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Study: Big Three Spin Religious Liberty Scandal as Political 'Firestorm'

Matthew Balan's picture

When ABC, CBS, and NBC finally got around to covering -- after two weeks of silence -- the controversy over the Obama administration's mandate that religious institutions provide health insurance for abortifacients, sterilization, and birth control, the networks downplayed the religious freedom component to the story, casting it instead as a political dogfight between liberals and conservatives.

MRC analysts studied all 36 stories, interview segments and mentions of the HHS mandate story on the Big Three broadcast networks from January 30 through February 15. Out of the 91 talking heads who appeared as soundbites on their morning or evening programs (or a small number of guests on the morning shows), politicians far outnumbered Church officials, by a margin of 60 to 9.

On February 6, correspondent Chuck Todd emphasized on NBC Nightly News how "all of the [Republican presidential] candidates are hitting the Obama administration's decision to require all health insurance plans to cover birth control." Todd's report set the tone for the following week of coverage on the Big Three networks. Overall, NBC had the most severe talking head imbalance, with 25 coming from politicians of all stripes and only three from Catholic Church clergy or institution officials (over an 8 to 1 margin). The network had 13 total reports, briefs, and mentions of the story.

Both NBC and ABC failed to bring Catholic leadership onto their newscasts as guests. Instead, NBC turned to their in-house radical feminist, Rachel Maddow, on the February 7 edition of the Today show, who blasted the legitimate resistance to the mandate as a "pretty far-right perspective" and "an extension of anti-abortion politics." ABC also devoted the least amount of coverage to the controversy - seven total full stories and briefs. The network, however, had the lowest talking head imbalance - 10 politicians and two Church officials - but still, a 5 to 1 ratio.

Scott Pelley, CBS News Anchor | NewsBusters.orgCBS was the only network to actually bring on Catholic clergy as guests - Father Edward Beck, their faith and religion contributor, on the February 8 edition of CBS This Morning; and New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who was interviewed for over seven minutes the following morning. During their 15 reports, interviews, and mentions of the controversy, CBS had 25 talking heads to four Catholic Church clergy/officials, or just over a 6 to 1 imbalance.

The Big Three networks initially glossed over the controversy between the Catholic Church and the Obama administration, after they handed down their mandate on January 20. Until February 5, there was only one news brief about the story on their newscasts. By contrast, the outlets devoted an astonishing 13 stories over 60 hours to the face-off between abortion giant Planned Parenthood and the Komen foundation between February 1 and February 3. Clearly, these left-leaning networks are more than willing to come to the aid of their ideological fellow travelers, such as the Obama White House. Their campaign is trying hard to spin the religious liberty scandal as just a "divisive" issue in a presidential election year.

For the full Media Reality Check, visit


#1 What a Godless organization

What a Godless organization ABC is. ABCFamily is anything but. Even the teen programs have a great deal of sexual content.

BTW ABC/NBC/MSNBC/CNN/CBS - It's not a birth control battle - It's a RELIGIOUS FREEDOM Battle!

'One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church'

#2 Soldat44

Bear in mind, they don't WANT to call it ABC Family; the intended name was XYZ. But when Pat Robertson sold the network, there were two stipulations: the name had to have the word "family" in it, and they had to save a time slot for The 700 Club (which they usually shove into a late-night death slot like 11PM).

#3 The White House has lost it....

The White House solution is the equivalent of the government forcing Catholic junior high schools to pass out condoms to it's students. Forcing the Catholic school to pay for it. Then.... telling the parents of the students it is not included in the tuition they pay. The Church is picking up the tab....

#4 Wow! Now Stephanopolous is controlling the spin... CBS and NBC as well. Does Andrea Mitchell know she is being used? (She certainly looks used, very well used.)

#5 They're going to spin this to be contraception vice religion

I submit that the important take-away here is that they (Dems plus their media lapdogs) are going to try to make this an issue about contraception rather than religious freedom, and if that sticks they'll continue it right up to the election. They can win this issue politically-just get a few soundbites from republicans, which they can then spin, probably with heavy editing to take phrases out of context, to make it sound like the republicans are going to make moves to ban contraception nationally. With some very serious issues facing this country, if they keep the public discussion focused on contraception and a few other issues that the administration won't lose votes over, they can push things like the economy and deficit out of the public minds.

We already know that their main strategy is going to be to demonize the GOP presidential candidate. Limiting the discussion to issues that the DEMS want to talk about is a useful tactic. It's especially effective in that they're certain to find, SOMEWHERE, a Republican who will let himself be baited into a discussion of contraception, and then they can paint the entire Party as being on a crusade to take away birth control pills and condoms.

I hope the GOP presidential candidate has the discipline to stay on-message about the failures of this administration and not get baited into this or any other side shows that are win-win for the Democrats.

#6 And Now, For the Next Liberal Crap Sandwich of the Day

The bullcrap on a roll just keeps on a coming. Just think what they could accomplish if they put that same ingenuity and energy into something positive.

To more fully comprehend the Left, one must read “Leftism As Psychopathy” by John Ray, M.A., Ph.D. Caution, it might scare you a little bit.

#7 Or....

Maybe even truthful. One can only hope.

