Profiles of Pro-Gun, Anti-Gun Advocates in NYTimes: Same Page, But Very Different Treatment

Friday's New York Times teased on the front page two profiles of prominent figures in the gun control debate (conservative David Keene and liberal New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg). Can you guess which one got more respectful treatment?

Reporter Eric Lichtblau's profile of National Rifle Association leader and "bombastic" conservative activist David Keene was hostile and unduly personal ("N.R.A. Leader, Facing Challenge in Wake of Shooting, Rarely Shies From Fight.") Lichtblau put Keene on defense right off the bat:

David Keene -- big-game hunter, éminence grise to conservatives, and now head of the National Rifle Association -- was explaining last month why people are buying more guns these days.

“Today,” Mr. Keene told a roomful of conservatives in Hawaii, “guns are cool.”

That, of course, was before the massacre at a Connecticut elementary school dramatically revived the once-moribund debate over gun control.

With the N.R.A. set to hold its first news conference on the shootings Friday after a weeklong silence, Mr. Keene is facing perhaps the biggest threat in decades to his organization’s gun rights stance.

Lichtblau regaled readers with unflattering blasts from Keene's past.

Indeed, Mr. Keene, 67, a combative and sometimes bombastic political operative who has advised Republican leaders from Ronald Reagan to Mitt Romney, has rarely shied from a fight.

In a videotaped confrontation that quickly made the Republican rounds in 2009, he threatened to punch a conservative filmmaker who challenged his leadership of the American Conservative Union and his criticism of “whining” by the former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

And when Mr. Keene was a senior adviser to Senator Bob Dole’s losing presidential bid in 1988, his clashes with others in the Dole campaign became so heated that he and another top aide were fired midtrip, with the campaign manager yelling during a stopover at the Jacksonville airport to “Get their baggage off the plane!”


After 27 years, Mr. Keene left the American Conservative Union last year amid internal tensions over his leadership. Mr. Keene’s inclusion of a gay conservative group at its convention upset some members, and there were allegations that his ex-wife, Diana Hubbard Carr, who was bookkeeper for the group, had embezzled $400,000 from its bank accounts. (She pleaded guilty.)

Right above the Keene profile in Friday's paper is a much nicer one from reporter Michael Grynbaum on liberal New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, showing him in compassionate mode over fallen police officers:"Bloomberg Incensed by Shooting, Pledges a Stiffer Fight on Guns."

It is a moment when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s heart races and his breath gets caught in his throat: the ringing of a bedside telephone in the middle of the night.

The message is inevitably the same: A police officer has been shot on the streets of New York.

“I just gag,” Mr. Bloomberg said, recalling his feeling of dread. “Chances are I’m out of bed, into the bathroom, get some clothes on and off to a hospital.”

He races to get there, determined to arrive ahead of the family, he said, “so I can tell them that their son or daughter is not coming home.”

Ask Mr. Bloomberg about firearms, and his usual stoic facade falls away, revealing anger and exasperation born of years of witnessing the blood and tears that can flow from gun violence.

Now, furious at the deadly school shooting in Newtown, Conn., and frustrated by inaction in Congress, Mr. Bloomberg said in an interview this week that he would ratchet up his fight to overhaul gun laws, drawing on his considerable political and finance resources to bring about change.

There is no criticism of those awful campaign finance Super PACs this time around, not when one is battling for a cause that's close to the hearts of the Times.

One of the world’s wealthiest men, Mr. Bloomberg plans to spend millions of dollars over the next two years to aid political candidates willing to oppose the gun lobby. He said he would not wait until 2014: the mayor’s “super PAC” is already looking at special elections next year, including governor’s races and an open House seat in Illinois.

Within days of the Newtown shootings, Mr. Bloomberg was on the phone with conservative senators, urging them to change their views. To his surprise, he said, some were willing to consider it.


The mayor’s statement, issued just after 4 p.m., was blunt. “President Obama rightly sent his heartfelt condolences to the families in Newtown,” Mr. Bloomberg wrote, adding, “What we have not seen is leadership -- not from the White House and not from Congress.”

The goal was to put immediate pressure on Washington for change. “The Democrats were unwilling to do it, and the Republicans didn’t want to,” said Howard Wolfson, the mayor’s chief communications strategist.

Mr. Bloomberg, meanwhile, took to the phones, calling members of Congress to urge the passage of an assault-weapons ban. To prepare his pitch, he instructed aides to find out how many Americans had been killed by guns since the Arizona shootings in 2011, when Mr. Obama last promised changes in the firearm laws. By Saturday, the mayor was on his private jet to Washington to push his case in an interview on “Meet the Press.”

The fact that New York City has strict gun laws but still has gun murders was silently passed over with an excuse:

The mayor was angry that New York’s gun laws, among the strictest in the country, did little to protect against the use of guns bought illegally in other states. In his inaugural speech on New Year’s Day 2006, he pledged to curb “these instruments of death,” although, at the time, the gun-control movement was at a standstill.


Until last year, the mayor’s advocacy was limited by campaign finance laws, but now he can take advantage of the “super PAC” phenomenon to inject unlimited amounts of his own money into campaigns across the country.

Grynbaum showed the tough Bloomberg cracking emotionally at the end:

“If you told me that I could write a check today and stop 48,000 murders in America in the next four years, can you imagine me not?” he said, his voice cracking slightly. “What kind of a person would I be?”