After Spiking Catholic Lawsuit Against Obama, Networks Unleash Avalanche of Stories Hyping Vatican 'Scandal'

While the networks largely ignored 43 Catholic institutions suing the Obama administration over the ObamaCare contraception mandate, since news broke on May 25 of the Pope's butler leaking classified Vatican documents, those same networks saw fit to provide 13 stories in 5 days proclaiming "another black eye for the Vatican" and supposed "corruption at some of the highest levels." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

ABC News lead the charge, with a total of six reports from May 26 through 28. NBC followed close behind with five reports, one of which was a news brief, from May 25 through 29. CBS had the lightest coverage of the controversy, with only two reports on May 28. CBS was also the only one of the three networks to provide any coverage of the Catholic lawsuit, offering a 19-second news brief on the May 21 Evening News and an interview with Cardinal Timothy Dolan on the May 23 This Morning.  

Having completely skipped the Church fighting for religious liberty, ABC and NBC seemed to delight in reporting every salacious detail of the Vatican leaks. On Tuesday's NBC Today, correspondent Michelle Kosinski touted a nickname in Rome for the incident: "Here they're calling it 'Vatileaks.'" During a report on Sunday's Today, correspondent Duncan Golestani remarked that the whole affair was "like something from a Hollywood movie," followed by a clip of the conspiratorial anti-Catholic film Angels & Demons.

ABC made the Angels & Demons comparison three times in its coverage, with correspondent Jeffrey Kofman declaring on Sunday's Good Morning America: "All of this talk of conspiracy and palace intrigues sound much like a Dan Brown novel....There are similar scenes in his book 'Angels and Demons.' But this is very real....Years ago, Vatican conspirators used to poison their enemies. Today, it's a little more subtle. They leak to the media."

All three networks used highly charged language to portray the Church as some sort of criminal enterprise. On Friday's NBC Nightly News, correspondent Jim Maceda wrapped up his report by ominously asserting: "...the alleged leaks by the man closest to the Pope may have lifted another veil on the secretive and perhaps illegal activity inside the Vatican itself."

In a report for Saturday's ABC World News, Kofman described how the leaks,"include searing allegations of corruption and cronyism at the Vatican Bank, a bizarre plot to kill the Pope allegedly by a cardinal hoping to succeed him, and a nasty power struggle between Vatican reformers and those who want nothing to change."

On Monday's CBS Evening News, correspondent Charile Daggett explained that the butler has been "accused of leaking letters and memos to Italian journalists that allegedly show corruption in the Church's financial dealings with Italian businesses, including money laundering and kickbacks."

The liberal media only seems to be interested in covering the Catholic Church when some type scandal is involved. Not only did the networks avoid covering the ObamaCare lawsuit, but shortly after it was filed they enthusiastically promoted a story designed to undermine the Church's authority.

While CBS did provide the only coverage of the lawsuit, it followed that minimal reporting with a May 24 Evening News story about "predator priests" on trial in Philadelphia.

Appearing on the May 27 Fox News Sunday, Washington D.C. Cardinal Donald Wuerl commented on the stunning media double standard: "...they're focusing so much attention right now on the Pope's butler. It seems to me that somehow they've missed the boat. They've missed the story."


Here is a transcript of the May 25 NBC Nightly News report:

7:16PM ET

WILLIAMS: A new scandal, as we've said, is rocking the Vatican tonight. It's making headlines around the world in the process. It involves secret documents, allegations of corruption, a bombshell new book, and today, the arrest of one of Pope Benedict's most trusted aides, his own butler. Our details from NBC's Jim Maceda.

JIM MACEDA: Pope Benedict's personal butler, Paolo Gabriele, always seated up front on the Pope Mobile, but today, he was arrested after Vatican police found hundreds of confidential documents in his house. The butler, in charge of serving meals and managing the Pope's private apartment, allegedly leaked those documents to the media, including investigative reporter Gianluigi Nuzzi, who's new book uncovers a web of Vatican corruption and cronyism. 'Some small wheels in the big Vatican machine decided, rightly or wrongly, to make public important events, like palace plots,' he said.

The Vatican confirmed today that indeed, the butler was arrested and called Nuzzi's book and the leaks "criminal." It's launched its own investigation. Among the incriminating documents, letters to the Pope from Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, revealing a small network of construction companies awarded Vatican contracts at inflated prices. But the whistle-blower was punished and, against his wishes, packed off to the US, where's he now the Vatican ambassador in Washington.

Other leaked documents revealed Vatican infighting over financial transparency. On Thursday, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi was fired as the Vatican Bank's president.

PHILIO PULLELLA [VATICAN EXPERT]: Gotti Tedeschi has said himself that he was ousted because he was the one who wanted transparency.

MACEDA: It's unclear if the Pope's butler acted alone or was taking orders, but the alleged leaks by the man closest to the Pope may have lifted another veil on the secretive and perhaps illegal activity inside the Vatican itself. Jim Maceda, NBC News, London.

Here is a transcript of the May 27 ABC Good Morning America report:

8:10AM ET

DAN HARRIS: Now, now to the latest on this growing scandal at the Vatican. As he celebrates mass this morning, the Pope is said to be, quote, "pained" by a betrayal from his personal butler or, as Paula say, butler.

PAULA FARIS: The butler.

HARRIS: The man who was by the Pope's side night and day now accused of leaking embarrassing secrets. And ABC's Jeffrey Kofman is at the Vatican this morning. Jeffrey, good morning to you.

JEFFREY KOFMAN: And what a spectacular morning it is here at the Vatican. This being Sunday, the Pope would like Catholics to dwell on questions of spirituality and faith. But instead, the question being asked here now is, did the butler really do it?

KOFMAN: As the Pope celebrated mass at St. Peter's today, it was hard not to be diverted by the scandals that continue to plague his leadership. We are learning more about butler Paolo Gabriele, seen here serving the Pope wine, who was under arrest, accused of leaking confidential papal documents to the Italian media. And the Vatican watchers here are skeptical. Do you think the butler did it?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN [VATICAN WATCHER]: I think the butler is too simple a person to do something on his own.

JEFFREY KOFMAN: You think if it happened, there are others helping him?

MAN: If it happened, there are others helping him and may be leading him.

KOFMAN: All of this talk of conspiracy and palace intrigues sound much like a Dan Brown novel.

[CLIP FROM ANGELS & DEMONS]

EWAN MCGREGOR [ACTOR]: Open the doors and tell the world the truth.

KOFMAN: There are similar scenes in his book "Angels and Demons." But this is very real. The Pope is said to be pained that someone so close is accused of betraying him. Years ago, Vatican conspirators used to poison their enemies. Today, it's a little more subtle. They leak to the media. Those leaks began in January, exposing kickbacks and money laundering at the secretive Vatican Bank. And yet another display of Vatican backstabbing, the man appointed by the Pope to clean up the bank was forced out this week.

MAN: This is just the failure of Benedict XVI, that he's only a theologian, and he's not a ruler.

JEFFREY KOFMAN: What we know is that Gabriele, the butler, is being held in the offices of the Vatican police somewhere behind papal apartments over there, in a room that's about 12 feet square, and that he's spending his time praying and contemplating. But we don't know if he's actually cooperating with investigators. Some papers this morning saying he is, others saying he is not. We're in for another interesting week here at the Vatican.

Here is a transcript of the May 28 CBS Evening News report:

6:51PM ET

ANTHONY MASON: A scandal that has rocked Vatican City threatened to expand today. Pope Benedict's butler is under arrest, but few believe that he is the sole source of the leaks that have exposed corruption and double-dealing inside the leadership of the Catholic Church. Charlie Daggett has more.

CHARLIE DAGGETT: At the center of the holy who-done-it is Paolo Gabriele, the Pope's personal butler. Since he was arrested last week on suspicion of stealing confidential documents, rumors have swirled that he must have had some high-ranking help, perhaps as high as the so-called princes of the Church, the cardinals. Marco Tosatti covers the Vatican for one of Italy's biggest newspapers.

MARCO TOSATTI: If Paolo Gabriele has acted as he did, well, probably there was somebody very important who convinced him to do it.

DAGGETT: Today, the Vatican denied that any cardinal was under investigation, but the scandal shows no sign of slowing. The butler pledged that he'd cooperate fully with investigators, raising the specter that he would name others.

Gabriele, a father of three, has worked for the Pope since 2006, and is one of the few laymen to have access to the Pope's private apartment. He's accused of leaking letters and memos to Italian journalists that allegedly show corruption in the Church's financial dealings with Italian businesses, including money laundering and kickbacks.

The revelations are part of a number of embarrassing leaks that show the Church and its inner workings in disarray. For the moment, Paolo Gabriele is the lone arrest, and, if found guilty, he could face up to 30 years in prison. Charlie Daggett, CBS News, London.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC