You've probably seen the new ads from the National Rifle Association calling President Obama an "elitist hypocrite" for sending his daughters to Sidwell Friends, the Quaker school in Washington, D.C., where (the ads claim) 11 armed guards are stationed to protect students, including Obama's daughters. The ads were quickly attacked by gun-control advocates online and by elected officials from both parties. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney called them "repugnant and cowardly"; New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, said they were "reprehensible."
They're also completely false. According to The Washington Post, Sidwell Friends doesn't employ any armed guards:
We spoke to parents who said they had never seen a guard on campus with a weapon. And Ellis Turner, associate head of Sidwell Friends, told us emphatically: “Sidwell Friends security officers do not carry guns.”
So why did the NRA think otherwise? Let's look at the ads themselves. Here's a screenshot from that first television ad that started the uproar:
And here's a screenshot from the mini-movie the NRA released on the same day:
Take a look at that last screenshot:
You can see what's going on here. An erroneous report on Breitbart.com, the conservative activist news website, led NRA officials to believe that Sidwell Friends employs armed guards. (Breitbart seems to have misread a job posting for a security officer.) The NRA even appropriated Breitbart's argument: that the existence of such guards at an elite private school reveals Obama as an out-of-touch elitist, unaware of his own hypocrisy. From Breitbart reporter A.W.R. Hawkins:
Shame on President Obama for seeking more gun control and for trying to prevent the parents of other school children from doing what he has clearly done for his own. His children sit under the protection guns afford, while the children of regular Americans are sacrificed.
If you dismiss this by saying, "Of course they have armed guards — they get Secret Service protection," then you've missed the larger point [...] that this is standard operating procedure for [Sidwell Friends], period.
It's worth noting here that Breitbart is not an underground website, and the report the NRA ads refer to is not obscure: it currently boasts over a thousand comments, and was shared on Facebook or Twitter by over 143,000 people.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.