Tuesday, April 15, 2008

ABC's Harris Sees 'Controversial' 'Hardliner'

"RENEWING THE AMERICAN DREAM"

On World News Sunday, ABC anchor Dan Harris filed a report on Pope Benedict's upcoming trip to America, labeling the Catholic leader as "sometimes controversial," and calling him a "hard-liner" for "strenuously condemning divorce, homosexuality, and abortion." Harris also suggested that he has a "tin ear" because of a 2006 speech in which he used a quotation of a historical figure calling Islam "evil" that sparked riots by Muslim extremists around the world, without mentioning that the Pope later clarified that it was not his personal view that Islam is evil.

Before a commercial break, Harris plugged the story: "And coming up here on World News this Sunday, who is Pope Benedict? The sometimes controversial Pope comes to America this week."

After contrasting Pope Benedict's style with that of his predecessor, Harris continued: "Joseph Ratzinger, the so-called 'Professor Pope,' grew up in Nazi Germany, a studious boy who was unwillingly drafted into the army. At the Vatican, he developed a reputation as a brilliant theologian, and also a hard-liner, strenuously condemning divorce, homosexuality, and abortion. As Pope John Paul's lieutenant, he earned nicknames like 'Cardinal No,' and 'God's Rottweiler.'"

ABC then ran a clip of religion expert David Gibson which seemed to suggest that being a "sweet man" is contradictory with adhering to conservative religious convictions: "He's a grandfatherly-looking fellow dressed in white with the great white hair. He's a very sweet man in person. But he's the same Joseph Ratzinger. He has very strong principles."

Harris then brought up the Pope's 2006 speech in which he quoted a historical figure who called Islam "evil," and asked Gibson, to his agreement, if the Pope has a "tin ear." Harris: "Benedict has also created controversy, like in this speech, where he included a quote calling Islam evil. Afterwards, there were riots in the Muslim world. Do you think, at times, he has something of a tin ear?"

While Harris noted that the Pope is "more conservative than many American Catholics," on the same day's NBC Nightly News, correspondent Anne Thompson detailed a Pew Research Center poll similarly showing a substantial number of American Catholics to be more liberal on several issues, but she also noted that 60 percent of Catholics support the death penalty. And in noting support by many American Catholics of embryonic stem cell research, Thompson failed to clarify the difference between adult stem cell research, which is supported by most religious leaders, and embryonic stem cell research, as the NBC correspondent merely conveyed that "55 percent [of American Catholics] say stem cell research is important."

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