ABC's Gibson Touts Liberal Cause: 'Will Congress Finally Expand Sick Pay to Everyone?'

Picking up on the cause of an advocacy group chaired by Ellen Malcolm, the President of the EMILY's List group dedicated to supporting liberal candidates, ABC's World News on Thursday night devoted its “A Closer Look” segment to profiling a victim of the lack of a U.S. government mandate on private employers to provide paid sick leave. “The surprising number of workers who have no paid sick days,” Gibson plugged before an ad break, “Will Congress finally expand sick pay to everyone?” Gibson cited the “enormous problem for American workers” and, with a matching graphic on screen, he fretted “that 145 nations, but not the United States, require businesses to provide some paid sick days.”

Reporter Betsy Stark recounted the plight of a home health aide and cited numbers from Malcolm's group, the National Partnership for Women and Families, but neither Stark nor the matching on-screen graphics cited the liberal group as ABC's statistical source: “Elnora is one of 59 million American workers who have no paid sick days at all. She is among the 86 million who do not get a single paid day off to care for a sick child.” So, “advocates say” that until the federal government “requires a few paid sick days as well, millions of Americans will have no choice -- no choice but to work when they should stay home." Not until the very end of the story did Stark note how “business groups say another federal mandate is the last thing employers can afford, and if paid sick leave becomes the law of the land, somebody will pay.”

The ABCNews.com page for World News with Charles Gibson now features a link, under a larger story on sick leave, titled “Check State Sick Policies,” and it brings browsers to a National Partnership for Women and Families page -- “MILLIONS OF CHILDREN WILL GO TO SCHOOL SICK THIS YEAR” -- which touts the group's 2004 report, “Get Well Soon: Americans Can’t Afford to be Sick.” The page also champions a bill pushed by two liberal Democrats:
“In an attempt to remedy this problem, several lawmakers introduced The Healthy Families Act. Co-sponsored by U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) and Representative Rosa L. DeLauro (D-CT), The Healthy Families Act would guarantee seven paid sick days per year for full-time employees, and a pro-rata amount for part-time employees.”
ABC's advocacy for the further regulation, mixed with derogatory shots at how the U.S. is behind the rest of the world, matched early February segments on CNN's Newsroom and ABC's Good Morning America. The February 6 MRC CyberAlert item, “ABC & CNN Campaign for Dodd's Expansion of Mandated Family Leave,” recounted in part:
Picking up on an effort by left-wing presidential candidate Chris Dodd to expand federally-mandated family leave, ABC on Friday morning and CNN on Monday morning, fretted about how only the U.S. and some African nations have such a poor level of "family-friendly" policies. On Monday's CNN Newsroom, Heidi Collins relayed: "Fourteen years after it was passed, some say the Family and Medical Leave Act is in need of an upgrade. Ali Velshi is 'Minding Your Business.' Can we jump on board with that, Ali?" Velshi gushed: "Yes, absolutely." With an on-screen graphic listing Lesotho and Liberia along with the U.S., Velshi complained: "In a survey by Harvard and McGill University in Canada, they found that of the 170 countries that they surveyed, only five don't have any paid medical leave. The U.S. is one of them. And four African countries are on that list otherwise. So that's not very good." Collins giddily and naively contended: "A lot of comparisons to European countries and other countries around the world. And we are so low. I mean, isn't it about production -- happy workers equals better production, right?"

Friday's Good Morning America, the MRC's Scott Whitlock noticed, openly lobbied for the passage of legislation that would require employers to offer six weeks of paid time off to workers for maternity, illness, or the care of a loved one. Robin Roberts set up the segment: "Now to a new study from Harvard about paid maternity leave all around the world. It ranks countries based on how generous or stingy their benefits were. And the bottom five countries may have you scratching your head and saying, 'You must be kidding.' ABC's Elizabeth Vargas is here with the details. And we did see this and we were like, no, no, no. This cannot be right."

Elizabeth Vargas chimed in: "Everybody has that reaction, Robin. 26 million mothers in this country work. The vast majority say to make ends meet, they must. With that many moms in the work force, you'd think the U.S. would lead the way in flexible, family-friendly policies. Think again. For millions of working moms, those first weeks after giving birth are a time to take off, recover, and bond with your new baby. But increasingly, the question is who pays?"

When a Labor Department official suggested that "we need to do more to encourage Americans to save more for the times they do need to be out of the workforce," Vargas found that reasonable idea which has worked for generations to be incredible: "It's up to a person to save enough money before they have a baby to be able to stay home for a few weeks and recover and spend some time with that new baby?"

ABC's on screen display during the February 2 segment: "Is America Worst for Family Leave?"

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video for the February 22 story on ABC's World News with Charles Gibson:
Charles Gibson: "We are going to take 'A Closer Look' at an enormous problem for American workers -- the lack of sick pay. We were surprised to learn that 145 nations, but not the United States, require businesses to provide some paid sick days. Nearly half of the private sector workers in America are not paid when they are too sick to work. This month, San Francisco became the first city to mandate sick pay, and now Congress might act. Here's ABC's Betsy Stark."

Betsy Stark: "Elnora Collins says it's expensive raising two teenagers on the money she makes as a home health care aide. Most weeks, with a little juggling and a lot of prayer, she gets by."

Elnora Collins, Home health care aide: "I steal from Peter and give to Paul. Don't let the right hand know what the left hand's doing. That's the way I do it, and I make ends meet. I don't have no other choice."

Stark: "But one thing Elnora cannot afford to do ever is get sick. She works through her fevers and flus, works when she has no voice, works when she barely has the strength to drive to the next job."

Collins: "If you decide to go back home without the pay, so you're laying there sick, and still trying to figure out how you're going to pay these bills because you know when you get that check, it's going to be short."

Stark: "Elnora is one of 59 million American workers who have no paid sick days at all. She is among the 86 million who do not get a single paid day off to care for a sick child. The federal government requires most employers to offer some unpaid leave for serious medical conditions, but advocates say until it requires a few paid sick days as well, millions of Americans will have no choice -- no choice but to work when they should stay home."

Debra Ness, National Partnership for Women and Families: "Many of these are workers in the very industries you least want to have coming to work sick. They're folks who are food service workers handling our food. They're folks who are child care workers taking care of our kids, folks who work in nursing homes and hospitality, in retail."

Stark: "Business groups say another federal mandate is the last thing employers can afford, and if paid sick leave becomes the law of the land, somebody will pay."

Barbara Lang, D.C. Chamber of Commerce: "Whether that is the employee, and foregoing other benefits that they currently have, whether that is the consumer, the businesses are not just going to absorb it."

Stark: "Which leaves the burden where it is now -- on workers like Elnora, who are already carrying heavy loads. Betsy Stark, ABC News, New York."
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center