NYT: Can you believe Fox was talking about this fertilizer explosion instead of guns today?
posted at 8:41 pm on April 18, 2013 by Mary Katharine Ham
Look, I’m happy to talk about the different approaches Fox and MSNBC took to the gun debate. Frankly, I think it reflects quite well on Fox, as New York Times media reporter Brian Stelter’s complaint against Fox illustrates.
Fox is usually accused by other media sources of cheerleading for a conservative cause, but in this case, Stelter points out Fox didn’t cover the gun debate as much, or as emotionally, as MSNBC did. As a Fox News Contributor, I’ve talked about guns probably four times in the last several months, at least once (maybe twice) on the network’s highest rated show— “The O’Reilly Factor”—on which I was up against two people far more friendly to gun-control legislation than I am, by the way. I appear on the network only several times a week, not every day, so that feels like a fair amount of gun talk to me. But let’s use Stelter’s own example of the disparity, from this morning, in which he seems to bemoan that “Fox & Friends” didn’t properly bemoan the failure of the background check bill in the Senate during this morning’s broadcast:
Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, the co-hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” have openly campaigned for legislative reforms after the mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., in December, which left 20 children dead.
On Thursday, Mr. Scarborough, a registered Republican who promotes his conservative credentials as well as his independent streak, assailed the lawmakers who voted against the background check legislation. Citing the failed Senate vote as evidence, Mr. Scarborough said, “This party is moving toward extinction.”
That would come as news to Fox fans, who have heard comparatively little about the subject. While most of “Joe” was dedicated to guns on Thursday, Fox’s morning show, “Fox & Friends,” didn’t mention the word once. It focused instead on news about a Texas fertilizer plant explosion.
So, one morning show was home to two unabashed, unofficial lobbyists for gun control, and they spent the entire morning lecturing those who had not voted for their favored legislation, with furrowed brows, calling one party “extinct” despite the glaringly obvious political fact that most of 2014’s competitive Senate elections take place in pro-gun territories. The other morning show “focused instead on news about a Texas fertilizer plant explosion.”
Which explosion was that? The massive fertilizer plant explosion that rocked an entire region, with casualties feared in the high double digits and injuries to over 150? The explosion that happened just hours before the broadcast and featured dramatic live and viral video from the scene? The one that sent shock waves 45 miles across the state of Texas and a chill down the backs of citizens too often besieged by fiery, unexpected tragedies this week? The one that was an ongoing threat to surrounding areas because of the highly flammable nature of fertilizer, had not been definitively deemed an accident, and had ATF agents heading down to its location just north of Waco, Texas? That explosion? Because I’m pretty comfortable with that editorial decision.
The “Morning Joe” crew, on the other hand, may want to think about whether several hours of moralizing on a bill that was sunk by a bipartisan group of pro-gun senators, received far fewer votes than a pro-gun amendment offered the same day, and was going to fail in the House anyway was more important than covering a breaking news story about the violent deaths of more than a dozen Americans in West, Texas.
Among Fox’s other sins, not giving enough coverage to Wayne LaPierre, or something, leaving me quite unclear on exactly what posture the network should take, in the eyes of the writer. And, it cut away early from President Obama’s Rose Garden speech, which I must say I would have stayed with. That there was good TV.
Another media reporter, Politico‘s Dylan Byers, has a better bead on what’s actually going on here in “Gun debate triggers media bias.”
If you thought President Obama was outraged after the Senate killed the plan to expand background checks on guns, you should have seen some members of the press.
Even by the standards of today’s partisan media environment, the response has been noteworthy. Television hosts, editorial boards, and even some reporters have aggressively criticized and shamed the 46 Senators who opposed the plan, while some have even taken to actively soliciting the public to contact them directly.
The decision by some members of the media to come down so firmly on one side of a policy debate has only served to reinforce conservatives’ longstanding suspicions that the mainstream media has a deep-seated liberal bias…
Nonetheless, leading media figures and outlets still tried to shame the Senate. CNN’s Piers Morgan, a longstanding gun control advocate, called the Senate “a pathetic, gutless bunch of cowards.” MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough said the American people had been “insulted,” and called it “a turning point in the history of the Republican Party.” The New York Times published a scathing editorial from Gabrielle Giffords, who accused the Senate of being “in the gun lobby’s grip,” and the Huffington Post splashed the images of shooting victims across the top of its homepage below the headline: “No Justice.”
Others went beyond criticism and embraced advocacy. The New York Daily News, which had published a crusading series of covers criticizing politicians for their opposition to gun control, ran photographs of the 46 Senators who had opposed allowing a vote on the background check measure alongside a phone number, urging readers to call and complain. HuffPo’s Ryan Grim similarly published those Senators’ Twitter handles urging readers to “let them know how you feel.” MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski took to Twitter herself and wrote 46 separate tweets publicly shaming those Senators.