NBC Thrilled Bloomberg Using Fortune for Anti-Gun Push...After Fretting Over Too Much Money in Politics

In a glowing interview with former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Wednesday's NBC Today, co-host Savannah Guthrie touted the anti-gun activist's latest crusade: "You're putting $50 million into the effort....saying essentially this new group is going to borrow a page from the NRA's playbook. The NRA has been very successful in frightening lawmakers who oppose them....You're quoted in The New York Times this morning saying, 'We have to make them afraid of us.'" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Only two weeks earlier, NBC was wringing its hands over a Supreme Court ruling loosening campaign finance restrictions. On the April 3 Today, White House correspondent Peter Alexander proclaimed: "And you thought there was already too much money in politics. Fasten your seat belts. From now on, there's gonna be a whole lot more."

In a report on Wednesday prior to Guthrie's exchange with Bloomberg, Alexander voiced no such concerns about the multi-millionaire's political influence:

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has made it his mission and dedicated his money to support candidates who back stronger gun restrictions. Now his latest move, $50 million, in part for those candidates, and a new organization, Every Town for Gun Safety, which brings together the work of several groups, including his Mayors Against Illegal Guns....Instead of lobbying and expensive TV ads, Bloomberg's new group will focus on outreach, specifically to women and mothers, with powerful online videos. Trying to change the fierce gun debate in ways even tragedy has not.

Talking to Bloomberg, Guthrie continued to emphasize the massive spending: "To go back to the $50 million. It's not a small number. It's not pocket change, even for you. Is it a matter simply of outspending the NRA? Which by the way, this sum would." Bloomberg claimed: "...this is not a battle of dollars. This is a battle for the hearts and minds of America so that we protect our children, protect innocent people."

Near the end of the segment, Guthrie wondered if the former mayor had higher political aspirations: "This all begs the question, we know you're not afraid to get into the political fray. We know you're not afraid to put a little money behind the effort. People do wonder perennially, about every four years actually, whether you would consider a run for president."

Bloomberg replied: "No is the answer." Guthrie still pressed: "Do you think there is a time – that this may be a time for a third party candidate? I mean, do you think the two-party system is failing Americans on issues like this?"

At that point, Bloomberg blatantly outlined his plan to intimidate politicians on the gun issue:

Well, they may be failing Americans, but this is a two-party country....So what we have to do is convince those in both the parties who are running that this is what the American public wants. And when they get through their primaries and they come to a general election, they're going to have to be right on guns and we're going to do everything we can...to make sure that we reward those who are protecting lives and make sure that those who are trying to keep people from being protected lose elections.

Guthrie never framed Bloomberg using his vast wealth to affect elections as something negative.


Here is a full transcript of Guthrie's April 16 interview with Bloomberg:

7:14 AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: And Mayor Michael Bloomberg is with us now exclusively. He is the chairman of Every Town for Gun Safety. And Shannon Watts is the founder of Moms Demand Action, which is part of this new initiative. Good morning to both of you.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Taking on the NRA; Bloomberg Goes for Moms in Gun Control Battle]

Mr. Mayor, I'll start with a simple question. You had a tragedy like Newtown everybody was horrified by. You had a major presidential push, it went nowhere. Why will you succeed where no one else has been able to?

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: Well, number one, it didn't go nowhere. We now have sixteen states that at a state level have instituted background checks on gun shows and internet sales, and there are a couple more about to do the same thing. A number of states have passed referendums on domestic violence and weapons, so we really are making progress. And we did get 55 out of 100 senators, a bipartisan group, to vote for this bill. We didn't get enough.

GUTHRIE: But you know this is a political heavy lift. You're putting $50 million into the effort.

BLOOMBERG: Look, it's a heavy political lift. 31,000 Americans either get murdered or commit suicide with illegal guns. That's the heavy lift.

