Did CNN “fake” a gun story, as the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre has claimed in his frequent criticisms of the media? The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple unravels the story, which LaPierre referred to once again on Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Wemple says the issue relates to a “colossal” error in a CNN report on May 15, 2003. In a story about banned assault weapons, CNN's John Zarrella went to a firing range with South Florida law enforcement officials to try to demonstrate the varying impacts of banned assault weapons vs. legal assault weapons.
A deputy fired a banned weapon at a cinder block, which suffered damage. He then fired a legal one, and there was no damage to the block. Zarrella called it “a pretty powerful demonstration of the firepower of these weapons.” In fact, the second shot had not hit the block at all. When it realized its error, CNN aired a followe-up report that the force of the two guns was the same. LaPierre accused CNN of “fake” journalism in a contentious appearance the next day, and incident has lived on for the NRA.