Two days following his controversial comments on the “gun culture” in America, Bob Costas appeared on MSNBC’s Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell to not only defend himself but to double-down on his statement during Sunday night's halftime coverage of Sunday Night Football.
O’Donnell, who announced that he loved the Costas tirade and the Jason Whitlock column which prompted it, provided Costas with the perfect venue to defend himself without answering any scrutiny for the other side of the gun control debate. [See video below page break. MP3 audio here.]
After speaking about why he chose to focus on “gun culture” during his show, host O’Donnell ridiculously asserted Costas was careful not be political in his comments:
And I noticed that you, it seemed to me to my eye were carefully quoting the article and specifically deliberately leaving out pieces of the article that were directly political and directly about gun control. Was that a deliberate choice within your show? Was it your sense that within your show, better to not go into that zone?
If there was any question as to whether or not Costas’ comments were political on Sunday, his comments following O’Donnell should leave no doubts. Costas went into an in-depth rant which is clearly political in nature:
What I was talking about here and I'm sorry if that wasn't clear to everybody, was a gun culture. I never mentioned the Second Amendment. I never used the words gun control. People inferred that. Now do I believe we need more comprehensive and more sensible gun control legislation? Yes, I do. That doesn't mean repeal the Second Amendment. That doesn't mean a prohibition on somebody having a gun to protect their home and their family. It means sensible and more comprehensive gun control legislation.
Costas continued by saying:
Give me one example of an athlete. I know it has happened in society. But, give me one example of a professional athlete who by virtue of his having a gun took a dangerous situation and turned it around for the better. I can't think of a single one. But sadly, I can think of dozens whereby virtue of having a gun, a professional athlete wound up in a tragic situation.
While on Tuesday Costas did say it was a mistake to mention gun control on air Sunday because his choice of words “left it open for too much miscommunication,” during his interview on MSNBC he felt the need to reiterate his point that, “And if nothing else, even if some people disagree with me or misinterpret what I said. If it started a conversation on this, then I think that's a good thing.”
NewsBusters publisher Brent Bozell summed up the Bob Costas controversy best in his latest column, “some liberals are just insufferable bores. Can’t they please let us watch football, and not their self-implosion?"
See relevant transcript below.
The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell
December 4, 2012
10:30 p.m. EDT
LAWRENCE O’DONNELL: In the spotlight tonight, Bob Costas. Sunday night on NBC's Football Night in America, Bob Costas addressed the most important football story of the day this way.
BOB COSTAS: You want some actual perspective on this? Well, a bit of it comes from the Kansas City based writer Jason Whitlock with whom I do not always degree but who today said it so well that we may as well just quote or paraphrase from the end of his article. Our current gun culture, Whitlock wrote, ensures that more and more domestic disputes will end in the ultimate tragedy and that more convenience store confrontations over loud music coming from a car will leave more teenage boys bloodied and dead. Handguns do not enhance our safety. They exacerbate our flaws, tempt us to escalate arguments and bait us into embracing confrontation rather than avoiding it. In the coming days, Javon Belcher's actions and their possible connection to football will be analyzed. Who knows, but here wrote Jason Whitlock is what I believe. If Javon Belcher didn't possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.
O’DONNELL: Joining me now for his first television interview since those comments, NBC Sports broadcaster, Bob Costas. Bob thanks for joining us tonight. I'm wondering when you decided you were going to have to say something, obviously you were going to have to say something about this horrible murder-suicide that occurred, NFL player killing the mother of his child right in front of his child, in front of his own mother, then killing himself. How did you decide how to do that in your show?
COSTAS: Well, I only had about 90 seconds and half of that or close to half of it was devoted to another observation. And throughout the day on the other network football programs, and then earlier including in the prior segment on our show on Football Night in America, the why's and wherefores of what happened, the comments of his coach and some of his teammates had all been covered. So I was looking for a different way in. Where some people may have misunderstood my comments was I took one aspect of it as expressed by a writer whom I quoted verbatim. I took one aspect of it. I do not think that is the only aspect or possible aspect. There’s clearly a domestic violence aspect. There’s clearly the question as I alluded to in a general way, of what effect playing football, which we know has debilitating effects on mind and body, at least for some. What affect that might have had. What effect alcohol and drugs might have had? And then another aspect of that is easy access to guns and a gun culture. And it was that aspect, the gun culture that I focused on. Not to the exclusion of the others but just because I didn't have all that much time.
