Just days after America woke up to the horror show of a white man’s racist terror attack in a Charleston, South Carolina, church that left nine innocent black parishioners dead, “Meet the Press” made the unfathomable decision to air video of a group of convicted murderers expressing regret over their use of a gun. All the murderers presented in the video were black.
For obvious reasons, the uproar was immediate. After the video aired, “Meet the Press” panelist Eugene Robinson objected to the film only showing black shooters. “There wasn’t a terribly diverse set of people who were talking,” Robinson said. “Right now, we’re talking about a horrific crime committed by a white man, we’re talking about the search for two escaped murderers who are white men. We should point out that this is not just an African-American problem.”
“No, no, no, no,” “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd replied. “And it wasn’t intended to be that way.”
Almost immediately after the show, Todd again defended the video on the NBC News web site:
The original decision to air this segment was made before Wednesday’s massacre. However, the staff and I had an internal debate about whether to show it at all this week. When we discussed putting it off, that conversation centered around race and perception – not the conversation we wanted the segment to invoke.
We decided against delaying the segment because we wanted to show multiple sides of what gun violence does in this country. We thought the issue of gun violence in our culture and society was an important conversation to continue — too important to put off for another week. The consequences of gun violence should not be hidden.
This of course begs the question of why an all-black video would have been okay prior to Wednesday’s racist terrorist attack.
Context in journalism is always the most important thing.
Ninety-nine percent of the time, the media intentionally use a lack of context to attack their enemies on the political Right. That doesn’t make what “Meet the Press” did Sunday okay.
You get the sense that NBC’s anti-gun zeal affected their better judgment, and the whole thing blew up in their face. This is not the first time, either. After the Sandy Hook massacre, on the air, then-“Meet the Press” moderator David Gregory brandished an ammo clip that is illegal to possess in Washington DC, the city where “Meet” is taped.
Gregory was using the clip as a demagogic prop against NRA spokesman Wane LaPierre. Gregory deservedly ended up a laughingstock over the whole issue. Here was a news anchor breaking gun laws to push for the government to take guns away from law-abiding citizens.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC