CNN Spends Over Half Hour of Coverage on Gun Control Presser, Touts 'Raw Emotion'

CNN devoted over a half hour of coverage on Thursday to touting Mayor Bloomberg's "Demand Action to End Gun Violence" conference, where Bloomberg, Vice President Biden, and families of gun violence victims pushed for stricter gun control. Over 22 minutes was given to live coverage of the conference.

CNN hyped the "raw emotion" of the speakers pressing Congress to take action on gun control. Although gun control was the focus, anchor Carol Costello framed it as an innocuous "battle over reforming our gun laws." Correspondent Susan Candiotti wondered if the presence of grieving family members of victims would "make a difference" in getting gun laws passed.

"Newtown parents, many of them, will be at this news conference today, standing aside New York's Mayor Bloomberg, and of course, Vice President Biden. They've been supporting the President's proposed legislation for that assault weapon ban, but will their support make a difference in the end?" Candiotti asked.

"Politics gave way to raw emotion today as Vice President Joe Biden, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and the families of the victims of the Newtown massacre pushed for tighter gun control," hyped anchor Don Lemon. Anchor Fredricka Whitfield also highlighted the "emotion," noting the Vice President's "emotional appeal for new gun laws."

Costello cast the issue as "reform": "We begin this morning with the battle over reforming our gun laws."

During the 1 p.m. ET hour of Newsroom, NN played multiple clips of speakers pushing for gun control, Candiotti rattled off the frustrations of the families of gun victims. "And he said he is having a hard time trying to understand why Congress in his view seems to be holding back on this legislation," she introduced a clip of Jesse Lewis, father of a Newtown shooting victim.

Below is a transcript of the segments, which began airing on CNN Newsroom on March 21 at 10:00 a.m. EDT:

CNN
NEWSROOM
3/21/13
[10:00 a.m. EDT]

CAROL COSTELLO: We begin this morning with the battle over reforming our gun laws. Vice President Joe Biden is speaking out and refusing to back down from a proposed assault weapons ban. The Vice President spoke to NPR about the need to limit large capacity magazines, too.

(Audio Clip)

JOE BIDEN, Vice President of the United States: In Newtown, those 20 beautiful babies and six serious people trying to help them, administrators and teachers, all dead, today. The police responded in two and one-half minutes. Two and one-half minutes. This guy had 30-round clips in it. If that had been only ten rounds, who knows whether one or two or five or seven of those people would be alive today.

MELISSA BLOCK, NPR: Or he could have just reloaded and could have just loaded another magazine.

BIDEN: That's not true. That's not true. Because he reloaded with 30-round clips and that's as far as he got. Just do the math.

(End Audio Clip)

COSTELLO: The Vice President continues his message today. He and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg will speak next hour. They'll be joined by families from Newtown, Connecticut. CNN national correspondent Susan Candiotti is outside the event in New York. Good morning, Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, national correspondent: Good morning, Carol. Yes, you know, the chances of currently passing a strong gun control legislation appear pretty slim, probably, given what happened earlier this week. Senator Harry Reid, you'll remember, announced that he was dropping the assault weapon ban from the current proposal, before the Senate bill. Now, Senator Dianne Feinstein says she will introduce it as an amendment, adding that she won't lay down and play dead. So, Carol, the GOP continues to say the better idea is to simply better enforce the laws that are already on the books. Carol, the debate isn't ending anytime soon.

COSTELLO: Doesn't appear to be. What role does the school shooting at Newtown play here?

CANDIOTTI: Well, as you indicated, of course, Newtown parents, many of them, will be at this news conference today, standing aside New York's Mayor Bloomberg, and of course, Vice President Biden. They've been supporting the President's proposed legislation for that assault weapon ban, but will their support make a difference in the end? One thing is for sure, of course, the memories of what happened that day in Newtown at Sandy Hook Elementary remain vivid in everyone's mind. Here's what the police chief said last night on Piers Morgan live.

(Video Clip)

CHIEF MICHAEL KEHOE, Newtown, Connecticut Police: That day will be etched in my mind, will forever change me. And I think that as I reflect today about that day, as much as I try to forget about it, I just can't, and I know that will give me the energy to move forward and to hopefully make change in our society that we need.

(End Video Clip)

CANDIOTTI: And you know what, Carol, we have results of the latest CNN/ORC poll that indicate that public support for major gun control restrictions has actually been on the decline since Sandy Hook. Gone down.

(...)

[1:02 p.m.]

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD: Vice President Biden teamed up with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg today to push for new gun control laws. Biden made an emotional appeal for action.

