Following two deadly mass shootings over the weekend, Fox News hosts and pundits found plenty of factors to blame for gun violence. But they were almost unanimous in excusing one culprit: guns.
Over the weekend, separate mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio left more than 30 people dead and dozens more injured. In both cases, the shooters used legally purchased semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines. And while Fox News’ wall-to-wall coverage of the shootings found plenty of ideological, psychological, and even spiritual guilty parties, none were willing to seriously entertain gun-control measures that would’ve made it difficult for either shooter to purchase weapons or shoot dozens of people at a rapid and disturbing pace.
One of the most commonly cited culprits for the mass shootings, according to both Fox News stars and Republican politicians who appeared on the network, is an old and unfounded one: Violent video games.
Over the past several days, Fox News anchor Jon Scott and Fox & Friends host Ainsley Earhardt have both suggested that the shooters may have been inspired by gaming. Other guests, including several police officers who appeared on Fox & Friends, agreed.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick both appeared Sunday on Fox News and both avoided blaming guns (or apparent white-nationalist motives, in the El Paso shooter’s case) for the massacres, instead arguing that violent video games lead to more shootings.
“When you look at these photos of how it took place, you can see the actions within video games and others,” McCarthy said on Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures.
"This was maybe a video game to this evil demon,” Patrick said. “A video game to him. He has no sense of humanity, no sense of life. He wanted to be a super-soldier, for his Call of Duty game."
Of course, video games weren’t the only scapegoat.
Earhardt, for example, also suggested mental illness may be to blame, but also lumped in other potential culprits including Satan worship, and a lack of God in society.
Monday on Fox & Friends, contributor Dan Bongino said it is irrational to blame guns for mass shootings. Instead, the former NRATV host argued, the blame rests with social media, breakdowns in families, and entertainment choices. “There is something going on in our culture,” he said.
Ex-GOP Rep. Dave Brat and former Gov. Mike Huckabee—who once blamed the Sandy Hook massacre on the government “systematically removing God from our schools”—both cited declining Christian values as the cause of mass shootings, deflecting from any conversation about guns.
American schools no longer teach “the Christian tradition,” Brat lamented to Fox News host Dana Perino on Monday.
“A common denominator is not the particular weapon,” Huckabee said Monday on America’s Newsroom. “It is hate inside the heart. It is the loss of morality. It is that disconnecting from a god who values all people, and would never want you to do that to another person because I would be basically doing it to god and to myself, to just destroy another human life. That is just not how we are hard-wired from the father above.”
Whenever the conversation on Fox News veered towards gun control-related issues, hosts and pundits often outright dismissed any connection between guns and deadly gun violence.
Fox & Friends host Pete Hegseth suggested that gun-free zones are to blame for the El Paso shooting, falsely claiming Walmart doesn’t allow customers to carry licensed firearms.
“If you are bad enough to be able to walk in a Walmart to blast people and take people’s lives, you are bad enough to go and steal a gun,” Earhardt said Monday. “The argument is, if you take away the guns from the people who want to do good, they are not going to be able to defend themselves, because these bad guys are going to get their hands on guns anyway.”
“We have to stop saying ‘white supremacy, rhetoric, guns’ because there are so many elements that go into this,” Fox News host Kennedy said Monday on Outnumbered. “But the problem is the apex of all of it is the dehumanization. It is this hate and we don’t address that.”
Former Rep. Trey Gowdy, now a Fox News contributor, got emotional when discussing the shootings, but concluded that there are already enough gun-control laws on the books.
There were some brief mentions of gun-control measures Monday on Fox News. Daytime news anchor Sandra Smith, for example, discussed the effects of gun control for less than one minute with a former Boston police officer, while MediaBuzz host Howard Kurtz noted that Trump himself slightly opened the door to tightening background checks for certain firearm purchases. Later in the afternoon, Shepard Smith, who often skirts Fox’s right-leaning narratives, decried the regularity of gun violence during an emotional segment of his broadcast.
And Outnumbered co-host Carley Shimkus briefly noted universal background checks could be a potential solution to reducing gun violence. However, she quickly pivoted away from that concept, instead suggesting that another measure would be for Americans to “stay off Twitter.”
On several other occasions, left-leaning guests on the network did attempt to steer the conversation towards gun control. But some Fox News hosts brushed off the topic, instead opting to focus on the rhetoric Democrats used to criticize the president.
For instance, after Mary Anne Marsh—a former John Kerry adviser—claimed that America has a “gun problem” while further pointing out that other developed nations have video games and mentally ill people yet don’t experience mass shootings, America’s Newsroom anchor Bill Hemmer quickly pivoted to the “substantial pile-on” from Democrats.
Fox News contributor Karl Rove acknowledged that Trump’s rhetoric could inflame some racists, but quickly dismissed gun-control measures like background checks and pivoted to admonishing candidates including Beto O’Rourke, and Sens. Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, and Cory Booker for linking Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric to the alleged anti-immigrant motives of the El Paso shooter.
“Taking advantage of the moment is more what it’s about,” Rove declared.
This story has been updated to include Shepard Smith’s comments made on-air following publication.