NPR Spotlights Detractors of Papal Visit To Spain, Omits 428,000 Planning to Attend

NPR pretended that there wasn't a single supporter of Pope Benedict XVI in Spain on Friday's Morning Edition, choosing to devote an entire report on the "many people are grumbling at the cost" of the upcoming papal visit to the country. Correspondent Lauren Frayer not only failed to mention the 428,000 people from around the world who are registered for the World Youth Day event with the Pope, but also omitted the leftist bent of the protesters who are organizing a boycott.

Host Steve Inskeep, after delivering the "grumbling" line, highlighted how "local priests, though, have issued a rare complaint. The Pope's visit will cost Spain millions, at a time when the government is also slashing public salaries and public services." Frayer then explained at the beginning of her report that "more than 100 priests from Madrid's poorest barrios posted a letter online, saying they disagree with the cost and style of Pope Benedict's visit. Father Julio Saavedra says it's unfair how the Spanish government is giving tax breaks to companies like Coca-Cola and Santander Bank for sponsoring the visit."

Actually, these corporations aren't covering the bulk of the cost of Benedict XVI's stay in Spain. As the Catholic News Agency reported on Thursday, "the young people attending World Youth Day in Madrid will pay 70 percent of the total costs of the event."

The NPR correspondent later used a oft-used liberal talking points about the tax breaks "mean the already-ailing Spanish government takes a hit," and added that "the Pope's visit is expected to cost taxpayers roughly the same as the amount just slashed from Madrid's education budget." She played a clip from a local nurse who questioned the timing and the cost of the papal visit, but failed to include a sound bite from a supporter during the segment.

Near the end of her report, Frayer noted that "riot police are already on guard in Madrid's central square, where until recently, protesters angry about the economy had been camped out for months. Banned from the streets, the so-called 'indignados' have taken their campaign to Facebook instead, recruiting demonstrators to boycott the Pope's sponsors."

What she didn't mention is that a large contingent of these "demonstrators" are "dozens of liberal and left-wing organisations demanding a fully secular state," as reported by the Financial Times on Friday. Something that the Financial Times report also mentioned is that "428,000 people have registered to attend" World Youth Day, a detail also omitted by Frayer. It also quoted Yago de la Cierva, executive director of the WYD organizers, who pointed out that "It [the papal visit] creates employment and is attracting tourism. It also proves Spain can host a large-scale event which puts it in good stead for the 2020 Olympic bid."

The full transcript of Lauren Frayer's report from Friday's Morning Edition:

Pope Benedict XVI, taken from http://i30.photobucket.com/albums/c305/benodette/SpanishSt2b.jpgSTEVE INSKEEP: Let's go next to Spain, where many people are grumbling at the cost of a red carpet welcome plan for the Pope. Benedict XVI will visit Madrid next week for the Catholic Church's World Youth Day. Local priests, though, have issued a rare complaint. The Pope's visit will cost Spain millions, at a time when the government is also slashing public salaries and public services.

Lauren Frayer reports from Madrid.

LAUREN FRAYER: More than 100 priests from Madrid's poorest barrios posted a letter online, saying they disagree with the cost and style of Pope Benedict's visit. Father Julio Saavedra says it's unfair how the Spanish government is giving tax breaks to companies like Coca-Cola and Santander Bank for sponsoring the visit. (clip of Father Julio Saavedra speaking in Spanish) 'It's become an opportunity for companies,' he says.

None has rejected the sponsorship, because it amounts to extra money for them. Sponsorships save the Vatican from paying the full cost, but the tax breaks mean the already-ailing Spanish government takes a hit. The Pope's visit is expected to cost taxpayers roughly the same as the amount just slashed from Madrid's education budget.

Chusa Gallego is a nurse who just took a 15 percent pay cut. She questions the timing of the Pope's visit, given the cost.

CHUSA GALLEGO: Why now? Now that everybody is living with 500, 600 euros per month?


FRAYER: Riot police are already on guard in Madrid's central square, where until recently, protesters angry about the economy had been camped out for months. Banned from the streets, the so-called 'indignados' have taken their campaign to Facebook instead, recruiting demonstrators to boycott the Pope's sponsors. Benedict arrives in the Spanish capital on Thursday. For NPR News, I'm Lauren Frayer, in Madrid.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center