Big Three Networks Punt on Covering Pennsylvania Abortionist's Murder Trial

Dr. Kermit Gosnell, Philadelphia Physician, Accused Murderer; Screen Cap From 19 January 2011 Edition of CBS Evening News | ABC, CBS, and NBC's morning and evening newscasts have yet to cover the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, which began on Monday. Gosnell is charged with murdering seven babies who were born after viability in his rundown abortion facility. The Big Three also gave the story minimal coverage back in January 2011, after the Philadelphia physician was arrested. ABC completely ignored it, CBS Evening News aired one full story, and NBC gave just 50 words on Today.

Even the New York Times covered the trial in a Tuesday article, though it appeared on page A-17. Writer Jon Hurdle documented how Gosnell is charged with killing the babies by "plunging scissors into their necks and 'snipping' their spinal cords."

On the January 19, 2011 edition of CBS Evening News, then-anchor Katie Couric (whose liberal bias is well-documented, including on the issue of abortion) gave her "strong word of caution" as he introduced correspondent Elaine Quijano's report. She added, "The details are gruesome. You won't want young children to watch. A Philadelphia doctor who made millions performing late-term abortions was charged today with murder. The D.A. says the doctor killed seven babies after they were delivered alive."

Quijano then led her report by underlining how Gosnell's abortion facility "has been described as house of horrors." She also reported that an "adult victim...41-year-old Carnamaya Mongar...died in 2009 after receiving an overdose of anesthesia....Photos from inside the clinic, visited mostly by minority and immigrant women, show unsanitary, squalid conditions with jars and bags of aborted fetuses."

The correspondent also mentioned the Gosnell case on CBS Evening News eight days later on January 27, 2011. During a report on the continuing political fight over abortion at the state level, Quijano noted how "both sides in the abortion debate...[are] using the case to re-energize supporters."

In his Tuesday report for the Times, Hurdle documented that the Pennsylvania physician is "charged with seven counts of first-degree murder as well as multiple counts of conspiracy, criminal solicitation and violation of a state law that forbids abortions after the 24th week of pregnancy." The journalist also reported how Gosnell's lawyer "accused prosecutors of racism — 'a prosecutorial lynching' of his client, who is black. 'It's an elitist, racist prosecution,' Mr. [Jack J.] McMahon said. 'This black man is being taken because of who he is and where he works.'"

The Philadelphia Inquirer's Joseph A. Slobodzian has been giving regular coverage of the abortion doctor's trial since it began on Monday, and gave the latest details in a Wednesday afternoon article.

The MRC's Brent Bozell took the networks to task for their lack of coverage of the Gosnell case in a January 26, 2011 column: "'If it bleeds, it leads.' Remember that mantra to explain the TV networks' fascination with gory visuals? And yet these same networks could barely touch this story, even with its jaw-dropping ratings potential." It looks like the networks still haven't changed their ways over two years later, even after the physician's attorney blatantly used the race card.

— Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.