(Video Clip)

JOE BIDEN, Vice President of the United States: For all those who say we shouldn't or couldn't ban high capacity magazines, I just ask them one question, think about Newtown. Think about Newtown. Think about how many of these children or teachers may be alive today had he had to reload three times as many times as he did. Think about what happened out in where Gabby Gifford, my good friend, was shot and mortally wounded. Think about when that young man had to try to change the clip. Had he only had a ten-round clip when he changed the clip and fumbled and had it knocked out of his hands, how many more people would have been alive? And tell me, tell me how it violates anyone's constitutional right to be limited to a clip that holds ten rounds instead of 30, or in Aurora, 100?

(End Video Clip)

WHITFIELD: Let's get more on the vice president's emotional appeal for new gun laws. Susan Candiotti was at that occasion, and that speech in New York. So Susan, what's the Vice President's strategy here, with the backdrop of New York City, the mayor and involving a number of family members from the Connecticut shooting?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI: Fredricka, it's always so hard to hear from the parents of those victims as well. What the Vice President is trying to do, Fredricka, is to get all the support he can especially from the public, to try to fight for more, as they put it, common sense gun control legislation. So he's doing these speeches so that he can try to encourage the public to call their lawmakers in wherever they happen to live, to try to get more support for this type of legislation. So he is calling for, for example, universal background checks, which many people think exist but do not currently. He's asking for tighter restrictions on the size of those gun magazines. And, of course he and the President really pushing for a renewed ban on assault weapons.

(Video Clip)

BIDEN: Three months ago a deranged man walked into Sandy Hook Elementary school with a weapon of war. That's what he walked in with, with a weapon of war. And that weapon of war has no place on American streets. And taking it off America's streets has no impact on one's constitutional right to own a weapon.

(End Video Clip)

CANDIOTTI: Now, of course the Vice President was flanked by parents of both children and teachers there at Sandy Hook Elementary school, victims of those attacks. And one of them was a parent of Jesse Lewis. This is someone who has testified before Congress before on this very same subject. And he said he is having a hard time trying to understand why Congress in his view seems to be holding back on this legislation.

(Video Clip)
 
NEIL HESLIN, father of Newtown victim Jesse Lewis: My son Jesse's life was taken by a cowardly deranged person with an assault weapon. No child deserves to be murdered or brutally slaughtered the way these children were. And quite honestly I'm really ashamed to see that Congress doesn't have the guts to stand up and make a change.

(End Video Clip)

CANDIOTTI: Now, the mother of another victim mentioned, without mentioning him by name, referred to Ohio Senator Rob Portman, saying that this is someone who recently changed his public – his personal opinion about same-sex marriage because of a personal experience knowing that his son is gay. She said I hope that other people out there don't have to go through a personal experience losing someone before they possibly change their mind and support more gun control legislation and laws.

(...)

[2:08 p.m.]

DON LEMON: Politics gave way to raw emotion today as Vice President Joe Biden, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and the families of the victims of the Newtown massacre pushed for tighter gun control.

(Video Clip)

NEIL HESLIN, father of Newtown victim Jesse Lewis: My son Jesse's life was taken by a cowardly deranged person with an assault weapon. No child deserves to be murdered or brutally slaughtered the way these children were. And quite honestly, I'm really ashamed to see that Congress doesn't have the guts to stand up and make a change and put a ban on these type of weapons and universal background checks.

LYNN MCDONNELL, mother of Newtown victim Grace McDonnell: In the immediate aftermath of the shootings, there was a sense of what happened in our town might be a tipping point, and that real meaningful progress in the area of gun safety might result. And we know that a lot of good people are working very hard to try to make this happen, and we thank them for that. We'd ask everyone who has power to influence legislation in this area and, of course, those whose job it is to vote on the legislation to ask themselves if they are doing enough to bring about real and meaningful change, and if they are not, to ask themselves, why not?

(End Video Clip)

LEMON: Well, the White House has been urging Congress to pass an assault weapons ban, but Senate Democrats dropped it this week from the gun control package that will be debated on the Senate floor next month.

(Video Clip)

JOE BIDEN, Vice President of the United States: Three months ago a deranged man walked into Sandy Hook Elementary school with a weapon of war. That's what he walked in with, a weapon of war. And that weapon of war has no place on American streets. And taking it off America's streets has no impact on one's constitutional right to own a weapon. Ain't no less than Justice Scalia in the last decision acknowledged that the government has the right to limit certain weapons from being able to be possessed by American citizens.

(End Video Clip)

LEMON: The Vice President says that the will of the people will prevail and he reminded the room that the original ten-year assault weapons ban had long been written off long before it eventually was adopted in 1994.

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