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CONTEMPT (PART 4)! Bernie fired a volley of blanks when he took on the press corps’ gun bias:


CASE STUDY: Today, a brilliant case study from Goldberg’s Arrogance, so you can see how its author tackles Big Issues. If you’re interested in today’s topic, by the way, check out Tim Lambert’s work at his Deltoid site. Lambert has presented work on today’s topic, and has reported many other gun issues.

Meanwhile, “E-Mailer Joe” from Thursday’s HOWLER was Joe Moran, the Quaker in a Basement. To visit Joe’s terrace-level lair, you know what to do—just click here.

BERNIE GET YOUR GUN: Again, here’s the sad thing about Goldberg’s clowning—a real attempt to examine his issues might produce useful knowledge. For example, how does the mainstream press cover guns? The NRA claims that mainstream scribes have anti-gun attitudes that color their reporting. Is that true? It’s surely worth knowing. But you don’t get knowledge from Bernie Goldberg—you get clowning, and fakery, and disinformation. Consider the volley of blanks he fires when he targets “liberal bias” on guns.

In Arrogance, Goldberg devotes an entire chapter to gun reporting. Much of the chapter concerns a shooting at a rural Virginia law school. The shooting occurred on January 16, 2002. Here’s how Bernie kicks off his chapter:

GOLDBERG (page 185): A student at the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Virginia…storms through the campus, clutching a handgun.

As terrorized students run for their lives, they hear him say, “Come get me, come get me.” But before anyone can get him, the student, a forty-two-year old immigrant from Nigeria, goes on a shooting spree, killing the dean, a professor, and a fellow student.

He also shoots and wounds three other students—one in the abdomen, one in the throat, and another in the chest.

Finally, as the Washington Post reports, “Three students pounced on the gunman and held him until help arrived.” Later in the story, the Post says, “The students tackled the gunman.”

Bernie notes that CBS and NBC aired similar reports. “At NBC News, Kevin Tibbles said the students ‘overpowered the gunman and held him until police could arrive.’”

So what’s supposed to be wrong with this picture? According to Bernie, the Post and the nets “left out one tiny, little fact. Two of the students who ‘pounced on’ and ‘tackled’ and ‘overpowered’ the gunman also had guns.” (Bernie’s italics.) “They had them in their cars,” he writes, “and when they heard the gunshots and learned what was happening, they got the guns and used them to subdue the killer.” Bernie then rants, throughout the chapter, about the way this fact was ignored by the press. According to Bernie, anti-gun bias was “the only plausible reason” for failing to mention the rescuers’ guns. The coverage “raised [media] groupthink to a whole new category of duplicity,” Bernie says. “This was group lying,” he thunders.

In fact, Bernie was so upset about this matter that he broke every rule in his book. According to Bernie, he read some reports about the coverage of this incident—reports which tallied the number of stories which failed to mention the rescuers’ guns. Then, Bernie did what he just never does. Bernie Goldberg conducted some research!

GOLDBERG (page 186): None of this sounded like it made any sense. Yes, I’m a critic of how big news organizations slant the news, but even I couldn’t believe these numbers. All of them struck me as so incredible that I finally decided to run my own Nexis search.
Say what? Trust us—when Bernie conducts a Nexis search, he is deeply involved in a topic! After all, he could have spent his valuable time penning insults about Dan Rather. He could have telephoned Andy Rooney and thrown off assorted rude comments. Instead, Bernie logged on, and was soon hard at work. Here’s where his hard travelin’ took him:
GOLDBERG (page 186): I sampled one hundred news sources, which included the major TV outlets and most every big city daily in the country. And what I found stunned me. Sure enough, only a few papers in the whole country reported that the rescuers had guns. I counted a grand total of six out a hundred. Six!
As you’ll note, Bernie’s a bit rusty at research. First he says that he sampled “one hundred news sources.” Three sentences later, he changes his tale; now he reports what he found in a hundred newspapers. (Yes, it makes a difference. Keep reading.) But no matter! Bernie rails for page after page about the way the American press suppressed the fact that “the rescuers had guns.” But “giving credit where it’s due,” he names the six papers that did cite the guns. “[T]he papers were the New York Times, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Lexington Herald-Leader, the Charlotte Observer, the Asheville Citizen-Times, and the Roanoke Times and World News,” Bernie admiringly says.

For the record, even an amateur will note a few things about Bernie’s list of good papers. Five of these papers hail from the law school’s geographic area; these are local newspapers, papers that gave the Appalachian killings oodles of coverage. For example, are you surprised to learn that the Roanoke paper provided more detail than the Seattle Times did? This is hardly surprising (details below). And even a novice will note something else. According to Bernie, the New York Times did mention the guns; by contrast, the Washington Times did not. In a story alleging liberal bias, this may strike you as a bit odd. Oh yes, one more point. Although Bernie knew enough not to say so, at least one network TV show did mention the use of the guns. On the morning after the shootings, the Today show interviewed one of the students who subdued the killer—and yes, the students’ guns were mentioned. So let’s see: Katie Couric and the New York Times mentioned the guns. But the Washington Times did not—and neither did Brit Hume’s Special Report, which reported the story that night. Weird, isn’t it? According to Bernie, Hume and the Washington Times showed liberal bias; Couric and the New York Times did not. Do you see how strange reality gets when Bernie Goldberg begins firing in the air?

But a wider look at the news reporting shows how fake Bernie’s work really is. According to Bernie, anti-gun bias was “the only plausible reason” for failure to mention the rescuers’ gun. But that statement by Bernie is simply untrue. And Bernie G surely understood that. Why didn’t newspapers mention those guns? There seem to be several obvious reasons—reasons Bernie dumped from his book.

Why didn’t newspapers mention the guns? How about this: How about the fact that the “rescuers’ guns” seem to have played no role in the rescue? A bit of background information will help: By March of 2002, the NRA was complaining about the gun-free coverage of this incident. In response, the Kansas City Star’s Rick Montgomery did what Bernie refuses to do; he actually conducted a full investigation, and he reported a full range of facts. In particular, Montgomery interviewed two of the students who tackled the killer; he also interviewed the Virginia State Police. And the story that emerged from Montgomery’s research is quite different from the claptrap in Arrogance. Did students “get the guns and use them to subdue the killer?” On balance, it seems they did not. Here’s the part of Montgomery’s piece where he begins to examine this question:

MONTGOMERY: A nagging wrinkle figures into the law-school shootings: Whose version is true?

The Star recently interviewed two students involved—[Tracy] Bridges and [Ted] Besen. They gave differing accounts.

Bridges repeated that he pointed his weapon at Odighizuwa and ordered the suspect to put his own down, which he did.

According to Besen, the first student to tackle the suspect, nothing of the sort happened. He said Odighizuwa set down the gun and raised his arms—“like he was mocking everyone: ha, ha, what are you going to do now?”—before the students confronted him.

The two armed students had not yet arrived at the scene, Besen said: “Peter had no knowledge anyone had a gun.”

Virginia State Police confirmed Odighizuwa’s weapon was empty by then.

So two different students told two different stories! In Arrogance, of course, Bernie only mentions Bridges—the students whose story he likes. Meanwhile, Montgomery spoke to the State Police too. And the State Police contradict Bernie:
MONTGOMERY (continuing directly): Police spokesman Mike Stater said the armed students did assist after Besen and another student, Todd Ross, tackled the gunman. Bridges sat on the suspect while Gross, also armed, provided handcuffs he had gotten from his car.

But to Stater’s view, the biggest heroes were Besen and Ross—the unarmed men who lunged at Odighizuwa.

Whose account is correct? We simply don’t know. But according to the State Police, the armed students arrived on the scene after Odighizuwa was tackled. Why were unarmed students able to subdue him? His gun was out of bullets, Stater said—a point which no one disputes. By the way, even Bridges didn’t mention his heroic gun-pointing until several days after the incident. See his full statement below.

So why didn’t newspapers mention the guns? One possible reason is obvious—when they interviewed students and the State Police, no one thought the rescuers’ guns had played any role in the rescue. But there are other clear reasons for the absence of guns from most newspaper stories. Why didn’t newspapers mention the guns? Duh! For most newspapers around the country, this was a quite minor story. We’re not sure how Bernie’s search allowed him to sample “a hundred newspapers;” at present, Nexis archives show far fewer papers reporting the shooting incident. (We count only 46 in the first five days post-event. This includes such giants as the Fremont, California Argus, which devoted about 100 words to the story.) But at any rate, for most newspapers which mentioned the story, it was a very minor item. Remember the Seattle Times, for example. Here was their next-day report:

SEATTLE TIMES (1/17/02):
Dismissed law student kills dean, professor, wounds 3

GRUNDY, Va. A student who had been dismissed from law school went on a campus shooting spree yesterday, killing the dean, a professor and a student before he was tackled by students, authorities said.

The attack also wounded three female students at the Appalachian School of Law. They were hospitalized in fair condition.

Authorities said the 42-year-old suspect, Peter Odighizuwa, had arrived at school to meet with the dean about his academic dismissal, which went into effect yesterday.

That was it! The Times ran a few dozen words from the AP report. The next day, the Times ran an update:

Peter Odighizuwa, a former law student charged with capital murder in the shooting deaths of three people at Appalachian School of Law, told a court in Grundy, Va., yesterday that he is sick and needs help. Prosecutor Sheila Tolliver said she will seek the death penalty.

That was it! You’d never know it from reading Arrogance, but most papers gave this story extremely limited coverage, or gave it no coverage at all. Given the length of the paper’s dispatches, is it really surprising that the Seattle Times failed to mention the rescuers’ guns? No, it isn’t surprising at all. Bernie doesn’t mention this because he knows that it kills his fake story.

So according to the State Police, the “rescuers’ guns” played no role in the capture. And many newspapers only devoted a couple of lines to the story. But there’s another reason why most newspapers didn’t mention the guns, a reason Bernie omits from his piece so he can vent in full fury. Why didn’t newspapers mention the guns? Most newspapers which covered this story did just what the Seattle Times did—they ran some small part of the AP report. And since Roger Alford’s January 16 AP report hadn’t mentioned the rescuers’ guns, it’s hardly surprising that these far-flung papers didn’t mention them either. But you know Bernie! He pretends to have pawed through the nation’s newspapers, then he expresses his sense of shock at their repeated failure to mention the guns. But in the case of most of these papers, he is simply counting the same AP story again and again, getting angrier each time he reads it. Yes, this is a case of high clowning. But then, that’s how this phony man works.

So let’s see. According to students and the State Police, the rescuers’ guns played no role in the capture. And most newspapers wrote brief reports, clipping from an AP report which hadn’t mentioned the guns. But Bernie picks and chooses his facts, then rants about the corps’ grotesque conduct. This was “group lying,” he angrily says. He rants and rails about the corps’ liberal bias—hiding the fact that Fox and the Washington Times showed this “bias,” while Couric and the New York Times didn’t.

Readers, can you see why Special Report and the Washington Times didn’t mention the rescuers’ guns? And can you see the truth about the fake, phony Goldberg—a man determined to fool his readers, a man with contempt for your discourse?

BUILDING BRIDGES: Did Tracy Bridges “point his weapon at Odighizuwa and ordered the suspect to put his own down?” Ted Besen and the State Police both dispute that heroic account—and even Bridges didn’t seem to be making this claim on the day after the incident. On January 17, 2002, Bridges appeared on the Today show. Here was his account of the way Odighizuwa was subdued:

COURIC (1/17/02): I know the shooting broke out around 1:30, I guess, in the afternoon. Can you describe what you witnessed?

