With just one telephone call this year, Erik Wemple of the Washington Post was able to convince Media Matters to let me respond to their attacks on me in the comments section of their website — after they ignored my emails, telephone calls, numerous tweets and posts for seven years.
Media Matters purports to correct misinformation that the “conservative” media puts out, but, ironically, they have systematically hidden comments critical of their work from their readers. They have a blog where it appears that conservatives and others can respond, but they don’t tell their readers that they have regularly removed responses that they couldn’t answer.
I have been attacked in over 80 posts on Media Matters over the years. They have even criticized reporters from such places as the Washington Post and the New York Times just for interviewing me. They have described me as a “discredited gun researcher.” They have claimed “Gun Advocate John Lott Lashes out at Trayvon Martin’s Mother.” They say I’ve misrepresented Obama’s record on guns, what “assault weapons” are and the views of police on gun control. They have used doctored pictures of me and screen shots of posts.
Media Matters uses a hit-and-run strategy: Attack, and move on to the next attack. They never acknowledge responses, even those published in major media like the ones I’ve written for Fox News.
If Media Matters started engaging in debates, their readers would quickly learn that their criticisms of others involve mischaracterizations, carefully edited quotes and outright lies. Their unwillingness to post contrary comments says a lot about their inability to defend themselves.
A typical example was their March 20 post covering a piece I wrote for FoxNews.com on Vivek Murthy, President Obama's nominee for surgeon general. Media Matters’ headline read: "On Obama's Surgeon General Nominee, It's Medical Experts Vs. Discredited Gun Zealots." With 288 mainly positive comments on their post, Media Matters apparently worried that people might find the ones I posted with a link to the discussion on my website. So Media Matters simply removed my comments.
Or take their April 4 post on a debate I had on MSNBC with retired Army Col. Jack Jacobs over whether soldiers on military bases should be disarmed. Media Matters' headline again gave their take: "Watch A Medal Of Honor Recipient Smack Down A Pro-Gun Researcher's 'Foolish' Plan To Arm Troops On Bases."
But the "smackdown" was colored by Media Matters’ showing half of our discussion out of context. They left out the many instances in the early part of our nine-minute discussion when Jacobs claimed that I or others were somehow advocating that “everyone” should be armed.
Reporters asked me so often about Media Matters’ attacks that I would post my responses on my personal website and then try to post a link in their comments section. I put together 23 responses. They posted none of them.
I have complained about this treatment over the years, first to Media Matters' then-president and founder, David Brock, and then to others at the website. But their reply was always the same: I must not understand how to correctly put up comments on their site. That was absurd, of course; it didn’t explain why two of my comments in 2009 and one in 2011 slipped through their screening.
My complaints went nowhere. My comments were still missing until April, when I approached Wemple. He called Media Matters, and they put back a few of my recent comments that had been removed. But putting those few posts back on the site weeks after they were removed and long after any active discussion was taking place hardly made up for taking them down.
I didn’t write about this until now because, until recently, I thought Wemple was going to write about it himself.
For an organization that claims it “works daily to notify activists, journalists, pundits, and the general public about instances of misinformation,” Media Matters has been remarkably fearful of letting their readers hear about the misinformation they put out.
John R. Lott, Jr. is a columnist for FoxNews.com. He is an economist and was formerly chief economist at the United States Sentencing Commission. Lott is also a leading expert on guns and op-eds on that issue are done in conjunction with the Crime Prevention Research Center. He is the author of nine books including "More Guns, Less Crime." His latest book is "The War on Guns: Arming Yourself Against Gun Control Lies (August 1, 2016). Follow him on Twitter@johnrlottjr.