Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Don't lock up David Gregory or deport Piers Morgan

By Howard Kurtz, CNN
updated 8:03 AM EST, Mon December 31, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Howard Kurtz: Emotion over gun control battle is trumping reason
  • He says it makes no sense to arrest David Gregory for possessing a high-capacity clip
  • Piers Morgan is target of a deportation petition signed by 90,000 people
  • Kurtz says journalists shouldn't be threatened for doing their job

Editor's note: Howard Kurtz is the host of CNN's "Reliable Sources" and is Newsweek's Washington bureau chief. He is also a contributor to the website Daily Download.

(CNN) -- I went out on a limb the other day and said David Gregory should not be behind bars.

You would think I had issued a declaration of war. And maybe, the way some folks look at it, I had.

My defense of the "Meet the Press" moderator followed the much-publicized spectacle in which he brandished on the air a high-capacity magazine during an interview with the National Rifle Association's chief executive.

Howard Kurtz
Howard Kurtz

This was, to be sure, something of a stunt. It made for a great visual. It gave Gregory a prop as he asked Wayne LaPierre whether, if 30-bullet magazines like the one in his hand were banned, "isn't it just possible that we could reduce the carnage in a situation like Newtown?"

Next, as you've probably heard, came word that the police department in Washington was investigating Gregory for a potential violation of the city's gun laws. Possession of high-capacity magazines is illegal in Washington, even if they are empty.

It didn't help matters when the police said that NBC had asked for permission to show the ammunition on the air and was turned down. Nor has NBC's silence on the matter aided Gregory's case.

Watch: Is Chelsea Clinton a 'pretend journalist' for NBC?

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



But let's get real here. David Gregory's only intent was to commit journalism. Why are the cops wasting time on this, other than as a PR gesture to demonstrate that they're somehow on the case?

It's fine to lambaste what Gregory did on the air. He walked right up to the line, and some would say crossed it, of pushing LaPierre to acknowledge that some form of gun control would be sensible. And maybe holding up ammunition for the cameras was grandstanding.

Watch: Twitter filled with sickening death wishes for George H.W. Bush

But there is a vitriol in the many messages, tweets and posts accusing me of not understanding that a journalist isn't above the law. On that point, I couldn't agree more. But would a regular person be prosecuted for carrying a magazine with no bullets if no violence was involved? Even the Wall Street Journal's conservative editorial page agrees that going after Gregory makes no sense.

Did NBC host break D.C. gun laws?
Media's 2012 report card
Can't 'legislate against evil'
Morgan and others debate gun violence

What's striking here is that gun enthusiasts often make the argument that they just want government to leave them alone, yet seem perfectly comfortable unleashing it against a member of the mainstream media, supporting the Second Amendment by trashing the First.

The same kind of animus has been directed at CNN's Piers Morgan, an outspoken advocate of gun control. For no other reason than that they don't like his views, more than 90,000 people have signed a petition calling for the British journalist to be deported.

Watch: Should NBC's David Gregory be jailed for waving ammunition on air?

The petition is meaningless, except in this respect: as a demonstration that so many people would support kicking someone out of the country for purely political reasons, without even the fig leaf of a technical offense.

Can Morgan be overbearing? It was not his finest hour when he questioned during an interview whether gun rights advocate Larry Pratt is an "unbelievably stupid man." He's fair game for equally strong criticism in return. But deportation is way out there as a remedy for media advocacy.

Morgan has handled the situation with humor, tweeting: "Still only 90,000 Americans have signed the White House petition to deport me. That leaves 310,910,000 who presumably want me to stay."

Emotions are obviously raw in the aftermath of the Connecticut tragedy, which saw 20 young and defenseless children gunned down.

Watch: From David Petraeus to Trayvon Martin, a 2012 media report card

Those who believe that guns are being unfairly blamed, led by the NRA, are lashing out at politicians, video game makers, entertainment conglomerates and, of course, the media. To the extent that leading journalists are in the forefront of this debate, they are feeling the sting of that anger. The uproar against the Journal-News newspaper for printing a map of gun permit owners in two suburban New York counties, which I view as violating their privacy without a good reason, can attest to that.

