Holy Week: Media Worship Earth Day, Attack Easter

Major Findings:

Media Undermine Christian Holiday: Nearly two thirds of all stories about Easter were negative (22 out of 34).

Easter Used to Attack Catholic Church: Ninety-one percent of the negative Easter stories were about the pedophilia scandal in the Roman Catholic Church.

Love That Mother Nature: 100 percent of Earth Day stories were positive.

Easter is the quintessential Christian holiday - the celebration of Jesus Christ's death and resurrection. Although it has been celebrated by billions of people around the world for nearly 2,000 years, the mainstream media would rather celebrate the liberal holiday known as "Earth Day" and connect Easter to the abuse scandal that surrounded the Roman Catholic Church.

Holy Week marks the seven days between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. Christians around the world mark it by attending services, praying and piously observing the holiday.

But in 2010, ABC, CBS and NBC evening news shows mentioned "Easter" primarily in connection to the pedophilia scandals that swirled around the Vatican last year, being sure to highlight the "gravest outrage," "scandal," "sexual abuse" and "crisis."

Instead, the networks chose to worship something else: Mother Earth. In contrast to Easter, the 40-year-old eco-holiday Earth Day that focuses on the "plastic lying around the earth" and "going green," managed to get nothing but positive attention from the broadcast media.

The Culture and Media Institute examined reports during Holy Week (Mar. 28 through Apr. 4, 2010) and Apr. 15, 2010, through Earth Day to contrast the two weeks of media coverage.

Easter: a Chance to Bash Catholic Church

ABC's "World News Saturday" provided the perfect juxtaposition of how the networks disparaged Easter and praised Earth Day in 2010. "This is the holiest weekend in the Christian calendar," said ABC's Dan Harris on April 3, 2010. "But Easter is providing no respite whatsoever from what may be the gravest outrage in the modern history of the Catholic Church."

The next evening, Harris again used the word "outrage" saying, "on this Easter Sunday, an extraordinary effort to defend the pope amid growing public outrage over pedophile priests ... an apparent reference to the continuing crisis over pedophile priests. It was a very rare altering of the Vatican's Easter celebration."

The tone of Harris' reporting was a stark contrast to that of fellow ABC anchor Diane Sawyer's April 22 Earth Day commentary.

"And on this Earth Day we told you about the plastic lying around the earth," Sawyer said on "World News." "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."

Harris' broadcasts were just 2 examples from the 22 negative stories about Easter in a total of 34 stories the Culture and Media Institute examined.

NBC "Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams showed the same pattern as ABC in its reporting on the Vatican's scandal. "This, of course, is Good Friday," Williams said on April 2, 2010. "And in a service at the Vatican today there was an unusual defense of the pope and the growing sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church."

NBC correspondent Anne Thompson weighed in on the scandal as well saying, "On a rainy Roman morning, the Vatican produced a typical Easter Mass with all the pomp and pageantry - until Cardinal Angelo Sodano rose to speak, offering not a prayer, but a vigorous defense of Pope Benedict, accused by some of not doing enough to protect children from abusive priests." Thompson's remarks came on Easter Sunday.

She continued to discuss the crisis throughout the broadcast, later stating, "Throughout Europe, the scandal dominated Easter services … And in the pope's homeland, in Munich, the traditions of Easter, for just a day, superseded the pain many feel at the disclosures that some priests abused children for decades."

But when the relatively young holiday known as "Earth Day" rolled around just 18 days later, NBC fell all over itself to promote awareness of the eco-celebration.

"As we said earlier, this is Earth Day, the 40th anniversary, in fact, of what's considered the birth of the modern environmental movement," anchor Brian Williams said on "Nightly News." "On this Earth Day there was this item in the news today, a way to remind us all to take a fresh look at something we look down and see just about every day: cigarette butts. Not only are they the most common form of litter, they are filled with toxins, every one of them that can leach out into the environment and make their way into drinking water supplies and pets, among other things."

Not to be outdone, the CBS "Evening News" took the opportunity to chime in on the unfortunate Catholic priest abuse scandal as well. Russ Mitchell said: "On this Easter Sunday, an unusual statement from a Vatican official in defense of the pope, Pope Benedict XVI who has been accused of not doing enough to address charges of sexual abuse in the church."

Yet, "Evening News" fill-in anchor Maggie Rodriguez just couldn't seem to say anything bad about Earth Day. "Today, Earth Day turned 40, and a new CBS News poll shows that many Americans have big concerns about the future of our planet," she said on April 22. "Nearly half expect the environment to be in worse shape for the next generation."

Not All Negative Easter Stories About Scandal

The networks couldn't seem to produce a truly positive or even neutral story about Easter, without then immediately throwing Christians under the bus.

Dan Harris' "World News Sunday" report on Easter was a prime example. "The weather was perfect here in New York City today for the annual Easter Parade," Harris said casually about the Christian holiday. "On display during the traditional stroll up Fifth Avenue, elaborate and imaginative homemade hats. Amazing some of these people could hold their heads up under all that."

But Harris couldn't leave viewers with a neutral impression of Christians and Catholics - he immediately painted a negative picture of Christians with this tease: "Coming up next, the apocalyptic Christian militia jailed for plotting war against the government."

Few Positive Easter Stories

There were only nine positive mentions of Easter from the network news evening shows during Holy Week last year. In one of them CBS "Evening News" anchor Katie Couric wished viewers a "great weekend and a happy Easter," and it was these casual, but positive mentions of Easter that accounted for seven of the nine positive mentions.

Another one came from Natalie Morales, a NBC "Nightly News" correspondent who mentioned that "In Washington this Easter Sunday, President Obama and the first family took time out for prayer and reflection before the chief executive gets back into business."

Just the Latest Problem with Holy Week Coverage

The Media Research Center reached out to the Catholic League for comment and President Bill Donahue had this to say about the media's treatment of Catholics:

"The Catholic League has been tracking the way the media treat Holy Week for many years, and what we have unfailingly found is one of three things: a) the mainstream media do 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. It's all deliberate and it's all selectively targeted."


The abuse scandal that surrounded the Catholic Church in recent years is a genuine tragedy, and a scandal worthy of media attention. But the network evening news shows pushed the liberal, anti-Catholic agenda by devoting most of their Holy Week coverage of Easter to highlight that some Catholic priests abused children.

By comparison, Earth Day has nowhere near the national or international prominence that Easter has. While the United Nations designated April 22 as International Mother Earth Day, the United States does not recognize this day as a federal holiday. Easter, on the other hand, though always observed on a Sunday is recognized in schools as students are on "Spring Break," formerly called "Easter Break" and the two week Congressional "Spring Recess."


2011 marks a unique year in that "Earth Day" falls right in the middle of "Holy Week." The Culture and Media Institute analyzed how the media treated the two holidays last year.

In 2010, ABC, CBS and NBC evening shows denigrated Christians by mentioning Easter only in connection with the priest abuse scandals 65 percent of the time, during Holy Week. By contrast, the week of Earth Day garnered five mentions and, predictably, every single report was positive.

There were a total of 34 stories about Easter, of those 22 were negative. Of the negative stories, 91 percent (20 stories) were about the Catholic priest pedophilia scandal. Only 9 Easter stories were positive and of those, 7 were casual mentions rather than stories. The other 3 stories were neutral or generic references to Easter as a time of the year.

There were five stories about Earth Day all of which glowingly featured the Earth-celebrating holiday.