[Update, 10:12 pm, EDT: Video of the last promo and the entire debate segment is now available on YouTube. Acosta’s report is available here.]
CNN’s Rick Sanchez returned to blasting conservatives on Wednesday’s Newsroom program, blaming the recent murder of three Pittsburgh police officers on the Fox News Channel and other media on the right: “That weekend tragedy involves a man who allegedly shot and killed three police officers in cold blood. Why? Because he was convinced, after no doubt watching Fox News and listening to right-wing radio, that quote, ‘Our rights were being infringed upon.’” He tag-teamed with Media Matters fellow Eric Boehlert to argue that conservative media personalities like Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity were offering “garden-variety fear and hate mongering...night in and night out.”
One could be sure that Sanchez would be pointing his finger squarely at his competitors on the right from the first moment he mentioned the gun issue, which was 13 minutes into the CNN program. After playing audio of gunshots from the Pittsburgh murders, he gave the following promo: “What you’re hearing there is three police officers killed by a man who thought President Obama would take away his guns. Who put that thought in his head? And how many more Americans believe that? Could it be 1.2 million Americans? You’re going to see why I’m asking that question.” Sanchez gave a further hint that his target was Fox News during another promo ten minutes later: “Are Americans being fed a pack of lies about President Obama and guns laws? And is it creating a gun buying panic? ‘We’ll report, you decide.’ That’s not too obvious is it?”
The issue was apparently so important to Sanchez that he gave two more promos for the segment. In the second, he brought in briefs about two other recent mass shootings and gave further details about the Pittsburgh murders, including his line about “Fox News and listening to right-wing radio.” After denying that the Obama administration had actually expressed its desire for a ban on “assault weapons,” he then provided his own biased take on the matter:
SANCHEZ: Here’s the real issue here: Poplawski [the murderer of the Pittsburgh police officers] may not be alone in this crazy, “they’re coming to get us” mindset. There is evidence of a gun buying panic. According to the FBI, there have been 1.2 million more requests for background checks of potential gun buyers from November to February than there in the same four months last year....Who is stirring the pot?...Who is trying to use this to get people to not trust President Obama, and more importantly, is there any truth to the fear of more restrictive gun ban? That’s what I’m going to tackle when I come back.When Sanchez finally began the segment, he went further in his left-wing, anti-conservative rhetoric:
SANCHEZ: The failing economy; the election of Barack Obama, the nation’s first minority -- minority president; and then there’s the garden-variety fear and hate mongering provided compliments of Fox News night in and night out. That’s where Glenn Beck is seen night after night, talking about doomsday, about the country coming apart, while his counterpart Sean Hannity calls the president a socialist, and worse, implying day in and night out that he’s trying to destroy America. Here’s an apparent result. Americans are scarfing up guns and ammunition at an alarming rate. Growing numbers of people appear to believe that the government wants their weapons.The anchor then played clips of YouTube videos of people expressing their concerns about gun control from the Obama administration. As you might expect, all of these individuals were white males. Sanchez replied to them as he introduced a report from CNN correspondent Jim Acosta: “Again, there is an unrelenting message being pushed by the right -- far right, we should say, that Obama will mount an assault on the Second Amendment. Is it true? Is there anything at all to it? What are the facts? That’s what Jim Acosta looks into.” Acosta’s report, contrary to Sanchez’s earlier outright denial, acknowledged that Attorney General Eric Holder had expressed that the Obama administration sought “a few gun-related changes...among them would be to reinstitute the ban on the sale of assault weapons.” The correspondent tried to neutralize this by reporting how “65 pro-gun House Democrats have fired off a letter to Holder, urging him to abandon the assault weapons ban” [audio available here].
After Acosta’s report, Sanchez again expressed his alarm over how “there have been 1.2 million more requests for background checks of potential gun buyers from November to February, than there were in the same four months last year.” He then introduced Alan Gottlieb of the Second Amendment Foundation and Media Matters’ Boehlert for a debate. When Gottlieb initially covered President Obama’s pro-gun control record in the past, Sanchez replied sardonically, “So that’s all you got, is the record -- the past?” The gun activist continued by introducing a more recent statement by Attorney General Holder related to stopping the supposed flow of guns from the U.S. to Mexican drug cartels: “I don’t think our Second Amendment will stand in the way of the efforts we have begun and will expand upon.”
