Jonathan Wald has a difficult job. He’s executive producer of Piers Morgan’s show on CNN, a set of duties that include taming a volatile and sometimes rude television personality. In an “extract” from his new book “Shooting Straight: Guns, Gays, God and George Clooney” published in the Guardian, Morgan describes an incident when Wald’s counsel came into play.
On Dec. 18, 2012, just after the Newtown massacre, Morgan hosted Larry Pratt of the Gun Owners of America. They brawled on air about gun restrictions, with Morgan advocating more of them and Pratt on the other side. He told Morgan: “America is not the Wild West you’re depicting. We only have problems in our cities and in our schools where people like you have been able to get laws on the books that keep people from being able to defend themselves.”
Morgan explains in the Guardian’s “extract” just how that remark made him feel:
This moron was actually blaming me for the Sandy Hook massacre. I stopped and stared at him for a second or two, trying to stay calm. Then I lost it. “YOU’RE AN UNBELIEVABLY STUPID MAN, AREN’T YOU?”
Jonathan wasn’t happy afterwards.
“You shouldn’t have called him stupid.”
“Why not? He is.”
“He’s got an opinion you don’t agree with, but one that many Americans do agree with. If you call him stupid, you’re calling every American that agrees with him stupid. That’s not smart.” But within minutes, the “stupid” clip was blowing up on Twitter. And most of the reaction was strongly supportive.
Bolded text added to highlight the mentality of a hardened cableman. If it blows up on Twitter, how can it be bad?
Also in the “extract,” Morgan notes, like an experienced newsman, how little faith he places in early reports on mass shootings: “I was sitting idly around my apartment [on the morning of Dec. 14, 2012] when my colleague Conor Hanna emailed: ‘Shooting at a school in Newtown, Connecticut.’ Early reports on this kind of incident, as we both knew from our time working together at the Daily Mirror, are nearly always unreliable,” writes Morgan.
Then why did the guy premise so much of his programming on the night of the Washington Navy Yard shooting on the bogus story that the shooter had carried an AR-15? That turned out to be false.
A touch of additional Morgan depravity pops up as he recounts a debate with gun-rights advocate John Lott, author of “More Guns, Less Crime.” Here’s how Morgan himself abridges things:
We’d booked a pro-gun author called John R Lott, whose book is More Guns, Less Crime. “He fired over 100 rounds and killed 20 children,” I told him. “Twenty children! At what point do you gun lobby guys say: ‘We get it. It’s time for change’?”
“Right, it is time,” he replied, to my astonishment.
“Time to do what?”
“To get rid of some of these gun laws that cause –”
“To get rid of gun laws?”
He nodded. “Look at what has happened. All these attacks this year have occurred where guns are banned. Look at the Aurora movie theatre shooting …”
Unbelievable. This clown had actually come on my show on the night of this dreadful atrocity to advocate getting rid of existing gun control laws? I stared at Lott, who has weird pointy bushy eyebrows, and a permanent sneery half-smirk on his face. I wanted to reach across the desk and slap it off him.
Bold text added to highlight a question: Relevance? Lott wrote today that the eyebrows mocked by Morgan are “deformed because I had a tumor removed from my forehead when I was a child. Piers was literally just a few feet from me during these interviews and could easily see my scars.” Best not to belabor the physical appearances of your guest.