Somebody better break it to the New York Times: they might still be the paper of record in their own minds, but to the rest of the world they're just one more dead-tree joint struggling for attention.
The Old Grey Lady's unjustified conceit was on display during this afternoon's Hardball, when one of its columnists was aghast that Chris Matthews had had the audacity not to have read her oeuvre.
Deborah Solomon, who has a weekly column in the NYT Sunday magazine, had interviewed the Rev. John Hagee, a minister who has endorsed McCain and has made a number of controversial statements. I'd mention in passing that while Hagee's critics have accused him of anti-Semitism, he has in fact received numerous awards from Jewish groups for his steadfast support of Israel.
Barack Obama’s interview with Anderson Cooper on Wednesday night's "Anderson Cooper 360" on CNN was quite gentle. While Cooper did press Obama to address some of the criticisms that have erupted over his pastor Jeremiah Wright, he did not press him about Wright’s criticism of white people, or his claims of the government giving blacks AIDS, only one (truncated) 9/11 passage. Cooper used ten-foot-pole language about those people who would be alarmed by Wright’s America-bashing remarks: "Patriotism is going to be used by whoever it is you are facing." Used? Have you ever noticed how the media never asks if America is being "used" by leaders who spit on America?
Obama was spinning furiously.
I never heard anything nasty about America.
COOPER: In the past, you said you didn't think that your church was particularly controversial. Yesterday, in the speech, you said that -- you admitted that you did hear in the church remarks that could be considered controversial. Do you know specifically? Do you remember what you heard?
Anti-Catholicism still thrives at the Los Angeles Times, even though readers of the paper continue to call them on it. Last week, the Times published a smarmy op-ed by "humor" writer Barry Gottlieb ("That 'thou shalt not' list just got longer," 3/17/08). In addition to propagating the false story that the Vatican had composed a list of "new sins" (it didn't), Gottlieb mocked Catholic belief, ridiculed the sacraments, and derided the Church. In other words, it was just another episode of Catholic bashing at the Times.
Today (Thu. 3/20/08) - to its credit - the Times published three letters to the editor from readers who objected to the column's blatant bigotry. (I couldn't help but embolden some of the right-on points.)
This screed [Gottlieb's piece] insulting the Catholic religion is inexcusable. To publish this in a daily paper is an insult to every Catholic reader.
Time editor Rick Stengel made his regular Thursday Morning Joe appearance today, revealing the magazine's cover to be published tomorrow. But while we learned that the Dalai Lama's photo will appear there, the bigger story is the "cover" Time is trying to provide for Barack Obama's Rev. Wright problem.
Here's the gist of Time's defense of Obama, a distillation of Stengel's statements and Time articles by Amy Sullivan and Joe Klein:
An important aspect of the problem is that white Americans are incredibly ignorant about black churches in America.
In fact, Rev. Wright's church isn't that radical as black churches go.
It was understandable for Obama to have joined Wright's church. At the time he was a 27-year old bi-racial man trying to figure out his identity as the son of an atheist father and skeptic mother and needed a church "he could learn from."
It's understandable that Obama didn't leave the church: it's like reading a book--you don't necessarily agree with the author.
Obama's speech was a "triumph," and Americans will be thinking "small" if they make the Wright thing a big issue in the campaign.
Roland Martin, a talk radio host out of Chicago and contributor to CNN, appearing on the network immediately Barack Obama’s "race speech" on Tuesday morning, compared the reaction to Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s much-publicized comments to the reaction to the Catholic sex scandal. Co-anchor Heidi Collins asked, "He [Obama] didn't disagree strong enough to go to a different church though. He stayed for many, many years. How do you think that will play?" Martin’s responded, "But frankly, I think that is irrelevant, because I don't -- look, I was born and raised Catholic. The first 25 years of my life of my life, I was Catholic.... And there are a number of people out there who are still Catholic today, even though the Church dropped the ball when it came to the whole issue of sex offenders, and some who left. But that's fine. But the reality is a person's faith is a personal decision."
Martin made similar comments on Monday’s "Newsroom" program during a discussion of Rev. Wright’s comments with co-anchor Don Lemon and Republican strategist Cheri Jacobus at the bottom of the 3 pm Eastern hour. "[Y]ou have a number of people who have said that, for Catholics, will you leave the Catholic Church because of what the church did when it came to sexual abuse victims? And you know what? A lot of folks have stayed."
The statements that Rev. Wright made that are the cause of this controversy were not statements I personally heard him preach while I sat in the pews of Trinity or heard him utter in private conversation. -- Barack Obama, Huffington Post, March 14, 2008
The key question before Barack Obama today was the one going to his integrity: was he was telling the truth when he claimed in his HuffPo piece of March 14th that he never heard Wright make, in public or private, the remarks "that are the cause of this controversy"?
During the roundtable segment on Monday's The Situation Room, CNN's Jack Cafferty compared the racist and anti-American words of Barack Obama's pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, to Jerry Falwell's and Pat Robertson's condemnation of the many abortions in America. Cafferty, who in January suggested that abortion is a "crap" issue, asserted: "How is this different than John McCain chasing after Pat Robertson or the late Reverend Jerry Falwell, who talk about how we have a culture of murdering unborn children in this country and that we've turned into Sodom because we coddled the gay community in this country? I mean, to me, that stuff is considerably more offensive than decrying racial violence and intolerance in this country, which members of the black community have some firsthand knowledge of." (Transcript follows)
The Early Show did its best this morning to help Barack Obama climb out of the hole he's dug for himself with his close association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
In a set-up segment, CBS's Dean Reynolds rhetorically asked: "the question is whether the rhetoric is so remarkable, because in African-American churches pastors often seek to rouse their congregants to self-reliance by speaking harshly about the country's troubled racial past and the need to overcome it."
Nice try, but how does accusing the US government of introducing AIDS and giving black people drugs equate to a call for self-reliance?
Reynolds concluded by stating that the Obama campaign is concerned that its candidate has been "victimized" in the same way the Trinity church claims Rev. Wright has.
Then it was on to a Russ Mitchell interview of the Rev. Dr. Calvin Butts, III of Harlem's famed Abyssinian Baptist Church. The thrust of Mitchell's questions and Rev. Butts' responses was that the controversy is being blown out of proportion, that fiery rhetoric is a tradition in black churches with roots in the Bible and even in the words of Jesus. Moreover, it would be wrong to expect congregants to criticize their pastors' words.
One set of facts, two diametrically different NYT op-eds addressing it this morning. The fact: that Barack Obama is backpedaling as fast as he can away from the hateful anti-American rhetoric of Jeremiah Wright. The op-eds: Bill Kristol's, offering a dose of sobering realism about Obama's feet that if not of clay, then are certainly those of a garden-variety politician.
And then there's Roger Cohen's, the Obama fan who, in a bit of breathtaking revisionism, would explain away Barack's moonwalk on the theory the candidate has simply "grown beyond" the problematic preacher. And Cohen's just fine with that.
How much trouble is Barack Obama in over the extremism of Jeremiah Wright? Enough that Dem strategist Donna Brazile has been reduced to arguing that as black preachers go, Wright is relatively moderate. Enough that the normally affable Brazile got a bit short with Time editor Mark Halperin, he of the infamous memo to his subordinates during the 2004 presidential campaign while serving as ABC News political director.
The comments came during the panel discussion on today's This Week with George Stephanopoulos on ABC.
The liberal media has a simple policy about the religion of candidates. Democratic front-runners are "devout Christians," whether they go to church or not, since liberalism and the Lord’s work are pretty much the same thing. Republicans are the ones whose religious beliefs and associations are approached with fear and loathing.
Take one recent eruption from Obama about so-called gay marriage, as reported by CNSNews.com. "If people find that controversial, then I would just refer them to the Sermon on the Mount, which I think is, in my mind, for my faith, more central than an obscure passage in Romans." The scowling echo in that phrase disturbed many, that a Christian would say this piece of the Bible is true, and that other line of God’s word is obscure and worth ignoring. Is Obama trying to assemble today’s version of Thomas Jefferson’s bible, cutting out only the passages that display the Jesus he believes in, and shredding the rest?
I've enjoyed Tucker Carlson's show and can't let it pass into history, as it did last night, without a mention here. MSNBC has said that Tucker will remain at the network as an at-large commentator, and I have a feeling that, liberated from show-host concerns, he might become even more uninhibited in the expression of his quirkily conservative/libertarian views.
So let's usher Tucker out by focusing on one of our favorite nemeses, Rosa Brooks, the liberal LA Times columnist who appeared on the show's final episode. The unreconstructed Obama apologist offered the lamest excuse yet for his failure to have disassociated himself earlier from the ugly rhetoric of Rev. Jeremiah Wright: Barack simply wasn’t paying attention in the pews.
How's this for a balanced Today panel to discuss the impact of Rev. Jeremiah Wright's extremism on Barack Obama: two liberals who agree it shouldn't hurt him, with one suggesting the situation might even help Obama?
The panel discussion was preceded by a segment narrated by Lee Cowan, the NBC correspondent covering the Obama campaign who has admitted "it's almost hard to remain objective" about Barack. Cowan buttressed his case in that regard. After playing the clip of Rev. Wright using the n-word to make an invidious comparison between Obama and Hillary, Cowan claimed the words were "old." True--if Cowan considers December, 2007, when Wright uttered them--ancient history.
Then it was on weekend co-anchor Amy Robach's interview of Michael Dyson and Melinda Hennenberger. Dyson, who as Robach noted is an Obama supporter, is a Georgetown professor and MSNBC political analyst. He has in the past garnered headlines for his fierce criticism of Bill Cosby, claiming among other things that Cosby "battered poor blacks" with his calls for self-reliance.
Lewis Black is a stand-up comedian. His shtick is foam-flecked fits of rage and profanity. Amazon.com advertised one of his DVDs by promising "There's eye-crossing, teeth-gnashing, raspy-voiced yelling, and liberal use of the F-word." In his show at Washington’s Warner Theatre, Black complained the Kennedy Center refused their facilities on the grounds that he dropped F-bombs 42 times in his first hour-long HBO special.
With a record like that, it should be no surprise that he’s a star on Comedy Central, that venomous Viacom property that markets mockery of everything polite, charitable, and (especially) holy. Black is the star of a brand-new Comedy Central show, named "The Root of All Evil." Comedians act like prosecutors, with Black as judge, trying to determine which of two allegedly evil forces is worse. The battle for the debut episode: Oprah Winfrey vs. the Catholic Church.
This is the same hate-spewing channel that mocked the Pope on "South Park" and skewered Catholicism on the holiday special "Merry F—ing Christmas." Now, on the cusp of the Easter celebration, it’s Catholic-hunting season again.
Who cares if our next president has chosen as his "spiritual guide" someone who calls on God to damn America, and believes the US brought 9-11 on itself? Completely off track! Let's get back to the important stuff. You know, like the fine print of the candidate's plan to nationalize health care.
That in a nutshell is Anderson Cooper's kvetch about the controversy over the outrageous statements made by Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright, Jr., the pastor of Barack Obama's church and the man Obama has described as his spiritual guide and advisor.
Cooper made his comments on his 360 show this evening.
ANDERSON COOPER: Is this just the kind of thing that happens in campaigns? It seems we're almost at a point now where it's this or other issues for the Clinton campaign where people are just latching onto anything to strike a blow against their opponent. All this seems to have nothing to do with actual issues that the country is facing which these candidates should be talking about and we probably should be talking about.
At the end of a Good Morning America segment today about Barack Obama's pastor, the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., an Obama campaign representative complained that John McCain's pastor had not been similarly "vetted." If that's true, then ABC or some other media outlet surely should and will do so.
Let's imagine that upon vetting, McCain's pastor is found to have made statements that were the mirror-image of those that Rev. Wright has made. How long would McCain remain a viable candidate? Judge for yourself, based on Rev. Wright's statements as exposed in the GMA segment that was the result of work by ABC's chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross. GMA aired a number of clips from sermons Rev. Wright gave at his Trinity United Church of Christ.
JEREMIAH WRIGHT: "The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law, and then wants us to sing God Bless America? No, no, no! Not God bless America. God damn America! It's in the Bible, for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating its citizens as less than human!"
[Update, 5:39 pm Eastern: The Acton Institute's office in Rome has provided an English translation of Bishop Girotti's interview. In it, the bishop has his own criticism for the media. "[I]t is necessary also to denounce the emphasis given to the media that on a daily basis casts discredit on the Church.]
