A study by a conservative media watchdog charges three major network television stations with bestowing a favorable bias on Earth Day while smearing Easter, Christians' holy day, with allegations of pedophilia.
The Media Research Center's Culture and Media Institute examined media reports during the 2010 Holy Week – March 28 through April 4 – and contrasted it with two weeks of Earth Day coverage. The study, "Holy Week: Media Worship Earth Day, Attack Easter," found that last year networks ABC, CBS and NBC's evening news shows mentioned "Easter" primarily in connection to the 2010 pedophilia scandals that swirled around the Vatican, using terms such as "scandal," "sexual abuse" and "crisis." By contrast, coverage of Earth Day received positive attention from the three broadcast media giants.
Highlighted examples include NBC News' discussion of sexual abuse allegations during the network's Easter Sunday coverage.
In a report on the Easter 2010 celebrations in Europe, NBC correspondent Anne Thompson stated, "The traditions of Easter, for just a day, superseded the pain many feel at the disclosures that some priests abused children for decades."
ABC's correspondent Dan Harris also equated Easter with priests accused of sexual abuse. During an Easter Sunday broadcast, Harris said, "This is the holiest weekend in the Christian calendar, but Easter is providing no respite whatsoever from what may be the gravest outrage in the modern history of the Catholic Church."
Easter is a religious holiday revered and celebrated among Christians. However, MRC's vice president of business and culture, Dan Gainor, said little attention was given to Protestant celebrations of the holiday.
And the negative coverage of the holiday's religious significance from the Catholic perspective maligns all the Judeo-Christian faiths, he said. "Their attacks of Catholics for Easter attacks the holiday for all the faiths.”
While the highlighted coverage is not indicative of how Easter is covered every year, it does show that "[mainstream] journalists are notoriously anti-religion," he remarked.
Gainor stated that the media generally takes an outside-in approach of covering issues surrounding faith and the church. "They look at it like it’s suspect," he pointed out.
Catholic League President Bill Donahue affirmed Gainor's assertions. "The Catholic League has been tracking the way the media treats Holy Week for many years, and what we have unfailingly found is one of three things: a) the mainstream media does a news story, magazine article or TV special questioning the divinity of Jesus, or b) some fraud comes forth with some absurd claims doubting whether Jesus was actually raised from the dead, or c) a music video is released that is designed to tweak the sensibilities of Christians," said Donahue.
He concluded, "It's all deliberate and it's all selectively targeted."
After the 2008 death of the Rev. Marcial Maciel, allegations began swirling in the media that the Catholic father sexually molested young men studying to be priests, had affairs with women and was a drug addict.
News of sexual abuse allegations reached new heights in 2010 when abuses among American Catholic clergy came to light. The Pew Research Center reported in its analysis that from mid-March through late April, clergy sexual abuse was one of top 10 biggest stories in the mainstream media at the time, beating out coverage of Barack Obama's nuclear weapons policy and the Tea Party movement.
According to CMI, the allegations took on a life of its own in 2010 when 20 negative stories overshadowed the three main networks' Easter coverage. Of the three networks' 34 combined mentions of Easter, Gainor said there were two total positive news stories about Easter mixed with a dozen positive mentions such as CBS anchor Katie Couric's "Happy Easter" farewell message.
By contrast, Earth Day coverage featured no attacks. In fact, some of the Earth Day commentary took on a positive spiritual tone.
"On this Earth Day we told you about the plastic lying around the earth. Well, what if you could take it and turn it into an answered prayer for some children? One woman did just that. It's the American heart," said ABC news anchor Diane Sawyer in her coverage for World News.
Gainor questioned why the networks' coverage of Earth Day did not mention its origins to Silent Spring author Rachel Carson. Carson's writings led the Environmental Protection Agency to ban the chemical DTT. It was later reported in The New York Times that Carson's findings may have hyped the danger of the chemical primarily used to fight off mosquitos in some countries where the insect is the leading cause of malaria.
Gainor argued that Earth Day gets positive coverage every year because the media favors the holiday. "If they like it, they cover it [positively]," he asserted.
MRC released its report on Friday, which this year marks both Earth Day and Good Friday – the day Christians commemorate Jesus' death on the cross.
The United Nations designated April 22 as International Mother Earth Day. The United States does not recognize this day as a federal holiday. Easter, though always observed on Sunday, is recognized in schools across the nation and by Congress, both of which generally offer a break in activity for the week surrounding the holiday.