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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:

Gentlemen;

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.

Regards,

Dan Goodwin
Media Relations Manager
Barrett Firearms

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.

Dan has informed me in comments that the AP would issue a correction. They did and it is here (the AP beat me by one hour because I actually, you know, fact checked and verified my sources):

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]

39 Responses to “The AP lied to (and about) Barrett Rifles”

  1. Christopher Fotos Says:

    Great work.

    FYI, your Michael Marks link is broken–would love to read his item.

  2. Steph Houghton Says:

    The corection is still factualy wrong. The .50 cal round wouldn’t penetrate a tank at any distance unless the tank was a) built before world war two, or b) was an ultra light air dropable tank like the sheridan which was a POJ. As a former reporter, Ms. French’s behavior is ofensive. I who am a radical libertarian took every pain not to let it show in my work. I hope she is let go.

  3. SayUncle Says:

    Fixed. Sorry about that.

  4. Crusty Says:

    Let’s see, a lady reporter from the MSM, who knows knows nothing at all about your products or your industry wants to do a business article on your company.

    So, tell me. Did you get lucky?

  5. Ravenwood's Universe Says:

    The AP Lied!!!

    Say Uncle is reporting that the Ass. Press has resorted to unethical journalistic methods in doing a .50 Caliber hit piece. I’m shocked, I say, shocked!…

  6. Ed Driscoll.com Says:

    The Reactionary Media

    I’ve linked several times to Radley Balko’s post on “The Conservative Left”, because its a great meme, but the specific example that Radley used is worth repeating:You know, you sometimes get the feeling the day after the polio vaccine was…

  7. NashvilleFiles Blog Says:

    Further Proof – Media Wall of Shame

    SayUncle provides further proof that journalists need to know at least something about a subject BEFORE they write about it AND that bloggers will eat them alive if they misrepresent their intentions in doing a story. Who gets put on…

  8. Steve Says:

    ANY firearm improperly aimed will destroy game meat. Good grief. That’s about the most irrelevant and lame comment I’ve ever read.

  9. Narcissistic views on News/Politics Says:

    Well, so much for the AP news values and principle

    AP’s Rose French lied to Barrett Rifles about the type of story she was going to do and AP had to print a retraction

  10. countertop Says:

    If the AP ran a correction, ought they not to attach it to the faulty story itself???

  11. countertop Says:

    BTW, I sent the following email to Jeff Jarvis (buzzmachine.com) asking for his thoughts.

    Mr. Jarvis,

    Not sure if you have seen this report yet, but it would be interesting
    to hear your opinions of whether this AP reporter acted in an ethical
    manner or not and what the appropriate response of an organization
    like the AP ought to be.

  12. Dexter Westbrook Says:

    So the lady says she’s writing a business feature about your company.
    She then writes, uh, a business feature about your company. There are
    some mistakes in it, and an organization that doesn’t like guns is quoted,
    and the story doesn’t use all the free advertising that you would like, so the
    reporter is a liar.

    Great logic, pal.

    I can cross this blog off my list.

  13. Blake Says:

    Dexter:

    Ms. French reassured me mention of legislative issues would be brief and ďitís mostly going to be a business feature.Ē

    Um…she definitely misrepresented this.

    Secondly, a reporter NEEDS to know what they are writing about when they write an article on something. At the very least do a good job of learning. I think Michael Marks takes the “journalist” to task on this.

  14. Pm of the POL Says:

    AP lies to us once, shame on the AP. AP lies to us thousands of times, stop talking to and stop reading Associated Pravda.

  15. SayUncle Says:

    Dexter, if you’re that dense, good riddance.

  16. Six Meat Buffet » Times is Tough for the Old Media Says:

    […] Say Uncle has an outstanding post detailing how Associated Press reporter Rose French represented herself as interested in writing a “business feature” about Barrett Rifles, but churned out a limp-wristed, error-laden attack instead. […]

  17. Hypotheses Non Fingo Says:

    The AP falsifies a firearms story (big surprise)

    What should we citizens do as a result of all of this? One thing would be getting the AP to issue a real correction. They issued a partial one (also at Say Uncle). Wanna bet it gets even half the publicity the original story did? Right. The second thin…

  18. Grim's Hall Says:

    Barrett Rifles

    The AP editors can get away with saying that they know nothing about firearms, and so couldn’t spot the bad information (and bad faith) from their reporter. Military.com has no such excuse. Fortunately, they do have the Military.com forums…

  19. Steve Thill Says:

    Let’s see if I got this straight. MSM wants to write a story about guns. Company thinks it’s a legit piece because reporter says so. Now the PR person is either naive or stupid, but being both is no way to go through life. Ditto for Mr. Barrett.

  20. tkdkerry Says:

    Found the French AP story here:

    http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/249813_biggun26.html

    The editor inserted notes on corrections, but the corrections themselves leave a lot to be desired. Still a hit job.

  21. Rusticus Says:

    Excellent piece, Uncle. Thank you.

  22. Rustmeister Says:

    Ass. Press

    I like that, very accurate. =P

  23. The Wrightwing » Blog Archive » Barrett Firearms Ambushed by AP Says:

    […] Over at : This is in response to the Rose French story ‚ÄúSmall-time tinkering leads to big-time guns, sales by Tennessee Company‚ÄĚ released for distribution last weekend by the Associated Press. […]

  24. derek rose Says:

    That story is a business feature. Maybe by “business feature” they were expecting a puff-piece? But features can be negative as well as positive.

  25. John Anderson Says:

    About “spoiling” meat: it has been a long time since the Western dominated both big and little screens, but surely someone could point to the Sharps Buffalo Rifle, used by those (such as BIll Cody) who contracted to supply meat to the Army.

    Too, don’t be too quick to blame the reporter. She may have written two thousand words, of which the “layers of editors and fact-checkers” the MSM claims may have selected less than half to print. Likely not, but possible.

  26. SayUncle Says:

    Derek, Then why omit the business info about barrett’s accomplishments? and why specifically saying that discussion of legislation would be brief when it wasn’t?

  27. Dolan Says:

    derek, that had about as much to do with business as a horse at a water polo meet. The main thrust was political opinion and any buisiness was incidental.

    TANSTAFL

  28. derek rose Says:

    It talks about sales, orders, number of employees and how the company was founded … as well as its critics and legislative challenges. To me, that says “business feature.” Read the first three paragraphs:

    MURFREESBORO ó When U.S. soldiers need to penetrate a tank’s armor from a mile away, they count on a weapon that evolved from the garage tinkering of a former wedding photographer.

    The .50-caliber rifle created by Ronnie Barrett and sold by his company, Barrett Firearms Manufacturing Inc., is the most powerful firearm civilians can buy. It weighs about 30 pounds and can hit targets up to 2,000 yards away with armor-piercing bullets.

    That kind of power has drawn a customer base of gun enthusiasts, Hollywood actors and Barrett’s most loyal buyer, the U.S. military, which has been buying Barrett’s rifles since the 1980s and using them in combat from the 1991 Gulf War to the present.

    The fact that the story omitted that Barrett is being featured by the Discovery Channel… yawn. I don’t really see that as a big deal to make a fuss over.

    When legislators are talking about banning or regulating a business’ product, I don’t see how you can draw a clear distinction between “political” story and a business story. Would a business story on the Philip Morris in 2000 have been fair or honest if it omitted the huge political/legal challenges facing the company?

    I’m not totally defending the reporter here, especially if she told Goodwin the article would just have a “brief” description of legislative issues. (We don’t know French’s side of the story, however) But you always try to be up-front and forthright with people; she should have made it clear that the story would quote Barrett’s critics.

    Still, Goodwin’s email seems just unbelievably naive, especially for a media relations manager. Of course she wasn’t going to give him a copy of the story for review … that’s a huge journalistic no-no, something she might even be fired for doing.

