The Media’s Gun Control Ethics Train Wreck Gets Its Engineer: David Gregory

Gregory and clip

The blatant abandonment of journalistic ethics in U.S. mainstream media, well underway during its coverage of the 2012 election, finally exploded into a full-fledged ethics train wreck with television journalists’ astounding and shameless advocacy of tighter gun control laws following the Newtown elementary school massacre. Can anyone recall a previous public policy controversy in which so many telejournalists decided that it was appropriate, rather than to report on a story, to engage in full-throated advocacy for a particular position? I can’t. Rather than communicate relevant facts to their audiences and allow responsible and informed advocates for various positions to have a forum, one supposed professional journalist after another has become an openly anti-firearms scold, as if the need for new gun restrictions was a fact, rather than a contentious, and often partisan point of view.

It isn’t just the hacks, like Piers Morgan.  CNN anchor Don Lemon sounded like a candidate for office, and a rhetorically irresponsible one, when he exclaimed in one outburst, “We need to get guns and bullets and automatic weapons off the streets. They should only be available to police officers and to hunt al-Qaeda and the Taliban and not hunt elementary school children.” The reliably presumptuous Soledad O’Brien decided to reprimand Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott when he refused to commit to seeking tougher gun laws in his state, telling him she hoped the gun conversation would become “meaningful” (that is to say, anti-gun ownership) before she was forced to “cover another tragedy.” In another interview, when a conservative academic argued for making guns more easily available among law-abiding citizens, O’Brien again turned advocate, telling him, “I just have to say, your position completely boggles me, honestly.”

Yes, well the fact that Soledad is “boggled” isn’t news: she’s easily boggled, and her opinion on gun control is no more worthy of broadcast than that of any random citizen on the street. Whether you agree with these amateur anti-gun zealots isn’t the point. Using their high-visibility positions as television reporters to expound on what they think are reasonable legislative initiatives isn’t their job, isn’t their role, is a direct violation of their duty of fair and objective reporting, and undermines effective public discourse. It’s unethical journalism.

Jumping into the engineer’s seat as this media ethics train wreck developed was “Meet the Press” host David Gregory. Part of the open agenda of the left-biased media is to demonize the National Rifle Association, which, again, is not their job, and is an unethical objective. Give the public the facts, let them hear the arguments, and allow them to come to an informed decision, not a media-dictated consensu constructed by people who are neither especially bright nor sufficiently informed, and who have no special expertise regarding guns and gun violence. Gregory, in full-anti-gun mode, brandished a gun magazine as a prop last Sunday to make a dramatic debating point against the vice-president of the National Rifle Association. In Washington, D.C., where “Meet the Press” is recorded, the magazine he held is illegal, and anyone apprehended while possessing one faces prosecution and jail time. NBC had been informed by D.C. police that Gregory could not use the magazine on the air, and Gregory went ahead and used it anyway.

He broke the law.

Making a case against guns was so important to David Gregory that he knowingly broke the law, on national television. Not only that, he broke exactly the kind of law he was advocating, while he was advocating it, which has to set some kind of record for flamboyant hypocrisy (even surpassing his vehement ridicule, on the same program, of the NRA suggestion that armed guards be assigned to schools, while his own children attend a D.C. private school that has armed guards). Tellingly and shockingly, Gregory’s colleagues on both sides of the ideological divide have rushed to his defense. Here is Fox News Channels’ lawyer-commentator Great Van Susteren, upon learning that the D.C. police are investigating the incident:

“How much time and money is going to be spent (wasted) investigating him?  Can you think of a sillier use of investigative resources?    I will bet my right arm David Gregory is not going to go out and commit some crime with that magazine… We have so many serious issues of violence in this country — and even here in DC on our dangerous streets — that it is bizarre to me that anyone would spend (waste) 5 minutes investigating NBC’s David Gregory for this.”

