CyberAlert -- 05/15/2000 -- Moms Vs. "Powerful" NRA

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Moms Vs. "Powerful" NRA; Why Not Total Gun Ban? SUVs the "Meanest"

1) ABC's Cokie Roberts adopted the marcher's spin, announcing their "call for sensible gun legislation." Rosie O'Donnell's reasoning: "I will always support the Democrats and I love the Democratic agenda about gun control. This is not about politics."

2) Sunday morning NBC's Soledad O'Brien repeatedly bemoaned how it's "a bunch of mothers" up against the "very powerful and well-funded" NRA. She insisted "the Million Mom Marcher's platform is admittedly moderate," asking: "Do you think it's too moderate?"

3) Friday night ABC offered a balanced presentation on how women feel about gun control, CBS delivered outright liberal-cause advocacy and NBC landed somewhere in between in focusing mainly on "three generations" of women attending the Million Mom March.

4) "GMA at the White House: Moms & Guns," offered minimal opposition to the pro-gun control line. Of questions posed or statements made by moms, 20 offered a pro-gun control point versus just 8 with an anti-gun control point.

5) Bryant Gumbel lamented: "Why are you only focusing on licensing and registration?...Why aren't you going for example for a total ban?" Congress won't do anything about guns, though "we all hope for the best."

6) Bush moved left on guns, but Today's Katie Couric still hit him from the left: "So you think it's perfectly alright for people to carry concealed weapons into churches across the country?"

7) "In a rare moment of corporate candor," CBS's Bob Orr trumpeted Friday night, Ford "admitted...SUVs are gas-guzzling polluters and a threat to people in smaller cars." Orr dubbed SUVs Ford's "meanest" vehicles. ABC, CNN and NBC also jumped on the news.

>>> "If It Isn't Big Government, It's Risky: Media Ridicule Bush's Social Security Reform Plans, but Gore's Scheme Is Called 'Conservative.'" The May 11 Media Reality Check is now online. The report by Rich Noyes, Director of the MRC's Free Market Project, begins: "Here's how journalists are aiding the effort to undermine privatization: first, echo Vice President Al Gore's 'risky scheme' spin; then appear balanced by hitting Gore on his over-the-top rhetoric; and finally portray Gore's plan to hijack the surplus to increase benefits as 'conservative.'" To read the rest, go to: <<<


The Sunday morning interview shows on ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox and NBC all balanced Million Mom March (MMM) advocates with gun rights defenders, though ABC's Cokie Roberts adopted the spin of the pro-gun control marchers when she introduced MMM emcee Rosie O'Donnell who soon betrayed the very political agenda shielded by the image of stroller-pushing moms.

ABC's This Week put Cokie Roberts on the Mall for its lead interview with O'Donnell. Roberts set up the segment: "Here on the Mall thousands of women are expected later this morning to protest gun violence and call for sensible gun legislation."

Of course, "sensible gun legislation" is not an objective summary but the exact phrase used by MMM organizers.

Roberts asked O'Donnell about the political agenda behind the march: "You know there's been a good deal of criticism that this is really a Clinton White House Democratic Party organized event. Are you basically supporting the Democrats on this?"
O'Donnell responded by admitting her partisan agenda while still, with a straight face, trying to maintain the apolitical aura for the march: "I personally, Rosie O'Donnell, have always been a Democrat. I will always support the Democrats and I love the Democratic agenda about gun control. This is not about politics. We didn't ask the people standing here before us whether or not they're Republican or Democrat. We asked if they care about the fact four thousand children are shot dead every year, that 30,000 Americans are killed when a bullet enters their body...."

Roberts soon exposed any pretense that the march did not have a political agenda. Referring to former Democratic Senate staffer and march organizer Donna Dees-Thomases, Roberts inquired: "Ms. Thomases also said that once the march is over the gloves come off politically. Is that's what's happening here, that this is organizing a political event?"
O'Donnell expressed her desire: "Well I hope that the Million Mom March changes its status from a non-profit to a lobby organization. I hope hat we can get the passion that is here today and harness it and have an organization that will be bigger, stronger, and more powerful than the NRA...."

A few hours later while on stage during the rally, O'Donnell shouted: "The NRA is buying votes with blood money!"

