At next week’s State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama is likely to continue his ongoing push for more gun control. It’s a push first spurred on by Obama’s gun control allies in the liberal media. In the wake of the horrific school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, the Big Three (ABC, CBS, NBC) networks quickly moved to exploit the tragedy to push for more gun control legislation while mostly ignoring solutions that respect gun owners’ Second Amendment rights.
MRC analysts reviewed all 216 gun policy stories on the Big Three networks’ evening (ABC’s World News, CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News) and morning show programs (ABC’s Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, NBC’s Today), beginning with the evening of the shooting through January 17, the morning after Obama made his speech surrounded by children who had sent him letters pushing for more gun control.
The results show staggering imbalance:
■ Stories advocating more gun control outnumbered stories opposing gun control by 99 to 12, or a ratio of 8 to 1.
■ Anti-gun soundbites were aired almost twice as frequently than pro-gun ones (228 to 134).
■ Gun control advocates appeared as guests on 26 occasions, compared to 7 times for gun rights advocates.
CBS was the most stridently anti-gun rights network. By a whopping 22 to 1 ratio, CBS aired more stories that favored gun control (44) to those that supported gun rights (2), with 37 neutral pieces. ABC aired almost six times as many stories that favored gun control (29) to those that favored gun rights, with 25 neutral stories. NBC pushed for more gun control in 26 of their stories to just 5 that tilted in favor of gun rights for a 5 to 1 ratio, with 43 neutral segments.
When compared to an earlier MRC study of the network’s gun coverage, released in 2000 after the Columbine school shootings, it’s clear the media’s bias against guns remains largely unchanged. Back then the Big Three networks aired more anti-gun stories to pro-gun stories by a 10 to 1 ratio.
Methodology. To assess the tilt of stories, analysts counted the number of pro- and anti-gun statements by reporters in each story. Pieces with a disparity of greater than 1.5 to 1 were categorized as either for or against gun control. Stories closer than the ratio were deemed neutral. Among statements recorded as anti-gun rights: violent crime occurs because of availability of guns, not criminals; and gun control prevents crime. Categorized as arguments for gun rights: gun control would not reduce crime; that criminals, not guns are the problem; examples of citizens advocating or exercising their 2nd Amendment right to self-defense. Using this story-angle method demonstrated that even in pieces where the talking head count is balanced, reporters’ statements can often end up tilting the angle of the entire story.
Reporters wasted no time in laying the groundwork for a gun control push, as on the very evening of the Newtown shooting NBC’s Tom Costello, in a December 14 NBC Nightly News report, hyped: “In Colorado, still haunted by the Aurora and Columbine massacres, the governor of that western pro-gun state also said, it’s time to begin a discussion about sensible gun control....Tonight, with dozens dead, including so many children, the debate over guns is back.”
On the December 14 CBS Evening News, anchor Scott Pelley questioned: “One wonders if the nature of this crime and the age of the victims might create the debate in Washington that could push legislation along?” His CBS colleague Bill Plante, on the December 17 This Morning pushed: “But today, the question, obviously, is posed very starkly: does this tragedy, with the deaths of 20 children, spur some action?” ABC’s Jake Tapper, on the December 20 Good Morning America called the Sandy Hook shooting “a tipping point for a national conversation about gun violence.”
A rare example of a network correspondent conveying a pro-gun angle came on the January 9 Good Morning America when ABC’s Steve Osunsami reported on a Georgia mother who protected her children from a burglar with a .38 caliber handgun, Osunsami relayed: “There are many people celebrating this story saying this is exactly how guns should be used.”
Evening Newscasts Slant 8-to-1 Against Gun Rights
Out of 92 evening news segments, anti-gun news stories outnumbered pro-gun stories by 46 to 6 (with 40 neutral stories), or an almost 8 to 1 ratio.
■ CBS’s Evening News was the most biased in favor of gun control, airing 19 anti-gun stories to only 1 pro-gun segment, with 20 neutral stories. Anti-gun talking heads (42) outnumbered pro-gun talking heads (21) by a 2 to 1 ratio, with 17 neutral soundbites.
■ ABC’s World News wasn’t much better, airing 15 anti-gun segments to just 2 pro-gun segments, with 8 neutral stories. Surprisingly, ABC’s World News did offer a fairer result when it came to soundbites as anti-talking heads (28) almost matched pro-talking heads (27) with 15 being neutral.
■ NBC’s Nightly News offered 12 anti-gun segments and delivered 3 pro-gun segments, with 12 neutral stories. On Nightly News, 51 talking heads supported gun control to just 29 opposed to more regulations, 20 soundbites were neutral.
Morning Shows Tilt 9-to-1 Against Gun Rights
Viewers of the network morning shows were subjected to an anti-gun agenda by an almost 9 to 1 ratio, with a total of 53 stories advancing gun control to just 6 gun rights pieces, 65 were neutral.
■ CBS This Morning ran 25 segments that overall pushed for more gun control, to just 1 pro-gun story, with 17 neutral pieces.
■ NBC’s Today show aired 14 segments in favor of restricting gun rights, to just two that favored them. Thirty-one were neutral.
■ ABC’s Good Morning America offered 14 anti-gun stories, to just 3 pro-gun stories, with 17 neutral segments.
Anti-Gun Spokesmen Outnumber Pro-Gun Spokesmen Nearly 2-to-1
When it came to spokesmen, viewers were far more likely to hear from gun control advocates like liberal New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg than gun rights supporters like NRA President David Keene. Anti-gun soundbites were aired almost twice as frequently than pro-gun ones (228 to 134), while 104 soundbites were neutral. Gun control advocates appeared as guests on 26 occasions, compared to 7 times for gun rights advocates. Four guests were neutral.
Even when pro-gun advocates like Keene were allowed on the air, they were hit hard from the left. On NBC’s January 11 Today show, Keene was peppered by host Matt Lauer with questions filled with the hope that the NRA would finally relent in its opposition to gun control. Lauer pressed: “People talk about the power of the NRA. They look at it almost, you know, in monumental terms. Do you think in the wake of these shootings that power has been eroded at all, Mr. Keene?”
When the anti-gun rights Democratic Chicago Mayor and former Obama administration chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel showed up on the December 18 edition of CBS This Morning he was bullied from the left by Charlie Rose and Norah O’Donnell.
After O’Donnell cited an account from Daniel Klaidman’s book “Kill or Capture,” that when Emanuel was chief-of-staff he “sent word” to the Justice Department that Attorney General Eric Holder “needed to shut up on guns,” she tore into Emanuel: “Were you worried about the political backlash of taking on and pushing for the assault weapons ban? Why didn’t Obama do that?” O’Donnell even waved a report card from an anti-gun group as she hectored: “The Brady Campaign, I mean, in the first year, gave Obama an ‘F’ - an ‘F’!”
O’Donnell then turned the blame on the NRA as she questioned: “Were you worried about the political backlash of taking on and pushing for the assault weapons ban? Why didn’t Obama do that?” A little later, CBS This Morning co-anchor Charlie Rose jumped into the act as he pressed Emanuel: “Is it now time to stand up to the NRA?”
Student: My Gun Carrying Teacher “Makes Me Feel Safer”
While most of the stories that took a position landed firmly in the anti-gun category, occasionally there was a story that stressed the importance of gun rights. One of those rare pro-gun stories arrived on the December 19 World News with Diane Sawyer. ABC correspondent Alex Perez reported on a Texas school district that allowed teachers with concealed handgun licenses to carry guns into the school. A student in the piece underlined the need to allow licensed private citizens to carry guns: “I like it, because it kind of makes me feel safer, because, I mean — we don’t have a police station here.”
In the story Perez also relayed just one of the many real world examples of private citizens heroically fending off an assailant intent on doing harm: “Gun advocates point to a case in 1997, when an armed vice principal at a high school in Pearl, Mississippi stopped a 16-year-old gunman who had already shot and killed two students.”
The harsh truth is those brave police officers who have sworn to protect us, including the most innocent like those children at Sandy Hook, can’t always be everywhere, all the time. And sometimes it’s up to private citizens to protect themselves and others by exercising their Second Amendment right, a fact that our Founding Fathers profoundly understood and sadly too many in the liberal media do not.