MediaWatch: June 15, 1998
Table of Contents:
Please Push NRA to the Left, Mr. Heston
Network Appetite for School Shootings Leads to "PR Crisis"
In the aftermath of recent school shootings the media assumed the National Rifle Association faced a public relations nightmare, as if they were responsible for the actions of psychotic children. In their coverage of the NRA's annual convention in Philadelphia, network reporters fixed their crosshairs squarely on Charlton Heston.
On the June 5 CBS Evening News Dan Rather marveled at the possibility Heston might be picked to lead the NRA, offering this loaded intro: "Members of the gun lobby, taking heavy fire for a spate of shooting sprees by children with guns, are set to meet and vote in their next President and this time it appears the far and away favorite is a high caliber name out of Hollywood."
Reporter Jim Stewart charged Heston's ascendency "comes at a time when the actor's own politics is under fire. Last December, Heston stunned some of his old friends with a speech filled with bitterness for some minorities." In fact an anti-Heston Web page set up by the anti-NRA liberals at the Violence Policy Center had highlighted the quote, not "old friends."
On the morning shows reporters emptied their rounds of liberal questions on Heston. On the June 8 Good Morning America, ABC's Lisa McRee put Heston on the defensive: "But how much of a public relations crisis have the shootings in schools across this country caused for you this year?"
Mark McEwen blasted Heston with both barrels on CBS This Morning: "A new Harris poll shows almost 60 percent of Americans favor stricter gun control laws. In the wake of recent shootings, of children shooting children in Jonesboro, Arkansas, Pearl, Mississippi, and other places, what kind of policy will [you] be looking to be pushing forward as President of the NRA?" McEwen then distorted the NRA's position, "A lot of parents are concerned about the facts that people who aren't adults, let's say they're under 21, can get guns easily. What about trigger locks, what about gun locks? The NRA is against both of those." In actuality the NRA opposes mandated use of trigger locks.
Heston's refusal to adopt the media's platform disappointed reporters. Reciting how the NRA believes "that what the country really needs to reduce crime is not tougher gun laws, but tougher enforcement of criminal laws," on the June 8 World News Tonight ABC's Antonio Mora sighed, "Which sounds as if the NRA under Heston will offer the same message it's always offered."