The media calls started coming in within hours of the Newtown Massacre on December 14th. Demands were already being made for more gun control laws, and the media wanted responses. The next week was a blur, with four appearances on CNN, the PBS Newshour, a couple of appearances on Mark Levin’s radio show and many others, interviews with the Washington Post and USA Today, and internationally everything from four appearances on the BBC to several Canadian shows, Danish TV and more.
I have gone through similar experiences before. But the big difference this time was the media coverage of the media coverage. And I had two very different experiences with those media-monitors. The first media monitor was Erik Wemple at the Washington Post; the other was Gabriel Sherman with New York Magazine.
Both journalists began by asking what media I’d done recently; they then asked if I had appeared on Fox News or if I had written any of my regular columns for the website on the Newtown shootings. I had told them both pretty much the same thing: no, I hadn’t been on Fox News to discuss the events, and while I had written a column on Newtown, it had been turned down and I had sent it elsewhere.
While Wemple wrote a straight report of our conversation, Sherman put out a hit on Fox News. First, he took a quote I gave him out of context – I told him that I was upset at the media coverage of Newtown, and Sherman proceeded to write about how Rupert Murdoch had shown warmth toward gun control, as though Fox was shutting me down based on Murdoch’s policy preferences. I don’t know Murdoch; I’ve never met him. There’s no possible way I could have commented on such decisions.
But that didn’t stop Sherman. Much of Sherman’s piece focused on Fox’s supposed “spiking” of a column that I had submitted on December 17th; he implied that I claimed that Fox had deliberately killed the piece due to Murdoch’s beliefs on guns. This was nonsense. I was perfectly free to resubmit it elsewhere and indeed I had already submitted to another publication owned by Murdoch -- the Wall Street Journal, where a slightly revised version of it eventually ran on January 18th.
But Sherman seemed to take the fact that the piece wasn’t already published as evidence that something nefarious had occurred. All I can say is that I strenuously assured him that the piece would eventually be published and that Fox’s decision didn’t “upset” or “concern” me. And again, the piece was published in The Wall Street Journal.
I never said anything, commented on or spoke on behalf of Fox or their decisions. But I did make the mistake of speaking with an anti-Fox News attack dog, Sherman, with an agenda to fabricate a non-existent story based upon his personal agenda against Fox. I certainly did not comment on or know what Murdoch or anyone else had decided internally regarding coverage - in my opinion, they did the right thing by holding back on debate the day of the tragedy.
But again, that didn’t match Sherman’s agenda. Instead of reporting what I told him, he drew a picture of Fox News shutting down debate about gun control. That was precisely the opposite of what I had said: indeed, I had told Sherman that I wished other networks would do what Fox did and not launch into debates about gun control the day of an attack, before we could possibly know the facts about what had happened. Somehow these comments didn’t quite make it into his piece.