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NBC Airs First Report on Gosnell Murder Case; ABC, CBS Evening Newscasts Still Silent

Brian Williams, NBC News Anchor; Screen Cap From 1 May 2013 Edition of NBC Nightly News | MRC.orgOn Wednesday, NBC Nightly News covered the Dr. Kermit Gosnell case for the very first time, a whopping 44 days after the opening of the trial, and only after the jury had finished its first full day of deliberations. Stephanie Gosk wasted little time before emphasizing that Gosnell's clinic was "one of the only places in this low-income neighborhood in Philadelphia where pregnant woman could afford to go for abortions" [audio available here; video below].

Gosk's report was also the first time that Big Three aired a report on the trial on its evening newscasts, even as ABC and CBS's evening newscasts continued their blackout. Previously, the only time that a NBC journalist mentioned the murder case on-air was when Savannah Guthrie asked President Obama if he had been "watching the Gosnell trial....and do you think it animates a larger debate about abortion in this country" on the April17, 2013 edition of Today.

Host Brian Williams warned of the "grisly subject matter" of the abortionist's trial, and noted that "there have been six weeks of testimony, much of it difficult to hear." Gosk picked up where Williams left off, pointing out that "what Doctor Kermit Gosnell allegedly did behind the walls of this clinic for years is too gruesome to describe in detail", and continued by spotlighting the "low-income" location of Gosnell's run-down clinic.

After outlining the charges against the Philadelphia physician, the NBC correspondent turned to local journalist Larry Miller, who underlined how "that particular part of the city feels as though they've been left behind – that they've been ignored by the government." Gosk replied, "Is that because they're poor?" Miller answered, "That's because they're poor."

The journalist didn't mention how the Gosnell trial "has received little national coverage", as CBS's Jan Crawford did in her April 15, 2013 report for CBS This Morning, nor how pro-lifers have "accused the media of ignoring the story because what it called a bias in favor of abortion rights". Instead, Gosk merely stated in passing at the end of the segment that "abortion activists on both sides" have used the "horrifying case...as a rallying cry for change".

Besides Guthrie's question to the President, the only time that the murder case received any air time on NBC was when conservative columnist Peggy Noonan delivered the first-ever mention of the trial on the Big Three networks on the March 31, 2013 edition of Meet the Press. Gosk's report, which lasted 2 minutes and 22 seconds, trails behind CBS's coverage of the Gosnell case, which has aired two full segments and two news briefs on the story. But the two networks put ABC to shame, who still hasn't covered the case on their morning and evening newscasts.

The full transcript of Stephanie Gosk's report on the May 1 NBC Nightly News:

BRIAN WILLIAMS: An early heads-up on this next story for those watching with young ones present – it's a grisly subject matter. A jury in Philadelphia has ended its first full day of deliberations without reaching a verdict in the high-profile trial of an abortion doctor accused of murder. There have been six weeks of testimony, much of it difficult to hear.

Our report tonight from NBC's Stephanie Gosk in Philadelphia.

STEPHANIE GOSK (voice-over): What Doctor Kermit Gosnell allegedly did behind the walls of this clinic for years is too gruesome to describe in detail. The Women's Medical Society was one of the only places in this low-income neighborhood in Philadelphia where pregnant woman could afford to go for abortions. The grand jury report states he 'regularly and illegally delivered live, viable babies in the third trimester of pregnancy – and then murdered these newborns'.

GOSK (on-camera): The doctor allegedly hired unlicensed workers, including a 15-year-old. Investigators described this clinic as outdated, filthy, and horrendous.

GOSK (voice-over): The police found rusty instruments, dirty equipment, and blood on the floor.

RENEE CHENAULT-FATTAH (from WCAU/NBC 10 Philadelphia broadcast): Happening now: a jury deliberates for a second day in the murder trial of Doctor Kermit Gosnell.

GOSK: Gosnell pleaded not guilty to the charges, including four counts of first-degree murder involving infants; one count of third-degree murder of a 41-year-old patient; and 24 counts of illegal late-term abortions. Three previous charges of first-degree murder were dropped for lack of evidence. Gosnell's defense rested without calling any witnesses, including the defendant, and accused prosecutors of extraordinary hype and exaggeration. If found guilty he faces the death penalty.

The grand jury also criticized Pennsylvania health officials for not doing more. The clinic wasn't inspected for 17 years, despite repeated complaints. Local crime reporter Larry Miller grew up in the same neighborhood.

LARRY MILLER, PHILADELPHIA TRIBUNE: That particular part of the – of the city feels as though they've been left behind – that they've been ignored by the government – by the local government, the state government-

GOSK (off-camera): Is that because they're poor?

MILLER: That's because they're poor.

GOSK (voice-over): The [Pennsylvania] Department of Health has since changed its laws. Clinics that provide abortions are now subject to annual and random inspections, and face the same regulations as outpatient surgery clinics. A horrifying case that abortion activists on both sides are using as a rallying cry for change. Stephanie Gosk, NBC News, Philadelphia. 

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