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Networks Ignore Violence at 'Peaceful' Occupy L.A., Play Up 'Party' Vibe

The Big Three network morning shows on Monday all reported on the possible showdown between Occupy L.A. protesters and the LAPD. NBC's Today and CBS's Early Show highlighted that the left-leaning demonstrators held a "block party" as they defied law enforcement. All three media outlets also played up the supposedly "peaceful" nature of the protest, while ignoring other media reports of violence.

On Saturday's Good Morning America, ABC's Ron Claiborne claimed that "unlike other cities, the ['Occupy'] protests there in L.A. have been peaceful." However, Kate Linthicum of the Los Angeles Times noted in a November 5, 2011 article that "police were called to two violent incidents at Occupy Los Angeles on Friday, adding to questions about the protest and its future."

CBS's Jeff Glor teased a report from correspondent Bill Whitaker on Monday's Early Show by stating that "hundreds of protesters stay put and party, defying a midnight headline for Occupy L.A. campers to pull up their tents." Whitaker himself remarked on the "standoff" between the demonstrators and police and reported that "there's still a small group that says that the streets belong to the people, and they're not going to get off the street. So we still have the possibility of a confrontation." But later in his report, he hyped the actual confrontations between "Occupy" participants and law enforcement:

BILL WHITAKER: Now, the police here are very aware of how things have gone horribly wrong in other cities, and they say that they're determined that that's not going to happen here. Their buzz word is 'peaceful.' They say if they have to move the protesters, they're going to do it peacefully. And the protesters also say they're going to resist peacefully. One officer said if there is violence, it won't be started by them.

Fill-in news anchor Terrell Brown also used the "peaceful" term during his 8 am hour news brief on Occupy L.A., and added a brief about some of their counterparts on the East Coast: "And protesters in Philadelphia are also staying put. A deadline for demonstrators to leave came and went Sunday. The scene outside city hall remains quiet this morning." However, CBS hasn't yet reported on the violent incidents at the Philly encampment, nor has NBC.

Only ABC briefly mentioned on the November 13, 2011 edition of World News Sunday that "in Occupy Philadelphia, an arrest after a woman was dragged into a tent and sexually assaulted." Correspondent Cecilia Vega included a sound bite from Philly Mayor Michael Nutter (a Democrat), who stated that "Occupy Philly has changed. We're seeing serious health and safety issues playing out on almost a daily basis. The people of Occupy Philly have also changed, and their intentions have changed."

Just over two weeks later, on Monday, ABC's Good Morning America gave two news briefs with the latest on the "Occupy" demonstrations in the City of Angels and in the City of Brotherly Love. However, news anchor Josh Elliott followed CBS's lead in using the "peaceful" label during the brief at the top of the 8 am Eastern hour:

JOSH ELLIOTT: We're going to begin with breaking news in Los Angeles. At this hour, police in riot gear are now lining up and preparing to move in to close down the camp site held by Occupy L.A. protesters near city hall. About 1000 of the protesters have defied a midnight deadline to vacate. Police do appear to be giving protesters time to collect their belongings right now, including dozens of tents. So far, no arrests have been reported. Of course, we'll keep you posted this morning. It's much the same story, in fact, in Philadelphia. Occupy protesters there are holding their campground, defying Sunday's deadline to leave the scene. It has also remained peaceful as well.

NBC's Today show on Monday devoted only one news brief during the 7 am Eastern half hour to Occupy L.A. and Philly, and like their colleagues at CBS, decided to spotlight the "party" atmosphere.

NATALIE MORALES: And time's up in Los Angeles and Philadelphia for Occupy protests, but many demonstrators say they won't go. Overnight in Los Angeles, about 1,000 protesters held an eviction block party and attended classes on resistance tactics. And in Philadelphia, a smaller contingent peacefully refused to leave after their deadline to vacate passed.

Anchor Darlene Rodriguez also devoted a news brief to the Los Angeles protests on Sunday's Today: "And despite a midnight deadline, few Occupy L.A. protesters are taking down the hundreds of tents they've put up in a park next to city hall so it can be cleaned. Most of the activists say they don't intend to comply with the order, setting up a possible confrontation with police."

The MRC's Geoffrey Dickens documented in a November 7, 2011 Media Reality Check that "ABC, CBS and NBC have continued their overly positive coverage of the Occupy Wall Street protestors, devoting a massive number of stories (81 in just the month of October) to the leftist, anti-capitalist movement....More troubling, the radicalism and criminal acts at some of the protests have been virtually ignored by the Big Three networks."

The full transcript of Bill Whitaker's report on Monday's Early Show on CBS:

ERICA HILL: Want to get you now the latest on those Occupy Wall Street movements- the showdown in L.A. this morning. Protesters there in downtown Los Angeles ignored the city's order to evacuate at midnight local time.

JEFF GLOR: Yeah, and right now, there's no sign that the largest remaining 'Occupy' tent protest is about to be cleared out by force.

Bill Whitaker is at the scene this morning. Bill, good morning.

[CBS News Graphic: "Eviction Deadline: Occupy L.A. Protestors Ordered Out"]

BILL WHITAKER: Good morning, Jeff and Erica. Now, I would say that the scene here right now is calm, but tense. Now, the mayor and the police set a deadline for just after midnight to clear out the Occupy L.A. encampment around city hall, but so far, they have not done so. Now, the police have surrounded city hall and they've cut off the streets leading to city hall, but they have not swept through the encampment or made any arrests as they said they would. The protesters have said that they're not going to leave, so, right now, we have a standoff.

Now, the police have been very insistent, though, that they are going to clear the streets around city hall before rush hour in a couple of hours, and there's- most people have done what the police have asked and gotten off the streets. But there's still a small group that says that the streets belong to the people, and they're not going to get off the street. So we still have the possibility of a confrontation.

Now, the police here are very aware of how things have gone horribly wrong in other cities, and they say that they're determined that that's not going to happen here. Their buzz word is 'peaceful.' They say if they have to move the protesters, they're going to do it peacefully. And the protesters also say they're going to resist peacefully. One officer said if there is violence, it won't be started by them. Jeff? Erica?

GLOR: Bill Whitaker in L.A., thanks very much.

— Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.