December 6, 2012

Bob Costas (Associated Press)

If only Bill O’Reilly treated all his guests the way he does the heavy-hitters.

Last night, he hosted NBC’s embattled big-shot Bob Costas, he of Sunday night’s controversial comments about gun control — or “gun culture,” as Costas insists. Via polite and pointed questions over a fascinating 10-minute segment, O’Reilly smoked out a glaring contradiction in Costas’s post-remarks media tour.

For those who don’t pay attention to sports or crime or culture or current events or mass media, Costas, during halftime of “Sunday Night Football,” addressed an alleged root cause of the murder and suicide committed by Kansas City Chiefs player Jovan Belcher. Quoting heavily from a column by Jason Whitlock on FoxSports.com, Costas said the following, among other things:

Those who need tragedies to continually recalibrate their sense of proportion about sports would seem to have little hope of ever truly achieving perspective. You want some actual perspective on this? Well, a bit of it comes from the Kansas City-based writer Jason Whitlock, with whom I do not always agree but who today said it so well that we may as well just quote or paraphrase from the end of his article. “Our current gun culture,” Whitlock wrote, “ensures that more and more domestic disputes will end in the ultimate tragedy, and that more convenience store confrontations over loud music coming from a car will leave more teenage boys bloodied and dead. Handguns do not enhance our safety. They exacerbate our flaws, tempt us to escalate arguments, and bait us into embracing confrontation rather than avoiding it. In the coming days, Jovan Belcher’s actions, (and its possible connection to football), will be analyzed. Who knows? But here,” wrote Jason Whitlock, “is what I believe, If Jovan Belcher didn’t possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.”

Upon hearing those remarks, commentators and citizens across the country performed the most rudimentary of logic exercises. They heard from Costas/Whitlock that handguns are a scourge; they make us more likely to become victims of violence; they even “exacerbate our flaws.” And everyone concluded from those points that Costas had advocated gun control.

On “The O’Reilly Factor,” Costas appeared intent on litigating the conclusions of the masses: “I was talking about a gun culture. I never used the words Second Amendment, never used the words gun control,” protested Costas.

In the very same interview, however, Costas told a prying O’Reilly the following: “If you were to ask me, I believe there should be more comprehensive and effective controls on the sale of guns, but that’s not where I was coming from on Sunday night.”

Come on, Bob. If you want to be a man of conviction, act that way.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.