BRIDGES: Yes, ma’am. We were, we had a class at 1:30. We had arrived a little earlier, around 1:00. Shortly after we got to the classroom, we heard three shots fired. It kind of was muffled and we thought it was a gunshot. Just a few seconds later we heard three more shots and a scream. Myself and another student, Ted Besen, left the classroom. We ran into a professor and he said that Peter had a gun and that he was shooting. I ran back to the classroom and told the other classmates to get out, that we had a shooter in the building…

COURIC: What happened next, Tracy, after you heard a professor say that Peter had a gun?

BRIDGES: I went back to the classroom and told the students to get out, that there was a shooter in the building. We herded them out the back stairwell. At that time, me and Ted Besen went down the back stairwell, and my vehicle was parked in a parking spot between the shooter and the back stairwell. We seen the shooter, started to approach him, stopped at my vehicle, and got out my handgun, and started to approach Peter. At that time, Peter throwed up his hands and throwed his weapon down. Ted was the first person to have contact with Peter, and Peter hit him one time in the face. So there was a little bit of a struggle there. After that, Ted pushed him back, me, Ted and another student, Todd Ross, took Peter to the ground and subdued him until we had some handcuffs to put him in.

COURIC: I should mention, Tracy, that you are a police officer, a trained police officer. You were one in North Carolina. And another student, I understand, who was able to help, Michael Gross, he handed you a pair of handcuffs so you could handcuff the suspect. Must have been incredibly fortuitous that you all had police training and a police background that you were able to act in such a quick and appropriate way.

BRIDGES: Yes, ma’am. It all kind of happened real fast. We, you know, just kind of done what we could at the time.

On Today, Bridges said nothing about “pointing his weapon at Odighizuwa and ordering him to put his own down,” the account he later gave to Montgomery. On that day’s CBS Morning Show, meanwhile, Bridges and Besen appeared together—and Bridges didn’t even mention the guns. It wasn’t until a few days later that he began to describe his gun-toting heroics. Interviewed by his hometown paper (the Charlotte Observer), he now began to tell the story of pointing his gun and making Odighizuwa relent—a story which Besen and the State Police were still disputing two months later.

Let’s state the obvious—in another situation, Bridges’ gun might have made all the difference. If Odighizuwa hadn’t run out of bullets, it might have taken a gun to subdue him. But that doesn’t seem to be what happened at Appalachian—although you’d never know it from reading Arrogance. In real time, even Bridges didn’t seem to say that he “pointed his weapon at Odighizuwa and ordered him to put his own down.” Is it surprising that newspapers didn’t present this account? We think the question answers itself—unless you read Bernie’s fake book.

THE PERILS OF RESEARCH: Yes, Goldberg knows there are different accounts of the incident. As Tim Lambert notes, when Bernie appeared on CNBC’s Russert last week, he referred to something in Montgomery’s story. But if Bernie read Montgomery’s report, he knows that the State Police dispute Bridges’ story. But don’t look for facts like that in Arrogance. The book exists to tell approved tales—and to show its contempt for your discourse.

SLANDERING ROBERTS: Right at the start of his chapter, Bernie singles out CBS’ John Roberts for failing to mention the rescuers’ guns. But here was Roberts’ full report, delivered on the CBS Evening News on January 16, 2002:

ROBERTS: A doctor who responded to a shooting at a Virginia law school today says when he arrived, there were bodies lying everywhere. It happened at the Appalachian School of Law in the Blue Ridge Mountain town of Grundy. Three people were killed, including the school’s dean, and three others wounded before students tackled the suspect. He is described as a student from Nigeria, angered over poor grades.
That was it! Roberts gave 67 words to the story. Despite that, Bernie battered Roberts, by name, for his appalling anti-gun bias. But you know Bernie! Repeatedly, he trashes scribes in this fake, phony way—then complains when they won’t invite him onto their network news programs.

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: Yes, it’s news when Bernie conducts some research. As you may recall, Bernie did almost no research when he wrote Bias; he tossed off endless empirical claims which he made no attempt to confirm. But finally, somebody asked him about it! Why had Bernie done no work? To enjoy a bit of clowning clownistry, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/1/02.