Well that didn't take long. The folks at the left-wing MoveOn.org are practically in mourning over Helen Thomas's "retirement."
Just a few hours after news broke that Hearst columnist Helen Thomas is calling it quits after a viral video of her anti-Semitic comments led to widespead condemnation of the White House press corps dean.
The abrupt retirement of Helen Thomas from her perch as the ranking member of the White House press corps was essentially accepted as a fait accompli by supporters and detractors alike after her controversial remarks urging Jews to leave Israel surfaced.
Indeed, if there was any defense made of Thomas's comments, it wasn't done persuasively or at an influential level. But that didn't stop the progressive community -- many hearing about her retirement while at the Campaign for America's Future conference in D.C. -- from collectively fretting on Monday about what the loss of her voice bodes for the day-to-day interaction between the White House and the Fourth Estate.
Her absence will be felt "significantly," said Ilyse Hogue, Communications Director of Moveon.org. "The burden will fall on the rest of the press corps to make sure the administration feels the need to be transparent about its plans to get us out of Iraq and Afghanistan."
Via Politico, Hearst Newspapers columnist Thomas issued a statement today: "I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians. They do not reflect my heart-felt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance. May that day come soon."
Michael Calderone at Yahoo! News reports that a second half of the Thomas interview is yet to come from Rabbi David Nesenoff and his site RabbiLive.com, and the first half was delayed while the rabbi's 17-year-old webmaster son finished his finals:
Although she's apologized, Nesenoff said Thomas should do more, and "the only way to fix it is to become a poster child for tolerance and non-hatred."
Next, Nesenoff said that in a day or so, he'll release part two of the interview, but was tight-lipped about what else Thomas said that day.
"Part two will be very interesting to watch," he said, adding that Thomas is in it "100 percent" of the time.
Comedians often pride themselves on being irreverent, and in today's popular culture a favorite thing to ridicule is religion. The network Comedy Central has made laughing at religion its bread and butter. Their irreverence has limits, however, and it has nothing to do with taste. When radical Muslims wrote ominously online that the creators of "South Park" could end up like Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh - shot eight times on the street - mockery of Muhammed was formally and publicly censored.
Within weeks of that very public retreat, Comedy Central announced plans to work up a series laughing at Jesus Christ called "JC," a half-hour animated show about Jesus trying to live a normal life in New York City to escape the "enormous shadow" of his "powerful but apathetic father." God the Father is preoccupied with playing video games while Christ is the "ultimate fish out of water."
Beyond the glaring double standard there is this question: Where is the market demand for an entire television series dedicated to attacks on Jesus Christ? What did Jesus Christ do to Comedy Central that they must relentlessly mock Him by portraying him defecating and talking about his "yummy, yummy crap" on "South Park" and roast him on specials titled "Merry F--ing Christmas"? Why the visuals of Jesus Christ being stabbed to death? Of the Blessed Virgin Mary menstruating? To call these attacks "juvenile" is an insult to juveniles.
Time's Joe Klein, no fan of the present Israeli government he, has weighed in on Helen Thomas's now infamous "get the hell out of Palestine" comments.
Writing for his magazine's Swampland blog yesterday, Klein denounced the Hearst columnist's comments as "odious," but stopped short of demanding her ouster from the White House press briefing room. Instead, Klein urged in his June 6 post that Thomas should forego her front row seat and get pushed towards the back of the room:
[I]t's not unprecedented for journalists with odious views to have access to the press room. What is unprecedented is for such a journalist to have a front-row center seat. Thomas should no longer have that privilege. The front row should be occupied by working reporters, not columnists. The WHCA should sanction Thomas by sending her back to the cheap seats. This would accurately reflect her current status as a journalist while preserving her First Amendment right to be as obnoxious as she wants.
Of course Thomas has a First Amendment right to be obnoxious, but that doesn't mean she has a constitutional right to a slot in the press briefing room. Perhaps Klein thinks his is a reasonable middle ground for the WHCA to stake out, but there were plenty of reasons to boot Thomas from the front row long before her anti-Semitic ranting made for viral video.
