Angle ignored defense bill controversy in favor of repeating Lott's attacks on Durbin

››› ››› NICOLE CASTA

Fox News chief Washington correspondent Jim Angle ignored the controversy surrounding Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's (R-TN) decision to set aside a major Department of Defense funding bill in favor of seeking passage of a bill that would ban lawsuits against gun manufacturers and dealers when firearms they have sold are used in committing crimes. Frist's decision allowed for Senate passage of the gun liability bill prior to the Senate's August recess, while the $491 billion Pentagon budget bill will not be considered until fall. In contrast, many other media outlets, including the Associated Press, The Washington Post, USA Today, and CNN, reported on Frist's choice to advance the lawsuit legislation.

But Angle's report completely ignored Frist's shelving the defense spending bill and instead focused on repeating attacks made by Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) against Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-IL) over comments Durbin made on the Senate floor. Durbin, in speaking out against the gun liability bill before its passage, stated that Mississippi was "the largest supplier state" of guns used in Illinois to commit violent crimes. Angle reported that "Lott cried foul, saying he doubts Durbin's allegations are accurate and even accused him of violating a Senate rule against making offensive references to any U.S. state." According to the Illinois State Police, while not first, Mississippi is, in fact, a major supplier of guns used in crimes committed in Illinois: "More crime guns flow into Illinois from Indiana and Mississippi than from any other state. According to recent data, 777 crime guns from Indiana and 532 crime guns from Mississippi were located in Illinois. Crime guns from these two states alone nearly equal the total number of crime guns from the next 10 states combined."

The only other media outlets to report on Durbin's comments and Lott's response were Mississippi newspapers: Biloxi's The Sun Herald and Jackson's The Clarion-Ledger.

In contrast with Angle's report, several major media outlets focused on Frist's decision to push the lawsuit legislation:

  • The Associated Press reported on July 26: "Senate Republicans on Tuesday moved the National Rifle Association's top priority ahead of a $491 billion defense bill, setting up a vote on legislation to shield firearms manufacturers and dealers from lawsuits over gun crimes. Completion of the defense bill, which the Senate had been debating for a week, will now be delayed until fall. Democrats were incensed."
  • The Washington Post reported on July 28: "Democrats also criticized Frist for pulling a defense authorization bill from the floor this week to ensure that the gun bill would be considered before the summer recess, which is scheduled to begin this weekend."
  • USA Today reported on July 28: "Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., moved the proposed [gun] legislation ahead of a planned vote on a Pentagon budget bill."
  • CNN congressional correspondent Ed Henry reported, on the July 26 edition of CNN's Inside Politics:

HENRY: But Senator Durbin and other Democrats today jumping on another hot issue -- hot issue here on the Hill, the decision by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to shelve the defense bill until the fall at a time of war because of a dispute over a couple of Republican-authored amendments that the White House was not happy about. One by John McCain [R-AZ] would have strengthened policy in dealing with detainees at military prisons like Guantánamo. Another one written by Republican John Thune [SD] would have pushed back against the Pentagon a bit on some of these base closings that are planned.

Democrats particularly upset that the defense bill was pushed aside in favor of a National Rifle Association-backed bill that would grant immunity to gun manufacturers against lawsuits.

Angle's report on the July 29 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

ANGLE: The Senate today passed a bill designed to shield gun makers from lawsuits by a vote of 65-31. Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin slammed the state of Mississippi on the Senate floor last night, blaming its lax gun laws for the deaths of Illinois citizens.

DURBIN (clip): When we traced criminal guns used in Illinois to kill people and commit serious crimes and tried to figure out where they were coming from, the largest supplier state to Illinois of guns was Mississippi.

ANGLE: Today, Mississippi Senator Trent Lott cried foul, saying he doubts Durbin's allegations are accurate and even accused him of violating a Senate rule against making offensive references to any U.S. state.

LOTT (clip): I think he owes my state an apology, and the days when everybody can use Mississippi as a whipping dog are over. We're not going to put up with that, and if I'd have been on the floor, I'd have called his hand.

ANGLE: Senator Trent Lott.

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