I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: as a long-time supporter of more effective gun controls, the sickeningly dishonest and unethical campaign for them in the wake of Newtown has placed me in a camp I never thought I’d be. Such tactics should never be allowed to succeed, because they debase democracy.
Yesterday, I noted that CNN has abandoned reporting for issue advocacy, a bright-line breach of journalistic ethics. Now Connecticut’s Senator Chris Murphy (D) has attempted to use his position and influence to abridge free speech, unfairly restrict the advocacy of an issue opponent and encourage media censorship of a political viewpoint.
Eugene Volokh published Murphy’s letter to Fox, the text of which tells me he has no more business sitting in the Senate than Kim Jong-un or Daffy Duck. The letter, addressed to Rupert Murdoch, reads…
“I write today to urge you to not broadcast NASCAR’s NRA 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 13th. This race, which is being sponsored by the National Rifle Association (NRA), is going to take place during the Senate’s consideration of legislation to reduce gun violence. The race not only brings national attention to an organization that has been the face of one side of this heated debate, it also features the live shooting of guns at the end of the race. This celebration of guns is inappropriate in the immediate wake of the Newtown massacre. But most importantly, broadcasting this race, which will highlight the NRA and its radical agenda during this time, sends a harmful signal to the families affected by gun violence, as well as the millions of Americans who support sensible gun control measures and enjoy your sports programming.”
“The horror that unfolded on December 14th at Sandy Hook Elementary School has sparked a national conversation about the adequacy of our gun laws. You, News Corporation and its subsidiaries, including Fox News, should contribute and continue to cover this discussion. Given that you have been outspoken in your support of gun reform, it is the height of irony that some would perceive that your company would now essentially endorse the NRA’s extreme position against such laws by broadcasting this event.”
“Shortly after the tragedy in Newtown, you called on policymakers and the President to strengthen our gun laws, asking, “when will politicians find courage to ban automatic weapons?” This valid question will be answered when the Senate considers major reforms to our gun laws in early to mid-April. As a senator, I can tell you that many of us possess the courage, and will strongly advocate for sensible gun reforms to take assault weapons and high-capacity magazines off our streets and require all gun purchasers to submit for a background check.
“You also challenged President Obama to show bold leadership on this issue after he addressed the nation. I believe that the President has shown incredible leadership since the tragedy by trying to help our country, my state, and the community of Newtown heal in the wake of this terrible event. I would like to make a similar challenge to you. You should play a constructive role in our national dialogue by refraining from broadcasting the NRA 500. By airing this race you will be strengthening the brand of a radical organization that is currently standing in the way of meaningful progress on this issue. Today’s NRA bears little resemblance to the one of its founding. It stokes fear and perpetuates a perverse interpretation of the Second Amendment in order to sell more guns and fuel larger donations from gun manufacturers. After the events of Newtown, Aurora, Oak Creek, and so many other senseless tragedies, the NRA continues to say that the only solution to gun violence is more guns. It even disavows common sense measures, like universal background checks for gun purchases — a policy that enjoys the support of 74 percent of its members and that it advocated for in 1999.
“Considering your support of sane gun control measures and the extreme nature of the NRA, I urge you to not broadcast this race on April 13th. Inserting Fox Sports in this debate at this critical time will give credence to an extreme organization that is opposed to reasonable policies to stem gun violence. Thank you in advance for your consideration.”
Prof. Volokh writes, correctly,
“Of course the Senator ought to argue against the NRA, and of course if pro-gun-control groups want to put on sporting events as a way of conveying their message, they should do so. But to urge a broadcaster to cancel its plans to convey an NRA-promoting event is a call for suppressing speech, not for promoting more speech. This is not, it seems to me, how Senators in our democratic republic should be behaving.”
But what an understatement. Sen. Murphy tries to pressure another news network to take sides, hilariously claiming that broadcasting an auto race is an unacceptable endorsement of a pro-gun position, while his Democratic colleague is praising CNN for supporting the anti-gun cause after shamelessly slanting its coverage, a true endorsement. One Senator praises a news organization for unethical journalism, and another tries to bully a network into suppressing speech.
And they say that the critics who see Second Amendment foes as equally willing to gut the First are alarmists.
In addition to being misconduct for a Senator, Murphy’s letter is also embarrassingly silly. The shooting of guns in a non-violent context is only “inappropriate in the wake of Newtown” if it was similarly wrong for me to watch an old black-and-white episode of “Lawman” (“The lawman came with a gun…”) while I was eating lunch yesterday which I did. There is no connection to Newtown at all in either case, unless one is hysterical, silly and phobic. Hysterical, silly, phobic people shouldn’t be making laws, and neither should Chris Murphy.
The anti-gun forces have made the NRA look reasonable and moderate in this debate, something I never would have thought was possible. I will be glad when this especially odious ethics train wreck is over.