NBC News took the step of acknowledging on Friday’s Today show that the man accused of killing three Muslims in North Carolina held atheist beliefs after having ignored that element of this tragic story in both their morning and evening newscasts since the first stories aired on Wednesday night.
During the program’s 7:00 a.m. hour, newsreader Natalie Morales referred to Craig Stephens Hicks in a 27 second brief as “a self-described gun-toting atheist” and is now “facing first-degree murder changes.” The brief did not bring up Hicks’s liberal political beliefs (as have fellow networks ABC and CBS in their coverage).
Morales also brought up the FBI’s involvement in the investigation and how “[p]olice say Tuesday’s killings may have been over a parking dispute, but they’re also investigating whether religious or ethnic hatred may have motivated Hicks in any way.”
In comparison with NBC’s sole mention of Hicks’s militant atheism, ABC has cited it in all four of their reports from Wednesday night through Friday morning and CBS having done so on Wednesday’s CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley and Thursday’s CBS This Morning.
On Friday afternoon, President Obama inserted himself into the incident by releasing a statement offering condolences to the friends and family of the victims and iterating that the FBI has joined the investigation with local authorities into what happened.
The transcript of the brief that aired on NBC’s Today on February 13 can be found below.
February 13, 2015
7:11 a.m. Eastern
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Natalie is here, got the latest on the deadly shooting in North Carolina we’ve been following.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Developing Story; FBI Investigating Muslim Murders; Family Says Victims Were Targeted Because of Faith]
NATALIE MORALES: That’s right and now the FBI is joining in the investigation in the murders of three young Muslims killed allegedly by a neighbor in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Craig Stephen Hicks, a self-described gun-toting atheist, is facing first-degree murder changes. Police say Tuesday’s killings may have been over a parking dispute, but they’re also investigating whether religious or ethnic hatred may have motivated Hicks in any way.