CNN Parrots Mexican Claims that U.S. Guns Fuel Drug Wars

Is foreign drug violence a reason to reinstate the ban on assault weapons in America? U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder thinks so. And judging by its relentless and one-sided coverage in the last month, CNN agrees.

Let's connect some dots: Remember that whole Obama “clinging to religion and guns” flap? Now, remember White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel saying never let a crisis go to waste? Good. Finally, remember how the media carried … sorry, is carrying water for Obama?

It looks like Holder has internalized Emanuel's philosophy, and is looking at the bloody drug wars raging along Mexico's northern border as the crisis he needs to ratchet up gun control.

Last month, during a press conference in which he announced that more than 50 members of Sinaloa Cartel, a Mexican drug cartel, were captured, Holder revealed his intentions. “Well, as President Obama indicated during the campaign, there are just a few gun-related changes that we would like to make, and among them would be to reinstitute the ban on the sale of assault weapons. I think that will have a positive impact in Mexico, at a minimum,” he said.

“That's your attorney general talking about selling out the second amendment and your rights for the benefit of the benefit of Mexico,” Lou Dobbs said on his Feb. 25 program. But Dobbs must be a lonely man at CNN. The rest of the network took Holder's statement as its cue, began hammering the point that American weapons are being used in Mexico's increasingly violent drug wars.  

A Nexis search revealed that out of 57 reports on the Mexican drug violence that have aired since February 16,  half (29) of them have mentioned at least once that Mexican drug cartels are using American weapons.

CNN's devoted an entire hour on March 14 to a panel discussion about the violence. CNN correspondent Michael Ware noted,

Their armaments include 50-caliber Barrett sniper rifles. Made in the U.S., weapons that are deadly effective over perhaps a mile and which I've only seen in the hands of U.S. Marine sniper teams or Army sniper teams. These guys also have U.S. made grenades, American-made AK-47s, you know, IR – 15s. America is very much fueling this fight not just in its taste for illicit drugs, but in the actual weapons that are being used to kill.

Nobody on the panel countered this claim. But it wouldn't have taken much research to find out that the Barrett rifles are extremely rare and extremely expensive, that hand grenades of any make are subject to nearly prohibitive ATF regulation, or that there is no such thing as an “American-made AK-47.” (There are weapons that look like AK-47s and that fire the same 7.62 mm round, but they don't have an automatic mode.)

Mexico's Press Room

The Mexican government, which has clearly lost control of the situation, has taken to shifting blame to – where else – America. And CNN is buying it.

On March 2, in the lead in to an interview with National Rifle Association executive vice-president Wayne LaPierre, American Morning's John Roberts featured video of the mayor of Juarez, Mexico, saying, “A major part of the problem that we have is that all of the killings here are with arms from the United States and everybody in the United States knows those assault weapons are coming illegally to Mexico to fund the organized crime figures. And nobody is doing anything about it in the United States.”

Turning to LaPierre, Roberts said, “You heard what the mayor of Juarez said. It's American guns that are fueling a lot of the violence. Mexico's drug violence is quickly becoming America's problem. Why not reinstate the assault weapons ban?”

On the March 9 Anderson Cooper 360, Cooper's report on the Mexican drug violence included an interview with Eduardo Medina Mora, Mexico's attorney general, on American gun laws:

ANDERSON COOPER: In some towns, they already are in control. Just last week in the city of Juarez, cartels threatened to kill a police officer every 48 hours until the police chief resigned. After two murders, he did. Juarez's mayor just moved his own family to Texas. Mexico's police are overwhelmed in part because drug traffickers have them outgunned. Mexico's attorney general, Eduardo Medina Mora, is helping to lead the effort to break up the cartels.

EDUARDO MEDINA MORA, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF MEXICO: Half of what we seize, 55 percent are assault rifles. And this is what gives these groups this intimidation power: 2,200 grenades; missile and rocket launchers; .50 caliber sniper rifles.

COOPER: It might surprise you to learn where all these guns are coming from. It turns out 90 percent of them are purchased in the U.S.

MEDINA MORA: The second amendment was never designed to arm criminal groups, especially not foreign criminal groups as it is today.

COOPER: Do you blame the U.S. for not doing more to stop this flood?

MEDINA MORA: We believe there's much more to be done. We need a much more committed effort from the U.S.

