The broadcast networks promoted gay activists’ protest of the fast food company Chick-fil-A, but when that protest fizzled, they did little to cover the failure.
ABC’s Steve Osunsami hyped the protests ahead of time, saying “nearly 100,000 friends and family have been invited online.” After the apparent lack of turnout at the kiss-in, however, the networks stopped reporting on the protest. Only ABC briefly mentioned the results of the kiss-in, after all three networks talked about the protests on the morning of Aug. 3.
All three networks on Friday continued to highlight the controversy over Chick-fil-A, but Good Morning America's Steve Osunsami adopted the most confrontational tone, insisting that "for years," Chick-fil-A has "donated millions" to "fight against gay Americans." [See video below. MP3 audio here.] Fill-in host Laura Spencer simplified the debate: "How the battle over gay marriage is now all about a chicken sandwich."
Osunsami promoted Friday's counter protest by homosexuals who are outraged over Chick-fil-A founder Dan Cathy's public support for traditional marriage. Of the proposed "kiss-in," he promised, "At Chick-fil-A restaurants today, customers will get an eyeful, along with their nuggets and waffle fries."
On Aug. 1, CBS Evening News ignored the massive crowds that turned out that day at Chick-Fil-A restaurants around the nation in support of traditional marriage, free speech, or simply tasty fast food. ABC and NBC, by contrast, covered “Chick-Fil-AAppreciation Day” with full and surprisingly respectful reports on their evening newscasts.
The August 1 episode of CBS Evening News completely failed to mention the massive crowds at Chick-Fil-A restaurants across the country. And it’s not as though the network was unaware of it. CBSNews.com mentioned Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day (without providing video), reporter Stephanie Condon treated the event as an inside-the-beltway political affair, calling it a “rallying point for conservative pols.” The site also featured commentary from writer Erik Sherman, arguing that Chick-fil-A’s “brand perception” took a major hit because of Chick-Fil-A President Dan Cathy’s remarks.
Matching the pattern set in coverage of Arizona’s immigration enforcement law, the broadcast network evening newscasts on Thursday night all framed their stories on Alabama’s “severe” new law around its victims, with ABC anchor Diane Sawyer and NBC anchor Brian Williams both describing it as “Arizona on steroids.” They didn’t mean it as a compliment. Sawyer mischaracterized it as an “anti-immigration law.”
ABC was the most one-sided, with reporter Steve Osunsami not mentioning a reason for the new law until his very last sentence. Instead, Osunsami intoned, “Across Alabama today, demonstrators were furious, calling this the Arizona law with an Alabama twist,” before showing a man who charged that “it says that our government promotes racism.”
Good Morning America's Steve Osunsami on Thursday skipped or spun key facts while reporting on the execution of convicted cop killer Troy Davis in Georgia. The ABC reporter also played up the race angle, asserting that "supporters are asking difficult questions about the legal system, whether Davis' case would have gotten a greater re-examination if he were white and not black." However, he ignored the execution of a white man in Texas-- on the same day.
In that state, white supremacist Russell Brewer was put to death for the brutal murder of James Byrd. Osunsami left out other details in the Davis case. He noted that the "murder weapon was never found."However, the journalist didn't mention that Davis' gun had been used in another crime on the same day of the shooting and that the cartridges match.
As the broadcast network evening newscasts filed reports this week on the teacher cheating scandal in Atlanta, Georgia, ABC’s World News on its Wednesday show went furthest in seeming to sympathize with the teachers who cheated as correspondent Steve Osunami highlighted complaints about No Child Left Behind’s emphasis on standardized tests to judge teacher performance.
After recounting details of the cheating scandal, in which as many as 178 teachers and principals in Atlanta erased and changed some of the answers on student tests to improve test score statistics for their schools, Osunsami asserted that "everyone here is pointing the finger at No Child Left Behind," and undermined the complaints of parents angry about the scandal:
After ABC’s World News ignored the March for Life pro-life event last week, the January 30 World News Sunday did find time to run a report highlighting complaints by gay rights activists over Chick-fil-A -- a family-owned restaurant chain known for its Christian-based social advocacy -- supplying food to a socially conservative group in Pennsylvania that promoted a ban on same-sex marriage in the state that was enacted in 1996.
The piece, by correspondent Steve Osunsami, featured soundbites from four different people who had words of disapproval for Chick-fil-A, including a member of the liberal Human Rights Campaign. But Osunsami did not include clips from anyone outside the company to support the restaurant chain or the concept of traditional marriage, although he did use a soundbite and a statement from company president Dan Cathy toward the end of the report defending his family's position.
Anchor Dan Harris framed the issue from the point of view of gay rights activists declaring "enough" as he set up the piece. Harris: "We're going to take a look tonight at a budding controversy that pits a wildly popular fast food chain against the gay community. The owners of Chick-fil-A have proudly built Christian principles into their corporate culture, but when one of its outlets donated food to a group that has worked to block same-sex marriage, gay rights groups said: Enough."
