It was a busy day for the Media Research Center’s Newsbusters crew, as news coverage was dominated by the horrific mass shooting (and likely terrorist attack) that occurred at a gay nightclub in Orlando. Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old American of Afghan heritage, opened fire around 2 a.m. yesterday morning, killing 50 people and sending 53 more the hospital. It’s the worst mass shooting in American history, and the FBI is investigating it as an act of domestic terror. It’s serious. It’s tragic, and certainly not the time to offer quips about the current state of the Republican Party. MSNBC’s Brian Williams didn’t get the memo while interviewing former Florida Sen. Mel Martinez, where Williams asked if he could find the wing of the GOP Martinez inhabits—and would it be possible to find it with “a flashlight” (via Newsbusters):
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Senator, I'm listening to your politics and wondering what branch of the Republican Party you’re in these days and can you find it with a flashlight?
FORMER REPUBLICAN SENATOR MEL MARTINEZ (Fl.): My goodness, Brian, I was hoping we weren't going to talk about that tonight. That's a difficult one for me.
WILLIAMS: Sorry. I have to.
MARTINEZ: I hear you. Look, the fact is that, you know, we have a great country. I am an immigrant of this nation and I live in love of this land and what it stands for. Days like today just break your heart. We can never forget the greatness of this nation and the ability of people to come together. When you see 600 people standing in line to donate blood when the call went out that it was needed, that's the America that I love and regardless of the R’s and D’s, that's the America I hope we all pull for and will prevail out of these horrible events.
WILLIAMS: Well, that's a great answer and you’re absolutely right. Former Senator Mel Martinez, thank you so much for joining us from California — from Florida and as we have been saying, our condolences to everybody down there. It's an awfully helpless feeling watching this from a distance as we have been. Speaking of, the inevitable political reaction to this. Kelly O'Donnell in our newsroom in Washington with that. Kelly?
KELLY O’DONNELL: Well, I certainly appreciate Senator Martinez, his desire to demure from the politics, but you and I will dive right in for a moment, Brian.
Williams offered an apology about six minutes later, according to Newsbusters’ Curtis Houck:
As we said and with apologies with the look at the inevitable politics of even a national tragedy given that we are in a political season, but the words right below us there, “deadliest mass shooting in American history.” That is the conversation tonight. That's the story we're covering tonight. The tragedy we all woke up to this morning. Our coverage will continue after a break.
It’s already bad enough that we have to deal with almost instantaneous anti-gun drivel from the left, where they often spout off about assault weapons bans and more background checks before the victims’ bodies are even cold. Also both of those policy areas have failed to curb gun violence. The assault weapons ban instituted in 1994 (and expired in 2004) did next to nothing to curb gun violence since rifles and shotguns aren’t widely used in crimes. As for background checks, they do prevent convicted felons from owning firearms. The problem is that Mateen didn’t have a prior criminal history. Neither did Christopher Harper-Mercer who was the perpetrator of the horrific Umpqua Community College shooting in Oregon, a state that has universal background checks. The one thing mass shooters have in common is that they’re diagnosed with some form of mental illness.
Regardless, Williams’ joke obviously didn’t sit well—and it shouldn’t.