Holt Personally Defends Gascon, Blames Local News for False Sense of Crime in L.A.

Political News

For over five minutes (5:26) Friday evening, NBC Nightly News anchor Lester “fairness is overrated” Holt personally led the network’s defense of radical progressive L.A. County District Attorney George Gascon, who’s facing a popular recall effort just two weeks after San Francisco liberals managed to get rid of theirs. And as part of this full-throated defense, Holt blamed local news reporting for stoking a false “public perception” of the crime situation in the city.

“Less than two weeks after San Francisco voters ousted their progressive district attorney, a similar recall effort is gaining speed tonight in Los Angeles County. D.A. George Gascon, defending himself from critics who say his criminal justice reform policies have contributed to rising crime,” Holt lamented as he led into the segment.

After playing a couple of soundbites from local news reports about the out-of-control crime wave gripping the city, he suggested those local reports had “amplified” the “growing sense of unease” and caused a “shift in the public’s perception, shaking the ground in southern California.”

He said all that despite admitting there were “robberies in broad daylight, heists on the tracks, and homicides on the rise.” He also bemoaned how “the rise in violent crime … began before Gascon took office, [and] appears to have eroded [the] support” that sweep Gascon into office.

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After playing contradicting soundbites from L.A. residents living in different neighborhoods, Holt let Gascon get away with a mealy-mouthed answer about whether or not the city was safer with him leading the D.A.’s office:

HOLT: Is Los Angeles County any less or more safe since you took office?

GASCON: It’s a complicated question. Right? I’m not sure we’re safer than we were 20, 30 years ago, if you’re looking at what occurred in the last three or four years, then it is a higher level of insecurity today.

Instead of pressing Gascon on what he’s doing or plans to do to get the runaway crime situation under control, Holt’s concern was for the public perception of progressive criminal justice policies:  

HOST: We’re seeing crime going up in many cities across the country. We’re seeing progressive prosecutors like yourself under fire. Do you think that that’s an accurate representation that progressive prosecutors equal rises in crime?

GASCON: I mean, here’s a problem. Some of the more conservative counties here in California have higher per capita violence than we do, but you never see anybody blaming those prosecutors for the increase in violence.

Even as Holt was admitting “hundreds of [Gascon’s] own prosecutors” were taking part in the recall effort (even speaking to two of them), he continued to generate an air of suspicion about the recall effort. “Critics blame Gascon’s policies for a surge in shootings, including the killings of two police officers this week, saying he prioritizes criminals over victims,” he said. “At least eight senior D.A.s have sued L.A. County, alleging they were retaliated against for speaking out against Gascon’s policies.”

And when Holt questioned Gascon about this and “what does it say about [his] leadership,” the embattled D.A. was allowed to get away with blaming unnamed forces conspiring against reform. “You have a very strong driving force that is very committed not only to try to remove me from office but, more importantly, very committed to keeping the system the way that it was,” Gascon claimed.

As he wrapped up, Holt proclaimed “many criminal justice experts say it’s difficult to draw direct connections [from crime] to Gascon’s policies” and again openly worried about the future of progressive criminal justice reform:

HOLT: There’s a lot of perception things are getting worse. If they don’t get better, is that all going to lay at the feet of progressives and criminal justice reform efforts?

GASCON: I’m very fearful that it’s happening already.

This disgusting defense of a progressive D.A. on the verge of being recalled was made possible because of lucrative sponsorships from Prevagen and Verizon. Their contact information is linked.

The transcript is below, click “expand” to read:

NBC Nightly News
June 17, 2022
7:41:23 p.m. Eastern

LESTER HOLT: Less than two weeks after San Francisco voters ousted their progressive district attorney, a similar recall effort is gaining speed tonight in Los Angeles County. D.A. George Gascon, defending himself from critics who say his criminal justice reform policies have contributed to rising crime. I spoke to him about it.

[Cuts to video]

LOCAL NEWS REPORTER: Violent crime is spiking on the streets of L.A.

HOLT: Tonight, there is trouble in paradise.

LOCAL NEWS REPORTER:  There’s an increase in follow-home robberies.

HOLT: Robberies in broad daylight, heists on the tracks, and homicides on the rise. All amplified on local air waves as a growing sense of unease grips the city. We met Deshaun Bennett in Korea Town on his way to his job as security guard.

DESHAUN BENNETT: I feel like they’re way too lenient, way too lenient.

HOLT: Some like Beloved, an artist living in South L.A. feels the rhetoric doesn’t match reality.

BELOVED: I feel pretty safe. I can walk around here 10, 11 at night.

HOLT: But near West Hollywood, Elizabeth Buzzini is more worried than ever.

ELIZABETH BUZZINI: I’ve never seen it like this. [Transition] I think they feel they can get away with it.

HOLT: The surge in violent crime and a shift in the public’s perception, shaking the ground in southern California.

D.A. GEORGE GASCON: Look, it’s horrifying.

HOLT: A troubling reality for Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon.

Is Los Angeles County any less or more safe since you took office?

GASCON: It’s a complicated question. Right? I’m not sure we’re safer than we were 20, 30 years ago, if you’re looking at what occurred in the last three or four years, then it is a higher level of insecurity today.

HOST: Riding a wave of support for criminal justice reform, Gascon took office in late 2020, promising to dramatically remake the nation’s largest D.A.’s office, issuing a series of major policy directives aimed largely at reducing sentences and prison population. Among them, efforts aimed at ending cash bail, largely eliminating use of sentencing enhancements, and moratorium on trying juveniles as adults.

But the rise in violent crime which began before Gascon took office, appears to have eroded that support. Last year homicides reached a 15-year high. Surging 54 percent since 2019.

We’re seeing crime going up in many cities across the country. We’re seeing progressive prosecutors like yourself under fire. Do you think that that’s an accurate representation that progressive prosecutors equal rises in crime?

GASCON: I mean, here’s a problem. Some of the more conservative counties here in California have higher per capita violence than we do, but you never see anybody blaming those prosecutors for the increase in violence.

HOLT: Critics blame Gascon’s policies for a surge in shootings, including the killings of two police officers this week, saying he prioritizes criminals over victims. Organizers say the recall is poised to qualify for the ballot and it has overwhelming support from hundreds of his own prosecutors.

At least eight senior D.A.s have sued L.A. County, alleging they were retaliated against for speaking out against Gascon’s policies.

VICTOR RODRIGUEZ (L.A. prosecutor):  The dysfunction, the chaos.

HOLT: Including Victor Rodriguez and Maria Ramirez, two of the highest-ranking prosecutors to go public with their concerns, emphasizing that they’re speaking personally, not on behalf of their office, they say Gascon’s policies are forcing prosecutors into an impossible position.

RODRIGUEZ:  Every day, D.A.s are walking into court having to make this choice between violating policy or ethical obligation.

MARIA RAMIREZ: It puts a bad name on reform.

HOLT: Gascon declined to comment directly on cases pending litigation, but says voters elected him to set policy for the office.

If you can’t get through to your own deputies, what does it say about your leadership?

GASCON: Actually to be honest, it’s complicated. You have a very strong driving force that is very committed not only to try to remove me from office, but, more importantly, very committed to keeping the system the way that it was.

HOLT: While many criminal justice experts say it’s difficult to draw direct connections to Gascon’s policies, the surge in crime echoing across the country has put intense political pressure on his reform agenda.

Earlier this month, San Francisco voted to oust its progressive D.A. Gascon has also backtracked on some of his policies, allowing for exceptions to his ban on trying juveniles as adults, and his directive to seek zero bail for misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies.

There’s a lot of perception things are getting worse. If they don’t get better, is that all going to lay at the feet of progressives and criminal justice reform efforts?

GASCON: I’m very fearful that it’s happening already.

[Cuts back to live]

HOLT: Recall organizers believe they have reached their goal, but continue to gather signatures just in case. The vote would be held in November.

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