Right-Wing Media Claims Surgeon General Nominee Has “Anti-Gun” Agenda Based On Comments He Made As A Teenager

Media conservatives are attacking Dr. Vivek Murthy, President Obama's nominee for the post of Surgeon General, because when he was 16 he expressed concern about children being exposed to violence on television.

As Murthy's nomination has moved closer to a vote in the Senate, right-wing media have smeared him as “anti-gun” and “radical” because Murthy, like the rest of the medical community, believes gun violence is a public health concern.

The latest attack on Murthy appeared in a Daily Mail article by David Martosko, the former executive editor of the right-wing Daily Caller. Martosko's article appeared under the headline: “Revealed: Obama's controversial pick for surgeon general adopted his anti-gun stance by watching violent CARTOONS.”

In the article Martosko, who is the Daily Mail's U.S. political editor, dug up a quote from when Murthy was 16 and expressed concern to the Miami Herald about children being exposed to violent cartoons:

Dr. Vivek Murthy, who founded Doctors for Obama in 2008 -- a group that later changed its name to 'Doctors for America -- was a graduating high school senior at the time, one of several valedictorians the Miami Herald interviewed.

'Vivek Murthy, 16, of Palmetto High, takes television cartoons to task' for 'the growing problem of kids and violence,' according to the Herald.

'Today, a typical elementary student wakes up on Saturday mornings to fiery gun battles, explosive scenes of terror and the violent decimation of the “bad guy” - all this in a children's cartoon,' Murthy said then. 

'With such destructive influence, society's preoccupation with firearms and brutal methods of conflict resolution is no surprise.'

The Daily Mail article has been cited in several conservative blogs.

Whether exposure to violence on television can cause real life aggression is a question that has been subject to academic debate for decades.

Murthy's claim about TV violence is actually similar to some pro-gun commentary that links media and violence. However, unlike Murthy, those pro-gun commentators draw the connection in an attempt to shift the blame from shootings away from the easy availability of firearms.

In the National Rifle Association's first public comments after the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the group's executive vice president Wayne LaPierre suggested culpability on the part of the media because children are exposed to numerous acts of violence through media:

LAPIERRE: A child growing up in America today witnesses 16,000 murders, and 200,000 acts of violence by the time he or she reaches the ripe old age of 18. And, throughout it all, too many in the national media, their corporate owners, and their stockholders act as silent enablers, if not complicit co-conspirators.

Rather than face their own moral failings, the media demonize gun owners.