Brian Williams Shocked and Appalled That GOP Debate Audience Supports Death Penalty

In next year's presidential election, the toughest opponent the eventual Republican nominee will face will be the liberal press. As a political neophyte who had not even completed a single term in the U.S. Senate prior to his election, Barack Obama was and is a creature of the media. Without the iron-clad grip that liberals hold on public discourse at the national level, there's simply no way that he ever would have been elected in 2008. His numerous subsequent failures have made it all the more necessary that liberal journalists come forward to obfuscate his failures and shift attention to attacks on Republicans. Fear and loathing is the new hope-a-dope.

There's a growing sense of this reality on the right which is why the focus in the primary season has increasingly turned to the self-proclaimed objective press, particularly during last night's debate hosted by NBC News and the Politico.

I blogged earlier about Newt Gingrich's attack on co-moderator John F. Harris but another moment of note last night was when Harris's colleague, NBC anchor Brian Williams, haughtily attacked the audience after it sarcastically cheered against his question to Texas governor Rick Perry about capital punishment.

"What do you make of that dynamic that just happened here, the mention of the execution of 234 people drew applause?" he asked. Perry responded easily to the question and got another round of applause, surely to the continued befuddlement of Williams.

As someone who makes his living by trying to appeal, at least in some fashion, to the emotions of crowds, Williams's inability to understand the audience's spontaneous outbreak of applause response to his declaration that Texas "has executed 234 death row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times" is a classic case of a liberal elitist being unable to compute that his smugly held opinions are not shared by others. It was the media analog of 1988 Democratic presidential nominee's Michael Dukakis's anodyne response when asked in a debate about whether he would want a hypothetical murderer of his wife executed.

But perhaps I'm selling Williams's perspicacity short. One suspects he would likely have understood a similar audience reaction were it to applaud enthusiastically a Democratic candidate's firm support for abortion legalization. Such a response could equally be perceived as grisly but it seems unlikely that Williams would entertain such a thought.

Far from being the celebration of death and killing that the contemptuous Williams implied it was, the audience’s reaction was more of spontaneous protest vote against the holier-than-thou anti-execution crowd which has for decades tried to shove its minority viewpoint onto the vast majority of Americans who disagree. The fact that many of the same crowd doing this shoving also is fond of insisting that conservatives should refrain from “legislating morality” on other issues such as abortion or gay rights makes the audience response all the more understandable.

Despite their best attempts, death penalty opponents have been unable to eradicate capital punishment. This perpetual failure has enraged them as one can see in the vituperative responses to Perry and the audience collected by the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto who notes that “whatever one thinks of the death penalty or the audience's behavior last night, the harshness, self-righteousness and simple-mindedness of these responses belie the left's self-image as intellectually sophisticated and tolerant of other viewpoints.”

Last night, Brian Williams provided a technicolor version of that contempt.

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013