The tragic shootings in Aurora are not even a week old and the devastation wrought upon the families and the community is yet to be fully realized. And while there are many facts yet to be learned, here are a few observations worth making from the response by media and some of our elected officials.
Mayor Bloomberg has never been known for his sentimentality, once famously suggesting that there was no need for a September 11th memorial because of his own preference to be buried in a plain pine box. And while often times his anti-PC candor is refreshing, other times he crosses the line to blowhard billionaire. Within hours of the shooting, while victims were fighting for their lives, while law enforcement officials were still working to dismantle a lunatic’s booby-trapped psycho ward/apartment the Mayor was running off at the mouth about gun control sounding as oblivious to the world as Thurston Howell the 3rd.
Most every other serious politician in America paused that morning to pray, console and appropriately consider their response – but not the Mayor and it was sad. Gun control is a very serious topic and the Mayor’s actions to ratchet up attention on the topic might well be effective. But timing matters and ultimately he should have grabbed a big gulp, took a deep breath and waited till the emergency room cleared before diving in.
In an odd case of life imitating art, imitating life – Brian Ross and ABC News appeared to be trying out for a Tea Party bashing cameo on HBO’s Newsroom. If ever there was an indicator of the conservative prejudices of the mainstream media it was on display in ABC News inane and misguided pronouncement that Holmes was a Tea Party member. By the way, I’m not even sure what it would mean if Holmes was a Tea Party member because last I checked no political party requires a psych exam as a prerequisite to membership.
You might have thought that given the recent fiasco around reporting on the Supreme Court decision on Obamacare that Ross and ABC would exercise a measure of caution before speculating about the political ties of a mass murderer. It was a ridiculous news decision, which shouldn’t just fall on Ross, it should fall on the rush to report paradigm that sacrifices due diligence for breathless sound bites and allows slander to reach the airwaves.
Speaking of ridiculous news decisions, idiotic and insulting is how one can describe RNN’s Richard French Live. On the morning of the shooting RNN’s Richard French Live had scheduled an interview with US Senate candidate Wendy Long (in full disclosure my client) to profile her run for US Senate against Kirsten Gillibrand. In the wake of events overnight, the producer had decided, as is within their judgement, that in addition to the profile they wanted to talk about the shooting in a separate segment. Respecting the need to discuss such an important issue and the need to cover breaking news we assented to their request.
Like ABC and the Mayor the show’s interviewer Andrew Whitman was desperate to use the tragedy to advance his own agenda – in this case to create a gotcha moment on gun policy with Long. Whitman, with the horror still unfolding in Aurora, worked overtime to bait Long into some declaratory statements on the tragedy and gun control. Out of respect for the victims, not knowing all the facts, Long an unabashed supporter of the 2nd Amendment refused to take the bait and get into a full on policy debate.
The result – none of the interview was aired or to date none of the subsequent profile piece. Instead, not getting the gotcha moment they wanted from Long, they invited her back for another interview. As my friends in the press contemplate why politicians work so desperately to control their message please consider experiences such as these.
Finally, in most tragedies there are the stories of personal heroism, loss and too often scapegoating. Sometimes it is just refreshing to hear stories that reinforce good old-fashioned commonsense. It seems Holmes had applied online to the Lead Valley Range (a gun club/shooting range) for membership. The owner of the club, Glenn Rotkovich, having called Holmes for a mandatory orientation decided that after listening to his answering machine message that he sounded too nuts too even consider. Rotkovich even went as far as to put his staff on notice, to keep their eyes open for Holmes and to not to let him in the club.
For all the pictures that are often painted by the media of a callous, idiotic gun culture in America, Rotkovich’s story is simple proof that commonsense can still prevail. I wonder whether Holmes psychiatrist or professors, who dealt with him on a regular basis, should have seen what Rotkovich saw?