Piers Morgan Compares Newtown Photos to Open Casket of Emmett Till; Implies They Need to Be Published

CNN's Piers Morgan continues to find every way he can to boost his gun control agenda. On Tuesday night's Piers Morgan Live, he compared the Newtown shooting photos to the open casket of Emmett Till in the 1950's and implied that America would need to see the gruesomeness of the shooting in order to change its mind on guns.

Till was a black teenager who was brutally murdered in Mississippi in 1955, whose mother insisted on having an open funeral casket to show the country the barbarity of the racism and hatred behind the killing. Newtown parents have objected to the publication of photos of their slain children, and Morgan insisted he would "respect" their views. However, he went on to cite Michael Moore and argue that America would need to see the pictures:

"[O]bviously you respect the views of all these parents, and of course they should never be published if that's what they don't want. Everyone understands that. But Michael Moore raised this point that it may take something as shocking as what happened in the '50s with Emmett Till, when his mother released these dramatic pictures, allowing people to see the open casket of her son with the terrible injuries that he suffered. And that it changed the civil rights debate irrevocably. Could it happen in America, do you think? We didn't see any pictures from Aurora. None from Sandy Hook. If Americans saw the reality of a mass shooting outrage, could it change public opinion?"

Attorney and NBC's Today regular Star Jones pushed that point first on the show. "But I completely understand what Michael's saying. Until Americans see what comes of violence, what comes of gun violence, you're not going to get people to make it personal. It needs to be personal," she insisted.

In making her argument, Jones also insisted that guns, not just people, kill people. "It's not some guy on television representing the NRA saying guns don't kill people, bad people kill people. No. Guns kill people. And I can show you pictures of what it looks like."

Shockingly, liberal guest Marc Lamont Hill once again tempered Morgan's extremism:

 "Here's the difference, though, Piers. In 1955 when Mamie Till showed those pictures the argument was America needs to know what's happening down here in Mississippi. America knows -- no one doesn't know what happened in Sandy Hook."

Below is a transcript of the segments, which aired on Piers Morgan Live on June 4:

[9:35 p.m. EDT]

PIERS MORGAN: Let me ask you one final question unconnected to this stuff, while you're here, because you have a legal mind. I've got a panel coming on. And one of the questions we're going to talk about is this issue of the Newtown parents who do not want the pictures from the crime scene, of what happened to their children, to be released. Michael Moore has said not that he wants them to do it, but he says he believes the whole gun control debate could well change if Americans saw the reality of the damage of these atrocities in Aurora or Sandy Hook or others just as he cited with Emmett Till in the '50s when his mother said I'm going to release these pictures.

STAR JONES: Absolutely.

MORGAN: Gruesome as they are. Four months after she did that, Rosa Parks did what she did on the bus and the rest is history. Do you think Michael Moore has a point? Not that anyone should be forced to do it. But there's a point that if America saw the reality it could change things?

JONES: I would never presume to tell a parent how they should feel or how they should emotionally react. So I will respect what they decide. But I completely understand what Michael's saying. Until Americans see what comes of violence, what comes of gun violence, you're not going to get people to make it personal. It needs to be personal. And the sad part is about it is you need to see the child lying in a pool of blood. You need to see one child's arm splayed somewhere else. It's gruesome. It's brutal. But that's what gun violence does. And that's what we need to be talking about. It's not sugar-coated. It's not some guy on television representing the NRA saying guns don't kill people, bad people kill people. No. Guns kill people. And I can show you pictures of what it looks like.

(...)

[9:50 p.m. EDT]

PIERS MORGAN: Let's turn to this debate I started with Star Jones earlier about this issue in Newtown where the parents of the children who died, many of them who got together to try and stop publication ever being possible of photographs of their children after they had been shot.

My view is exactly like Star's, is obviously you respect the views of all these parents, and of course they should never be published if that's what they don't want. Everyone understands that. But Michael Moore raised this point that it may take something as shocking as what happened in the '50s with Emmett Till, when his mother released these dramatic pictures, allowing people to see the open casket of her son with the terrible injuries that he suffered. And that it changed the civil rights debate irrevocably. Could it happen in America, do you think? We didn't see any pictures from Aurora. None from Sandy Hook. If Americans saw the reality of a mass shooting outrage, could it change public opinion?

MARC LAMONT HILL, professor, Columbia University: I think public opinion has been changed already just by knowing that those six year-olds, those babies were killed –

MORGAN: But it hasn't, has it?

LAMONT HILL: Yeah, but we've seen major legislative shifts. We've seen major Republicans turn their –

MORGAN: No, we haven't.

LAMONT HILL: At least the legislative conversation has shifted.

MORGAN: Nothing shifted. In the end the Senate rejected everything. Which I found staggering, as you know.

LAMONT HILL: We all found it disgusting. From my home state of Pennsylvania –  

MORGAN: That's my point. That's what Michael Moore said. Michael Moore's been trapped by Fox into positioning himself as pushing the parents into it. He's not doing that. What he's saying is what will change the debate?

LAMONT HILL: Here's the difference, though, Piers. In 1955 when Mamie Till showed those pictures the argument was America needs to know what's happening down here in Mississippi.

America knows -- no one doesn't know what happened in Sandy Hook. The people who are invested in holding on to stupid gun legislation are going to do that anyway. The people who have been converted have already been converted. And one other point here is that Mamie Till made a decision to show her children in that casket. The parents of Sandy Hook haven't made that decision. We should have a legal right to see those pictures but we should always have the good judgment not to show them.

MORGAN: Well that's the interesting part of this. You and I have argued about guns. We're not going to push that again, because we know our positions. But on the interesting point of the journalists down there, many of them getting together saying look, you've got to be careful. You can't just make an exception for the Newtown families without also allowing it for other families of other mass shootings and so on. Where do you draw the line there?

HOOVER: I think first of all common decency is you have to defer to the parents. Where there's this one mother, Jennifer Hensel who's telling the New Jersey legislature please let her protect the images of her daughter who was slain in a way that she couldn't protect her daughter when her daughter was alive. In other words, this mother doesn't want those photos shared. Especially for ideological reasons or to push any sort of political agendas. Not to say the British are taking our guns. But just to put – just as you say, I do think you have to respect the will of the parents here. And very clearly this mother in Newtown doesn't want those photos shown.
 
LAMONT HILL: But not change the law.

HOOVER: Yeah. Freedom of Information and that, we do have to untangle in a fair way.
 

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