On Thursday afternoon, news broke that Republican Senator Rand Paul's office had disputed claims aired in the media that the Kentucky Senator had been in an ongoing dispute with his neighbor, Rene Boucher, before being tackled in his yard about a week ago, calling the accounts "fake news," and claiming that the two had not even spoken to each other in many years.
On Monday night, the “big three” of ABC, CBS, and NBC each devoted a segment of their Monday evening newscasts to the news that Alabama State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore and some local government officials chose not to carry out a federal ruling that calls for gay marriages to be permitted despite a voter-approved ban.
Naturally, the networks provided favorable coverage to those in favor of gay marriage, proclaiming that this “standoff” in Alabama has become “a full-blown civil rights battle” with ABC and CBS comparing Moore to then-Alabama Governor George Wallace, who tried to block the desegregation of the state’s schools in 1963.
Major broadcast networks CBS and NBC failed to cover the news that police in Missouri are looking into inflammatory comments made by Michael Brown’s stepfather in the aftermath of a grand jury’s announcement on November 24 that Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson will not be charged in connection to Brown’s death.
Following the announcement of the decision, Louis Head stood surrounded by his wife and mother of Michael Brown and shouted multiple times at the large crowd gathered nearby to “burn this bitch down,” which was most likely in reference to the town of Ferguson. Later that night, widespread looting, vandalism, and burning of businesses and police cruisers all took place throughout the area.
The broadcast networks promoted gay activists’ protest of the fast food company Chick-fil-A, but when that protest fizzled, they did little to cover the failure.
All three networks on Friday continued to highlight the controversy over Chick-fil-A, but Good Morning America's Steve Osunsami adopted the most confrontational tone, insisting that "for years," Chick-fil-A has "donated millions" to "fight against gay Americans." [See video below. MP3 audio here.] Fill-in host Laura Spencer simplified the debate: "How the battle over gay marriage is now all about a chicken sandwich."
Osunsami promoted Friday's counter protest by homosexuals who are outraged over Chick-fil-A founder Dan Cathy's public support for traditional marriage. Of the proposed "kiss-in," he promised, "At Chick-fil-A restaurants today, customers will get an eyeful, along with their nuggets and waffle fries."
On Aug. 1, CBS Evening News ignored the massive crowds that turned out that day at Chick-Fil-A restaurants around the nation in support of traditional marriage, free speech, or simply tasty fast food. ABC and NBC, by contrast, covered “Chick-Fil-AAppreciation Day” with full and surprisingly respectful reports on their evening newscasts.
Matching the pattern set in coverage of Arizona’s immigration enforcement law, the broadcast network evening newscasts on Thursday night all framed their stories on Alabama’s “severe” new law around its victims, with ABC anchor Diane Sawyer and NBC anchor Brian Williams both describing it as “Arizona on steroids.” They didn’t mean it as a compliment. Sawyer mischaracterized it as an “anti-immigration law.”
ABC was the most one-sided, with reporter Steve Osunsami not mentioning a reason for the new law until his very last sentence. Instead, Osunsami intoned, “Across Alabama today, demonstrators were furious, calling this the Arizona law with an Alabama twist,” before showing a man who charged that “it says that our government promotes racism.”
Good Morning America's Steve Osunsami on Thursday skipped or spun key facts while reporting on the execution of convicted cop killer Troy Davis in Georgia. The ABC reporter also played up the race angle, asserting that "supporters are asking difficult questions about the legal system, whether Davis' case would have gotten a greater re-examination if he were white and not black." However, he ignored the execution of a white man in Texas-- on the same day.
In that state, white supremacist Russell Brewer was put to death for the brutal murder of James Byrd. Osunsami left out other details in the Davis case. He noted that the "murder weapon was never found." However, the journalist didn't mention that Davis' gun had been used in another crime on the same day of the shooting and that the cartridges match.
As the broadcast network evening newscasts filed reports this week on the teacher cheating scandal in Atlanta, Georgia, ABC’s World News on its Wednesday show went furthest in seeming to sympathize with the teachers who cheated as correspondent Steve Osunami highlighted complaints about No Child Left Behind’s emphasis on standardized tests to judge teacher performance.
After recounting details of the cheating scandal, in which as many as 178 teachers and principals in Atlanta erased and changed some of the answers on student tests to improve test score statistics for their schools, Osunsami asserted that "everyone here is pointing the finger at No Child Left Behind," and undermined the complaints of parents angry about the scandal:
After ABC’s World News ignored the March for Life pro-life event last week, the January 30 World News Sunday did find time to run a report highlighting complaints by gay rights activists over Chick-fil-A -- a family-owned restaurant chain known for its Christian-based social advocacy -- supplying food to a socially conservative group in Pennsylvania that promoted a ban on same-sex marriage in the state that was enacted in 1996.
The piece, by correspondent Steve Osunsami, featured soundbites from four different people who had words of disapproval for Chick-fil-A, including a member of the liberal Human Rights Campaign. But Osunsami did not include clips from anyone outside the company to support the restaurant chain or the concept of traditional marriage, although he did use a soundbite and a statement from company president Dan Cathy toward the end of the report defending his family's position.
Anchor Dan Harris framed the issue from the point of view of gay rights activists declaring "enough" as he set up the piece. Harris: "We're going to take a look tonight at a budding controversy that pits a wildly popular fast food chain against the gay community. The owners of Chick-fil-A have proudly built Christian principles into their corporate culture, but when one of its outlets donated food to a group that has worked to block same-sex marriage, gay rights groups said: Enough."
On Wednesday’s World News on ABC, anchor Diane Sawyer briefly reported on a court ruling in Florida which struck down a state law banning the adoption of children by homosexual couples. Ignoring the issue of whether an activist court should make such a ruling, Sawyer seemed to frame the story from a sympathetic point of view for would-be same-sex parents in Florida as she referred to the ruling as "new hope" for such couples. Sawyer: "And there is new hope tonight for gay people in Florida who want to adopt a child. A state appeals court ruled that the 33-year-old ban on gay adoption is unconstitutional. And the governor said that the state will allow the adoptions immediately."
But, while ABC News programs have a history of advocating gay rights, it is ironic that the story was immediately followed by a full report about Bishop Eddie Long, a Georgia pastor accused of pushing teenage boys into homosexual sex. Sawyer set up the report: "And trouble is mounting tonight for the pastor of a 25,000-member mega church near Atlanta. Bishop Eddie Long, who lives a lavish lifestyle and has denounced homosexuality, is accused of coercing three young men into relationships. Steve Osunsami has details of the lawsuits."
Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the Wednesday, September 22, World News on ABC:
When reporting on the nationality of a criminal from another country who has already been arrested, it normally would be considered unnecessary or even uncalled for to take the extra step of explicitly identifying the suspect’s ethnicity or religious affiliation as well. But, given that Israelis, the vast majority of whom are Jewish, often face sharp criticism and negative press reaction over conflicts with their Arab neighbors – inflaming anti-Semitic sentiment – if an Israeli citizen who is non-Jewish is implicated in a violent crime, informing viewers that he is non-Jewish would seem to be in order.
But so far in the media coverage of serial stabber Elias Abuelazam’s arrest, some major news shows on both broadcast and news networks have avoided explicitly informing viewers that he is not a Jewish Israeli, while others have been more upfront with viewers on the subject. CNN’s The Situation Room, the NBC Nightly News, FNC’s Fox and Friends, and CBS’s The Early Show all have directly relayed to viewers at least once that Abuelazam is an Israeli Arab. But ABC’s World News, the CBS Evening News, FNC’s Fox Report, ABC’s Good Morning America, CNN’s American Morning and NBC’s Today show have all avoided such a direct identification of ethnicity.