Media Watchdog Says CBS Condones 'Religious Bigotry'

July 7, 2008 - 8:02 PM

(CNSNews.com) - By turning a deaf ear to protests from family groups over a senior CBS employee apparently insulting a conservative guest on the air, the network is condoning "religious bigotry" in its broadcasting, a national media watchdog organization alleges in Thursday's newspapers.

In an open letter to CBS, published in the New York Post and Washington Times, the Media Research Center asks: "How can CBS condone religious bigotry on its network?"

The letter refers to an incident on the June 29 edition of "The Early Show," when host Bryant Gumbel, in an unguarded moment, apparently referred to a conservative guest as "a f***ing idiot."

Gumbel had just completed a contentious interview with Robert Knight, director of Cultural Studies with the Family Research Council, on the Supreme Court ruling that the Boy Scouts have the right to exclude homosexuals as scoutmasters.

Throughout the interview, Gumbel did little to conceal his disdain for Knight, who cited religious precepts to defend the Supreme Court's decision.

Following the interview and a couple of seconds into a weather report, the camera accidentally caught Gumbel rising from his chair and apparently saying to someone off camera, "What a f***ing idiot."

The FRC and other family groups believe Gumbel is clearly referring to Knight and is asking CBS for an apology.

Brent Bozell, chairman of the Media Research Center, the parent organization of CNSNews.com, is calling for Gumbel's ouster.

"The double standard here is staggering," Bozell said in his open letter to CBS. "Racial bigotry on CBS is dealt with unequivocally; religious bigotry on CBS is met with a disinterested yawn. Unless that apology is forthcoming, one can only conclude that CBS condones such religious bigotry."

This is not the first time a CBS employee has made bigoted comments in public, the letter noted. In 1988, sportscaster Jimmy "the Greek" Snyder made racist comments during a televised interview. Even though he apologized, CBS fired him, saying it wished "to categorically disassociate itself from these remarks. ... In no way do these comments reflect the views of CBS Sports."

Family groups are calling on CBS to follow its own example and take some action against Gumbel. But what appeared to viewers as a clear example of a slur on a conservative guest was dismissed by CBS as "unclear" and irrelevant.

"[Gumbel] was making a casual remark of some sort, but it is unclear what the comment was and, in any case, it bears no relevance to the content of 'The Early Show,'" said a statement by CBS News in New York.

Knight was incredulous at CBS's response. "With all their news gathering powers, they can't determine a simple quote. Maybe they should assign '60 Minutes' [to investigate] their own 'Early Show' staff."

The reason the story has stayed alive is because "it's emblematic of how conservatives are treated routinely by liberal media and the double standard that appears to be protecting Bryant Gumbel," Knight said.

Knight is submitting an official request to CBS for a tape of the broadcast, a preliminary step to filing a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission under regulations governing personal attacks.

"We're submitting a request to CBS based on the FCC regulation," he said. "Of course we've also sent a letter to CBS asking for an apology, but they haven't even given us the courtesy of a response."