Charles Gibson warned on Wednesday's World News Tonight: "The national debate over gun control became even more vicious today. The head of the National Rifle Association accused President Clinton of having quote, 'blood on his hands.'" Gibson referred to NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, who declared on ABC on Sunday that President Clinton is "willing to accept a certain level of killing to further his political agenda."
As ABC's John Cochran explained, yesterday LaPierre used a specific example: in the death of former college basketball coach Ricky Byrdsong, the killer illegally tried to obtain a gun at a gun store, but was not prosecuted, part of a pattern of lax gun law prosecution.
Is it fair to blame Clinton? Should political players be blamed for crimes they did not commit? Probably not, but the same outlets insisting LaPierre has crossed a line of incivility have regularly crossed the line or held the door for line-crossers indicting conservatives.
Vicious Margaret. In the May 10, 1999 Time, columnist Margaret Carlson gave the mirror image of LaPierre's Sunday statement: "Republicans are betting that this too [Columbine] will pass, that as with Jonesboro and Paducah, Pearl and Springfield, once the white coffins are in the ground and the cameras gone, the outrage will subside. But maybe not this time. In town meetings and talk radio, the public has had its fill of politicians talking resignedly about our gun culture, as if there's nothing to be done about a subgroup that finds schoolyard massacres an acceptable cost for its right to be armed to the teeth."
Vicious Katie. On October 13, 1998, NBC's Katie Couric asked Elizabeth Birch of the gay-left Human Rights Campaign: "Do you believe this [Truth in Love] ad campaign launch by some conservative groups really contributed somehow to Matthew Shepard's death?" Birch quickly replied "I do, Katie...this ad campaign has been pumped out all summer presenting gay and lesbian people as defective, as less than, as not fully human."
Vicious Richard. When abortionist Barnett Slepian was killed on October 26, 1998, CBS reporter Richard Schlesinger pushed blame on the whole pro-life movement: "Abortion rights activists now believe some leaders of the mainstream anti-abortion movement are inciting supporters on the fringe to violence."
Vicious Jane. On the January 3, 1995 Dateline NBC, host Jane Pauley broke for a commercial: "Still ahead, the latest round of violence and bloodshed at abortion clinics. The anti-abortion movement has been creeping to the edge of bloody fanaticism for a decade."
Vicious Richard II. In the May 8, 1995 Time, Richard Lacayo found bombers on the radio: "In a nation that has entertained and appalled itself for years with hot talk on the radio and the campaign trail, the inflamed rhetoric of the '90s is suddenly an unindicted co-conspirator in the blast."
Vicious Michael. In the May 1, 1995 Time, then-Senior Political Correspondent Michael Kramer blamed the right: "If the perpetrators of the Oklahoma City bombing really view government as the people's enemy, the burden of fostering that delusion is borne not just by the nut cases who preach conspiracy but also to some extent by those who erode faith in our governance in the pursuit of their own ambitions."
Before national media stars huff and puff over the pitch of LaPierre's rhetoric, they ought to look in the mirror. - Tim Graham