After tea-party-like hyping of Notre Dame protests, Fox News concedes Obama "received a very warm welcome"

››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI & LILY YAN

For months, Fox News heavily promoted the idea that President Obama's commencement address at Notre Dame would spark widespread protests and controversy, but following Obama's address, Chris Wallace reported that Obama "received a very warm welcome from the Notre Dame community."

For months, Fox News personalities and guests, as well as TheFoxNation.com, have heavily promoted the idea that President Obama's commencement address at the University of Notre Dame would spark widespread protests and controversy. Indeed, anti-abortion rights activist Ray Flynn stated on the May 17 edition of America's News HQ, "Catholics are focused on this issue, I might add, largely because of the media coverage that Fox in particular has provided this issue." However, following his address, several Fox News hosts reported that Obama, in Chris Wallace's words, "received a very warm welcome from the Notre Dame community." Wallace added, "I think that's a point that we need to continue to make."

Wallace also reported on the May 17 edition of America's News HQ that "the vast majority -- thousands of students and parents and faculty inside the Joyce Center are celebrating -- whether they're celebrating Barack Obama or celebrating the fact that their college or graduate degrees or graduate careers are ending -- they certainly are not protesting President Obama. It's been an overwhelmingly positive reception today." Similarly, anchor Gregg Jarrett reported that Obama's address was "marked by a very small group of protesters who oppose the president's views on abortion and stem cell research," adding, "But, in fact, President Obama received a very warm welcome by the graduates and the faculty there, a standing ovation." In addition, during a report on America's News HQ, correspondent Steve Brown stated that "the standing ovation that the president got when he got that honorary degree" "should end all speculation as to how broadly, how deeply the university community really has an affection for this particular president, regardless of their Catholic-ness, if you will." And after weeks of hyping the expected protests, Sean Hannity conceded after the speech that Obama "got a fairly warm reception today by many."

Fox News' hyping of the Notre Dame protests follows its aggressive promotion and coverage of the April 15 "tea party" protests, which, in some cases, it referred to as "FNC Tax Day Tea Parties." Fox News also promoted "Tea Party 2.0," a May 14 public tele-conference hosted by the Republican Governors Association.

As far back as March 24, The Fox Nation -- Fox News' purportedly bias-free website -- heavily promoted the idea that Obama's address would be highly controversial. In doing so, The Fox Nation frequently linked to press releases, blog posts, columns, and videos from critics of Obama.

The following are some of the headlines from The Fox Nation about Obama's speech:

March 24: "Obama commencement at Notre Dame sparks outrage," which linked to a March 21 press release from RealCatholicTV.com headlined "Notre Dame Grads Condemn Obama Decision."

March 29: "Controversy at Notre Dame," which linked to a post by Fox News religion contributor Jonathan Morris headlined "Controversy at Notre Dame -- Should Obama Be Honored?"

April 1: "Notre Dame outrage: More Clergy weigh in," which linked to a FoxNews.com blog post of the same headline by writer David Gibson.

April 2: "Is Obama Targeting Catholics?" As Media Matters noted, the April 2 Newark, New Jersey, Star-Ledger article to which the headline linked in no way suggested that Obama was "[t]argeting Catholics." Rather, The Star-Ledger reported: "Newark Archbishop John J. Myers joined a growing list of Catholic bishops yesterday to publicly condemn the University of Notre Dame's invitation to President Obama to be principal speaker and recipient of an honorary doctorate at its commencement May 17."

April 3: "Declaring War on Catholics," which linked to a Washington Post column by former Bush aide Michael Gerson.

April 7: "Notre Dame Turns In Their Catholic Card," which included an anti-Obama video from the American Life League.

April 8: "Notre Dame Obama Petition Swells to Quarter Million," which linked to an April 8 CNSNews.com article that stated: "More than a quarter-million people have signed a petition sponsored by the Cardinal Newman Society calling on Notre Dame to withdraw its invitation to President Obama to speak at the May 17 commencement."

April 10: "A Sin," which linked to a FoxNews.com blog post by blogger Tommy De Seno titled, "Hey, Notre Dame, There's No Way You Can Give Obama an Honorary Law Degree."

