CBS Uses Teen Pregnancy Stats to Promote Midwest Teen Sex Show

Bemoaning the rise in teen pregnancy rates, with a graphic reading “Sex Ed 2.0” over her shoulder, Katie Couric cautioned the viewers of the CBS Evening News, “Be warned.  What follows is frank and explicit.”

And the story, which aired January 9, was frank and explicit.  It was also biased toward the left's progressive stance on sex education.

Cynthia Bower reported on a growing internet podcast called The Midwest Teen Sex Show.  She said the twice-monthly show, hosted by a “PTA mom with a past,” wasn't pornography, but rather a “provocative podcast that shoves sex ed into the 21st century.”

Bower: Nikol Hasler tells matter-of-factly about things that make most parents cringe such as birth control, first time sex and dating.

Hasler in podcast video:  If you're in junior high and you're dating someone who is out of high school, he's a pedophile. Pedophilia is a disease.

Bower: This mother of three from Waukesha, Wisconsin says she's able to do it because she learned sex ed the hard way, when she got pregnant at 18 after a one-night stand.

Hasler in podcast video:  The method we don't recommend is the pull and pray. It's the reason I have two of my three children.

Bower: That kind of brutal honesty has made The Midwest Teen Sex Show one of the most popular health podcasts on the Web. With more than 60,000 subscribers tuning in to the twice-monthly episode.

Bower relied on a good deal of video footage from the show to tell her story.  She included provocative bits like:

Teen age girl: Ok, mom, There's something I've been wanting to tell you.

Mom: Oh, my god. You're pregnant.

Teenage girl:  No, mom. I'm not pregnant.

Mom: Then what is it?

Teenage girl:  I'm gay. (dramatic drumbeat with video cutting to an extreme close up of mom's horrified face)

Bower acknowledged the podcast's approach may “make some parents nervous.”  She did not challenge Hasler's credibility as a sex educator or any of the assertions made by her.  For instance in Bower's story Hasler said, “We're encouraging both boys and girls to be responsible for having safe sex. And we're also telling them that they don't necessarily have to have sex at all.”  However, a look at the show's Web site reveals that the abstinence message is treated with near disdain. In fact Hasler tells viewers in Episode 2, which is about abstinence, “It's also highly unrealistic that you're going to be able to save yourself for marriage.  If you decide you're going to do that then great.  If you actually succeed I feel bad for your future spouse.”

CBS's Bower also chimed in with anti-abstinence bias. “Although this racy approach may make some parents nervous, a recent study found that abstinence-only programs that teach 'just say no' just don't work.” 

Bower was referencing two studies released last year that purported to show abstinence-only programs don't work.  The main stream media ate up the reports and didn't dig into them.  One study, the much-touted Mathematica study only looked at four old abstinence-only programs that don't reflect current curricula.  The other study was authored by Richard Kirby who works for a company that develops comprehensive sex education curricula.

Bower failed to include a single pro-abstinence voice in the story. 

After spouting the liberal line on abstinence education failure, Bower immediately brought on a sex educator, Erica Pluhar, to say that the “in your face” approach of the Midwest Teen Sex Show has a place in sex education.  Bower's editing choice for this sound bite was heavy-handed. As Pluhar said, “A lot of parents have difficulty having these dialogues with kids,” Bower plays video from the podcast of a father holding a boy in a headlock.  Pluhar is then shown on camera to finish her comments.  “I would want them to be dialogue starters, rather than period. End of sentence.”

Bower then turned to a group of five high school students for their opinions. A boy, identified as a high school senior, said, “I was impressed with how honest it was.  They were explaining, they weren't preaching.”

Bower closed the piece with positive, near-promotional spin. “The ideas come from viewers themselves, teens with age-old questions getting answers in a whole new way.”

Because the story was set up with a lead-in reporting on the rise in teenage pregnancy, this promotion of “Sex Ed 2.0” was irresponsible.  Bower failed to exercise journalistic diligence by neglecting to question Hasler's credentials or her message.  By failing to present a pro-abstinence counterpoint CBS continues to show its liberal bias.

Kristen Fyfe is senior writer at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.