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Claim: Sen. Dianne Feinstein called all veterans mentally ill

Facebook user Charles Kwang shared a post that accused California Sen. Dianne Feinstein of labeling all veterans mentally ill “in some way” during a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting in June.

Kwang also included an apparent excerpt from a Los Angeles Times story about the hearing in his post caption. “Times Columnist” Burt Prelutsky allegedly wrote a scathing admonishment of Feinstein, comparing her and female politicians Barbara Boxer, Maxine Waters, Kamala Harris and Nancy Pelosi to the witches in the Shakespeare play “MacBeth.” All the politicians named are Democrats.

“Frankly, I don’t know what it is about California, but we seem to have a strange urge to elect really obnoxious women to high office. I’m not bragging, you understand, but no other state, including Maine, even comes close. When it comes to sending left-wing dingbats to Washington, we’re Number One,” Prelutsky said, according to the Facebook post.

Kwang also included an alleged statement from the Times’ Kurt Nimmo. “Senator Feinstein insults all U.S. Veterans as she flails about in a vain attempt to save her anti-firearms bill,” Nimmo apparently said.

“Be sure to forward this to all of the ‘mentally ill’ vets you know. Especially the ones with guns!” the post ends.

The source of the claim is actually several years old. An exact copy of Kwang’s Facebook post appeared on the Florida Sportsman forum in 2013. The claim has made the rounds around the internet, from blogs to forums and social media platforms.

Kwang did not respond to a request for comment from USA TODAY.

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Who is Kurt Nimmo?

Freelance journalist and author Kurt Nimmo has written for InfoWars, a far-right conspiracy website; media bias and fact check site The Australian National Review; and Zero Hedge, a far-right libertarian financial blog, according to a profile on Muckrack.com.

Nimmo is credited as a photographer and multimedia developer on the website for Counterpunch, a left-leaning blog and magazine. His first book, “Another Day in the Empire,” is a compilation of essays Nimmo wrote for Counterpunch. 

Nimmo doesn’t have any bylines associated with the Los Angeles Times.

Who is Burt Prelutsky?

Conservative commentator Burt Prelutsky began his career writing for several television shows popular throughout the ’70s and ’80s, including “M*A*S*H,” “Hobson’s Choice” and “McMillan & Wife,” according to IMDB.com

More recently, Prelutsky has written for conservative outlets WorldNetDaily, Carteret County News-Times and the Tea Party Command Center, according to his profile on Muck Rack, but he did write columns about the entertainment industry for the Los Angeles Times, such as an archived piece from 2002 on crediting script writers. The Times credited him as a member of the Writer’s Guild and a resident of North Hills, California.

There appears to be one source linking the Times and Prelutsky to Feinstein. In a 1993 letter to the publication, a Burt Prelutsky from North Hills called out the Times for its article on staff turnover in Feinstein’s office. Feinstein became a state senator in 1992.

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“While Feinstein is working hard to make California a better place for all of us – including the Times – your paper continues to thank this public servant by looking for empty issues which demean her character,” Prelutsky wrote.

Fact check site Snopes attributed Prelutsky’s statements about Feinstein to a December 2009 blog post on his personal website, but the site is no longer active.

Did Feinstein really say all veterans are mentally ill?

Feinstein introduced the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013 following mass shootings in Newtown, Massachusetts; Aurora, Colorado; and Tucson, Arizona. The legislation would have reinstated and expanded upon the 1994 ban that expired in 2004 by restricting the sale, transfer, manufacture and importation of semi-automatic weaponry and ammunition-feeding devices, according to a statement released by Feinstein’s office.

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Exemptions to the law included assault weapons purchased prior to the effective date of the law, manually operated weapons, antique guns, hunting and sporting firearms and assault weapons used by military, law enforcement and retired law enforcement, per the statement.

Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn proposed exempting retired military personnel from the law during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on March 7, 2013. A video of the hearing is posted on C-SPAN.

“Members and veterans of the armed forces are the most highly trained and qualified individuals to own these weapons for self-defense purposes. We should think long and hard before disarming these heroes, preventing from protecting their families and their communities.” Cornyn stated (1:30). 

Feinstein disagreed with Cornyn on the basis of mental health, and pointed out that some veterans suffer from post traumatic stress disorder.

“The problem with expanding (the law) is that, with the advent of PTSD, which I think is a new phenomenon as a product of the Iraq war … it’s not clear how the sale or transfer of a firearm covered by this bill will verify that an individual was a member or a veteran and that there was no impairment of that individual with respect to having a weapon like this.

“I think we have to – if you’re going to do this – find a way that veterans who are incapacitated for one reason or another mentally, don’t have access to this kind of weapon,” Feinstein said.

It was Cornyn who suggested that Feinstein labeled all military veterans as suffering from PTSD in a follow up to Feinstein’s statements.

“PTSD sufferers are already prohibited by law,” Cornyn said of gun sale restrictions. “I think it’s a mistake to paint so broadly as to say any active duty military or veterans can’t use these kinds of weapons or any other weapons for self-defense, and certainly I wouldn’t want to suggest that we think people who served in the military all suffer from some debilitating illness.”

Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, stated for the record that no one on either side of the aisle had suggested that all veterans suffer from “debilitating illness”  before calling the roll vote for the amendment.

Cornyn’s proposed amendment was didn’t pass during the session, but a larger gun bill introduced in the Senate excluded the 2013 Assault Weapons Ban, USA TODAY reported.

Our rating: False

We rate this claim FALSE because it is not supported by our research. Feinstein did not call all veterans mentally ill during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. Misleading claims about Feinstein’s statements allegedly quoted writers Kurt Nimmo and Burt Prelutsky from the Los Angeles Times. But neither author wrote about Feinstein for the Times.

Our fact-check sources:

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