Sunday shows: Harry Reid calls Wayne LaPierre ‘extremely pleasant,’ while a Fox host calls him ‘ridiculous’
On Sunday morning, Wayne LaPierre came in for better treatment from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid than he did from Fox News' Chris Wallace.
"He's always been extremely pleasant to me," said Reid, who received some similarly kind words from LaPierre during his tough 2010 re-election campaign. "We have a good relationship. So I am not here to demean the organization."
Reid's desire not to alienate his pro-gun constituents in Nevada is one of the wild cards of President Obama's push for new gun laws, but in an interview on ABC's "This Week," he said directly that he "want[s] to get something done on guns."
Reid cast some doubt about the efficacy of Dianne Feinstein's assault weapons ban, but suggested he'd still like to see it come to the floor for a vote, possibly as an amendment to a larger gun bill that comes out of the Judiciary Committee.
And though he wouldn't commit to voting for anything specific, he expressed some general support for universal background checks and for a ban on high-capacity magazines, and he suggested he wouldn't be cowed by LaPierre and the N.R.A.
"Just because they resist it doesn't mean we can't do things," Reid said. "I mean, we have a lot of special interest groups that come and complain about things, and we don't listen to them. We'll listen to them and make the right decision."
On "Fox News Sunday," host Chris Wallace wasn't so polite, when LaPierre tried to defend the N.R.A.'s ad asserting Obama was an "elitist hypocrite" because his children have armed protection.
"Do you really think the president's children are the same kind of target as every school child in America?" Wallace asked. "That's ridiculous and you know it, sir."
Wallace grilled LaPierre over whether the N.R.A. spokesman was an elitist too for having his own armed security, and the host was similarly dismissive when LaPierre responded to a photo of President Obama skeet shooting at Camp David by saying the president was trying to take away shotguns, and wanted to turn a universal background check system into a system for tracking law-abiding citizens.
"He's not taking away shotguns," Wallace said, adding, "Forgive me, sir, you take something that is here, and you say it's going to go all the way over there. There is no indication--I mean, I can understand you are saying that that's a threat, but there's nothing anyone in the administration has said that indicates they are going to have a universal registry."
Wallace shouldn't be confused for the institutional voice of Fox News; he enjoys grilling politicians of both parties and he's less inclined to toss red meat to the red states than Sean Hannity or Bill O'Reilly. (Wallace was reportedly exempt from the station's suggestion not to talk about the gun control debate in the immediate aftermath after Newtown.)
But he is, still, a host on Fox News, and his unwillingness to go along with LaPierre's extrapolations suggests the network won't be a party to the N.R.A.'s most aggressive efforts to beat back any new gun regulations, and might even hew toward Rupert Murdoch's more liberal position in the debate. (Murdoch's New York Post labeled LaPierre a "Gun Nut" on its cover last month, after his press conference calling for armed guards in all schools.)
LaPierre was also the target of a Super Bowl ad, produced by Mayor Bloomberg's Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which recycled old testimony of LaPierre supporting gun show checks in 1999.
LaPierre said it was more important to computerize mental health records, and tried to cast Sen. Chuck Schumer insufficiently supportive of that effort.
"I still would like to see mental health records computerized, but we can't get that done," he said. "I've got a transcript here with Senator Schumer, from 20 years ago, on 'Face the Nation,' where I begged him to help us do it, and they still haven't done it. And, the N.R.A. has been fighting to get it done."
Schumer has led the push for expanded background checks in recent weeks, calling it the "sweet spot" for new gun control laws.