CBS Hits the Panic Button, Rails Against Religious Freedom Bills in Georgia, North Carolina

In almost identical fashion to their hysteria concerning the defeat of transgender bathroom bill in Houston from November, Thursday’s CBS Evening News painted quite the doomsday scenario for Georgia and North Carolina over their respective religious freedom bills as the newscast argued they could lead to massive boycotts and the loss of billions of dollars in business.

Anchor Scott Pelley set the tone in one of the show’s opening teases by proclaiming that Hollywood was taking a stand for the LGBT community and “threaten[ing] boycott the State of Georgia in defense of gay rights.”

The loaded language seeking to put words in the mouths of Christians followed in a second tease from Pelley prior to a commercial break: “Would a new law allow discrimination against gays? We'll have that next.”

Before going to correspondent David Begnaud in Atlanta, Pelley sounded the alarm against bills meant to protect the religious conscience of two southern states: “American Airlines and PayPal are among corporations critical of a new law in North Carolina that they say will lead to discrimination against gays, lesbians, and transgender people. Georgia is considering a similar law and feeling similar heat.”

Begnaud explained that Georgia’s capital city “is often called the Hollywood of the South” thanks to tax breaks for movie studios that has resulted in an estimated $2 billion in economic activity thanks to the presence of movies being filmed there.

With that in mind, Begnaud warned that “at least nine corporations including Disney, have expressed concern with some threatening to pull their business out of the state if Georgia passes the controversial law.” As for the law in question, Begnaud summarized it this way:

It allows religious officials to refuse to perform same-sex marriages, and it would let faith-based organizations deny services or employment to people who violate their, quote, “sincerely held religious belief.” Georgia now joins 21 states that have passed similar laws.

Speaking with Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO William Pate, Begnaud mentioned that “20 companies have called him to say they will cancel their conventions if that bill becomes law.”

When Pate was asked “[h]ow much does the city stand to lose” if the legislature-approved measure that would protect businesses with traditional values would become law, Pate responded that the city would lose “close to $1 billion worth of economic impact to our city.” 

Only near the back end of the segment did viewers hear from a supporter of the legislation:

BEGNAUD: State Senator Greg Kirk is a sponsor of the bill. [TO KIRK] Give me an example of what your bill would do for somebody in Georgia. 

REPUBLICAN GEORGIA STATE SENATOR GREG KIRK: Let's say my wife and I want to start an adoption agency and we want it to be a faith-based organization. We only want to adopt out to traditional couples. It would protect us.

As this writer mentioned above, this is the same newscast that was disappointed back in November 2015 when Houston voters rejected by a margin of 61 percent to 39 percent a bill that would have allowed patrons to use whichever set of bathrooms they identified with.

In March and April of that same year, NewsBusters (including yours truly) chronicled how the media did little to hide how apoplectic they were at Republicans in Arkansas and Indiana when the GOP-controlled legislature attempted to pass similar measures that they deemed a “national outcry.”

Readers might remember that much of the coverage centered around the maligning of a Christian family that owned local pizza shop in Indiana when they told a local TV reporter that it would refuse to cater a gay wedding.

The transcript of the teases and segment from the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley on March 24 can be found below.

CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley
March 24, 2016
6:30 p.m. Eastern [TEASE]

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE CAPTION: Boycott Threat]

SCOTT PELLEY: Hollywood threatens to boycott the State of Georgia in defense of gay rights.

(....)

6:47 p.m. Eastern [TEASE]

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE CAPTION: Corporate Backlash]

PELLEY: Would a new law allow discrimination against gays? We'll have that next.

(....)

6:50 p.m. Eastern

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE CAPTION: Corporate Backlash]

PELLEY: American Airlines and PayPal are among corporations critical of a new law in North Carolina that they say will lead to discrimination against gays, lesbians, and transgender people.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Boycott Threat]

PELLEY: Georgia is considering a similar law and feeling similar heat. David Begnaud is there. 

DAVID BEGNAUD: Atlanta is often called the Hollywood of the south. 

UNIDENTIFIED FILM DIRECTOR: And cut it! 

BEGNAUD: Because of its tax incentives, companies like Disney regularly shoot movies here. Last year alone, Georgia took in nearly $2 billion from the film industry, but now, at least nine corporations including Disney, have expressed concern with some threatening to pull their business out of the state if Georgia passes the controversial law. It allows religious officials to refuse to perform same-sex marriages, and it would let faith-based organizations deny services or employment to people who violate their, quote, “sincerely held religious belief.” Georgia now joins 21 states that have passed similar laws.

WILLIAM PATE: And we believe it's very bad for business. 

BEGNAUD: William Pate is C.E.O. of Atlanta's Convention and Visitors Bureau. He says 20 companies have called him to say they will cancel their conventions if that bill becomes law. [TO PATE] How much does the city stand to lose?

PATE: That would be close to $1 billion worth of economic impact to our city. 

BEGNAUD: Are most companies waiting to see what the Governor does? 

PATE: We believe he’s going to do the right thing and so, we’ve asked our customers to let that process go through.

BEGNAUD: Governor's Republican Governor Nathan Deal has not said if he would sign the bill, but he spoke about it earlier this month. 

REPUBLICAN GOVERNOR NATHAN DEAL (Ga.): I don't think that we have to have anything that is — allows discrimination in our state in order to protect people of faith. 

BEGNAUD: State Senator Greg Kirk is a sponsor of the bill. [TO KIRK] Give me an example of what your bill would do for somebody in Georgia. 

REPUBLICAN GEORGIA STATE SENATOR GREG KIRK: Let's say my wife and I want to start an adoption agency and we want it to be a faith-based organization. We only want to adopt out to traditional couples. It would protect us. 

BEGNAUD: Georgia's Governor has until May 3 to decide what to do. He can veto the bill, sign it into law, or do nothing at all and, Scott, if the Governor does nothing, the bill automatically becomes law July 1. 

PELLEY: David Begnaud, thanks.

Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck is the Managing Editor of NewsBusters for the Media Research Center