In the wake of the massacre of nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., you might have expected Meet the Press host Chuck Todd to address America’s mass-shooting epidemic, racially motivated violence, or perhaps even terrorism. Instead, a segment on gun violence featured an all-black set of convicted murderers. Todd started the segment with what was essentially a disclaimer.
This morning we wanted to take a look at American gun violence from a different perspective, from that of the person pointing the gun. The circumstances you are about to see are very different from the racist violence in Charleston. In this case the inmates are African-American that you are going to hear from. But their lessons remain important, and we simply ask you to look at this be [sic] a color-blind issue. It’s about just simply gun violence.
In a follow-up discussion that began with Todd turning to New York Times columnist David Brooks, columnist Eugene Robinson brought Todd back to reality. When asked a question about the impact of laws on gun culture, Robinson dutifully answered before commenting on the fact that the inmates featured in the video were not a “terribly diverse set of people who were talking.” Robinson proceeded to bring it back to Charleston and reminded Todd that the current gun violence conversation was “about a horrific crime committed by a white man.” Robinson also pointed to the other major story occupying news media, of the two escaped convicts from the Clinton Correction Facility, both convicted murderers, also white men. Robinson ended with a shouldn’t-have-to-but-needed-to-be-said reminder that gun violence was “not just an African-American problem.”
The segment did not go over well on social media. Here’s just a few of the responses:
— Soledad O’Brien (@soledadobrien) June 21, 2015
What made me even more offended by that Meet The Press segment lead by @chucktodd was that it was lead by privileged white men.
— Terrell J. Starr (@Russian_Starr) June 21, 2015
Reaction to the segment came so quickly that Todd aired a follow-up panel on the show to respond.
It also prompted a written response from Todd, posted on the Meet the Press Web site. It was not an apology but a justification for the choice to air the segment, which was conceived and produced before the Charleston shooting. Todd wrote that there was a debate about whether or not to air the segment this week to avoid a conversation on “race and perception,” which, according to Todd, was “not the conversation we wanted the segment to invoke.” Oh, the dramatic irony.
Todd concluded, “Meet the Press should make all viewers uncomfortable at some point or we are not doing our job. I hope folks view the gun video as a part of the conversation we should all be having and not the totality of it.” You might not be surprised that this did not put a period on the matter.
“i don’t know” doesn’t work anymore. if you don’t know this discrepancy in coverage exists, you’re unqualified to do this job. right?
— Bomani Jones (@bomani_jones) June 21, 2015
The excuse is almost worse than the sin! —> My Response To Chuck Todd’s Defense Of MTP Segment On Black Murderers https://t.co/q1smJK6gVp
— Charles M. Blow (@CharlesMBlow) June 21, 2015
[Video via Raw Story]
Update: 1:15 p.m. In a tweeted response to Soledad O’Brien and Dr. LeRoy Horton, Chuck Todd apologized for the segment, writing “We’ve heard you. We clearly got it wrong and we are sorry.”