Last month, Donald Trump appeared on “The Alex Jones Show,” where he told the right-wing pundit that he has an “amazing” reputation, unlike other journalists, whom Trump commonly refers to as “scum.” Among Jones’ many wild conspiracy theories is his belief that the massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, which took place three years ago today, was “staged” by the Obama administration.
Trump has not faced any criticism from his fellow Republicans for going on Jones’ program or for touting his work, despite the fact that Jones has been instrumental in pushing the harmful Sandy Hook conspiracy theory.
A 2013 Fairleigh Dickinson University poll found that “a quarter (25%) of Americans think that facts about the shootings at Sandy Hook elementary last year are being hidden and an additional eleven percent are unsure” and that “Republicans are more likely to think that the truth about Sandy Hook is being suppressed, with 32 percent agreeing.”
Sandy Hook truthers, who largely believe that the attack was faked as part of a government plot to push strict gun laws, are not alone in delivering twisted responses to the mass shooting. Others have used the massacre to attack gay marriage, the separation of church and state and, of course, gun laws.
WorldNetDaily columnist Erik Rush said that Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza “positively reeked of what intelligence operatives I know would call the tell-tale signs of recruitment and conditioning,” and wondered if Lanza was the target of a government scheme to recruit “vulnerable individuals for psyops” to advance “their diabolical agenda.”
Renew America’s Austin Miles similarly suggested that the massacre was “purposely orchestrated” to “disarm all Americans to retard resistance,” writing that Lanza and others were “brainwashed into carrying out such deeds that would prove a point about private gun ownership and the threat to all families as a result.” Then, he said, there would be no opposition to Obama using an “Executive Order to declare himself president (dictator) for life.” Fellow Renew America pundit, Laurie Roth, claimed Obama “staged” the attack because he’s on a “mission to take assault weapons from the people.”
Radio host Rick Wiles stated that “Sandy Hook was timed to coincide with the political agenda of the socialist Democrats such as Barry Soetoro [Obama], Chuckie Schumer, and Dianne Feinstein to pass stringent federal gun control laws,” alleging that “the shooting event was timed to coincide with the gun control initiative.” Another conservative radio host, Bradlee Dean, likened the Sandy Hook killings to Adolf Hitler “attacking his own Reichstag to start a world war” and said that it was orchestrated to pass an arms control treaty.
The Tea Party-aligned National Liberty Foundation insisted that the “staged” massacre showed just “how far your president went to get your guns”: “He wants to be a dictator, he doesn’t want to get out of the White House and he loves spending your money.”
Many of their assertions relied heavily on discredited claims that “crisis actors” posed as grieving family members at the school and that one of the young victims later met with President Obama (she didn’t, it was her little sister).
One Republican congressman, Louie Gohmert, however, told a fan of his that he would watch a Sandy Hook conspiracy theory video because he’s “always learning new things.”
Religious Right’s Reaction
Several Religious Right activists responded to the Sandy Hook shooting by warning that the massacre was a sign that God is no longer protecting America, removing his hand of protection due to supposed societal ills such as gay marriage, abortion rights and the separation of church and state.
“Millions of people have decided that God doesn’t exist, or he’s irrelevant to me and we have killed 54 million babies and the institution of marriage is right on the verge of a complete redefinition,” Focus on the Family founder James Dobson lamented. “Believe me, that is going to have consequences too. And a lot of these things are happening around us, and somebody is going to get mad at me for saying what I am about to say right now, but I am going to give you my honest opinion: I think we have turned our back on the Scripture and on God Almighty and I think he has allowed judgment to fall upon us.”
“We’ve taken God our of our school, we’ve taken him out of our government and now we seem shocked at all of these things,” Franklin Graham stated following the attack. “Why are we shocked? We shouldn’t be shocked. This is what happens when a society turns its back on God.” Author Joel Rosenberg said the shooting was one of the tragedies America is “reaping as a result of a society that increasingly ignores God,” specifically blaming comedian Jon Stewart for waging a “war on Christmas” and mocking conservatives.
Before winning his race for Congress, Georgia Republican Jody Hice said the shooting was a consequence of “kicking God out of the public square.”
Mike Huckabee blamed the Sandy Hook massacre on those who have tried to “systematically removed God from our schools,” turning schools into “a place of carnage.” He claimed that school shootings would be a thing of the past if only schools started organizing chapel services for students and the government stopped ordering employers to “provide tax-funded abortion pills.”
One pastor said that a “gracious,” “merciful” and “loving” God decided not to intervene to prevent the shooting because it would “bring us back to our senses” and make people realize that God’s judgment “has really come by our turning away from the Lord.” Bryan Fischer of American Family Radio specifically blamed legal abortion and the lack of state-sponsored prayer for the attack, stating that God is a “gentleman” who “is not going to go where he is not wanted.”
Blocking background checks
Ted Cruz has proudly boasted of his role in successfully blocking a bipartisan Senate measure to expand background checks on gun purchases following the school shooting, bragging that unlike Republican “squishes,” he stood firm in opposing universal background checks. The Sandy Hook-affected families who supported the efforts, he said, were being used as “political props.”
One of the main organizations that worked with Cruz in fighting the effort, Gun Owners of America, pushed fears that the background checks could lead to gun confiscation, tyranny and genocide. The group’s executive director, Larry Pratt, said liberals “rejoice” following events like Sandy Hook, as they “immediately start shedding their crocodile tears, pushing for more gun control,” and, possibly, martial law.
National Rifle Association board member and musician Ted Nugent blamed the shooting on America’s “politically correct culture” and “‘anything goes’ value system” which “vilifies, condemns and mocks traditional societal values and customs at every opportunity,” while NRA executive director Wayne LaPierre delivered an unhinged speech against gun control measures, lashing out at the group’s critics, the entertainment industry, video games, the media and a lack of guns in schools.
But while nearly nine out of 10 Americans, including nine out of 10 gun owners, support more background checks, Republican lawmakers care more about the support they receive from groups like the NRA, and have done next to nothing to tackle the issue of gun violence in the wake of tragedies like Sandy Hook.
Few if any of the GOP presidential candidates are offering any meaningful gun reform proposals, outside of their unwavering dogma: More guns.