April 16: "Should Notre Dame's President Resign?" which linked to a Catholic Online article headlined, "New Notre Dame Alumni Group Seeks Fr. Jenkins Removal."

May 6: "Check Out This Site and Video! What Do You Think?" which linked to the website NDResponse.com that stated: "In defense of the unborn, we wish to express our deepest opposition to Reverend John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.'s invitation of President Barack Obama to be the University of Notre Dame's principal commencement speaker and the recipient of an honorary degree."

May 8: "'Scandal'! What Do You Think?" which linked to a FoxNews.com article headlined "Archbishop Slams Obama Appearance at Notre Dame, Administration's Abortion Policies."

May 12: "ND Students REFUSE to Graduate in Protest of Obama Visit!!" which linked to a press release from ND Response announcing that some students had "decided not to attend their commencement ceremony in protest."

May 13: "Two Notre Dame Students Sound Off on Why They're Boycotting Their Graduation," which included a video from Fox News' On the Record.

May 15: "Unrest at Notre Dame! Is This What Obama Wants?" which linked to a FoxNews.com article about protesters being arrested at Notre Dame.

May 18: "Sarah Palin Criticizes Notre Dame," which linked to a post on the conservative blog Hot Air.

Further, Fox News media figures and guests have also hyped the proportion and impact of protestors at Notre Dame:

  • On the March 24 edition of Hannity, while discussing an "an online petition in an attempt to get Notre Dame president, the Reverend John Jenkins, to rescind his invitation to Mr. Obama," Hannity stated that "the petition at NotreDameScandal.com has already gathered -- get this -- more than 80,000 signatures." He continued, "A spokesman for the university told the AP yesterday that he does not believe the invitation will be withdrawn, and the response so far is, quote, 'nothing beyond what we anticipated.' Now that statement was made before today's major announcement that the Notre Dame area bishops had decided not to attend the graduation, and I have a feeling that the Notre Dame spokesman may need to revisit his comments in coming days."
  • On the March 27 edition of Hannity, Hannity claimed that "the opposition to President Obama's participation at Notre Dame's commencement is growing day by day." Later in the show, Hannity asserted, "There's a lot of opposition." Radio host and guest Jay Thomas later stated that "the professors are 75 percent against it. The student body is 75 percent for it. The seniors are 95 percent for it."
  • On the April 3 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson echoed a guest's comparison of Obama's commencement address to a Holocaust denier speaking at a Holocaust museum. She stated: "Let's say a Muslim cleric was asked to come and speak in a controversial sense. Or as the father here on the couch with me said -- a former Holocaust survivor situation."
  • On the April 3 edition of Hannity, Hannity teased a segment by saying, "Catholics are outraged by President Obama now from his Notre Dame speech to his support for abortion rights and embryonic cell research." During the segment, former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican James Nicholson speculated that Obama "may have asked Notre Dame for this venue to speak to the commencement." He added, "If he did, I think it was a miscalculation. I think he wanted to go there to salve what some have felt is very offensive behavior to Catholics, but there's a great outrage." Seconds later, Nicholson asserted, "[T]hey're getting a lot more pushback from this than they anticipated, and I think it's aroused sort of the Catholic nation. It's -- they found a critical mass of Catholics, and I think that they do this politically at Obama's demise."
  • On the April 7 edition of On the Record, host Greta Van Susteren teased an upcoming segment with Fox News contributor and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) by saying, "Students taking to the streets at Notre Dame, protesting President Obama's upcoming commencement speech." During the segment, Gingrich remarked, "I think it's a very big controversy." He later stated, "I would say to the students that rather than protest, why don't they work up an email and Twitter and Facebook and telephone campaign and see how many right-to-life meetings they could organize across the country to coincide with the exact same time of President Obama's commencement speech?" He continued: "It would be a great sign of the country's interest if across America that day, millions of Americans took a few moments to consider the importance of protecting the unborn and to consider how wrong it was for President Obama to have favored infanticide when he was a state senator and to thank President Obama for raising the issue so that that day could become a day when the entire nation might, in a prayerful and solemn way, think about whether or not there is a right to life." (Gingrich's claim that Obama "favored infanticide when he was a state senator" echoes an oft-repeated conservative falsehood.)
  • On the May 1 edition of On the Record, Van Susteren teased a segment on the arrest of anti-abortion rights activist Randall Terry by saying, "[T]he Notre Dame commencement controversy gets amped up a huge notch." Carlson later introduced the segment by stating: "The Notre Dame commencement controversy has been ratcheted up in a big way."
  • On the May 8 edition of America's Newsroom, guest William Donohue stated of Obama: "To give him an honorary degree would be like Howard University giving David Duke a degree in racial politics."
  • On the May 10 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, after playing a video clip of Archbishop Raymond Burke saying, "The proposed granting of an honorary doctorate at Notre Dame University to our president, who is so aggressively advancing an anti-life and anti-family agenda, is rightly the source of the greatest scandal," Wallace asked Gingrich, "Is Notre Dame wrong to honor the president?" Gingrich responded, "I think that to the degree that Notre Dame still thinks of itself as a Catholic institution, it raises real questions." He again repeated the falsehood that Obama favors infanticide, stating: "One, it invites somebody who, as a state senator, voted to protect the right of abortionists to kill babies who were born -- who were still alive after the abortion. And I think the president's position has been the most radical pro-abortion of any American president. So, I think there is a legitimate question there."
  • On the May 11 edition of On the Record, Van Susteren introduced a segment by stating, "The countdown is on to the Notre Dame commencement, and controversy continues to explode -- 22 protesters arrested on Notre Dame's campus on Friday."
  • On May 14, Van Susteren reported, "President Obama will take the stage at the Notre Dame's graduation, giving a commencement address and receiving an honorary degree. Some people are happy about it, and many are not." Fox News correspondent Griff Jenkins then reported, "The students are divided. I think more than 80 percent in my unofficial poll in talking to more than 50 of them today, said they approve of it. But many of them strongly disapprove of the visit."
  • The following night on On the Record, Van Susteren stated, "[W]e are less than 48 hours from President Obama stepping smack in the middle of a big controversy. He will receive an honorary degree and make a commencement speech at Notre Dame University. And today, the controversy continues to explode at the Catholic university." In a report that followed, Jenkins noted, "There were 21 arrests, including Dr. [Alan] Keyes. There were no students arrested. They were all anti-abortion protesters. No students, again." Jenkins also later asserted, "But for the most part, a peaceful thing, but a day of arrests and perhaps the first of what we'll see."

From the March 24 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

HANNITY: And tonight in "Hannity's America," alumni in support of Notre Dame University are sticking to their Fighting Irish namesake and uniting against a proposed plan to have President Barack Obama speak at their spring commencement. Now, the announcement that the president would speak at the university came just four days after Mr. Obama outraged Catholics by lifting the ban on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

The Cardinal Newsman [sic] Society, a Catholic advocacy group, has launched an online petition in an attempt to get Notre Dame president, the Reverend John Jenkins, to rescind his invitation to Mr. Obama. Now, the petition at NotreDameScandal.com has already gathered -- get this -- more than 80,000 signatures, and says, quote, "Notre Dame has chosen prestige over principles, popularity over morality."

A spokesman for the university told the AP yesterday that he does not believe the invitation will be withdrawn, and the response so far is, quote, "nothing beyond what we anticipated." Now that statement was made before today's major announcement that the Notre Dame area bishops had decided not to attend the graduation, and I have a feeling that the Notre Dame spokesman may need to revisit his comments in coming days.

From the March 27 edition of Hannity:

HANNITY: And the opposition to President Obama's participation at Notre Dame's commencement is growing day by day. The "Great American Panel" is here to weigh in -- that and more straight ahead.

[...]

HANNITY: Let me ask you this. There's a lot of opposition. Barack Obama supports embryonic stem cell research, even though human stem cells seem to be show -- are far more promising. And he's going to give the commencement address at Notre Dame. And, wait a minute, he's pro-abortion.

Now, I think that -- I love Notre Dame. My niece graduated from there. It's a great school. But why would they pick somebody who has so many values that are incompatible? And do you think that they should rescind it?

SOPHIA NELSON (attorney): Well, he's the president of the United States and I think they were looking at it in that context. It's an honor to have the president come and speak. And I was reading some of the back and forth, and even some of the Catholic students there who are very pro-life, etcetera, said, "Look, if this were another issue, I'd have problems with him, but he's the president. It's an honor to come." So, it's probably not that big of a deal.

BETSY McCAUGHEY (former New York lieutenant governor): We should all respect the office of the president, even if we disagree with the person occupying that office. So, now that that invitation has been issued, people who are at the graduation who disagree with him should sit there politely and sit on their hands.

HANNITY: So what if they turn their back? Would that be insulting?

THOMAS: You know, look at what really happened. First of all, render to God the things that are God's, and render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's. I've reversed it, but I'm a Jesuit graduate.

HANNITY: It's close, though.

THOMAS: Thank you. So that's what we're talking about here.

HANNITY: Right.

THOMAS: So -- he's not going to, you know, walk out with a condom and make a joke. I hope not anyway. But the thing is, is the professors are 75 percent against it. The student body is 75 percent for it. The seniors are 95 percent for it. To me, it looks like Notre Dame has a bigger problem --

HANNITY: Think they should have a vote?

THOMAS: They have a bigger problem than Barack Obama. These professors are so far away in relation with their students that I find that -- if my son was going to Notre Dame and he said, "Dad, I think it's great the president is coming" --

HANNITY: But let me give you a quick answer. We're running --

THOMAS: -- "and so do my friends."

HANNITY: We're running -- but you know something? You know something? It's almost like the Catholic Church -- should they change their standard. I've been a Catholic my whole life. And it's like, all right -- Winston Churchill said if you're 20 and not a liberal, you don't have heart. If you're 40 and not a conservative, you don't have a brain.

Wouldn't you expect a certain maturity, more sophisticated thinking from the professors and the teaching body than the student body?

THOMAS: Are they afraid for their jobs? Maybe if they -- maybe they're afraid the pope will fire them.

From the April 3 edition of Hannity:

HANNITY: And coming up: Catholics are outraged by President Obama now from his Notre Dame speech to his support for abortion rights and embryonic cell research. The former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican will join me straight ahead with reaction.

[...]

HANNITY: And one of the things, as a political observer, that I noticed in all of this, that you would think -- I just don't know. And maybe the question could be phrased this way. You know, I wonder if Barack Obama -- if we look at all the religions out there, for whatever reason, Catholicism and Christianity seem to be the one religion that you can bash day in and day out, and you don't get -- and as a matter of fact, it happens in the mainstream media.

I wonder if it were another religion, do you think it would be a different story, 'cause I thought of that?

NICHOLSON: Well, I think that's a valid point. And I think that may be one of the redeeming results of this is that it's going to kind of wake Catholics up. You know, there are 70 million Catholics in this country, and 55 percent of those that voted, voted for President Obama. And he's done nothing since he's been president but to stick it right into their eye. And I think, frankly, that he may have asked Notre Dame for this venue to speak to the commencement. I don't know that for sure.

If he did, I think it was a miscalculation. I think he wanted to go there to salve what some have felt is very offensive behavior to Catholics, but there's a great outrage. The alumni of Notre Dame --

HANNITY: Sure.

NICHOLSON: -- are very outraged. I mean, it's a fantastic Catholic school, and --

HANNITY: I guess --

NICHOLSON: -- I was a Catholic boy growing up. I always wanted to go there, but I couldn't afford it.

HANNITY: Well, my niece loved it and had the greatest experience there. And I agree with you it's a great school. I just wonder, to the extent, though, knowing that it would create a split or a divide, you know, would this happen? It just seems to me that perhaps this might be more deeply politically thought out than some people think. Is that a fair statement?

NICHOLSON: I think it is. Possibly it is, but I think it was a miscalculation. I think they're getting a lot more pushback from this than they anticipated, and I think it's aroused sort of the Catholic nation. It's -- they found a critical mass of Catholics, and I think that they do this politically at Obama's demise.

