NBC Offers Soft Spin on Invasive TSA Screenings, ABC, CBS Highlight 'Outrage,' 'Probing Hands'
Published: 11/22/2010 2:44 PM ET
NBC's Today on Monday offered the most sympathetic take on the growing outrage over invasive pat downs being conducted at airports by the Transportation Security Administration. While ABC highlighted "outrage" and CBS observed how some find the procedures "violating," Today host Matt Lauer worried about the government "caving" on the policy.
All three morning shows interviewed TSA Administrator John Pistole. But, only Matt Lauer fretted, "...I hate to even think of what happens if the government caves in on this, and relaxes these procedures, and someone manages to get something on board a plane and causes harm. Imagine the questions you'll be asked at that point."
Lauer asserted that with the comparatively small number of people complaining, the anger could be "overblown." While all three programs played a clip of Barack Obama critiquing the screening program, Today, Good Morning America and The Early Show failed to portray the controversy as a problem for the White House.
Lauer worried about the TSA agents who conduct the pat downs: "But I think we can both agree on and probably all agree on one thing: this is not the fault of the TSA screeners...They're being called names at airports, and that clearly can't continue, can it?"
In a previous report, NBC correspondent Tom Costello empathized, "But some TSA screeners are now anonymously complaining on the Internet about the public backlash. 'Molester, pervert, disgusting, an embarrassment, creep: these are all words I have heard today at work describing me,' writes one. 'I should not have to go home and cry after a day of honorably serving my country.'"
ABC and CBS singled out the story of passenger Thomas Sawyer, a bladder cancer survivor, who had his urostomy bag ruptured during a pat down, causing him to be covered in urine. Today skipped this incident, but did highlight other embarrassing examples.
Early Show co-host Maggie Rodriguez conducted the toughest interview of Pistole. She grilled, "In the meantime, you will continue with these pat downs that some people have called 'humiliating, violating, and demeaning'? At the moment, that is still the plan?"
Raising the case of Mr. Sawyer, Rodriguez followed-up: "And I don't know if you've heard the story of this man who said that it was so aggressive that his urine bag spilled. So my question is why should anyone have to sacrifice dignity for safety?"
On GMA, Roberts pressed Pistole on whether the policy would be changed, wondering about people who feel violated: " So what happens, what kind of recourse do they have if they do the things that people are saying?"
A transcript of the November 22 Today interview, which aired at 7:05am EST, follows: