Veggie love vs. the love of life


The other day, I wrote a rather nakedly personal post here about that ad about the rather interesting and obvious fact that, faced with a crisis pregnancy long ago, the mother of President Barack Obama decided to let her unborn child live, and thrive and make history. It’s the YouTube at the top of this post, again.

In that post, I noted that many people on the pro-life side of this issue have long discussed this angle of the Obama story and added:

… I have never seen this issue mentioned in mainstream coverage, let alone in a way that took it seriously — either to quote those who would salute this argument or the opinions of those who would condemn it. Instead, there is silence and silence is rare in journalism on such an obvious and controversial image and idea. …

Here is another question, if CatholicVote found the funds, would any major broadcast or cable television network take this ad? What about during the Super Bowl?

Soon after that, veteran religion writer Julia Duin at the Washington Times included the following interesting information about “Imagine Spot 1″ in a roundup report about rising tensions between the Obama White House and traditional Catholics.

“We’re using Barack Obama as a pro-life messenger,” explained Brian Burch, president of Fidelis, the Chicago-based Catholic advocacy group that created the ad. “We were disappointed in his election in terms of our mission,” he added. “But the thought was: Why fight the euphoria when you can use it?”

He is in negotiations with NBC about airing the ad during Sunday’s Super Bowl, as donors, he said, are ready to come up with the $1.5 million an ad would cost. He also hopes the ad will highlight how one out of every three black pregnancies is aborted.

As it turned out, the supporters of the ad were able — against all odds — to find the money to purchase a Super Bowl slot.

Which brings us to yet another update, once again, in the Washington Times. You can probably anticipate how this story is going to turn out.

A popular pro-life video portraying President Obama as an unborn child has been rejected by NBC-TV as an ad during Sunday’s Super Bowl.

“Imagine Spot 1,” a YouTube video that has amassed more than 700,000 hits since its Jan. 20 premiere on Black Entertainment Television, was submitted earlier this week to NBC by Fidelis, a Chicago-based Catholic organization. Its subsidiary,, runs the 30-second spot on its Web site.

Brian Burch, president of Fidelis, said NBC originally responded with a proposal for a package including ads on NBC-owned or operated stations in the country’s top 10 markets plus an additional four cities for a price tag of $1.5 million to $1.8 million. The immensely popular football game is known for the unusual and trendy kinds of ads it attracts.

“We put out the call to our members and large pro-life benefactors who told us they would put up significant dollars to make this happen,” Mr. Burch said. “I was told the ad was approved and then there were a number of attorneys working on it. Then I was told they didn’t want to run political or advocacy ads.”

Now, the interesting subplot here concerns how the controversy about this ad does or does not compare with debates about other “issues” ads.

In this case, NBC is discussing the latest spot from PETA that argues that vegetarians have better sex lives. The visuals focus on women in alleged clothing doing rather creative things with vegetables. NBC’s argument is that they rejected PETA, so they rejected the Catholics.

It’s interesting, however, that the network suggested edits that would have allowed the PETA ad to run. As Duin reports, there have been other issues-related ads in Super Bowl broadcast history.

But here is what gets to me. What happens when you Google News search for, oh, “PETA, Super Bowl”? You get this batch of results.

What happens when you Google News search for “Obama, Catholic, Super Bowl”? You get this collection, which, you will note, once again shows that this is a “conservative news story” as opposed to a “real news story.”

The PETA ad flap was a “real news story,” you see. Vegetables and sex is real news. Abortion and the life of the nation’s first African-American president is not real news. Now you know. I am sure that this is a big surprise.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Jarrod

    This is a fantastic take on this issue.

  • Jerry

    I can find no definition of crisis pregnancy so far. I have not read Obama’s first book, so I don’t know all the circumstances of his birth, but why would that have been a crisis pregnancy? Why would his mother’s pregnancy be called a crisis BY HER? Just like we debate the meaning of Evangelical, perhaps the phrase is being misused to make a point? After all, is every pregnancy a crisis? Or even every pregnancy where the woman is unmarried? It is a crisis by some definition, but it’s a very normal crisis.

    To your point about googling both stories: The links you provided don’t show much of a different result in count, 404, in the primary hit nor a drastic difference in the sources. So I tried a few other searches including adding “reject” to the search criteria, changing the search to super bowl pro-life, “super bowl” anti-abortion, “super bowl ad reject” as well as “superbowl ad reject”. I actually saw more of a difference with some of my searches compared to yours. That’s a reminder not to make too many assumptions about google searches – the results can be quirky sometimes.

