The AP lied to (and about) Barrett Rifles
I mentioned an article that ran at The Tennessean about Barrett Rifles. I received a tip from Anthony Garcia in comments that the folks at Barrett were surprised by the piece because the reporter, Rose French, approached Barrett on the premise that she was interested in doing a business feature about the company. Anthony forwarded me an email from Barrett to the Associated Press that addresses this concern and some factual inaccuracies contained in the story. The Barrett folks were understandably surprised that the piece she actually ran was largely anti-50 caliber material from the Violence Policy Center.
I sent Dan Goodwin, Media Relations Manager for Barrett Rifles, an email to confirm that he had written the email and to ask his permission to reprint it. He ran it by Ronnie Barrett and they agreed I could. However, they asked that I not print the document referenced in the email. Here’s the email, which is Mr. Goodwin’s inquiry to the AP’s Nashville bureau:
I contacted the AP’s national headquarters and they insisted upon my contacting your bureau first. I eagerly await your replies.
This is in response to the Rose French story “Small-time tinkering leads to big-time guns, sales by Tennessee Company” released for distribution last weekend by the Associated Press.
First, based on what was published, I believe Ms. French misrepresented her purpose in coming to our plant for a tour and interview.
I asked her what the story was about beforehand and she said “a business feature about your company.”
I relayed her request to my boss and Ronnie Barrett and they were concerned about it being a political story. Ms. French reassured me mention of legislative issues would be brief and “it’s mostly going to be a business feature.”
Please note Ms. French and her photographer were here well over two hours and half that time was a taped interview with Barrett.
The byline and copy ran 975 words, according to the word count tool on my computer. The portion dedicated to political opponents and experts was 407 words.
Now, I’m a J-school graduate like you fellows and somewhat math impaired. But my computer says that is right at 42 percent of the story.
Ms. French’s story had direct quotes from Tom Diaz of the Violence Policy Center before it had direct quotes from Ronnie Barrett. I also noted Mr. Barrett was only quoted once directly.
It was clear during her visit that Ms. French knew little or nothing about firearms in general and our products in particular.
She couldn’t seem to grasp that we make three different models of rifles chambered for the .50 BMG cartridge (a semi-automatic 10-shot, a 5-shot bolt-action repeater, and a single-shot bolt-action) as well as a 6.8mm SPC-caliber carbine.
As in her story, she didn’t seem to get the difference between the rifle and the cartridge during her visit.
Judging by the story’s lead and a later reference, Ms. French also couldn’t understand the difference between a lightly armored personnel carrier and a tank.
I tried to educate her somewhat about firearms as did Barrett while she was here. I offered, during her visit and afterward, to review her manuscript for factual accuracy _ stressing I was not making an attempt at prior restraint.
Ms. French declined my offer, and the result is an inaccurate, clearly biased political hack job that received worldwide distribution by the AP. It’s also clear, given the mistakes, that she based a lot of it on outdated VPC propaganda.
I’ve attached a Word copy of Ms. French’s story, highlighting the incorrect portions in red and making corrective comments at the end. Everything therein was covered correctly during her visit. I’ve also highlighted in blue portions of a political nature.
Also attached is a copy of source material given Ms. French that includes a number of facts about our company’s recent achievements (Army’s Top 10 Inventions Award, Lessons Learned report, etc.), new products and a brief history _ which she ignored _ but then this wasn’t really a business feature.
By the way, she was also told:
1. The Discovery Channel is featuring us in an upcoming series called Ultimate Weapons slated for release during summer sweeps
2. BFMI is a finalist for the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce’s Exporter of the Year Award and Barrett is up for Executive of the Year
3. We’re producing the Barrett Firearms 2006 Annual, for worldwide newsstand distribution, in association with Harris Publications.
Not worthy of mention in a “business feature”?
Needless to say, we are now quite wary of having anything further to do with Ms. French or AP. Her story pitch was unethical, and her time here resulted in no new information.
Of course the damage is done, but we want urgent and repeated clarifications sent out to AP subscribers.
Media Relations Manager
So, the situation is that Ms. French held herself out as doing a business feature, then does a biased anti-gun piece using the company, omits information that would be consistent with a business feature, and the report contained many factual inaccuracies.
In a Nov. 25 story about Barrett Firearms Manufacturing Inc., The Associated Press reported erroneously that .50-caliber rifles were used to penetrate the armor of Iraqi tanks from a mile away during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Such rifles were used against Iraqi armored personnel carriers, but military experts say they could not penetrate tank armor from that distance.
The story also said company founder Ronnie Barrett started tinkering with the .50-caliber Browning Machine Gun in the early 1980s. A company spokesman said Barrett took photos of one such gun, but then built his own rifle.
The story also quoted a criminal justice scholar who said the rifle wasn’t useful for hunting because it would destroy game meat – a claim Barrett Firearms disputes. Bryce Towsley, a Vermont-based gun writer, said that when the .50-caliber rifle is used with the proper bullet, it would not destroy the meat.
No mention in the correction that Ms. French lied to the folks at Barrett in order to do an anti-gun hit piece.
Update: I neglected to mention that Michael Marks of the Fifty Caliber Institute responded to the article. It can be seen here. [link fixed sorry about that]