Sanchez brushed this statement aside and read an excerpt from Holder’s confirmation hearing in January. When Gottlieb countered with more of the attorney general’s past record, he turned to Boehlert to give the left-wing talking points on the matter, as Sanchez himself had done earlier. The anchor would chime in from time to time to assist.
ERIC BOEHLERT, MEDIA MATTERS FOR AMERICA: Well, I think people on the right and the single-issue passionate people are desperate to find some sort of opening so they can -- they can push this -- this narrative. I mean, Glenn Beck yesterday on his radio show said Barack Obama will take away your gun any way -- one way or another -- he’s going to take away your gun. This message has been on Fox News for weeks and months, and it’s not just the gun control issue. They are painting, as you mentioned, sort of this doomsday scenario, almost mainstreaming this militia idea of tyranny and, you know, totalitarian state in America. It’s incredibly irresponsible to be doing.Despite this combined effort, Gottlieb would get the last word when Sanchez blamed conservative media for the polarization:
SANCHEZ: Alan, what do you think of that? Alan, what do you think of that, because, you know, just about any independent person who looks at some of this coverage that we’ve been seeing, not just on Fox News, but on other places as well -- it seems alarmist. It almost seems like -- well, let me leave it at that.
GOTTLIEB: Well, I think -- I think the alarming thing is -- is that not that it’s a doomsday scenario, but there’s no doubt that nobody can argue that the government isn’t growing at alarming rates, at record levels of spending, record levels of control --
SANCHEZ: It grew during the Bush administration!
GOTTLIEB: Oh, it sure --
SANCHEZ: Where were -- where were your concerns then?
GOTTLIEB: I had concerns then, too, but they are not growing at the alarming rate that they are right now. Government regulations, controls -- everything on individuals in this country is significantly going in the direction of more and more government. Nobody can deny that, and, of course, that goes right into the argument of more and more gun control as well, when government wants to regulate people.
BOEHLERT: Well, you know, saying the government is growing in size is a lot different than saying they are going to come knock on your door and take your guns, that democracy in America is on the wane, and that we’re going to turn into a socialist or Marxist or fascist, depending on what week it is with Glenn Beck. That's quite a leap, and again, that’s incredibly irresponsible. We have never seen, you know, a television news outfit, you know, sort of exploit these kind of fears before, and they’re doing it on a daily basis. And again they're basically mainstreaming this militia -- this militia movement and this militia rhetoric.
SANCHEZ: It just -- it just --
GOTTLIEB: I like how you’re using the word militia. I mean, you’re trying to label everybody as militia, as being, you know, evil, crazy people out there. You know, there are 90 million gun owners in America and they’re not members of militias. The bottom line is, the Pew Research Center just did a survey that shows that Barack Obama is the most polarizing president we have had in four decades --
SANCHEZ: But -- but hold on, Alan. Is that fair? How can --
GOTTLIEB: The reason why people are buying guns is [that] he’s polarizing them.
SANCHEZ: Alan, Alan, Alan, Alan -- how could he not be polarizing when people are saying those messages that we have been talking about? If -- if I was to get on the air and start saying horrible things about anyone day in and day out and scaring the bejesus out of you and telling you that the world is going to end as a result of this particular politician, whether he’s on the right or on the left or in the middle, don’t you think he would be polarizing?
GOTTLIEB: Well, I think maybe the media did that to George Bush -- one could make a very good argument what you’re saying is true. Maybe it wasn’t Fox News -- maybe it was CNN and MSNBC.
SANCHEZ: All right, we’ll leave it at that. I suppose that’s -- that’s fair, and I thank you, sir, for taking time to talk to us. Alan, my thanks to you --
GOTTLIEB: Thank you.
SANCHEZ: And Eric my thanks to you as well.