What does it take for the networks to focus on a Joe Biden gaffe? Apparently, it's enough to suggest that a shotgun is ideal for home defense. On Tuesday's Nightly News and the morning shows on Wednesday, journalists, who often overlook the Vice President's verbal miscues, highlighted his comments about shotguns.
In an online chat with Parents magazine, Biden suggested, "If you want to protect yourself, get a double-barreled shotgun." He went on to say that he owns two such weapons and has instructed his wife to use them if needed. This led Nightly News anchor Brian Williams to joke, "Vice President Joe Biden is out with another one of those sound bites that could live on for a long time." [See video below. MP3 audio here.] On Wednesday's Good Morning America, George Stephanopoulos described Biden as "unplugged." He warned, "Biden and those [Parents] magazine readers got a little more than they had bargained for."
GMA reporter Jon Karl played the full clip of Biden recounting a discussion with his wife and then shifting to the topic of gun control:
JOE BIDEN: I said, "Jill, if there's ever a problem, just walk out on the balcony here or walk out– put that double barreled shotgun and fire two blasts outside the house. I promise you, whoever is coming in is not going to–" you don't need an AR-15. It's harder to aim. It's harder to use and, in fact, you don't need 30 rounds to protect yourself.
On Wednesday's Today, Natalie Morales insisted that the remark is "generating some buzz." After playing a clip of the Vice President exhorting shotgun ownership, the NBC correspondent laughed.
A CBS This Morning graphic knocked the powerful Democrat as "Double-Barreled Biden."
To his credit, however, Charlie Rose played the story straight, unlike other news outlets: "Vice President Joe Biden has a new message for gun owners. Yesterday in an online forum, Biden was asked if tighter gun control could make it harder for law abiding people to protect themselves."
Now, obviously, Biden supports the President's gun control policies. But, generally, journalists have been all too willing to ignore Biden gaffes. Lobbying for shotgun ownership as self defense, however, apparently qualifies for mockery.
The CBS Evening News and ABC's World News did not cover the gun comments.
For more on the history of journalists skipping Biden's miscues, see the Media Research Center's 2012 Reality Check.
A transcript of the Nightly News segment open and the February 20 GMA segment can be found below:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Vice President Joe Biden is out with another one of those sound bites that could live on for a long time. He appeared on a live video town hall on gun violence sponsored by Facebook and Parents magazine.
ABC GRAPHIC: Biden's Fighting Words: "Get a Double-Barrel Shotgun"
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: We're going to turn to Washington now and Vice President Joe Biden unplugged. As part of his leading role in the President's effort to prevent gun violence, he was taking questions yesterday from readers of Parents magazine. ABC's Jon Karl was listening in as both Biden and those readers got a little more than they had bargained for.
JON KARL: Here's a side of Joe Biden you don't see every day.
JOE BIDEN: Buy a shotgun! Buy a shotgun!
KARL: He wasn't doing a commercial for his favorite gun shop. He was responding to online questions from Parents magazine and he seemed to get a little rattled when some of the questions came from people unhappy with the president's gun proposals.
MICHAEL KRESS (Editor, Parents magazine): [Reading a question] "Do you believe that banning certain weapons and high capacity magazines will mean that law abiding citizens will become more of a target to criminals as we will have no way to sufficiently defend ourselves?" [Biden laughs] It was a sentiment that came up again and again
BIDEN Is this Parents magazine?
KRESS: It is.
BIDEN: I have Parents magazine in my home. I've never heard anybody in Parents magazine ask these kinds of questions. What's her name?
BIDEN: Kate, if you want to protect yourself, get a double barreled shotgun, have the shells of a 12 gauge shotgun.
KARL: The Vice President said that is exactly what he told his wife to do.
BIDEN: I said, "Jill, if there's ever a problem, just walk out on the balcony here or walk out– put that double barreled shotgun and fire two blasts outside the house. I promise you, whoever is coming in is not going to–" you don't need an AR-15. It's harder to aim. It's harder to use and, in fact, you don't need 30 rounds to protect yourself.
KARL: Biden is the President's point man on gun control. But he has also repeatedly tried to show that he is a believer in the Second Amendment. To another reader of Parents magazine, he said, "I have two shotguns at home. Nobody is going to come and take my guns." And, George, I have to say one more thing, from all of us in Washington, welcome back, Robin! Awesome to have you back!