Good to see we're all working to bring people together for the benefit of the children.


Sunday morning on Today and MSNBC Soledad O'Brien repeatedly bemoaned how it's "a bunch of mothers" up against the "very powerful and well-funded" NRA. During MSNBC's two hours of live Million Mom March (MMM) coverage from 10am to 12pm ET she also wondered if their agenda was "too moderate"?

O'Brien co-hosted Today live from the White House and the show opened with an interview with Hillary Clinton. O'Brien's first question: "When we talk about this issue, on one side you have the NRA, which is obviously a very powerful and well-funded group, on the other side essentially you're talking about a bunch of mothers. Realistically speaking, can they ever be able to yield the same power as a powerful lobby?"

She did later at least ask Hillary about the claim by the Second Amendment Sisters that guns are needed by parents to protect kids, and David Bloom talked with Armed Informed Mothers march organizer Kim Watson, but MMM proponents got a lot more time. Today ran two taped pieces profiling MMM attendees and O'Brien conducted an interview with an MMM organizer from Michigan.

C-SPAN broadcast the entirety of the MMM and counter gun rights rally. Neither CNN or FNC offered any extended coverage of the MMM, but MSNBC went live with interviews about it from 10am to noon ET before returning to the usual Sunday schedule of repeats of re-runs, including approximately the 175th repeat of the Time & Again about roller coasters.

While MSNBC did mix in a little bit about the views of those attending the Armed Informed Mothers rally, the two hours mostly promoted the MMM cause, a point illustrated by looking at how O'Brien approached two guests: One a celebrity and the other a politician.

Here are all three of the questions she posed at 10:14am to singer Melissa Manchester:
-- "Tell me a little bit about what inspired you to take part in this march."
-- "Do you think that moms, even 150,000 moms, or even more if the numbers bear that out, are going to be able to have the same kind of political and frankly financial clout a group like the NRA are able to have?"
-- "We know that this morning you're performing a song which you call A Mother's Prayer, and you wrote that song just after the shootings at Columbine High School. Tell me about what motivated you to pen that song?"

Three minutes later Maryland Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, a Democrat, sat down next to O'Brien. Her first question:
"We were speaking with the songwriter Melissa Manchester about the power that mothers can have. Do you think realistically when you consider, and you know probably better than most people, the financial power that the NRA has, 150,000 moms pushing strollers with their kids. Can they wield the same kind of political clout, realistically?"

She later queried: "The Million Mom Marcher's platform is admittedly moderate. Do you think it's too moderate, that it doesn't go far enough? They will be the first to say we don't want to come into your home and remove your guns, we want sensible gun laws."

As for how much "power" the moms in strollers have up against the big, bad NRA, at the end of the rally Rosie O'Donnell listed some of the corporate sponsors of the event: Dannon Yogurt, FileMaker Pro software,,, Oprah Winfrey's Oxygen Media, Pax TV and Virgin Atlantic Airways. They aren't hurting for financial support, but how do you add up the value of glowing media coverage, something the NRA could never get?


Friday night the three broadcast networks took different approaches to the Million Mom March -- from balance on ABC to outright liberal-cause advocacy on CBS, with NBC somewhere in between.

For ABC's World News Tonight, Michelle Norris traveled to Carroll County, Maryland to pass along the views of two women: one planning to participate in the Million Mom March and one planning to attend the Second Amendment Sisters rally.

CBS didn't bother with such balance. As Dan Rather introduced a May 12 CBS Evening News story: "Women and their families will push for gun safety in what they call the Million Mom March. CBS's Thalia Assuras tells us how personal, preventable tragedy drove one mother into joining up."

Assuras profiled a New York City family which lost an 11-year-old when a "next-door neighbor and friend pulled the trigger of an illegal handgun found in the house." Assuras elaborated: The incident compelled Cathy Murphy to take action, and brought her out of her back yard to the front lines of gun control advocacy. She helped push through New York City's Christopher's Law; buy a gun, buy a safety lock at the same time. And this weekend, she'll be marching in the Million Mom March."
Cathy Murphy: "I didn't want anybody to feel the pain that we feel every day."
Assuras missed an opportunity to spell out the political activist past of the march organizer: "Donna Dees-Thomases has heard Cathy Murphy's story and countless others like it. Last year's day-care center shooting in California drove her to organize the march."
Donna Dees-Thomases, founder, Million Mom March: "Look what the Mothers Against Drunk Driving did. They banned the irresponsible use of alcohol. That's all. We're trying to do the same thing with guns."

