On Tuesday's John King USA, CNN's John King issued a prompt on-air apology minutes after a guest on his program used the term "crosshairs" during a segment: "We're trying to get away from using that kind of language" (audio available here). This action stands in stark contrast to an incident over a year earlier where former anchor Rick Sanchez took four days to apologize for using a unconfirmed quote attributed to Rush Limbaugh.
The firearms term appeared during a panel discussion about the race for Chicago mayor with CNN contributor Roland Martin and former journalist Andy Shaw, who is currently the executive director of the Better Government Association, a watchdog group involved in Illinois politics. Twenty-four minutes into the 7 pm Eastern hour, King asked Shaw about former Senator and mayoral candidate Carol Moseley Braun's claim that she was the most qualified candidate in the race: "Can she make the case- you can say Rahm Emanuel- you don't want him as mayor, but he's been a congressman. He's been a White House chief of staff. He's been a White House aide. Carol Moseley Braun- have more experience, more credentials?"
Shaw underlined his point that the Braun and the other mayoral candidates were going after Emanuel by using the sniping term:
[Video embedded below the page break]
SHAW: Well, I think, John that Carol Moseley Braun can rightly say that her resume suggests a few more positions. She was a state senator, a U.S. senator, an ambassador, recorder of deeds in Chicago- but remember, she basically had a disastrous single term in the U.S. Senate and was defeated by a virtually unknown Republican. I think Bill Clinton's visit today probably burnishes Emanuel's front-runner status and probably- basically- I think it basically guarantees that Emanuel makes it into a runoff after February 22. The battle now is between Carol and Gery Chico, the former Chicago school board president, for number two, because once you get into a runoff, then anything can happen.
There is a strong anti-Rahm sentiment, but there is also this sense of inevitability, which is basically promulgated largely by the media. On the ground, it could be different. The voter registration in black wards in Chicago is up appreciably. Gery Chico is on the air with a full-blown ad campaign, and Rod is in both of their- I'm sorry- Rahm is in both of their crosshairs. So, even though he is likely to survive round one, he's certainly not a cinch to win this race.
Nineteen minutes later, the CNN anchor issued his politically-correct apology:
KING: Before we go to break, I want to make a quick point. We were just having a discussion about the Chicago mayoral race. Just a moment ago, my friend Andy Shaw, who now works for a good government group out there, used the term 'in the crosshairs,' in talking about the candidates out there. We're trying- we're trying to get away from that language. Andy is a good friend. He's covered politics for a long time, but we're trying to get away from using that kind of language. We won't always be perfect. So, hold us accountable when we don't meet your standards.
Such a statement is bizarre, even in the aftermath of the recent shooting in Tucson and all the call for a more civil discussion. The Washington Examiner's Byron York noted on Wednesday that in the past month, anchor and correspondents for CNN used the "crosshairs" with some regularity in the month leading up to the Arizona murders, including in a reference to Sarah Palin by Headline News's A.J. Hammer on December 8: "Palin's moose-hunting episode on her reality show enraged People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and now, she's square in the crosshairs of big time Hollywood producer, Aaron Sorkin." Just 16 days ago, correspondent Joe Johns stated that "health care reform is in the crosshairs again." York also cited senior political editor Mark Preston's September 14, 2010 statement that Rep. Michelle Bachmann was "in the crosshairs of Democrats."
On October 12, 2009, Rick Sanchez, reporting on Rush Limbaugh's interest in purchasing the St. Louis Rams, remarked that "Limbaugh's perceived racist diatribes are too many to name. Here's a sample- he once declared that 'slavery built the South. I'm not saying we should bring it back. I’m just saying it had its merits. For one thing, the streets were safer after dark.'" The former anchor didn't apologize for using this unconfirmed quote until October 16. Fifteen months later, we have CNN personalities taking less than an hour to issue an apology for a guest making an accurate observation about the Chicago mayoral race.