MSNBC Panel Uses Santa Barbara Shooting to Bash NRA, Push 'War on Women'

Elliot Rodger's spree shooting this weekend has given MSNBC an opening to flog two of its favorite pet causes – restricting gun rights and waging combat against the so-called war on women. Weekend anchors Alex Witt and Melissa Harris-Perry, to their credit, downplayed those two issues while discussing the tragedy on their respective Sunday shows.

But it was former DNC spokeswoman Karen Finney who did not hold back on Sunday’s edition of her show Disrupt. She and her guests immediately tied the incident to the politics of gun control before later playing up the anti-woman angle.


Finney kicked off the panel discussion by playing a clip of Richard Martinez, one of the victim’s fathers, blaming the NRA for his son’s death. The host agreed with Martinez, proclaiming:

I do think that is part of the equation that we don't talk about enough, that [politicians] have got to learn to stand up to the NRA and have some courage.
 

Frequent MSNBC contributor Jimmy Williams then dragged midterm politics into the mix, attempting to use the tragedy to warn viewers not to elect a Republican-controlled Senate in 2014. Williams ranted:
 

[T]he bottom line is, if Republicans take the Senate back in the fall, guess what's going to happen? The NRA is going to shift its focus from the states, where it's already passed these crazy laws, and it’s going to start asking the House and the Senate to do these kinds of things, a Republican House, a Republican Senate. The good news is we'll have Barack Obama to say no. That's the good news.  

If Williams were Jonathan Alter, he would have come right out and said, “People will die if the Republicans control the Senate!”

A few minutes later, Williams unleashed another mini-tirade about guns and this fall’s elections:

 

Here’s the other thing to keep in mind about why this fall's elections – and I'm going to keep doing this. And I'm going to get in trouble with the right-wingers on this. But the reason they want the House and the Senate to be in GOP hands is because what they're going to do between 2014, this fall, and 2016 is literally try to scare the living hell out of the country into thinking that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton – they’re going to take their guns. That's the whole point here. So it’s some sort of Jedi mind trick that the NRA is pulling.

Of course, it wasn’t all about guns and midterm elections; the panelists couldn’t avoid mentioning the blatant misogyny that this troubled young man displayed. Williams had a rant reserved for him, too:

He thought it was – somebody said to him it's okay to think this way. I don't know if it was his father or his mother, his classmates. I have no idea. Nor does it matter because he's now dead. But somebody's got to wake up and realize that in our churches and in our schools and in our homes and in our businesses, it's not okay to treat women like chattel. Because they're not.

Erika Soto Lamb of the group Everytown for Gun Safety connected the anti-woman angle to the gun control angle and called it all a “distinctly American problem." "American women are 11 times more likely to be killed with a gun than any other women in any other developed country," she claimed, adding, "And, you know, it’s important that we know that the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the likelihood that that woman will be murdered by five times. 500 percent."

These panelists may be correct that young Elliot Rodger held a misogynistic view of the world, but to hear them attack him for it rings hollow. MSNBC, at this point, has become the boy who cried wolf regarding anti-women issues. They relentlessly attack conservatives for waging a “war on women” in almost everything they say or do, and they look silly for doing so. But now, a disturbed killer comes along who really did wage his own personal war on women, and nobody will listen to MSNBC’s cries of protest.

Below is a transcript of the segment:

 

MSNBC
Disrupt with Karen Finney
05/25/14
4:04

KAREN FINNEY: As we learn more about the suspect and the victims, there are more questions being raised about just how this could happen again. One of the victim's fathers, Richard Martinez, summed it up like this.

RICHARD MARTINEZ: Why did Chris die? Chris died because of craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA. They talk about gun rights. What about Chris' right to live? When will this insanity stop? When will enough people say, stop this madness! We don't have to live like this! Too many have died! We should say to ourselves, not one more! Thank you. That's it.

FINNEY: You know, Jimmy, that video just breaks your heart. I mean, when I first saw him yesterday, it just-- but -- and the pain and the anguish in his voice. And I appreciated the fact that he didn't just talk about the NRA, but politicians. Because I do think that is part of the equation that we don't talk about enough, that people have got to learn to stand up to the NRA and have some courage.

JIMMY WILLIAMS: Yes. They should. Not many profiles in courage in Congress these days, unfortunately. Something interesting that's happened, the NRA has taken its focus off of the U.S. Congress; it's focused solely on the states. Georgia just passed its latest law allowing people to walk into a bar where you can buy alcohol as much as you'd like, and you can carry a gun into a church, et cetera, et cetera. This is why it’s imperative, and I do not say this lightly. People are dead. But the bottom line is, if Republicans take the Senate back in the fall, guess what's going to happen? The NRA is going to shift its focus from the states, where it's already passed these crazy laws, and it’s going to start asking the House and the Senate to do these kinds of things, a Republican House, a Republican Senate. The good news is we'll have Barack Obama to say no. That's the good news.

