CBS Frames Arizona’s Anti-Illegal Alien Law Through Eyes of Opponents: ‘Veto Racism’

Arizona’s new law hardly earned a friendly reception Friday night from any of the network newscasts, but CBS went the furthest in presenting it from the perspective of its “victims” as anchor Katie Couric, over video of “Veto Racism” and “Stop the Hate” signs, teased: “Tonight, Arizona's controversial new immigration law. Police will now be able to make anyone they choose prove they're here illegally. It triggers demonstrations by both sides and a warning from President Obama.” (Presumably, she meant “prove they’re here legally.”)

Reporter Bill Whitaker suddenly found wisdom in the Catholic Church, plastering “mean-spirited” on screen:

In Los Angeles, Cardinal Roger Mahony, head of the country's largest Catholic archdiocese, called the law “mean-spirited” and compared it to Nazi repression. Today at a ceremony for new citizens, President Obama criticized Arizona's actions.

On ABC, Diane Sawyer teased: “Tonight on World News, Crackdown. Arizona targets illegal immigrants. The toughest new law in the country. Protesters hit the streets.”

She began the April 23 World News:

Good evening to you. And we begin tonight with a political storm. The issue, illegal immigrants. A question: If a stranger walking down the street or riding the bus does not seem to be a U.S. citizen, is it alright for the police to stop and question him? Well, today the Governor of Arizona signed a law that requires police to do just that. Arizona has more illegal border crossings than any other state and Mike von Fremd in Phoenix says the debate is raging.
NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams teased: “On the broadcast tonight, battle lines over an emotional question. Can police stop you on the street if they think you're here illegally?”

Williams led:
Good evening. A central question in the news tonight, is it legal, is it right for a police officer to come up to you and ask you to produce ID if you're suspected of entering the country illegally? This is playing out tonight in the state of Arizona where there are half a million immigrants and the Governor has just signed the single toughest law in the nation against illegal immigration. The Governor says she's fixing a crisis the federal government refuses to fix. She's going against the President on this one.
The entire lead story from the Friday, April 23 CBS Evening News:
KATIE COURIC: Good evening, everyone. Arizona has long been on the front lines in the fight over immigration reform. More people enter the U.S. illegally there than anywhere else. But today the state's Republican Governor signed the toughest immigration law in the nation. It makes it a state crime to be there illegally and gives police the power to ask anyone they choose for ID. Today, hundreds on both sides protested at the state capitol while President Obama called the new law “misguided.” Here's Bill Whitaker.

BILL WHITAKER: The son is hot in Arizona.

PROTESTER: We are chained to the state capitol!

WHITAKER: But nothing like the political heat on Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. All week pushed and pulled by opponents and supporters of the toughest anti-illegal immigration law in the country. Today she drew even more heat and signed it into law.

GOVERNOR JAN BREWER: Though many people disagree, I firmly believe it represents what's best for Arizona.

WHITAKER: The new law requires police to demand proof of citizenship or legal residency, a driver's license or state ID from anyone the officer has reason to suspect might be in the country illegally. Governor Brewer was asked today if she could tell whether someone was here illegally?

BREWER: I do not know what an illegal immigrant looks like. I can tell you that I think that there are people in Arizona that assume they know what an illegal immigrant looks like. I don't know if they know that for a fact or not.

WHITAKER: The law passed with unanimous support from Republican legislators.

STATE SENATOR RUSSELL PEARCE (R): Arizona spends three billion a year to educate Medicaid and incarcerate illegal aliens. Enough is enough.

WHITAKER: But opponents say it's too much.

ALESSANDRA SOLER MEETZE, ACLU OF ARIZONA: The reality of the matter is that certain groups -- people who look or sound foreign -- are going to be disproportionately targeted by this bill.

WHITAKER: Protests have been growing bigger and louder all week, denouncing it as racial profiling.

SCREAMING WOMAN: It doesn't matter whether you're a citizen or not, you are being criminalized based on the color of your skin.

WHITAKER: In Los Angeles, Cardinal Roger Mahony, head of the country's largest Catholic archdiocese, called the law “mean-spirited” and compared it to Nazi repression. Today at a ceremony for new citizens, President Obama criticized Arizona's actions.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Which threaten to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans.

WHITAKER: But Governor Brewer says civil right protections are written into the law.

BREWER: I will not tolerate racial discrimination or racial profiling in Arizona.

WHITAKER: One thing on which everyone can agree: This law will be challenged in court. Katie?
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center