Gibson baselessly alleged media double standard on Webb gun incident

››› ››› SARAH PAVLUS

On The Big Story, John Gibson claimed that Sen. Jim Webb was "largely getting a pass" from the media over the arrest of a senior Webb aide who allegedly entered a Senate building with a loaded pistol that belongs to Webb. In fact, several major news outlets have covered the story.

On the March 27 edition of Fox News' The Big Story, host John Gibson claimed that Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) was "largely getting a pass" from the media regarding a March 26 episode in which a senior Webb aide allegedly entered a Senate building with a loaded pistol that belongs to the senator -- an incident Webb has described as "inadvertent." Gibson went on to imagine a "slightly different set of circumstances" in which a "hard-core Republican senator ... had an aide who was caught carrying the senator's loaded pistol around." After "devis[ing]" this hypothetical scenario, Gibson concluded: "I think there would be far more made of this issue if the political affiliation were reversed."

But contrary to Gibson's claim that Webb has been "getting a pass," several media outlets -- in addition to Gibson's own Fox News Channel -- have covered the episode, including CNN, NBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press. On March 28, the Daily Press of Newport News, Virginia, reported: "The gun episode created a media spectacle on Capitol Hill Tuesday. A hastily arranged news conference for Webb drew a swarm of national press that would normally turn out only for Senate leaders. ... [Webb aide Phillip F.] Thompson's appearance at D.C. Superior Court likewise drew a media mob."

Furthermore, in fabricating a comparable scenario involving a Republican lawmaker, Gibson overlooked a real-life incident in which former Rep. John Hostettler (R-IN) was detained after bringing a loaded gun to a Kentucky airport in 2004. Hostettler, who ended up pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge, described the episode as a "rather stupid mistake." A search of the Nexis database for the two weeks following Hostettler's airport incident found that major news outlets such as CNN, AP, and The Washington Post covered the story, yet Fox News programs in the database made no mention of the issue, including The Big Story.* By contrast, on March 27 alone, eight separate Fox News programs reported on the Webb incident, including Fox & Friends, America's Newsroom, Fox News Live, Live Desk, Special Report, The Fox Report, and Hannity & Colmes.

Additionally, Gibson recycled the claim that Webb "picked a fight" with President Bush during a November 2006 White House reception for newly elected members of Congress. In fact, as Media Matters for America has documented, several media figures omitted a key part of a reported exchange between Webb and Bush in order to depict Webb as having provoked the exchange. By contrast, former Reagan speechwriter and Wall Street Journal contributing editor Peggy Noonan wrote that it was Bush who had been rude to Webb.

From the March 27 edition of Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson:

GIBSON: Now, "My Word." Speaking of which, now we have this interesting situation in which an aide to Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia is arrested carrying a gun into the Capitol building. The initial story is the senator asked the aide to take his bag, which contained the gun, to Webb's home, but didn't mention the gun, and the aide decided to drop by the office first. That's where he got caught -- going through security.

Now, Webb is a Second Amendment supporter. He is licensed to carry a gun in Virginia -- not in D.C. But Webb's news conference about what happened today leaves me scratching my head. Here's a key part of what Webb said:

"I have never carried a gun in the Capitol complex, and I did not give the weapon to Phillip Thompson, and that's all that I think I'll say."

Webb's aide was being arraigned at almost that exact moment, so Webb thought he should refrain from saying more. Here's my problem: The senator is largely getting a pass on this, and I think he probably should. But let's just suppose a slightly different set of circumstances.

Suppose there was a hard-core Republican senator who opposed a war policy of a Democrat [sic] president. I know, you have to imagine a Democrat going to war, but let's just say it's possible. And let's just say this Republican senator had a son in the military and upon meeting the president picked a fight with him and was later quoted as saying he was thinking about punching the Democrat president over the war policy and perceived rudeness. That, of course, is exactly the situation that describes Sen. Webb, except the political affiliations are reversed.

Now, let's just imagine that particular Republican senator had an aide who was caught carrying the senator's loaded pistol around, revealing the fact the senator routinely packs a gun. Couldn't I expect a great hue and cry about this senator, who is so paranoid and demented he thinks he needs to carry an automatic pistol with two extra clips because he's going to need to fight his way out of -- out of what? The Senate cloakroom?

The reason I devise this comparison is that I think Webb is right to carry a gun. He also has a right to do so. But I think there would be far more made of this issue if the political affiliation were reversed.

That is "My Word."

* Search terms used: "Hostettler and airport" in News (All) between 4/20/04 and 5/4/04

Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
John Gibson
Show/Publication
The Big Story with John Gibson
Stories/Interests
Attacks on Progressives, Propaganda/Noise Machine
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