on their faces because they ran with erroneous information that wasn’t checked out and which only contributed to the confusion and chaos and smeared an innocent group in the process. Ironically, the false report about a “hate” group generated more hate.

Fox News has still not officially retracted and apologized for the false charges. As a responsible news organization, it has an obligation to explain what will be done internally to make sure this never happens again in the midst of a national crisis when the media should be in the business of providing accurate and truthful information.

Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism, and can be contacted at

Roger Aronoff


Accuracy in Media

4455 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 330

Washington, DC 20008

Phone: 202-364-4401 x 109

Fax: 202-364-4098

Help Make A Difference By Sharing These Articles On Facebook, Twitter And Elsewhere: