On Sunday morning, Meet the Press host Chuck Todd aired a segment about gun violence in the aftermath of the Emanuel AME Church shooting in South Carolina. The video centered on inmates from New York’s Sing Sing Correctional Facility talked about their regrets after using guns. The only problem? All of the inmates featured were African-American.
After the piece aired, many people pointed out the seemingly racist oversight, with many saying that it was bad taste to air a piece that featured an all-black cast of gun violence offenders in the wake of last week’s Charleston shooting where 9 African-Americans were killed by a white gunman.
“I thought that was a very powerful piece,” said Eugene Robinson, who is a Meet the Press panelist and a columnist for the Washington Post. “One small thing I would mention, because I haven’t seen the whole piece, is there wasn’t a terribly diverse set of people who were talking. Right now, we’re talking about a horrific crime committed by a white man. We’re talking about the search for two escaped murderers who are white men. So, we should point out that this is not just an African-American problem.”
Although Todd insisted that “it wasn’t intended to be that way,” he has since posted to the show’s website to address the issue, saying:
We’ve gotten a lot of feedback about the gun video we showed on Meet the Press today. Some were upset it only featured African-American men talking about their regrets of pulling a trigger. All of the men in the piece volunteered to be a part of the video and the larger project it is a part of.
But the last thing we wanted was to cloud the discussion of the topic.
The original decision to air this segment was made before Wednesday’s massacre. However, the staff and I had an internal debate about whether to show it at all this week. When we discussed putting it off, that conversation centered around race and perception – not the conversation we wanted the segment to invoke.
We decided against delaying the segment because we wanted to show multiple sides of what gun violence does in this country. We thought the issue of gun violence in our culture and society was an important conversation to continue — too important to put off for another week. The consequences of gun violence should not be hidden.
As I say to all audiences, Meet the Press should make all viewers uncomfortable at some point or we are not doing our job. I hope folks view the gun video as a part of the conversation we should all be having and not the totality of it.