FINNEY: Right. The bad news is they'll be there.

***
4:09

ELIZABETH PLANK: There were reasons to be concerned -- but I don't think it’s totally clear that mental illness was a huge issue. What we know so far is that misogyny was. We saw from the 140-page manifesto, clearly there was a profound hatred of women. And as you mentioned, people with mental illness are more likely to be victimized than to be perpetrators of violence. So it’s important not to make this entire discussion about mental illness. Clearly we have a public health problem in this country and it’s deaths by gun violence.

FINNEY: I just want to clarify, I don't think people with autism would consider themselves as having a mental health problem. And I do think in this instance – and actually yesterday we did have an opportunity to talk with a mental health expert. There are many behaviors that are very typical of someone with very significant mental health issues. One of the things though, Jimmy, is – you know, this goes back to this idea of learning and research and what can we learn. Just last week, a bill was blocked by Republicans that would have given more money to the CDC to actually do more research so that in the aftermath of things like this we can be doing research to understand. We know the NRA is going to come out and say something like, well, if people would have had guns, they could have defended themselves. We have no data to say that is necessarily the fact.



WILLIAMS: And we’re never going to have it as long as the Republicans control the House and that funding source, and then, you know, if they take the Senate. Here’s the other thing to keep in mind about why this fall's elections – and I'm going to keep doing this. And I'm going to get in trouble with the right-wingers on this. But the reason they want the House and the Senate to be in GOP hands is because what they're going to do between 2014, this fall, and 2016 is literally try to scare the living hell out of the country into thinking that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton – they’re going to take their guns. That's the whole point here. So it’s some sort of Jedi mind trick that the NRA is pulling.

FINNEY: Well, it’s part of the hysteria that they gin up.

WILLIAMS: Absolutely. But votes have consequences. Votes have consequences in the fall.

***
4:20

FINNEY: And you know, Jimmy, that goes to something that we saw -- and I'll read a little piece of the manifesto in a moment. But this sort of sense of entitlement, that like if I as a man grace you with my attention, you better respond the way I want you to respond. I know you're not like that.

[laughter]

WILLIAMS: As the only dude at the table – I've never felt like such a massive minority. It’s truly humbling in real life. Look, you know, old bigots and old racists produce new bigots and new racists. Let's just call it what it is. Old misogynists create new misogynists. When daddy does it, it’s okay, that means it’s okay for you to do it. And let's just call that what it is. We are in a much better place today than we were 20 years ago, 40 years ago, 60 years ago in the madmen generation. We're not there, we're not even close. That kid is proof positive why we're not close. He thought it was – somebody said to him it's okay to think this way. I don't know if it was his father or his mother, his classmates. I have no idea. Nor does it matter because he's now dead. But somebody's got to wake up and realize that in our churches and in our schools and in our homes and in our businesses, it's not okay to treat women like chattel. Because they're not.

***
4:23


FINNEY: Well, and you know, Erica, to that point, Michael Kimmel in Huffington Post wrote the following – he’s a gender studies professor. “Righteous retaliation is a deeply held, almost sacred tenet of masculinity. If you are aggrieved, you are entitled to retribution. American men don’t just get mad, we get even.”

ERIKA SOTO LAMB, Everytown For Gun Safety: That’s right, and this is a distinctly American problem. We may have come a long way, but we have a long way to go. American women are 11 times more likely to be killed with a gun than any other women in any other developed country. And, you know, it’s important that we know that the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the likelihood that that woman will be murdered by five times. 500 percent. So, you know, it is –

FINNEY: There is something about this combination of the masculinity and guns, and violence.

WILLIAMS: Can I just push back on that just a little, not to say –  I don't think you're wrong, but I think this is an epidemic across the world. Look at the way Muslim men treat Muslim women. Okay? And not just in Muslim countries. Here. Look at the way the hassadin here treat women. We need to have a conversation – and this is all in the name of God, by the way.

FINNEY: But I think we need to start with the most obvious, which is we shouldn't look at these things as isolated events, and as Tara points out, there are a number of factors that are similar that we can take a look at and say, what are we doing to reinforce those messages?

Paul Bremmer
Paul Bremmer is a Media Research Center News Analysis Division intern.