KOKH 25, the Fox affiliate in Oklahoma City, says it was an accident. Unfortunately, unless somebody at the station comes forward and confirms otherwise, we're probably going to have no choice but to accept that highly suspicious explanation.
On Sunday, during the debut of Cosmos, KOKH ran a :15 in-house promo for its prime time news at 9PM at the exact moment host Neil DeGrasse Tyson was talking about human evolution. In fact, the promo suddenly appeared out of nowhere during the only moment in Cosmos that evolution was addressed. It popped in, mid-broadcast, just before Tyson talked about how we "stood up and parted ways" from our ancestors after crawling along the ground; it covered that statement and the ones following it completely, then cut out and the show resumed after the quick explanation of evolution was over.
Given that a noticeable portion of America's fundamentalist Christian community has already been losing its mind over Cosmos -- calling it atheist blasphemy that subverts the Bible by saying that there's science behind our origins rather than fairy tales about the magic hand of Jesus -- it wouldn't be surprising if a Fox affiliate in Oklahoma took some liberties with the broadcast. Add to that the fact that this particular Fox affiliate is owned by Sinclair Broadcasting, a highly conservative company with a history of making political contributions to the Republican party and adjusting its programming in order to further conservative ends. (In 2004, Sinclair stations preempted prime time programming to run an anti-Kerry special produced by "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth"; in 2010, six Sinclair stations carried an anti-Obama informercial; in 2012, six Sinclair stations in swing states produced and ran a supposed "election primer" that in reality was highly biased against Barack Obama and when it was criticized for doing so said that the special reflected their "news value.") The end result here is that while, again, no one can prove KOKH deliberately covered the mention of evolution on Sunday night's Cosmos premiere, the idea is less easy to dismiss than it would be if it had happened somewhere besides Oklahoma City and at a station that wasn't Fox-affiliated and Sinclair-owned.
I used to work at an O&O years ago where "accidents" would happen all the time. No, we never covered network programming in an attempt to censor something we found objectionable or thought our audience might, but there were times that we'd jump the gun on the network in an effort to get into our newscast early and hopefully grab that network audience in the name of number retention. Only two or three people were ever in on those kinds of little tricks. What I'm saying is that you have no idea what actually goes on behind the scenes or what decisions are made that are never spoken of out loud. Again, if KOKH says covering a crucial and unfortunately controversial -- unfortunately because it shouldn't be controversial -- part of Cosmos was just a slip-up, there's almost no way to prove otherwise unless somebody breaks ranks.
But that's not likely to happen.
The edited and original versions of Cosmos are below.