ABC Gives Sympathetic Look at Polygamist Family

On Friday night’s World News, ABC’s Cecilia Vega gave a sympathetic portrayal of a polygamist family featured on TLC’s Sister Wives.

Although Vega gave voice to critics of the Brown family, she spent most of her report interviewing the family and allowing them to defend their way of living. “They maintain theirs is a healthy lifestyle,” Vega reported. She allowed the family to distance themselves from the abuse of children and women in other polygamist families.

"The Browns say those famous images of convicted pedophile Warren Jeffs and the FLDS -- that's not their family or any other polygamists they know," Vega noted.

Vega did mention the United Nations report classifying polygamy as a “violation of human rights” and noted another study listing the negative consequences of the lifestyle. She also talked to a lawyer critical of the family. However, the overall tone of the report was sympathetic.

“Does this feel like home now?” she asked with empathy the Brown wives outside of their Utah home. 

Below is a transcript of the segment, which aired on ABC World News on February 14 at 6:45 p.m. EST:

DIANE SAWYER: And next here tonight, the news about polygamy and whether a man can live with more than with one wife. To be clear it's absolutely illegal in this country to have a marriage license with more than one person at one time. But a big court decision coming out of Utah seems to say it's okay if you just skip the official piece of paper. ABC's Cecilia Vega shows us the issue that has everyone arguing. 

(Video Clip)

CECILIA VEGA: (voice over) One husband, four wives, 17 children. We know them as reality TV stars on the hit show Sister Wives. 

KODY BROWN, Sister Wives: I need flowers for my wives. 

VEGA: Today, they are unlikely legal crusaders in a fight over the fate of polygamy. 

BROWN: I think that anybody should be able to organize their family according to how they choose. 

Almighty Father, we’re grateful for all thy blessings --

VEGA: It is an epic court battle -- Kody Brown and Meri, Janelle, Robyn, and Christine, against the state of Utah. They maintain theirs is a healthy lifestyle. 

CHRISTINE BROWN, Sister Wives: We just wanted to show people that we’re normal.

VEGA: But that is not how authorities in Utah see it, threatening the Browns with prosecution after they flaunted their plural family on TV. 

BROWN: I just want to be a free man. 

VEGA: A free man -- but what about the women and children? One study concluded polygamy leads to poverty and higher rates of child neglect and abuse. The United Nations calls it a violation of human rights. 

The Browns say those famous images of convicted pedophile Warren Jeffs and the FLDS --that's not their family or any other polygamists they know. And in December, a federal judge sided with them, declaring a key part of Utah's polygamy law unconstitutional. Co-habitation is legal, so Kody Brown can openly live with all his wives just as long as there is only one marriage license. 

BROWN: Thousands of people living in plural marriage in Utah now are free. 

VEGA: But opponents say there could be unintended consequences. 

(on camera) Could this ruling that helps your family and families like yours also be helping believers and followers of Warren Jeffs? 

JANELLE BROWN, Sister Wives: I guess what we're hoping is that this ruling would help create a check and balances that need to exist in societies that are closed now.

MARCI HAMILTON, lawyer: They have got to be kidding.  

VEGA: (voice over) Lawyer Marci Hamilton says the ruling actually makes it tougher for authorities to investigate potential abuse. 

HAMILTON: It's very sad that we have a Hollywood polygamist family that has made it harder to protect the women and children in most polygamist families. 

VEGA: As Utah’s attorney general plans to appeal, the Browns plan to stay in Nevada. 

(on camera) Does this feel like home now? 

CHRISTINE BROWN: I don’t feel like anything other than Utah is going to feel like home.

VEGA: These reality stars say they're prepared to go all the way to the Supreme Court. Cecilia Vega, ABC News, Las Vegas. 

— Matt Hadro is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Matt Hadro on Twitter.