But in written Congressional testimony on March 12, the National Rifle Association's Chris W. Cox noted that the missile and rocket launchers Mora cited are “weapons that isn't available over the counter anywhere in the U.S., but is reportedly often smuggled from Guatemala.” And, as with the “AK-47s” mentioned above, if the drug cartels have actual assault rifles, they're not getting them from the U.S. Automatic weapons (machine guns) have been heavily regulated since 1934 and the sale of new machine guns for private ownership ended in 1986.

Also in his testimony, Cox pointed out that the Mexican government itself has hindered the efforts of U.S. agents to attack the problem, refusing to share serial numbers of captured weapons and not allowing local authorities to cooperate with U.S. authorities.

Nevertheless, to CNN, Mexico is paying the price for America's sins. On March 10, CNN Newsroom's Rick Sanchez was upset with how “the mainstream media are having a field day with the Mexican drug war stories … But how is it being covered? Generally by finger-pointing at Mexicans and by doing stories about how little Jimmy and little Susie's spring break plans are going to be interrupted. Or that it may be dangerous now for their spring break to be held in Mexico. The fact is, what we may need to ask is, who's buying the drugs that are being manufactured in Mexico? And why is the Mexican economy in the mess that it is in the first place?” Clearly, the answer to the first question is, Americans. The second?

Sanchez was just getting started. “Oh, here's another one,” he said. “Where and how are the drug runners who are at war with the Mexican police getting their weapons? Where are they getting those guns? That is our focus today. And the answer is, in large measure, from the United States. From gun shows in the United States.”

Sanchez quoted an estimate that “2,000 guns enter Mexico every day from this country. And 7,000 people have been killed in just the past couple of years. How are these gunmen doing it?”

He rolled video of Mexican president Felipe Calderon saying, “We need to stop the flow of guns and weapons towards Mexico. Let me express to you that we seized in these two years more than 25,000 weapons and guns, and more than 90 percent of them came from the United States.”

Sanchez then turned to San Diego Union Tribune columnist Ruben Navarette, who repeated the statistics. Then, prompted by Sanchez to discuss American “hypocrisy,” Navarette said:

Americans are concerned about drug violence in Mexico, and we have this view that somehow it's all contained in Mexico, it's emanating from Mexico. But the guns are emanating here. They're stamped made in the USA. So the funny thing about the violence is, it's sort of like immigrants leave Mexico and then they turn to go back. The violence leaves the U.S. soil it goes to Mexico and then bounces right back again.

Rapid Fire

Violent Americans with their guns. CNN hit that note again and again, and emphasized U.S. responsibility for the violence.  

    International Correspondent Michael Ware on February 26: “But let's not forget, this whole war is fueled, first by America's demand for illicit drugs; and, secondly, it's being fought with American weapons that have been smuggled back over the border.” John Roberts on Feb. 26 “You got a big complaint from the Mexican government is the traffic going the other way. That there's plenty of American money going down to Mexico, plenty of American weapons being bought by straw purchasers and border states are also being funneled south.” Kiran Chetry on Feb. 27: “The U.S. is also a major source for powerful weapons being used by Mexican drug cartels. In fact, the ATF is estimating that 90 percent of weapons confiscated in Mexico are smuggled in from the U.S.” Randi Kaye on Feb. 28: “And from what I understand, weapons purchased or stolen in the United States accounted for 95 percent of Mexico's drug-related deaths. Now this is a huge problem for both sides of the borders. Is anything being done about that?” Don Lemon on March 7: “So, obviously, we know there's a problem. How much -- how much does America bear responsibility for their problem when it comes to drugs going here and possibly weapons being used in Mexico for this violence?” Homeland Security Correspondent Jeanne Meserve on March 11: “Is the U.S. doing enough to stop the violence and drugs from coming north to the U.S.?” Michael Ware on March 14: “It's an insurgency that America is fueling with demand for drugs and with the guns with which that insurgency is being fought.”

On CNN, only Lou Dobbs has been consistently skeptical of the Mexican and Obama Administration's claims.

CNN also left an important point out of all its reporting on the Mexican violence – a point that the NRA's Cox clearly made in his testimony. Gun control doesn't work to stop crime. Just look at places that have very strict gun regulation. Like … Mexico.

Colleen Raezler is a research assistant at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center. Matt Philbin is CMI's managing editor.