CNN Joins Obama In Using Child Activists to Spread Gun Control Agenda

Instead of holding the White House accountable, CNN's White House correspondent is helping the President make his case for gun control.

Jessica Yellin touted Obama's "persuasive advocates," young children who wrote letters to the White House pushing for stricter gun laws whom the President featured behind him as he pushed for more gun control on Wednesday. Yellin teed them up to explain why they wrote their letters.

"It's a message the President hopes will deliver results," Yellin remarked after asking the children "What do you hope can happen now?" and "What made you write the President?" Of course, critics thought the President was simply using children to push his gun control agenda but Yellin didn't acknowledge that point, simply joining the President in getting his message out.

One of the children Yellin interviewed, 11 year-old Julia Stokes, had written Obama, "I beg you to try very hard to make guns not allowed." CNN's Wolf Blitzer used that quote as he introduced Yellin's report.

"What do you hope can happen now?" Yellin teed up the young activist. "Well, I hope it's much harder for people to buy guns," Stokes answered.

"I wanted the children that still have their lives now to be safe instead of endangered," 10 year-old Taejah Goode told Yellin.

A transcript of the segment, which aired on The Situation Room on January 16 at 4:07 p.m. EST, is as follows:

WOLF BLITZER: Other important news today, with a stroke of a pen, President Obama signs 23 new executive actions. He's vowing to use whatever weight his office has without new congressional approval to battle gun violence in the wake of the devastating massacre in Newtown, Connecticut can. He's also calling on Congress to approve the most sweeping gun legislation in decades.

Standing at his side, four children, each of whom wrote him letters like this one, which reads -- let me put it up on the screen: "Dear President Obama, I beg you to try very hard to make guns not allowed. Let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin. She was over when the President and Vice President announced their plans. Give us the latest. What's going on, Jes?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN chief White House correspondent: Wolf, 33 days after the Newtown shootings, the President has now unveiled his proposal to overhaul the nation's gun safety rules and he's making it clear that he hopes to channel the nation's outrage over that Sandy Hook tragedy into congressional action.

(Video Clip)

YELLIN: (voice-over) President Obama laid out an ambitious agenda to change the nation's gun safety rules and insisted he won't back down from a fight.

BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States: I will put everything I have into this and so will Joe. But I tell you, the only way we can change is if the American people demand it.

YELLIN: He used the power of the presidency, moving executive actions allowing the government to crack down on gun crimes by tracking stolen guns and prosecuting people who use them, improving background checks with more mental health reporting and information sharing, upping school resources, and supporting mental health with more teachers and counselors.

OBAMA: Congress needs to help rather than hinder law enforcement as it does its job.

YELLIN: So he's calling on Congress to step it up, too, with a ban on armor-piercing bullets, stricter gun trafficking laws and more cops on the street. But the top priorities will be pushing Congress to ban high-capacity magazines and making background checks universal. His point man on the issue predicts tough politics.

JOE BIDEN, Vice President of the United States: And I have no illusions about what we're up against or how hard the task is in front of us.

YELLIN: To make the case, they brought persuasive advocates, elementary school kids who wrote the President after the Sandy Hook shooting.

OBAMA: Julia said – Julia, where are you? There you go. "I'm not scared for my safety. I'm scared for others."
 
YELLIN: (on camera) What do you hope can happen now?

JULIA STOKES, wrote letter to President Obama: Well, I hope it's much harder for people to buy guns. I hope that like people with mental illness don't – can't buy a gun.

YELLIN: What made you write the President?

TAEJAH GOODE, wrote letter to President Obama: I wanted the children that still have their lives now to be safe instead of endangered.

YELLIN: It's a message the President hopes will deliver results.

OBAMA: Let's do the right thing. Let's do the right thing for them and for this country that we love so much.

(End Video Clip)

YELLIN: And Wolf, they are not just leaving that to chance already. Grassroots organizations that work with the White House are mobilizing to push this agenda. They include the President's campaign apparatus Organizing for America which will help press the message. Moveon.org is undertaking its own efforts, so is the organization Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Some of those mayors will be at the White House, I'm told, later this week, Wolf.

BLITZER: I know the President's got a lot on his plate in these first few weeks of his second term. Do we expect him to take his campaign against this kind of gun violence out there on the road as well?

YELLIN: Wolf, that's something he has said that he will do, that he will take his message to the people this term and I would expect that this is a top priority. We could see him pressing this on the trail in the public eye. They have not made that explicit point but I suspect it's something this President would have in his mind, yes.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014