Friday, December 10, 2004

Mixed Christmas Bag at Today: Kudos for W on Soc Sec Reform; Coal Lump on Protecting Troops


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December 10, 2004
NBC Defends Couric's Anti-Christian Rant

by Gary Schneeberger, editor

Network refuses to apologize for the "Today" host's 1998 intimation that groups like Focus on the Family incited the murder of Matthew Shepard.

NBC News has refused to apologize to Christians maligned by "Today" show host Katie Couric's insinuation that biblical teachings on homosexuality in part prompted the 1998 murder of gay teenager Matthew Shepard.

In a Dec. 8 letter to Focus on the Family, a network executive rejected the ministry's call for an apology, made in light of a recent news report on ABC's "20/20" that debunked the longstanding notion that the attack on Shepard was a homophobic "hate crime."

That report, in which the men who killed Shepard said they singled him out because they needed drug money and thought he'd make an easy robbery victim, prompted Focus President Don Hodel to ask NBC to disavow Couric's anti-Christian comments in the days after the crime. On Oct. 12, 1998, she asked the then-governor of Wyoming, where the attack took place, whether "conservative political organizations like the Christian Coalition, the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family are contributing to this anti-homosexual atmosphere" by suggesting that gays can change their sexual orientation.

"That prompts people to say," Couric added in her question, " 'If I meet someone who is homosexual, I'm going to take action and try to convince them or try to harm them.' "

NBC News Executive Producer for Broadcast Standards David McCormick defended Couric's comments in denying Focus' request for an apology, noting that in the days after the critically injured Shepard was found tied to a fencepost, "there was a great deal of speculation that the crime may have been motivated by hate."

"If you look closely at the transcript of the interview, you will note that Ms. Couric was quoting 'gay activists' who were quite vocal at the time of Mr. Shepard's death," McCormick wrote. "She was not making a statement of fact and she was certainly not insinuating that" Christians were responsible for Shepard's murder.

Hodel wasn't buying that line of reasoning.

"As we all know, the tone and manner with which a question is posed can convey a great deal of information," Hodel wrote to McCormick on Thursday. "It was clear six years ago, and remains clear today, that Ms. Couric's tone and manner were not that of an impartial journalist seeking the truth about a tragedy. It was the tone and manner of an advocate intent on repeating an unfounded accusation disguised as a question.

"She set up this question by asking one leading and loaded question after another at the besieged governor of Wyoming, pressing him to express the intention of going back to Wyoming and pushing for "hate crime" legislation, making plain that she clearly considered the killing to be a hate crime.

"Then, finally, she named three Christian organizations (one of them Focus on the Family) and asserted the gay rights activists' charges of 'contributing to this anti-homosexual atmosphere' by having an ad campaign that suggested that gay people might like to change their orientation," Hodel added. "It was definitely a 'have you stopped beating your wife?' type of question, and her meaning was inescapable."

Hodel concluded his response by suggesting that NBC's refusal to admit its wrongdoing is likely to have repercussions.

"It is viewers who understand that . . . the nightly news is increasingly becoming the nightly opportunity to mock traditional values who are turning away from the broadcast networks for their information," he noted. "They, like us, are disappointed — but hardly surprised — at NBC News' refusal to admit the truth about Ms. Couric's ugly insinuation.

To read the full text of the letters exchanged between Focus on the Family and NBC news, and to learn how you can make your views on the matter known to Katie Couric and NBC News President Neal Shapiro, click here.

December 10, 2004 at 8:16 PM  

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