Nets Champion Wisconsin Public Employees ‘Rising Up’ in ‘Mutiny’ Against ‘Extreme Cuts’

ABC on Thursday night championed a “mutiny in America” by public employees in Wisconsin whom NBC’s Brian Williams trumpeted for “rising up and saying no to some of the most extreme cuts in the nation.” ABC’s Diane Sawyer teased: “Tonight on World News, a mutiny in America. Public workers take to the streets as governors try to cut their pay and perks.” Sawyer framed coverage from the grievance of the unionized workers:

Today, we saw America's money trouble meet a reality, a human reality, as teachers, nurses, tens of thousands of state workers took to the streets in this country protesting cuts by the governors, saying to these governors, a promise is a promise. One lawmaker looked out at the crowds gathered in the Wisconsin capital today said it's like Cairo moved to Madison. [Audio available here]

NBC’s Williams also offered a comparison to “citizen uprisings” overseas: “Tonight after watching citizen uprisings now across the globe for weeks, how about a big one here in the United States.”

Though Governor Scott Walker is merely asking the coddled workers for a slight increase, from six to twelve percent, in the portion of the generous health coverage they must pay, ABC reporter Chris Bury painted it as a dire burden, citing how Walker is “demanding that public employees pay more for their pensions and health care, the equivalent of a seven percent pay cut,” adding that “what really upsets state workers is a budget that strips away nearly all of their union bargaining rights over health care, pensions, and work rules.”

Williams introduced the NBC Nightly News story by putting the workers into a heroic stance:

Tonight after watching citizen uprisings now across the globe for weeks, how about a big one here in the United States. In Wisconsin, where the state is broke and where the governor is proposing drastic cuts he says will save billions of dollars. NBC's Kerry Sanders reports tonight on the workers who are rising up and saying no to some of the most extreme cuts in the nation.

From the Thursday, February 17 ABC World News, transcript provided by the MRC’s Brad Wilmouth who corrected the closed-captioning against the video:

DIANE SAWYER: Good evening. Today, we saw America's money trouble meet a reality, a human reality, as teachers, nurses, tens of thousands of state workers took to the streets in this country protesting cuts by the governors, saying to these governors, a promise is a promise. One lawmaker looked out at the crowds gathered in the Wisconsin capital today said it's like Cairo moved to Madison. And Chris Bury was right in the middle of it all. Chris?

CHRIS BURY: Good evening, Diane. For the third straight day, thousands of state workers and their supporters have swarmed the state capital, some even picketing legislators at their homes, upset at state budget cuts and what they see as an assault on their union rights. Today, the capitol rotunda was packed top to bottom, thousands of teachers, nurses, state employees of all kinds, mostly peaceful, a handful of arrests, workers claiming the governor is balancing the budget on their backs. Is there a lot of anger here in Wisconsin?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yes, we’re very upset.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: I think it’s frustration more than anger that he’s not listening to our voices.

BURY: So many teachers are here that Madison's schools closed for the second straight day, the protesters raging at the governor’s plan to rein in a $3.6 billion budget deficit, demanding that public employees pay more for their pensions and health care, the equivalent of a seven percent pay cut. For an average worker making $48,000 a year, that's a $3,300 hit. Governor Scott Walker in office only six weeks told me he has no choice. Why is this so necessary?



GOVERNOR SCOTT WALKER (R-WI): Well, for us, we're broke just like nearly every state across the country.

BURY: Just as Republicans prepared to pass the bill, key Democrats left the state to stall the vote. Capitol police were looking for them.

MARK MILLER, WISCONSIN STATE SENATE DEMOCRATIC LEADER: We hope that we’re in a place that's hard for them to find.

BURY: What really upsets state workers is a budget that strips away nearly all of their union bargaining rights over health care, pensions, and work rules. Any wage increase beyond cost of living would require a state referendum. They blame the governor. Do you think he's trying to bust the union?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Of course he’s going to.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1 By taking away our right to bargain as teachers I don’t think is solving the budget in any way.

BURY: Are you trying to bust the union?

WALKER: No. Bottom line, trying to balance the budget.

BURY: The governor says if the law doesn't pass, 10,000 public employees will be laid off. Tonight, the Democrats are still AWOL, and the governor is threatening to call out the National Guard if essential state employees walk off the job. Diane?

SAWYER: Well, Chris, as we can see behind you, no sign they're going home soon. Thank you.

— Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.

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