White House press corps dean Helen Thomas -- on the day that the White House hosted a Jewish Heritage Celebration, no less -- said that Jews who live in Israel should "get the hell out of Palestine" and go "home."
When asked where home was for Israeli Jews, Thomas offered "Poland, Germany... and America and everywhere else" from which the founding generation of the State of Israel originally hailed.
It's been centuries decades since anyone believed Helen Thomas was anywhere near an objective journalist, but this makes it clear that she's at best tactless and unreasonable and at worst an anti-Semite.
Question to mull over in the comments section: Should Thomas lose her coveted seat in the White House press briefing room over this?
NewsBusters Publisher Brent Bozell appeared on WMAL's "Grandy Group" shortly after 8 a.m. this morning.
The Media Research Center President discussed the media's anti-Israel bias flaring up afresh after the Gaza flotilla incident (click image at right for MP3 audio):
FRED GRANDY, host: You follow this more closely than do I. Um, over the last three or four days, has al-Jazeera acquired NBC, CBS, ABC, all the major outlets, because it seems there's such a clear media bias against what Israel did that it's hard for the truth to get out. Who ever thought that Benjamin Netanyahu and Joe Biden would be the two guys speaking truth to power on this?!
BRENT BOZELL: You know, it's very sad but this is a continuation of a narrative we've seen since the late 1980s with the intifadas that Palestine was launching against Israel where Palestine was always the innocent one and Israel was always the aggressor. You've got to put the story into context.
"Don't you think you're jumping the gun a little bit? I mean, the show's not even on the air."
That's how MSNBC's Contessa Brewer opened her June 3 interview with Rabbi Daniel Lapin, who appeared via satellite to discuss his work with the newly-formed Citizens Against Religious Bigotry (CARB) to get advertisers on Viacom's Comedy Central to publicly pledge to not support or underwrite a show currently in pre-production entitled "JC" for Jesus Christ. For full disclosure, NewsBusters publisher Brent Bozell is a founding member of CARB.
"Just playing devil's advocate here, because I am the daughter of a Baptist preacher, don't you think Jesus Christ is tough enough to withstand it?" Brewer prodded Lapin. After all, "he's a big guy," Brewer argued. [MP3 audio available for download here; WMV video for download here]
Given the irreverent and downright blasphemous treatment Jesus Christ and God have gotten at the hands of "South Park" and Sarah Silverman, Brewer later asked Lapin, in all seriousness, "What if this turns out to be more like a Sunday School lesson than the worst imaginings of you and Bill Donohue of the Catholic League and on and on?"
NewsBusters Publisher and Media Research Center President Brent Bozell and five other members of the Citizens Against Religious Bigotry (CARB) coalition will hold a tele-news conference tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. EDT to ask advertisers on Viacom's Comedy Central to publicly pledge to not support/underwrite a show currently in pre-production. The show is entitled "JC" - as in Jesus Christ.
[More information on how to join the call-in appears below the page break]
Joining Bozell on the call will be Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, syndicated radio host Michael Medved, Catholic League president Bill Donohue, Parents Television Council president Tim Winter, and Rabbi Daniel Lapin of the American Alliance of Jews and Christians.
For the conference call, Bozell will unveil an exclusive, four-minute video mash-up of some of the network's many offensive clips referencing Jesus Christ and God, as evidence of what we can most likely expect from "JC."
The CARB leaders will reconvene for another tele-press conference call on June 17th, to announce the names of the companies that have publicly pledged to not sponsor religious bigotry. And to discuss further action for those who fail to do so.
It shouldn't surprise anyone that Viacom's Comedy Central is developing an animated show practically designed to offend Christians. But the network's handling of recent controversy over depictions of the Muslim prophet Muhammad illustrates a stark double standard in how the entertainment media deal with issues of religion.
Comedy Central announced it is developing the script for an animated show tentatively titled "JC." According to the network's release, the show is about Jesus Christ "wanting to escape his father's enormous shadow to live life in [New York City] as a regular guy." The announcement described God as "all-powerful yet apathetic" and said the show would be a "playful take on religion and society with a sprinkle of dumb."
