Q. The NBC television network has come under fire for omitting the words “under God” from a broadcast of the Pledge of Allegiance shown before the U.S. Open golf championship. The video montage of patriotic images including the American flag was dubbed with children reciting the Pledge — without the phrases “under God” and “indivisible.” A second showing of the video also left out the phrase “one nation.”
NBC's omission has caused a storm of outrage, with demands for the people responsible for cutting the Pledge to be fired and calls for a campaign to boycott NBC shows and its advertisers springing up on social media and blogs. The channel's golf host, Dan Hicks, read a statement during coverage, which said in part, “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. Regrettably, a portion of the Pledge of Allegiance ... 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.”
Does leaving out the words “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance concern you?
Based on the way this question unfolds, I think I can tell how I’m supposed to answer. But I’m not going to answer it that way. Instead, I have four questions:
1. Do you really believe that the mangling of our Pledge of Allegiance by NBC was purely accidental — like a typo, except on film? How many producers do you suppose wrote and re-wrote, watched and re-watched the clip which left out the phrases “one nation,” “under God” and “indivisible”? Be sure of this — NBC knew exactly what they were airing.
2. Are you really satisfied by the non-apology apology issued by NBC? Early lessons on apologies were a crucial part of the curriculum of growing up where I came from. Parents and teachers looked for telltale phrases of contrition: “I’m sorry.” “I was wrong.” “Please forgive me.” “It won’t happen again.” Phrases like these demonstrated “a good apology.” Here’s what patriotic Americans heard from NBC:
“It was not done to upset anyone and we'd like to apologize to those of you who were offended by it.”
“It was not done to upset anyone”? That’s hardly the issue. NBC screwed up the Pledge of Allegiance. That’s the issue, not whether they set out to upset people.
And, “we'd like to apologize to those of you who were offended by it.” What is this supposed to mean? Mangling the Pledge offends some and not others? Is it only wrong for some and not all? Doesn’t this willful screw-up offend NBC too? Is NBC sorry? Will it happen again?
3. Why can’t NBC do what the White House did?
Twice last year, Mr. Obama botched a quotation from the Declaration of Independence. He left out the words “by their Creator.” This is a rather glaring omission if you’re the president of the United States. We expect our president to get our sacred words right. But unlike NBC, the White House spoke to the issue forthrightly, saying that the president made a mistake when he went off script and ad-libbed his remarks. It was unintentional — a mistake. NBC says no such thing.
4. Lastly, is it really so hard to believe that NBC producers might have a different vision for America than you do? Pledging with hand over heart that America is “under God” may suit you just fine, but do you really think that everybody (in this case, everybody at NBC) embraces the whole Pledge? Or that this nation is and ought to be “under God”? Our Founding Fathers did. But more elite voices rule the airwaves today. So we saw an insensitive and arrogant display of network zealots who know better.
Yes. Leaving the words “under God” out of the Pledge of Allegiance concerns me. Doesn’t it concern you?
The Rev. Jon T. Karn
Light on the Corner Church