It's hardly surprising that things are getting heated, given the emotional intensity of the gun issue. But proclamations about locking up and banishing journalists deserve to be seen as little more than outlandish chatter.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Howard Kurtz.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Kathleen Blee says the KKK and white power or neo-Nazi groups give haters the purpose and urgency to use violence.
updated 7:46 AM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Henry Waxman say read deep, and you'll see the federal Keystone pipeline report spells out the pipeline is bad news
updated 1:43 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Frida Ghitis says President Obama needs to stop making empty threats against Russia and consider other options
updated 5:29 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say the Kansas Jewish Center killings are part of a string of lethal violence in the U.S. that outstrips al Qaeda-influenced attacks. Why don't we pay more attention?
updated 12:41 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Danny Cevallos says families of the passengers on Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 need legal counsel
updated 11:23 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Frum says Russia is on a rampage of mischief while Western leaders and Western alliances charged with keeping the peace hem and haw
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Most adults make the mistakes of hitting the snooze button and of checking emails first thing in the morning, writes Mel Robbins
updated 1:54 PM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Wheeler says as middle-class careers continue to disappear, we need a monthly cash payment to everyone
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Democrats need to show more political spine when it comes to the issue of taxes.
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Donna Brazile recalls the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act as four presidents honored the heroes of the movement and Lyndon Johnson, who signed the law
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Elmer Smith remembers Chuck Stone, the legendary journalist from Philadelphia who was known as a thorn in the side of police and an advocate for the little guy
updated 2:56 PM EDT, Sun April 13, 2014
Al Franken says Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider, wants to acquire Time Warner Cable, the nation's second-largest cable provider. Should we be concerned?
updated 11:22 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Philip Cook and Kristin Goss says the Pennsylvania stabbing attack, which caused grave injury -- but not death, carries a lesson on guns for policymakers
updated 3:06 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Wikipedia lists 105 football movies, but all too many of them are forgettable, writes Mike Downey
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
John Sutter and hundreds of iReporters set out to run marathons after the bombings -- and learned a lot about the culture of running
updated 12:49 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Timothy Stanley says it was cowardly to withdraw the offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The university should have done its homework on her narrow views and not made the offer
updated 10:16 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Al Awlaki
Almost three years after his death in a 2011 CIA drone strike in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki continues to inspire violent jihadist extremists in the U.S, writes Peter Bergen
updated 9:21 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
David Bianculli says Colbert is a smart, funny interviewer, but ditching his blowhard persona to take over the mainstream late-night role may cost him fans
updated 1:31 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Rep. Paul Ryan says the Republican budget places its trust in the people, not in Washington
updated 5:28 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Aaron David Miller says Obama isn't to blame for Kerry's lack of progress in resolving Mideast talks
updated 11:22 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Weinberger says beyond focusing on the horrors of the attack a year ago, it's worth remembering the lessons it taught about strength, the dangers of idle speculation and Boston's solidarity
updated 12:32 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Katherine Newman says the motive for the school stabbing attack in Pennsylvania is not yet known, but research on such rampages turns up similarities in suspects and circumstances
updated 7:03 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Simon Tisdall: Has John Kerry's recent track record left Russia's wily leader ever more convinced of U.S. weakness?
updated 12:40 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Mel Robbins says Nate Scimio deserves credit for acting bravely in a frightening attack and shouldn't be criticized for posting a selfie afterward
updated 2:39 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Wendy Townsend says the Rattlesnake Roundup -- where thousands of pounds of snakes are killed and tormented -- is barbaric
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Dr. Mary Mulcahy says doctors who tell their patients the truth risk getting bad ratings from them
updated 9:28 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Peggy Drexler says the married Rep. McAllister, caught on video making out with a staffer, won't get a pass from voters who elected him as a Christian conservative with family values
updated 7:43 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
David Frum says the president has failed to react strongly to crises in Iran, Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela, encouraging others to act out
updated 4:57 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Eric Liu says Paul Ryan gets it very wrong: The U.S.'s problem is not a culture of poverty, it is a culture of wealth that is destroying the American value linking work and reward
updated 7:51 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Frida Ghitis writes: "We are still seeing the world mostly through men's eyes. We are still hearing it explained to us mostly by men."
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Chester Wisniewski says the Heartbleed bug shows how we're all tangled together, relying on each other for Internet security
updated 3:26 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Danny Cevallos says an Ohio school that suspended a little kid for pointing his finger at another kid and pretending to shoot shows the growth in "zero tolerance" policies at school run amok
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT