USA Today pushes anti-gun study from Everytown and discredited academic group

USA Today is no longer trying to conceal its strong anti-gun bias from the paper’s shrinking readership.

A story the newspaper published Monday pushes a study that was written by Everytown for Gun Safety, which is funded by leftwing anti-gun billionaire Michael Bloomberg. It includes data and analysis from the discredited Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, or ACLED, which is a group of academics known for biased research, even though they are often cited as a legitimate source by the mainstream media.

The story, which is titled “Armed protests are picking up, and a new study says they’re more likely to turn violent,” claims armed protests are “six times more likely to turn violent” than protests where participants are not armed. By comparison, the authors assert that 94% of all Black Lives Matter protests were peaceful.

“In contrast, demonstrations involving right-wing militias or militant social movements –such as the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, or the Three Percenters, among others – have turned violent or destructive over twice as often, or nearly 14% of the time,” the story states.

This certainly isn’t the first time Gannett’s flagship newspaper has supplied propaganda for the anti-gun movement. In June, we revealed how USA Today had partnered with Bloomberg’s anti-gun propaganda factory, the Trace, for an investigative series — a collaboration which violated more than a few of the Gannett’s ethical principles. Later that month, we showed how Bloomberg’s anti-gun activists were writing “news” stories directly for the newspaper, as if they were on the staff.

Monday’s story quotes Justin Wagner, director of investigations at Everytown – a group the newspaper says “pushes for tighter gun laws.” That monstrous understatement demands a correction itself. Everytown, as well as all of the other Bloomberg-funded anti-gun groups, won’t be satisfied until there is 100% civilian disarmament. The tighter gun laws they’re seeking are outright bans on the country’s most popular firearms and accessories.

“The crux of this phenomenon and report is simple: When firearms are involved, demonstrations are more likely to lead to bloodshed,” Wagner is quoted as saying. “We can see how easy access to firearms, particularly for far-right extremists and white supremacists, have continued to put our First Amendment rights in jeopardy.”

In other words, guns are bad, and anyone who owns a gun is a terrorist of one kind or another.

Debunked data

ACLED has a history of producing biased and faulty data, according to the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Austin.

The TPPF’s mission is to “promote and defend liberty, personal responsibility, and free enterprise in Texas and the nation by educating and affecting policymakers and the Texas public policy debate with academically sound research and outreach.”

Last September, Kevin Roberts, Ph.D., the TPPF’s chief executive officer, tried to replicate ACLED’s previous research, which claimed that 93% of all Black Lives Matter protests were peaceful. Roberts published his findings in a story titled: “‘Mostly Peaceful’ lets Black Lives Matter off the hook for real violence.”

Roberts downloaded ACLED’s data set, which at the time included 11,541 “civil-society incidents” from May to August 2020. His findings were damning.

“ACLED’s event coding is far from perfect. It is reliant upon media reports, which carries with it its own obscuring bias; it does not appear to account for property destruction fully; and it may omit incidents of public menacing, threats, and intimidation,” Roberts wrote, adding, “I was personally present to witness the violent threats in the streets of Washington toward attendees of President Trump’s convention address. For that date, ACLED lists three ‘peaceful protests’ and one ‘protest with intervention.’ The ACLED data set is, therefore, charitable toward anyone who, from May to August, wished to communicate that he or she might visit harm upon others.”

In addition to the coding bias, Roberts found that ACLED’s simply got the math wrong. Using their own dataset, the peaceful rate should have been 90.46%, rather than the 93% ACLED reported.

Monday’s USA Today story makes no mention of the problems associated with ACLED’s data or math. 

Takeaways

Having been a journalist for more than 20 years, I can guarantee that any dataset based upon media stories is going to be woefully inaccurate. Quite frankly, the media gets it wrong more often than they get it right. That alone should have spiked the USA Today story. However, like every mainstream media story that targets guns or gun owners, anything goes. Even the most basic data protocols are thrown out the window because the mainstream media never allows the facts to get in the way of an anti-gun hit piece.

As Roberts pointed out in his story, once ACLED falsely concluded that 93% of all BLM protests were peaceful, the “number was picked up and disseminated by major media nearly everywhere.”

Now, given Everytown’s supporters that permeate the mainstream media, their new study will generate a similarly large response, regardless of the problems built into the dataset. USA Today’s story will be just the first of many.

For gun owners, this type of media bias – while detrimental – is the least worrisome. Anti-gun bias on this broad scale is easy to identify and call out. What’s more harmful is the subtle bias that percolates throughout newsrooms every single day, when editors decide what to publish and what not to set in type.

Think about this: when is the last time you read a story about an armed citizen successfully defending themselves with a firearm? It happens nearly every day, yet these defensive gun usages are never reported except by pro-gun websites.

Nowadays, thankfully, news consumers have choices. Choose wisely. We’ll keep calling out their shenanigans.


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