CNN Anchor Uses Pope Francis Interview to Slime Conservative Catholic Guest

CNN's Chris Cuomo turned a discussion on Pope Francis' recent interview into an ugly personal attack and sharp lecture of his guest, the Catholic League's Bill Donohue, on Friday's New Day.

The fracas began when Cuomo lectured Donohue on the Pope's statement that the ultimate focus of the church is "salvation" and not one particular moral issue. He said "it really sounds like you're one of the people [Francis] is sending this message to, to be fair, Mr. Donohue, isn't it?" Cuomo clearly had a bone to pick with his guest.

"I mean, you have bashed on these issues for years and years, most infamously recently saying that the church had a homosexual problem, not a pedophile problem. I mean really incendiary, flagrant, divisive stuff," Cuomo continued.

Donohue later turned the tables with this exchange, after Cuomo claimed that as a fellow Catholic he received "blame" for Donohue's statements:

CUOMO: We're blamed for this. I get blamed for this. One of the things I get blamed for –  

DONOHUE: You get blamed for what I do? Why would you get blamed?

CUOMO: The Catholic League matters. The Catholic League is relevant. Right or wrong, it is.

DONOHUE: Maybe I get blamed for what Andrew Cuomo does, because he's Catholic.

CUOMO: That would be a good switch for you. Let me tell you.

DONOHUE: I don't think. I think I'd be going south.  

So Cuomo said it would be a "good switch" if the behavior of his brother reflected on Donohue? Cuomo's brother Andrew is the Democratic Governor of New York who supports abortion rights, pushed for gay marriage, and lived with an divorced woman while he himself was divorced. All of the above are serious violations of church teaching and are public scandals.

Regardless, Cuomo repeatedly drew from Donohue's past statements in an effort to attack him for being so controversial. He did no service to any CNN viewers who were hoping to gain insight on Pope Francis' words.

For example, Cuomo accused Donohue of "cherry-picking" statistics on priests and admonished him, "Why wouldn't you try to move past this parsing rhetoric and try to be what your church is supposed to be about?"

Cuomo pulled another past Donohue quote:

"You and the Catholic League, you're the same organization that went forward and said when you're defending The Passion, I'm a Mel Gibson fan – when you're defending The Passion you say hey those secular Jews in Hollywood, they don't like the Catholics. It's a fact. What? This is the kind of thing that you shouldn't say anymore."

When Donohue slammed the "Nuns on the Bus" for being divisive in disobeying the U.S. bishops, Cuomo once again lectured him.

"So you think the nuns on the bus then are bringing everybody together by going out there in favor of Obamacare against what the bishops wants? They're the ones who are divisive," Donohue claimed. Cuomo replied, "I'm thinking what he [Francis] wants is for you to spend less time bashing nuns and more time bringing people together."

Or perhaps CNN wants Donohue to spend less time bashing the nuns, considering anchor Carol Costello actively cheered them on.

Below is a transcript of the segment, which aired on New Day on September 20 at 7:23 a.m. EDT:

[7:23]

CHRIS CUOMO: Here to discuss the impact of Pope Francis' interview is a man who never lacks an opinion, Bill Donohue, president of the powerful Catholic League. Thank you for being here.

BILL DONOHUE, president, The Catholic League: Thank you for having me.

CUOMO: So the first simple question, do you agree with the shift in focus that the pope is outlining?

DONOHUE: I do. This pope is a reformer, but he's not a revolutionary. People on the left and right are exaggerating what he's doing. Look, the Catholic Church is a wounded warrior. We know that the church has created some of its own problems. Some of the problems have been externally created. He says the church is a field hospital. He gives the metaphor of taking care of the wounded. You don't go up to the wounded and say let's see, you might have a high cholesterol rate. That's exactly what the pope said in his letter – I'm sorry, in his interview.

Well, that's true. You get down to basics. The Catholic Church is not about homosexuality, abortion, the poor, or the environment. It's about salvation. And people are tied up in these little micro issues on the left and the right, and we've lost the focus of what the Catholic Church should be about. It's a change in tone, it's a change in style, but there's not a doctrinal change in substance. That also should be noted.

CUOMO: I feel like this may count as the pope's first miracle. Because to hear you saying these things is going to be very shocking. Because it really sounds like you're one of the people he's sending this message to, to be fair, Mr. Donohue, isn't it? I mean, you have bashed on these issues for years and years, most infamously recently saying that the church had a homosexual problem, not a pedophile problem. I mean really incendiary, flagrant, divisive stuff.

DONOHUE: Well see, Chris, let me just say that --

(Crosstalk)

CUOMO: So I'm just saying, are you saying you won't do that anymore?

