Networks Compared Obama's Gun Fight to Beating the Nazis, But Blandly Cover Senate Setback

Over the winter, the three networks eagerly compared Barack Obama's push for more gun control to "defeating the Nazis," hyping his "dramatic," "emotional" effort. Yet, when the President suffered a serious setback, Tuesday, ABC, CBS and NBC failed to portray it as a defeat for the Commander in Chief. Harry Reid announced on March 19 that Senate Democrats were dropping an effort to ban so-called assault weapons.

Tuesday's World News and Nightline and Wednesday's Good Morning America totally skipped the development. Yet, in the minutes following the State of the Union, George Stephanopoulos praised the President's "dramatic and emotional" plea for an assault weapons ban. On January 16, CBS's Bob Schieffer compared, "Surely, finding Osama bin Laden; surely, passing civil rights legislation...defeating the Nazis, was a much more formidable task than taking on the gun lobby." However, on Tuesday's Evening News, in the wake of the defeat in the Senate, the long-time journalist offered no similar hyperbolic lament.

He blandly explained that Reid "announced today that the gun control legislation Democrats will send to the floor next month will not include a ban on assault weapons."

Talking to Nancy Cordes, Schieffer mildly wondered, "...What exactly is left in this bill? And the assault weapons ban is basically dead?" He did not assign blame to Obama. Neither did a CBS This Morning segment on Wednesday.

On December 17, NBC hyped the President as dramatically throwing down the "political gauntlet" on gun control.

On Tuesday's Nightly News, Brian Wiliams allowed, "The prospects for an assault weapons ban in the post Newtown era took a big hit in the U.S. Senate today." But neither Williams nor the hosts of Today ascribed political failure to Obama for losing a key part of his gun control agenda.

A transcript of the March 19 CBS Evening News segment follows:


BOB SCHIEFFER: The Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid announced today that the gun control legislation Democrats will send to the floor next month will not include a ban on assault weapons. Reid felt the ban had little chance of passage and might have brought down the entire bill. Our congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes is on Capitol Hill. And Nancy, I guess this raises the question, what exactly is left in this bill?

NANCY CORDES: Well, Bob, it's actually unclear. The center piece of the bill was supposed to be an expansion of federal background checks to cover more gun buyers, but bipartisan talks over such a measure have hit some speed bumps recently. So we'll see if they can reach a compromise. It looks more likely that the bill would include stiffer penalties for gun trafficking and some more money to improve school safety.

SCHIEFFER: And the assault weapons ban is basically dead?

CORDES: Not entirely. Senator Feinstein can still offer it as an amendment to the bill, but she's going to run into the same problem. Every single Republican in the senate opposes it. And a handful of Democrats do too. So leader Reid said today he's be surprised if it gets 40 votes and it needs 60.

SCHIEFFER: Alright, well thank you, Nancy.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org