Pulpit Culprits: Mainstream Media Compare Inauguration to 'Spiritual' Event

The inauguration of the first African-American president is an historic affair, one that should be properly celebrated by all. But when the so-called "objective" network anchors begin comparing a routine political ceremony to a spiritual awakening, have they gone too far?

"Sacred." "Majesty." "Sacrament."  "Pilgrimage." These are words loaded with religious and spiritual meaning. And they're words used to describe the inauguration of President Barack Obama by CBS, NBC and ABC anchors on their evening and mornings news shows.

Perhaps the most blatant conflation of politics and spirituality came from CBS chief national correspondent Byron Pitts when he described the event to Evening News anchor Katie Couric as a quiet church service, "more like the nation's pulpit and the chapel stretched on for miles."

ABC ‘Nightline' reporter Cynthia McFadden also described the event in lofty terms, saying "If today was the majesty, tonight is the magic," as she reported from an inaugural ball in Washington, D.C.

NBC correspondent Lee Cowan reported for the NBC ‘Nightly News' inaugural coverage that even street corners "fell silent, almost becoming a political cathedral of sorts."

Thanks to CBS Early Show host Harry Smith, the spiritual comparisons didn't fade into the night with the inaugural celebrations. This morning, Smith reflected on the inauguration as "one of the sacraments of our national religion," calling the inaugural attendees "pilgrims," who came to D.C. to witness "this most sacred event."

According to Webster's Dictionary, the definition of sacred is "dedicated to worship; holy." The network anchors seem to have bestowed upon themselves the sacred responsibility to highlight every spiritual connection they can muster up.

Erin Brown is an intern at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.