The show promises to stand in sharp contrast to the network's treatment of another religious figure: Muhammad. In 2006, Comedy Central censored a segment of "South Park" that depicted Muhammad. In April of this year, the network added audio bleeps to the second of a two-part episode to cover any mention of the prophet, as well as an end-of-show speech about freedom of expression and giving in to intimidation. The first episode of the story arc featured Mohammad hidden inside a moving truck and a bear costume.
This censorship came in response to a threat from a radical Islamic website, based in the United States, which warned that "South Park" creators would face violent retribution for "insulting" Muhammad by featuring (although not showing him) on the episode.
Newsweek's Lisa Miller again lashed out against the Catholic Church in her column on Thursday, defending an excommunicated Catholic nun in Arizona for her "compassionate and impossible decision" in supporting a hospital patient's abortion. Miller also condemned a Vatican cardinal's investigation into American nuns as a whole as "authoritarian meddling."
The religion editor for the dwindling magazine began her column, "Female Troubles," by sympathizing with Sister Margaret McBride, an administrator at St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix, who ruled with her hospital's ethics committee that a first-trimester abortion which took place in late 2009 was medically necessary:
Earlier this month, in something of a surprise, a nun at a Catholic hospital in Phoenix was excommunicated for approving a first-trimester abortion last year at that hospital to save the life of a critically ill patient....The irony here is thick: it has taken years, sometimes decades, to bring sex-abusing priests to justice, but this observant sister, Margaret McBride, was excommunicated in a matter of months for making a compassionate and impossible decision for one of her parishioners.
“cinematic Viagra for Western cultural imperialists”-Salon.com
Of all the criticisms that could likely be launched against Warner Bros.’ new “Sex and the City 2” movie, the media have latched onto the film’s reported depictions of misogynist policies in Muslim nations.
It was USA Today thatcalled the movie“an affront to Muslims.” Reviewer Claudia Puig wrote that director Michael Patrick King “is out of his league attempting to comment on the inequitable treatment of Muslim women. He ends up mocking religious beliefs and making Carrie and her friends appear insensitive.”
On Tuesday’s Lopez Tonight on TBS, magicians Penn and Teller appeared as guests, and, while discussing their controversial program "Bullshit!" on Showtime, and the show’s history of criticizing religion, Penn Jillette conceded a compliment to American Christians that they are "the most tolerant people worldwide." He also admitted that it was a "shock" to discover the relative tolerance of American Christians after the airing of the show from last August attacking the Catholic Church, as he compared reaction from Christians to that from other groups the show has attacked, such as 9/11 conspiracy theorists. Jillette:
Well, you know, we've done heavy stuff. I mean, we've done the Vatican. We've done Mother Teresa. We've done the Dalai Lama. We've done really, really heavy subjects. And I've got to say it was actually a shock doing the show, the religious communities in the United States of America are the most tolerant people worldwide. I mean, we did really aggressive stuff we believe strongly, and mostly got letters from Christians and Catholics saying we really like how passionately and clearly you put out your ideas. Very few nut cases.
But it could also be argued that Jillette’s account makes American Christians sound almost too accepting of the show’s criticism of Christianity and downplays the fact that there was legitimate criticism of the show and its accuracy.
Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the Tuesday, May 25, Lopez Tonight on TBS:
Around the same time they were caving in to pressure to delete all Mohammed references from an episode of "South Park," the geniuses at Comedy Central posted an online video game containing truly staggering anti-Semitic images.
This abomination was originally called "I.S.R.A.E.L. Attack!" due to the lead character being a murderous robot named "I.S.R.A.E.L." -- "Intelligent Smart Robot Animation Eraser."
As the game opens, the villain says, "You lied to me, Jew Producer" (video follows with lots of commentary, h/t Weasel Zippers):
It would not surprise me if the Associated Press's April Castro has spent the last 10 weeks gritting her teeth non-stop.
In March (covered at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), she was clearly peeved at the Texas State Board of Education. In a supposedly objective news story entitled "Texas ed board vote reflects far-right influences," she decried a "faction" (actually a nearly two-thirds majority) of Board members for "injecting conservative ideals into social studies, history and economics lessons."
I will take that as an admission that such ideals have previously been absent or barely present.
Friday, non-appreciative April was tasked with covering the Board's final adoption vote that ratified proposed curriculum changes. If we are to believe her (I know, that's dangerous), improvements (my word, certainly not hers) in the meantime appear to have been strengthened the reality basis, if you will, of the curriculum.
Here are the first five paragraphs of Ms. Castro's report (link is dynamic and subject to change). There are lots of errors in those paragraphs alone; readers are invited to see if they can catch the big cahuna:
This sounds like an obvious jazzy story for national news. Last September, the Empire State Building drew controversy (at least in anti-communist circles) for honoring the 60th anniversary of the communist revolution in China with red and yellow floodlights. But now, as Lou Young of WCBS-TV reports, the same brass at the Empire State Building refuse to honor saintly Mother Teresa with blue and white lights, the colors of her religious order. "It's kind of hard to be against Mother Teresa," said Archbishop Timothy Dolan.
The lighting would consist of a simple tribute in blue and white, the same colors used for a Yankees World Series win or an Israeli Independence Day. In this case it would be the colors worn by a crusader for the poor and a candidate for sainthood, the venerable Mother Teresa. Yet the people who own the Empire State Building said they won't pay this simple tribute in blue and white for the 100th anniversary of her birth this coming August, and they refuse to offer an explanation to people who made the application....
CBS 2 tried again Friday to see if we can get an answer for them, but every time we've asked it's been simply, "No comment." Then, they asked us to leave the building.
On HBO's Real Time Friday, Bill Maher fought with conservative atheist S.E. Cupp and claimed the news magazines weren't hostile to religion, but were overflowing with religion coverage. His exaggerations were wild, more than just for comic effect:
Are you kidding? Jesus or Mary is on the cover of Newsweek or Time like every other week. If Jesus had an office on Sunset Boulevard, and you walked down the corridor, he'd have his magazine covers on every wall. We did a mockup! There! This is the last few years.
If Maher or his underlings at HBO were really careful about facts about "the last few years," they'd know how far off this is: use the cover search on Time's website for "Jesus" and see how many Jesus covers since the 1900s ended: I count four. That's hardly "every other week."
There's "The Opus Dei Code" (April 24, 2006, not included on Maher's screen, since it might seem less than devout, slinging Da Vinci Code myths), "Secrets of the Nativity" (December 13, 2004), "Why Did Jesus Have to Die?" (April 12, 2004), and "What Jesus Saw" (April 16, 2001).
On Friday night's Real Time, HBO talk-host Bill Maher berated conservative (and fellow atheist) S.E. Cupp for her new book Losing Our Religion: The Liberal Media's Attack on Christianity. “Liberals are not atheists any more than conservatives are. Michael Moore is religious! Chris Matthews is religious! Al Sharpton is religious!” Maher went so far as to insist the liberal media has “never” attacked religion:
MAHER: But this is your premise, that the liberal media is attacking religion.
From Uppsala, Sweden comes the news that cartoonist Lars Vilks was attacked and head-butted by an angry Muslim at a university lecture. A group of Muslims surrounding him shouted “God is great!” in Arabic as the cartoonist laid on the floor, his glasses broken. Ever since Vilks impolitely drew the prophet Muhammad's head on a dog, he’s been a wanted man. Even the American terrorist wannabe nicknamed “Jihad Jane” plotted to kill him.
This explains why Comedy Central’s “South Park” has been censoring images that might offend Muslims. The executives at Comedy Central (and their parent company Viacom) regularly pledge allegiance to freedom of expression, but don't really believe it – not when they ponder someone cracking their skulls at a Beverly Hills restaurant.
It's not just “South Park.” Jo Piazza of Foxnews.com reports that after the failed Times Square bombing, Comedy Central's “The Daily Show” told their “senior Islamic correspondent” Aasif Mandvi not to comment further on it. One writer for a scripted drama told Piazza that in one of his show's final episodes there had been a minor plot involving a Muslim extremist. Last week, “it was removed and the script was rewritten.”
It’s clear that Mohammed is off limits – and it’s just as crystal clear that Jesus Christ remains the juiciest of targets.
Republicans are likely to go with Tampa, Florida, as the venue for their 2012 presidential nominating convention in part because evangelicals hate Mormons. That's the gospel truth, at least according to Chris Matthews, who yesterday went on a loopy rant that was pure bluster and completely unsubstantiated in its assertions.
[MP3 audio available here; click play on the embedded video at right for video]
Matthews informed viewers that an RNC selection committee had submitted its recommendation of Tampa -- the RNC still has to give its formal approval -- over other finalists Phoenix, Arizona, and Salt Lake City, Utah. The "Hardball" host than gave his theory behind why the latter two cities were rejected, failing, of course, to cite any sources nor to add the caveat that this was purely his own speculation.
[Update, 6:06 pm Eastern: CNN ran a slanted commercial promoting Tuchman's report on Anderson Cooper 360 on Monday afternoon, touting how then-Cardinal Ratzinger apparently "resisted" Bishop Cummins's requests to expel the abuser from the priesthood. (see video at right).]
CNN's Gary Tuchman revisited a three-week-old story on a priest abuse case in California during a segment on Monday's AC360, and did his best to cast Pope Benedict XVI's handling of the priest's removal from priestly life (laicization), when he was Cardinal Ratzinger, in the worst light possible. Tuchman omitted key details about the case which clarify the then-cardinal's conduct in handling it.
Anchor Anderson Cooper gave a slanted introduction to the correspondent's report, which aired 46 minutes into the 10 pm Eastern hour: "Protecting predator priests instead of their prey- that is at the center of the growing sex scandal rocking the Catholic Church. And as we've been reporting, questions surrounded Pope Benedict XVI...Well, tonight, an accusation from survivors of abuse in California, that the future pope delayed the removal of a pedophile priest, and as you'll see if in our '360' investigation, the most damaging evidence may have been put in writing."
As Father Daniel Coughlin marks 10 years of ministry as the chaplain to the U.S. House of Representatives, the Washington Post found an occasion to suggest to readers that Republicans who now praise the priest's service as the first-ever Catholic to hold the post have overcome a prejudice against the Catholic Church.
"In the beginning, there was partisanship," staff writer Ben Pershing began his April 27 article with a clever homage to the opening line of Genesis, but flash forward to last week and behold, "lawmakers from both parties streamed onto the House floor to honor [Coughlin's] of service."
Pershing explained to readers that back in 2000, another Catholic priest, Timothy J. O'Brien, "had more support on the [bipartisan chaplain search] committee" than Presbyterian minister Charles Wright, the candidate whom then-House Speaker Denny Hastert (R-Ill.) picked to replace outgoing House chaplain, Rev. James Ford, a Lutheran.
"Democrats suggested that Hastert's choice might reflect an anti-Catholic bias among Republicans," Pershing noted, adding that a "furious" Hastert then "urged Wright to withdraw" and then named Father Coughlin, a priest who had not been among the finalists, as the new House chaplain.
But Pershing left out a more plausible and decidedly less sinister explanation for why Hastert picked Wright in the first place, something that Post staffer Bill Broadway noted in his February 19, 2000 article, "Holy War in the House" (excerpt below via Nexis, emphasis mine):
Newsweek continued its campaign against the Catholic Church on Friday by letting one of the leading atheist (not to leave out anti-Catholic) voices internationally, Christopher Hitchens, spout half-truths and smears about Pope Benedict XVI and the Church. Most egregiously, Hitchens inaccurately stated that Vatican City "was created by Benito Mussolini," thus trying to tie Catholicism to fascism.
Whatever your view on homosexuality might be as it pertains to Christianity, there's probably one place one wouldn't go to seek clarity on the issue - a Jewish TV host that's in his seventh marriage.
However, CNN, the so-called most trusted name in news, had "Larry King Live" host Larry King tackle this issue on his April 23 program in a special broadcast entitled "Can You Be Christian and Gay?" King's special featured recently-out Christian singer Jennifer Knapp, embattled former evangelical preacher Ted Haggard and Horizon Christian Fellowship Senior Pastor Bob Botsford.
