ABC Touts 'Bond' Between Obama and Pope; Forgets the Administration's Birth Control Mandate

All the networks gave positive coverage on Wednesday evening to President Obama's meeting with Pope Francis, but ABC left out the elephant in the room, the massive conflict between the Obama administration and the U.S. Catholic Bishops over the birth control mandate.

Each network reported a happy meeting; both ABC and NBC called it "historic." All the networks highlighted the consensus between the two men on fighting poverty, as ABC noted a "bond" between the two men.

"While the two men don't see eye-to-eye on social issues like abortion and gay marriage, they have clearly formed a bond in other areas, especially in seeing fighting poverty as a moral responsibility," ABC's Jonathan Karl reported.

However, ABC skipped the conflict between Obama and the American Catholic Bishops that at least CBS and NBC reported. As CBS's Scott Pelley reported:

"But one contentious subject was left for a later meeting between Mr. Obama and the Vatican secretary of state. The Obama administration is battling with the U.S. Conference of Bishops over the requirement under the health care law that most employer-sponsored plans cover contraceptives. There was no meeting of the minds on that today."

NBC's Chuck Todd noted that politics had something to do with Obama's trip: "The White House viewed this visit here to the Vatican as their big domestic political play of this trip, a chance to associate the popular Pope Francis with the President's own economic agenda."

Below is a transcript of the segments:

CBS
EVENING NEWS
3/27/14
[6:35 p.m. EST]

SHARYN ALFONSI: Obama said he was incredibly moved by his first meeting with Pope Francis. They met today at the Vatican. Scott Pelley is there. Scott?

SCOTT PELLEY: Sharyn, the President acknowledged that he differs with the Pope on some things, but he said, by and large, he heartily agrees with Pope Francis' message of uplifting the poor and the disadvantaged. The President the and the pontiff met privately after a ceremonial start to the morning.

(Video Clip)

PELLEY: (voice over) Pope Francis welcomed the President to the apostolic palace, then escorted him to the papal library for a private meeting that lasted 52 minutes, which Mr. Obama described later in a news conference with Italy's prime minister.

BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States: I was grateful to have the opportunity to speak with him about the responsibilities that we all share to care for the least of these, the poor, the excluded.

PELLEY: The President told the Pope that he hoped to help the disadvantaged in America by passing immigration reform. But one contentious subject was left for a later meeting between Mr. Obama and the Vatican secretary of state. The Obama administration is battling with the U.S. Conference of Bishops over the requirement under the health care law that most employer-sponsored plans cover contraceptives. There was no meeting of the minds on that today. The audience with the pope apparently steered clear of what Mr. Obama called the "profane issues of politics."

OBAMA: The theme that stitched our conversation together was a belief that in politics and in life, the quality of empathy, the ability to stand in somebody else's shoes and to care for someone even if they don't look like you or talk like you, or share your philosophy, that that's critical.

PELLEY: The President's positive feelings about Francis are shared by many Americans. In a CBS News poll out tonight, 46 percent told us they have a favorable view of this pope. Among American Catholics, the number was considerably higher, 68 percent. And for the first time, more American Catholics say the church is in touch with their needs than say it is not.

(...)

ABC
WORLD NEWS
3/27/14
6:42 p.m. EST

DIANE SAWYER: And now, to Rome, today. An historic meeting between Pope Francis and President Obama. The President personally delivering a message from the American people, "come visit us." So, what did they discuss? And what was inside the gifts they exchanged? ABC's chief White House correspondent, Jonathan Karl, tells us.

(Video Clip)

JONATHAN KARL: The arrival had all the trappings you would expect of a presidential visit to the Vatican. But this is a different kind of pope.

BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States: Wonderful to meet you.

KARL: And the two spoke for 52 minutes, one of the longest private meetings between a Pope and an American president. Visibly energized by the encounter, the President gave the Pope a chest containing seeds from the White House garden.

OBAMA: Some seeds for the garden. These, I think, are carrots.

KARL: The Pope gave the President a copy of his papal mission statement decrying poverty. President Obama said he would read it in the Oval Office when he is frustrated.

OBAMA: I am sure that it will give me strength and will calm me down.

POPE FRANCIS: I hope.

KARL: While the two men don't see eye-to-eye on social issues like abortion and gay marriage, they have clearly formed a bond in other areas, especially in seeing fighting poverty as a moral responsibility.

OBAMA: I was grateful to have the opportunity to speak with him about the responsibilities that we all share to care for the least of these, the poor, the excluded.

KARL: But he doesn't count on forming a political alliance with the pope.

OBAMA: His job is a little more elevated. We're down on the ground dealing with the often profane. And he's dealing with higher powers.

KARL: Jonathan Karl, ABC News, traveling with the president at the Vatican.

(End Video Clip)

(...)

NBC
NIGHTLY NEWS
3/27/14
[7:11 p.m. EST]

LESTER HOLT: Overseas today, a historic meeting at the Vatican between Pope Francis and President Obama. The two men talked for just under an hour discussing a wide range of topics. Our chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd is traveling with the President in Rome.

(Video Clip)

CHUCK TODD: (voice over) President Obama said his audience with Pope Francis contained a wide-ranging discussion, from Middle East peace, to immigration reform to their shared interest in eliminating income inequality.

OBAMA: His Holiness has the capacity to open people's eyes and make sure they're seeing that this is an issue.

TODD: The President arrived at the Vatican this morning amidst pomp and pageantry. Welcomed by Swiss guards, a slow procession of dignitaries escorted Mr. Obama to the Pope's study, where the two sat face to face across his unassuming desk. Joined by translators, they eventually retreated behind closed doors for nearly an hour. It was longer than scheduled, and afterward, they exchanged gifts. The President gave the Pope a custom-made chest, featuring a variety of fruit and vegetable seeds made in the White House garden. And the Pope presented Mr. Obama with two medallions symbolizing world peace, and a copy of The Joy of Gospel, the Pope's own book about the need to refocus on the world's poor.

The White House viewed this visit here to the Vatican as their big domestic political play of this trip, a chance to associate the popular Pope Francis with the President's own economic agenda. The President said he and the Pope didn't talk a lot about the social issues that divide them, like contraception and gay marriage. But in a later meeting with Vatican officials, he did discuss the church's concern over the Affordable Care Act contraception mandate.

OBAMA: We discussed briefly the issue of making sure that conscience and religious freedom was observed in the context of applying the law.

TODD: The President also made time today for a private tour of the Roman Coliseum, where the gladiators once did battle.

OBAMA: I got to check on what it seats, but it's remarkable. Unbelievable.

TODD: Traveling with the President, Chuck Todd, NBC News, Rome. 

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014