In the media's eyes, the Boy Scouts of America are on par with bubble wrap - unimportant, disposable and something largely ignored unless someone wants to stomp on them.
The Boy Scouts celebrated its 100th anniversary last month. And as an organization in which over 110 million Americans have participated, including film director Steven Spielberg, 211 current members of Congress and Presidents John F. Kennedy, Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama - and given the positive characteristics often associated with Scouts - hard-working respectful and loyal - it's logical to think the media would love to celebrate along with them.
But for the media, the gay agenda trumps everything else. As the Boy Scouts do not allow open homosexuals to serve in leadership roles within the organization, the Scouts will have to look elsewhere for commemoration.
ABC was the sole broadcast network to air anything about the Boy Scouts in the five weeks since the organization's anniversary. Two other segments aired on NPR. But while NBC and CBS could highlight the 50th birthday of bubble wrap and the Etch-A-Sketch, the 80th birthday of Nancy Drew, and the 60th birthday of the FBI's Most Wanted List, they couldn't muster even a mention for the Boy Scouts.
NBC's Brian Williams devoted 121 words to Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day during the Jan. 25 "Nightly News" - 121 more words than NBC lent to the Boy Scouts anniversary.
"A big anniversary in the packaging business. Bubble wrap turns 50 this month. And the last Monday in January, today is Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day," reported Williams. "It may be the best thing ever to come out of Newark airport, because it was on approach to Newark airport that its inventor looked out at the clouds and got the idea for cushioning in the packing and packaging business.
"And while you never want to get trapped in a car with a seven-year-old with a piece of bubble wrap, it has saved many a vase and entertained many a child for half a century," he concluded.
And although it was the only network to cover the Scouts anniversary, even ABC couldn't keep its derision of the organization out of its report.
"They're young symbols of virtue, honest, trustworthy, doers of good deed and builders of camp fires," ABC's Ron Claiborne reported on the Feb. 7 "Good Morning America" broadcast. "For a century now, the Boy Scouts have been the living image of a creed that's both corny and charming in its innocence."
"The creed" Claiborne referred to is the Boy Scout law that states, "A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent."
NBC's failure to mark the Boy Scouts anniversary was particularly interesting, given that, while celebrating the Nancy Drew series on the January 29 "Today" show, Drew expert Jennifer Fisher, claimed the books are so popular because of their "good role models." She explained that "[Nancy] was always willing to help others, sort of right wrongs" and that "she symbolizes independence and using your wits to get yourself out of situations and relying on yourself, good strong reliance on your self."
Sounds a little bit like what Boy Scouts try to teach young men.
But the news media have labeled the Boy Scouts of America controversial because the organization does not allow openly gay men or boys to serve in leadership positions. Given the negative coverage the media have given the Boy Scouts in recent years, that may be the answer as to why they failed to celebrate this all-American institution. Just look at the response to liberal NPR's segments. Despite the legacy of Scouting and the positive influences it continues to have on many young men, enough listeners were incensed that NPR didn't mention the organization's policy on homosexuals that the ombudsman had to address it.
"To my mind, the piece should have acknowledged the controversy with the Boy Scouts and gays in a world where there is growing acceptance and integration of gays in all aspects of society," wrote ombudsman Alicia Shepard on Feb. 28. "Of course there are positive aspects to scouting that needed to be recognized and celebrated - but not at the expense of giving listeners a full picture."
In May 2007, because of the organization's policies regarding gays and leadership roles, the Philadelphia City Council voted to rescind a 79-year-old $1 lease on a building that the Cradle of Liberty Council of the Boy Scouts used as its headquarters. No broadcast networks reported the decision, despite the fact that the Cradle of Liberty Council had more than 60,000 members. Local coverage in the Philadelphia Inquirer stated that the issue was whether the Scout council "must publicly affirm that it will not discriminate against openly gay people."
The media's responses in 2000, after the Supreme Court ruled that the organization could block open homosexuals from its leadership roles, illustrated that gay rights trump everything else. The ruling was based on the case of James Dale, a gay assistant Scoutmaster who was asked to leave his position after the Boy Scouts found out that he was an openly gay man and activist.
Bryant Gumbel, then host of CBS's "Early Show" referred to guest Robert Knight, then of the Family Research Council, as a "f---ing idiot" after Knight appeared on the program and expressed his support for the Boy Scouts. (Knight is the former head of the Culture and Media Institute.)
Gumbel attempted to claim at the time that his remark was not directed at Knight, but admitted during a 2007 appearance on "Live with Regis and Kelly" that it was indeed meant for Knight.
"One time I was doing an interview with, I'm going to kindly describe him as a gentleman," he explained to host Kelly Ripa on June 7, 2007. "And he was arguing about how gays should be kept out of the Boy Scouts, etc., etc. And he was infuriating me ... and I finished with the interview and thought we had gone to commercial. And we hadn't. And I said, ‘What a blanking idiot."
"I was correct, but it was wrong to do," he concluded.
Following the 2000 ruling, ABC's Sam Donaldson admitted to caving to a gay group's demand that that the conservative Family Research Council not be allowed in a segment.
Knight was scheduled to appear on Donaldson's June 29 Internet program with a representative of the Lambda Legal Defense Fund. ABC cancelled his appearance about 30 minutes before the scheduled time.
When questioned by the Media Research Center, CMI's parent organization, Donaldson confirmed that the network ceded to the gay organization's demand. "This was about James Dale and his case. And we booked James Dale and the Lambda attorney, I can't do the show on James Dale without James Dale."
Donaldson also indicated that FRC would not be invited on at another time to give its side of the case. He explained, "Our show had three clips from an executive of the Boy Scouts we had interviewed. I don't know much about the Family Council [sic], I have my staff helping me here. I cannot control the way Lambda feels."
Donaldson's ABC colleague Peter Jennings referred to the ruling as "an embarrassment" in a July 19, 2000 segment about the backlash the Boy Scouts faced.
"On Capitol Hill today there was a bill proposed to strip the Boy Scouts of their honorary charter. It is another embarrassment the Scouts could do without."
The segment also featured Democratic representative. Lynn Woolsey of California claiming that the organization promotes "intolerance," and Kevin Peter, a former Eagle Scout who gave up his Eagle badge in protest of the Boy Scouts policy. Knight appeared for a few brief seconds in the segment.
In 2008, the broadcast networks demonstrated that they were capable of praising the Boy Scouts after a tornado tore through a camp in Iowa, killing four teen boys. ABC, CBS and NBC featured Scouts in their morning and evening news programs.
But why wait until a tragedy to praise the Scouts program? Why not use its anniversary to highlight the role the Boy Scouts has played in the lives of millions of American men?
Now, the Boy Scouts plan to celebrate its 100th anniversary throughout the year so the broadcast networks still have opportunities to participate in the celebration, perhaps with retrospectives of what famous Americans learned during their time as Boy Scouts.
But without even a mention on CBS or NBC on the day of the actual anniversary, the prospect of any other network celebrations is dim.