'This Changes Everything': Piers Morgan, Bill O'Reilly, Joe Scarborough Take on Gun Control After Newtown
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A version of this story first appeared in the Jan. 10, 2013, issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
The horrific shooting that killed 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn, has thrust some of the media’s biggest stars into the growing debate over gun violence. In the wake of the Dec. 14 massacre by 20-year-old Adam Lanza, Piers Morgan has become unusually opinionated on his CNN program, asking a representative from the Michigan Coalition of Responsible Gun Owners: “How many kids have to die?” MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman who enjoyed NRA support while he was in office, delivered a lengthy and emotional plea for reforms. “Our Bill of Rights does not guarantee gun manufacturers the absolute right to sell military-style, high-caliber, semi-automatic combat assault rifles with high-capacity magazines to whoever the hell they want,” he said Dec. 17 on Morning Joe.
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Morgan in particular has railed against the lack of a sustained outcry at the string of recent shootings -- at an Oregon shopping mall on Dec. 11, at a July screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colo., and the 2011 shooting near Tucson, Ariz., that killed six and severely injured Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. “The conspiracy of silence doesn’t just happen among politicians, it also happened with many in the media,” Morgan tells THR. “The media has allowed this debate to be hijacked by the NRA, and that’s not good enough."
MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell took NRA president Wayne LaPierre to task on his show Dec. 18, condemning the organization's position that guns like the semi-automatic AR-15 (used in Newtown and Aurora) are a Second Amendment right and characterizing them as "weapons of mass murder."
Morgan will host a live town hall Dec. 19, with Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, N.J.; former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge; Tucson survivor Daniel Hernandez and others.
Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly, meanwhile, confined the debate on his show to America's violent entertainment culture, singling out director Quentin Tarantino as a purveyor of "gratuitous violence." He also noted that he invited Tarantino and Django Unchained star Jamie Foxx to come on his show, but they declined.
But with few exceptions, it has been next to impossible to get Republican lawmakers or NRA supporters to agree to appear on TV. “I think the NRA-worshipping politicians who are afraid to go on television and talk about their positions are at this moment rethinking their positions,” says O’Donnell, who hosted The Last Word from Newtown on Dec. 17.
Scarborough and co-host Mika Brzezinski worked the phones the weekend after the shooting in a futile attempt to book gun-advocate lawmakers. “We actually worked very aggressively to try to find somebody that would come on the show that was A-rated by the NRA and would take an opposing side,” Scarborough says.
They ended up with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who like Scarborough, has had a change of heart about gun control in the wake of Newtown. And David Gregory’s Meet the Press extended invitations “to all 31 pro-gun-rights senators in the new Congress to invite them on the program to share their views on the subject this morning,” he said on his program Dec. 16. “We had no takers."