From the April 7 edition of Fox News' On the Record with Greta Van Susteren:

VAN SUSTEREN: And up next: Students taking to the streets at Notre Dame, protesting President Obama's upcoming commencement speech. Does Speaker Gingrich think the college should pull the invitation to the president or not? We'll ask.

[...]

VAN SUSTEREN: We continue now with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Mr. Speaker, at Notre Dame, there's a little bit of a controversy brewing. Some students have begun protesting, not wanting President Obama to speak at the university because of some of his beliefs that are contrary to some of the beliefs of the Catholic Church. Should he speak at this university commencement? And is this a big controversy or not a big one at all?

GINGRICH: Oh, I think it's a very big controversy. If you contrast -- well, it'll be interesting to watch whatever he says and compare it to President Reagan's speech at Notre Dame, which was the "source of all strength'' speech. Vince Haley has an article in NRO online tomorrow morning pointing out that President Reagan very daringly and very boldly defined communism and the future of freedom and said that our freedoms come from that higher being which is the source of all of our strengths. Be an interesting contrast to see what President Obama says.

But I would say to the students that rather than protest, why don't they work up an email and Twitter and Facebook and telephone campaign and see how many right-to-life meetings they could organize across the country to coincide with the exact same time of President Obama's commencement speech?

It would be a great sign of the country's interest if across America that day, millions of Americans took a few moments to consider the importance of protecting the unborn and to consider how wrong it was for President Obama to have favored infanticide when he was a state senator and to thank President Obama for raising the issue so that that day could become a day when the entire nation might, in a prayerful and solemn way, think about whether or not there is a right to life.

And our Declaration of Independence does say we are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It may well be that President Obama may accidentally trigger the spark that creates a nationwide awareness on that day in a way he and his schedulers could never have imagined.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is this -- the controversy is over right to life, and the fact that it's a Catholic university. I mean, lots of times, you know, you don't agree with everyone who speaks at the universities. I mean, we don't agree with every speaker all the time. Is this such a core issue that the choice by Notre Dame was really a huge mistake to the Catholic Church?

GINGRICH: Well, look, first of all, it's been pointed out to me correctly that as a relatively new convert, I probably shouldn't try to in any way correct the head of Notre Dame, who, after all, has a long and distinguished career. So let me instead simply suggest that the question of when life begins is at the heart of Catholic doctrine -- it is something the pope has been very clear about, it's something the entire hierarchy's very clear about -- and that the question of whether or not babies should be killed is quite clear in Catholic teaching. And in that sense, it is certainly a controversial choice.

As I said, responded to properly, prayerfully and in a civil way, it might well become a moment when the entire nation has a new conversation. And my prediction is very few people will favor the kind of infanticide that Senator Obama favored when he was in the state Senate. And very few people will understand the radicalism of the Freedom of Choice Act, which would override every state restriction, which the Obama administration would like to do, or the lifting of the conscience clause which protects religious people from being coerced into performing abortions.

And so maybe this day will turn out in a way to be a blessing by God, and maybe it'll turn out in a providential way to be exactly the right conversation to have at Notre Dame and across America.

From the May 1 edition of On the Record with Greta Van Susteren:

VAN SUSTEREN: Plus, the Notre Dame commencement controversy gets amped up a huge notch as more people protest President Obama's speech at the school. Someone you know has just been arrested. We have a report.

[...]

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you've seen our top stories, but here's the "Best of the Rest": The Notre Dame commencement controversy has been ratcheted up in a big way. Anti-abortion activist Randall Terry has been arrested on Notre Dame's campus. He is protesting President Obama's upcoming commencement address at the university.

Earlier today, Terry -- the founder of the anti-abortion group, "Operation Rescue" -- was issued an order not to trespass on Notre Dame's campus. Hours later, Terry and other demonstrators, ignoring the order, walked onto the campus grounds. Protesters were pushing carriages with dolls covered in fake blood.

Terry was arrested for trespassing and later released after posting $250 bond.

From the May 10 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace:

WALLACE: A couple of questions I want to ask you before we run out of time. The last time you were here, we talked about the fact that you have converted to Catholicism. President Obama is speaking at the commencement at Notre Dame a week from today. And this week, the head of the Vatican's highest court spoke out very sharply against that. Let's watch.

