ABC Uses Video of Hateful Westboro Baptist Church as Example of Same-Sex Marriage Opponents

[UPDATE: ABC News has apologized and pledged not to use the footage again.] Apparently, ABC can't tell the difference between opponents of gay marriage and hateful, anti-American bigots. As World News reporter Terry Moran on Friday highlighted the Supreme Court's decision to consider the legality of same-sex marriage, video of Westboro Baptist picketers appeared onscreen to visually represent "opponents." [See video below. Listen to MP3 audio here.]

Members of the small and extreme Westboro Baptist Church have disrupted the funerals of American military personal who were killed defending this country. Yet, Moran announced, "For opponents of gay marriage, the very fabric of our society is at stake." During this voice-over, video showed Westboro protesters with signs reading "God hates America." After that footage, the segment immediately cut to a Family Research Council representative (FRC).

Providing the only opposition in the segment, Peter Sprigg, a FRC fellow, asserted, "The fundamental reason why marriage is treated as a public institution, rather than a purely private relationship, is because it serves the interest of society and serves the interest of children."

Having Sprigg immediately follow Westboro signs undercuts the calm, reasoned argument he made. It's also worth pointing out that the FRC suffered a hate crime in August. A pro-gay rights gunman stormed the organization's headquarters in Washington and shot a security guard.

The rest of Moran's segment featured Edie Windsor, an elderly gay woman who is at the center of opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act.

Other than the nine seconds given to an opponent of gay marriage, the story was totally one-sided.

On Saturday, Moran followed-up for Good Morning America. He insisted that, if the Supreme Court's ruling came ten years from now, the decision could be lopsided for gay marriage. But, "We're right at the hinge of history on this issue."

"Hinge of history" has become a kind of liberal code for Moran. On November 6, he offered a fawning piece on Barack Obama and extolled the President: "...On the last day of his last campaign, it is impossible not to think back to what seemed a hinge of history."

Are the journalists at ABC incapable of discerning the difference between a principled opposition to gay marriage and a fringe group like Westboro Baptist? After all, Westboro Baptist members, what few there are, claim they hate the American military and the country itself. This is hardly conservative thought, no matter what ABC and Terry Moran might believe.

A transcript of the December 7 World News segment can be found below:


 6:30 tease

DIANE SAWYER: Into the storm. The Supreme Court says they will rule on the issue of gay marriage in America. A formal decision on the great debate and you will meet the 83-year-old woman who wants her story to make history.

6:31

SAWYER: Tonight, the Supreme Court of the United States says it is time to decide one of the most highly charged issues in this country. Gay marriage. They have agreed to rule on the question, do same sex couples have a right to get married under the U.S. Constitution? It will be a history-making decision, and surprisingly, it's an 83-year-old woman at the center of this case. And ABC's expert on the Supreme Court, Terry Moran, is here right now. Terry?

TERRY MORAN: Well, Diane, constitutionally, it doesn't get any bigger than this. The country's charged so much on this issue. The real question is, how much? And, like so many landmark cases, as you point out, this one begins with the story of one American. This case is going to go down in history as Edie Windsor versus the United States. Edie Windsor, 83-years-old, is a widow now, but she she had 42 happy years with the love of her life, Thea Spyer.

EDIE WINDSOR: She was beautiful. She was smart as hell, she was wonderful altogether.

MORAN: Edie and Thea were married but when Thea died in 2009, Edie got socked by the IRS with $363,000 in estate taxes, which no widow in a straight marriage would have to pay. Today, the Supreme Court decided to hear Edie's case challenging the law she says discriminates against couples like her and Thea, the Defense of Marriage act, which defines marriage under federal law as the union of one man and one woman. The justices will also decide whether states have the power to ban gay marriage. And 30 states have laws that do just that. It's been a breathtaking year of charge on the issue. President Obama, in a switch from 2008, announced his support for gay marriage in a May interview with ABC's Robin Roberts.

BARACK OBAMA: For me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.

MORAN: On election day last month, voters approved gay marriage at the ballot box for the first time, after dozens of defeats, when Maine, Maryland and Washington State legalized it. But now, it all comes down to the nine justices of the Supreme Court, and they are generally conservative on social issues, though they're closely divided. For opponents of gay marriage, the very fabric of our society is at stake. [B-Roll of Westboro Baptist Church.]

PETER SPRIGG (Senior Fellow, Family Research Council): The fundamental reason why marriage is treated as a public institution rather than a purely private relationship is because it serves the interest of society and serves the interest of children.

MORAN: Edie Windsor thinks it's simper than all that. If you could talk to the Supreme Court as they consider the case, what would you tell them?

WINDSOR: It's a marriage that anyone would want, gay or straight. We had a wonderful life together.

SAWYER: And Terry, right here again. So, when will the court rule on this and do you have any sense at all which may they may go?

MORAN: So, they've got two cases here, Edie's and one out of Colorado. They argue them. They'll hear arguments in March with a decision by the end of June. If I were a betting man, I would say the court is likely to strike down that federal law, which sets the federal standard of marriage as one man, one woman. But I don't think they're going to change the laws of all the country. So, it will go back to the states. We'll have a patchwork. But that's just an informed guess. 

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