NBC Highlights Critique of Obama on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' ABC Minimizes

NBC's Today show on Sunday devoted a three-minute report to President Obama's speech to "gay rights" proponents, where he promised a repeal of the military's 'don't ask, don't tell" policy. The report had several sound bites from homosexual critics of the President, and none from proponents of keeping the policy. On the other hand, ABC's GMA on Sunday had only one 23-second news brief on Obama's speech.

Correspondent Mike Viqueira's report on President Obama's speech to the pro-homosexual Human Rights Campaign opened the NBC morning show. Viqueira featured seven sound bites total during the segment- two each from Michelangelo Signorile, a homosexual talk show host on satellite radio; Richard Socarides, an openly-gay former Clinton administration official, who was identified on-screen as a "civil rights attorney;" and Cleve Jones, an organizer of the "National Equality March" on Washington, which was mentioned by Today anchor Lester Holt and Viqueira during the segment. The remaining sound bite was an excerpt from a political ad advocating the passage of an amendment to Maine's state constitution which bans same-sex marriage.

Holt then asked Meet the Press anchor David Gregory about the President's speech: "By making this speech, has he now kind of started the clock ticking to make a call?" Gregory noted the "the politics of this are still difficult within the military- within Congress, at a time when the President's chief focus is getting the war in Afghanistan right [and] getting troops out of Iraq...there are real questions about whether he's got that much political capital to expend on something that controversial."

Despite Gregory's "controversial" diagnosis of the issue, Viqueira's report would have one believe that the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" isn't at all controversial, since all but one of the sound bites came from homosexual advocates.

On Sunday's Good Morning America, anchor Ron Claiborne gave the lone news brief eight minutes into the 8 am Eastern hour on the President's speech, which didn't even last half a minute:

CLAIBORNE: President Obama says he will the U.S. military's 'don't ask, don't tell' policy, which would allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the armed services. The President made the comment in a speech to a gay civil rights group, but gave no timetable for that change. He had promised to end the policy during his presidential campaign. The announcement came on the eve of a major gay rights march planned for later today in Washington, DC.

The ABC morning show's lead segment minutes earlier highlighted the continuing political battle over the war in Afghanistan. One might draw the conclusion the NBC News thinks the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" is a more important issue than the war in Afghanistan.

The full transcript of Mike Viqueira's report, along with the first portion of David Gregory's segment, from Sunday's Today show:

HOLT: First, let's turn to Washington, where thousands are expected to take part this morning in a march for gay and lesbian rights.

NBC's Mike Viqueira joins us live from Washington with more. Mike, good morning.

MIKE VIQUEIRA: Good morning, Lester. Last night, the leader of the nation's largest gay rights organization said they have never had a stronger ally in the White House than President Obama, but others are frustrated, and today, they plan to march through the streets of Washington, ending up here at the Capitol, where they are going to demand quicker action from the President.

VIQUEIRA (voice-over): The President last night- greeted warmly as he spoke of solidarity with a gathering of gay rights advocates.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I'm here with a simple message: I'm here with you in that fight.

VIQUEIRA: And repeating his pledge to allow gays to serve openly in the military.

OBAMA: I will end don't ask, don't tell.

VIQUEIRA: But outside the hall, a different kind of greeting for the President- protesters giving voice to growing impatience for Mr. Obama among gay Americans.

MICHELANGELO SIGNORILE, SIRIUS/XM RADIO HOST: What people are feeling now is a sort of loss of faith.

VIQUEIRA: After a long campaign where candidate Obama repeatedly pledged to act on issues important to gay men and women-

OBAMA (from December 18, 2008): I think that it is no secret that I am a fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans.

VIQUEIRA: Now, nine months into his presidency, many are disillusioned.

SIGNORILE: What happened shortly after the President took office was that gay and lesbian rights just fell off the radar completely.

VIQUEIRA: Activists complain of little to no movement on the issues of biggest concern.

RICHARD SOCARIDES, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Gay and lesbians are still being kicked out of the military- our validly entered into marriages are still not recognized by the federal government.

VIQUEIRA: And instead of action from Washington, gays are seeing previous gains rolled back at the state level- Proposition 8 bans gay marriage in California-

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from TV poltical ad): Vote 'yes' on Question 1 to prevent homosexual marriage from being pushed on Maine students.

VIQUEIRA: And a vote in Maine, set for next month, threatens to overturn a new state law allowing same-sex marriage. Frustration is boiling over.

CLEVE JONES, CO-CHAIR, NATIONAL EQUALITY MARCH: We've been waiting for decades and we're not going to wait any longer.

VIQUEIRA: Organizers of today's march say they want to see political promises fulfilled this year.

JONES: We've got a Democratic majority in both houses, a president that we helped get elected, and we're taxpayers and citizens, and we want the rights that are guaranteed to us.

VIQUEIRA (on-camera): Lester, when marchers gather here later today, they can look forward to one imminent success- Congress is about to pass and send the president a hate crimes bill- would make it a federal crime to assault someone on the basis of their sexual orientation. Lester?

HOLT: NBC's Mike Viqueira reporting for us- thanks.

Joining us now with more, David Gregory, moderator of 'Meet the Press.' David, good morning.

DAVID GREGORY: Good morning, Lester.

HOLT: Congressman Barney Frank points out that hate crimes bill and the passage in the House as evidence that the administration is moving forward, but 'don't ask, don't tell' was a campaign promise. By making this speech, has he now kind of started the clock ticking to make a call?

GREGORY: Well, certainly those who want to see 'don't ask, don't tell' overturned think so and expect so, because the rhetoric- the promise is simply not enough anymore. There's growing impatience about when the President's going to take that on. But look- the politics of this are still difficult within the military- within Congress, at a time when the President's chief focus is getting the war in Afghanistan right [and] getting troops out of Iraq. So it's a big political issue to take on, at a time when I think within the White House, there are real questions about whether he's got that much political capital to expend on something that controversial.

-Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center.