MSNBC's O'Donnell Again Ties NRA Rhetoric to Ricin Attacks

For a second night on Thursday, MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell on his The Last Word show tried to blame NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre for inspiring the ricin-tainted letters recently sent to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and President Barack Obama. The MSNBC host teased the show:

Well, turns out that when the NRA says that President Obama and Mayor Bloomberg are enemies of the Constitution, some very crazy people actually believe that.

O'Donnell began the show by playing clips of LaPierre from the NRA convention in Houston criticizing Bloomberg and Obama. After updating viewers of the letters sent to Mayor Bloomberg and to the White House, the MSNBC host tied in LaPierre. O'Donnell:

The threat in that letter to Mayor Bloomberg echoed Wayne LaPierre's never surrender battle cry. The letter said, "You will have to kill me and my family before you get my guns. Anyone wants to come to my house will get shot in the face. The right to bear arms is my constitutional, God-given right, and I will exercise that right till the day I die. What's in this letter is nothing compared to what I've got planned for you."

After bringing aboard liberal Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne and Joy Reid of The Grio, O'Donnell posed:

E.J., I have to start with you, as I do in these segments, because you are the only one among us who's on the NRA's enemies list. And so you have to be, I guess, these days more careful with your mail than the rest of us do. But when you listen to that language of Wayne LaPierre saying that, you know, President Obama, just what an enemy he is to the way of life of members of the NRA, and then you hear it echoed in this letter, this is getting as ugly as we could possibly expect at this stage.

After Dionne suggested the rhetoric from conservatives helps inspire attacks on political figures, Reid chimed in:

We've gotten the rhetoric on the right, has become so paranoid that a true paranoid person could be made crazy by it. I mean, look, we've gotten asymmetrical warfare out of the National Rifle Association in response to a nonexistent threat because nobody has proposed any sort of confiscatory law regarding firearms. Nobody has proposed to take away the Second Amendment, to end it, to take away anybody's right to bear arms.

O'Donnell then added:

Well, E.J., one thing that the author of the letters is saying, in effect, is, based on the lies that I have heard from people like Wayne LaPierre, this is what I will do in reaction to the lies that I have heard.

Below is a transcript of relevant portions of the Thursday, May 30, The Last Word on MSNBC:

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, IN OPENING TEASER: Well, turns out that when the NRA says that President Obama and Mayor Bloomberg are enemies of the Constitution, some very crazy people actually believe that.

(...)

O'DONNELL: Twenty-six days ago, at the National Rifle Association convention in Houston, Wayne LaPierre said this.

WAYNE LAPIERRE, NRA EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT: When it comes to defending the Second Amendment, we will never sacrifice our freedom on the altar of elitist acceptance. We will never surrender our guns. Never!

O'DONNELL: And in that speech, Wayne LaPierre paid particular attention to two people.

LAPIERRE CLIP #1: Michael Bloomberg, he's gone from mayor in New York to the title of national nanny.

LAPIERRE CLIP #2: Now, he's joined the President, created his own billionaire superpac, ready to spend hundreds of millions to attack the NRA, demonize gun owners, destroy elected officials who won't bow down to his will, and obliterate the Second Amendment.

LAPIERRE CLIP #3: President Obama said this was only round one. Round two is on the way. They're coming after us with a vengeance to destroy us, to destroy us and every ounce of our freedom.

O'DONNELL: Today, the United States Secret Service confirmed that a threatening letter possibly containing the deadly poison ricin was sent to President Obama. "U.S. Secret Service can confirm that the White House mail screening facility intercepted a letter addressed to the White House that was similar to the letters previously addressed to Mayor Bloomberg in New York."

The letters addressed to Mayor Bloomberg and his gun control group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, also contained the deadly ricin poison. The threat in that letter to Mayor Bloomberg echoed Wayne LaPierre's never surrender battle cry. The letter said, "You will have to kill me and my family before you get my guns. Anyone wants to come to my house will get shot in the face. The right to bear arms is my constitutional, God-given right, and I will exercise that right till the day I die. What's in this letter is nothing compared to what I've got planned for you."

Joining me now are E.J. Dionne, columnist for the Washington Post and a member of the NRA's enemies list. And Joy Reid, who is the managing editor of The Grio.

E.J., I have to start with you, as I do in these segments, because you are the only one among us who's on the NRA's enemies list. And so you have to be, I guess, these days more careful with your mail than the rest of us do. But when you listen to that language of Wayne LaPierre saying that, you know, President Obama, just what an enemy he is to the way of life of members of the NRA, and then you hear it echoed in this letter, this is getting as ugly as we could possibly expect at this stage.

E.J. DIONNE, WASHINGTON POST COLUMNIST: That's for sure. I mean, I want to say at the outset, I believe passionately in freedom of speech. And anybody, including Wayne LaPierre, who wants to attack, go after President Obama with words or Mike Bloomberg, or for that matter, you and me, that is their right. But our free speech gives us the right to judge their speech. And it gives us the right to ask what kind of effect is this speech happening. Is it proportionate?

And to say that people like Mayor Bloomberg or President Obama, who want background checks are enemies of freedom, who want to destroy us and destroy our freedom, this is just unacceptably untrue. They can say it if they want, and when you look at the effect it has  on some folks, I think you have to take responsibility for that.

And I think also our colleague, David Corn, made a good point, which is, who is likely to be killed out of this kind of action with the ricin. The person most likely to be killed is the middle class working guy who is sorting that mail. And so we ought to think very hard about how we have debates in this country. I said some pretty tough things about President Bush, but I never called him a tyrant or went in this kind of direction. It's just irresponsible.

(...)

JOY REID, THE GRIO: Yeah, and he's not the first person to employ that kind of rhetoric. You know, there is a certain commentator on the right who was employed by a certain network that isn't this one who said that he would shoot any person that came to his door from the Census at one point. We've gotten the rhetoric on the right, has become so paranoid that a true paranoid person could be made crazy by it. I mean, look, we've gotten asymmetrical warfare out of the National Rifle Association in response to a nonexistent threat because nobody has proposed any sort of confiscatory law regarding firearms. Nobody has proposed to take away the Second Amendment, to end it, to take away anybody's right to bear arms.

What people are proposing is the mildest, most meager laws for gun control. I mean, the Toomey/Manchin bill that didn't pass was the bare minimum of gun control.

But this is sending people like this crazy person over the edge because, in part, you have to look at the  rhetoric, war rhetoric. The new president of the NRA bringing up the war, quote, unquote, "of northern aggression," Civil War imagery, saying essentially  that Barack Obama, the President, is an enemy of freedom, enemy of the Constitution. This kind of rhetoric can only make crazy people crazier.

O'DONNELL: Well, E.J., one thing that the author of the letters is saying, in effect, is, based on the lies that I have heard from people like Wayne LaPierre, this is what I will do in reaction to the lies that I have heard.