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Brian Williams' Death Penalty Question

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NBC News anchor Brian Williams demonstrated last night that he lives in a bubble, out of touch with the views of most Americans, particularly on the subject of the death penalty.

Williams wanted to ask Rick Perry is he ever lost sleep worrying that one of the people executed in Texas might be innocent.  That would be a decent enough question, but Williams blew it by working in the number of inmates executed during Perry's tenure.  As we have explained before, that much-ballyhooed "record" is merely the result of Perry being the longest-serving governor of the largest state that actually carries out its executions regularly.  The percentage of murderers sentenced to death in Texas is about average for the death penalty states.

Why did Williams throw in that number?  I suspect that within the bubble of people that he normally associates with, that number is considered an indication of something wrong.  But it is not considered an indication of something wrong by most Americans.  Polls consistently show high, steady support for capital punishment.  Even a majority of Democrats support it.  (Gallup, 11/8/2010). Needless to say, the mostly Republican audience last night was overwhelmingly in favor, and so applause broke out at Williams' mention of the number.
Williams was surprised by the applause, and his follow-up question was, "What do you make of that dynamic that just happened here, the mention of the execution of 234 people drew applause?"

Why was he surprised?  The fact that Texas does indeed carry out its capital judgments, unlike, say, California, is properly considered a good thing by people who support capital punishment, and Williams couldn't be so clueless as to not know that supporters would comprise most of the audience.  Could he?  Of course it's bad that 234 people committed crimes so atrocious as to deserve to be executed, but that is the world we live in.

By the way, when the Democrats have a contested primary in 2016, will we get to see a debate on Fox News Channel with questions propounded by Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin, and Sean Hannity?  Doubtful, but it sure would be fun.

Update:  James Taranto has this column at the WSJ:  "Perhaps the most striking statement at last night's Republican presidential debate came not from Rick Perry or Mitt Romney but from the audience, which applauded the preface of one of moderator Brian Williams's questions."

1 Comment

The other piece of the "dynamic" is that the audience probably appreciated that someone was willing to stand up and defend something that they believe in. I would say that it is suprising that Williams was so out of touch, given that he is a journalist, but sadly I am not surprised.

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