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Networks Skip Union Violence in Michigan, Insist Protesters Are Simply 'Voicing Their Anger'

All three networks on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning ignored the violent assaults by union protesters in Michigan, instead vaguely insisting that activists were simply "voicing their anger" at the "showdown raging in the heartland." The morning shows on Wednesday allowed little coverage of Michigan at all, a mere 72 seconds out of eight hours of programming. (On Tuesday, the nightly newscasts offered eight minutes out of a possible 90 total.) 

On Tuesday, World News reporter Alex Perez put the focus not on out of control violence, but on the fact that Michigan's right-to-work bill actually passed. He began, "The anger boiling over. Officers turning to pepper spray to control the crowd at least 10,000 deep. But it wasn't enough." One might think the journalist was speaking of the attack on Fox News contributor Steven Crowder.

No. Perez kept the attention on the new law: "Michigan Republican lawmakers approving landmark legislation, lifting the requirement that workers in unionized workplaces pay union dues." [MP3 audio here.]

This is quite a contrast for World News. On March 21, 2010, anchor Diane Sawyer fretted about Tea party protesters marching against ObamaCare: "Opponents of the bill have been out today, and some of them pulled out all the stops. Protesters roaming Washington, some of them increasingly emotional, yelling slurs and epithets." 

That, it should be reminded, was a peaceful protest.

Over on Tuesday's CBS Evening News, Elaine Quijano vaguely explained, "Union members from across Michigan and other states voiced their anger at the Michigan capital."

Yet, she made no mention of the assault on Crowder or the destruction of the Americans for Prosperity tent outside the Capitol.

On NBC's Nightly News, Brian Williams also ignored the actual violence. Instead, he worried, "The emotional fight over unions and American jobs in a place many thought it could never happen. Are we looking at a turning point for American workers?"

Rather than focus on the thug-like attacks that occurred, Williams reminisced about the importance of the unions: "A union job in the Detroit auto industry was a ticket to the American middle class, a good salary, benefits package, a piece of the American dream, a two-car garage and college education for the kids."

It wasn't until later in the segment that reporter Ron Mott noted, "...Under the watchful gaze of police, some in riot gear, protesters swarmed the governor's office building, finding the doors locked."

Despite being a four hour program, NBC's Today allowed two news briefs, a scant 28 seconds. Following the pattern, Natalie Morales skipped the violence. Good Morning America totally avoided the subject. CBS This Morning only mentioned it while playing a mocking clip of liberal comic Jon Stewart.

In total, out of nine and half hours of programming on Tuesday and Wednesday, the evening news and morning shows allowed nine minutes and 13 seconds of coverage. Eight minutes and one second came from the evening newscasts. Seventy two seconds came from the morning shows.

Fox News on Tuesday night did cover the violence against Crowder, showing footage of the assault, including a punch to the face, that he suffered. 

[Thanks to MRC intern Jeffrey Meyer for his assistance.]

A transcript of the World News segment, which aired at 6:36pm EST on December 11, can be found below:

DIANE SAWYER: And now, we turn to that showdown raging in the heartland of the United States. Perhaps no place in America more closely associated with unions than the state of Michigan. And today, thousands of union workers descended on the capital to protest a new law they believe could be an ominous signal for unions and worker paychecks everywhere. Here's ABC's Alex Perez.

ALEX PEREZ: The anger boiling over. Officers turning to pepper spray to control the crowd at least 10,000 deep. But it wasn't enough. Michigan Republican lawmakers approving landmark legislation, lifting the requirement that workers in unionized workplaces pay union dues. An army of officers have been guarding the governor's office all day. Some of these demonstrators have been here since 5:00 this morning. The Republican governor has signed the law.

KRIS DERRY (Union worker, General Motors): To have him, with a stroke of a pen, take our rights away, is offensive.

PEREZ: Supporters call it right-to-work, but unions say it's nothing less than an effort to cut their bargaining power. Less dues means less influence. The AFL-CIO says the average worker in right-to-work states earns $1,500 less than workers in states without those laws.

BARACK OBAMA: These so-called right-to-work laws, they don't have anything to do with economics. They have everything to do with politics. What they're really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money.

PEREZ: But supporters say the law encourages business. Chris Beckering owns a construction company and predicts the bill will allow his company to hire more workers.

CHRIS BECKERING (Pioneer Construction): This will attract more businesses to Michigan. Those businesses will need space and we're here to build it for them.

PEREZ: What's remarkable about what happened today is that it happened in Michigan, the heart of union country. Home of the United Auto Workers. Now Michigan will become the 24th right to work state. Alex Perez, ABC News, Lansing, Michigan.

-- Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.