ABC, NBC Promote Obama’s ‘Rallying Cry’ for Gun Control; ‘Showdown after the President Breaks Down’

Tuesday’s editions of ABC’s World News Tonight and NBC Nightly News aired nowhere near the exhaustive coverage of President Obama’s executive actions on gun control that the CBS Evening News did, but they were not short on fawning language for Obama’s “rallying cry...after years of anger and frustration” in what ABC hyped as “[t]he showdown after the President breaks down.”

World News Tonight anchor David Muir made the aforementioned pronouncement on the “showdown” and explained that Obama “beg[an] to cry with victims families standing beside him” as “the opposition” was “swift and sweeping.”

Touting it as “something we have not seen” before, Muir vaguely cited how “85 percent of Americans support more checks, but there is also that backlash tonight.”

Senior Justice correspondent Pierre Thomas similarly proclaimed that Obama was “making headlines for this controversial move, but his tears, as well” since “[h]e remembers” all of the “victims from countless shooting rampages.”

Over on NBC Nightly News, anchor Lester Holt teased the story this way: “Tonight, rallying cry. The President breaks into tears over gun violence. After years of anger and frustration, he says it is time to do something, but will his controversial executive actions do anything?”

Turning to the media’s often-used phrase of Obama “[g]oing it alone,” Holt lamented that “a tearful President Obama both tested and reluctantly accepted the limits of his executive power today as he went around Congress.”

Filing from the White House, senior White House correspondent Chris Jansing stated that the President was “unable to hold back tears, as he remembered 20 children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary” and cited the fact that “[i]n the three years since Newtown, he’s failed to get any sweeping new gun laws through Congress.”

“Today, the frustration and emotion surfaced, forced to propose far more modest executive action,” Jansing explained. 

All told, NBC aired the only soundbite refuting the President that was not a presidential candidate with this remark from David Kopel with the University of Denver’s Strum College of Law: “Despite all the hype in advance, there is no change at all in the law. The President simply restated what has been the law since 1967.”

Referring to the increase in gun sales during the Obama years, Jansing chalked it up to “fear of new restrictions” with them “gearing up for a fight.” Jansing later gave the most extensive soudbite to the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) reaction: 

The NRA issued a statement saying: “The American people do not need more emotional. condescending lectures” and argued the President's “proposals would not have prevented any of the horrific events he mentioned.” For President Obama, entering the final year of his presidency, that is an argument he rejects.

While ABC and NBC quoted the NRA’s statement (in contrast to a one-sentence summary from CBS), neither questioned whether the President took his executive actions merely to stir up support among liberals at the start of an election year. 

The relevant portions of the transcript from January 5's NBC Nightly News can be found below.

NBC Nightly News
January 5, 2016
7:00 p.m. Eastern [TEASE]

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE CAPTION: Rallying Cry]

LESTER HOLT: Tonight, rallying cry. The President breaks into tears over gun violence. After years of anger and frustration, he says it is time to do something, but will his controversial executive actions do anything? 

(....)

7:01 p.m. Eastern

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE CAPTION: Taking Aim]

HOLT: Going it alone and issuing his own orders meant to keep guns out of the wrong hands, a tearful President Obama both tested and reluctantly accepted the limits of his executive power today as he went around Congress. The steps he took were modest at best, but long on symbolism. The President, flanked by those most closely touched by gun violence, chided Congress for inaction and wept as he ticked off the mass shootings that brought him to this point. Senior White House correspondent Chris Jansing has more. 

CHRIS JANSING: President Obama today, unable to hold back tears, as he remembered 20 children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary. 

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:  Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad and by the way, it happens on the streets of Chicago every day. 

JANSING: In the three years since Newtown, he’s failed to get any sweeping new gun laws through Congress. Today, the frustration and emotion surfaced, forced to propose far more modest executive action. 

OBAMA: So the gun lobby may be holding Congress hostage but they cannot hold America hostage. 

JANSING: He was surrounded by victims and families, including Mark Barden, whose seven-year-old son, Daniel, was killed at Newtown. [TO BARDEN] Will it make any difference? 

MARK BARDEN: Absolutely, Chris. Even at the very least it is going towards raising awareness and that is at the heart of what has to happen. 

JANSING: The most talked about provision is aiming at gun sellers to get licenses and more buyers background checks, by clarifying what’s on the books already. 

UNIVERSITY OF DENVER STURM COLLEGE OF LAW’s DAVID KOPEL: Despite all the hype in advance, there is no change at all in the law. The President simply restated what has been the law since 1967. 

(....)

JANSING: The NRA issued a statement saying: “The American people do not need more emotional. condescending lectures” and argued the President's “proposals would not have prevented any of the horrific events he mentioned.” For President Obama, entering the final year of his presidency, that is an argument he rejects.

Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck is the Managing Editor of NewsBusters for the Media Research Center