CBS Hypes 'Risk' For Homosexual College Student To Come Out In Alabama

On Friday's CBS Evening News, Steve Hartman hinted that the Bible Belt — and specifically, Alabama — was a dangerous place for homosexuals. Hartman pointed out that "a lot of people came out after [the] Orlando" terrorist attack, but touted how "few took as big a risk as Jesse Johnson. Jesse's family lives in Jemison, Alabama, in the heart of the Bible Belt. Fly a flag here, and it better have just red, white, and blue." The correspondent included a soundbite from Johnson's mother, who expressed her deep concern: "I worry for his safety because of that. I mean, this is Alabama." [video below]

Anchor Scott Pelley led into the latest edition of Hartman's regular "On the Road" segment by wondering, "How do you fight the hate and violence we witnessed at the Orlando nightclub? Steve Hartman may have found an answer."

The CBS journalist spotlighted Johnson's reaction to the massacre in Florida and how "he wanted to mourn, but couldn't — at least, not with the sincerity he wanted to." After playing of a clip of Johnson stating that he couldn't "show the sorrow that I have inside without first explaining to the world why I have that much sorrow," Hartman continued with his "most daring" superlative for the college student's Facebook post, where he revealed his homosexuality. He also read an excerpt from the online revelation.

The correspondent then dropped his "risk" term about Johnson's coming out, and his emphasis on the student coming from "the heart of the Bible Belt." He soon added that "Jesse says the majority of his family and friends have been remarkably supportive; and by doing so, they have helped turn his lifetime of fear into his future of belonging." Hartman concluded, "And that's how you make a terrorist die in vain." The reporter never once mentioned the terrorist's Islamist ideology, as he took his thinly-veiled shot at the conservative Christianity of Alabama.

The full transcript of Steve Hartman's report from the June 24, 2016 edition of CBS Evening News:

SCOTT PELLEY: Finally, tonight, how do you fight the hate and violence we witnessed at the Orlando nightclub? Steve Hartman may have found an answer 'On The Road.'

STEVE HARTMAN (voice-over): At the University of Montevallo in Alabama, sophomore music major Jesse Johnson was devastated.

JESSE JOHNSON: My heart sank inside of my chest.

HARTMAN: After the Orlando attack, he says he wanted to mourn, but couldn't — at least, not with the sincerity he wanted to.

J. JOHNSON: In the back of my mind, I kept thinking — you know, I can't show the sorrow that I have inside without first explaining to the world why I have that much sorrow.

HARTMAN: So after hearing the news, Jesse sat down with his phone and did the most daring thing of his life. He typed out a message for his Facebook page, stared at it for the longest time, before finally mustering up the courage to click 'post.'

J. JOHNSON: I just did it.

HARTMAN: The note read, in part, 'I thought about coming out for months, but was afraid of being shunned by those I care about over something that makes me who I am. I'm not going to change. I am gay, and I love you all.'

J. JOHNSON: I wanted to officially be a part of that community that was hurting and that needed as many people to come together and stand with them.

HARTMAN: A lot of people came out after Orlando, but few took as big a risk as Jesse Johnson. Jesse's family lives in Jemison, Alabama, in the heart of the Bible Belt. Fly a flag here, and it better have just red, white, and blue.

NIKKI JOHNSON: I worry for his safety because of that. I mean, this is Alabama.

HARTMAN: Jesse's mom, Nikki Johnson.

N. JOHNSON: I personally will never understand the parents that turn their back on their kids. I love him, and that will never change.

J. JOHNSON: I love you, too.

HARTMAN: When someone shoots up a gay bar, that kind of acceptance is not what he's aiming for. But Jesse says the majority of his family and friends have been remarkably supportive; and by doing so, they have helped turn his lifetime of fear into his future of belonging.

JOHNSON: We're going to stand together, regardless of how afraid we are.

HARTMAN: And that's how you make a terrorist die in vain. Steve Hartman, 'On The Road,' in Montevallo, Alabama.

Culture/Society Orlando Night Club Terror Attack Labeling Conservatives & Republicans Religion Anti-Religious Bias Christianity Islam Sexuality Homosexuality CBS CBS Evening News Video Steve Hartman
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