Katie Couric knows a thing or two about news, including the fact that there’s such a thing as a “news cycle.” The reporter’s recent silence about deceptive editing in her anti-gun and anti-NRA film “Under the Gun” demonstrates both her savviness in handling the media and the utter contempt in which she holds her audience. Couric only broke her silence in a written statement published on the website for “Under the Gun” on Monday night. Couric takes “responsibility” for the misleading edit, says she noticed it during the editing process but didn’t fight the change, and posted a transcript of the actual answers of gun owners responding to her question about background checks that were edited out of the film. Nowhere in the statement will you find the words “I’m sorry” or “I apologize,” but that hasn’t stopped media outlets like Variety from claiming in headlines that, “Couric Apologizes For ‘Misleading’ Gun Documentary.”
If they’re not covering for Katie, media outlets are studiously ignoring the controversy (known online as #GunGate). Before the news about the deceptive edits broke, Couric was making the rounds on television, including being the star of an anti-gun episode of “The Daily Show” the night before the Washington Free Beacon reported that a portion of the film had been edited to make it appear as if gun owners didn’t have an answer to a Couric question about background checks, when in fact audio recorded by the gun owners proved that multiple people responded to Couric’s question immediately. Trevor Noah hasn’t found the time to update his “The Daily Show” audience about the scandal, and most of the news networks that once employed Couric have stayed far away from the story as well. Even CNN’s show about the media, “Reliable Sources,” failed to cover the biggest media story of the week.
Epix, the cable channel that acquired the rights to “Under the Gun,” told people to “watch for themselves and decide.” Of course, to really do that you’d also have to listen to the original audio that wasn’t included, and it’s not like Epix is making that available for people so they can “listen for themselves and decide.” Yahoo News, where Couric serves as “Global News Anchor” at a reported salary of $10 million a year, has remained mum on her continued employment.
Oh, and I can’t forget Media Matters for America, which published a whiny story about my refusal to call “Under the Gun” a documentary (weeks before the news broke about the editing, mind you). Since the news came out, they’ve been strangely mum about the film and its producer. Why, it’s almost like Media Matters doesn’t want to report on this particular bit of media now that it’s being called into question!
Here’s the thing. I refused to call “Under the Gun” a documentary because I knew that it wasn’t. It tells a story, yes. But it doesn’t tell the whole story of “gun violence” in this country. The film’s website claims the movie “examines the events and people who have kept the gun debate fierce and the progress slow, even as gun deaths and mass shootings continue to increase.”
Violent crime, including crime in which a gun is used, has been dropping for more than two decades. When Couric first started anchoring “The Today Show” in 1991, for instance, there were 24,700 homicides in the United States. By 2014, the number had fallen to 14,249 (while the total population of the United States had grown by more than 75 million). Nowhere in the film is this fact even acknowledged. So how can you have a documentary that purports to have the solutions when the filmmakers refuse to acknowledge the success we’ve had in this country in reducing violent crime?
I feel like I’m stating both the obvious and something that most media have been completely unwilling to say: Katie Couric has an agenda with “Under the Gun.” For goodness sakes, she’s been chastising her interviewers for using the phrase “gun control” instead of “gun safety” because (as she told Stephen Colbert), “Gun control, I think, makes people freak out.” This isn’t a documentary. It’s a film making the case for gun control. “Gun safety” involves teaching people how to safely and responsibly use firearms, Katie.Here’s the thing. I refused to call “Under the Gun” a documentary because I knew that it wasn’t.
And that’s fine. Have an agenda. But you have to be honest about it. I think it’s pretty clear that I’m a supporter of the right to keep and bear arms. I’ve written about what led me to that position on several occasions, in addition to hosting a daily show dedicated to the latest news about Second Amendment issues for more than a decade. I support our constitutionally guaranteed right as well as the human right of self-defense. I make no bones or apologies about it. If I get something wrong, however, I have no qualms about issuing a correction. As a matter of fact, I want to correct my mistakes. Couric, on the other hand, wants us to just forget about her ideology as well as her mistakes. And by the looks of things, so do most of her colleagues in the media.
It wasn’t always this way. Back in 2004, when NRANews.com broke the story that “60 Minutes” anchor Mike Wallace was the keynote speaker at a Brady Campaign fundraiser, CBS News responded fairly quickly by announcing that Wallace would no longer be covering gun issues for the news magazine. Now, Couric’s corporate partners are hoping the story fades from view so they don’t have to address the problem.
The unwillingness to address this issue is an example of something fundamentally wrong with so many “thought leaders” and creative minds in the media—the utter contempt for their audience. That contempt goes both ways, as evidenced by the growing number of Americans who are paying less and less attention to news media at all. I’m not saying this is a good thing for the country or us as individuals, mind you. But if the media is going to abdicate its responsibility to tell the truth to its audience, how else is the audience supposed to respond?
In her most recent statement, Couric claims she hopes “we can continue to have an important conversation about reducing gun deaths in America.” Well, I’ve extended an invitation online to Katie Couric: Come on “Cam & Co.” for a live and unedited interview to talk about her film. I’ll extend that invitation again here: Katie, join me for a real interview about “Under the Gun,” not the softball questions you’ve taken from Stephen Colbert and Matt Lauer. If you’ll go on “The Daily Show” to promote your film, will you go live on “Cam & Co.” to defend it?