Angry Anti-Gun PR Flack Slams 'Trolls' at NewsBusters for Exposing Her Apolitical Pose

Washington Post media blogger Erik Wemple took up a NewsBusters post on Thursday: “NPR issues large correction about stay-at-home mom/gun-control activist.” Wemple wrote “NewsBusters, the very vigilant group that monitors the mainstream media for lefty bias, appears to have pushed NPR toward this step.”

But the really jaw-dropping part of the piece was Wemple’s interview with Shannon Watts, the allegedly inexperienced new politico NPR originally presented. Watts spat: “Here’s what happens: There’s a story about me and then immediately the gun lobby and the trolls, they try to pick apart who I am.”

To a conservative ear, this sounds a lot like Stephanie Soechtig, who responded to her fraudulent edits alongside Katie Couric (making gun-rights activists look stupid) with venomous denunciations. When your dishonesty is exposed, bare your fangs at the “trolls.” Caring about accuracy is an “intimidation tactic,” equivalent somehow to “hate mail” to families of shooting victims:

This is very textbook gun-lobby intimidation tactics, and I won’t be intimidated....These types of intimidation tactics are very common. The survivors in the film, people who lost their babies in Sandy Hook or their daughter in the Aurora theater, they get hate mail all the time. They’re getting it now saying, “Your daughter deserved to die” or “You’re making this up. You never had a son.” There is a small but noisy fringe in this country. They’ve been really loud, and to be honest they’ve been really successful in preventing our legislators from passing any meaningful legislation on this issue. So I expected it.

Watts promoted a mythical picture to NPR, that she was a political and public-relations babe in the woods folding the kiddies’ laundry when she suddenly was motivated to start a massive anti-gun lobby to rival the NRA.

CHRIS ARNOLD: She lived 800 miles away in Zionsville, Indiana. She was folding her kids’ laundry, actually, when the news broke. And she wanted to do something....Watts had never done anything political before, but she made a Facebook page.

Now that’s she been exposed (not for the first time), this is how lame her self-defense was:

Regarding the accuracy of NPR’s statement that she’d never done “anything political” before Newtown, Watts tells the Erik Wemple Blog that she’d told NPR that she hadn’t been “politically active.” Though she’d made a few thousand dollars of contributions before Newtown, a lot of them were “trying to win contests to meet the president.”

NEWS FLASH: “Trying to win contests to meet the president” by donating $250 on seven different occasions is quite obviously “politically active.”

Now that the fraud has been debunked, Watts told Wemple the NRA (and its NewsBusters “trolls”) are wrong to define a “stay-at-home mom” as someone who only folds laundry and cooks:

Like many mothers who abandoned corporate towers, Watts came home with no small degree of sophistication. “I brought a unique skill set to this movement. I knew how to craft a message just like the NRA had done,” she says.

The gun lobby, says Watts, is “trying to define what a stay-at-home mom is and what makes an activist. Someone who has a college degree and is successful is not considered a regular woman. Why are we letting the gun lobby and extremists define what a stay-at-home mom is?”

But what the conservative critics have done here is just pierce through the dishonesty of Watts “crafting a message” that she has no corporate or political experience. She’s the one who was posing as the Newtown-newbie June Cleaver. That’s what was wrong with the NPR piece.

Watts complained about the “trolls” for Wemple by citing a 2014 article in an NRA magazine noting that “‘running a streetfront art gallery plus public relations business from my house’ is not the impression conveyed by ‘stay-at-home mom.’”

Obviously, the term is vague: a woman would only need to be a mother and stay at home during the work day to qualify. Stay-at-home moms may be excellent publicists and furious political activists, but in the PR sense, it means “average Jane,” and Watts knew it. Wemple concluded:

NPR’s embarrassing brush with both sides of the gun debate should provide a bit of ammunition to journalism professors and editors around the country: Warn your people off the use of terms such as “regular people” or “average Americans.” No one knows what those terms mean — and when they come from news outlets lodged in large metropolises, it’s a fair bet that they’re laced with condescension.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis