No Flags Please, We're American


Claim:   After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, ABC News asked its reporters not to wear American flag lapel pins or red, white, and blue ribbons. DO YOU KNOW WHAT THIS MEANS? America, Just Lost Her Freedom of Expression!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Snopes Status: True.


Example:   [Collected via e-mail, October 2001]

Dear: friend,

Yesterday, the brass at ABC News issued orders forbidding reporters to wear lapel pin American flags or other patriotic insignia. Their reasoning was that ABC should remain neutral about "causes". Since when is support for preventing our death & destruction some sort of a cause? Since when is patriotism to be discouraged. I urge you to boycott ABC and its sponsors and affiliates.

Please forward this to as many as you can.


Origins:   After the September 11 terrorist attacks on the USA, some news outlets asked or ordered their on-air personnel not to wear American flag lapel pins, red, white, and blue ribbons, or other patriotic symbols in order to "maintain an image of impartial neutrality" and to lessen the chances that overseas reporters could be harmed by those who might view them as an arm of the American government. Prominent among these outlets was the ABC network:

ABC News has asked its staff not to wear American flag pins in their lapels, or even red, white and blue ribbons, in an effort to protect their credibility as objective sources.


"We cannot signal through outward symbols how we feel, even if the cause is justified," said ABC spokesman Jeffrey Schneider. "Overseas, it could be perceived that we're just mouthpieces for the U.S. government, and that can place our journalists in danger."

Reaction to ABC's decision ranged from disagreement voiced by news people at local TV stations:

Another anchor who has been wearing red, white and blue iconography is Estha Trouw, co-anchor of the 10 p.m. weekday new report on (Fox6 News) XETV/Channel 6.


"I don't see a contradiction at all between being a patriotic American and being a solid journalist," Trouw said. "Displaying the flag is not a symbol of the government. It's a show of support for fellow Americans."

To outrage expressed by conservative pundits:

These TV news directors and newspaper editors act like they're lethally allergic to red, white and blue. Do they plan on boycotting the Fourth of July, too? Wouldn't want to give the appearance of endorsing either side of that little armed struggle between Mother England and the rebel colonies, right?


Seriously, the hypocrisy is nauseating. "Ethical" news editors wave the high-minded banner of objectivity in wartime. But in peacetime, they don't think twice about allowing — even encouraging — their reporters to participate in such highly politicized activities as AIDS fund-raisers, race-based affirmative action lobbying efforts, anti-gun proselytizing, pro-abortion rallies and environmental propaganda.

Last updated:   7 April 2008

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Malkin, Michelle.   "Media's Blind Eye Missing a Parade of Red-White-Blue."

Reuters.   7 October 2001   (p. V5)

Turegano, Preston.   "Too Much Red, White and Blue on TV News for Objectivity?"

The San Diego Union-Tribune .   2 October 2001   (p. E1).


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