Newsweek's Correction: Oops, Jerry Falwell Doesn't Have An "Assault Ministry"

Newsweek no doubt thought they had a neat story on college debate, which is all the rage at Christian colleges. (That, and it never hurts to remind liberal readers of the Vast Right-Wing Christian conspiracy brewing in the shadows.) Reporter Susannah Meadows focused on a hot debate team at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University:

"We are training debaters who can perform a salt ministry, meaning becoming the conscience of the culture," says Falwell, who is also hoping the team will elevate the humble academic reputation of Liberty itself.

But that's not the way the article originally appeared. Oops. As a sign of Newsweek's general hostility to (and ignorance of) the religious right, they had to publish this correction:

Correction: In the original version of this report, NEWSWEEK misquoted Falwell as referring to "assault ministry." In fact, Falwell was referring to "a salt ministry"—a reference to Matthew 5:13, where Jesus says "Ye are the salt of the earth." We regret the error.

But in the whole Meadows article that follows, there are many clues the reporter and the magazine aren't keen on these weirdos they're covering. See the semantic clues:

-- The intro: "When you believe the end of the world is coming, you learn to talk fast."

-- The "fundamentalist Baptist college" team is "madly" rehearsing

-- The rehearsing causes a "menacing mosquito-buzz rising"

-- "There is tension and more than a little spittle in the air."

-- The labels: "Falwell and the religious right figure that if they can raise a generation that knows how to argue, they can stem the tide of sin in the country." (Kudos to Newsweek here for an accurate summary of the goal, without putting "sin" in quotes.)

-- Pew expert John Green assists with the labeling, or just credit Meadows for quote selection: "Conservative Christian leaders would like to have a cadre of conservative Christian attorneys, who then become judges, politicians and political appointees."

-- "Falwell's school, in Lynchburg, Va., pours a half million dollars into the debate program every year, with the goal of eventually flooding the system with 'thousands' of conservative Christian lawyers."

(Hat tip: Worldmagblog)

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