    Given that I believe that ad could be easily run by a group that says “choose life” (women should have make the decision but they should choose life), I do have to wonder if the rejection was not due to the ad itself but due to the position of the Catholic church on the abortion issue.

  • Mollie

    I actually just wrote a story about how many teen mothers seek out their pregnancies. They are actively trying to get pregnant, basically.

    But usually unwed teen pregnancies are viewed as an outright catastrophe by society, even if the mothers themselves don’t view them as such.

  • Judy Harrow

    President Obama’s parents separated when he was very small, but they were married at the time of his conception and birth. His mother was a college student. She had the support of her own parents, who also partially raised their grandson. I don’t want to belittle her achievement, but she had resources far above those available to many women who find themselves in actual crisis pregnancies.

  • Ann

    I agree with Jerry and Judy about the definition of crisis. Obama’s mother had a mother, grandmother, and grandfather that made the level of crisis very low.

    Obama’s mother and father both continued their education. His father selected Harvard because of status. The senior Obama was offered enough funding by another college to bring mother and baby, but he selected Harvard.

    I do not advocate having abortions. I also do not advocate using emotions that leave out the difference in Obama’s situation. ….

  • Margaret

    Mollie, Is your story here or where can I read it? I am fascinated by this for several reasons: graduating high school (20 years ago) from a rural all white area where some girls did seek out pregnancy as a way to hurry up marriage, receiving a degree in teaching 3 years ago and seeing in the urban classroom girls who remain single, but receive help of mother and grandmother and the affection of the father of their child so that the pregnancy is welcomed, if maybe a surprise, and then finally I have a 16 year old daughter!

  • Margaret

    I’ve got to say that with the number of people watching the Super Bowl, the ad should be redone and air the ultrasound without referring that any specific person is involved with it. Or maybe many un-named people whose mothers were encouraged to consider abortion, but they refused. I think that just watching an ultrasound will give men and women pause and encourage them to think of the unborn as human beings with human rights. It is sad if this chance to run such an ad was lost because it involves our new President.

  • Bern

    As it turned out, the supporters of the ad were able — against all odds — to find the money to purchase a Super Bowl slot.

    A bit dramatic, that, suggesting that anti-abortion rights groups are poor or oppressed or something–where’s the evidence?

    I agree with Margaret: the ad would be more honest without the Obama angle–which I think is “reaching” as I’ve noted before here.

    I heard an interesting run-down on CBS radio NY today, witha WSJ writer “previewing” the schedled Super Bowl ads.She mentioned the PETA which like the above ad is easily accessible online–being “turned down” for the Super Bowl is a publicity ploy. The organzation knew they had the proverbial snowball’s chance but they did it anyway. Unfortunately the racy nature of the ad will make it an online fave, I’m sure.

  • Don

    You can argue, if you like, with the assumptions implicit in the ad. (What makes a crisis pregnancy? Should Obama be used as an example? Did the press somehow favor McCain on the abortion issue? [now THERE is a counterintuitive idea], etc.) But you can’t avoid the bottom line.

    1. The ad takes a position on an important current issue.
    2. The ad does not slander or insult – it is not offensive or eggregious – it makes its point in a gentle manner – it does not criticize or put down anyone.
    3. The ad was plainly rejected because it is pro-life and that makes the people at NBC feel creepy.

    Why should the ad be redone? It is an appeal TO Obama more than it is ABOUT Obama. He, after all, is the one person most able to impact events right now. This is merely a reminder of the humanity of the “objects of the debate”.

  • Mollie

    Judy, et. al.,

    Not that this is anybody’s business, per se, but Obama’s parents married about six months before his birth, if I recall correctly.

    As my grandfather told me, the first child doesn’t require 9 months gestation — only the subsequent ones do.

    I believed this until I was 15.

  • Mike Licht

    Republican or Democrat, Steeler or Cardinal fan, , Vegan or carnivore, now is the time to give our new President the remote control.

    Gimme some uh them chips, though.


  • JD

    The argument in the ad is weak. Superficially clever, nothing more. Imagine a contrary “what if Hitler’s mum had had the opportunity to abort”. The aborted are not likely to be better people, on average, than the non-aborted. They are bound to run the whole gamut from serial killers to saints.

  • Randy McDonald

    Isn’t this ad a rather spectacular invasion of Obama’s personal privacy?

    Also, what JD said. Maybe the fetus that did get aborted would have grown up into an individual who would have massacred everyone in Portland ME? One can never know, either way.


    People, people, focus on the news issue, not your feelings about the ad.