Networks Hype ‘Backlash’ Over ‘Anti-Gay’ Religious Liberty Bill

On Monday’s evening news broadcasts, all three networks praised Georgia’s Governor Nathan Deal's decision to veto a religious liberty bill, devoting three minutes and 56 seconds to the topic. The networks emphasized how major companies like Disney threatened to pull their business from the state, because it was “discriminatory” towards gays. NBC’s report was by far the worst of the bunch, hyping the backlash from the bill and questioning the bill’s legitimacy.

NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt began Monday’s segment questioning if the bill was really about religious liberty. He stated, “[T]here's a growing backlash over what some call religious freedom laws and others call anti-LGBT discrimination.”

As an on-screen headline read, “Law slammed as ‘Anti-Lgbt’ Vetoed,” Holt hyped Georgia’s Governor Deal had “backed down” after the bill’s “backlash” while North Carolina’s governor Pat McCrory was “not budging” even though he was facing a similar backlash for signing another religious liberty bill.

Reporter Janet Shamlian came on the scene calling the Georgia bill “controversial” and warning that McCrory was “on the hot seat.”After showing a video of an angry LGBT protester bashing the governor, Shamlian warned, “[M]ajor organizations like Paypal and the NBA have led the backlash threatening to pull business” in that state as well.

She ended her report by pitting gay rights and religious freedom against each other, stating, “The battle over gay rights and religious freedom tonight being fought one state at a time.”

While ABC’s report from Steve Osunsami was straightforward and mild compared to NBC’s heavy-handed report, the network still did not offer a balanced report by interviewing any proponents for the bill.

CBS’s Scott Pelley only briefly mentioned the veto, saying “many considered” the bill “anti-gay.”

Similar religious liberty bills have been attacked by the media, such as one in Indiana last year which got a whopping 14+ minutes of condemnation from the network news during just one weekend.

Kristine Marsh
Kristine Marsh
Kristine Marsh is an analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division.