Monday, June 20, 2011

NBC Rewrites History: Undoing A Congressional Resolution During the U.S. Open; Did They Think No One Would Notice?

Like many Father's Day gatherings, ours was permeated by the U.S. Open Golf Tournament held this year at the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland. Not my favorite way of spending a perfect sunny family day but because my husband is a huge golf fan, the match became the main event.

Because of the club's proximity to the Washington D.C., NBC (the network broadcasting the event) was motivated to produce a patriotic montage that was played at the beginning of the coverage. The film, attached here, had alternating and moving scenes of schoolchildren reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, soldiers, flags, past Open winners ...well, you get the picture...very American! Sounds great, right?

But yesterday and today, a brouhaha developed when it became apparent that the words "under God, indivisible" were omitted. Not once. Twice!

Irate calls made to the network yesterday prompted NBCs host Dan Hicks to read an apologetic statement:
"It was our intent to begin our coverage of this U.S. Open championship with a feature that captured the patriotism of our national championship being here in our nation’s capital for the third time. Regrettably, a portion of the Pledge of Allegiance that was in that feature was edited out. It was not done to upset anyone and we’d like to apologize to those of you who were offended by it."
And today, an official apology fro NBC brass was released calling the decision to omit "a bad one ".

In the letter, NBC elaborated:
We understand your concern over the beginning of our U.S. Open coverage on Sunday.
We are aware of the distress this has caused many of our viewers and are taking the issue very seriously.
Unfortunately, when producing the piece - which was intended to capitalize on the patriotism of having our national championship played in our nation's capital - a decision was made by a small group of people to edit portions of the Pledge of Allegiance. This was a bad decision.
As soon as management became aware of this decision and the controversy it justifiably created, it immediately took steps to correct it resulting in an on-air apology provided by NBC Sports' lead golf commentator Dan Hicks. 
It was not the intent of NBC to upset anyone and we sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended.
The Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892 by a Baptist minister Francis Bellamy (right). Originally published in a children's magazine called "The Youth's Companion" it was intended to be a part of our nation's public school celebration of the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's arrival in the Americas. The original pledge read:
I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Bellamy wanted the pledge to be quick, recited in 15 seconds. That same day,  Bellamy, Congress and President Benjamin Harrison announced a national proclamation making the public school flag ceremony the center of the national Columbus Day celebrations.

Louis A. Bowman, an Illinois lawyer and Presbyterian, was the first to initiate the addition of "under God" to the Pledge. He said that the words came from Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, though not all versions of the Gettysburg Address contain the words "under God". It is thought that Lincoln may have deviated from his prepared text and inserted the phrase when he said "that the nation shall, under God, have a new birth of freedom."

In 1951, the Knights of Columbus began including the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance and adopted a resolution to amend the text of the Pledge of Allegiance recited at the opening of each of their meetings. Over the next two years, the idea spread and in August of 1952, Knight's Council adopted a resolution urging that the change be made universal. This resolution was sent to the President, the Vice President and other Washington officials but attempts to make a national amend the Pledge failed.

In 1954, President Eisenhower was sitting in Abraham Lincoln's pew when the church's pastor, George MacPherson Docherty, delivered a sermon based on the Gettysburg Address arguing that the nation's might lay not in arms but its spirit and higher purpose. He noted that there was something missing in the pledge and cited Lincoln's words "under God" as defining words that set the United States apart from other nations.

President Eisenhower had been baptized a Presbyterian just a year before and responded enthusiastically to Docherty in a conversation following the service. Eisenhower acted on his suggestion the very next day and by February of that year a bill was introduced in Congress who passed the necessary legislation. Eisenhower signed the bill into law on Flag Day, June 14, 1954 and the phrase 'under God" was incorporated into the text of the Pledge of Allegiance.

An Congressional action, in place for 57 years, undone by an act of NBC yesterday.


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