The media backlash against Pope Francis may be beginning. After relatively positive coverage last week, ABC and NBC on Monday both highlighted the Argentinean President denouncing his "medieval" views on social issues. World News's Ron Claiborne offered no ideological label for the country's left-wing leader, praising, "Cristina Kirchner stands for a new view of a changing world-- embracing gay marriage, sex education in schools, free contraceptives in hospitals." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
He added, "But when [the now-pope] was a cardinal in Argentina, Kirchner described his social views as medieval." Yet, while Claiborne didn't call Kirchner a liberal, he made sure to point out that although Francis is "enormously popular," "what the world is just beginning to learn is how conservative he is on social issues."
In case viewers didn't get the point, anchor Diane Sawyer reminded that the Argentinean president "once called his views medieval."
On NBC's Nightly News, Anne Thompson parroted similar comments: "As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, the Pope opposed many social programs that Kirchner endorsed, including gay marriage and free contraception."
Thompson alerted, "She, in turn, had accused him of holding positions that she said were medieval, hearkening back to the Inquisition."
On the CBS Evening News, Bob Schieffer managed to recount the conflict without discussing Pope Francis's "medieval" views. Instead, he remarked, "They have differed sharply on several issues in the past, including his opposition to same sex marriage and contraception."
A transcript of the March 28 World News segment is below:
ABC GRAPHIC: The New Pope: Facing a Changing World
DIANE SAWYER: And at the Vatican today, the new pope sat down with a former adversary, the first head of state he met with. A woman, who once called his views medieval, a woman who won a victory over his fierce opposition. And tonight, ABC's Ron Claiborne shows us the meeting between the pope and the president of Argentina.
RON CLAIBORNE: On the one side, the new hugely popular pope. On the other, his old nemesis, the president of his native Argentina. Today, they sat together like old friends. Cristina Kirchner stands for a new view of a changing world-- embracing gay marriage, sex education in schools, free contraceptives in hospitals. But when he was a cardinal in Argentina, Kirchner described his social views as medieval. With his humble words and informal style, Pope Francis has become enormously popular in just a few days. What the world is just beginning to learn is how conservative he is on social issues.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The world is probably going to have a bit of a wake-up call, when the Pope starts speaking about hot button issues.
CLAIBORNE: He often clashed with Kirchner over legalizing gay marriage, calling it, "the devil's handiwork." He called gay adoption "discrimination against children," and he's denounced abortion as promoting a "culture of death." But the powerful Catholic strongholds of Argentina and Brazil are becoming more progressive. Gay marriage is now legal. Contraception readily available, threatening to put the popular new pope on a collision course with changing opinions in a part of the world where the church needs to grow.