Gun control advocates slammed Republicans calling for “thoughts and prayers” in the aftermath of the horrific San Bernardino shooting, prompting accusations of “prayer shaming” on the right.
The New York Daily News ran the dramatic headline “God Isn’t Fixing This” on its front page Thursday, alongside highlighted statements asking for prayers from Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham and Rand Paul, as well as House Speaker Paul D. Ryan.
“As the latest batch of innocent Americans are left lying in pools of blood, cowards who could truly end gun scourge continue to hide behind meaningless platitudes,” said the cover of the newspaper, which regularly advocates for tougher gun control measures.
Sen. Christopher Murphy, Connecticut Democrat, sparked the outcry on social media by appearing to mock the traditional call for “thoughts and prayers” after the Wednesday shooting, saying on Twitter, “Your ‘prayers’ should be for forgiveness if you do nothing — again.”
Igor Volsky, contributing editor for the left-wing website ThinkProgress, said on Twitter, “Thanks for tweeting, following, & watching today as we shamed NRA bought lawmakers for #thoughtsandprayers.”
He retweeted prayer requests from lawmakers while noting their campaign donations from the National Rifle Association, the nation’s largest gun rights group.
The reaction on the right was swift. Media Research Center President Brent Bozell called the cover “offensive and disgraceful.”
“If the news media want to be atheists, that’s their business. But how dare they now ridicule people of faith,” Mr. Bozell said. “This kind of anti-religious bigotry is precisely what fuels Islamic terrorists’ hatred toward Americans.”
The hashtags #thoughtsandprayers, #GodIsntFixingThis and #prayershaming continued to draw myriad comments on both sides of the gun control debate.
Said Vox’s Matthew Yglesias on Twitter: “Other countries must have fewer mass shootings because their conservative politicians offer thoughts and prayers more vigorously.”
Colorado Republican strategist Allen Fuller countered: “#thoughtsandprayers for those who think gun control will fix this.”
Mr. Paul, the Kentucky Republican, called the newspaper cover a “deplorable example of the media putting their political agenda over the suffering of victims and their families.”
“This attack represents a fundamental problem with the media and politics in general,” Mr. Paul said in a statement on his campaign website. “Attacking religious sentiments to promote an agenda as tragedy strikes is despicable.”
Others pointed out that Mr. Murphy himself called for “thoughts and prayers” as recently as June and that President Obama asked for “thoughts and prayers” in response to the Southern California shooting, which left 14 dead and 21 injured.
“Pres. Obama today on San Bernardino: ‘Our first order of business is to send our thoughts and prayers.’ Will prayer mockers go nuts again?” Fox News commentator Brit Hume asked on Twitter.
Truth Revolt’s Ben Shapiro didn’t mince words: “Explain how legislation could stop this you gutless, government-worshipping, anti-religious cowards,” he said on Twitter.
Jim Rich, editor-in-chief of the Daily News, denied in a statement that the front cover was intended to disparage religion.
“The Daily News’ front page is not, in any way, shape or form, condemning prayer or religion,” Mr. Rich said in a statement. “Anyone suggesting otherwise is either — intentionally or unintentionally — misconstruing the point, which is that most GOP politicians have offered nothing but empty platitudes and angry rhetoric in response to the ongoing plague of gun violence in our country.”
In an article in the Web publication Get Religion, Julia Duin noted that the Daily News article began, “Prayers aren’t working,” prompting her to ask, “Was this actually a news story?”