Tuesday night, CBS and NBC went full-on attack mode against Mississippi’s newly passed religious freedom bill, HB 1523. The law, designed to protect religious business owners, like wedding vendors, from violating their beliefs about marriage, came under attack from liberal groups like the Human Rights Campaign and ACLU. Two of the three networks were only too happy to let these gay rights activists be their mouthpieces bashing the “so-called religious freedom bill” that caused an “anti-gay uproar.”
NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt teased the upcoming segment, hyping the “Anti-gay uproar” that “some say is about religious freedom but others say is a license to discriminate.” Later on, Holt repeated the line that the bill was nothing more than a “thinly-veiled license to discriminate against gays and lesbians” turning to NBC correspondent Janet Shamlian for “the fallout.”
Shamilian hyped that “despite calls for a veto” the bill was signed by Mississippi governor Phil Bryant, earning him condemnation from the ACLU and the Human Rights Campaign.
SHAMLIAN: Tonight the ACLU saying it will serve as the magnolia state's badge of shame. Others calling it sanctioned discrimination.
NBC then played criticism from Chad Griffin of the Washington D.C. based gay rights group Human Rights Campaign, who warned that Mississippi would end up like Georgia and North Carolina.
CHAD GRIFFIN: Mississippi needs only to look as far as North Carolina to see how damaging discrimination can be to a state's representation and to a state's economy.
NBC didn’t even bother to get any supporters of the bill on camera, despite even CBS admitting that ⅔ of Mississippians indicated they supported the new law.
Despite this, CBS Evening News’ coverage wasn’t free from bias. Correspondent Mark Strassmann mocked the “‘so-called’ religious freedom law” claiming that Mississippi now offered gays and lesbians "the least discrimination protection in America," before reading tweets from gay activists claiming it was “the most toxic anti-LGBT law ever.” CBS at least did have a counterpoint by interviewing two Christians, one for the law and one against the law.
ABC also covered the story in a brief, calling the law “controversial.”
DAVID MUIR: To the index of other news tonight and a controversial religious freedom bill in Mississippi. Governor Phil Bryant signed the bill into law despite heated protests. It allows religious groups and some businesses to refuse services to gay couples. This as one big business is taking action against North Carolina for a similar law. PayPal announcing its canceling plans to open a new facility in Charlotte.
This isn’t the first time the networks have led the charge in complaining about a state’s religious freedom bill. ABC and CBS also whined about the “growing backlash” against the newly-passed North Carolina religious freedom bill, saying it was similarly “roiled by bigotry allegations.”
By contrast, NBC had nothing bad to say about a new socially liberal bill passed that would impose on on business owners in San Francisco. The new bill requires all San Francisco businesses to pay employees 100% of their salary while on parental leave for up to 6 weeks. Clearly the networks prefer saving their loaded terms and “controversial” descriptions for the socially-conservative local bills.