CBS Presses White House on Catholics' Anti-Obama Lawsuit, But No On-Air Report

May 23rd, 2012 6:03 PM

The Big Three networks' evening newscasts have all but punted so far on the 12 lawsuits filed on Monday against the Obama administration, challenging the abortifacient/birth control mandate which is part of ObamaCare. However, CBS actually followed up on their exclusive interview of New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan on the regulation on Tuesday's CBS This Morning.

Correspondent Norah O'Donnell confronted Press Secretary Jay Carney during the Tuesday White House press briefing over Dolan's sharp critique of the mandate on the morning newscast: "He [Dolan] said that it's a 'strait-jacketing' and 'handcuffing exemption.'...Is that what the President is doing...strait-jacketing and hand-cuffing religious institutions?" O'Donnell's question didn't make it on the air on Tuesday's CBS Evening News or Wednesday's CBS This Morning, even after Carney evaded directly answering her question.

Norah O'Donnell, CBS News Correspondent | did report on the White House correspondent's exchange with the press secretary. Online producer Christine Delargy outlined in her Tuesday evening post, "White House responds to Cardinal Dolan, says Obama's health care policy 'respects religious liberty'", that "the White House responded on Tuesday to accusations by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan that the Obama administration was 'handcuffing' the Catholic church and religious institutions with its policies on health care coverage for contraception....Though Carney would not directly comment on the merit of the suit, he said Mr. Obama is aware of the 'important role' religious institutions play in society."

The network stood out among the Big Three in covering the lawsuits, but that's not saying much. Outside of the six-minute interview of the New York cardinal, CBS merely gave a 19-second news brief on the litigation on Monday's CBS Evening News. Earlier that day, NBC allowed a 20-second brief on Today. ABC has yet to cover it on the air.

The transcript of Norah O'Donnell's questions to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney during the Tuesday press briefing:

NORAH O'DONNELL: On contraception, as you know, Catholic institutions are now suing the administration, and they said that the administration is stifling religious freedom by defining who's exempt from providing contraception. Cardinal Dolan was on CBS This Morning, and he said that it's a 'strait-jacketing' and 'handcuffing exemption.' Any response to Cardinal Dolan's comments?  Is that what the President is doing - is strait-jacketing and hand-cuffing religious institutions?

CARNEY: Well, Norah, the administration has worked closely with all communities of faith, including officials from Notre Dame and other Catholic institutions, to hear their concerns and promote the common good, and our doors remain open to faith community leaders.

As you know, the President - the policy the President has - the policy of the President outlines - or rather, that he has outlined, meets two important objectives: one, it ensures that women have access to important preventive services, including contraception; two, it respects religious liberty.  No - under this policy, no religious university or religious organization will have to pay for or refer for contraceptive services, and no religious institution will have to provide these services directly.

We will continue to work to develop final rules that implement that policy, and as we do, we'll continue to ensure that millions of American women receive the preventative services that they need.

O'DONNELL: So do you think their suit is meritless?

CARNEY: Well, I can't comment on a specific lawsuit. I can simply tell you what the President's policy is, and remind you that the President has worked with leaders of religious institutions on this issue. He has instructed his team to do that, and we'll continue to do so as we take further steps to implementing this rule. But let's be clear: the objective that the President outlined is twofold: one, ensure that women across America receive these important preventive services, including contraception; and two, respect religious liberty.

You know, the President, as he's reminded you, began his first job in Chicago in a position that was funded, in part, by Catholic charities or Catholic institutions. So, he is very well aware of the important role that institutions like that play in our society; that the fact that they can provide services that can be more helpful than any government program, as he has said. He believes strongly in religious liberty and the need to protect it. He also believes strongly in the need to give women access to and provide preventive services that are essential, including contraception.  And the policy the President put in place meets those objectives.