Following gun background check legislation being voted down in the Senate on Wednesday, anchor Brian Williams led off NBC Nightly News that evening by proclaiming: "There are cries of 'shame' from victims of gun violence watching from the Senate gallery and the President reacts with anger." Williams later touted how Obama "called it 'a pretty shameful day for Washington'" when ranting about the loss from the Rose Garden that afternoon. [Listen to the audio]
In the report that followed, correspondent Kelly O'Donnell portrayed opponents of gun restrictions as unsympathetic to shooting victims: "...many of those Newtown families watched senators they had personally met with vote down expanded background checks....Patricia Maisch, [a] Tucson shooting survivor who shouted at senators, 'Shame on you!'" A sound bite was included of Maisch condemning senators who voted against the bill: "They have no souls. They have no compassion."
Noting at the end of the segment that "conservative opposition was
strong" against the bill, O'Donnell included three brief sound bites of
Republican senators who voted no, Chuck Grassley, Lindsey Graham, and
Richard Shelby. Of the three clips, only Grassley's provided perspective
on the Connecticut school shooting: "Expanded background checks would
not have prevented Newtown."
At the top of Thursday's Today, co-host Matt Lauer announced: "...there's fallout over the defeat of new gun laws in the U.S. Senate. A visibly angry President Obama declaring it shameful." In another report by O'Donnell, the Capitol Hill correspondent forwarded gun control talking points: "Gaby Giffords says many senators chose powerful gun groups over their constituents....Furious, President Obama said the bill did not harm gun rights."
The headline on-screen during the morning show coverage blared: "Obama's Outrage; President Calls Senate Background Check Failure 'Shameful.'"
During a later segment, chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd told Lauer and fellow co-host Savannah Guthrie: "[Obama] was genuinely angry. And I think the anger has to do with the fact that it was just he didn't see – he didn't think that they would reject this....all he wanted was a vote. Well, he got it, but they just didn't think they were going to lose yesterday."
Lauer described how the President "called out the Senate, he called out the NRA, and then called on the American people to express their displeasure with their votes." Todd observed: "he called them [the NRA] liars....I mean, there was some really angry – he called them liars."
Todd repeated that accusation against the gun rights group without bothering to determine whether or not it was accurate.
Guthrie concluded the discussion by pushing Obama's plea for support: "He also, I would say, called out the American people and said, 'You have to sustain some passion on this if you want to see change.'"
Here is a full transcript of O'Donnell's April 17 Nightly News report:
7:00PM ET TEASE:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Defeated. The post-Newtown gun control legislation goes down in the Senate. There are cries of "shame" from victims of gun violence watching from the Senate gallery and the President reacts with anger.
7:09PM ET SEGMENT:
WILLIAMS: And while all of this was going on today, a short time ago at the White House, surrounded by victims of gun violence, including Newtown families, President Obama showed a rare flash of anger because the gun control legislation that was supposed to tighten background checks was defeated today in the U.S. Senate. The President called it "a pretty shameful day for Washington." NBC's Kelly O'Donnell with us from Capitol Hill tonight. Kelly, good evening.
KELLY O'DONNELL: Good evening, Brian. The mood inside the Senate chamber, which was packed, was intense with emotion as gun victims and survivors and many of those Newtown families watched senators they had personally met with vote down expanded background checks. Tonight, the President gave the rose garden microphone over to a Newtown dad, Mark Barden.
MARK BARDEN: We'll return home now, disappointed but not defeated.
O'DONNELL: The President clearly angry...
BARACK OBAMA: The gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the bill.
O'DONNELL: ...lashed out at Congress.
OBAMA: This was a pretty shameful day for Washington. But this effort is not over. I want to make it clear to the American people. We can still bring about meaningful changes that reduce gun violence so long as the American people don't give up on it.
O'DONNELL: From the steps of Air Force One last week to the U.S. Capitol again today, Newtown families who know the pain of gun violence had been unwilling to give up.
BARDEN: Our hearts are broken. Our spirit is not.
O'DONNELL: Gabby Giffords, who has personally lobbied senators, called the failure to pass expanded background checks unthinkable. But today, being heard or consoled was not enough for Patricia Maisch, Tucson shooting survivor who shouted at senators, "Shame on you!"
PATRICIA MAISCH: Shame on you!
JOE BIDEN: There will be order in the Senate.
MAISCH: They have no souls. They have no compassion.
O'DONNELL: Some Newtown families had held more private meetings, no media coverage. Republican senator Mark Kirk's staff took these pictures. The latest NBC/Marist poll showed nearly 9 out of 10 surveyed want tighter restrictions on gun sales. Four Republicans voted yes to extend background checks to commercial sales at gun shows and the internet.
CHUCK GRASSLEY [SEN. R-IA]: Expanded background checks would not have prevented Newtown.
O'DONNELL: Conservative opposition was strong.
RICHARD SHELBY [SEN. R-AL]: This is the first step in the erosion of our rights under the Second Amendment.
LINDSEY GRAHAM [SEN. R-SC]: We're trying to take it to the violent criminal. Rather than taking it to the innocent Second Amendment law-abiding citizen.
O'DONNELL: Usually a vice president arrives to preside over a winning vote. But Biden was here to witness its defeat.
BIDEN: The amendment is not agreed to.
O’DONNELL: Four Democrats from red states with high gun ownership also voted no. And talking to those Democrats who voted no, they say they had intense pressure from their home state constituents who did not want to see expanded background checks. Also tonight, senators voted down an assault weapons ban and limits on high-capacity ammunition. It is possible that Democrats will simply shelve this legislation in order to try again some day down the line. Brian.
WILLIAMS: Again, the President calling this just round one. Kelly O'Donnell on the Hill tonight after an eventful day there. Kelly, thanks.