DONOHUE: Oh, no. I will always tell the truth. If 81 percent of the victims –

(Crosstalk)

CUOMO: That wasn't the truth.

DONOHUE: If 81 percent of the victims are male and 100 percent of the victimizers are male, and if 78 percent of the victims are post- pubescent, the word in the English language is not pedophilia, it's called homosexuality.

CUOMO: No. It would be called – phebephilia. That is when you attack people who are in their teens.

(Crosstalk)

DONOHUE: That's not even a – that's not a clinical term. That's a made up term to make people feel good.

CUOMO: You know very well you cannot find a pedophile in any prison anywhere who will say that that they're homosexual. It's never been about homosexuality, it's been about criminals and wrong acts. And this is your chance to say you won't do it anymore. The pope is asking you to.

(Crosstalk)

DONOHUE: When men have sex with adolescent men, it's called homosexuality. It is not pedophilia. John Jay College of Criminal Justice is not a conservative right wing organization. Less than 5 percent of the priests involved in molestation are pedophiles. I will never stop telling the truth, and the pope never said we should either. I'm against gay bashing. To say that because you're gay you're going to be a molester –  

CUOMO: That is exactly what it sounds like.

DONOHUE: No, no, no. If most of the molesters are gay, that is true. It is not true that most gay priests are molesters. That is a gay-bashing comment. People have to make critical distinctions. I have nothing against gay people any more than I do against straight people. I do have against molesters. Whether they be straight or gay makes no difference to me, but I'm not going to lie about the figures. What I just said about the figures is absolutely true, it's not negotiable.

CUOMO: Well, but that's the problem. Isn't it? Because there are so many who would say not only is it negotiable, but it's irrational, what you're saying, because you have so many people –

(Crosstalk)

DONOHUE: Explain it to John Jay then. They just made it up, I guess. Do you think I made up those figures, Chris?

CUOMO: I think you're parsing them. I think you're cherry-picking them and I think that the most important part is your motivation. You just heard what the pope said.

DONOHUE: The pope didn't say –  

CUOMO: Why wouldn't you try to move past this parsing rhetoric and try to be what your church is supposed to be about?

DONOHUE: This is a problem with the left. They're trying to take what he says and then run with it like The New York Times said, said the bishops are on the defensive because they're concerned about abortion, contraception, and gay rights or gay marriage. No, no, no, the Obama administration is the one who is foisting this on the bishops. The bishops are reacting. They will continue – there's nothing that Pope Francis has said that would give any relief to these people who are saying all of a sudden now the conservatives should shut up. We're not going to shut up because we're in constant compliance with the pope says.

CUOMO: He's saying the word "Catholic" means "universal."

DONOHUE: Yes, that's right.

CUOMO: He says the rule of the religion is love.

DONOHUE: That's right.

CUOMO: Not to cherry-pick statistics and try to blame homosexuals for being pedophiles.

DONOHUE: Who ever said that?

CUOMO: Look –

DONOHUE: Who – who said that homosexuals are pedophiles? Did I say that?

CUOMO: The suggestion is that of this was consensual because of the age of the victims.

DONOHUE: Consensual? When people get raped it's not consensual. Look, as far as I'm concerned the Catholic Church didn't handle this right. I would have put these guys in the slammer a long time ago. Instead, they just think they can reform them. They send them off to the psychiatrist. That's plain stupidity. No –

CUOMO: There are few who are going to disagree with that. The way the church handled the situation is a large part of the stain on the church right now. But it is the discussion of homosexuality and the blame of them as somehow predatory, that is what your pope telling you not to say. It's not what I think.

(Crosstalk)

CUOMO: This is what your pope is telling you.

DONOHUE: Most of the molesting priests were gay, and most gay priests are not molesters.

CUOMO: Good.

DONOHUE: I think people who –

CUOMO: Stop there.

DONOHUE: But I've been – that's all I've ever said!

CUOMO: Who says that the molesters were gay?

DONOHUE: I'm telling you, if --

CUOMO: Who says the molesters were gay?

DONOHUW: They weren't girls, and they weren't –

CUOMO: Who says the molesters were gay?

DONOHUE: If a man has sex with a man, what do you call that?

CUOMO: He could be a deviant pedophile and a sick person. He could be a rapist.

(Crosstalk)

DONOHUE: Not if the kid is 18, 17, 16 years of age. A rapist could be straight or gay, I'll give you that much.

(Crosstalk)

CUOMO: Being a homosexual doesn't make you predatory.

DONOHUE: You're trying to say that anybody who points out the obvious, that the Catholic Church had a homosexual scandal, therefore, you're anti-gay. This is absurd.

CUOMO: Mr. Donohue, we both know that what is obvious here is that the Pope is asking you not to focus on these things.

