Okay, selling Oprah as God-like has been done as a joke before, but Yahoo is highlighting an Ann Oldenburg article in USA Today taking it seriously, headlined "The divine Miss Winfrey?" Oldenburg began:
After two decades of searching for her authentic self -- exploring New Age theories, giving away cars, trotting out fat, recommending good books and tackling countless issues from serious to frivolous – Oprah Winfrey has risen to a new level of guru...Over the past year, Winfrey, 52, has emerged as a spiritual leader for the new millennium, a moral voice of authority for the nation.
"She's a really hip and materialistic Mother Teresa," says Kathryn Lofton, a professor at Reed College in Portland, Ore., who has written two papers analyzing the religious aspects of Winfrey. "Oprah has emerged as a symbolic figurehead of spirituality." (Later, Lofton added, "She's a moral monitor, using herself as the template against which she measures the decency of a nation.")
The host of NBC's "Meet the Press" Tim Russert gave an interview to New York Times Magazine. Editor and Publisher obtained a preview.
Russert criticized Arriana Huffington of HuffingtonPost.com for her regular critiques of him, saying he doesn't read it because there are "so many untruths, it is scary. You know, there's a long history there."
He talked about Tony Snow, the incoming White House press secretary, and how he prepares for interviews the day before his Sunday talk show.
Elsewhere in his Times interveiw, Russert was asked if the White House, with ex-Fox News employee Tony Snow now running the press end, will give favorable treatment to Fox. "I don't think so," he replied. "No more than they got so far."
The liberal media are nothing if not militantly in favor of sex, and everything that enables it to be more frequent and fearless. Sunday’s cover story in the New York Times Magazine was a panicked take on "The War on Contraception." The title inside was "Contra-Contraception." The cover showed an enlarged picture of a mocked-up condom wrapper, which said:
If used properly, this latex condom (or for that matter, any other form of birth control, especially the morning-after pill) will anger a great many people – people who believe that having sex without the intent to procreate is a very, very bad thing. Any contraceptive highly effective against pregnancy – that is, unwanted pregnancy, otherwise, why use it? – is precisely the problem, even though there might be fewer abortions if those having sex with no intention to procreate used a contraceptive.
In what was perhaps an attempt to innoculate themselves against criticism of their hyping of the The Da Vinci Code next week with Matt Lauer’s "On The Road With The Code," NBC’s Today show looked at the rise of "Christian conservatives," this morning complete with an interview with Pastor Joel Osteen. During the interview Couric, who is leaving for her new multimillion dollar gig at the CBS Evening News, had the gall to question Osteen’s own ventures: "...how do you square your wealth with, with sort of the tenets of, of Christianity?"
Couric even cited Bible verses to the pastor: "I looked up a couple of quotes which I found interesting. I was curious how, again, how you could square these things. It said, this is, Matthew 19, verses 23 and 24. 'Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'I tell you the truth. It is hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.'"
Today's starters-- Media: Reacting to Muhammed cartoon controversy, student newspaper prints offensive Jesus toons, nothing
follows. Popular blog web presence provider Hosting Matters is down at
the moment, taking a number of popular blogs down with it. Tonight is
opening night of "Flight 93;" in it's scoring 94 percent positive in Rotten Tomatoes online reviews (HT Roger Simon.)
On Friday's Countdown show, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann plugged the Rolling Stone cover story by historian Sean Wilentz which argued that George W. Bush may be the worst President ever, citing the opinions of over 400 historians. As he introduced his interview with Wilentz, Olbermann sympathetically referred to the recently fired CIA employee who leaked classified information on the agency's use of secret prisons in Europe in the War on Terrorism, calling her a "whistleblower," and asked the question: "President Bush, whose administration is now firing, perhaps prosecuting whistleblowers, is he simply the worst?"
While introducing the segment, Olbermann listed several of Wilentz's attacks against Bush without challenging their validity, including accusations of "fabricated evidence" of WMD, a "retro fiscal policy" of "massive tax cuts" for the wealthy that "racked up monstrous deficits," and a criticism citing an unnamed Republican strategist who claimed that the Republican Party is "the first religious party in U.S. history." Olbermann, who perennially makes comparisons between George Orwell's novel 1984 and the Bush administration, managed to work in yet another reference to Orwell as he ended the interview mocking the administration's use of the term "pre-9/11 thinking," charging that Bush would accuse Wilentz and the other historians of being "guilty of pre-9/11 thinking, as George Orwell might have said." (Transcript follows)
There are a few other more personal notes in the Barbara Walters interview with Jane Fonda on PBS. Ted Turner's first words on his first date with Fonda are a little bizarre: "We got in the car. His first words to me was, ‘some of my best friends are communists. I’m thinking, ‘did he say that because he thinks I’m a communist, and it won’t get in the way’?" He named Gorbachev and Castro as his close friends.
Walters told Fonda "We all though that was a marriage that was pretty special." She asked "What broke it up? The rumor was that you became spiritual. You found religion. He didn’t like that." She also mentioned that Turner had adulterous relationships.
Fonda agreed that religion became a problem: "I did it while I was married to him and I didn’t tell him, which is not playing fair actually. But by then, we weren’t on the same team, basically. I felt myself being drawn to faith, very strongly, very viscerally, and Ted was the champion of the debate team at Brown. And I knew that if I talked to him about it, he who was an atheist, he would talk me out of it. And I was so raw and so new with this faith that I didn’t want to expose myself to that. So he found out and got upset, as well he should have. It was not a good thing for me to have done."
Actor Dennis Quaid was on this morning's Today show promoting his new movie American Dreamz whose movie poster proclaims: "Imagine A Country Where The President Never Reads The Newspaper, Where The Government Goes To War For All The Wrong Reasons And Where More People Vote For A Pop Idol Than Their Next President." But according to Quaid the movie is, "not a political statement," and that he’s "not a Bush-basher." Katie Couric outed Quaid as a Gore voter in 2000 but tried to give him cover by noting he voted for Bush in 2004, however she had praise for Quaid’s co-star Mandy Moore’s performance in Saved, a movie that mocks Christians.
The controversy over Comedy Central's decision to censor its show "South Park" continues to heat up. Late Thursday, the network issued a statement admitting that it did refuse to run a scene which featured a cartoon depiction of the Muslim prophet Muhammed.
"In light of recent world events, we feel we made the right decision," the cable channel said.
That decision has sparked howls of protest from fans and critics, making it the most-searched for term on the blog search engine Technorati (ht Michelle Malkin).
The show's executive producer, Ann Garefino, confirmed that the network censored the scene, stating that she believed it did so out of "fear" of protests or violence.
"We were happy that they didn’t try to claim that it was because of religious tolerance," Garefino said in an interview with Volokh.com.
She was not aware of any particular threats being made against the show or Comedy Central had the deleted scene aired.
Thursday’s New York Times carries a largely hagiographic obituary by Marc Charney of the Rev. William Sloane Coffin, worshipped in left-wing circles for his anti-war protests of the 60s from his position of influence as chaplain of Yale University.
“The Rev. William Sloane Coffin Jr., a civil rights and antiwar campaigner who sought to inspire and encourage an idealistic and rebellious generation of college students in the 1960's from his position as chaplain of Yale University, then reveled in the role of lightning rod thrust upon him by officials and conservatives who thought him and his style of dissent dangerous, died yesterday at his home in Strafford, Vt.”
Christians around the world prepare for Easter, magazine readers in Germany were confronted this week by full-page advertisements depicting Jesus, wearing a crown of thorns but descended from the cross, enjoying a television program.
"Laughing rather than hanging around," (Lachen statt rumhaengen) reads the tagline of the ad, which has drawn strong protests in Germany, where two-thirds of the population identifies as Christian.
The ad promotes MTV's plan to broadcast a cartoon lampooning the pope and Vatican hierarchy. The series, Popetown, was considered too controversial to be aired in Britain, and it caused an uproar in the one country where it has appeared, New Zealand.
Comedy Central, the home of the hugely popular animated "South Park" appears to have censored the show's attempt to show a cartoon image of the founder of Islam, Muhammed.
The Muhammed segment aired in a special two-part episode which wove together criticisms of Comedy Central for earlier caving in to demands from scientologists, jabs at rival Fox cartoon "Family Guy," and the manufactured furor over the Danish Muhammed cartoons.
In the story, after word gets out that "Family Guy" will soon show an episode in which Muhammed is drawn as a cartoon character (something "South Park" did back in 2001), a fourth grade boy, Eric Cartman, sets out to get the episode censored in hopes that doing so will lead to the show's eventual cancellation.