On Wednesday’s World News on ABC, anchor Diane Sawyer briefly reported on a court ruling in Florida which struck down a state law banning the adoption of children by homosexual couples. Ignoring the issue of whether an activist court should make such a ruling, Sawyer seemed to frame the story from a sympathetic point of view for would-be same-sex parents in Florida as she referred to the ruling as "new hope" for such couples. Sawyer: "And there is new hope tonight for gay people in Florida who want to adopt a child. A state appeals court ruled that the 33-year-old ban on gay adoption is unconstitutional. And the governor said that the state will allow the adoptions immediately."
But, while ABC News programs have a history of advocating gay rights, it is ironic that the story was immediately followed by a full report about Bishop Eddie Long, a Georgia pastor accused of pushing teenage boys into homosexual sex. Sawyer set up the report: "And trouble is mounting tonight for the pastor of a 25,000-member mega church near Atlanta. Bishop Eddie Long, who lives a lavish lifestyle and has denounced homosexuality, is accused of coercing three young men into relationships. Steve Osunsami has details of the lawsuits."
Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the Wednesday, September 22, World News on ABC:
When reporting on the nationality of a criminal from another country who has already been arrested, it normally would be considered unnecessary or even uncalled for to take the extra step of explicitly identifying the suspect’s ethnicity or religious affiliation as well. But, given that Israelis, the vast majority of whom are Jewish, often face sharp criticism and negative press reaction over conflicts with their Arab neighbors – inflaming anti-Semitic sentiment – if an Israeli citizen who is non-Jewish is implicated in a violent crime, informing viewers that he is non-Jewish would seem to be in order.
But so far in the media coverage of serial stabber Elias Abuelazam’s arrest, some major news shows on both broadcast and news networks have avoided explicitly informing viewers that he is not a Jewish Israeli, while others have been more upfront with viewers on the subject. CNN’s The Situation Room, the NBC Nightly News, FNC’s Fox and Friends, and CBS’s The Early Show all have directly relayed to viewers at least once that Abuelazam is an Israeli Arab. But ABC’s World News, the CBS Evening News, FNC’s Fox Report, ABC’s Good Morning America, CNN’s American Morning and NBC’s Today show have all avoided such a direct identification of ethnicity.
On Wednesday's American Morning, CNN's John Roberts acknowledged the high abortion rate of blacks as he moderated a debate on a pro-life billboard campaign in Georgia which accuses the abortion industry of targeting the black community. Roberts joined his colleague Steve Osunsami at ABC News in highlighting this billboard campaign.
The CNN anchor brought on Catherine Davis, the director of minority outreach for Georgia Right to Life, and Dr. Artis Cash of Shreveport, Louisiana's chapter of Al Sharpton's National Action Network just after the bottom of the 6 am Eastern hour. He first asked Davis, "Why did you see the need for this campaign?" Davis answered, "The numbers of abortions that are happening in Georgia and around the country are startling....In 2008, the most recent figures that we have from the state of Georgia, over 18,901 of the 32,000 abortions that were done, were done on black women. So, we want to alert the community and awaken the community to the devastating impact that abortion is having on our community."
Roberts verified the accuracy of the pro-lifers numbers: "Those figures that you cite from 2008 would seem to be in line with the CDC findings- Centers for Disease Control findings- from 2006, which found 57.4 percent of abortions in Georgia were performed on black women, even though African-Americans only make up 30 percent of the population."
On Monday’s World News on ABC, correspondent Steve Osunsami filed a report that gave rare attention to the high abortion rate among the black population, as he focused on billboards in Atlanta put up by black members of the pro-life movement as they try to draw attention to the issue, although he began the report on a negative note by referring to the pro-life billboards as "causing trouble," and called those who created the signs "anti-abortionists," instead of using the term "pro-life." Osunsami: "In the heart of black neighborhoods across Atlanta, these are the billboards causing the trouble. The message is simple – that black children are an endangered species because of too many abortions in the black community. The anti-abortionists behind the billboards are black themselves."
After playing a clip of one of the billboard designers who asserted that "we’re trying to raise awareness" of the dire statistics, Osunsami recounted the high numbers of black women who have abortions: "It is true that, of the 35,000 women in Georgia who received abortions in 2008, nearly 21,000 were black women, more than twice the number of white women. Nationally, while black women are one and a half times more likely than white women to become pregnant, the CDC says black women are three times more likely to get an abortion."
On Monday’s World News with Charles Gibson, ABC’s Steve Osunsami filed an unusually balanced report on the issue of gun control as he recounted a legal dispute in Tennessee over a recently enacted law that allows conceal carry holders to bring concealed guns into bars and restaurants. While Osunsami informed viewers of the concerns of some restaurant owners who believe the law makes their establishments more unsafe, and who are suing to block the law, he also relayed the case of a woman who believes she could have fought back against a man who murdered her husband if only she had been legally allowed to take her own gun into a restaurant:
NIKKI GOESER, WIDOW OF MURDER VICTIM: He pulled out a gun and he murdered my husband right in front of me.
STEVE OSUNSAMI: Today, Nikki Goeser says she would have certainly had a gun at her side and would have shot the gunman dead under current law.
GOESER: Crime exists. It happens in schools, it happens in churches, it happens in establishments that serve alcohol. I would have tried to protect my husband.
ABC gave pro-abortion advocates free advertising last night with its "World News Sunday." During the report, an abortionist unequivocally stated that late-term abortion is "really a miscarriage of a stillborn fetus."
Anchor Dan Harris framed Steve Osunsami's segment as a look at why doctors risk their lives to perform abortions given the "constant threat" of violence they face, as evidenced by last week's murder of abortionist George Tiller and recent comments from Tiller's accused killer that "similar attacks are planned all over the country."
Harris teased the segment "Tonight, we talk to late-term abortion providers who fear they are targets. Why do they do it?" He stated in his introduction, "Why would a doctor take that risk? And why would a woman make that choice?"
ABC is the most objective network. Just ask Barbara Walters. The November 6 edition of "The View" kicked off with a discussion on ABC correspondent Steve Osunsami’s emotional reaction to Obama’s victory. Barbara Walters defended Osunsami and called ABC the most "objective network." Barbara then assured the panel and her audience that it’s not because she is "a part of ABC News." This "objective" ABC network is the same outlet where Terry Moran implied Sarah Palin's rhetoric was endangering Barack Obama's life and David Wright accused McCain of engaging in "fear and loathing."
Later in the segment Barbara Walters offered praise, and the panel agreed (in Joy Behar’s absence), to President Bush’s graciousness in willing to offer a smooth transition for the new president-elect.
Later in the program, the ladies discussed rumors, allegedly leaked by McCain staffers, about Sarah Palin’s unruly behavior and lack of knowledge. Elisabeth Hasselbeck, the only co-host who met Governor Palin, assured that the Alaska governor is not a "diva." Barbara Walters was puzzled as to what was wrong that Palin allegedly hinted at 2012 presidential run. Sherri Shepherd chastised the McCain staffers for airing Palin’s dirty laundry after they vetted her. Whoopi Goldberg and Elisabeth Hasselbeck agreed: Leaking incriminating information without identifying one’s self is cowardly.
At 11:49 PM EST, live from Morehouse College in Atlanta, ABC News reporter Steve Osunsami choked up and came near tears as he recalled how “my father used to tell us that there's no way this country would elect a black President,” but “this evening, the country has proved my old man wrong -- and we're the better for it.”
As he stood with cheering students, Osunsami told anchor Charlie Gibson:
Charlie, I've watched a number of students here call their parents, call their fathers, their brothers and sisters. I received a text from a friend of mine who said black Americans everywhere should thank the country.
From a personal note, as a kid, I grew up in a neighborhood that was mostly black and my father used to tell us that there's no way this country would elect a black President. Well, this evening, the country has proved my old man wrong -- and we're the better for it.
In a story from Memphis on the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King in that city, ABC's Steve Osunsami acknowledged great economic progress for black citizens with “a definable black middle class,” but warned “there are still large disparities.” He then featured a man at the anniversary events who insisted “we're waiting for progress” followed by Jesse Jackson using the solemn occasion to complain about the Iraq war and tax cuts:
We are freer but less equal. To that extent, we spend $3 trillion on the war in Iraq and give tax breaks to the wealthy. You have this body of poverty, growing poverty in our cities. And our response to it is what? First-class jails and second-class schools.
The Reverend Bill Kyle, who was with King when he was murdered, rued that “now that we have the right to go to a school, we need the money to pay the tuition,” before Osunsami concluded by agreeing King's dream of equality remains unfulfilled: “Not quite what Dr. King had dreamed. But some dreams take a mighty long time to realize.”
The ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts on Tuesday framed coverage of Barack Obama's speech, in reaction to the furor over the racist, paranoid and America-hating remarks of his long-time pastor, not by focusing on what it says about Obama's true views and judgment but by admiring his success in “confronting” the issue of “race in America” in an “extraordinary” speech. Indeed, both ABC and CBS displayed “Race in America” on screen as the theme to their coverage, thus advancing Obama's quest to paint himself as a candidate dedicated to addressing a serious subject, not explain his ties to racially-tinged hate speech. NBC went simply with “The Speech” as Brian Williams described it as “a speech about race.”
In short, the approach of the networks was as toward a friend in trouble and they wanted to help him put the unpleasantness behind him by focusing on his noble cause. “Barack Obama addresses the controversial comments of his pastor, condemning the words but not the man,” CBS's Katie Couric teased before heralding: “And he calls on all Americans to work for a more perfect union.” On ABC, Charles Gibson announced: “Barack Obama delivers a major speech confronting the race issue head on, and says it's time for America to do the same.” Reporting “Obama challenged Americans to confront the country's racial divide,” Gibson hailed “an extraordinary speech.”
NBC's Lee Cowan admired how “in the City of Brotherly Love, Barack Obama gave the most expansive and most intensely personal speech on race he's ever given,” adding it reflected “honesty that struck his rival Hillary Clinton.” On NBC, Washington Post editorial writer Jonathan Capehart asserted “it was a very important speech for the nation. It was very blunt, very honest” and so “a very important gift the Senator has given the country.” [Updated with Nightline]