Jay Leno's Canceled Gun Show Appearance Sparks Conservative Backlash

Jordan Strauss/Invision for The Alfred Mann Foundation/AP Images
Jay Leno

The response from right-wing media was swift

Jay Leno canceled a scheduled appearance at a gun show a day after he was attacked by activists, and on Thursday conservatives were criticizing him for caving in to political correctness.

Leno had been scheduled to perform in January at the main dinner of the Shooting Hunting Outdoor Trade show, better known as SHOT, but groups, some backed by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, pressured the former NBC host to back out, and the response from right-wing media was swift.

"In a cowardly move, Jay Leno cancels SHOT show appearance after pressure from Bloomberg's ant-gun goon squad," read a headline at Townhall.com, a website owned by conservative radio company Salem Communications.

"Earlier this year, Penn & Teller performed at the state of the industry dinner and were a hit," Katie Pavlich wrote at Townhall. "It's a shame Leno let dishonest and elitist stooges bully him into bailing out on a great event with some of America's best people."

Leno's spokesman, meanwhile, told MSNBC that "when it came to (Leno's) attention that this was actually a pro-gun lobby show, he immediately canceled his appearance."

Leno's ignorance of the nature of the show, though, didn't make much sense to conservatives, given the name of the event and the fact that it is sponsored by the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

SHOT, in fact, issued a statement suggesting that Leno had bought into propaganda from the left.

"He unilaterally canceled his promised appearance due to pressure from the anti-gun lobby, which included false statements about our industry and its commitment to genuine firearms safety, which we attempted to personally correct with him, but to no avail," SHOT's statement read. "We are not deterred by their publicity seeking nor are we unfamiliar with the bullying political tactics of the gun-control groups that seem to have little respect for the First Amendment as they continually demonstrate with regard to the Second Amendment."

Others on the right who were criticizing Leno on Thursday included Twitchy, which was collecting tweets about the issue from both the right and the left, criticizing the latter and praising the former.

Anti-gun activist Shannon Watts got the ball rolling by tweeting: "Use our Fast Tweet page to call out @JayLeno for hosting an event w/ gun lobby."

"Do you have nothing better to do with your life except bullying those who don't care to be defenseless," read one tweet in response to Watts.

Cam Edwards, who hosts pro-NRA shows on radio and television called Cam & Company, tweeted: "You are a coward, @JayLeno." Later, Edwards tweeted: "And you, @JayLeno, a man who makes his living with his mouth and his mind, should tell the speech police to go to hell."

At Glenn Beck's TheBlaze.com, Dave Urbanski wrote that Leno canceled even after he had already been paid $82,500, half of his entire fee for the event, which is scheduled Jan. 20 at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas.

Others who had criticized Leno for taking the job in the first place included Moms Demand Action, Newtown Action Alliance and Erica Lafferty, a daughter of the school principal who was killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre two years ago. "Like, really, Jay? You said you support background checks, but then you're emceeing for the gun lobby that fought against them," Lafferty told the New York Daily News.

On Thursday, the progressive group, Media Matters for America, emailed an item to journalists headlined: "Jay Leno cancels appearance with Newtown-based gun lobby group, conservative media melts down."

Email: Paul.Bond@THR.com