Only NBC Interviews Christian Baker, Compares Him to Racists

On Tuesday, NBC’s Today show was the only network morning show to interview Colorado baker Jack Phillips, the Christian business owner at the center of Monday’s Supreme Court ruling in favor of his refusal to create a wedding cake for a gay couple, in violation of his religious convictions. While the broadcast deserves credit for giving Phillips and his attorney a platform to discuss the case, the hosts used the opportunity to interrogate their guests with slanted questions.

After co-host Hoda Kotb began the exchange by asking Phillips for his general reaction to the high court’s decision, fellow co-host Savannah Guthrie turned to Phillips’s attorney, Kristen Waggoner, and fretted: “For somebody who is just watching this morning. Does this mean that any baker or any company could just refuse services to a gay couple on religious grounds now?”

 

 

Waggoner offered a fact check: “Absolutely not. The court made very clear, as we made clear in our argument before the court, that Jack loves and serves anyone who walks into his store, but he doesn’t express all messages.”

Kotb followed up with an even more incendiary description of the ruling, comparing Phillips to someone opposed to interracial marriage during the Jim Crow era: “Jack, some people may look and they might think, ‘Wow, you know, I think this guy is discriminating. 50 years ago, it was interracial marriage, you couldn’t go in and some people wouldn’t give you goods or services, and now this guy’s doing that.’ What’s your reaction to that?”

That question echoed an unhinged rant from CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin on Monday, who warned that the ruling was an “invitation” to “discriminate.”

Phillips emphatically shot down the unfair characterization: “I don’t discriminate against anybody. I serve everybody that comes into my shop. I just want to say again, I don’t create cakes for every message that people ask me to.”

Moments later, Waggoner cited court ruling to further tear down Kotb’s portrayal:

We have to remember that in Jack’s case, as the court said, he’s an expert baker. So when you go into a cake shop, he sketches, he sculpts, he hand paints these custom cakes that are one-of-a-kind cakes, and that’s what the court dealt with yesterday. It also said that people of goodwill need the space necessary to disagree on this issue. And it’s distinguished cases involving interracial marriage in the past, with the decent and honorable beliefs of Jack and millions of Americans like him, that believe marriage is between a man and a woman, of all different faiths, Jewish, Muslim.

Talking to Phillips, Guthrie pointed out: “There are other cakes I know you don’t create on religious grounds.” Phillips explained: “I don’t create cakes for Halloween. I wouldn’t create a cake that would be anti-American or disparaging against anybody for any reason, even cakes that would disparage people who identify as LGBT. Cakes have a message, and this is one that I can’t create.”

Again, at least NBC was willingly to allow Phillips with air time to present his side, unlike ABC and CBS.

On Monday, the NBC and ABC evening newscasts both tried to immediately throw cold water on the court decision, hyping how “limited” it was.

Here is a full transcript of the June 5 interview with Phillips on the Today show:

7:10 AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: By the way, that baker, Jack Phillips, is with us now, along with his attorney Kristen Waggoner. Good morning to both of you.

JACK PHILLIPS: Good morning.

KRISTEN WAGGONER: Good morning.

KOTB: Jack, this has been a long road for you, started back in 2012. Yesterday you actually heard the words, you heard that verdict, just tell me what your reaction was to that?

PHILLIPS: I was thrilled. The United States Supreme Court has decided that we can try to enter into the wedding business again, and realize that I serve everybody, and it’s just that I don’t create cakes for every occasion that people ask me to create.

GUTHRIE: Kristen, let me ask you, because this was a ruling overwhelmingly in Jack’s favor, a 7-2 ruling, but many legal scholars have said it’s narrow in scope. For somebody who is just watching this morning. Does this mean that any baker or any company could just refuse services to a gay couple on religious grounds now?  

WAGGONER: Absolutely not. The court made very clear, as we made clear in our argument before the court, that Jack loves and serves anyone who walks into his store, but he doesn’t express all messages. And that was critical for the court’s decision. Justice Kennedy made clear that religious hostility by the government has no place in a pluralistic society, and that was critical to his ruling.  

KOTB: Jack, some people may look and they might think, “Wow, you know, I think this guy is discriminating. 50 years ago, it was interracial marriage, you couldn’t go in and some people wouldn’t give you goods or services, and now this guy’s doing that.” What’s your reaction to that?

PHILLIPS: I don’t discriminate against anybody. I serve everybody that comes into my shop. I just want to say again, I don’t create cakes for every message that people ask me to.

KOTB: So if a gay couple came in and said, “We’d like some cupcakes for our wedding”?  

PHILLIPS: Absolutely. I told these two men when they came in my store, “I’ll sell you cookies, brownies, birthday cakes, I’ll make you custom cakes, I’ll make anything for you.”

KOTB: It’s just the art of the cake?

PHILLIPS: This cake is a specific cake. A wedding cake is an inherently religious – a wedding is an inherently religious event and the cake is definitely a specific message that goes with that.  

WAGGONER: We have to remember that in Jack’s case, as the court said, he’s an expert baker. So when you go into a cake shop, he sketches, he sculpts, he hand paints these custom cakes that are one-of-a-kind cakes, and that’s what the court dealt with yesterday.  It also said that people of goodwill need the space necessary to disagree on this issue. And it’s distinguished cases involving interracial marriage in the past, with the decent and honorable beliefs of Jack and millions of Americans like him, that believe marriage is between a man and a woman, of all different faiths, Jewish, Muslim.

GUTHRIE: There are other cakes I know you don’t create on religious grounds, such as –

PHILLIPS: I don’t create cakes for Halloween. I wouldn’t create a cake that would be anti-American or disparaging against anybody for any reason, even cakes that would disparage people who identify as LGBT. Cakes have a message, and this is one that I can’t create.

KOTB: Alright, okay. Thank you very much.

GUTHRIE: Thank you very much for being with us, appreciate it.

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