ABC's Surprisingly Positive Take on Tim Tebow: 'Inspired,' 'Lifted Up,' 'Strengthened'

Nightline co-anchor Terry Moran delivered a surprisingly positive assessment of Tim Tebow on Monday night, lauding the Christian quarterback as "inspired," "lifted up" and "strengthened" by "a power beyond his understanding."

Moran also highlighted, "Psychologists are increasingly finding that the very fact that a person has religious faith can help lead to the kind of success Tim Tebow has had." It wasn't all complimentary, however, the program's journalists repeatedly went out of their way to assert just how "controversial" Tebow is.

Co-anchor Cynthia McFadden teased, "Just ahead, he says that the teammate he counts on the most is God and that's put Tim Tebow in the center of a thunderous controversy."

She later warned, "Well, tonight, my co-anchor Terry Moran profiles a NFL star Tim Tebow whose show of faith is creating controversy."

McFadden also misinterpreted, "Does God follow football? Devout quarterback Tim Tebow attributes his heavenly winning streak to the power of prayer and it has sparked a fierce debate about whether he's on to something."

But, according to the Wall Street Journal's Patton Dodd:

In postgame interviews, the young quarterback often starts by saying, "First, I'd like to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" and ends with "God bless." He stresses that football is just a game and that God doesn't care who wins or loses.

However, Moran made sure to expose this hateful rant by comedian John Oliver (of The Daily Show):

JOHN OLIVER: If I was in a room with Tim Tebow and bin Laden and I had a gun with one bullet in it, I'd shoot bin Laden. I'm not a monster. But if I had two bullets, I'd shoot Tim Tebow first!

Moran appeared quite taken by the Christian quarterback, insisting, "In hard times, in uncertain times, this young man, against all odds, in spite of his own physical shortcomings, has led comeback after comeback for the Broncos."

The Nightline report didn't get into Tebow's "controversial anti-abortion ad." NBC's "Today" highlighted this in a December 12 report.

A transcript of the December 12 segment can be found below:


11:35pm EST

CYNTHIA MCFADDEN: Plus, divine intervention? Does God follow football? Devout quarterback Tim Tebow attributes his heavenly winning streak to the power of prayer and it has sparked a fierce debate about whether he's on to something.

11:40

MCFADDEN: Just ahead, he says that the teammate he counts on the most is God and that's put Tim Tebow in the center of a thunderous controversy.

11:44

MCFADDEN: Well, theologians and everyday folks alike grapple with the question of whether or not a higher power intervenes in human affairs. Does God get involved in wars, the fight to end disease and poverty? Presidential elections? What about football? Is there a God at all? Well, tonight, my co-anchor Terry Moran profiles a NFL star Tim Tebow whose show of faith is creating controversy. Here's our series, Faith Matters.

TERRY MORAN: He did it again.

NFL ANNOUNCER: Tebow takes off. Throws to the end zone! Touchdown!

MORAN: Tim Tebow is on a roll, a holy roll, you might say. The 6'4, 240 pound quarterback for the Denver Broncos is the talk of the sports world right now, leading his team to victory after improbable victory, four straight seemingly miraculous wins. At the heart of everything he does, all his effort and all his success, is one simple thing, his Christian faith.

TIM TEBOW: I guess, first and foremost, I'd like to thank my lord and savior Jesus Christ.

MORAN: Tebow says that in every interview after every game.

TEBOW: First and foremost, just have to thank my lord and savior Jesus Christ.

MORAN: And on the field, Tebow openly prays and gives thanks, taking one knee in a pose that's become a verb, to Tebow. Something is happening here. The power of prayer? The hand of God? For millions of fans, something is happening here. For others, not so much.

JOHN OLIVER: I hate Tim Tebow.

MORAN: Last year, comedian John Oliver of the Daily Show summed up the contempt many more secular Americans, and plenty religious fans too, have for Tebow on a rant caught on tape and posted online.

OLIVER: If I was in a room with Tim Tebow and bin Laden and I had a gun with one bullet in it, I'd shoot bin Laden. I'm not a monster. But if I had two bullets, I'd shoot Tim Tebow first!

MORAN: There are websites devoted to hating Tebow. And every Sunday, when he plays, Twitter erupts with his fierce critics and fervent supporters.

TOM KRATTENMAKER (Author, Onward Christian Athletes): There are many Americans now who don't like hearing about religion. When they hear someone like Tim Tebow speaking up so enthusiastically about his Christian faith and thanking Jesus after games, it really puts them off.

MORAN: Tom Krattenmaker studies religion and sports.

KRATTENMAKER: Many people go into the sports spectating experience expecting sports to be this sort of unifying civic rallying point. So, when a Christian athlete like Tebow comes in with his strong, in some ways divisive message, a lot of fans would say no, that's not appropriate, this is not the time and place.

MORAN: And then there's this, the fact that Tim Tebow is far from a classic NFL quarterback. He throws awkwardly, misses wide open receivers, makes plenty of other mistakes. We talked with ESPN's Michael Wilbon on the set of his show Pardon the Interruption. What's he doing right?

MICHAEL WILBON: Winning. Inspiring people. Getting them to play the way he needs them to play the way he needs them to play. Getting them excited.

MORAN: Inspiration. That's what the Tebow story is really about. In hard times, in uncertain times, this young man, against all odds, in spite of his own physical shortcomings, has led comeback after comeback for the Broncos.

WILBON: If you are one of those people who feel somehow disenfranchised and people didn't want you because you weren't the perfect fit for your job and you didn't look or sound like the boss thought you should look or sound and you were moved on to another department and not hired, you love Tim Tebow because he represents you in some sort of way.

MORAN: But what's the secret here? What is happening? Psychologists are increasingly finding that the very fact that a person has religious faith can help lead to the kind of success Tim Tebow has had.

DACHER KELTNER (UC Berkeley Dept. Of Psychology): Feeling a sense of spiritual or religious devotion. It helps people's physical health. It makes people feel better about life. They're more optimistic. They're more resistant to depression and anxiety.

MORAN: Maybe. But maybe the real secret is there is no secret. He is inspired, lifted up,  strengthened and succored  by a power beyond his understanding.

TEBOW: My relationship with Jesus Christ is my most important thing. I don't know what the future holds, but I know who holds my future. That's something that gives me peace and comfort no matter what obstacles or turbulence hits or what I'm about to face.

MCFADDEN: The Tebow divide. Our thanks to Terry Moran.

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