NBC Applauds 'Powerful Quote': 'Easier to Get Assault Rifle in U.S. Than Mental Health Care'

During a segment on Monday's NBC Nightly News supposedly devoted to tackling the issue of mental health in the wake of the Newtown school shooting, NBC chief medical editor Nancy Snyderman instead used the opportunity to tout more anti-gun rhetoric: "One person who we spoke with....and I'm going to quote him, he says, 'It's easier to get an assault rifle today in the United States than it is to get adequate mental health care, and that's wrong.'" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Snyderman followed the provocative statement by declaring: "And I think, speaking on behalf of parents like you and me and American citizens, you cannot disagree with that statement, Brian." Anchor Brian Williams replied: "That's a heck of a powerful quote."

In addition to making the brief discussion more about guns than health care, Snyderman also managed to work in some class warfare as well: "Less than 10% of our health care dollars are spent on mental health care. And that means that the very wealthy can pay out of pocket. The very poor, there's a little bit of a safety net with Medicaid. And everyone in between basically falls through that safety net. And that's what really has a lot of people concerned today."

At no point did Williams or Snyderman actually mention any of the specific mental health conditions of perpetrators in recent mass shootings.


Here is a full transcript of the December 17 exchange:

7:16PM

BRIAN WILLIAMS: This tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut has already ignited a national conversation about guns, as we've just seen. But how about the other half of this? Mental illness. Think of the component it's been in all the serious gun crimes we have covered. 1 in 17 Americans lives with a serious mental illness, that's according to the government. And their symptoms range in severity, of course, but fewer than a third of them receive treatment. We've asked our chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman to join us again to talk about this. It is the other component in all those cases we know about because of the name of the place. The ones we'll always remember.

NANCY SNYDERMAN: It is. And just think of it, Brian, Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, you start to see a pattern. And what is that pattern? Anger, loneliness, social awkwardness, and, of course, access to guns. And the number that Brian referenced, 1 out of 17, underscoring that, only one-third of those people get any kind of mental health problem.

So here's the real concern. Less than 10% of our health care dollars are spent on mental health care. And that means that the very wealthy can pay out of pocket. The very poor, there's a little bit of a safety net with Medicaid. And everyone in between basically falls through that safety net. And that's what really has a lot of people concerned today.

One person who we spoke with, a father who has battled the privacy issues that sometimes bar parents from getting access to their kids' records, said tonight, and I'm going to quote him, he says, "It's easier to get an assault rifle today in the United States than it is to get adequate mental health care, and that's wrong." And I think, speaking on behalf of parents like you and me and American citizens, you cannot disagree with that statement, Brian.

WILLIAMS: That's a heck of a powerful quote. Nancy, we're going to continue to cover this starting tomorrow night. Thank you very much for being here with us.

SNYDERMAN: You bet.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC