Nets Use New Arkansas Religious Freedom Law to Further Attack Indiana

On Wednesday morning, the “Big Three” (ABC, CBS, and NBC) networks implemented a new tactic in its effort to smear Indiana’s religious freedom law by hyping a similar law that just made its way through the Arkansas legislature and its opposition from the CEO of Walmart.

Today co-host Savannah Guthrie introduced the network’s coverage of Indiana’s religious freedom law by proclaiming that the state’s “controversy is spreading now with a defiant Arkansas legislature passing a similar measure.” 

Guthrie then turned to reporter Gabe Gutierrez to promote how Arkansas is now getting involved in the “controversy” over Indiana’s religious freedom law:

Lawmakers here at the state house are scrambling to clarify their law’s intent ahead of the Final Four this weekend. Now another state is facing growing backlash from a corporate giant. This morning, the country's latest religious freedom law passed by lawmakers in Arkansas Tuesday is on its way to the governor's desk. 

After detailing the arguments being made by both sides of the religious freedom debate, the NBC reporter hyped the “fierce backlash” that caused Governor Mike Pence to urge an amendment to the legislation clarifying that the law does not discriminate against any member of the Hoosier state. 

ABC’s Good Morning America struck a similar tone during its Wednesday broadcast with reporter Gio Benitez highlighting how “a change is coming to the Indiana religious freedom law that sparked national fury, the governor now backtracking.” 

The ABC reporter then played a lengthy clip from Governor Pence’s appearance on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos before Benitez returned to sympathizing with arguments made to the law’s opponents: 
[b]ecause Indiana does not have a statewide anti-discrimination law protecting sexual orientation critics worry the law could protect business owners who deny service to gay and lesbian customers. 

During a news brief in the 8:00 hour, Amy Robach brought up the similar Arkansas bill and made sure to promote how “[t]he CEO of Walmart, the state's biggest corporation is now calling for him to veto it.” 

Over on CBS This Morning, reporter Adriana Diaz touted the “growing national uproar” surrounding the Indiana law and even touted how “even Late Show host and Indiana native David Letterman weighted in” by saying “This is not the Indiana I remember as a kid. I lived there for 27 years and folks were folks and that’s all there was to it.” 

Co-host Norah O’Donnell rounded out Diaz’s report by insisting that the governor of Arkansas is “facing pressure” to veto his state’s religious freedom bill: 

The governor of Arkansas is facing pressure this morning to drop a similar religious freedom bill in his state. Governor Asa Hutchinson could decide today whether to sign or veto the bill. The state legislature approved it yesterday. The opponents of the bill gathered on the capitol steps yesterday. Arkansas based Walmart says the law sends the wrong message about the state. The retail’s CEO asked the governor to veto the measure. 

Since Friday, March 27 the networks have devoted 26 segments totaling 61 minutes and 18 seconds to Indiana’s religious freedom story and have tilted 2-to-1 in favor of propping up the law’s opponents. 

See relevant transcripts below. 

ABC’s Good Morning America 

April 1, 2015

AMY ROBACH: And Indiana's governor is leading the call to clarify the state's controversial Religious Freedom Act but critics say that is not enough. Governor Mike Pence wants to make it clear the law cannot be used to discriminate against anyone but opponents want legislation that protects gays and lesbians from discrimination. Meanwhile, lawmakers in Arkansas have passed a similar bill and the governor has promised to sign it. The CEO of Walmart, the state's biggest corporation is now calling for him to veto it.     


NBC’s Today 

April 1, 2015

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Lawmakers in Indiana are working this morning to modify the state’s new religious freedom law that critics say will allow discrimination. But that controversy is spreading now with a defiant Arkansas legislature passing a similar measure. NBC’s Gabe Gutierrez is in Indianapolis following all these developments. Gabe good morning to you. 

GABE GUTIERREZ: Savannah good morning. Yeah, lawmakers here at the state house are scrambling to clarify their law’s intent ahead of the Final Four this weekend. Now another state is facing growing backlash from a corporate giant. This morning the country's latest religious freedom law passed by lawmakers in Arkansas Tuesday is on its way to the governor's desk. 

BOB BALLINGER: My bill is designed to protect the people’s civil liberty when it comes to religion. 

GUTIERREZ: But the CEO of the nation’s largest retailer Walmart which is based in Arkansas is asking for a veto saying the bill “threatens to undermine the spirit of inclusion present throughout the state of Arkansas and does not reflect the values we proudly uphold.” 

JACQUI WHITEHEAD: I don't see that this has a thing to do with religious freedom. To me it's just a law to discriminate. 

PROTESTORS: Not in my name. Not in our name. Not in God’s name. 

GUTIERREZ: Lawmakers are also considering a similar bill in Georgia. Supporters say these laws protect religious freedom. Critics argue they allow businesses to deny services to gays and lesbians by citing religious beliefs. 

MIKE PENCE: It’s been a tough week in the Hoosier state. 

GUTIERREZ: After fierce backlash, Indiana's governor now says he hopes lawmakers will tweak the state’s new law to clarify its intent.  

PENCE: This law does not give anyone a license to discriminate. 

GREG BALLARD: I think it’s a solution in search of a problem. 

GUTIERREZ: Indianapolis's Republican Mayor Greg Ballard wants the law repealed unless protections for sexual orientation are added to state law. 

BALLARD: This is a completely self-inflicted wound. 

GUTIERREZ: Small business owners here are worried about the controversies long-term economic impact. 

DAVID LIVINGHOUSE: My greatest concern would be in the future that are sales don't go up each year. That they would start to decline with losing convention business. 

GUTIERREZ: UCONN says its men's basketball coach will not   be traveling to Indiana for this weekend's Final Four abiding by the travel ban ordered by Connecticut's governor because of this new law. Meanwhile, we are expecting to hear from Arkansas's governor today. He has previously said that he would sign their version of the bill. Savannah? 

GUTHRIE: Alright Gabe Gutierrez on a rapidly changing story. Thank you. 

 

CBS This Morning

April 1, 2015

GAYLE KING: Indiana lawmakers are scrambling this morning to amend the state’s controversial religious freedom law. Governor Mike Pence says he wants to sign new legislation this week. It would clarify the law saying that businesses have no right to deny services to anyone. Adriana Diaz is monitoring the protest from the state capital in Indianapolis as preparations for the Final Four are well under way. Adriana, good morning. 

ADRIANA DIAZ: Good morning. Players from Kentucky are expected to arrive tonight, but officials from one school, which isn't in the final four but plan to attend, have decided they're not making trip. All this as the governor works to correct what he calls a gross mischaracterization of the law. 

MIKE PENCE: Was I expecting this kind of backlash? Heavens, no. 

DIAZ: After several days of defending Indiana's controversial religious freedom law, Governor Mike Pence tried to calm- 

PROTESTORS: No hate in our state.

DIAZ: What has become a growing national uproar. 

PENCE: This law does not give anyone a license to discriminate. There's been misunderstanding. Indiana's open for business. 

DIAZ: He told state lawmakers to find a fix by the end of the week, making it clear the law does not allow discrimination. 

PENCE: The language that I’m talking about adding I believe would be consistent with what the general assembly intend and certain will I what I intended. 

DIAZ: The negative publicity has dominated. 

NEIL EVERETT: Basketball and politics make for uncomfortable bedfellows. 

DIAZ: Ahead of this week's Final Four in Indianapolis. The president of the University of Connecticut which won the men's NCAA championship last year said late Tuesday that head coach Kevin Ollie wouldn't be making the trip to Indianapolis. NASCAR said it was “disappointed by the recent legislation.” And the Indianapolis Motor Speedway posted this sign to its famous scoring pylon. Even Late Show host and Indiana native David Letterman weighed in. 

DAVID LETTERMAN: This is not the Indiana I remember as a kid. I lived there for 27 years and folks were folks and that's all there was to it. 

DIAZ: State Republicans are hoping to have an agreement sometime today or tomorrow. Meanwhile Amazon has decided it won't be attending a major tech conference here in Indianapolis next month. Norah? 

NORAH O’DONNELL: Alright Adriana thank you. The governor of Arkansas is facing pressure this morning to drop a similar religious freedom bill in his state. Governor Asa Hutchinson could decide today whether to sign or veto the bill. The state legislature approved it yesterday. The opponents of the bill gathered on the capitol steps yesterday. Arkansas based Walmart says the law sends the wrong message about the state. The retail’s CEO asked the governor to veto the measure. 

NB Daily Religion Anti-Religious Bias Christianity Sexuality Homosexuality Same-sex marriage ABC Good Morning America CBS CBS This Morning NBC Today Gabe Gutierrez Gio Benitez Adriana Diaz Mike Pence

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