CNN's Wolf Blitzer wondered, on Tuesday's Situation Room, “if Bill Clinton could run for President again, would he be re-elected?" Though Clinton never reached 50 percent (43% in 1992, 49% in 1996), Jack Cafferty excitedly agreed with the proposition: "Oh, I think he probably would be, in a heartbeat, don't you?" Cafferty listed some other potential candidates, such as "the Governor down in Virginia" who "might be a good guy" and "they got Barack Obama," but instead, “who do you see on TV? You see Hillary and Chuck Schumer and Ted Kennedy." Cafferty maintained: "Clinton would be the answer to a prayer. Not Hillary, her husband." The exchange followed the 5pm EDT hour “Cafferty File" segment question: "Can religion help the Democrats?" That was prompted by Bill Clinton's recommendation to Democrats that they emphasize “values” and religious beliefs. None of the e-mailed replies Cafferty read had made any suggestion about Bill Clinton running for President again. (Transcript follows.)
Friday's enraptured major-media roll-out of a purported "Gospel of Judas," which claims that Judas was actually Christ's best buddy, betraying him only so he could slip out of his awful human body, drew harsh words from conservative bloggers. At The Volokh Conspiracy, media critic David Kopel whacked away (Hat tip: Instapundit):
This Friday's coverage of the so-called "Gospel of Judas" in much of the U.S. media was appallingly stupid. The Judas gospel is interesting in its own right, but the notion that it disproves, or casts into doubt, the traditional orthodox understanding of the betrayal of Jesus is preposterous...
In a column appearing in the Sunday edition of the Washington Post, Peter Perl, the paper's director of professional development, heaps scorn on Tom DeLay and in particular on his strong religious beliefs. The column approaches parody, so much does it seethe with secular, elitist condescension.
The headline sets the tone: "DeLay's Next Mission From God".
"DeLay may be leaving Congress, but he will be back with a vengeance [note choice of phrase], in a new and potentially more powerful role, because he is a ferociously determined man who believes he is on a politico-religious mission from God."
"DeLay's crusade [again note choice of term] will not be sidetracked by the acts of mortals such as states' attorneys, crooked lobbyists and disgraced former staffers who are poised to testify against him. In DeLay's world he answers only to a higher power, and his personal Armageddon has only just begun."
"He will artfully squeeze a load of money from the Christian Right as he makes his thunderous argument from multiple pulpits in the weeks and months ahead."
"The new Tom DeLay will combine aspects of the Revs. Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, and Lee Atwater, the late right-wing political consultant with the legendary killer instinct."
"Looking back, I see DeLay as a somewhat pathetic figure."
"What struck me as truly pathetic, though, was his shambles of a family life."
"We will see DeLay constantly smiling as he delivers his message because in his heart he knows that we hopeless sinners will always hate the messenger."
In keeping with the religion-themed nature of Perl's column, let's undertake a little exegesis of his parting shot at DeLay - that he will be "constantly smiling because . . . he knows that we hopeless sinners will always hate the messenger." If DeLay is a devout Christian - as is the gist of Perl's column - why would he believe that sinners are "hopeless"?
NBC's Dateline featured a researcher who makes a controversial claim: Mohammad was not really a proph--
No, that's not the controversial claim the researcher made, although it is just as inflammatory. The one Michael Baigent told to NBC was that Jesus did not die on the cross, a belief that undermines one of the central tenets of Christianity. After NBC Dateline's failed attempt at finding "redneck" NASCAR fans who would persecute fans in Muslim outfits, those at Dateline demonstrate that they themselves have succeeded in persecuting a religion.
Correspondent Sara James reports that Michael Baigent alleges a coverup.
A cover up, he contends, because his clues point to a radical conclusion: that Jesus did not die on the cross.
Michelle Malkin has updated the story on how NBC is planning to parade obvious Muslims around NASCAR races to see if those hayseeds at the races will demonstrate American discrimination against the Muslim people.
I spoke this afternoon with Ramsey Poston, managing director of corporate communications at NASCAR. He's on his way down to Texas for the NASCAR race this weekend, and he responded to NBC Dateline's undercover Muslim stings, which I first reported on yesterday morning. "This is outrageous for a news organization with the reputation of NBC to stoop to the level of attempting to create news instead of reporting it. Any legitimate journalist should be ashamed."
Michelle Malkin has posted an "apparent Dateline NBC solicitation to Muslim groups." With the comments about the April 1st weekend, perhaps we should hope this is an elaborate April Fools prank. If this is as authentic as John Green's "Bush makes me sick" e-mails, the most enjoyable part is how these anti-discrimination producers want to make sure their professional victims "look Muslim" and have full beards and skull caps, and then send them to a NASCAR race. (Hmm. In fact, since NBC still airs Nextel Cup races, wouldn't it be seriously off-putting to its racing-broadcasting arrangements?)
Let's hope Dateline doesn't try to put the Muslims in exploding GM trucks, since that would be taking the staged segments to a whole new level. Here's how it reads:
You could see this one coming a mile away. As soon as Matt Lauer announced that Today was inaugurating a series called 'One Nation Under God' on the role religion plays in our country, and that the first episode would focus on President Bush, you knew we were in for a bumpy ride.
The series plays off a new book, 'American Gospel', by Newsweek Managing Editor Jon Meacham. In his set-up [and I do mean set-up] piece, David Gregory claimed that "the Bush era has created not just a political but a religious divide."
Continued Gregory: "Critics have accused the president of using religion to close himself off from opposing points of view." Oh, I don't know, David. He seems to hear you pretty loud and clear.
During The Chris Matthews Show, Joe Klein not only labelled certain Christian conservatives charlatans, as Noel Sheppard pointed out, but then he widely claimed that Christian conservatives didn't give a hoot about abortion and same-sex marriage. Here's what Klein claimed about half-way through the show:
"If you look at actual polls of Christian conservatives, abortion is way down there, homosexuality is practically non-existent but 75 to 85 percent say that the thing that concerns them the most is the impact of the culture on their children and they’re absolutely right."
Laura Ingraham of course pasted Klein for his charlatan comment but one wonders where in the world did Klein get these facts? He didn't say but our own Tim Graham guessed it came from following poll of questionable merit here.
“Real Time” host Bill Maher ended his show on Friday night attacking Christianity (hat tip to Crooks and Liars with video link to follow). He began by suggesting that Christianity has “taken over all three branches of government, country music, public schools, [and] the best sellers list.” He then suggested that Christians are “part of a dress-up cult that hates sex and worships magic.”
He continued: “The Christian right are now the party of paranoia.” His solution: “If you’re going to be that paranoid all the time, just get high.”
Dan Gainor reports to me that the Norwegian paper Aftenposten noted that a "comedian" named Otto Jespersen took to his TV show to burn pages of the Old Testament, and riots did not ensue:
The burly, middle-aged Norwegian seems to have a thing for fires: He's perhaps best known for an American flag-burning stunt on national TV three years ago, to protest the US-led invasion of Iraq.
This week, with the help of the local fire brigade, Jespersen lit a bonfire in front of Ålesund's city hall. With cameras rolling for his TV show "Rikets Røst," Jespersen first started burning some Norwegian books. Then, with the willing cooperation of Ålesund Mayor Arve Tonning, he threw paper money on the flames.
When Hillary Clinton charged that the House Republican immigration bill would "criminalize...Jesus himself," there was national-media notice – if not criticism. Even Hillary’s "hometown" newspaper The New York Times reported on March 23 that Senator Clinton intensified her criticism of Republican immigration proposals, albeit on page B-5. But no one in the story criticized Hillary for her harsh attack. Instead, reporter Nina Bernstein noted only critics to Hillary’s left: "Mrs. Clinton had been criticized by some immigrant activists for saying little about the issue until March 8, and then speaking at an Irish-only rally, rather than at a forum more representative of immigrants. But yesterday all seemed forgiven." Bernstein’s story, headlined, "Mrs. Clinton Says GOP Immigration Plan Is At Odds With The Bible," began:
Both Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank and religion reporter Alan Cooperman covered the "War on Christians" conference Tuesday, but neither touched on one trend in Canada that American evangelicals are warning against: "hate crime" laws that make speech condemning homosexuality illegal. In 2004, the Canadian parliament passed such a law, as U.S. News columnist John Leo explained:
"Canada is a pleasantly authoritarian country," Alan Borovoy, general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said a few years ago. An example of what he means is Bill C-250, a repressive, anti-free-speech measure that is on the brink of becoming law in Canada. It would add "sexual orientation" to the Canadian hate propaganda law, thus making public criticism of homosexuality a crime. It is sometimes called the "Bible as Hate Literature" bill, or simply "the chill bill." It could ban publicly expressed opposition to gay marriage or any other political goal of gay groups. The bill has a loophole for religious opposition to homosexuality, but few scholars think it will offer protection, given the strength of the gay lobby and the trend toward censorship in Canada. Law Prof. David Bernstein, in his new book You Can't Say That! wrote that "it has apparently become illegal in Canada to advocate traditional Christian opposition to homosexual sex." Or traditional Jewish or Muslim opposition, too.
