CBS Ends Blackout on Gosnell Trial, Spotlights How 'Firestorm' Went 'Viral'; ABC, NBC Still Out to Lunch

CBS finally ended their on-air coverage blackout of the Kermit Gosnell murder trial on Monday's CBS This Morning, airing two segments on the story a month after opening arguments began. Jan Crawford acknowledged that the Gosnell case "has received little national news coverage". Meanwhile, ABC and NBC's morning and evening newscasts continued to ignore the ongoing legal proceedings against the abortionist.

Crawford pointed out how conservatives "accused the media of ignoring the story because what it called a bias in favor of abortion rights", and how those "charges went viral on Twitter". She even played a sound bite from a former attorney for the murder suspect who questioned the national news media's lack of coverage of the trial: "A case involving a medical doctor charged with eight counts of murder would seem to me that just that fact pattern would make national news" [audio available here; video below the jump].

Anchor Charlie Rose previewed the correspondent's report by stating how "a Philadelphia murder trial is getting new attention this morning – an abortion doctor accused of a series of horrible crimes. So, why have most of us never heard the name Dr. Kermit Gosnell?" Co-anchor Norah O'Donnell also noted how Gosnell's "name may not be familiar to you, and that makes some abortion opponents angry. This case has suddenly blown up into a political firestorm."

Crawford led her segment with a warning that "some of the details you're about to hear are very disturbing....So far, several patients and about a half dozen former employees have testified, and there are almost no words to describe their allegations about what happened inside that clinic." She quickly followed with two clips of local coverage of the case from her network's Philadelphia affiliate KYW, which reported that Gosnell's clinic was "filled with stray cats and animal waste – 47 fetuses piled into a freezer" and that the doctor is "charged in the murder of a woman during a botched abortion, as well as murders of seven babies born alive."

Later, the CBS journalist spotlighted that "Gosnell was the target of multiple complaints to the state medical board, but state officials had not inspected the clinic since 1993." Crawford also featured clips from KYW reporter Walt Hunter, who voiced his strong personal reaction to the case:

WALT HUNTER, KYW-TV REPORTER: There are images and details of this story that I am never going to be able to wash out of my mind....You can look at the skyline of Philadelphia and some of the top medical facilities in the entire country right from the front of that clinic. This was not hidden away.

Towards the end of the report, the correspondent outlined that "outside the state [of Pennsylvania], few have even heard about the allegations against Gosnell, because his trial has received little national news coverage. CBS News reported on the story at the time it broke in 2011. Just last week, a column in USA Today accused the media of ignoring the story because what it called a bias in favor of abortion rights. Those charges went viral on Twitter."

After playing her clip from attorney William Brennan, who once represented Gosnell, Crawford concluded that "looming over this trial is, of course, the debate over abortion rights. Opponents say it illustrates the brutality of abortion and how it's taking a human life; while supporters of abortion rights who have condemned Dr. Gosnell say it highlights the need for clean, safe places for women to have legal abortion."

Rose and O'Donnell then turned to CBS News legal analyst Jack Ford for a two-plus minute discussion segment. Before the Crawford and Ford segments, the only mention of the Gosnell case on the Big Three networks was when conservative commentator Peggy Noonan dared to raise the issue on the March 31, 2013 edition of NBC's Meet the Press.

[Update, Monday, 2 pm Eastern: The full transcript of Jan Crawford's report from Monday's CBS This Morning is available at MRC.org.]

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center