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CNN Panel Whitewashes Media Bias on Gay Marriage; 'In the Middle'

Sunday's Reliable Sources was absurdly generous to the media for their coverage of the same-sex marriage debate, calling them "in the middle" and denying having seen any "rudeness" toward social conservatives.

Host Howard Kurtz teed up gay rights activist John Aravosis by asking, "Are the media waking up to the fact that this is a civil rights issue?" Meanwhile, Aravosis claimed the press is "still being objective and in the middle" on the issue while the Washington Post's "conservative" blogger Jennifer Rubin denied having seen any media "rudeness or abruptness" toward social conservatives.

[Video below. Audio here.]

When asked if the media was in the middle on the issue, Rubin answered "To some extent, yes, I think." She did recognize their bias, though, relaying this story:

"I had a interesting conversation with now retired Senator Joe Lieberman's press secretary, who said I never got as much love from the media as when we were working on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' I never got a hard question. I never got a, pressed on an answer that I got because I think there is this sense."

Rubin then pulled her punches on the press: "I don't think that they have mocked, I don't think, I haven't seen rudeness or abruptness. There's perhaps a lack of nuanced understanding, if you will, of the positions and the beliefs of the other side."

Open your eyes, Jennifer. In just the past year CNN has ridiculed, mocked, and lectured social conservatives to get on board with same-sex marriage. Here's some of their worst hits:

A CNN panel recently compared supporters of traditional marriage to segregationists and slave owners.

In a tweet, CNN's Piers Morgan called backers of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) "homophobic." He also slammed opposition to same-sex marriage as "a bit offensive" and added that "It's not American."

Anchor Don Lemon compared Mitt Romney's defense of traditional marriage with former Alabama Governor George Wallace championing segregation. He also enjoyed a raunchy gay joke at the expense of Rep. Michelle Bachmann's husband, Marcus Bachmann.

Gay activist John Aravosis ludicrously claimed that the media is "in the middle" on the debate: "You know, the way I would sort of describe it is I think the media is still being objective and in the middle."

He added that the "middle" is relative: "10 years ago, I'd go on TV and have to debate whether gays were pedophiles. Now, you've got CNN anchors jumping in and shutting down the debate when a religious right spokesman says gays are pedophiles. The debate itself has shifted. Therefore, if the media is in the middle, I think it naturally has gone in that direction as well."

A transcript of the segment, which aired on Reliable Sources on March 31 at 11:26 a.m. EDT, is as follows:

HOWARD KURTZ: Less than a year after some legal analysts rushed to tell us that the Supreme Court would strike down ObamaCare, there was far more caution this week when the high court heard challenges to California's Prop 8 ban on same-sex marriage.

(...)

KURTZ: There was a similar sense of caution after a second Court hearing on the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Liberal commentators are thrilled that the marriage debate is swinging their way, at least in the court of public opinion, while many conservative pundits were muted or surprisingly supportive.

(...)

KURTZ: So, how are the media covering this sea change on a major social issue?

(...)

KURTZ: Are the media pumping these up into moral cases as opposed to legal issues that the justices have to resolve according to their reading of law and the Constitution?

JENNIFER RUBIN, The Washington Post: I think there's a natural tendency whenever people who are not lawyers covering the court – and I'm a recovering lawyer, so I accept myself in this – to miss a lot of the nuances. There's a lot of procedural issues, including the Prop 8 case, which I must say, I agree with Justice Kennedy. Why in the heck did they take that as a vehicle? Because there's lot of complications having to do with that case, per se, including the fact of the matter that the state of California is no longer defending it.

KURTZ: So are journalists missing these nuances?

RUBIN: I believe so.

KURTZ: You say as a recovering lawyer?

RUBIN: I do. And I think sometimes they will characterize the justices' interests in these nuances as trying to duck the issue or trying to avoid the issue. This is what they do, they're in the business of deciding legal cases based on a whole slew of technical and legal restrictions. So, it's not surprising that they want to know if there's a party defending a law. It's not surprising that they want to worry about things like standing – which is a technical legal term. And it's not a sexy thing to explain to lay audiences. It's much more interesting and exciting to explain that there has been a sea change in American public opinion.

KURTZ: From where you sit, having watched and having, obviously, having a personal interest in this issue for a long time. Are the media waking up to the fact that this is a civil rights issue?

JOHN ARAVOSIS, editor, AMERICAblog.com: I think so. You know, the way I would sort of describe it is I think the media is still being objective and in the middle. The thing is, is the middle has shifted, in that -- look at African-American civil rights. Okay? In 1966, maybe it was okay. We wouldn't say now, but back then it was okay to discuss on TV should we or shouldn't we think of this as being bad for society that blacks marry whites? Today, we'd say that's insane.

10 years ago, I'd go on TV and have to debate whether gays were pedophiles. Now, you've got CNN anchors jumping in and shutting down the debate when a religious right spokesman says gays are pedophiles. The debate itself has shifted. Therefore, if the media is in the middle, I think it naturally has gone in that direction as well.

KURTZ: Media in the middle?

RUBIN: To some extent, yes, I think, and this is not something that conservatives necessarily, you know, dwell on. But I think in the media, you have fewer people who are religiously conservative. Not politically, but religiously. So, there is a lack of perhaps, sympathy, a lack of understanding for people who hold those views.

KURTZ: You don't think there's a subtle sense, or sometimes a not so subtle sense of cheerleading for same-sex marriage in the media? A position that even as the public support has risen to, say 58 percent in a recent Washington Post poll, a lot of Americans and a lot of state governments still strongly opposed.

RUBIN: I think there probably is. I had a interesting conversation with now retired Senator Joe Lieberman's press secretary, who said I never got as much love from the media as when we were working on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." I never got a hard question. I never got a, pressed on an answer that I got because I think there is this sense.

And I think because of the demographics, and because they tend to come from big cities in America, they tend to be socially more liberal. That said, I don't think that they have mocked, I don't think, I haven't seen rudeness or abruptness. There's perhaps a lack of nuanced understanding, if you will, of the positions and the beliefs of the other side. That said, you know, last Sunday, I believe it was, before or even two Sundays ago, you know, there were very balanced debates on the morning television shows. There wasn't, you know, a pro-gay marriage and another pro-gay marriage. There were people of both sides.

-- Matt Hadro is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center