In a report for Wednesday's NBC Nightly News, correspondent Andrea Mitchell smeared the National Rifle Association as a group benefitting from tragedy: "Even as America was shaken by the horror of Newtown, the NRA escalated its rhetoric, claiming to add more than 100,000 new members, and taking a no-compromise stand....the NRA is raising money, e-mailing supporters to upgrade their membership for what it calls, 'the fight of the century.'" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
In the middle of the segment, a brief exchange was shown between Mitchell and NRA president David Keene. Mitchell quoted a fundraising email from the gun rights organization warning of President Obama's pursuit of gun restrictions and wondered: "Are they trying to scare gun owners?" Keene replied: "We're not scaring them. We're not saying that your rights are at risk. The President of the United States is saying that."
Mitchell introduced a clip of MSNBC host Joe Scarborough by noting that he "had an 'A' rating from the NRA when he was in Congress." In the sound bite that followed, Scarborough ranted: "The more that the NRA speaks out after the slaughter of these 20 first graders, the worse they make it for their side."
Wrapping up the hit piece, Mitchell speculated on the NRA losing support: "So far, a majority of the House still has 'A' ratings for their votes from the gun lobby....The question now is whether that will change after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary."
At the start of an interview with Keene on Thursday's NBC Today, co-host Savannah Guthrie immediately exploited one of the child victims of the school shooting: "I'm going to start with the quote from the mother of a 6-year-old who died in Newtown. She said, 'People who want to own firearms responsibly have nothing to fear from the President's proposals.' You represent those law-abiding gun owners. What do they have to fear?"
In an interview with Keene on January 11, fellow Today co-host Matt Lauer wondered if the power of the NRA had "eroded" since Newtown.
Here is a full transcript of Mitchell's January 16 report:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: As we heard, the National Rifle Association came out with a video attacking the White House gun proposals this morning. And they're taking heat tonight for using the President's daughters as part of their argument. That part of this story tonight from NBC's Andrea Mitchell.
ANDREA MITCHELL: They've long been the most feared lobbyists in Washington, spending millions to defeat gun laws and candidates they oppose.
CHARLTON HESTON: I want to say those fighting words. From my cold, dead hands!
[CHEERS & APPLAUSE]
MITCHELL: Even as America was shaken by the horror of Newtown, the NRA escalated its rhetoric, claiming to add more than 100,000 new members, and taking a no-compromise stand.
WAYNE LAPIERRE: The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.
MITCHELL: But did the NRA go too far with this new web video today, focusing on the President's school-age daughters?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN [NARRATOR, NRA AD]: Are the President's kids more important than yours? Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools, when his kids are protected by armed guards at their school?
MITCHELL: Children of presidents have been off-limits for decades.
DAVID KEENE: We know.
MITCHELL: There's been an understanding that we don't talk – particularly about the minor children of presidents.
DAVID KEENE [PRESIDENT, NRA]: But nobody was talking about his children.
MITCHELL: They were very explicitly-
KEENE: Nobody was naming his children, nobody was doing that.
MITCHELL: In the aftermath of Newtown, the NRA is raising money, e-mailing supporters to upgrade their membership for what it calls, "the fight of the century." The e-mail says, "Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and their gun ban allies in Congress only want to BLAME you, VILIFY you, BULLY you and STRIP you of your Second Amendment freedoms." Are they trying to scare gun owners?
KEENE: We're not scaring them. We're not saying that your rights are at risk. The President of the United States is saying that.
MITCHELL: Joe Scarborough of Morning Joe had an 'A' rating from the NRA when he was in Congress.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: The more that the NRA speaks out after the slaughter of these 20 first graders, the worse they make it for their side.
MITCHELL: So far, a majority of the House still has 'A' ratings for their votes from the gun lobby.
STUART ROTHENBERG [POLITICAL ANALYST]: It has clout because it has members in every state and almost every congressional district and because it's built up a reputation of effectiveness.
MITCHELL: The question now is whether that will change after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary. Andrea Mitchell, NBC News, Washington.