GUTHRIE: Shannon, you got involved when you saw what happened in Newtown. You were a stay-at-home mom who watched it and you were outraged. Why do you think the moms are key? Because that seems to be central to this strategy.

SHANNON WATTS: You know, in many ways, this is about emotion. And as I've said before, you know, the gun lobby has done a good job over the last 30 years of making a vocal minority afraid people will take their guns away. As a mother, I'm afraid someone's going to take my children away. And I believe at the end of the day, that emotion will carry it.

GUTHRIE: Mr. Mayor, you've been pretty blunt about this, saying essentially this new group is going to borrow a page from the NRA's playbook. The NRA has been very successful in frightening lawmakers who oppose them, saying, "We'll punish you at the ballot box." You're quoted in The New York Times this morning saying, "We have to make them afraid of us."

BLOOMBERG: Absolutely. People will vote for whatever they think is in their own self-interest to get elected and re-elected. We've got to convince them that the 80% of gun owners, the 90% of Americans who are in favor of just simple background checks to make sure criminals, minors, and people with psychiatric problems can't buy guns. Something that's common sense. We've got to make sure they understand that's what the public wants and the public's going to vote that way.

GUTHRIE: To go back to the $50 million. It's not a small number. It's not pocket change, even for you. Is it a matter simply of outspending the NRA? Which by the way, this sum would.  

BLOOMBERG: Well, I don't know who's gonna – this is not a battle of dollars. This is a battle for the hearts and minds of America so that we protect our children, protect innocent people. If you take a look at the number of people who use illegal guns to commit suicide, the number of people that are killed every year, we're the only civilized country in the world that has this problem. We have to do something. And if you want to know how tough this is, go to one of the funerals and you look at the parents, look in their eyes and you'll see what real tragedy is and why we really have to do something.

GUTHRIE: And yet we see this cycle over and over again. We've seen so many of these tragedies. If you look at the polling right now, people do get angry around these big tragic events. But it is not a priority for most Americans. They put gun control near the bottom of the list when asked to rank what issues matter most to them. You've got 49% of Americans right now who favor stricter gun laws. But that's down almost 10% since Newtown, Shannon.

WATTS: We are going to go out and educate moms and women and Americans over the next several months before the midterms. We're committing to get at least one million Americans to vote on this issue. Right now, women vote on abortion, health care, jobs. We want that to be gun violence prevention, gun violence prevention, gun violence prevention.

BLOOMBERG: And it isn't gun control. This is simply making sure that people that everybody agrees should not be allowed to buy a gun – criminals, minors, and people with psychiatric problems – make sure they can't buy guns. Nobody's going to take anybody's gun away. Nobody's going to keep you from hunting or target practice or protecting yourself. It's just making sure that a handful of people who we all agree shouldn't have guns don't get their hands on them.

GUTHRIE: This all begs the question, we know you're not afraid to get into the political fray. We know you're not afraid to put a little money behind the effort. People do wonder perennially, about every four years actually, whether you would consider a run for president.

BLOOMBERG: I – no is the answer. Plain and simple. I'm going to spend the rest of my life trying to make a better world for myself, for my kids, for my grandchildren, and for you and Shannon.

GUTHRIE: Do you think there is a time – that this may be a time for a third party candidate? I mean, do you think the two-party system is failing Americans on issues like this?

BLOOMBERG: Well, they may be failing Americans, but this is a two-party country and I think it's unlikely that you would ever have a third party candidate that could win. So what we have to do is convince those in both the parties who are running that this is what the American public wants. And when they get through their primaries and they come to a general election, they're going to have to be right on guns and we're going to do everything we can – Shannon and I and all the people that we represent – to make sure that we reward those who are protecting lives and make sure that those who are trying to keep people from being protected lose elections.

GUTHRIE: Thank you so much for being here. Do you miss being mayor?

BLOOMBERG: No.

GUTHRIE: Okay. I won't say whether the feeling is mutual, I have no idea. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts, good to have you. Thank you for being here.

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