Broadcast Networks Provide Live Coverage of Pope Francis' Congressional Address
CBS, NBC and Fox also aired live special reports when the pope arrived at the Capitol for his meeting with House Speaker John Boehner earlier Thursday morning, while ABC stayed with regularly scheduled programming until shortly before the pope began speaking.
ABC, CBS and NBC all provided live coverage of Pope Francis' historic visit to the Capitol and address to Congress on Thursday morning. Pope Francis is the first pontiff to address a joint meeting of Congress.
CBS, Fox and NBC all aired live special reports at 9 a.m. ET, roughly an hour before Pope Francis' speech was set to begin. On CBS, CBS This Morning hosts Charlie Rose and Gayle King anchored the report from New York with Norah O'Donnell anchoring from Washington. On NBC, Matt Lauer anchored their special report, joined by Andrea Mitchell and Maria Shriver, with Tom Costello and Peter Alexander also on the scene in Washington. Over live shots of the large crowd that had gathered outside the U.S. Capitol, CBS and NBC's anchors discussed what to expect from Pope Francis' visit to Congress.
CBS talked about how House Speaker John Boehner had invited other popes to visit Congress and this was the first one to accept his invitation and discussed Boehner's own Catholic background and the fact that, according to O'Donnell, a third of the members of Congress are Catholic. NBC and CBS' anchors also talked about the subjects Pope Francis might address during his speech, with CBS talking with a Catholic priest and Lauer saying the speech would likely touch on climate change, immigration and other major issues in the news in the U.S. CBS' O'Donnell also said that certain members of the House have been selected as enforcers, who will keep members of Congress from trying to get blessings or selfies with the pope. She also said that all of the lawmakers are looking forward to hearing from Pope Francis and are expected to be on their best behavior. When Francis arrived around 9:15 a.m., both CBS and NBC aired live footage of Francis' motorcade, with CBS showing the pope waving to onlookers from the backseat.
CBS and NBC then cut to live video of Boehner waiting to greet the pope and then the pope's arrival and a couple minutes of live video and audio of their meeting, which began around 9:20 a.m. All three networks then cut back to their regularly scheduled programming but CBS and NBC announced that they would air special reports on Francis' Congressional address at 10 a.m. ET.
Meanwhile, ABC in New York stayed on Live With Kelly and Michael, where the hosts talked with Scandal star Kerry Washington and Fox News host Bill O'Reilly, promoting his new book Killing Reagan, until 9:45 a.m. On Wednesday, the network pre-empted all of Live to air a live report on Pope Francis' arrival at the White House before cutting back to regularly scheduled programming shortly after 10 a.m. ET and then breaking in midway through The View's New York airing with more coverage of Pope Francis' visit.
On NBC, Lauer anchored the 10 a.m. special report, joined by Chuck Todd and Kelly O'Donnell at the beginning of the special.
At 10 a.m., CBS, NBC and ABC all aired live coverage of Pope Francis' address to Congress while Fox stayed on regularly scheduled programming.
On ABC, George Stephanopoulos in Washington anchored the network's coverage of Pope Francis' address, taking the minutes before Pope Francis' speech before Congress to air taped footage of the pope's arrival and meeting with Boehner. ABC's Cecilia Vega on the West Lawn of the Capitol reported that 50,000 people had gathered to watch the pope's historic address. Stephanopoulos also checked in with Cokie Roberts on balcony, an ABC correspondent covering security preparations for the pope's visit and chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl, who noted that members of Congress have been instructed not to interact with the pope when he arrives and not to interrupt his speech with applause, noting that the pope is on a tight schedule. Later, this rule was repeatedly broken as many of Pope Francis' remarks received loud applause and standing ovations; however, the interruptions seemed shorter than those during the State of the Union. Stephanopoulos also checked in with other correspondents contributing to the network's comprehensive coverage.
ABC aired footage of officials arriving in Congress for the address, including four Supreme Court justices in attendance. Two presidential candidates, Ben Carson and Chris Christie, were also in attendance.
Boehner and fellow Catholic, Vice President Joe Biden, sat behind the pope, as they do with the president during the State of the Union. When Pope Francis entered the House chamber he was greeted with thunderous applause, and stopped to shake the hand of Secretary of State John Kerry.
"I am most grateful to address this joint session of Congress in this land of the free and home of the brave," Pope Francis began, with the crowd of assembled lawmakers applauding loudly.
He began by talking about the importance of Congress in the U.S. and the relationship between lawmakers and God.
"Each son or daughter of a given country has a mission, a personal and social responsibility. Your own responsibility as members of Congress is to enable this country, by your legislative activity, to grow as a nation. You are the face of its people, their representatives," Pope Francis told the lawmakers in the House chamber. "You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics."
He continued: "Yours is a work which makes me reflect in two ways on the figure of Moses. On the one hand, the patriarch and lawgiver of the people of Israel symbolizes the need of peoples to keep alive their sense of unity by means of just legislation. On the other, the figure of Moses leads us directly to God and thus to the transcendent dignity of the human being. Moses provides us with a good synthesis of your work: you are asked to protect, by means of the law, the image and likeness fashioned by God on every human face."
The pope then said he hoped to speak to the American people, who "strive each day to do an honest day’s work, to bring home their daily bread," he said, through speaking to Congress.
"These are men and women who are not concerned simply with paying their taxes, but in their own quiet way sustain the life of society," Pope Francis said.
Through his roughly 50-minute speech, the pope discussed immigration, the refugee crisis in Europe, the abolition of the death penalty, environmental issues and the need for cooperation. He repeatedly mentioned the need to do things for the "common good." He singled out four Americans, whose words and actions he invoked during his speech: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.
"The challenges facing us today call for a renewal of that spirit of cooperation which has accomplished so much good throughout the United States," he said, urging people to "pool our resources and talents and resolve to support one another with respect for our differences and convictions."
With King, Pope Francis recalled his march from Selma to Montgomery "to fulfill his dream of full civil and political rights for African-Americans."
"That dream continues to inspire us all and I am happy that America continues for many to be a land of dreams," the pope said. "Dreams that lead to action, participation and commitment and awaken what is deepest and truest in the life of the people."
He talked about people coming to U.S. to pursue the dream of freedom. "People of this continent are not fearful of foreigners, he said as he was interrupted by applause, "because most of us were once foreigners."
"When the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past. We must resolve now to live as nobly and as justly as possible, as we educate new generations not to turn their back on our “neighbors” and everything around us," the pope said. "Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal subsidiarity, in a constant effort to do our best. I am confident that we can do this."
With respect to the refugee crisis, which he said is "of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War," the pope urged a "humane, just and fraternal" response.
He urged people to remember the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
He said this principle, "also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development," a remark that earned thunderous applause.
He continued: "This conviction has led me from the beginning of my ministry to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty," which prompted a cheer and small but loud smattering of applause.
"Society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes," he said.
He also pushed for peaceful resolutions to polarizing conflicts that incite violence.
"Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. ... A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms," the pope said, later adding, "We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within. To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place. That is something which you, as a people, reject."
He continued: "Our response must instead be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice. We are asked to summon the courage and the intelligence to resolve today’s many geopolitical and economic crises. ... We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good."
He discussed ending armed conflicts, delivering powerful remarks about the weapons trade. "We have to ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money," he said. "Money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade."
In closing he said, "In these remarks I have sought to present some of the richness of your cultural heritage, of the spirit of the American people. It is my desire that this spirit continue to develop and grow, so that as many young people as possible can inherit and dwell in a land which has inspired so many people to dream."
Pope Francis ended his remarks by telling the crowd, "God bless America."
After addressing Congress, Pope Francis briefly stepped out onto the Capitol balcony to address the crowds on the West Front, with ABC, NBC and CBS continuing their live coverage with this moment. By 11:20 a.m., when the pope had left Capitol Hill, all three networks returned to their regularly scheduled programming.
The pope will make a couple of other stops in Washington on Wednesday before leaving for New York as he continues his U.S. tour.
Watch the pope's full speech to Congress below.