BURKE [video clip]: The proposed granting of an honorary doctorate at Notre Dame University to our president, who is so aggressively advancing an anti-life and anti-family agenda, is rightly the source of the greatest scandal.

WALLACE: Is Notre Dame wrong to honor the president?

GINGRICH: I think that to the degree that Notre Dame still thinks of itself as a Catholic institution, it raises real questions. One, it invites somebody who, as a state senator, voted to protect the right of abortionists to kill babies who were born -- who were still alive after the abortion. And I think the president's position has been the most radical pro-abortion of any American president. So, I think there is a legitimate question there.

But, look, I'm a new convert. I'll let -- I'll let the Vatican speak for the Church. I'm just speaking for Newt Gingrich.

From the May 11 edition of On the Record with Greta Van Susteren:

VAN SUSTEREN: The countdown is on to the Notre Dame commencement, and controversy continues to explode -- 22 protesters arrested on Notre Dame's campus on Friday.

Former presidential candidate Alan Keyes was one of them, arrested for trespassing while protesting President Obama's planned commencement speech this Sunday at the Catholic university.

Some of those arrested were pushing stroller holding dolls covered in fake blood. They are protesting the president's position on abortion and stem cell research.

Keyes posted a $250 bond and was released.

From the May 14 edition of On the Record with Greta Van Susteren:

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, everyone at Notre Dame is sure talking about the commencement controversy. And Fox's Griff Jenkins is right in the middle of it. Three days from now, President Obama will take the stage at the Notre Dame's graduation, giving a commencement address and receiving an honorary degree. Some people are happy about it, and many are not.

Fox's Griff Jenkins joins us live from Notre Dame. Griff, take it away. What's going on there?

GRIFF JENKINS: Hey, Greta. I tell you, nowhere is this debate over the president's visit more intense and thoughtful than here on campus. The students are divided. I think more than 80 percent in my unofficial poll in talking to more than 50 of them today, said they approve of it. But many of them strongly disapprove of the visit.

From the May 15 edition of On the Record with Greta Van Susteren:

VAN SUSTEREN: Protesters at Notre Dame handcuffed and hauled away, and we are less than 48 hours from President Obama stepping smack in the middle of a big controversy. He will receive an honorary degree and make a commencement speech at Notre Dame University. And today, the controversy continues to explode at the Catholic university.

Fox's Griff Jenkins was right in the middle of it, as always, as protesters were arrested. He joins us live from Notre Dame campus. Griff, what are you doing there?

GRIFF JENKINS: Well, I'm standing in the near rain here, Greta. It's gotten a little chillier here, but it was an exciting day today, as about 50 anti-abortion protesters marched to the gates of Notre Dame. They were led by Dr. Alan Keyes, and about 40 of them came on campus. They came about 40 or 50 yards onto the property, and about 100 more yards, police intercepted them and began to arrest them. There were 21 arrests, including Dr. Keyes. There were no students arrested. They were all anti-abortion protesters. No students, again.

Perhaps among the most dramatic was the arrest of an elderly father, Norman Westland [ph], who has been in the anti-abortion movement for a long time. He was a former Army lieutenant colonel. But for the most part, a peaceful thing, but a day of arrests and perhaps the first of what we'll see.

From the 2 p.m. ET hour of the May 17 edition of Fox News' America's News HQ:

WALLACE: Let's go inside the Joyce Center now and take a picture, a wide shot. There you can see it -- of the -- and if we could lose the super, folks? Because I want to show you something in the foreground there. One of the issues is going to be how people will protest, and one of the ways in which they were calling for people to protest was at the top of their mortarboard -- that's the cap that they wear -- the cap and gown -- that students would have a cross and also you would see two little baby feet, that would be protesting obviously the president's pro-choice position on abortion.

But we can see almost none of those symbols on the mortarboards. In fact, if you look there in the foreground in the lower left, you can see some of the kids, as students -- well, I suppose shouldn't call them kids; they're all about to be graduates of college. With -- one there I see on the lower left with the symbol of Notre Dame, the cathedral in Paris, on his mortarboard. Some with skyscrapers. I see somebody with a log cabin.

