Don Lemon granted the heckler's veto to Igor Volsky of Think Progress on Tuesday's CNN Tonight. Volsky repeatedly interrupted conservative talk show host Ben Ferguson during a panel discussion segment about President Obama's executive orders on gun control, and unleashed on the pro-gun lobby: "They want to silence any reasonable discussion about what can you do when a guy walks into a school and kills twenty first graders. That's the reason why it's about the 'Second Amendment.'" The left-wing guest put up his fingers up as scare quotes as he mentioned the Second Amendment. [video below]
Lemon revealed his slant towards Volsky from the beginning of the segment. He noted that the Think Progress editor agreed with the President on the issue: "President Obama said the gun lobby may be holding Congress hostage right now, but they can't hold America hostage. You think that the gun lobby does hold Congress hostage — and you've been Tweeting about all day. So, what are some of your favorites here?" Volsky responded by targeting Senator Pat Roberts and Rep. Bob Goodlatte for receiving donations from the NRA.
The CNN anchor first asked Ferguson, "Do you think that the NRA or the gun lobby is holding Congress hostage?" It didn't take long for Volsky to interrupt the conservative guest as he tried to answer Lemon's question. On two occasions, when Ferguson tried to get complete a thought, Lemon stopped the conservative talk show host, so the left-wing activist could continue heckling.
The confrontation between the two guests came to a head when Ferguson criticized President Obama for using "these horrible instances to, somehow, give false hope to these families that what he enacted today would have, somehow, stopped these mass shootings." Volsky shot back by belittling his adversary in a wild diatribe: "If somebody said to you, we can't have this regulation because it won't stop all abuse, you would laugh them off the TV. The fact that Ben can come on television and argue that because it won't stop all gun violence, we should do nothing at all, is ridiculous, and you know it! And you should be, frankly, ashamed of yourself. Ashamed of yourself, if this is the argument you're putting forward."
It should be pointed out that just over a month earlier, on December 2, 2015, MSNBC's Chris Hayes gave the Think Progress pundit a platform to smear the NRA and conservatives/Republicans in the wake of the San Bernardino terrorist attack: "[I]t's shocking that when it comes to gun violence, time and time again, all we hear from these people is thoughts and prayers. And people keep on dying and dying and dying, and all they can say is, thoughts and prayers. Let's not talk about this now."
The transcript of the relevant portion of the Igor Volsky/Ben Ferguson segment from the January 5, 2016 edition of CNN Tonight:
DON LEMON: President Obama took on the NRA today; and, no surprise, they fired right back. Let's discuss now with Igor Volsky of Think Progress — he has been Tweeting about members of Congress and their relationships with the NRA. And Ben Ferguson is with us as well. He is a conservative radio talk show host. Gentlemen, thank you for joining us this evening here on CNN—
BEN FERGUSON: Good to be here—
[CNN Graphic: "#GunsInAmerica: President Obama Vs. NRA"]
LEMON: So Igor, today, President Obama said the gun lobby may be holding Congress hostage right now, but they can't hold America hostage. You think that the gun lobby does hold Congress hostage — and you've been Tweeting about all day. So, what are some of your — your favorites here?
IGOR VOLSKY, DIRECTOR OF VIDEO AND CONTRIBUTING EDITOR AT THINK PROGRESS: Well, you know, people like Pat Roberts, for instance — a powerful senator — received some $300,000 from the NRA; Bob Goodlatte, who's the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, received more than $60,000 from the NRA. These are very big numbers, and the reason why the NRA and other pro-gun groups levy such huge sums of money onto these politicians — so that when you have a situation where there's some kind of catastrophe, or some kind of new sensible gun regulations, these guys go on Twitter and issue statements that say, no, no, no! This is a gun grab. We can't have any kind of change, because it somehow infringes on the Second Amendment — even though the majority of Americans; the majority of gun owners, actually support these actions.
[CNN Graphic: "Obama: Gun Lobby Holding Congress Hostage"]
LEMON: So Ben, do you think that the NRA or the gun lobby is holding Congress hostage?
BEN FERGUSON, CONSERVATIVE RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: No. They're a lobbyist group, and they lobby for the Second Amendment (Volsky laughs) — the same way that Planned Parenthood lobbies Congress—
VOLSKY: Not for the Second Amendment! For guns; for guns!
