Senate Democratic Caucus [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

February 6, 2019; Washington Post

Mackenzie Price talks about repetition, especially when it comes from multiple places, as one of the key ways that you ensure that a new narrative is heard, attended to, and eventually spreads in the public consciousness. Sometimes, this means you take all opportunities to correct one story with another—publicly. So, when Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) argued during a gun violence hearing for a wall along the US-Mexico border, contending that illegal immigration is a more serious threat to public safety than gun violence, he was interrupted by Manuel Oliver and Fred Guttenberg, who lost children in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, last year.

The hearing was convened to discuss a bipartisan-backed proposed requirement for background checks for gun sales and transfers. Gaetz, a devoted Trump supporter, however took the opportunity to make another point.

“As we hear the stories and circumstances for those here, I hope we do not forget the pain and anguish and sense of loss felt by those all over the country who have been the victims of violence at the hands of illegal aliens,” Gaetz said. “H.R. 8 would not have stopped many of the circumstances I raised, but a wall—a barrier on the southern border—may have, and that’s what we’re fighting for.”

The two fathers said they interrupted because Gaetz’s statements were untrue. Gaetz requested their removal—a request which was denied by the chair, though the two men were given a caution.

Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-RI) pushed the issue on the men’s behalf, asking, “Is there any committee rule that prevents a member of Congress from reciting false statements in a committee hearing that are unsupported by the evidence, or are members of Congress entitled to just make things up in support of specious arguments?”

Oliver and Guttenberg had also attended the State of the Union speech the previous night as guests. “While watching this speech, sadly, I realized that had my daughter’s killer been an illegal immigrant, the president would have mentioned it,” Guttenberg said. “He failed to mention it because like so many victims of gun violence, she was killed by an American male.”

Thus, reporters—and in this case, very credible ones—uplift the new story, and those who must act on this issue get offered a different narrative choice.—Ruth McCambridge