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MSNBC Holds Fire on Gun Ad

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Ben Smith at Politico reports that MSNBC has decided not to run an ad from Mayors Against Illegal Guns, an organization advocating the closing of a “gun-show loophole” for the purchase of firearms. The reason, says an MSNBC spokesman: “We don’t accept controversial issue advertising.”

Even if we leave aside the politics of guns, and the question of why this ad is any more controversial than campaign and issue ads that run on cable as a matter of course, this is the daffiest explanation for refusing advertising I can imagine. (And to be fair, MSNBC is far from the first news organization to make such a call.) Turn on cable news any hour of the day: within the actual editorial product, controversy is not just permitted, it’s mandatory. People like Nancy Grace, Keith Olbermann and Bill O’Reilly have made their careers by shooting off their mouths. Being willing to make ludicrous, over-the-top charges on live TV is the surest way to get into a cable-news booker’s Rolodex. Yet if someone makes an ad, and pays to air it—thus making it crystal clear that the opinion is theirs and not that of the channel—that makes it more potentially offensive?

In any case, here’s the gun ad that’s too, um, loaded for MSNBC to show you: