Appearing as a guest on Sunday's Reliable Sources on CNN to discuss CNN's town hall on guns with President Barack Obama, Washington Post media columnist Erik Wemple derided the National Rifle Association as "utterly cowardly" for refusing to take part.
Fellow guest and right-leaning CNN political commentator S.E. Cupp then argued that the NRA had "no incentive" to attend because the President treats them and American gun owners as "the problem" while the media have been "overtly hostile" to gun rights supporters. Cupp: "The media has been overtly hostile on this issue, and it's also been hostile and deeply disappointingly unknowledgeable. I have never seen an issue be covered by so many vocal people who know little about guns, so there's no incentive for gun owners to have this conversation."
After noting that the NRA had a representative appear on FNC after the CNN town hall rather than at the town hall itself, host Brian Stelter opened by posing the question:
I wonder, I want to start with you, Erik, if you've noticed what I've noticed, which is that the NRA doesn't like to debate. They don't like to be on these segments. Their representatives, their actual representatives keep saying no to interview requests. I wonder if the strategy is to not let this topic be debatable, to not let gun reform be a debatable point. What do you think?
Wemple used the word "cowardly" three times as he attacked the NRA in his response:
Well, I think they're willing to engage in discussion if they go over to Fox News, so clearly they're happy having some level of discussion on this thing. And I thought it was cowardly, utterly cowardly that they wouldn't show up for CNN's event. They complain that they would only have one question, they complain that it would be pre-screened, but, as you saw, Brian, as I saw, and as the country saw, people who oppose President Obama's gun agenda were able to stand up there right in front of him and press their points with the President.
What more could you ask for? They didn't ask any follow-up questions. They could have pressed him harder. I asked CNN if they would have been allowed to ask follow-ups. CNN said there was no prohibition on follow-ups. I don't know, how can you ask for a better forum than that if you want to criticize President Obama on gun restrictions? Instead, you know, the NRA took to Twitter, which is a cowardly move.
When the CNN host turned to Cupp, she began her response:
The NRA has no incentive to sit in a town hall and be lectured to by a President who thinks that they are the problem, and by extension the law-abiding gun owners the NRA represents are the problem. Democrats running for President at a debate recently called out the NRA as an enemy they are all proud to have accrued. There's no common language here. There's no sense of respect. Why would any member or representative of the NRA think that they can have an open and honest conversation about these issues when they are repeatedly told that they are the problem? They makes no sense.
She soon added:
CNN did a great town hall, and Anderson asked some very tough questions, and I have applauded the President for showing up at that debate. But the media at large has not been friendly to the gun issue. A newspaper just after Newtown, in fact, published the names and addresses of law-abiding gun owners, as if we are the problem. The media has been overtly hostile on this issue, and it's also been hostile and deeply disappointingly unknowledgeable. I have never seen an issue be covered by so many vocal people who know little about guns, so there's no incentive for gun owners to have this conversation.
Host Stelter conceded: "You know, I do agree with you on that issue about lack of knowledge. Too many journalists do have too little knowledge about the specifics about guns."