It’s the very definition of absurdity: the networks have covered the death of one gorilla more than the deaths of 21 Christians beheaded by ISIS for their faith.
On Saturday, a gorilla named Harambe was shot after a toddler fell into the animal’s enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo. The broadcast networks routinely prioritize animal life over human life, and Harambe was no exception.
Last year, masked ISIS militants forced 21 Coptic Christians to their knees before beheading them on camera. Donning orange jumpsuits, the Christian men were martyred on a Libyan beach. ABC, CBS and NBC spent 6 times more on the death of one gorilla than they did on the mass execution during their morning and evening news shows.
Since the death of Harambe the gorilla through Thursday morning, the three networks have dedicated a total of 1 hour, 28 minutes, 17 seconds to the story during their morning and evening news shows.
ABC anchor Amy Robach announced the “zoo horror” during Monday’s Good Morning America while NBC anchor Al Roker promised “we’re going to continue talking about this for a while” to the gorilla’s death during Wednesday’s Nightly News.
For CBS, correspondent Jamie Yuccas reported PETA’s statement that the gorilla’s habitat “should have been surrounded by a secondary barrier” and the animal activist uproar during Weekend News on Sunday. Anchor Elaine Quijano concluded the segment by commenting on the “terrifying images.”
In contrast, since February 2015, the networks have offered 14 minutes, 30 seconds total to the 21 Egyptian Christians beheaded by ISIS in Libya.
On Feb. 16, 2015, NBC anchor Savannah Guthrie recognized the “chilling new video” of the “brutal murders” on Today. The night before, on Nightly News, anchor Lester Holt also described the video, adding that it made the “war more religiously driven than political.”
Later on, many of the mentions came as an aside in larger reports.
In a story about a local Libyan militia preparing to battle ISIS, CBS foreign correspondent Holly Williams also offered a sentence (8 seconds) during CBS This Morning on June 10, 2015.
“The group announced its arrival in Libya with trademark brutality. Two videos showing the beheadings of Christians,” she said.
CBS was the only network to mention the beheading in 2016. As a side story to a U.S. airstrike in Libya, correspondent Jonathan Vigliotti devoted one sentence to the video during CBS This Morning on Feb. 19.
"Much like Syria and Iraq, the terrorist group has made their presence known in the country,” he said, referring to ISIS, “carrying out several gruesome beheadings including this one last February, allegedly showing militants killing Coptic Christians on a beach near Tripoli.”
Editor’s Note: MRC Culture Intern Maggie McKneely contributed to this report.
Methodology: For Harambe the gorilla, MRC Culture watched the morning and evening news shows from ABC, CBS and NBC from Saturday evening (May 28) until Thursday morning (June 2). MRC Culture did not count teasers for full segments on the story. For the Christian beheading by ISIS in Libya, MRC Culture searched Nexis transcripts since February 2015 with the words “Christian,” “Libya” and “beheading” (as well as “Christians, “Coptic” and “ISIS,” then “Christians,” “Libya” AND “beach”) and watched the relevant news shows. Two news shows were not available to watch due to breaking blizzard news.