  29. SayUncle Says:

    The very first sentence you quoted has been retracted and is likely intended to give the rifles a scare factor. OK, so fine about discovery. What about executive of the year? exporter of the year? Seems those would be pretty important in a business feature.

    When legislators are talking about banning or regulating a businessí product

    Yet no mention of how that, say, affects business? Like the fact he has refused to business with the state of California since they banned 50 caliber rifles? Just sayin’.

    BTW, glad you seem to agree on her forthrightness.

  30. derek rose Says:

    Yeah, she made a mistake on the tanks. And I think the Michael Marks pdf I just read is a pretty thorough deconstruction of the article. But given that Barrett and the company are just finalists for the company/executive of the year awards, that doesn’t really strike me as a big ommission either.

    I don’t understand your point about California, sorry.

  31. James Caldwell Says:

    When doing an interview bring your own camcoder and record all that is said. You can sue but you can distribute the film so that others know what is what. I’ve seen damn near still frames cut out of a video and spliced back in to make someone look irrational/stupid/etc.

    Also if it’s a video interview put a clock in the scene so both your camera and theres will be forced to catch it. Makes it a bit difficult for them to say your’s was modified when there’s blurs or crops it out.

    Even with all that I’d not have trusted the major or local media, too much past history of crap like this.

    BTW military.com is carrying AP crap which IMHO makes them one with them.

  32. James Caldwell Says:

    Um cannot sue actually

  33. AST Says:

    This is how most young reporters would act these days. Companies involved in politically incorrect but legal businesses should avoid dealing with such jerks and communicate only through press releases and public relations advisers.

  34. Resistance is futile! Says:

    Carnival of Cordite #40

    Greetings everyone! Time for the Carnival of Cordite! Unfortunately, time is a luxury I don’t have this week. Therefore, this week’s carnival is going to be done in super quick link and go mode. It’s not a slight against contributors

  35. Pete Hansen Says:

    Such misrepresentation and a zeal to sensationalize regardless of facts by newspapers and other news media should not come as a surprise. As a Manager of a Control Tower in Montana, I was called out from home one night because two aircraft had collided on a taxiway in the dark. Clearly, pilot error. As I passed the also, female Reporter, calling in her story on the phone, I heard her say, “Two airplanes collided on the runway.” I interupted her by saying, :”Excuse me. But those two aircraft collided on the taxiway, not the runway.” Her response…”Taxiway, runway, what’s the difference?” A sad commentary on the credibility of the news media at any level. And lately, haven’t we seen even more serious “mistakes” involving reporters and “Talking Heads” even higher on the media food chair…Dan Rather? Why are we then surprised at this kind of purposeful propganda?

  36. SayUncle » More on Barrett Says:

    […] In light of the AP lying to Barrett and repeating anti-gun falsehoods, I’d like to encourage readers to contact the AP and voice their concerns. Here’s their contact page. […]

  37. Chuck Erickson Says:

    Shame on you. I read the French article that totaly misrepresented the .50 cal Barrett firearm, and I read your “correction”. To be sure, my faith in the accuracy of your publication has declined. We would appreciate more accurate and unbiased reporting.

  38. SayUncle » Calling all gun nuts Says:

    […] So, head on over and make yourself heard. I like Kevin’s question but think it needs some specific examples, like the press lying to/about Barrett; or CNN breaking the law by transferring a rifle over state lines (though the fact they didn’t do it willfully means no prosecution but they did, in fact, assert that what they did was legal); or that time they lied and said a Glock was a plastic gun that could beat metal detectors at the Capitol Building; Or that one time at band camp . . . […]

  39. SayUncle » Talking to the press Says:

    […] I don’t trust them to fully represent the real reasons they’re interested in hearing from me (ask Ronnie Barrett) […]

Used three kinds of generics. I liked the Levitra Pills more, although the others acted quite well. Perhaps it all depends on the characteristics of each organism.