ABC Refuses to Identify ISIS/ISIL as 'Terrorists' or Victims as 'Christian'

As liberal columnist Kirsten Powers recently noted, President Obama is notably reluctant to acknowledge that Iraqi Christians are facing lethal persecution at the hands of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant("ISIL"). Unfortunately, he’s not alone. ABC has been almost completely silent about the religious minorities that ISIL’s self-declared Islamic caliphate is intent on wiping out.

While CBS and NBC have spent time on nearly every broadcast of the morning and evening news shows detailing the immense persecution against Christians, Yazidis and other non-Muslim religious groups in Iraq, ABC has been absent. CBS and NBC mentioned the Yazidi religious sect 34 times while Christians were mentioned 23 times between the two networks in a two-week period. 

Yet ABC identified ISIL’s victims as “Christian” and “Yazidi” in only one Sunday evening news broadcast, Aug. 10. 

On ABC World News with Diane Sawyer August 13, correspondent Muhammad Lila simply called ISIL, “religious militants” who had trapped “thousands of starving refugees” on top of the mountain. Again on Good Morning America the next morning anchor Robin Roberts stated, “refugees are trapped by militant extremists,” while on- screen graphics referred to ISIL as “Iraqi extremists.”

The fact that the “militants” were terrorists was not mentioned at all. The fact that these “militants” were Islamic fundamentalists committed to wiping out an entire group of people because they were not Muslim was a fact not even hinted at. 

Meanwhile, on the Aug. 7 NBC “Nightly News,” anchor Brian Williams reported that ISIL “have been rooting out Iraqi Christians and other religious minorities, 40,000 of whom are said to be on the run and in great danger.” On Aug. 9, CBS News Foreign Correspondent Holly Williams told “CBS Evening News” viewers that ISIL “carried out public executions, targeting religious minorities, including Iraqi Christians.” 

Such reports don’t begin to convey the horror facing Christians in Northern Iraq, where men, women and children who refused to convert to Islam have been shot, stabbed and beheaded in large numbers (lovingly captured on film by proud jihadis), but at least they acknowledge a problem. The fact that the Vatican gave its blessing to U.S. air strikes against ISIL is a measure of the catastrophe.

NBC and CBS are far from exemplars. All the networks are reluctant to call Hamas terrorists, even though the U.S. State Department officially designated it a terrorist organization in 1997. They’ve downplayed the Islamic fundamentalism of the Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria, and have been silent on the anti-Semitic nature of the Gaza protests across Europe.

Methodology: The Culture and Media Institute analyzed morning and evening news broadcasts on ABC, CBS and NBC from August 1 through August 14.

Kristine Marsh
Kristine Marsh
Kristine Marsh is a staff writer/analyst for the Media Research Center's Culture and Media Institute.