Fortnight for Freedom: Will the Media Care?

What if 43 Catholic dioceses, universities, schools, and organizations got together and literally sued the Obama administration? Can you imagine that? Wow, that would really be something. Gee, that would easily be the lead story on the nightly news, for sure. Right?

Okay, what if tens of thousands of Catholics assembled for 160 simultaneous gatherings all around the nation in protest of the Obama administration’s violation of their First Amendment freedoms? Wow, that would really be something. Gee, that would easily be the lead story on the nightly news, for sure. Right?

The answer is no and no.

As to the first event, this major news story—or so one would think—erupted on May 21, 2012, which was a sort of D-Day for the Catholic Church in defending itself against the conscience assault from the Obama administration. In what one commentator referred to as “legal Armageddon,” 43 Catholic plaintiffs filed 12 federal lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the Obama administration’s HHS mandate on contraception and abortion drugs. Even the incredibly naïve Notre Dame University, which once honored President Obama with an honorary degree—yes, seriously, it actually happened, you can look it up—joined the fray. It was an action both extraordinary and unprecedented—and apparently deemed not newsworthy.

One observer who watched this media blackout in horror was Brent Bozell, longtime head of the Media Research Center. Bozell called the series of lawsuits the “largest legal action in American history in defense of religious liberty.” And yet, as Bozell noted, ABC and NBC completely ignored it in their evening newscasts, while “CBS Evening News” devoted just 19 seconds to this remarkable event.

“Let’s be blunt,” said Bozell. “They spiked the news.” And they did so to protect Barack Obama.

Bozell called it “the worst example of shameless bias by omission I have seen in the quarter-century history of the Media Research Center.” And that’s saying a lot.
As to the second event—the 160 rallies around the nation on June 8, again protesting the HHS mandate—Bozell was on that one as well. His staff again suffered through another round of watching the major news networks to survey their coverage. And what did his staff find? The networks didn’t expend a single second of coverage on either their morning or evening broadcasts. Nope, not one second.

Worse, CBS News wasted four separate segments on the leftist Catholic nuns who are disgruntled with the Church. “Hundreds of Catholics have rallied behind the sisters,” intoned CBS, and “protests in support of the nuns have been held in almost 50 cities.”

Really? Well, that’s not even a third of the 160 rallies held in opposition to the Obama HHS mandate. And hundreds of Catholics is nothing compared to tens of thousands.

Unfortunately, however, such isn’t the formula for how the mainstream media weighs material as newsworthy. Newsworthiness depends on whether it helps or hurts Barack Obama, and whether it helps or hurts the Catholic Church.

We could give countless examples of this. We get an obvious illustration every year at the March for Life, which is covered (at best) by EWTN and FoxNews. 200,000 people marching in Washington in support of life is judged a non-issue. It is flatly ignored by the major networks.

Or, my favorite example of anti-Catholic media bias, I recall a fascinating article in National Catholic Register a few years back reporting that there are far more cases of sex with minors among public-school teachers than Catholic priests. You’d never know that from the standard media treatment, where every priest is cast as a pedophile.

Or, perhaps one more example: As readers of this site are well aware, the bishops have launched a Fortnight for Freedom, running for 14 days from June 21—the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More—to July 4, Independence Day. The bishops are calling it a “great hymn of prayer for our country,” a period of “prayer, study, catechesis, and public action,” and a “great national campaign of teaching and witness for religious liberty.” This includes reflections on the lives of “a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power.”

Wow, this will really be something. Gee, do you think it will make the nightly news?



  • Subvet

    As I recall from “1984”, Winston Smith noted much the same silence at the Ministry of Truth for many topics. Not to worry, the time will come when we can all drink Victory Gin at the Chestnut Tree Cafe.

  • Kevin J

    Who was running PR on the Catholic side for the lawsuits? Were they just firing off press releases and expecting coverage? Or were they actively lobbying producers and journalists to cover the suits?

    While there are deep structural reasons for the media not caring about Catholic concerns, I see no evidence Catholics have a PR set-up capable of pushing a story into the media despite these obstacles. Even Sandra Fluke had PR connections on her side.

    Catholics are more interested in voicing occasional cynicism about the press rather than funding the type of organization needed to succeed in the modern news cycle. We’ll be complaining about poor media coverage during the March for Life too, rather than asking whether our leaders aren’t doing their part well enough to win.

  • bpeters1

    @Paul, I looked it up as you suggested, and I can’t find any record of Obama being awarded an honorary degree at the (apparently “naïve”!) Catholic institution of higher education in Cotabato City. I seem to recall a bit of a kerfuffle when he visited the University of Notre Dame, but when was he at “Notre Dame University”? Those darn media types need to report these sorts of things!

    • bpeters1

      (P.S. If this happened to just be a minor and inconsequential slip-up on your part, @Paul, I hope that my drawing attention to it doesn’t lead your colleague Brian Burch to author a post mocking you about it.)

  • Laxerus Long

    They don’t report Christians and Catholics being killed in Nigeria, Indonesia, Egypt, Burma, etc why would they report the largest lawsuit against the Government ever?

    Every Christian, Catholic etc should be writing to their local TV and Radio stations as well as the nationals EVERY DAY.

    Clog their switchboards, mailboxes and inboxes until they do the right thing.

  • Leticia Velasquez

    While in DC for the March for Life, I was aware of the HHS mandate even though it was spiked by the MSM. Those hundreds of thousands of activists went home, and talked it up on Facebook and Twitter, and THEN Fox, then the three networks picked it up. Sometimes we have to create a stir which the MSM can no longer ignore.
    This is one of those times. Pass it on.

  • Mara

    There are continued reports daily of the sexual abuse cover-up fallout from all over the world. For better or worse, when the word “Catholic” is mentioned, the cover-up is the first thing that comes to mind. That may not be fair but it is reality.



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