Networks Boost LGBT Lobby's 'Seismic Shift' Spin on Vatican Meeting

On Tuesday, the Big Three networks' morning newscasts carried water for the left-wing Human Rights Campaign by adopting their "seismic shift" label about the midterm report from the Catholic bishops' Extraordinary Synod on the Family. On Good Morning America, ABC's Amy Robach trumpeted that "the Catholic Church appears to be making a seismic shift towards gays and divorcees." Norah O'Donnell also used the "seismic" term on CBS This Morning.

NBC's Tamron Hall pointed out on Today that "gay rights groups are hailing what they call a 'seismic shift' by the Catholic Church towards gays," but like her counterparts on ABC and CBS, she didn't disclose that the phrase directly came from the homosexual organization's Monday press release on the synod document [MP3 audio available here; video below].

O'Donnell used the "seismic" label in a teaser for fill-in anchor Jane Pauley's news brief on the Vatican report: "It's being called a seismic move by the Vatican – how the Catholic Church could change its attitude toward gays and the issue of divorce." Pauley herself didn't use the term during the summary:

JANE PAULEY: The New York Times looks at what could be a dramatic shift in tone toward gay people and divorces by the Roman Catholic Church. Bishops meeting at the Vatican released a preliminary report. It calls on the Church to welcome and accept gays, along with anyone who divorced. The bishop said gays have 'gifts' to offer the Church. The report does not change Church doctrine, and could be revised.

During her news brief on Good Morning America, Robach further underlined the Human Rights Campaign's "seismic shift" language by touting the supposed "major shift" in the Church document:

AMY ROBACH: Well, the Catholic Church appears to be making a seismic shift towards gays and divorcees. Top bishops, meeting at the Vatican, said the Church must welcome divorcees. They also called for an examination of the Church's position on birth control. And, in another major shift, the bishops said homosexuals have – quote, 'gifts' and qualities to offer. They said gay partnerships offer those couples 'precious support,' and their dignity must be respected.

An on-screen graphic also used the leftist group's term: "'Seismic Shift' At Vatican: Bishops Change Tone Toward Divorce, Gays" (see screen cap above).

Hall's followed Robach's lead in using the label during her brief and in the on-screen chyron:

[NBC Graphic: "Vatican's 'Seismic Shift' On Gays: Report Comes During Meeting On Family Life"]

TAMRON HALL: Gay rights groups are hailing what they call a 'seismic shift' by the Catholic Church towards gays, after bishops said homosexuals have 'gifts' to offer the Church; and that their partnerships, 'while morally problematic,' provide homosexuals with 'precious support.' And the news comes in a preliminary report halfway through a Vatican meeting on family life. The bishops also said the Church must recognize the positive aspects of civil unions, and even Catholics who cohabitate.

None of the Big Three outlets mentioned what Italian news outlets reported later in the day on Monday: that many bishops participating in the synod openly objected to the mid-term report, which was released by an archbishop "known as an extreme liberal in theological matters," as traditionalist Catholic blog Rorate Caeli put it in a Monday write-up. The head of the bishops conference in Poland blasted the document as straying from "the teaching of [Pope Saint] John Paul II and that you can even see traces of anti-marriage ideology in it."

The previous evening, anchor Brian Williams echoed the Human Rights Campaign's spin on NBC Nightly News, but didn't directly use the "seismic" descriptor:

BRIAN WILLIAMS (teaser): Behind closed doors: what happened today at the Vatican that's being described as 'earth-shattering' for the Catholic Church.


There is news from the Vatican tonight – widely described today as something of an earthquake for the Catholic Church. It involves a global gathering of bishops –  including the Pope – held behind closed doors, and what could be a dramatic shift in the Church's thinking on the acceptance of gays; and separately, how to minister to divorced and remarried Catholics.

On Monday, the AP's Nicole Winfield also promoted the left-wing organization's "seismic shift" language, and quoted from its president, but failed to mention that the label directly came from their press release.

— Matthew Balan is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Matthew Balan on Twitter.