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ABC host apologizes to atheists

ABC’s Bill Weir

An atheist group today thanked “Good Morning America” host Bill Weir and his network, ABC, for an on-air apology for saying during hurricane Katrina coverage: “There are no atheists in foxholes and hurricane zones.”

The comment left atheists across America outraged, according to American Atheists Inc., a group that says it “is a nationwide movement which defends the civil rights of nonbelievers, works for the separation of church and state, and addresses issues of First Amendment public policy.”

The group, founded by the late Madalyn Murray O’Hair, called for the mobilization of atheists throughout America who were offended by Weir’s remark urging them to ask Weir and ABC to retract the remark.

But to the delight of the offended atheists, Weir made an on-air apology for his remark and went further to contact Ellen Johnson, the president of American Atheists. Following his apology, Weir received high praise from the president of American Atheists for “his gracious handling of this matter.”

“I think it takes someone of character and integrity to do this,” she said.

She also commended the ABC show saying, “We have nothing but praise for Mr. Weir and the Good Morning America Weekend show.”

David Silverman, communications director for American Atheists said Weir “has done the right thing and deserves to be congratulated for retracting his earlier remarks.”

He also said his apology and the retraction of the remark was “a testament to his integrity as an individual and a leading electronic journalist and public personality.”

American Atheists Inc. will host an “Atheists in Foxholes rally” on Veterans Day in Washington D.C., as noted by Johnson.

The remark by Weir was made at the end of a segment on church congregations meeting despite the hurricane damage.

The atheists say they got what they wanted, an apology and recognition for being a substantial segment of the American people, with about 13 percent of Americans having no religion. Johnson expressed that Weir and ABC’s willingness to retract the statement shows that major media are becoming more sensitive to the Americans who do not have a religion.