CyberAlert -- 05/15/2000 -- Moms Vs. "Powerful" NRA
Moms Vs. "Powerful" NRA; Why Not Total Gun Ban? SUVs the "Meanest"
1) ABC's Cokie Roberts adopted the marcher's spin, announcing their "call for sensible gun legislation." Rosie O'Donnell's reasoning: "I will always support the Democrats and I love the Democratic agenda about gun control. This is not about politics."
2) Sunday morning NBC's Soledad O'Brien repeatedly bemoaned how it's "a bunch of mothers" up against the "very powerful and well-funded" NRA. She insisted "the Million Mom Marcher's platform is admittedly moderate," asking: "Do you think it's too moderate?"
3) Friday night ABC offered a balanced presentation on how women feel about gun control, CBS delivered outright liberal-cause advocacy and NBC landed somewhere in between in focusing mainly on "three generations" of women attending the Million Mom March.
4) "GMA at the White House: Moms & Guns," offered minimal opposition to the pro-gun control line. Of questions posed or statements made by moms, 20 offered a pro-gun control point versus just 8 with an anti-gun control point.
5) Bryant Gumbel lamented: "Why are you only focusing on licensing and registration?...Why aren't you going for example for a total ban?" Congress won't do anything about guns, though "we all hope for the best."
7) "In a rare moment of corporate candor," CBS's Bob Orr trumpeted Friday night, Ford "admitted...SUVs are gas-guzzling polluters and a threat to people in smaller cars." Orr dubbed SUVs Ford's "meanest" vehicles. ABC, CNN and NBC also jumped on the news.
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The Sunday morning interview shows on ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox and NBC all balanced Million Mom March (MMM) advocates with gun rights defenders, though ABC's Cokie Roberts adopted the spin of the pro-gun control marchers when she introduced MMM emcee Rosie O'Donnell who soon betrayed the very political agenda shielded by the image of stroller-pushing moms.
ABC's This Week put Cokie Roberts on the Mall for its lead interview with O'Donnell. Roberts set up the segment: "Here on the Mall thousands of women are expected later this morning to protest gun violence and call for sensible gun legislation."
Of course, "sensible gun legislation" is not an objective summary but the exact phrase used by MMM organizers.
O'Donnell about the political agenda behind the march: "You know
there's been a good deal of criticism that this is really a Clinton
White House Democratic Party organized event. Are you basically supporting
the Democrats on this?"
Roberts soon exposed any
pretense that the march did not have a political agenda. Referring to
former Democratic Senate staffer and march organizer Donna Dees-Thomases,
Roberts inquired: "Ms. Thomases also said that once the march is over
the gloves come off politically. Is that's what's happening here, that
this is organizing a political event?"
A few hours later while on stage during the rally, O'Donnell shouted: "The NRA is buying votes with blood money!"
Good to see we're all working to bring people together for the benefit of the children.
Sunday morning on Today and MSNBC Soledad O'Brien repeatedly bemoaned how it's "a bunch of mothers" up against the "very powerful and well-funded" NRA. During MSNBC's two hours of live Million Mom March (MMM) coverage from 10am to 12pm ET she also wondered if their agenda was "too moderate"?
O'Brien co-hosted Today live from the White House and the show opened with an interview with Hillary Clinton. O'Brien's first question: "When we talk about this issue, on one side you have the NRA, which is obviously a very powerful and well-funded group, on the other side essentially you're talking about a bunch of mothers. Realistically speaking, can they ever be able to yield the same power as a powerful lobby?"
She did later at least ask Hillary about the claim by the Second Amendment Sisters that guns are needed by parents to protect kids, and David Bloom talked with Armed Informed Mothers march organizer Kim Watson, but MMM proponents got a lot more time. Today ran two taped pieces profiling MMM attendees and O'Brien conducted an interview with an MMM organizer from Michigan.
C-SPAN broadcast the entirety of the MMM and counter gun rights rally. Neither CNN or FNC offered any extended coverage of the MMM, but MSNBC went live with interviews about it from 10am to noon ET before returning to the usual Sunday schedule of repeats of re-runs, including approximately the 175th repeat of the Time & Again about roller coasters.