Next, Rather asked Bob Schieffer to explain why the NRA wins too often: "However many mothers and families march for gun control on Sunday, few expect the sheer weight of their numbers to change many minds, or votes, in the Congress. Let's get the real deal on why now from CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer."
Schieffer's analysis, in full: "Dan, this moms' march is going to bring enormous pressure on Congress, but to understand why it will be so hard to change the gun laws and just how fierce the pro-gun forces can be, listen to this. Longtime Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, the Chairman of the Conference Committee, where some modest gun control measures are currently buried, is about as conservative as they get, and has sided with the gun people for as long as I can remember. Yet Hatch was booed at Utah's Republican Convention last weekend, and gun forces came within a few votes of denying him the party's endorsement as its Senate candidate because they felt Hatch, a four-term Senator who has never even had a primary opponent, had somehow gone soft on guns. That little bit of reality tells you why Hatch is reluctant to even let Congress vote on the gun measures, and why it will be so hard to turn this Congress around on guns."

Gee, you'd think a real reporter would tell viewers what Hatch has done to upset gun rights supporters instead of passing along banal generalities.

(Saturday's CBS Evening News featured an admiring look at three women from Dunblane, Scotland, who successfully lobbied for a ban on handguns in Britain after a school shooting there.)

Friday's NBC Nightly News dedicated the In Depth segment to "three generations" in a family attending the Million Mom March. Tom Brokaw set up the story: "The Million Mom March on Mother's Day, a national protest against gun violence. This grassroots movement has been spurred on by a rash of shootings involving children. The most recent figures show that in one year more than 32,000 people were killed by guns, more than 4,000 of them children. But will any of this make any difference?"

Lisa Myers started her piece: "Three generations, one family. Today Tanya Days, her mother and daughter prepare for their first march ever on Sunday. They'll wear this tribute [button with picture] to Tanya's brother, BJ, accidentally killed at age 15 by another teenager with a handgun....The three women among a 150,000 demonstrators expected here, thousands more at at least 60 rallies across the country. Many are political newcomers, propelled by personal tragedy, fear or frustration. They cite a sobering statistic, 12 children a day killed by gun violence. Their solution? Mandatory gun safety locks, registration of handguns, licensing of gun owners. Donna Dees-Thomases, a mom and television publicist, dreams up the march after this scene at a Jewish day care center hit too close to home."
Donna Dees-Thomases: "And I'm not opposed to anybody who needs, eel they need a handgun for protection, but they just should be willing to submit to a safety course, a background check, a fingerprint and a photo ID."

For a reality check on Thomases's real background as a Democratic Senate staffer and Hillary campaign donor, go to:

As for NBC's insistence, along with the other networks, of repeating the 12 "children" per day and 4,000 a year killed by guns numbers, as noted in the April 17 CyberAlert the NRA discredited a similar numerical claim: "To reach the fraudulent '13 children' figure (alternately and even more dishonestly expressed by some 'gun control' advocates as '5,000 per year' or 'one every 90 seconds'), the President and those with the same agenda count anyone under the age of 20 as a 'child.' The reason is simple: There are relatively few firearm-related deaths among children, but a much greater number among juveniles and young adults ages 15-19. Add both age groups together, call that total 'children,' and the number of deaths among 'children' is dishonestly increased 569%...."
To read this NRA report, go to:

Back to the Myers story, she at least broached the political issue: "The march also under fire because what began as a non-partisan grassroots movement is now closely associated with the Clinton White House. The President appears with marchers today and goads Republicans in Congress who oppose many gun measures."

After noting how George Bush announced a safety lock giveaway program and that "the National Rifle Association challenges the moms to match the NRA's pledge of $ 1 million to teach gun safety in schools," Myers gave a few seconds to a woman not enamored by the Million Mom March: "Gun owner Sherry LeGate (sp?) will participate in a counter march on Sunday. The message? Gun safety, yes. Gun control, no."
LeGate: "Licensing and registration is not going to stop what's happening right now."


