The saddest media bias on display this week was the desperate hunger and thirst for that slice of Ratings Heaven known as Charlie Sheen's Continuing Moral Collapse. He's been All Access Charlie, granting high Nielsens wherever he goes, speaking of how he is High on Himself and "bi-winning" with his two "goddesses" camped at his abode. Network interviewers have tried not to alienate their guest with tough questions. Washington Post TV writer Lisa de Moraes ably brought her trademark snark to this amoral parade. First there was ABC's 20/20 with Andrea Canning on Tuesday night:
"It's no secret that you have an affinity for porn stars," Canning told Sheen.
"Well, I mean, wow, listen to that statement," Sheen joshed back.
During four days of coverage, ABC skipped the conservative perspective while reporting on Keith Olbermann's suspension. The network also used the liberal label only once. Good Morning America covered the story on Saturday and Monday and never used the word.
Friday's Nightline briefly highlighted the story. Anchor Bill Weir referred to Olbermann as MSNBC's "liberal star" and someone who has "leftward leanings." On Monday's GMA, co-host Robin Roberts pontificated on the cable host, suspended because he made political donations to three Democrats.
She fretted, "It's a move that raises questions about the changing role of journalism and whether cable news networks and others are abandoning the goal of impartial reporting." (Conservatives would probably argue that MSNBC long ago stopped caring about such things.)
After the winner of "American Idol" is crowned, the appropriate action is to congratulate the newly crowned Idol on his success. Yet on May 21 media focus was clearly elsewhere. That day, reports on all three networks' morning broadcasts, marveled at how Kris Allen beat Adam Lambert and gave unusual attention to contestants who did not win, but are still successful, leaving little doubt that these hosts and reporters believe something wasn't right about Allen's victory.
Allen and Lambert are very different. Allen, a married twenty-three year old, is a college student from Arkansas. He grew throughout the season as a performer and was often labeled as humble. Lambert, on the hand, was an edgy performer who has become known for his "guyliner," or extensive use of black eyeliner. Although he was a frontrunner and often praised by the judges, his sexuality was often questioned, especially after photos hit the Web in which he appeared to be kissing another man.
Victoria's Secret, the well-known lingerie retailer, is being sued by a woman who claims the company's bra had formaldehyde in it and made her "utterly sick." ABC's "Good Morning America" ran a segment Nov. 11 focusing on that 37-year-old Ohio woman, Roberta Ritter.
"Victoria's Secret - certainly one of the world's most recognizable brands," anchor Diane Sawyer said. "And this morning, though, there are questions about what some of the bras might have in them. And did they cause a reaction?"
ABC's Andrea Canning warned viewers "some women say they've experienced very uncomfortable symptoms from the bras like rashes and hives, even permanent scarring ... but the bras are still on the shelves."
"Good Morning America" on Wednesday continued to aggressively promote the story of the pregnant "man," featuring the show's sixth story since March 26. Once again, GMA co-host Chris Cuomo confusingly described the story of Thomas Beatie, a woman who took testosterone and had her breasts removed in a gender reassignment surgery in order to become a man.
On Wednesday, Cuomo explained, "The pregnant man, Thomas Beatie. He made headlines across the globe. Well, now, Beatie, who is biologically still a woman, has delivered a healthy baby." So, in other words, a woman gave birth to a baby? Perhaps describing the situation that way wouldn't have allowed GMA to devote six stories (thus far) to the topic. The segment was full of such puzzling statements. An ABC graphic screamed, "Pregnant Man's Baby: First Pictures of Susan Juliette." At one point, reporter Andrea Canning stated that Beatie, born Tracy LaGondino, had her breasts surgically removed and then, "...Still hoping to one day have a child, Thomas kept his female reproductive organs." His female reproductive organs?
On Monday's "Good Morning America," for the fourth time in just two and a half months, the ABC program featured a segment on the so-called pregnant man, Thomas Beatie. Since first reporting the story on March 26, GMA has been fascinated with the case of the woman who had surgery to become a man, but kept her reproductive organs and is now having a child.
On Monday's show, reporter Ryan Owens fretted, "But how will society treat this less than conventional family?" The journalist offered liberal, non-judgmental platitudes such as "Today, Thomas says, different is normal." Spouting more sayings from Beatie, Owens recited, "Love makes a family, he says, and that's all that matters." On April 4, correspondent Andrea Canning lauded the transgendered woman as "the man the world has been waiting to meet." On March 26, GMA news anchor Chris Cuomo, cooed, "Oddity aside, biology aside, it is all about love of this child and as long as that's present, everything else is really going to be normal." Each story avoided what many would consider to be a salient fact: Despite media hype, men do not, in fact, give birth to children.
Even co-host Diane Sawyer seemed to be having trouble with the story. On Monday, she announced, "Beatie, the transgendered woman who became a man and she will -- he will give birth next month."
On Friday's "Good Morning America," for the second day in a row, and the third time in a little over a week, the ABC program promoted the story of a transgendered man who is having a baby via artificial insemination. At no time did GMA feature any guest to challenge or question the psychological ramifications for a child who was born from a pregnant "father."
[Audio available here]
During the April 4 segment on the subject, GMA guest news anchor David Muir described Thomas Beatie's decision as "very controversial." One would assume that a controversial decision would have two sides to it. But over the course of three segments, totaling ten minutes and 16 seconds, the closest the network program got was on April 3, when psychologist Jeffrey Gardere mildly advised, "It really is incumbent upon this individual, his wife, to try to give this as much dignity as possible, to not make it a joke, to not make it that something that's cheap [sic]."