CBS News has come under fire from members of Congress who say they
were “deeply offended” by a lop-sided “Eye on America” series on
homeschooling that aired earlier this month.
“As members of Congress who either homeschool our own children or
support the right of parents to homeschool, we were deeply offended by the recent ‘Eye on America’ dealing with homeschooling,” reads an Oct. 22 letter
sent to CBS News president Andrew Heyward. “You chose to take a handful of
tragic incidents and, from them, cast aspersions on the entire homeschool
movement. Your report was unfair and indicative of both bias and ignorance.”
Thirty-three members of Congress signed the letter.
Most of them are members of the Republican Study
Committee, a group of over 85 House Republicans organized for the
purpose of advancing a conservative social and economic agenda.
R-Mo., who homeschooled – and currently homeschools – his five
children spearheaded the effort. Akin’s son, Perry, recently graduated from the
Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.
Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo.
“The congressman feels the vast majority of people who homeschool are
very serious about it and are concerned about the quality of their children’s
education and welfare,” Akin’s spokesman, Steve Taylor, told WorldNetDaily.
Described by National Review as “one of the most bizarre news
judgments ever,” the two-part report that aired Oct. 13-14 focused on a
handful of child-abuse cases from the past decade involving families who
claim to homeschool their children.
As first reported by WorldNetDaily, the reports inflamed the homeschooling community.
“We are outraged that CBS would ignore the obvious facts and draw the
erroneous conclusion that homeschoolers need to be strictly regulated,” said
J. Michael Smith, president of the Virginia-based Home School Legal Defense Association.
“The story is a shameless attempt to smear an entire community of
committed, dedicated parents.”
The first segment featured a North Carolina couple, the Warrens,
who claimed they homeschooled their children but were discovered to have
kept them in squalor. Two of the children were killed by their 14-year-old
brother who then killed himself.
“The school bus never stopped at the secluded trailer on Hickory
Crossroads here in rural North Carolina … because for five years Nissa and
Kent Warren homeschooled their children,” the segment began. “Then county
workers got an anonymous tip: Better check on those kids.”
Next came reaction from a local district attorney: “I was stunned at the
squalor that I saw. There was rotting food, animal feces on the floor. … Is this a
location where you could expect somebody could be learning lessons and
going to school?”
In his introduction to the sensational report, CBS
Evening News anchor Dan Rather intoned:
“You’ve heard the success stories, and there are many. This
homeschooled child won a big spelling bee. That child a geography bee. And
most parents involved in homeschooling have their childrens’ best interest at
heart. But in an Eye on America investigation, CBS’ Vince Gonzales
uncovered a dark side to this largely unregulated system of
The letter points out what CBS left out of the report and questions its conclusion that more regulation over homeschooling is needed.
“What your correspondent, Vince Gonzales, failed to mention in his
segment was the numerous child protection laws [that] already exist that could
have been used to safeguard the children in question,” the letter reads. “In
point of fact, North Carolina Social Services had repeated contact with the
family and had even removed the children from the home for a time. Despite
numerous laws and the involvement of state agencies, this tragedy occurred.”
In response to WorldNetDaily’s call seeking comment, a CBS
spokesperson quoted Heyward as saying, “this will be addressed.”
More than 1.6 million children are homeschooled in America, with the
number of families choosing the alternative to public school at an estimated
rate of 7-15 percent a year.
The letter underscored the achievement of homeschooled children,
who score, on average, 80 points higher on the SAT and who are actively
recruited by admissions officers at Harvard, Rice and Stanford
“We sincerely hope reporting of this kind is the exception and not the rule
at CBS,” the letter concludes.
In the meantime, CBS is taking heat for its upcoming miniseries on former President Ronald Reagan and his wife.
Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va.
“CBS, as one of the most watched and respected American television networks, has a duty to its audience, sponsors and history to create an accurate and fair biography of the Reagans,” Cantor wrote in the Oct. 22 letter to CBS President and CEO Les Moonves.
In an interview with Tina Brown broadcast last night on CNBC,
Moonves said criticism of a film nobody has seen is “rather odd” but pledged “changes will be made.”
The miniseries, set for airing Nov. 16 and 18, includes scenes of Reagan
cursing at his staff and his wife slapping her daughter, according to the
script excerpts. Other scenes show the former president declaring he is the
anti-Christ and, in response to AIDS, stating, “They that live in sin shall die
in sin” – though there is no record of him saying such things.
Sponsors of the program have not been announced and might remain unknown
or undetermined until just prior to its airing. Some boycotters are
targeting advertisers for other CBS
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