A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Anti-NRA Group’s Shameless Editing Tricks


A Web video attacking Rep. John Barrow for taking “NRA blood money” selectively edits an old campaign ad in which Barrow touts his support for the Second Amendment and the NRA’s endorsement of him. The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, which produced the video, edited out all references in which Barrow explains why he supports gun rights — including his statement that his father owned a rifle “just to keep us safe.”

Barrow’s late father, James, was a Georgia Superior Court judge and a supporter of the civil rights movement. When James Barrow died in 2000, the Athens Banner-Herald said “he kept a rifle beside his front door” during legal fights over desegregation, which he supported.

The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence released the video on Jan. 17, a day after President Barack Obama announced his plan to address gun violence. Barrow is a conservative Democrat who supports gun rights. The anti-NRA group took a Barrow campaign ad from last year and spliced in news accounts of the horrific school shooting in Connecticut on Dec. 14, 2012. The mash-up ends by saying, “Shame on you, Congressman Barrow. Tell Congressman Barrow to reject NRA blood money.”

Here is Barrow’s original campaign ad, which was released on Oct. 16, 2012, and a transcript:

[TET ]

Friends of John Barrow TV Ad: “Nobody”

Barrow: I’m John Barrow. And long before I was born my grandfather used this little Smith & Wesson here to help stop a lynching. And for as long as I can remember my father always had this rifle real handy just to keep us safe. That’s why I support the Second Amendment. And that’s why I’m proud to be endorsed by the NRA. I approved this message because these are my guns now and ain’t nobody going to take them away.

[/TET]

And here’s the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence video and transcript:

[TET ]

Coalition to Stop Gun Violence Video: “Blood Money”

Barrow: I’m John Barrow.

Newscaster: Breaking news now.

Newscaster: There’s been a shooting at a school.

Barrow: And long before I was born …

Newscasters: 20 children … children … children targeted.

Barrow: My grandfather used this little Smith & Wesson here.

President Barack Obama: Beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old.

Barrow: And for as long as I can remember my father always had this rifle real handy.

Police radio operator: Someone is shooting in the building.

Newscaster: He came in with what we are told with at least three weapons.

Newscaster: Multiple weapons and begins a massacre.

Grieving woman: So horrible.

Barrow: And that’s why I’m proud to be endorsed by the NRA.

Wayne LaPierre, NRA chief executive officer: Our founding fathers understood that the guys with the guns make the rules.

Barrow: I approved this message because these are my guns now and ain’t nobody going to take them away.

Newscasters, reading names of victims: Emilie Parker. Dawn Hochsprung. Catherine Hubbard, 6 years old. 7-year-old Ana Marquez-Greene. Chase Kowalski, 7 years old. Mary Sherlach. Jesse Lewis, 6 years old. Jack Pinto.

[/TET]

A close viewing of both videos shows that the video by the gun control advocacy group uses nearly the entire Barrow campaign ad — with some notable exceptions:

  • The video says, “I’m John Barrow. And long before I was born my grandfather used this little Smith & Wesson here” — editing out “to help stop a lynching.”
  • Likewise, it shows Barrow saying, “And for as long as I can remember my father always had this rifle real handy” — editing out “just to keep us safe.”
  • It also removes an entire sentence — “That’s why I support the Second Amendment” — after Barrow discusses his grandfather’s use of a handgun to stop a lynching and his father’s ownership of a rifle for protection.

Asked about the selective editing, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence spokesman Ladd Everitt told us in an email: “Those statements had nothing to do with the main message the ad was trying to convey (which involved Congressman Barrow’s relationship with the National Rifle Association).”

Everitt also said the group selectively edited Barrow’s ad because it could find no evidence that the congressman’s grandfather used a gun to stop a lynching. We could not independently verify the account, either, and Barrow’s office declined to comment on the group’s ad or provide us with any support for Barrow’s claim about his grandfather.

But there is no disputing that Barrow’s father, James, and his mother, Phyllis, were strong  supporters of the civil rights movement, and there is evidence that James Barrow used a rifle to protect his family during the civil rights era, according to accounts at the time of his death. Still, the gun control advocacy group cut out the mention of Barrow’s father — removing all references to why Barrow supports the Second Amendment.

Athens Banner-Herald, June 4, 2000: At one point during desegregation, Barrow asked the governor to call out the National Guard — a move unpopular with both the white city administrators and the black community.

Said Barrow after the episode: “I was just trying to keep the jail empty of children. I got some insults from everybody.”

It was during that time that Barrow for a time kept a rifle beside his front door.

The anti-NRA video also manipulates the sound and images from Barrow’s campaign ad.

The group’s Web video repeats the image and sound of Barrow cocking his rifle, three times in rapid order, while ominous music plays, as Barrow says, “My father always had this rifle real handy.” In fact, at that point in the original campaign ad, Barrow cocked his rifle once and then finished his sentence by saying, “just to keep us safe.”

The sound of the rifle cocking multiple times — with the ominous music playing — makes Barrow look and sound like a man wielding a dangerous assault weapon, instead of a lawful gun owner talking about how his family used guns for protection.

The original Barrow ad ends with the congressman slamming the bolt closed and saying, “Ain’t nobody going to take them away.” But, in its version, the anti-NRA group abruptly cuts to black when Barrow cocks his rifle and an ominous muffled BOOM sound is heard. Again, the viewer is left with a false impression of Barrow’s intentions.

The video also does not stipulate that the Barrow campaign ad is from last year — perhaps leaving some viewers with the false impression that it was released after the Connecticut school shooting.

As for the “NRA blood money,” Barrow’s campaign received $9,900 in contributions from the National Rifle Association of America Political Victory Fund, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. He received nearly $2.9 million in overall donations, so his NRA donations amounted to a minuscule fraction of his total contributions. In addition, the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, the NRA’s lobbying arm, reported spending $4,658 in support of Barrow.

— Eugene Kiely