ABC Spins Sally Field Edit as Right-wing Censorship; Touts Canada

On Tuesday’s "Good Morning America," ABC anchors and reporters spun the editing of Sally Field’s profanity laced anti-war rant at Sunday’s Emmys as an example of political censorship by Fox, a right-wing network. Reporter Dan Harris ominously observed, "Some say the Fox network, owned by well known conservative Rupert Murdoch, was engaged in political censorship."

However, during the ceremony, "Sopranos" creator David Chase, extolled the values of gangsters. In a halting speech, he asserted, "And hell, let’s face it, if the world and this nation was run by gangsters-- [Pause] Maybe it is." Mr. Chase’s political statement was not censored, nor were any of the numerous anti-Bush and Republican-slamming jokes that aired on the awards show. But rather than accept the explanation that Field’s comments were cut because she used an expletive, Harris claimed, "...It’s the Sally Field case that is provoking the real cries of political censorship because Fox cut off not only her expletive but also her entire thought." The argument is somewhat self defeating because, as Harris noted, Fox also censored comedian Ray Romano’s off-color joke. In fact, the ACLU is attacking the edit on the grounds of vulgarity, not politics.

Additionally, GMA anchor Diane Sawyer teased the segment by touting the superiority of Canadians. At the top of the 7am hour, she queried the audience, "...How do you really feel about TV censorship? Emmy viewers in Canada heard everything Sally Field said about war." The ABC host then wondered if Americans prefer to be out of touch. She asked, "Do Americans want the reality?" In a 7:30am tease, Sawyer worried about her fellow citizens and inquired, "Do Americans want to be censored as much as they were censored?"

Finally, following the Dan Harris piece, conservative radio host Glenn Beck appeared with co-anchor Robin Roberts to discuss the issue. He raised the point that the Fox standards executives had to make a split second decision and that they should be given the benefit of the doubt. He also expanded on the subject and scolded Hollywood with vigor rarely seen on network television:

Glenn Beck: "Now, for Hollywood to then say to me, ‘Well, you're not going to movies now. Why aren't people going to movies? It might be global warming. No, it's that you're lecturing me about global warming. It’s that you're lecturing every time– Sally Field said it best. ‘Oh, well, I'll say it again.’ Well, that's great. I like Sally Field. I really like you! And why is it these people assault 50 percent of the movie-going audience? Please. I want to watch you perform character roles. But then when you're on TV, I see you, the anti-war, or the global warming activist and I can't separate it anymore. So now, instead of, ‘I'm the king of the world,’ I see ‘And we should all be driving Priuses.’ That's what I see."

A transcript of the Dan Harris segment, which aired at 8:06am, follows:

7am tease

Diane Sawyer: "And how do you really feel about TV censorship? Emmy viewers in Canada heard everything Sally Field said about war. In the U.S., we heard this:"

Sally Field: "If the mothers ruled the war, there would be no G–"

Sawyer: "Do Americans want the reality?"

7:30am tease

Robin Roberts: "And the controversy surrounding the Emmys."

Sawyer: "Oh, yes. What about that? How do we really feel, as we said, about the fact that the Canadians heard everything? They heard Sally Field say what she said in her acceptance speech about war. Do Americans want to be censored as much as they were censored? We’re going to take a look and let you weigh in. You be the judge. You let us know what you think."

8:06am

Robin Roberts: "And now a look at what you did not see and hear at the Emmy awards. Producers cut away from best actress winner Sally Field during her acceptance speech. It was not the night's only bleep, as you know. Lately, the FCC has been cracking down on what it deems is inappropriate behavior on television. Yes, from Janet Jackson's infamous wardrobe malfunction to Bono at the Golden Globes. Censorship appears to be on the rise. But are we going too far here? Well, here’s ABC's Dan Harris."

ABC Graphic: "Sally silenced: Do Censors Go to Far?"

Sally Field: "Surely this belongs to all the mothers of the world."

Dan Harris: "It happened as Sally Field was accepting the Emmy for outstanding actress for her role as a mother in the ABC show ‘Brothers and Sisters.’"

Sally Field: "Especially the mothers who stand with an open heart and wait, wait for their children to come home from danger, from harm's way and from war. If the mothers ruled the world, there would be no G–"

Harris: "The producers killed her mic and cut to shots of the audience. But on Canadian TV, they aired the whole thing.

Field: "If the mothers ruled the war, there would be no [bleep] wars in the first place."

Harris: "Backstage, Field didn’t seem too worked up about it."

Field: "If they bleeped it, oh well. I'll just say it someplace else."

Harris: "Some say the Fox network, owned by well known conservative Rupert Murdoch, was engaged in political censorship. Fox said the comments might be considered inappropriate by some viewers. During the same show, the network also cut Ray Romano."

Ray Romano: "From what I hear, Fraiser–"

Harris: "And Katherine Heigl."

Kathy Griffin: "A lot of people come up here and they thank Jesus for this award. I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus."

Harris: "Kathy Griffin's comments at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards, which aired the night before the Emmys, were edited because she made some off-color remarks about Jesus."

Griffin: "So, all I can say is–"

Harris: "On ‘Larry King Live’ last night, Griffin appeared to be enjoying the publicity."

Griffin: "I love it. Larry, I've had the best week of my life."

Harris: "But it’s the Sally Field case that is provoking the real cries of political censorship because Fox cut off not only her expletive but also her entire thought."

Howard Kurtz (Columnist, Washington Post): "This was a live news event. Fox was supposed to cover it as a news event and not sanitize it or censor it or package it in such a way that we couldn't find out what she was saying."

Harris: "For ‘Good Morning America,’ Dan Harris, ABC News."

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org