Think about the implications of Susteren’s argument for a second, which is all it should take to discern its legal, ethical and intellectual bankruptcy. Although a young black man in the District who was caught doing what Gregory did on television would be arrested and prosecuted, Greta says it is silly to apply the laws equally to Gregory. Why? Let’s see:

  • Because journalists are immune from prosecution, as long as they break the law in pursuit of a worthy objective? Is that really a principle a fair justice system should embrace? No.
  • Because David Gregory is a “good” journalist with the “right” ideas? James O’Keefe, after one of his attempted stings, was prosecuted by Louisiana authorities for breaking and entering. Nobody thought O’Keefe was engaged in a burglary; it was a media stunt. When you break the law while engaging in a media stunt, you get prosecuted…unless you are David Gregory?
  • Because he thought he had a good reason to break the law? That has never been an accepted justification for law breaking. What criminal doesn’t think he has a good reason to violate laws? And Gregory doesn’t even have access to the favorite rationalization of law-breakers, “it’s a stupid law.” Gregory doesn’t think the law he broke, the tough D.C. law against high capacity magazines, is stupid. He wants more such laws. He just thinks, apparently, that they shouldn’t apply to him.
  • Because he didn’t know he was breaking the law? The evidence now indicates that he did, but it doesn’t matter: citizens are presumed to know the laws where they live and work, and to abide by them. Courts follow the maxim, so old that it is often written in Latin, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.”
  • Because he didn’t mean any harm? Seriously, Greta? A lawyer is really making the argument that laws shouldn’t be enforced against violators as long as they don’t mean any harm? When did that become the policy of the justice system? Never.

Van Susteren (and many others who have expressed the same view, including the Daily Beast’s supposed journalistic ethics guru Howard Kurtz and the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page) is dead wrong. It is not only not silly for Gregory to be prosecuted, but crucial. A society must not have classes and occupations that get to break laws that less privileged citizens may not. Such a concept creates a legal system and a culture without fairness or integrity, one that cannot be trusted. News organizations may not adopt scofflaw behavior as tools of the trade. The First Amendment holds that they can say and write whatever they choose, not that they can do whatever they choose. The presumptuousness and arrogance, not to mention inconsistent reasoning, of Gregory and his defenders are alarming, and cry out for an abject lesson. He has rejected the ethical standards of his profession to become a policy advocate, stumping self-righteously for  tougher gun laws and tougher enforcement of current gun laws.  While doing so, he willfully and knowingly defied the very laws he advocated, presuming that they didn’t apply to him, and believing that they shouldn’t apply to him.

Who does he think he is?

This is not, as the liberal defenders of Gregory would have it, an attempted “gotcha” sprung by the Right on an over-zealous NRA foe. This incident should be non-partisan and non-ideological. It poses the question of whether laws ought to apply to all, including self-anointed privileged journalists in the process of refusing to act ethically and responsibly. The answer to that question is yes. If David Gregory had integrity, he would turn himself in, demonstrating that he can “walk the walk.” He thinks law-abiding citizens should be subjected to tougher gun laws because crazy people steal guns and murder the helpless? Fine. He should be willing to make an example of himself.

I don’t think he’ll do it.

He’s too busy driving the train wreck.

______________________________________

Sources: Daily Caller, The Examiner, New York Times, Gretawire, Legal Insurrection, The Hill

Graphic: Christian Science Monitor

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at  jamproethics@verizon.net.

 

34 thoughts on “The Media’s Gun Control Ethics Train Wreck Gets Its Engineer: David Gregory

  1. Ever since the mainstream media learned it could destroy a President, it has been on a long term campaign to govern nation by managing public opinion. This is just a culminating event in a long train of usurpations and behavior outside acceptability as it makes a bid for power.

    Why wouldn’t they behave like this? They are still all on a physiological high since the giddiness of their own guy getting re-elected despite his utter shambles of a first term. The imaginary mandate they have convinced themselves that their side has achieved will continue to fuel further unbelievable behavior from a sector of society that for years now has walked arrogantly against its own duty to society.

    Wasn’t it in the Suzy favor Hamilton article that someone discussed another profession that after years of being populated by extremely unethical people it is safe to assume the industry is innately unethical?

  2. Another great essay. On a brighter note, I observe that a “boy who cried wolf” type scenario is starting to unfold. The mainstream press had little credibility left after the last election, and with this more recent issue have worked overtime to destroy what little was left. I observe that the narrative they are pushing does not resonate with most people: Demonizing law-abiding gun owners makes THEM look bad, not us.

    Every time I think its impossible for the press to be any more stupid and irresponsible, they prove me wrong: Without realizing it, Gregory “made” the point that gun laws don’t work, as he was easily able to bring contraband onto the set. If he can get one, anyone else can get one, regardless of what the law says. This is similar to the New York Journal “proving” that registration is a bad idea as the information will be abused at some point.

    I feel like I do not need to argue a pro-2nd amendment position, anymore, as the anti-gun folks are doing a fantastic job of that for me/us.

    • Without realizing it, Gregory “made” the point that gun laws don’t work, as he was easily able to bring contraband onto the set. If he can get one, anyone else can get one, regardless of what the law says. This is similar to the New York Journal “proving” that registration is a bad idea as the information will be abused at some point.

      What would be the per capita cost of manufacturing high-capacity magazines.

      I know that the per capita cost of mass manufacture of Sten guns was less than seven dollars.

      • A firearm magazine is nothing but a box with a spring in the bottom. One thing that confounds gun control from a practical standpoint is that guns, and their accessories, are an ancient technology that can be repeated by almost anyone with the requisite, and not very profound, tools and skills.

        Its about as useful and practical as banning a plant that can be grown in any suburban backyard.

  3. TV clowns are clownish, in other words.

    I agree with you that he should face whatever penalty other folks caught with magazines routinely face (although I wouldn’t have any objection to the judge taking the context into account when it comes to sentencing, just like in any other case).

    I don’t agree that this is a case of TV people not doing their jobs. Their job is to sell commercial ad time for their network by generating high ratings. I agree with you that TV news is terrible (which is why i virtually never watch it), but this is what you get when you let market forces determine TV news format. If we want something different, then we need a different way of funding TV news.

    I’m not saying this excuses someone acting unethically. (And in this case, it was just plain stupid; he could have just held up a photo of an ammo magazine, surely.) I am saying that as long as TV news is primarily funded by the marketplace, then we’re doomed to low-quality TV news, unless the tastes of the audience change for some reason.

    • I fear you are right, my friend, that Gregory and his colleagues regard their jobs as acquiring ratings that allow for profitable ad sales by their employers. That has little to do with the profession and the mission of journalists, which means that they no longer think or act as journalists, and use the once-honorable title to elevate their perceived status above what they really do, which is, in the end, no different than what Charlie Sheen and Simon Cowell does.

      • I fear you are right, my friend, that Gregory and his colleagues regard their jobs as acquiring ratings that allow for profitable ad sales by their employers.

        And yet they think that demonizing gun owners (except the government, which has the longest track record of abusing guns) is supposed to drive up ratings?

    • Market forces are doing just fine, Mr. Deutsh. Can you say Fox News? Leaves the other cables — little siblings to the networks when it comes to progressive bias fueled by the Gramscian march through the institutions — in the dust. Also not mentioned in your comments is the fact that the networks are struggling, even as Fox News thrives. I sense in your tone a longing for public funding. Two things: 1. PBS 2. Pravda.

      • 1) PBS is obviously not without progressive/liberal bias. 2) Pravda.com and RT.com have now come full circle, and are now much more reliable sources of information about what is truly occurring in the USA and around the world.

      • I don’t think much of any network, including FOX. But FOX is a good example of what I mean: Watchers prefer openly opinionated anchors, and news that accords with their views. Hence the high ratings. It’s no surprise that FOX’s success has encouraged other networks to allow their on-air people to be more opinionated.