While MSNBC did mix in a little bit about the views of those attending the Armed Informed Mothers rally, the two hours mostly promoted the MMM cause, a point illustrated by looking at how O'Brien approached two guests: One a celebrity and the other a politician.
Here are all three of
the questions she posed at 10:14am to singer Melissa Manchester:
Three minutes later
Maryland Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, a Democrat, sat
down next to O'Brien. Her first question:
She later queried: "The Million Mom Marcher's platform is admittedly moderate. Do you think it's too moderate, that it doesn't go far enough? They will be the first to say we don't want to come into your home and remove your guns, we want sensible gun laws."
As for how much "power" the moms in strollers have up against the big, bad NRA, at the end of the rally Rosie O'Donnell listed some of the corporate sponsors of the event: Dannon Yogurt, FileMaker Pro software, IVillage.com, Monster.com, Oprah Winfrey's Oxygen Media, Pax TV and Virgin Atlantic Airways. They aren't hurting for financial support, but how do you add up the value of glowing media coverage, something the NRA could never get?
Friday night the three broadcast networks took different approaches to the Million Mom March -- from balance on ABC to outright liberal-cause advocacy on CBS, with NBC somewhere in between.
For ABC's World News Tonight, Michelle Norris traveled to Carroll County, Maryland to pass along the views of two women: one planning to participate in the Million Mom March and one planning to attend the Second Amendment Sisters rally.
CBS didn't bother with such balance. As Dan Rather introduced a May 12 CBS Evening News story: "Women and their families will push for gun safety in what they call the Million Mom March. CBS's Thalia Assuras tells us how personal, preventable tragedy drove one mother into joining up."
Assuras profiled a New
York City family which lost an 11-year-old when a "next-door neighbor
and friend pulled the trigger of an illegal handgun found in the
house." Assuras elaborated: The incident compelled Cathy Murphy to
take action, and brought her out of her back yard to the front lines of
gun control advocacy. She helped push through New York City's
Christopher's Law; buy a gun, buy a safety lock at the same time. And this
weekend, she'll be marching in the Million Mom March."
Next, Rather asked Bob
Schieffer to explain why the NRA wins too often: "However many
mothers and families march for gun control on Sunday, few expect the sheer
weight of their numbers to change many minds, or votes, in the Congress.
Let's get the real deal on why now from CBS News chief Washington
correspondent Bob Schieffer."
Gee, you'd think a real reporter would tell viewers what Hatch has done to upset gun rights supporters instead of passing along banal generalities.
(Saturday's CBS Evening News featured an admiring look at three women from Dunblane, Scotland, who successfully lobbied for a ban on handguns in Britain after a school shooting there.)
Friday's NBC Nightly News dedicated the In Depth segment to "three generations" in a family attending the Million Mom March. Tom Brokaw set up the story: "The Million Mom March on Mother's Day, a national protest against gun violence. This grassroots movement has been spurred on by a rash of shootings involving children. The most recent figures show that in one year more than 32,000 people were killed by guns, more than 4,000 of them children. But will any of this make any difference?"
Lisa Myers started her
piece: "Three generations, one family. Today Tanya Days, her mother
and daughter prepare for their first march ever on Sunday. They'll wear
this tribute [button with picture] to Tanya's brother, BJ, accidentally
killed at age 15 by another teenager with a handgun....The three women
among a 150,000 demonstrators expected here, thousands more at at least 60
rallies across the country. Many are political newcomers, propelled by
personal tragedy, fear or frustration. They cite a sobering statistic, 12
children a day killed by gun violence. Their solution? Mandatory gun
safety locks, registration of handguns, licensing of gun owners. Donna
Dees-Thomases, a mom and television publicist, dreams up the march after
this scene at a Jewish day care center hit too close to home."