ABC's Good Morning America delivered the Million Mom March organizers and President Clinton an early Mother's Day gift on Friday with two hours live from the White House. "GMA at the White House: Moms & Guns," offered minimal opposition to the pro-gun control party line. Of 28 questions posed or statements made by the mothers, and one kid, to President Clinton and amongst themselves after Clinton left, by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson's count, 20 made a pro-gun control point versus just 8 with an anti-gun control point, for a ratio greater than 2-to-1.

The May 12 show opened with co-host Charles Gibson interviewing President Clinton in the Oval Office. His first question: "It was a year ago, Mr. President, that we were here with you with the students talking about gun violence, and you talked to me then about the hopes that you had for new gun control legislation. It hasn't happened. What went wrong?"
Gibson bemoaned the lack of progress: "I've got here a pile of all the gun legislation that's been proposed in the past year since we were here before. None of it has passed. By my count, we have more states rejecting new gun control legislation than have passed it. We have 15 states that have passed prohibitions on cities suing gun manufacturers. That hardly seems like progress."

Gibson did challenge Clinton directly at one point: "Don't you, to some extent, make the NRA's case when you say that, though? You know, they say enforce existing laws. We're not doing enough of enforcing existing laws, and yet you've got murder down 25 percent since '93, gun crime down 35 percent since '92, violent crime overall down 27 percent. That's done with a good economy, better policing, and not necessarily such stronger gun controls laws."

At about 7:15am the show moved to the Roosevelt Room where Clinton heard ten pro-gun control versus four anti-gun control comments, including a heated exchange with the NRA's Susan Howard. The segment began with a demand from Linda Halpin, who didn't seem to appreciate how politics works and illustrated how many of the moms put emotion ahead of rational policy discussion:
"My son was killed last Mother's Day. He was shot in the head and, of course, was pronounced brain dead. When he lie in the hospital room, I promised him I would do something about it. So I'll speak on behalf of my son Lewis. Mr. President, it's been so long that so many of these laws are being held up, and I understand that they're being held up in Congress. I understand that they've been sitting there and in my heart, I feel that if something had been done, maybe a year ago today my son may have been alive. I need to know from you, Mr. President, I need to know and I need an answer today, what are you gonna do about this in your remaining days in office? I don't want to know what has been done or what could be done. I want to know what you're going to do for my son Lewis."


The Early Show on Friday didn't bother with any views contrary to the Million Mom March line. Co-host Bryant Gumbel, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brian Boyd, asserted: "In Washington, DC this Sunday thousands of women are expected to converge on Washington for what's being called the Million Mom March and to call for sensible gun control. Just around nine months ago it was the story of an attack on children in LA in August of '99 that spurred Donna Dees-Thomases into action. The shooting of two adults and three children at a Jewish community center shook her enough to try to do something."

Up first from the Mall, Gumbel talked via satellite to Gail Powers, whose son, Nathan, "witnessed that shooting at the LA community center." He tossed a series of softballs to the march's California coordinator: "I'm told you were never an activist before, what spurred you to action this time?" And: "Those who will be marching on Sunday, who are they? I mean besides being mothers, what do they have in common, what's the unifying theme here?"

After Powers explained how they want licensing and registration, Gumbel scolded her: "Why are you only focusing on licensing and registration, why aren't you going for more than that, why aren't you going, for example, for a total ban?"

Next, Gumbel interviewed a woman whose daughter was killed in the Dunblane, Scotland shooting. He wanted to know: "Following the tragedy in your country, you were able to get a total ban on all handguns. How'd you do it?"

Going back to Powers, Gumbel announced his "hope" for what will happen: "Ms. Powers, this Congress has so far seemed somewhat unwilling to do anything about guns. Realistically, realistically, I mean we all hope for the best, but realistically, do you think Sunday's march is going to make a difference?"


Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush moved left Friday hen he announced that as Governor of Texas he would push to provide state-paid gun locks for "free" to anyone in Texas who wants one. In one decision he moved away from conservatism in two ways -- adopting a gun control group's assumptions about trigger locks while simultaneously creating another government giveaway program for an item people can easily buy for themselves, but instead of hitting Bush from the right on guns, Friday morning Today's Katie Couric still pressed him from the left.