O’DONNELL: Bob I read the full article that you quoted. And I noticed that you, it seemed to me to my eye were carefully quoting the article and specifically deliberately leaving out pieces of the article that were directly political and directly about gun control. Was that a deliberate choice within your show? Was it your sense that within your show, better to not go into that zone?
COSTAS: Well, it's not that I'm afraid to go into that zone. But if you're going to, you need more time and you need to be able to get into some nuance. What I was talking about here and I'm sorry if that wasn't clear to everybody, was a gun culture. I never mentioned the second amendment. I never used the words gun control. People inferred that. Now do I believe we need more comprehensive and more sensible gun control legislation? Yes, I do. That doesn't mean repeal the second amendment. That doesn't mean a prohibition on somebody having a gun to protect their home and their family. It means sensible and more comprehensive gun control legislation. But even if you had that, you would still have the problem of what Jason Whitlock wrote about and what I agree with. And that is a gun culture in this country. It demonstrates itself in different ways. It demonstrates itself in the wild west, Dirty Harry mentality of people who actually believe that if a number of people were armed in the theater in Aurora, they would have been able to take down this nut job in body armor and military style artillery when in fact almost every policeman in the country would tell that you that would have only increased the tragedy and added to the carnage. But it also plays itself out, and Jason Whitlock had some insight into this. It plays itself out in the inner-cities where teenage kids are somehow armed to the hilt. And it plays itself out, and this I know the whys and wherefores of, in the sports world. Where young athletes are disproportionately armed. Tony Dungy, one of the most respected people in all of sports on our program on Sunday night said that one year when he coached the Colts; he had 80 players before they cut the roster down. 80 players in training camp. He said how many of you guys own a gun? And roughly 65 hands went up. Even if all those guns were obtained legally, you can't have 65 guys in their 20s and 30s, Aggressive young men, subject to impulses without something bad happening. And I posed this question and I didn't have time to pose it Sunday night but I'll pose it here. Give me one example of an athlete. I know it has happened in society. But, give me one example of a professional athlete who by virtue of his having a gun took a dangerous situation and turned it around for the better. I can't think of a single one. But sadly, I can think of dozens whereby virtue of having a gun, a professional athlete wound up in a tragic situation.
O’DONNELL: Our friend Mike Lupica put it yesterday at the end of his column, how many home runs could Babe Ruth hit without a bat? The people who do not accept that way of looking at this have been coming after you pretty hard. Bill O'Reilly has been on the case. Let's listen to what he had to say.
BILL O’REILLY: Belcher is solely responsible for the horrendous crime which orphaned his baby daughter. He did it. He knew right from wrong. He chose, he chose to inflict lethal damage. There’s no question that Belcher was mentally imbalanced. You don't do what he did if you’re in control of yourself. But to blame society or guns or football is grossly irresponsible.
O’DONNELL: You’re response to that?
COSTAS: Well, first of all obviously Belcher is responsible for what he did. I agree with O'Reilly to that extent. And Bill was fair to me in contrast to some of the other stuff that went on across the street. He was actually fair to me in full context last night. And I appreciate that. No one is saying that belcher is not responsible. In fact, earlier in the day, I said that I was appalled by the way some of this had been covered initially by some of the sports networks where they made it seem as if there was some equivalency like there were two victims. That Kasandra Perkins was victim one and Javon Belcher was victim two. No. The person who committed suicide first committed a murder and he is responsible for that. However, the ready easy availability of guns makes mayhem easier. Could he have strangled her? Could he have stabbed her? Of course he could have. But the easy availability of guns makes this sort of thing just far more likely to occur. If somebody points out that the country has a problem with nutrition and obesity, that doesn't mean they want to ban fast food. But they are making you aware of some of the dangers and hoping to moderate people's behavior. And if nothing else, even if some people disagree with me or misinterpret what I said. If it started a conversation on this, then I think that's a good thing.
O’DONNELL: Bob Costas it is my honor that you joined us tonight with your first television interview on this. Thanks for joining us tonight Bob.
COSTAS: Thanks Lawrence, I appreciate it.