Bozell Column: The Media Lobbyists Lose on Guns

President Obama suffered a large, embarrassing loss in the Senate on a slew of gun-control bills. If this were a Republican president, they’d be sounding the lame-duck alarms on the nightly newscasts. But most media outlets can’t do this. They were fully invested in this campaign alongside Obama, and to underscore his weakness is to acknowledge their own.

Since mid-December, the broadcast networks and cable news hosts like Piers Morgan and Joe Scarborough have relentlessly lobbied for gun control. On how many occasions did they completely shred the notion of objectivity -- of journalism itself -- and boldly engage in lobbying for gun control, using their networks as megaphones? Let’s consider a few recent moments.

1. On April 11,  “Morning Joe” hosted Vice President Biden for a about an hour-long interview -- yes, most people get 5-6-7 minutes, but if you're the Veep and want to promote gun control, you get an hour. It was an embarrasing hour of kissy-face that ended like this:  Biden: “Joe, thank you.” Scarborough laughs. Biden: “ No, no, no, no, no. You have changed the debate in America. You.” Scarborough replies, “Thank you so much.” Biden insists, “The two guys that deserve -- if anything gets done -- an award here are you and Michael Bloomberg.” Awwww, shucks.

“We are the 90%,” Joe Scarborough tweeted after the defeat. “And 90% will not be ignored.” (I just love macho chest-thumping declarations of war in  tweets.)

It’s unsurprising that 90 percent have no objections to background checks in a vague polling question. But a new AP poll shows how “passionate” the public is on this issue. They asked: "What do you think the President and Congress should do about gun control? Do you think they should keep working to pass the changes to the nation's gun laws that are currently being negotiated, scrap the current negotiations and start over from scratch, or leave the nation's gun laws as they are now?"

It was very split: 39 percent said leave the laws as they are, 38 percent said keep working to pass changes, and 20 percent said start over from scratch. Scarborough can't brag "We are the 38 percent."


2. On that same morning, in an interview on CNN, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.), a co-author of the background-checks crackdown, said to anchor John Berman: “We appreciate your support, too. This is very, very important.” Berman didn’t take exception when his objectivity was presumed to be lacking. He just replied, “Thank you, sir.”

3. CNN put out a corporate press release headlined, “If 90 Percent of Americans Support New Background Checks, How Can Congress Do Nothing?” They announced two days of special journalism devoted to underlining one side of the debate and undermining the other: “CNN takes an in-depth look at the national conversation and the debate over new background checks with Guns Under Fire: A CNN Special Report on Background Checks.”

4. On several nights of “Hardball,” MSNBC’s Chris Matthews offered up the number of the Capitol switchboard. “You can get a hold of your Senator by calling, as I said last night, 202-224-3121. If you don't know your senator or Member of Congress, fine, you just go to www.house.gov and enter your zip code to find out who your Congressman is. And www.Senate.Gov to find your Senator.”

Can’t this be simply acknowledged as corporate lobbying by Comcast, the owners of MSNBC? It certainly can’t be described as something a “news” channel does. 

5. Over at taxpayer-funded television, PBS omnipresence Bill Moyers posted a “Take Action” item on his “Moyers & Company” website. The Moyers staff told viewers how they can “Take A Stand Against Gun Violence,” and be complete Bloomberg robots:

Call your senator: After you’ve read up on the legislation, give your senator a call. If you don’t have the number, [Bloomberg’s group] Mayors Against Illegal Guns will look it up for you (follow the link and hit “Call Congress”). The group also offers to call you first and walk you through critical talking points.”

They also pushed viewers to “Tell your friends” to “demand a plan” for gun control on Facebook and Twitter, and “recruit your mayor” to join Bloomberg’s group.

Whether it’s guns, gays, or global warming, the “objective” media all too often decide that there’s one side that deserves to win and one side that needs to be crushed or ignored. The first journalistic principle seems to be arrogance.

The news reports after Obama’s loss were overwhelmingly composed of Obama yelling at Congress, and Newtown relatives near tears. Actual soundbites or arguments from the gun-rights advocates were either submerged or forbidden.

As usual, liberal TV networks thrive on emotional manipulation, and when that fails, they hyperventilate in disbelief that anyone would dare to make Obama declare it had been a “really shameful day in Washington.”

Brent Bozell
Brent Bozell
Brent Bozell is the Founder and President of the Media Research Center