Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Don't lock up David Gregory or deport Piers Morgan

By Howard Kurtz, CNN
December 31, 2012 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
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
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 1754 GMT (0154 HKT)
Carlos Moreno says atheists, a sizable fraction of Americans, deserve representation in Congress.
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 1625 GMT (0025 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says Democrats and unions have a long history of mutual support that's on the decline. But in a time of income inequality they need each other more than ever
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 0423 GMT (1223 HKT)
William McRaven
Peter Bergen says Admiral William McRaven leaves the military with a legacy of strategic thinking about special operations
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1611 GMT (0011 HKT)
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1724 GMT (0124 HKT)
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1516 GMT (2316 HKT)
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1434 GMT (2234 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1432 GMT (2232 HKT)
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0243 GMT (1043 HKT)
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 1722 GMT (0122 HKT)
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1330 GMT (2130 HKT)
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2242 GMT (0642 HKT)
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2335 GMT (0735 HKT)
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2053 GMT (0453 HKT)
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1919 GMT (0319 HKT)
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1558 GMT (2358 HKT)
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1950 GMT (0350 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2052 GMT (0452 HKT)
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2104 GMT (0504 HKT)
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2145 GMT (0545 HKT)
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
ADVERTISEMENT