A supposed list of "new sins" from the Vatican, such as pollution and genetic manipulation, made headlines across the world on Monday. The list actually didn’t come from any official Catholic Church document, but from an interview of a bishop that was published in L'Osservatore Romano, the "semi-official" newspaper in Vatican City, and it exposed the mainstream media’s fundamental misunderstanding of Christianity in general, and the Catholic Church specifically.
L'Osservatore Romano printed the interview of Gianfranco Girotti, a bishop who is a member of the Vatican’s Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Penitentiary, in its March 9 edition. In it, Girotti discussed "new forms of social sin," and gave examples such genetic manipulation and drug trafficking. Girotti, who is the number-two official at the Tribunal, is in the mid-level of the Vatican’s bureaucracy, and wouldn’t make any official decisions on behalf of the Catholic Church.
Despite Girotti’s lack of real authority, the mainstream media hyped up the interview as being authoritative. The Daily Telegraph’s website claimed that Girotti’s list of "new forms of social sin" "replaces the list originally drawn up by Pope Gregory the Great in the 6th Century, which included envy, gluttony, greed, lust, wrath and pride." Reuters’ article reported that "the Vatican has told the faithful that they should be aware of "new" sins such as causing environmental blight." CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, on Monday’s "The Situation Room," even went so far to say that "some Christian teachings say love thy neighbor and don't lie, cheat, or steal? But might would one more virtue be added -- go green? Find out why the pope says polluting the planet is a sin." And Pope Benedict XVI wasn’t even the one who was interviewed by L'Osservatore Romano!
Of course, 44 Southern Baptists who buy into the green agenda received a respectful print story in the March 10 Times, widely quoting the church leaders saying things like: "when we destroy God's creation, it's similar to ripping pages from the Bible."
Judas Iscariot was really, really torn about betraying Jesus and was just misunderstood, anyway. And Pontius Pilate? Well, he was just an honest, but beleaguered public servant who was just trying to please his wife. Both men were not really bad guys.... or at least that is how the BBC will present these characters in their newest re-imagining of the final days of Jesus Christ to air this Easter -- an effort that comes on the heels of last year's version of the Nativity that portrayed Mary and Joseph as illegal immigrants.
The producers, of course, are denying that they intend to re-write the character's history, but they do admit that they are trying to portray Judas Iscariot and Pontius Pilate in a "more sympathetic light" causing Christians to cringe over the PC treatment.
"I said it before and I'll say it again," Amanpour said. "I believe that we failed as a profession to do our duty which is simply to ask the hard questions, to stay on it, to fact check and to cross-check and to not take one version of the story hook, line and sinker."
"Good Morning America" correspondent Chris Connelly talked with horror novelist, turned religious fiction writer, Anne Rice on Thursday about how friends reacted to her becoming a "Jesus freak." Though the interview was a friendly one, Connelly did ask, in a jovial tone, what it was like when friends said, "'Oh, my gosh. She's out of her mind. Oh, no. Look, she's become a 'Jesus freak.'"
Now, he did attempt to distance himself from the phrase "Jesus freak" by using air quotes, but would any reporter employ a similar term when dealing with a member of another faith? Continuing the over-the-top "conversation" that Connelly assumed people had with her, he imagined, "'She's gone over to the bright side. Where is our empress of vampiric alienation?'"
"Hmm, what's this?" I thought, so I clicked on the link to find a story by ABC's Martin Bashir teasing a February 26 "Nightline" story about N.T. Wright, an Anglican bishop and theologian. [It should be noted that Bashir referred to Wright by his middle name Thomas Wright rather than N.T. Wright, which is how you can search for his written works and Web site.]
Unfortunately in what was otherwise an informative and interesting article, I came across some passages that may illustrate how inaccurate Bashir's understanding of historic Christian doctrine is (emphasis mine):
‘View’ co-host Joy Behar followed up her anti-Catholic "saints are crazy" line, noting she "got in trouble with the Catholic Church." Though she emphasized it was "not all but some," she still called them "nuts" and "psychotic," and added that "not all of them deserved to be saints." Behar also added her opinions how crazy people in medieval Europe would be able to escape punishment by saying they were saints.
"I mean, let’s say that you were a person in those days, right? And you were hearing voices, and maybe you were mentally ill, but you were not stupid. As they say ‘I may be crazy, but I’m not stupid.’ So you said to yourself, ‘let’s see, if people think I’m crazy they’re going to put me in a dungeon. If I pretend to be a saint, they’ll name a church after me.’"