After asking about how the giveaway program would work and how it would be paid for, Couric challenged Bush's gun record: "The goal of this march, meanwhile, is to focus the public's attention on what's being called common sense gun control measures. You signed an amendment in 1997 which allowed licensed gun owners to carry concealed handguns into churches and even amusement parks unless posted otherwise. Isn't this exactly the kind of thing that these moms are marching against?"
Bush maintained Texas is safer for the concealed carry law, prompting Couric to retort: "So you think it's perfectly alright for people to carry concealed weapons into churches across the country?"
Bush explained how that provision was added at the request of preachers who wanted to carry a gun inside their homes on church grounds.


All the networks Friday night enthusiastically jumped on the Ford Motor Company statement that SUVs pose a danger to those in smaller cars and pollute too much. CBS's Bob Orr concluded by calling SUVs "its meanest but most popular vehicles." CBS followed up with a second story on the same subject on Saturday night. The Friday night stories on ABC, CBS and NBC all followed the same formula: Lay out what Ford said without challenge and feature a comment from Dan Becker of the Sierra Club. NBC's Robert Hager had two liberals argue over the motivation behind Ford's announcement.

-- ABC anchor Peter Jennings introduced the May 12 World News Tonight story: "The Ford Motor Company has made a surprising admission about the vehicles that make the company so much money. It says that sport utility vehicles cause serious safety problems and are environmentally unfriendly. In and of itself, the information is not a great revelation. It's that the company said so. And publicly."

Barry Serafin began his story: "As sports utility vehicles have soared in popularity, it has not been surprising to hear the government and environmentalists warn that they are gas guzzlers, that they pollute more than cars, and that they are dangerous. SUV's are three times as likely as cars to kill the other driver in a crash. And the death rate for occupants of an SUV is just as high as cars. But what was surprising was to hear the same concerns expressed by Ford, since sport utility vehicles account for most of its profits. The admissions came in a corporate report issued at the company's shareholders meeting. The report even quoted the Sierra Club declaring, 'the gas-guzzling SUV is a rolling monument to environmental destruction.'"

-- Setting up Bob Orr's CBS Evening News piece, Dan Rather announced: "The huge, and hugely popular, sport utility vehicle so common on US highways, the SUVs, are also popular targets for critics. They waste fuel, pollute the air; they're just too big. So say the critics. Now the Ford Motor Company, which makes tons of money selling SUVs, says it's all true."

Orr asserted: "In a rare moment of corporate candor, Ford Motor Company admitted what industry critics and consumers have long known: sport utility vehicles, SUVs, are gas-guzzling polluters and a threat to people in smaller cars." Orr soon relayed: "After Ford's concession, environmentalists now want action."

Orr concluded by urging Ford to take a particular course of action: "Safety improvements will also be a challenge. Cars are no match for larger, heavier sport utility vehicles. For the moment, Ford has scored a public relations coup, winning praise from some of its harshest critics, but now the automaker has to follow through on a vague promise to make its meanest but most popular vehicles nicer."

-- On the NBC Nightly News Tom Brokaw declared: "In Detroit, a surprise admission tonight from the Ford Motor Company about sports utility vehicles, SUVs. Every year fully one fifth of all passenger vehicles now sold in this country are SUVs. Ford is now conceding there are real problems with its most profitable product."

Reporter Robert Hager offered two competing explanations for Ford's statement, both from left-wing groups: "Why would Ford call attention to these problems? Or the oil company BP Amoco admit, two years ago, its products pollute. Or Shell commit to work for human rights abroad? A corporate group called Business for Social Responsibility says it's enlightened company leadership."
Rebecca Calahan Klein, Business for Social Responsibility: "They are looking more broadly at their entire social responsibility and how it gets reflected in their daily decision making."
Hager: "But some others note that despite the popularity of SUVs, three million sold last year, sales have leveled off while the criticism's grown. And auto safety advocate Clarence Ditlow attributes a darker motive."
Clarence Ditlow: "The gun industry has been sued. The tobacco industry has been sued. Sport utility vehicles are next, and what they're trying to do is to say we're corporate citizens and we're going to get ahead of the lawsuits."

It's a battle in the media for which product they consider most worthy of scorn: gun or SUVs. -- Brent Baker

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