        Is that a good model? I dunno. The profit motive leads to some really stupid coverage – look at how much more coverage murders get when the victim is a pretty white woman, for example. Or how many FOX watchers genuinely believed that polls showing Obama would win were some sort of left-wing conspiracy.

        But given how politicized news-watching Americans are, probably any genuinely non-partisan network would quickly be deluged with complaints about bias from both left and right.

        PBS is supported mainly by donations and earnings, not by the government (only 15% of PBS’s funding comes from the government), so although it is a different funding model, it’s not exactly “public funding.” I can’t even remember the last time I watched PBS news, though.

  4. This is the real problem the “elite” have. Gregory is nothing but a Corporate hack, who pushes no opinion but what he is told to push. You give him too much credit for thinking for himself. Nothing happens on these networks by chance – he was told to bring that on the air by his “handlers” – and the decision to do so probably came from the tippy tippy top of the Corporate Plutocracy.

  5. They should only be available to police officers and to hunt al-Qaeda and the Taliban and not hunt elementary school children.

    So that police officers could hunt people like Amadou Diallo, Patrick Dorismond, Sean Bell, Pedro Navarro-Oregon, Kenneth Chamberlain, and Aiyana Jones?

    How many Al Qaeda did Staff Sgt. Robert Bales kill in Kandahar?

    Gregory, in full-anti-gun mode, brandished a gun magazine as a prop last Sunday to make a dramatic debating point against the vice-president of the National Rifle Association.

    He could not get a picture of a gun magazine?

    Or a studio prop that looks like a gun magazine?

    His only defense now is that the magazine ban violates the Second amendment on the basis that the Second Amendment requires strict scrutiny for complete bans, and the magazine ban fails to satisfy strict scrutiny. In my opinion, courts should use strict scrutiny when dealing with laws that ban a particular type of arm, and if this magazine ban fails strict scrutiny, Gregory should not be prosecuted, and the law should be struck down.

  6. I think you’re wrong when you say it’s not silly for Gregory to be prosecuted for what he did. Greta Van Susteren has an excellent argument: Mere possession of a high capacity magazine doesn’t make him a danger to anyone, and the police have better things to do. This is of course the same argument pro-gun folks have been making against high-capacity magazine bans for years. Not only is it silly to prosecute Gregory for having a high-capacity magazine, it’s silly to prosecute everyone else.

    • Yes, but as long as DC does prosecute everyone else, it should prosecute Gregory. How can you argue otherwise? “It’s silly” isn’t a criminal defense I ever encountered in my criminal law clinic.

      • Yes, but as long as DC does prosecute everyone else, it should prosecute Gregory. How can you argue otherwise? “It’s silly” isn’t a criminal defense I veer encounter in my criminal law clinic.

        As I explained above, the only possible defense is that the law is unconstitutional in that it fails strict scrutiny required by the Second Amendment.

        Whether bans on types of arms require strict scrutiny has never been answered by the Supreme Court, and this would be a good test case to establish that strict scrutiny applies.

      • It may not be a legal defense, but that doesn’t make it any less silly. I just wonder how many of the people arguing against prosecuting Gregory realize that their arguments apply to almost everyone else as well. E.g. If they argue Gregory shouldn’t be prosecuted because he meant no harm, then doesn’t that mean the magazine ban is bad law because intent to harm isn’t one of its elements?

        • Isn’t your first sentence contradicted by your second few? Or are you saying that it may be silly, but the law still has to be enforced against Gregory like anyone else? If so, I agree with you.

  7. I agree with you about the media’s departure from any semblance of objectivity, but I give Gregory a pass on the magazine. It was a prop he used as part of his press freedom. It’s as much “speech” as carrying a sign or wearing a Nike swoosh.

    • Ooooh, I doubt that would fly in court, Bob. The press can’t claim breaking the law is “speech”: public demonstrators can’t violate ordinances and property rights and claim it’s speech. If there is a law against defacing churches with swastikas, I don’t think it gets off as protected speech. But Gregory should go to trial and prove his case, if that’s his theory. He’d lose, but at least that would show some integrity.

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