The long-running current events show, which airs on RCN, Service Electric and Blue Ridge cable stations, may have taped its last episode because of a dispute over guns.
According to show producer John Brinson, a camera operator complained when guest Manny Kapelsohn, an Upper Macungie Township attorney and firearms instructor, brought two pistols and a semiautomatic rifle to the RCN studio in Bath on Thursday.
The guns were meant to illustrate a discussion of gun rights in the wake of the school massacre in Newtown, Conn., and the Obama administration's proposals to ban certain types of rifles, armor-piercing bullets and high-capacity magazines.
Brinson said the guns were inoperative -- they were unloaded, lacked firing pins and had their triggers taped -- but the camera operator insisted they be removed, citing corporate policy barring firearms from RCN property. The studio manager called RCN's corporate office in Bethlehem, which sided with the camera operator.
Angered by what he perceived as editorial meddling, Brinson halted the taping and said he may never resume.
"I said, 'We're out of here,' and we packed up and left," Brinson added, recalling the incident in a phone interview Friday from his home in Weisenberg Township. "I told the manager, 'This might be the end of ["Pennsylvania Crossfire"].' "
RCN spokeswoman Joanne Guerriero said the matter might have turned out differently had Brinson told RCN workers beforehand that guns would be on the set. The company's violence-free workplace policy is similar to that of public schools in barring weapons of any sort.
"I believe if they had said to us, 'We're doing something a little different,' we would have probably come to some accommodation," Guerriero said. "But because people were not aware it was going to happen, [the guns] physically being there was upsetting."
RCN doesn't exercise editorial control over the program and wasn't trying to do so, Guerriero said.
When the employee complained, "We had to look at the company policy," she said. "And whether the guns are props, toys or inoperable, we had to answer to it."
Guns are an immensely sensitive topic since the Connecticut shooting claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults.
Shortly after the massacre, "Meet the Press" anchor David Gregory was drawn into the controversy after displaying a high-capacity gun magazine on the show. The magazines are banned in Washington, D.C., where the program is taped. Authorities contemplated charging the host, but didn't.
Brinson, who has produced "Pennsylvania Crossfire" since the death of its creator, former Allentown Mayor Joseph Daddona, said he hasn't decided for sure whether to end the show for good.
"We're exploring all options," he said. "However, we were very, very upset about RCN's position."
He added that he bears no ill will toward the camera operator.
"She had an emotional reaction," he said. "A lot of people have emotional reactions like that to guns. And I'm not blaming the station manager, because [the camera operator] was putting the heat on him about company policy."
Attorney Don Russo, a regular panelist on the show who serves as a liberal foil to the conservative Brinson, wrote a letter to The Morning Call praising Brinson for refusing to buckle in the dispute.
"John Brinson walked out of RCN, refusing to allow anyone to dictate what he could talk about on his own show," wrote Russo, who despite his liberal politics is a gun owner with a carry permit. "Sadly, we rarely witness that kind of conviction any more. Thank God, there are still some people who refuse to go along to get along."
Brinson joined the show -- which began in 1989 as "Lehigh Valley Crossfire" -- as a regular panelist in 1993, facing off against Daylin Leach, who is now a state senator.
When Daddona died in 2004, Brinson took over as producer and renamed the show.
"It's a very good discussion show," Brinson said. "Don Russo and I have very good discussions. We don't shout, scream and yell. We disagree, but it's good-natured."
Guerriero said RCN has had a cordial relationship with Brinson and Russo, "and we hope we can continue that relationship."
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