The Pentagon rescinded the invitation of evangelist Franklin Graham to speak at its May 6 National Day of Prayer event because of complaints about his previous comments about Islam.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation expressed its concern over Graham's involvement with the event in an April 19 letter sent to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. MRFF's complaint about Graham, the son of Rev. Billy Graham, focused on remarks he made after 9/11 in which he called Islam "wicked" and "evil" and his lack of apology for those words.
Col. Tom Collins, an Army spokesman, told ABC News on April 22, "This Army honors all faiths and tries to inculcate our soldiers and work force with an appreciation of all faiths and his past comments just were not appropriate for this venue."
(Updated with anti-Catholic "New Rules" jokes below.) Liberals complained this week when Rep. Michele Bachmann complained about "gangster government." But do they mind if the Catholic Church is compared to (and prosecuted like) the Mafia? So said former Gov. Jesse Ventura on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher on Friday.
MAHER: You did a movie called Predator. Let's talk about the Vatican.
VENTURA: That's a predator, too. Never got me, though, the Vatican. An alien did.
MAHER: My crazy radical friends Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins say that if the Pope travels to England, as he is scheduled to in September, he should be arrested when he hits the tarmac. Now do you think that's going too far?
VENTURA: ...I have another alternative, a question I've asked here in the United States. Why hasn't the Catholic Church been prosecuted under the RICO laws of organized crime?
It's quite clever and misleading for Newsweek and The Washington Post to name their religion site "On Faith." It's a little like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals starting a website simply called "On Meat."
Author Donna Freitas, called "The Stubborn Catholic," is absolutely thrilled with the idea that two very publicly vicious atheists want to arrest the Pope when he visits the United Kingdom. She declared "warm and fuzzy" feelings for them.
Have you heard? Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins want to arrest the Pope when he visits England! I know it's more or less a publicity stunt and that theoretically I should be shaking my head in disapproval because it sounds so off the charts outrageous to do such a thing.
But to be honest: I'm kinda excited about it. I kinda want to be shouting, "You go, boys!" A part of me is chuckling about this. In a Mwa mwa mwa sort of tongue-in-cheek way.
Jessica Yellin continued CNN's biased coverage towards Pope Benedict XVI, the Catholic Church, and the sex abuse scandal on Friday's Campbell Brown program. After replaying a report from Tuesday on one dissenting priest's call for the Pope's resignation, Yellin misleadingly asked, "Why is he [the Pope] having such a hard time saying he's sorry?" She also brought on two liberals to discuss the scandal.
Before the replay of correspondent Mary Snow's report on Father James Scahill's public call for Benedict XVI's resignation at 26 minutes into the 8 pm Eastern hour, Yellin, who was filling-in for anchor Campbell Brown, noted that "just yesterday, in a rare reference to the scandal, the Pope called for penitence for the Church's sins. But for some, penitence is not enough." After Snow's report, the substitute anchor read a promo for the upcoming segment, which included the "why is he having such a hard time saying he's sorry" claim.
Another day another anti-religion piece from Huffington Post Religion. On April 14 columnist Derek Beres wrote “Why Arresting the Pope is a Great Idea.” Not only that, but Beres actually compared Pope Benedict to director Roman Polanski, who raped a young girl. He also, of course, couldn’t resist ranting against the Church’s teachings on priests remaining celibate.
Atheists Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have called for Pope Benedict’s arrest when he travels to Britain. Beres labeled this idea as “common sense.”
“If Roman Polanski can be arrested on sexual abuse charges after 32 years of hiding,” Beres wrote, “so can the Pope, holy or not.”
Double standards are often nothing of the sort, and charges of double standards are often dodges by the disingenuous designed to convince the sophomoric that adhering to any kind of standard is inherently unjust. But then there are some actual double standards that are so shamelessly transparent that one should be embarrassed to even utter them.
Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood-Elsewhere.com does not seem to be embarrassed. He recently unleashed the full power of his ire upon the Pope over the recent child abuse accusations. And his ire is awesome to behold, as we can learn from the plugs and testimonials his website continuously flashes – plugs testifying to his influence from the very same Hollywoodoids whose toes he claims to be willing to tread upon with abandon.
In short, Wells supports the wacky idea that a couple of well-known atheists should somehow arrest Pope Benedict on his trip to England: