Never one to side step controversial issues or pass up a moment in the lime light, the Brit every American (and a fair few British people) love to hate, Piers Morgan, has just wrapped up his last live show with CNN after three years. In the departing episode the infamous Brit once more made his oft repeated plea for greater gun control, this time with a spin that was persuasively pro American in tone. He stated that in contrast to what many critics have accused him of, he is, and always has been, pro American in his views and he wants better gun control legislation precisely to ensure that more Americans remain alive. Morgan is notorious for his unwavering stance on the issue of gun crime and the need for improvement and overhaul of American laws surrounding the ownership, legal use and licensing of firearms.
The former newspaper editor succeeded Larry King who had held the same slot for 25 years upon his retirement, in a move that was regarded with some skepticism. Piers Morgan Live first aired in January 2011 and started off with promise as his first guest was the queen of television chat shows and American national treasure, Oprah Winfrey. However, he suffered from a steady decline in ratings and was dogged by claims that he did not understand American culture and was not in a position to comment on issues such as gun control. Consequently it was announced in February of this year that CNN was axing his show, without having an alternative lined up, amid claims that the cultural differences between the network and the Brit were no longer workable. However, CNN have not ruled out working with him again in the future with a spokesperson for the network claiming the Brits future was undecided.
CNN are not the only ones Morgan has had differences with. His blunt memorandums on the issue of gun control and safety have created a dedicated hatred of the presenter for many parts of the American population, with a petition even being launched to try and deport the talk show host back to his home country in the UK. Morgan also clashed live on air with various Americans on the controversial topic, his disagreement with radio DJ Alex Jones being the most famous incident of this kind.
Although he spent most of his final show talking about the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, Morgan ended by citing recent statistics concerning gun violence in American, as well as giving pointed reminders about the latest mass shooting tragedies at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut and at a cinema screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Colorado. He betrayed amazement and disappointment at how little change either of these terrible events had led to in terms of US law, calling it “absurd” and placing a large amount of blame at the doorstep of the National Rifle Association (NRA).
Elaborating he said the NRA continually maintain that more guns are the answer to lessening the danger of mass shootings and provide essential personal protection. In response to this view he retorted that more guns did not lead to less violence, in fact much the opposite, with greater violence, higher death rates and, crucially, more profit for the manufacturers of the deadly weapons. He pleaded with the audience to help end the “senseless slaughter” which guns engender and made his affection for the country he has called his home for the last ten years, quite clear in connection with the problem as he sees it. Although this could be a cynical attempt to try and retrospectively ingratiate himself into the hearts of the American public he has such a controversial relationship with, Morgan’s departing comments about gun control do have a persuasively pro American line to them.
Given that it is a well-known fact that the USA has the highest gun-related homicide rate in the developed world coupled with some of the most lenient gun control legislation, his words must surely sound an uncomfortable ring of truth in many American ears. So while many will be happy to see Morgan departing, his plea for greater gun control can and should be seen as his most persuasively pro American moment, encapsulated by his salute on twitter to his only “heartfelt hope” upon leaving that the country would rethink their “insane” stance on firearms. So whether people love Piers Morgan or hate him, this is one of the few occasions where he speaks a very urgent truth which needs to be acknowledged and acted upon as soon as possible.
Commentary by Rhona Scullion