I have seen a few with the protest symbol -- the cross and the two baby feet -- but precious few of those. There you can see what it looks like. But we have seen very few of those on the mortarboards of the students inside the Joyce Center.

[...]

[cheers and applause]

REV. JOHN JENKINS: Good afternoon.

[cheers and applause continue]

REV. JOHN JENKINS: Good afternoon. On behalf of the fellows and trustees, the president and the officers, the deans and the faculty, it is my great pleasure to welcome you to this, the 164th graduation exercises in the history of Notre Dame. Today's ceremony is being simulcast to guests at other locations on campus and is live at the -- on the Internet. We welcome all of those with us through those venues as well. Please remain standing as we begin our program with the Reverend James Foster, C.S.C., leading us in the singing of America, The Beautiful --

WALLACE: I think it's fair to say that for all the controversy, that President Obama received a very warm welcome from the Notre Dame community. And, you know, and I think that's a point that we need to continue to make, that for all the controversy, the fact is, for all of these students, for all of their [unintelligible] beyond the political impact of this day, this is the graduation ceremony for these 2,000 kids graduating from Notre Dame undergraduate and about 600 graduating from graduate schools there. And while they may disagree with this president, they certainly seem to be, at least, excited to have him there.

[...]

MOLLY HENNEBERG (correspondent): Inside the Joyce Center, some students -- some pro-life students will be making their own peaceful, quiet statement with what they put on their mortarboards. They are putting stickers, yellow stickers in the shape of a cross and babies' feet on the caps that the graduates wear. They say they want to send a message to the university and also proclaim their own pro-life beliefs.

But you also have people in there putting on pro-life -- pro-Obama statements on their mortarboards. Some of them say "Viva Obama"; others have "Obama" in red, white, and blue, on their mortarboards to show support and say that they're honored that he's here.

And Chris, overall, the feeling on this campus this whole weekend has been one of celebration and of joy, students and their parents, their families celebrating this graduation. A lot's been taking -- there's been a lot going on on the outskirts of campus with the protesters, but here in the heart of the campus, it's really been a celebration weekend. Chris.

WALLACE: Yeah, I think we do have to point that out, Molly, that yes, the demonstrators, the protesters are getting some attention. As we say, there are about a thousand at the Grotto, although only apparently, according to Griff Jenkins, about 50 who are students that are boycotting their graduation. And -- but the fact is, the vast majority -- thousands of students and parents and faculty inside the Joyce Center are celebrating -- whether they're celebrating Barack Obama or celebrating the fact that their college or graduate degrees or graduate careers are ending -- they certainly are not protesting President Obama. It's been an overwhelmingly positive reception today.

Steve Brown, just outside the Joyce Center, what can you tell us?

BROWN: Well, a couple of points I'd like to raise. One, if you saw just a few minutes ago the standing ovation that the president got when he got that honorary degree, it should end all speculation as to how broadly, how deeply the university community really has an affection for this particular president, regardless of their Catholic-ness, if you will.

From the 4 p.m. ET hour of the May 17 edition of America's News HQ:

JARRETT: Well, the protests are done and so is President Obama's speech to the graduating class of 2009 at the University of Notre Dame. Today's address marked by a very small group of protesters who oppose the president's views on abortion and stem cell research. But, in fact, President Obama received a very warm welcome by the graduates and the faculty there, a standing ovation. So, was this really a great scandal as some opponents claimed or a forum for constructive ideas and open dialogue?

From the May 17 edition of Hannity:

KEYES: By the way, the Vatican has spoken on this. Archbishop Raymond Leo Burke, who is a very high official -- I think the highest appointed American at the Vatican -- was at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast and he made an unequivocal statement, in which he condemned the invitation and the degree, and said that what was happening at Notre Dame was the gravest scandal -- meaning to say, they were luring people into sin.

HANNITY: Ambassador, he got a fairly warm reception today by many, although he was interrupted as we pointed out many times. If we look back at the last election, 54 percent of Catholics, according to exit polls, voted for President Barack Obama.

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