“Hardball” host Chris Matthews and his daytime colleagues at MSNBC, for example, have their used air time to marvel at what would possess an average American citizen to go to a rally near where President Obama is speaking with a gun.
But the media reaction was markedly different nine years ago when a group of Black Panthers marched on the Texas Republican Party’s state convention on June 2000 brandishing AK-47s. Indeed, that incident itself was chalked up as then-Gov. Bush’s fault by none other than then-MSNBC "Equal Time" co-host Paul Begala.
A search of Nexis and the Media Research Center’s News Tracking System found no stories on that evening’s broadcast network newscasts about the Black Panthers brandishing “assault weapons” to protest then-presumptive GOP presidential nominee – and Secret Service protectee – Gov. George W. Bush’s refusal to intervene in the pending execution of convicted murderer Gary Graham.
The June 16, 2000 “Fox Report” noted the incident, featuring an on-scene report from reporter Mike Rosen of Fox News Austin, Texas, affiliate KTBC.
Three days later, the June 19, 2000 “Nightline” was devoted to the Black Panther protests of Graham’s innocence, a review of the Nexis transcript shows at no point did reporter Mike Von Fremd mention the Panthers brandishing weapons at the June 16 protest in Houston.
Another curiosity from my Nexis search, is how rabid left-wing pundit Paul Begala on the June 16 “Equal Time” on MSNBC blamed the legality of the Black Panther demonstration on protest target Gov. George W. Bush, all while forecasting that Bush’s conservative stances on the Second Amendment and the death penalty would hurt him and benefit Al Gore:
PAUL BEGALA, co-host: David Axelrod, I think, of course, as a Democrat, I think that you're right. And one of the things that's going to move things in Gore's favor is our next topic, which is the gun laws in Texas. I'm from Texas, and I own a gun. It turns out, Farai Chideya, that George W. Bush signed a law in Texas that allows Texans to carry guns in church. And today, we saw at the Texas Republican Convention members of a group called the New Black Panther Party carrying guns on the streets of Houston, protesting the Republican Convention.
And you know what? It's perfectly legal. Welcome to George Bush's America, right, Farai?
FARAI CHIDEYA, editor, Popandpolitics.com: Oh, yes, absolutely. I mean, I think that a lot of things are going to come back to haunt George W. Bush. And you're right, most people have not plugged in yet. His gun laws, his -- the fact that he is in fact sort of a hanging judge or presiding over a state which has been at the forefront of the execution movement, and when you look at some of the statistics on how flawed America's death penalty is, he's going to be held to task for that.
And we also have to remember as we lead up to the convention that the fight over the Republican plank over abortion is still going to be messy. And no matter what, when people look towards the conventions, when people look at the fact that Supreme Court justices are going to be nominated, all of this is going to play into it.
But yes, the gun, the gun issue is huge. After the Million Mom March, huge.
BEGALA: And Roy Fletcher, as a Republican and as a Southerner, even you can't say it's a good idea that Bush signed a law to carry guns in church. Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition, Fletcher.
ROY FLETCHER, Republican strategist: I want -- I got -- I got to say this, Paul. I mean, to blame George Bush for the Black Panther Party running around in Houston, Texas, is like blaming me for making heroin. I mean, that's ridiculous. I mean, good God Almighty.