CBS, NBC Hype 'Uproar' Over Secular France's Burkini Ban

On Thursday, CBS and NBC's evening newscasts played up the "controversy exploding around the world over so-called burkinis," after several French city governments banned the Islamic swimming garment. CBS's James Brown previewed the subject by trumpeting, "Nuns go to the beach in their habits; so why has France banned the burkini?" NBC's Kelly Cobiella spotlighted protests against the ban, and gave a slanted description of the burkini: "A bikini that's more like a burqa, covering almost everything, and designed to give Muslim women more freedom." [video below]

Minutes after Brown gave his sympathetic promo of the story on CBS Evening News, correspondent Debora Patta led her report with a sob story: "The glamorous French Riviera, the place to see and be seen — but not for Italian tourist Amal. She took snapshots of her family from the promenade, instead of on the beach. She was afraid of being caught by police if she wore her burkini."

Patta soon turned to Nice, France's deputy mayor, Rudy Salles. She asked, "How is banning the burkini going the make Nice more secure and safe?" Salles replied, " The feeling of the people is very important. When you go to a place, if you see...something looking like Islamist on the beach...you don't feel safe. And so, we have rules."

The CBS journalist continued that the politician "claims the ban has overwhelming support. But many beach-goers cannot understand what the fuss is all about." She featured a bikini-clad sunbather and "her Muslim friend, who chooses not to cover up, [who] says she still feels targeted by the ban." Altogether, Patta featured three soundbites from opponents of the bans versus just one from a supporter.

On NBC Nighty News, anchor Lester Holt led into correspondent Kelly Cobiella's report by touting the "controversy exploding around the world over so-called burkinis....NBC's Kelly Cobiella takes us inside the uproar." Cobiella wasted little time before giving her "designed to give Muslim women more freedom" phrase about the burkini. The journalist was more balanced in her clips — three from opponents of the bans versus two from supporters. However, she also pointed out two online posts blasting the regulations: "Online, this Tweet: 'You should be weeping, France;' and this — a picture of Jacques Cousteau fully covered."

The transcripts of Debora Patta's report on CBS Evening News and Kelly Cobiella's report on NBC Nightly News — both of which aired on August 25, 2016:

08/25/2016
06:46 pm EDT
CBS Evening News

JAMES BROWN: A French court is expected to rule tomorrow on the burkini — the full-body bathing suit worn by some Muslim women. More than a dozen French cities have banned it, calling it a religious display not compatible with French values.

Debora Patta is in Nice.

DEBORA PATTA (voice-over): The glamorous French Riviera, the place to see and be seen — but not for Italian tourist Amal. She took snapshots of her family from the promenade, instead of on the beach. She was afraid of being caught by police if she wore her burkini. (clip of Amal speaking in Italian) 'I can't go to the beach with my children,' she told us. 'I'm here by the sea, but can't go in it.'

Nice banned the burkini after last month's terror attack by an ISIS-inspired militant. Police can fine any woman wear a burkini, or force them to disrobe — which is what happened earlier this week, when police surrounded a woman here and ordered her to remove her tunic. Deputy Mayor Rudy Salles says wearing a burkini is a provocation.

PATTA (on-camera): How is banning the burkini going the make Nice more secure and safe?

RUDY SALLES, DEPUTY MAYOR, NICE, FRANCE: The feeling of the people is very important. When you go to a place, if you see like that — Islamist or something looking like Islamist on the beach; on the street — everywhere, you don't feel safe. And so, we have — we have rules.

PATTA (voice-over): He claims the ban has overwhelming support. But many beach-goers cannot understand what the fuss is all about.

PATTA (on-camera): Would you feel scared if someone sat next to you wearing a burkini?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: No. Pourquoi?

PATTA (voice-over) Her Muslim friend, who chooses not to cover up, says she still feels targeted by the ban. (clip of unidentified woman speaking in French) 'I think people should be free to do what they want,' she said. 'I don't see why it should bother anyone.'

The ban has sparked huge controversy — which is, perhaps, why, when we were watching the police and these women arrived, they did nothing.

PATTA (live): The French municipalities that ban the burkini say it oppresses women; and as a religious symbol, has no place in this fiercely-secular country. And tomorrow, James, the highest court in France will rule on whether the burkini ban is legal.

BROWN: Debora Patta in Nice, thank you very much.


08/25/2016
07:17 pm EDT
NBC Nightly News

LESTER HOLT: We're back now with a controversy exploding around the world over so-called burkinis — the specially-designed bathing suits worn by some Muslim women at beaches and pools — have been banned by several towns in France. Now, that country's supreme court is about to weigh in on whether those laws are legal.

NBC's Kelly Cobiella takes us inside the uproar.

KELLY COBIELLA (voice-over): French beaches are famous for sun and a lot of skin. But this week, a woman in Nice was forced to strip — four armed officers standing over her — then fined. She's Muslim, accused of violating a new law against so-called burkinis — a bikini that's more like a burqa, covering almost everything, and designed to give Muslim women more freedom.

AHEDA ZANETTI, BURKINI INVENTOR: It was part of integration. It was part of combining the cultures.

COBIELLA: After the attacks in Nice, mayors of at least 15 towns banned the burkinis — linking them to Islamic extremism. (clip of French Prime Minister Manuel Valls) 'A symbol of enslavement,' the French prime minister says. The ban has sparked protests.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE PROTESTER: There are better ways of dealing with fear than — than division.

COBIELLA: Online, this Tweet: 'You should be weeping, France;' and this — a picture of Jacques Cousteau fully covered.

In this secular country, where it's illegal to wear crosses in schools and veils over faces, most support the burkini ban. (clip of unidentified man speaking in French) 'You come to France, you have to live like the French,' this man says. Still, for some, it's political. (clip of Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo speaking in French) 'There are more important things, like education and women's rights,' the mayor of Paris said.

By the weekend, covered skin could be back in. France's highest court will rule in the next 48 hours whether to let women wear what they want. Kelly Cobiella, NBC News, London.

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