"Good Morning America" co-host Chris Cuomo presented a decidedly one-sided segment on Monday about the "gender discrimination" expressed by a private religious school in Kansas that refused to allow a female basketball referee the chance to call a boy's varsity game. Cuomo announced, "many" think that "religious belief does not give the school the right to discriminate."
The ABC host offered almost no consideration to the argument, made by St. Mary's Academy, that men are best equipped to guide boys and prepare them for future life endeavors. (The referee in question, Michelle Campbell, asserted that she was not allowed to call the game because the school believes women shouldn't have authority over men.) Instead, he offered loaded questions to Campbell, who appeared on the show: "Gender discrimination is not something new. We know about it. But were you surprised that something this obvious still confronted you today....Were you surprised?"
Eyeblast has the video: On CNN's The Situation Room on Friday, former NBA star (and current TNT basketball analyst) Charles Barkley trashed conservatives as "fake Christians." You could tell how much CNN was going to enjoy this. At the top of the hour, anchorman Wolf Blitzer promised: "Plus, he's rooting for Barack Obama and he's taking shots at Republicans and the religious right. You're going to find out who NBA great Charles Barkley is calling fake." The screen graphic also read: "Barkley Takes on the Right: Blasts 'Fake' Christians." Blitzer made no attempt to ask the basketball star how a "real" Christian can whole-heartedly support Obama's liberal social agenda.
Ted Turner may no longer own CNN and TNT, but his spirit -- "Christianity is a religion for losers" and pro-lifers were "bozos" and "idiots" -- is still strong in his former properties. Does TNT really want to invite all this political and religious controversy to turn people away from watching their basketball broadcasts?
A conservative Christian group yesterday criticized a large Methodist church in the District for planning to offer services that recognize gay and lesbian relationships, saying they violate the United Methodist ban on same-sex unions.
Foundry United Methodist Church, which Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton attended when he was president, decided last month to support its senior pastor's decision to lead services that "recognize and honor" committed gay relationships. Foundry clergy, however, do not perform union ceremonies, the local bishop said.
One could feel the disdain that Emma Jane Kirby felt toward Catholicism in a recent travel piece by BBC News. Her disgust and utter dismissal of the Catholic holy site at Lourdes, France was so thick it verged on hatred. Knocking the sentiment behind Lourdes, slamming the "fusty" feel to the place, mocking its religious sincerity and, finally, ending in condescension, Kirby was so disturbed by her visit that she exclaimed "Good God!" and did so "not in any laudatory way," as she points out. Her piece was a pure hit job on Lourdes in particular and Catholicism in general and provides another great example of European's hatred for religion and the BBC's campaign against traditional culture.
Lourdes is a massive Roman Catholic pilgrimage site with more hotels than any other French city, except Paris... It reminded me of my father's attic - small, overcrowded, fusty, and so stuffed full of junk that the minute I entered I used to panic, desperate to get out again.
Yesterday my colleague Noel Sheppard noted that some Anglican bishops are urging their flocks to go "carbon" free during Lent. Along the same eco-insanity line, Chicago Tribune's religion blogger Manya Brachear submitted a post on Tuesday wondering if there's a "moral obligation" that Catholic priests have to urge their parishioners to go "fishless" or vegetarian on Fridays given concerns about mercury contamination:
Roman Catholic bishops once urged parishioners to observe meatless Fridays as a year-round act of penance. Since Vatican II, bishops have upheld meatless Fridays only during Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter. The only exception is fish, prompting an annual run on seafood markets and a slew of fish fries in place of church potlucks.
But the dangers of eating tuna and swordfish, which scientists say is loaded with mercury, might be more flagellation than bishops had in mind. With Lent beginning Wednesday, should clergy encourage their flock to give up certain kinds of fish or go vegetarian?
Something from what I like to call the forgive but never forget file. From the MRC.org CyberAlert archives, March 7, 2001:
Ted Turner insulted attendees at Bernard Shaw’s retirement party, asking those on Ash Wednesday with a smudge on their foreheads if they were "a bunch of Jesus freaks," FNC’s Brit Hume reported Tuesday night.
Hume revealed during his "Grapevine" segment on Special Report with Brit Hume: