ABC broke network silence on Tuesday, finally offering a report on the Obama administration's decision to force religious organizations to provide birth control in their health care plans. CBS again skipped the subject. On NBC's Today, Andrea Mitchell admitted that the action has "even touched a nerve with some liberal Democrats." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
While Mitchell underlined the political danger the President is facing in swing states as a result of angering Christians, she softened the blow by making sure to note, "...Surveys indicate that most Catholics believe they can be good members of the church without following the church's teaching on birth control."
The NBC correspondent conceded that "even" liberals such as commentator Mark Shields have been shocked. In a clip, a disgusted Shields warned, "The fallout is cataclysmic for the White House and for the President. And he's left them out to dry. I mean he really has. Just a policy that I think is, quite frankly, indefensible."
Good Morning America's Jake Tapper highlighted Republican outrage to the decision, featuring Republican presidential candidates such as Rick Santorum attacking Obama administration as "hostile" to people of faith. Mitt Romney was quoted slamming it as "a violation of conscience."
Tapper featured a separate clip of an outraged Romney: "We must have a President who is willing to protect America's first rights, our right to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience!"
The ABC correspondent first pressed the White House on this last week at the February 2 press briefing.
Talking to Press Secretary Jay Carney, he grilled, "...Why does the Obama administration think it has the right to tell any organization that they have to provide a service, even if that service goes against their religious beliefs?"
CBS has not mentioned the story since a news brief on the January 20th This Morning. NBC finally got to it on Monday's Nightly News.
[Thanks to MRC intern Jeffrey Meyer for the transcript.] A partial transcript of the February 7 Today can be found below:
ANDREA MITCHELL: Twenty eight states already require contraceptive services to be included in health benefits.
JAY CARNEY: We’re going to work with institutions that have concerns here. But I think it's important to note that we believe that American women deserve to have access to that kind of insurance coverage regardless of where they work.
MITCHELL: But In this volatile campaign Republican candidates are calling it a war on religion.
NEWT GINGRICH: This is a decision so totally outrageous and then an illustration of such radical secular ideology that I believe the entire hierarchy will oppose it every inch of the way.
MITCHELL: The Romney campaign is trying to organize opponents to sign an online petition against the new rule.
MITT ROMNEY: We must have a president who is willing to protect America’s first right. A right to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience.
ANDREA MITCHELL: While the candidates focus on politics, other Republicans say it is a fundamental moral question.
MICHAEL GERSON: The decision itself is incomprehensible and I think the president Is going to need to step back, to back off of this issue or the courts are going to do it for him.
MITCHELL: The new policy has even touched a nerve with some liberal Democrats like Mark Shields on PBS.
MARK SHIELDS : The fallout is cataclysmic for the White House and for the President. And he's left them out to dry. I mean he really has. Just a policy that I think is, quite frankly, indefensible.
MITCHELL: While surveys indicate that most Catholics believe they can be good members of the church without following the church’s teaching on birth control, the issue could still persuade independent voters in swing states like Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, states that the President needs to win.