For a reality check on
Thomases's real background as a Democratic Senate staffer and Hillary
campaign donor, go to:
As for NBC's
insistence, along with the other networks, of repeating the 12
"children" per day and 4,000 a year killed by guns numbers, as
noted in the April 17 CyberAlert the NRA discredited a similar numerical
claim: "To reach the fraudulent '13 children' figure (alternately
and even more dishonestly expressed by some 'gun control' advocates as
'5,000 per year' or 'one every 90 seconds'), the President and
those with the same agenda count anyone under the age of 20 as a
'child.' The reason is simple: There are relatively few
firearm-related deaths among children, but a much greater number among
juveniles and young adults ages 15-19. Add both age groups together, call
that total 'children,' and the number of deaths among 'children'
is dishonestly increased 569%...."
Back to the Myers story, she at least broached the political issue: "The march also under fire because what began as a non-partisan grassroots movement is now closely associated with the Clinton White House. The President appears with marchers today and goads Republicans in Congress who oppose many gun measures."
After noting how George
Bush announced a safety lock giveaway program and that "the National
Rifle Association challenges the moms to match the NRA's pledge of $ 1
million to teach gun safety in schools," Myers gave a few seconds to
a woman not enamored by the Million Mom March: "Gun owner Sherry
LeGate (sp?) will participate in a counter march on Sunday. The message?
Gun safety, yes. Gun control, no."
ABC's Good Morning America delivered the Million Mom March organizers and President Clinton an early Mother's Day gift on Friday with two hours live from the White House. "GMA at the White House: Moms & Guns," offered minimal opposition to the pro-gun control party line. Of 28 questions posed or statements made by the mothers, and one kid, to President Clinton and amongst themselves after Clinton left, by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson's count, 20 made a pro-gun control point versus just 8 with an anti-gun control point, for a ratio greater than 2-to-1.
The May 12 show opened
with co-host Charles Gibson interviewing President Clinton in the Oval
Office. His first question: "It was a year ago, Mr. President, that
we were here with you with the students talking about gun violence, and
you talked to me then about the hopes that you had for new gun control
legislation. It hasn't happened. What went wrong?"
Gibson did challenge Clinton directly at one point: "Don't you, to some extent, make the NRA's case when you say that, though? You know, they say enforce existing laws. We're not doing enough of enforcing existing laws, and yet you've got murder down 25 percent since '93, gun crime down 35 percent since '92, violent crime overall down 27 percent. That's done with a good economy, better policing, and not necessarily such stronger gun controls laws."
At about 7:15am the show
moved to the Roosevelt Room where Clinton heard ten pro-gun control versus
four anti-gun control comments, including a heated exchange with the
NRA's Susan Howard. The segment began with a demand from Linda Halpin,
who didn't seem to appreciate how politics works and illustrated how
many of the moms put emotion ahead of rational policy discussion:
The Early Show on Friday didn't bother with any views contrary to the Million Mom March line. Co-host Bryant Gumbel, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brian Boyd, asserted: "In Washington, DC this Sunday thousands of women are expected to converge on Washington for what's being called the Million Mom March and to call for sensible gun control. Just around nine months ago it was the story of an attack on children in LA in August of '99 that spurred Donna Dees-Thomases into action. The shooting of two adults and three children at a Jewish community center shook her enough to try to do something."
Up first from the Mall, Gumbel talked via satellite to Gail Powers, whose son, Nathan, "witnessed that shooting at the LA community center." He tossed a series of softballs to the march's California coordinator: "I'm told you were never an activist before, what spurred you to action this time?" And: "Those who will be marching on Sunday, who are they? I mean besides being mothers, what do they have in common, what's the unifying theme here?"
After Powers explained how they want licensing and registration, Gumbel scolded her: "Why are you only focusing on licensing and registration, why aren't you going for more than that, why aren't you going, for example, for a total ban?"
Next, Gumbel interviewed a woman whose daughter was killed in the Dunblane, Scotland shooting. He wanted to know: "Following the tragedy in your country, you were able to get a total ban on all handguns. How'd you do it?"