FERGUSON: The same way that — the same way that green energy comes in — and comes in and spends billions of dollars over President Obama's time in office. What do they want? They want more government money for green and alternative energies. There's Solyndra — there are several companies, if I remember correctly, that got huge government loans. Why? Because they lobbied the White House. This is normal—
VOLSKY: But Ben, what — what does Solyndra have to do with this? What are you talking about? $30 million! $30 million—
FERGUSON: My point is, you're acting as if somehow — you're acting as if somehow, what the NRA is doing—
LEMON: Ben, let him talk; let him talk — go ahead—
VOLSKY: Solyndra!? What is this!?
LEMON: Okay. So why do you say there's a—
FERGUSON: My point is this: it's very normal for people to do this—
LEMON: Why do you think, Igor — Ben, hold on; Ben, hold on. Igor, why do you think there's a difference — when he said they're lobbying for the Second Amendment, you said no; they're lobbying for guns. What's the distinction?
VOLSKY: Well, the distinction is it's one thing to lobby for the Second Amendment; for parts of the Constitution. It's another thing to say there can't be any gun regulations — which has nothing at all to do with the Second Amendment. Yes, you can regulate guns. The Supreme Court — Justice Scalia found you can regulate guns. That's completely divorced from the Second Amendment.
The reason why they want to have a debate about the Second Amendment is because they want to silence any reasonable discussion about what can you do when a guy walks into a school and kids — kills twenty first graders—
FERGUSON: Well, let's deal with that—
VOLSKY: That's the reason why it's about the 'Second Amendment' [puts fingers up in scare quotes], when it's really about making sure that people who shouldn't have guns shouldn't have access to them. Why can't we have that conversation?
FERGUSON: All right. Let's — let's deal with what you just said—
LEMON: Okay. So Ben, I'll let you respond, but let me read the NRA's response, Ben; and then, you can — you can respond all you — they said, 'The proposed executive actions are ripe for abuse by the Obama administration, which has made no secret of its contempt for the Second Amendment' — so again, talking about the Second Amendment. So how are the actions ripe for abuse? Go ahead — respond, Ben.
[CNN Graphic: "NRA: Obama Executive Actions 'Ripe For Abuse'"]
FERGUSON: Well, I think it's very simple. If President Obama would have enacted what he did today through executive orders seven years ago, it would not have stopped the shooting that happened in that elementary school, where twenty kids were gunned down—
VOLSKY: Hey, Ben! Not all traffic laws stop all car fatalities. What are you talking about? This is ridiculous!
FERGUSON: Let me finish! Let me finish! Let me finish!
LEMON: Let him finish; let him finish; let him finish—
FERGUSON: Let me finish what I'm saying. Pay — pay attention to what I'm actually saying, okay? As a gun owner, what was passed today would not have stopped that. And my biggest problem with what the President did today was he used these horrible instances to, somehow, give false hope to these families that what he enacted today would have, somehow, stopped these mass shootings — when the reality, they would not have finished—
VOLSKY: You know, that is such baloney! I'm sorry. Hey, Don, listen—
FERGUSON: Again, let me finish what I'm saying; just let me finish what I'm saying, for goodness's sake—
LEMON: Go ahead — hold on—
VOLSKY: Hey Don, if we were having any other kind of conversation — if we were having any other kind of conversation about any other kind of issue—
FERGUSON: There's — it's a fact! It is—
VOLSKY: If somebody said to you, we can't have this regulation because it won't stop all abuse, you would laugh them off the TV—
FERGUSON: Okay. Let me finish what I was saying—
VOLSKY: The fact that — the fact that Ben can come on television and argue—
FERGUSON: Let me finish what I was saying. As a victim of—
LEMON: Hang on, Ben; hang on, Ben. Ben, stand by. You know how it works. Let him go—
VOLSKY: That because it won't stop all gun violence, we should do nothing at all, is ridiculous, and you know it! And you should be, frankly, ashamed of yourself. Ashamed of yourself, if this is the argument you're putting forward—
FERGUSON: All right. I'm going to finish — I'm going to finish what I was saying. I have been a victim—
LEMON: Go ahead, Ben—
FERGUSON: I have been a victim of a gun crime, okay? It is very personal—
LEMON: You don't think it would have stopped your — you from being shot?
FERGUSON: I know it wouldn't have — and here's why: the guy that ended up shooting at me was a convicted felon — not one, not twice, but three times. He bought a gun on the black market. If you want to have more enforcement; if you want to go after the black market—
VOLSKY: Exactly! That's what these orders do! It makes it easier to enforce laws—
FERGUSON: If you want to go after people that are selling guns illegally, I'm in favor of that! But to come out today and to act as if what the President did today is going to stop these mass shootings, not one of these mass shootings — it's a fact — would have been stopped by what the President did today, because all those guns were bought legally. We need to deal with mental health, and we need to deal with mental health in a serious way.