A story by New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman Monday left readers with the impression that FNC was stifling debate on gun control in light of the Sandy Hook shooting. But subsequent stories and coverage of the issue concerning FNC have shown that’s actually not the case.
“It’s by no means universal,” Sherman told FishbowlDC. “It’s more nuanced. They’re just taking a low-key approach.”
Sherman’s initial story said FNC’s weekend producer David Clark had instructed lower producers not to broach gun control, given the current sensitivity of the subject. Despite the email, gun control was discussed several different times that weekend (13 times, by Jeff Poor’s count at The Daily Caller). Stories in both The Hollywood Reporter and The Daily Caller pointed these instances out, though Sherman’s story did as well.
Since then, a few seemingly contradictory events have taken place in the FNC world… First, the network’s megastar, Bill O’Reilly, has discussed guns and America’s “gun culture” on his program a few times. And as WaPo‘s Erik Wemple noted previously, O’Reilly has a pragmatic history on the subject. Sherman published a story Thursday on how John Lott, the right’s go-to guy for Second Amendment issues, had a column rejected by FoxNews.com.
The column was a defense of the right to own semi-automatic weapons, like the one used in the Sandy Hook shooting. “They said, ‘This is just too sensitive,'” Lott told Sherman. Weirdly, Lott has appeared on FNC to discuss gun control since the shooting. So what’s fitting for FNC isn’t for FoxNews.com?
To recap: A producer instructs underlings not to book segments on gun control. And yet we see gun control discussed repeatedly on the channel. O’Reilly, who believes in gun control, touches on the topic. And yet, a column advocating less gun control is rejected by FoxNews.com… a column by an individual who has talked guns on FNC.
Sherman offered a theory to explain at least part of this no-pattern pickiness at Fox: “O’Reilly’s show is his own thing. He can do mostly what he wants.”