WaPo Overlooks Boehner Speech, Highlights Students Asking the Speaker 'Where's the Compassion?'

When a liberal Democrat is Speaker of the House, everything they say is newsworthy, but when a conservative Republican is Speaker, the most newsworthy people are angry protesters of the Speaker. This came true on Sunday, when The Washington Post story on Speaker John Boehner's commencement address at Catholic University of America in D.C. by Katherine Shaver was all about the protesters, and Boehner's remarks didn't come up until paragraph nine. It began:

Katy Jamison strode toward her graduation from Catholic University on Saturday wearing the requisite black robe and mortar board — plus a neon green message to House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio).

"Where’s the compassion, Mr. Boehner?" said the 8-by-10-inch sign pinned to her chest.

Surprise, surprise. The Washington Post went looking for the more-compassionate-than-thou Masters-in-Social-Work student that starts petitions against the CUA Starbucks not serving Fair Trade coffee on every day at all times. Nobody asks whether the money spent on overpriced coffee could be better spent on the poor. Katy Jamison is on a roll:

"As social work students, we spend our days in the field working to empower our clients who have experienced injustice," says social work student Katy Jamison. "How can we then purchase coffee on CUA's campus that perpetuates that same injustice through unfair wages, forced or child labor in coffee fields around the world?  For our integrity and that of our university, we want the choice for fairly traded coffee."

This woman is clearly on the Left, but Katherine Shaver somehow never finds the words "liberal" or "left" in her story. There are uncompassionate Republicans, and there are "critics." John Boehner was even worse than Starbucks, according to Jamison's well-publicized (but oh-so-tasteful) protest in the Sunday Post:

"His policies reflect different values than the values of social work professionals, which are to help people who are poor, vulnerable and repressed," Jamison said.

Jamison and about 30 other students, all graduate students in social work, were part of a small, quiet protest against the House speaker. There were no jeers or chants. Several protest organizers said they didn’t want to detract from the ceremony. While there was no outward protest from the faculty, many did not join the students in their standing ovation to Boehner’s sometimes teary speech.

A letter signed by 83 students and sent to university president John Garvey on Thursday said Boehner was an inappropriate keynote speaker because the fiscal 2012 budget resolution that he had championed severely cut funding for food assistance, programs for low-income children and help for the homeless.

"Does the Catholic University administration really believe that Speaker Boehner is the example of Catholic leadership we should aspire to follow as we make our way into the world?" the letter said.

The Post also dutifully repeated the earlier letter from liberal Catholic professors against the Speaker's lack of compassion. Boehner’s actual speech drew 55 words of quotation, perhaps because they were generic and apolitical: "If you do the right thing for the right reason, good things will happen." And: "I always ask God for the courage and wisdom to do His will, not mine."And: "So there you have it — humility, patience and faith and, as always, a few tears from me."

Nobody in the story was quoted as saying these protesting students and teachers at CUA might be liberal cafeteria Catholics or might be completely exaggerating the "cuts" in the budget for poverty programs, which are often reductions in the ambitious growth liberals already planned.  

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis