Since being hired by NewsNation, anchor Chris Cuomo has had a noticeable change in how he talks about the media on his eponymous show. And during a conversation with Ian Bremmer of the Eurasia Group Wednesday night, Cuomo recalled his time at ABC News post-September 11th (before going to CNN) and admitted that the network had banned its reporters from wearing and displaying American flag pins on the lapels of their jackets when they appeared on-air.
Cuomo’s memory of the ban seemed to be jogged by current criticism of how he uses the word “we” when talking about America. “It’s interesting. You know, I’ve had people for the first time since 9/11 in the War on Terror. People have been commenting on social media that I shouldn’t say ‘we’ when we talk about America,” he said.
Flaunting an apparently new-found defiance of corporate media rules, he then recalled how ABC had ordered a ban on American flag pins:
I wasn’t allowed to say this then, but I just don’t care now. I am an American and I report as an American and I think about America’s interests when I support. You know, back on 9/11, they wouldn’t let us – at ABC News – where a flag pin. I always thought that was wrong. I’m an American.
“I’m worried about the American hostages; I’m worried about our interests. And that’s one aspect of why I care,” he added, circling back to the current war between Israel and Hamas.
A Snopes “fact check” titled “Did ABC News Ban Flag Lapel Pins?” published on October 8, 2001, claimed the suggestion was “false.” “Misunderstandings about prior policy led to the rumor that ABC had banned their on-air news personnel from wearing American flag pins after 9/11,” the sub-headline read.
Snopes had spoken to then-ABC News senior vice president Jeffrey Schneider who told the website that they had a longstanding ban on lapel pins in general. “And we’d long had a policy at ABC News that we wouldn’t let people wear any lapel pins of any sort. The theory being that when you’re reporting the news, you should be reporting the news, not taking a position,” he asserted.
But that’s not true.
A deep dive into the Media Research Center’s archive turned up interesting insight from the late Cokie Roberts. In an MRC post from October 11, 2001 – three days after Snopes claimed the story was “false” – Roberts bragged to David Letterman about how she circumvents the flag pin bag.
“Since there is a debate about it ABC has decided that we shouldn’t be wearing flags, so I wear an eagle,” she told Letterman when directly asked about the ban.
So, if Roberts was allowed to wear a lapel pin of an eagle, that meant there was no ban on lapel pins more broadly, which meant Snopes’ “fact-check” of “false” was false. There were no blatantly apparent efforts to correct or update their initial fact-check in the post itself.
And ABC wasn’t alone in banning their reporters from wearing American flag pins. Elsewhere in the MRC’s archive, NBC News was also guilty of banning the pins. “NBC News President Neal Shapiro said reporters wearing flag lapel pins on air runs the risk ‘of calling attention to what they’re wearing and not their story,’” USA Today reported at the time.
And in March 2002, then-PBS media reporter Terence Smith pressed then-CNN chairman Walter Isaacson on the flag pins being a form of “jingoism in the press” and that “the news media went overboard” in being too pro-America after 9/11.
The transcript is below.
October 25, 2023
8:21:06 P.M. Eastern
CHRIS CUOMO: It’s interesting. You know, I’ve had people for the first time since 9/11 in the War on Terror. People have been commenting on social media that I shouldn’t say “we” when we talk about America.
I wasn’t allowed to say this then, but I just don’t care now. I am an American and I report as an American and I think about America’s interests when I support. You know, back on 9/11, they wouldn’t let us – at ABC News – where a flag pin. I always thought that was wrong. I’m an American. I’m worried about the American hostages; I’m worried about our interests. And that’s one aspect of why I care.