DONOHUE: He didn't ask me to shut up about the truth.

(Crosstalk)

CUOMO: You and the Catholic League, you're the same organization that went forward and said when you're defending The Passion, I'm a Mel Gibson fan – when you're defending The Passion you say hey those secular Jews in Hollywood, they don't like the Catholics. It's a fact. What? This is the kind of thing that you shouldn't say anymore.

(Crosstalk)

DONOHUE: Wait a minute. Do you want to get into – is it the Vietnamese who are making movies in Hollywood? Is it the Puerto Ricans who own Hollywood?

CUOMO: Do you understand how that sounds? Do you understand how it sounds? You think that's good for Catholics to be represented by this?

(Crosstalk)

DONOHUE: The Jewish Forward – The Jewish Forward in its editorials said the exact same thing I did? Are they anti-Semitic?

CUOMO: So what? Why would you say it?

DONOHUE: Why would I say it? Because I was just insulted on some guy on MSNBC, and I just gave it right back to him.

CUOMO: Listen. Am I insulting you? We're having a discussion.

DONOHUE: No. This is fun.

CUOMO: Well, it's not fun for me and here's why. The Pope is giving you a different message. He's saying don't make these statements about the homosexuals, don't make the statements about the Jews. Get back to what your church is about. Jesus wasn't about what you're doing right now. Are you going to hear that message or no? Because it doesn't sound like it.

DONOHUE: I've heard the message but it's not the one you will interpret for me.

CUOMO: So you think that the pope wants you to say Jews don't like Catholics, and that homosexuals when they have sex with people of a certain age must be predatory.

(Crosstalk)

DONOHUE: I didn't say that. No. I never said that Jews don't like Catholics. When did I say that Jews don't like Catholics?

CUOMO: And homosexuals when they have sex with people of a certain age must be predatory.

DONOHUE: When did I say Jews don't like Catholics?

CUOMO: You were quoted.

DONOHUE: No I was – ! I'm talking about secular Jews who run Hollywood studios who make anti-Catholic movies. What is so absurd about that?

CUOMO: The absurdity is that you are blaming it on a faith and a culture when it is a subjective judgment about a movie. So you're blaming these people. He's telling you not to do it.

(Crosstalk)

DONOHUE: So, if I mention that the Chinese live in Chinatown, am I considered now a bigot to point out the obvious?

CUOMO: No, but if a Chinese person makes something you don't like, and you then decide to blame them because they're Chinese, as opposed to what's made –

DONOHUE: Well, the Catholics seem to get blamed for every time we complain about a movie –

(Crosstalk)

CUOMO: We're blamed for this. I get blamed for this. One of the things I get blamed for –  

DONOHUE: You get blamed for what I do? Why would you get blamed?

CUOMO: The Catholic League matters. The Catholic League is relevant. Right or wrong, it is.

DONOHUE: Maybe I get blamed for what Andrew Cuomo does, because he's Catholic.

CUOMO: That would be a good switch for you. Let me tell you.

DONOHUE: I don't think. I think I'd be going south.  

CUOMO: Listen, the point is what are you going to do with this message from the pope?

DONOHUE: We have different interpretations, obviously. I love the pope and I do think that there are single issue Catholics on the left and right who need to get out of their little micro-turf battles and look at the macro issue. It should be about salvation. I will grant you that. And I am so happy that he has said it.

He's also said that he has a problem with the rigorous priest, the right-wing authoritarians. He also said, if people actually read what he said in his interview, he's against those priests that are too lax. He said – and by that he meant those who deny the existence of sin. Yeah there's a problem on the left with that, just as there's problem on the right.

CUOMO: He identifies himself as a sinner first, when they ask him about the man Bergoglio.

DONOHUE: I know and everybody thinks this is breaking news. Every single pope throughout all of history went to confession. Why did he go to confession? Because he's a sinner. There's no breaking news there.

CUOMO: I guess, I think that his hope is that the people who call themselves devout Catholics get back to the main mission of the church, which is not division. It is love and is understanding there is good in all.

DONOHUE: So you think the nuns on the bus then are bringing everybody together by going out there in favor of Obamacare against what the bishops wants? They're the ones who are divisive. The dissidents ones, typically on the left but not exclusively.

CUOMO: I'm thinking what he wants is for you to spend less time bashing nuns and more time bringing people together.

DONOHUE: I don't bash nuns. I'm just simply pointing out that some of the sister polyesters have lost their mission. They should not be social workers. They should be nuns tending to the poor.

CUOMO: I think the one thing we'll agree on for sure is that we hope that the pope's message is understood.

DONOHUE: Yes, I do.

CUOMO: Mr. Donohue, thank you for taking the opportunity. I appreciate it. Kate, over to you.
 

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014