ABC, NBC Highlight ‘Growing Outrage’ Over Arizona Religious Freedom Bill

The Arizona legislature just passed legislation allowing private businesses to be protected from legal action for practicing their religion. The bill, the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act, allows private businesses the right to practice their religious beliefs and refuse service to anyone, such as a gay couple, if they believe it would violate their religious conscience.

On Saturday February 22, both ABC and NBC framed the new legislation in opposition of religious freedom, with NBC’s Lester Holt calling the bill “controversial” and how “opponents dubbed it the right to discriminate bill.” [See video below.]

ABC World News host David Muir offered only a quick news brief on the story, but that was enough to show the network’s agenda. Muir peddled how there was “growing outrage over a new law that allows businesses to turn away gay customers if it violates their religious beliefs.” Muir did briefly mention that Governor Jan Brewer (R-A.Z.) hadn’t decided whether or not to support the bill before going on to highlight the opponents of the religious freedom bill:

Meantime, some businesses already deciding tonight. This pizzeria in Tucson now saying they won't turn away gays, but instead, legislators who passed the bill

While NBC’s Nightly News did provide a more complete story on the Arizona law, it still framed the segment against the religious freedom argument. Host Lester Holt introduced the segment, calling the legislation a “controversial bill” before turning to reporter Joe Fryer for a full story.

Fryer began his report by peddling the liberal line that the bill was “controversial” before hyping how “100 angry protesters sounded off outside the capital. They're upset with legislation that would allow business owners based on their religious beliefs to deny service to gays and lesbians.” For his part, Fryer did provide two sound bites from supporters of the Arizona bill, but the NBC News reporter surrounded them with rhetoric opposing the legislation.

Fryer then went on to use two cases, one in Oregon and one in Washington State to promote the agenda of the religious freedom bill’s opponents:

They point to laws around the country like Washington State where a flower shop was sued after not providing flowers for a same-sex marriage. And Oregon where last month the state ruled a bakery violated the civil rights of a lesbian couple after refusing to make their wedding cake.

Nowhere in the segment did Fryer explain why a Christian bakery may object to baking a cake for a gay wedding because it violated their religious convictions. Instead, he used the case as not an example of religious freedom but rather an argument against the Arizona bill.

After providing two brief clips from the bill’s supporters, Fryer claimed that “business is what may suffer, some argue if the bill becomes law.” The NBC reporter continued to promote the anti-religious freedom argument and showcased how “A pizza shop in Tucson is so upset with the bill it posted this sign: we reserve the right to refuse service to Arizona legislators. This comes nearly four years after Arizona passed a controversial immigration law that was signed by Governor Jan Brewer.”

ABC and NBC seem perfectly content arguing on behalf of the bill’s opponents and jumped on the left’s “outrage” and “controversial” nature of the bill rather than adequately include the religious freedom side of the debate.

 

See relevant transcripts below.


ABC

ABC World News with David Muir

February 22, 2014

6:43 p.m. Eastern

DAVID MUIR: In Arizona tonight growing outrage over a new law that allows businesses to turn away gay customers if it violates their religious believes. Now Republican Governor Jan Brewer has to decide whether to sign it. weighing the potential economic impact. Tonight she says she has quote plenty of time at least until next Friday. Meantime, some businesses already deciding tonight. This pizzeria in Tucson now saying they won't turn away gays, but instead, legislators who passed the bill. 

 

NBC

NBC Nightly News

February 22, 2014

6:42 p.m. Eastern

LESTER HOLT: Back in the U.S., Arizona Governor Brewer has yet to say whether she will sign into law a controversial bill passed this week by the legislature there. It’s called the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act but opponents dubbed it the right to discriminate bill. We get the details on this from NBC's Joe Fryer.

JOE FRYER: Just hours after Arizona lawmakers passed a controversial bill, a few 100 angry protesters sounded off outside the capital. They're upset with legislation that would allow business owners based on their religious beliefs to deny service to gays and lesbians.

UNKNOWN PERSON #1: It feels like it opens the door for discrimination in a huge, broad spectrum the way it is written.

FRYER: Supporters argue it protects the religious rights against businesses.

UNKNOWN LEGISLATOR #1: This bill discriminates against no one; in the contrary it strengthens against discrimination acts.

FRYER: They point to laws around the country like Washington State where a flower shop was sued after not providing flowers for a same-sex marriage. And Oregon where last month the state ruled a bakery violated the civil rights of a lesbian couple after refusing to make their wedding cake.

UNKNOWN LEGISLATOR #2: You should not have to forfeit your religious freedoms and rights merely because you want to work or start a business in the state of Arizona.

FRYER: But business is what may suffer, some argue if the bill becomes law.

BARRY BROOME: We have had four companies call us to tell us we'll be dropped from their list as a potential investment location unless governor brewer vetoes the bill.

FRYER: A pizza shop in Tucson is so upset with the bill it posted this sign: we reserve the right to refuse service to Arizona legislators. This comes nearly four years after Arizona passed a controversial immigration law that was signed by Governor Jan Brewer. As for this latest bill, Brewer told us today while in Washington, D.C. she’s not yet sure if she’ll sign it or veto it.

JAN BREWER: I don't have to make a decision until next Friday, so I’ve got plenty of time.

FRYER: But she has plenty of voices trying to sway her powerful decision. Joe Fryer, NBC News Los Angeles.

Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center.