Washington, DC – The Secular Coalition for America today named the Daily Caller “the most unethical news publication.” The Daily Caller earned the “award” after numerous discriminatory and unethical emails were sent by Christopher Bedford, Associate Editor at the Daily Caller, to the Secular Coalition. The most recent email read, “Take a day off from hating God, kids and babies.” Bedford’s actions were supported by Daily Caller Editor in Chief, Tucker Carlson.
The Secular Coalition said the journalism code of ethics—which includes principles of truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality and fairness—must be extended to all groups equally regardless of religious belief or nonbelief. The Coalition decided to issue the award as a lighthearted way of drawing attention to media bias against nontheists.
The issue of media bias impacts the nontheistic community, but it is one area that is often ignored in discussions of discrimination against nontheists. The Freethought Society keeps a list of instances of media-related discrimination against nontheists, including stereotyping by the media.
Edwina Rogers, executive director of the Secular Coalition for America, said the Coalition routinely receives comments from reporters that indicate bias against nontheists, “but the Daily Caller takes the cake.”
The most recent example of poor journalistic ethics on the part of the Daily Caller came on May 3, in response to a press release the Secular Coalition sent on the so-called morning after pill, or “Plan B.” After his initial email, Bedford followed up with:
“I’m not sure what y’all believe in beyond annoying America, but if it’s what most atheists believe, I hope it comes true: I hope you live a long, happy life surrounded by friends and family, and when, in many years time, it is your turn to rejoin your earth mommy, you become one with her, growing into a majestic and beautiful tree that some hardworking American fells, turns into paper and prints a Bible on.”
Bedford has responded to at least five SCA press releases with escalating rhetoric over the course of the last year. The majority of responses espoused negative sentiments toward the nontheistic viewpoint, but one, sent to the Secular Coalition’s female communications manager, read “Here’s a Dick pic.” Only after scrolling to the bottom of the email was a picture of Dick Cheney visible.
When Executive Director, Edwina Rogers contacted The Daily Caller’s Editor in Chief, Tucker Carlson, to discuss religiously-based media bias at the Daily Caller, Carlson supported Bedford’s actions and statements saying, “That’s not ‘hate.’ It’s disagreement. I’m confused by what strikes me as your disproportionate outrage.”
The Daily Caller claims that it is a legitimate news publication offering unbiased reporting. In an interview with Politico, Carlson described the publication’s work as “hard-nosed reporting” on politics and government and said The Daily Caller will not be tied to ideology but rather will be “breaking stories of importance.” In a Washington Post article, Carlson said “We’re not enforcing any kind of ideological orthodoxy on anyone.”
Rogers points out that impartiality is the foundation that allows journalists to cover news without imposing any ideological orthodoxy on the reader.
The Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics urges reporters to, “Examine their own cultural values and avoid imposing those values on others; Avoid stereotyping by race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance or social status; Support the open exchange of views, even views they find repugnant; Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility” among other tenets.
“The basic tenets of journalism ethics are clear—are we to understand that those basic ethics apply to other groups, but not atheists?” Rogers said. “We’ve seen overt discrimination in areas of media such as advertising, and the amount of news coverage given to religion vs. atheism, but discrimination coming directly from reporters—who are supposed to be impartial—is an area that is rarely discussed.”
Over the last year, the Secular Coalition has received nearly 20 biased responses from reporters who have received press releases. Other responses include comments like, “I feel sorry for you…I believe strongly in Jesus Christ and God the Father,” “You should be ashamed,” and “Move to Iraq. Then you won’t have to worry about it.”