This Bites: Networks Devote 14 Minutes to Soccer ‘Chomp’; Pass on Sudanese Christian on Death Row

The scene: a network newsroom in Manhattan, editorial meeting for the June 24 evening broadcast.

“Hey, what about this story of Meriam Ibrahim? Looks like Sudan released her and then rearrested her.”
“Meh, another African Christian condemned by Muslim fanatics to death for her faith, yada, yada, yada. We need something really important, that cuts right to the fundamental conflicts and contradictions of our time.”
“Well, some foreign soccer player bit another foreign soccer player at the World Cup.”
“Bingo! Any chance the victim is transgendered?”
“Uh, I don’t know, chief, but I’ll sure find out!”

An exaggeration? At this point, who knows? All we know is that ABC, NBC and CBS aren’t among the swath of the media that’s been covering the harrowing tale of a young Sudanese mother condemned to death because she wouldn’t renounce her Christian faith. Here story has come to a head with her release and apparent re-arrest before she could flee Sudan. The U.S. ambassador to Sudan has been summoned and tensions are running high.

In their defense, the networks were busy with a really big story: an Uruguay soccer player bit an Italian soccer player during a World Cup game yesterday. Since the incident, the networks have dedicated 14 minutes, 38 seconds to what ABC (5 minutes, 13 seconds) cutely termed, “The Chomp Seen Round the World.” CBS (4 minutes, 42 seconds) smirked that “It’s gonna be a nail-biter of a decision on what they decide to do with [the biter].”

Meanwhile, Ibrahim doesn’t get the benefit of smarmy puns – or any coverage at all.

Ibrahim, who had been born Muslim and converted to Christianity as a girl, was arrested last year and sentenced to 100 lashes for adultery – marrying a Christian man while Sudanese Islamic laws said she was still a Muslim. Later, she was sentenced to hang because she refused to renounce Christianity.

It’s a dramatic, life-and-death story, with a brave heroine standing up against a corrupt patriarchy hide-bound in a bloody Eighth Century world view. Her Islamist brother is calling for her death, saying, “The Christians have tarnished our honor, and we will know how to avenge it.” Organizations and officials from around the world, notably British Prime Minister David Cameron and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, R-Tex, demanded Ibrahim’s release. CNN, FOX, BBC, and newspapers and websites in Britain and America have all been detailing the saga

In short, this story is made for TV news. But the networks have not touched it.

Yesterday, after it was reported that Ibrahim had been released and was leaving Sudan for safety, she was supposedly rearrested at the airport in Khartoum. Still nothing from ABC, CBS and NBC.

Maybe if she’d bite her jailer. Or change her gender ...

Matthew Philbin
Matthew Philbin
Matt Philbin is Managing Editor of MRC Culture