#8 All I hear

from the alphabet networks is, "Huff! Puff! Huff! Puff! I'm dancing as fast as I can dammit!!" and "Rumplestiltskin, spin FASTER!!"

#9 when people violate my god

when people violate my god given rights they take the fight to a level with only a single conclusion. they are asking for war...

#10 Dick Morris

I think Morris made a convincing argument that they're going to try to make contraception an issue in the election since abortion only plays to their base. Stephie who moderated one of the debates brought up a weird contraceptive issue, asking Romney if states have the right to outlaw it. Romney to his credit said its a silly issue and no one is even talking about doing that. Funny, thing is it did become an issue a few weeks later.

So it's pretty clear stephie and others get their marching orders directly from the WH. O'reilly was trying to split hairs with him on his saying he's a paid hit-man. I don't think that is too far off, but he didn't even want to concede his point that there is direct communication between the WH and what gets put on the air. That guy is sometimes way to naive.......

#11 SK.....As I posted

HERE, Bill O'Reilly pooh-poohed Dick Morris and defended Democrat hitman George Stephanopoulos because O'Reilly wants to be loved and adored by the mainstream media. Then he can appear on Letterman, The View, etc and sell his latest book.

Why do you think that Rush Limbaugh calls Bill O'Reilly, the vain, shallow, buffoonish TV newsman,  Ted Baxter?

#12 Well BO is not conservative,

Well BO is not conservative, he is a bit liberal with strong family values. But I attribute that to him being a NY Yankee.

Nuke em til they glow; then shoot em in the dark

#13 O'Reilly is a

O'Reilly is a smarmy,arrogant, condascending, stick-his-finger-in-the-wind, psuedo 'populist' who thinks he's some kind of tough guy, but always wimps out when he should be going for the jugular - especially with people who need it.

#14 killa37......Excellent description of O'Reilly and dead on.

I couldn't have described him better.

#15 Mahalo, Rush...........I used

Mahalo, Rush...........I used to watch the guy - and I was working for a friend of mine who would make me stop at 5 PM and have a glass of wine (and I'm NOT a wine drinker) and watch O'Reilly, so I'm not just flapping my big purple lips here. After watchng him give a 'virtual bl*w-job' to Boy Barry - not once but TWICE, and not tear Jerry Geraldo Rivers Rivera a huge and gaping new a$$hole after what he did to Michelle Malkin, and STILL be 'pals' with that mustachiod creep............and have guys on his show that he should have eaten for dinner AND dessert - yet say 'I'll give you the last word, so what say you'...........and see him yelling and acting like some loud-mouthed bully with people who were minor-leage - while at the same time backing off from people who were major-league...............I finally decided that it wasn't worth my time to watch him anymore. And apparantly, my opinion is still holding water, from what I can tell.

#16 Anything to avoid talking about the Economy and staggering debt

...that's the game plan going forward, plain and simple.

and if the subject of the economy does come up, pivot to class warfare and race-baiting.


#17 I suggest

adopting the tactic my daughter's high school friends have. Any time they see something supporting Obysmal (t-shirt, bumper sticker, etc.), they just point and laugh. Peer pressure works both ways! ;)

"Beauty is only skin deep, but liberal's to the bone." - me

#18 Doesn't the Constitution require the separation of Church and


#19 Ahhhhhhhhh, that terse,

Ahhhhhhhhh, that terse, stringint, and out-of-date parchment manuscript is just getting harder and harder to read, because it's been ripped, torn, shredded, and has Boy Barry's footprints all over it.

#20 Killa37......Yeh, and if over-his-head barry gets four more

years, the manuscript that made this great nation what it is may disappear completely.

#21 killa and Rush

If we don't get a strong conservative in the White House and some strong conservatives in Congress we're done. And the chances of all of that happening is slim to none.

Proud member of the 53%!

#22 Whoever the GOP picks as a

Whoever the GOP picks as a candidate needs to make sure to carefully pick the venue and the questioners and formats for the debates. Romney and Santorum will only acquiesce and muck it up. The only person who is up to debating Obama and fending off their stupid questions is Gingrich.

Nuke em til they glow; then shoot em in the dark

#23 Moderators

Now that hacks like George Steph have outed themselves as being part of the Obama campaign for 2012 rules for selecting moderators should be simplified.

Each candidate should bring 2 moderators of their own choosing.

There is no point in having any Republican candidate go into a debate with only democrat party operatives as moderators. We do not need another debate with clearly partisan hacks, like gwen ifill was in 2008, making baseless accusations disguised as a question.

#24 Journalism is Dead

They waited two weeks because they were working on their strategy. They needed time to figure out a way to frame the topic in such a way as to neatly cover up the fact the Obama administration is playing dictator and pooping on the Constitution as well as the freedoms of religious institutions. It's the old smoke and mirrors trick, where you seamlessly draw one's attention to where you want so that the person doesn't notice what is really going on. Part of that strategy also includes framing this as a women's rights issue: the surefire golden ticket of the 21st century that can defeat anything. Heck, last century it made murder legal.

It's gotten so bad you can't even believe the truth.

#25 Give Me Your Lunch Money

Social Security is like charging your 401(k) contributions to your kid's credit card. Please read and share this article.

J Robert Giles

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