ABC, NBC Finally Cover Germany Sexual Assaults – As Source of 'Ugly' 'Anti-Refugee' Protests

ABC and NBC finally decided to cover the story of largely Middle Eastern migrant men attacking women in Germany – by sympathizing with refugees and downplaying the women allegedly assaulted.

During last week’s broadcast morning and evening news shows, only CBS covered the story of 1,000 migrant men who reportedly gathered outside Cologne’s main train station New Year’s Eve to rob, sexually assault, and even rape female passers-by. Over the weekend, ABC and NBC finally paid attention – to the “right-wing demonstrators” and the “anti-refugee protests,” that is.

Last week, the Associated Press reported that 121 women filed criminal complaints, including two cases of rape. This week, the filed complaints topped 500. The men, according to police, were of "Arab or North African origin.”

During Saturday’s Nightly News with Lester Holt, NBC anchor Erica Hill demonized “right-wing” protestors while downplaying the real victims: the women reportedly raped and assaulted. Hill reported the following:

“In Germany, which took in more than a million migrants last year from Syria and other countries, police used water-canons to break up violent protests in the city of Cologne today. An estimated 1,700 right-wing demonstrators protested Germany’s liberal immigration policy after more than 20 migrants were arrested for allegedly assaulting women on New Year’s Eve. More than 1,000 others attended a rival protest. Chancellor Angela Merkel said migrants who commit crimes should lose their right to asylum.”

For Monday’s Good Morning America, ABC anchor Amy Robach cast refugees as the victims – not the women.

“There is rising anger in Germany, where refugees are being blamed for a wave of assaults,” Robach said. “More than 500 criminal complaints have been filed and protests against refugees have now turned violent, with reports of Syrians and Pakistanis attacked in the street.”

Forget the women attacked in the street. Forget reporting their stories from the New Year’s Eve incident:

  • "They grabbed our arms ... pushed our clothes away, and tried to get between our legs or I don't know where.”
  • "All of a sudden these men around us began groping us. They touched our behinds and grabbed between our legs. They touched us everywhere.”
  • "They were trying to hug us, kiss us, make us walk with them. We refused."

The night before, during ABC’s World News Tonight, anchor Tom Llamas also introduced the story by spotlighting the refugees.

“Overseas now to Germany where some refugees are being blamed for widespread assaults on New Year’s Eve,” he began. “Tonight, the number of attacks reported is growing and so is the anger.” 

(Would it be so hard to open with “Overseas now to Germany where women are filing hundreds of complaints of rape and assault on New Year’s Eve”?)

From there, chief foreign correspondent Terry Moran continued the story, also beginning with a focus on the “anti-refugee protests.”

“Turmoil and rage in Germany as anti-refugee protests this weekend in the city Cologne turned ugly,” he began. (Again, why not talk about the assaults being “ugly"?)

However, Moran did go into detail about why there were protests: “Hundreds of young men, most described by victims and police as appearing to be of Arab or North African origin, targeting women, assaulting and robbing them,” he said. 

Also to Moran’s credit, he actually spoke with a victim named Michelle, who described how the migrants “directly surrounded us and we couldn't move” and tried to touch her “everywhere.” 

(How sad is it that speaking with a victim is a groundbreaking move for the networks in covering this story?)

Moran also pointed out that “Many people are asking, after this country let in more than a million refugees and migrants last year, ‘Are Germans still safe?’” At least 21 of the 34 detained suspects, he added, “are refugees seeking asylum in Germany.”

According to the Washington Post, “The 34 reportedly include 10 Algerians, 10 Moroccans, five Iranians, four Syrians, two Germans, one American, one Serbian and one Iraqi.”

Many in Germany blame Muslims. According to Pew Research Center’s estimated 2010 Muslim population, this is the breakdown of Muslims in each of those countries:

Algeria: 98.2% Muslim

Morocco: 99.9% Muslim

Iran: 99.7% Muslim

Syria: 92.8% Muslim

Germany: 5.0% Muslim

America: 0.8% Muslim

Serbia: 3.7% Muslim

Iraq: 98.9% Muslim

The networks have every right to report attacks on innocent migrants. But to ignore the main victims of this story while doing so is indefensible.

Methodology: MRC Culture searched Nexis and searched for coverage by the broadcast news shows.

Katie Yoder
Katie Yoder
Katie Yoder is Staff Writer, Joe and Betty Anderlik Fellow in Culture at the Media Research Center