Washington Post reporter/columnist Dana Milbank was in the room yesterday when I spoke on a panel on anti-Christian media bias at Rev. Rick Scarborough's Vision America conference yesterday. (Tom DeLay was the lunch speaker, so we were a mere appetizer for the sharks.) Milbank misquoted me in his Wednesday column as saying "we're making some great inroads" in the national media. I did not say that. American Family Radio's Bill Fancher said that, about the White House press corps. I might object less to the misquote if I agreed with that sentiment.
Before that, Milbank said our examples of anti-Christian bias were old and stale. In my case, I noted a survey in the spring 2001 issue of The Public Interest that showed 97 percent of the national reporters surveyed supported a "woman's right to choose" abortion, 84 percent saying they believed in it strongly, and 73 percent agreed that homosexuality and heterosexuality are equally acceptable. He did not cite these enlightening survey numbers, merely the age of the journal they appeared in. (The survey's even older, from 1995.) There's a reason for that: as I explained to the crowd, national reporters have found it counterproductive to participate in surveys and acknowledge their political views. If Pew or Gallup could poll the press corps today on their ideological views, that would help us not sound so "stale," but I doubt Milbank would endorse that research effort.
As a Catholic, I'm long used to finding the media has a chronic case of schizophrenia on the Catholic bishops conference: they are an oppressive caucus of Nosy Nates if they get involved on social issues like abortion, an emerging threat to the separation of church and state. But if they get involved on the liberal side of the divide -- as the American bishops did on nuclear weapons and economics in 1980s, or when they oppose capital punishment -- they're great moral authorities demonstrating a surge in public opinion. Clay Waters finds that case of the gymnastic splits again today at TimesWatch:
Reporter Nina Bernstein evidently caught the spirit of the weekend protests by illegal immigrants and their supporters in Los Angeles, judging by the positive tone of her Monday article, "In the Streets, Suddenly, An Immigrant Groundswell"....Bernstein gushes in the next sentence: "But if events of recent days hold true, they will be facing much more than that. Rallies in support of immigrants around the country have attracted crowds that have astonished even their organizers. More than a half-million demonstrators marched in Los Angeles on Saturday, as many as 300,000 in Chicago on March 10, and -- in between -- tens of thousands in Denver, Phoenix, Milwaukee and elsewhere..."
It's not surprising Andrea Mitchell found the best angle on the Abdul Rahman case was the another-problem-for-Bush angle. (Isn't that always their favorite angle?) My friend Cam Edwards trekked to the Afghan embassy protest, and reports the NBC producer on the scene was there, and intensely interested in getting anti-Bush soundbites:
Media turnout was good. There were, by my count, four television cameras there, including one from NBC Nightly News. The producer for Andrea Mitchell, a guy named Carl, kept asking question after question designed to elicit a critical response towards President Bush. Finally I had to say something.
So I said this isn’t a conservative vs. liberal issue, or even a Christian vs. Muslim issue. It’s a human rights issue. And I said if the media ignores the reality of Abdul Rahman being put to death because of his religious beliefs because they’d rather portray this as “Conservatives angry at the President”, then they’re falling down on the job.
Where is the liberal moral outrage? Oh, to be sure, the left is making its political points in the wake of the case in which a man is facing the death penalty in Aghanistan for having converted from Islam to Christianity. Story here. Administration critics have been quick to question the value of Pres. Bush's efforts in bringing democracy to the Muslim world if situations such as this one are the outcome.
But in reporting the matter on this morning's Today, NBC's Andrea Mitchell cast domestic protest of the matter strictly in terms of moral outrage on the part of the "Christian right".
You'd think that of all days, they'd be believers over at Today this morning. After all, they were blessed with presidential poll numbers for which they were surely praying. Numbers so low that Matt Lauer, Tim Russert et. al could spend an extended first segment reveling in them.
Ironically, in sowing some GOP dissent, Lauer even used the language of religion, suggesting the low numbers were "a blessing in disguise" for congressional Republicans because "they can look and say I don't have a popular president here, I can turn my back on that president." Remind Frist and Hastert not to invite you to the next GOP Unity Rally, Matt.