Going back to Powers, Gumbel announced his "hope" for what will happen: "Ms. Powers, this Congress has so far seemed somewhat unwilling to do anything about guns. Realistically, realistically, I mean we all hope for the best, but realistically, do you think Sunday's march is going to make a difference?"
Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush moved left Friday hen he announced that as Governor of Texas he would push to provide state-paid gun locks for "free" to anyone in Texas who wants one. In one decision he moved away from conservatism in two ways -- adopting a gun control group's assumptions about trigger locks while simultaneously creating another government giveaway program for an item people can easily buy for themselves, but instead of hitting Bush from the right on guns, Friday morning Today's Katie Couric still pressed him from the left.
After asking about how
the giveaway program would work and how it would be paid for, Couric
challenged Bush's gun record: "The goal of this march, meanwhile,
is to focus the public's attention on what's being called common sense gun
control measures. You signed an amendment in 1997 which allowed licensed
gun owners to carry concealed handguns into churches and even amusement
parks unless posted otherwise. Isn't this exactly the kind of thing that
these moms are marching against?"
All the networks Friday night enthusiastically jumped on the Ford Motor Company statement that SUVs pose a danger to those in smaller cars and pollute too much. CBS's Bob Orr concluded by calling SUVs "its meanest but most popular vehicles." CBS followed up with a second story on the same subject on Saturday night. The Friday night stories on ABC, CBS and NBC all followed the same formula: Lay out what Ford said without challenge and feature a comment from Dan Becker of the Sierra Club. NBC's Robert Hager had two liberals argue over the motivation behind Ford's announcement.
-- ABC anchor Peter Jennings introduced the May 12 World News Tonight story: "The Ford Motor Company has made a surprising admission about the vehicles that make the company so much money. It says that sport utility vehicles cause serious safety problems and are environmentally unfriendly. In and of itself, the information is not a great revelation. It's that the company said so. And publicly."
Barry Serafin began his story: "As sports utility vehicles have soared in popularity, it has not been surprising to hear the government and environmentalists warn that they are gas guzzlers, that they pollute more than cars, and that they are dangerous. SUV's are three times as likely as cars to kill the other driver in a crash. And the death rate for occupants of an SUV is just as high as cars. But what was surprising was to hear the same concerns expressed by Ford, since sport utility vehicles account for most of its profits. The admissions came in a corporate report issued at the company's shareholders meeting. The report even quoted the Sierra Club declaring, 'the gas-guzzling SUV is a rolling monument to environmental destruction.'"
-- Setting up Bob Orr's CBS Evening News piece, Dan Rather announced: "The huge, and hugely popular, sport utility vehicle so common on US highways, the SUVs, are also popular targets for critics. They waste fuel, pollute the air; they're just too big. So say the critics. Now the Ford Motor Company, which makes tons of money selling SUVs, says it's all true."
Orr asserted: "In a rare moment of corporate candor, Ford Motor Company admitted what industry critics and consumers have long known: sport utility vehicles, SUVs, are gas-guzzling polluters and a threat to people in smaller cars." Orr soon relayed: "After Ford's concession, environmentalists now want action."
Orr concluded by urging Ford to take a particular course of action: "Safety improvements will also be a challenge. Cars are no match for larger, heavier sport utility vehicles. For the moment, Ford has scored a public relations coup, winning praise from some of its harshest critics, but now the automaker has to follow through on a vague promise to make its meanest but most popular vehicles nicer."
-- On the NBC Nightly News Tom Brokaw declared: "In Detroit, a surprise admission tonight from the Ford Motor Company about sports utility vehicles, SUVs. Every year fully one fifth of all passenger vehicles now sold in this country are SUVs. Ford is now conceding there are real problems with its most profitable product."
Reporter Robert Hager
offered two competing explanations for Ford's statement, both from
left-wing groups: "Why would Ford call attention to these problems?
Or the oil company BP Amoco admit, two years ago, its products pollute. Or
Shell commit to work for human rights abroad? A corporate group called
Business for Social Responsibility says it's enlightened company
It's a battle in the media for which product they consider most worthy of scorn: gun or SUVs. -- Brent Baker
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