For Fox News, It's Never The Right Time To Discuss Gun Violence

Fox News is helping to lead the right-wing media charge against NBC sportscaster Bob Costas after he brought up the issue of gun violence during halftime of Sunday night's NFL telecast. Fox's heavy-handed move reflects a long pattern of gun advocates trying to make sure a larger media discussion about gun violence in America does not take place.

Sadly, they appear to be succeeding.

Costas last night quoted at length a column by Fox Sports' Jason Whitlock, who wrote about the tragic story of Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher. On Saturday morning, he shot his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, and then drove to Arrowhead Stadium and shot himself to death in front of his Chiefs coach.

Whitlock stressed how “numb” our society has become to gun violence and murder, and suggested if Belcher didn't own a gun, both he and his girlfriend would be alive today.

After Costas invoked the column on NBC last night, the Fox & Friends team was incensed this morning:

KILMEADE: I just don't know if it's appropriate enough on a Sunday night, less than 24 hours after the guy took his own life and killed his girlfriend, the mother of his baby, to make that stance. Although he was quoting a columnist in doing so. I don't really think we needed to hear that last night.

It's telling that it was pair of sports journalists who focused on the topic of gun violence in the wake of the Belcher murder-suicide, because if it weren't for them, it's unlikely the issue would have been elevated to the national stage this weekend. And that's the way Fox would have preferred it.

As I've noted for years, the mainstream media long ago stopped covering gun violence as a major issue. And even in the wake of horrendous massacres, like in July when a gunman armed himself with a Smith & Wesson M&P15 and shot 70 moviegoers in Aurora, CO., the press has routinely turned a blind eye to the American epidemic. High-profile shootings are mostly covered as a crime issue, not a larger social one.

And even when the topic is covered the press has done a woeful job including crucial context, like the fact that 30,000 people die and 70,000 more are wounded each year from gun violence in this country. Those figures represent eye-opening details that help tell the larger, disturbing story about gun violence in America. But they're ones that rarely get cited by the U.S. news media when covering gun deaths.

That may be why Fox was so quick to slap down Costas: The GOP channel doesn't want any semblance of a media debate about gun violence to take hold. And Fox certainly doesn't want it to take hold in the high-profile forum of a primetime NFL telecast.

Note that the now-is-not-the-time-to-discuss-guns line of attack pushed by Fox has become common practice among conservatives and Republican politicians. Following the Aurora massacres, Sean Hannity and Fox contributor Michelle Malkin were furious the “left wing” was trying to “politicize” the story when they simply made the obvious connection between run-away gun violence and the movie theater mass murder.

Rush Limbaugh also pushed back hard. He denounced people for trying to “use this crisis to call for more gun control.”  Meanwhile, Republican Gov. Chris Christie chastised leaders who were "grandstanding" about gun laws in the wake of Aurora. 

The larger, much-needed debate about gun violence rarely takes place in our media. Last night, Costas' commentary represented an uncommon crack in the silence. Fox News wants to make sure that doesn't spread.