NBC News reporter Gabe Gutierrez was slammed for tweeting a video Monday that he said showed the pro-gun protesters outside the Virginia Capitol chanting, “We will not comply.”
In fact, the protesters in Richmond could clearly be heard in the clip reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
Conservative Twitter commentators quickly pointed out the error. Many accused Gutierrez of trying to falsely portray the rally as threatening.
“It’s the Pledge of Allegiance,” said National Rifle Association spokeswoman Dana Loesch.
“Protesters recite the pledge of allegiance, NBC reporter hears ‘we will not comply,’ said The Blaze’s Jason Howerton. “Sounds about right.”
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“You know we can watch the video too, right?” asked social media strategist Caleb Hull.
They’re citing the pledge of allegiance. How on earth did you get “we will not comply” out of that? You know we can watch the video too, right? https://t.co/3FQNXlVFd2
— Caleb Hull (@CalebJHull) January 20, 2020
The Comfortably Smug Twitter account joked: “Journos are confused because they’ve never heard or recited the pledge of allegiance.”
Matt Whitlock, a senior adviser to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, was among those who recalled that Gutierrez’s fellow NBC News reporter Ben Collins a day earlier falsely called the event a “white nationalist rally” in a since-deleted tweet.
“At some point this starts to feel like a concerted effort by major media companies to smear,” Whitlock said.
Gutierrez responded to Whitlock with a defensive tweet. He noted that he was physically reporting from the rally and said he had heard the crowd using many different slogans.
Standing right here. They’re chanting many things, including Pledge of Allegiance, national anthem, “four more years!” USA!, and “we will not comply.” https://t.co/zJwthTjm2B
— Gabe Gutierrez (@gabegutierrez) January 20, 2020
The reporter then posted another video of protesters chanting, “We will not comply,” which he said was taken within “seconds” of the Pledge of Allegiance clip.
Earlier posted video of Pledge of Allegiance. For those who’ve asked, here’s the video of “We will not comply.” Taken seconds apart. pic.twitter.com/vl66eQsLIo
— Gabe Gutierrez (@gabegutierrez) January 20, 2020
Gabe Gutierrez and the culture wars over guns
The run-up to Monday’s rally has featured a number of dire warnings by the news media and authorities about a supposed threat of racist violence.
Gov. Ralph Northam on Wednesday declared a state of emergency and temporarily banned weapons on Capitol grounds. He said “armed militia groups planned to storm the Capitol” and cited credible “threats of violence.” The Supreme Court on Friday upheld his prohibition.
The FBI on Thursday arrested three members of a small neo-Nazi group who allegedly hoped to ignite a race war through violence at the gathering.
Ahead of the rally, law enforcement beefed up security measures, erecting temporary barricades and fencing and saying attendees would be screened before being allowed into the event. According to the Washington Post, the Federal Aviation Administration instituted a ban on airspace over the capitol out of concern for aerial threats, including weaponized drones.
Meanwhile, conservatives have made clear that the rally is simply meant as a protest of sweeping gun control measures that could be enacted next week by the Virginia government, which is under Democratic control for the first time in a generation.
Philip Van Cleave, leader of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, said Sunday that his Virginia Citizens Defense League was being flooded with national support for its stand against Northam and the Democrats.
“People are looking at this and saying, ‘This is a canary in the coal mine. If they’re coming after rights in Virginia, then they’ll be coming for ours as well,’” he said.
Van Cleave had rejected calls for violence, but he urged tens of thousands of armed militia leaders from across the United States to be in Richmond’s streets to provide security for his group.
A spokesman for the Capitol police said Van Cleave had worked closely with law enforcement officers on rally plans.
The National Rifle Association, which was not involved in organizing Monday’s rally, also blasted Virginia’s Democrats, who received campaign contributions last year of more than $2.5 million from Everytown for Gun Safety, started by former New York mayor and Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg.
“Anti-gun billionaires who invested millions in the 2019 Virginia elections expect a return on that investment,” said NRA official D. J. Spiker.
“The NRA is fully prepared to work to defeat Governor Northam’s gun grab — but also work to find compromise.”
President Donald Trump on Twitter Friday characterized the planned gun regulations “a very serious attack” on the Second Amendment.
“Your 2nd Amendment is under very serious attack in the great commonwealth of Virginia,” Trump said “That’s what happens when you vote for Democrats, they will take your guns away.”
Ralph Northam’s Virginia?
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, a Democrat, has vowed to push through new gun control laws. He is backing a package of eight bills, including universal background checks, a “red flag” law, a ban on assault rifles and a limit of one handgun-a-month purchase.
The state’s gun owners responded with a movement to create “sanctuary cities” for gun rights, with local government bodies passing declarations not to enforce new gun laws.
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Since the November election, nearly all of Virginia’s 95 counties have some form of “sanctuary,” a term first used by localities opposed to harsh treatment of illegal immigrants.
The idea has quickly spread across the United States, with over 200 local governments in 16 states passing such measures.
Despite the pushback, proponents of stronger gun laws say they are clearly winning the argument with the public, based on who got voted into office, and blame the tension on gun supporters.
“We’re in this situation because the gun lobby has been pushing their message that we’re going to take all guns away — they’ve been fanning this fire for years,” said Michelle Sandler, a Virginia state leader for Moms Demand Action, the grassroots arm of Everytown for Gun Safety.
It is not Northam’s first bid to tighten state gun laws. He called a special legislative session last summer after the massacre of 12 people in Virginia Beach, but the Republicans who then controlled it refused to vote on his proposals.
(Reuters contributed to this report)