Heckuva Job, Desiree: N.Y. Times Downplays 'Non-Religious Christmas' Plans at White House

Maybe they didn’t know it, but The New York Times left a Christmas bomb in paragraph 12 of its syrupy Sunday story on Desiree Rogers, the bumbling Obama social secretary.

Reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg sweetly touted Rogers: "Willowy and fashion-forward, with a chic pixie haircut, a designer wardrobe, and a Harvard M.B.A.," she "promptly broke the dowdy mold for the job." She also was culturally savvy enough to transform the White House into a "nerve center for creativity and culture."

But then there was the bomb. In a description of how Rogers would make sure the White House was "Obama-tized," Stolberg noted Rogers would bend tradition to make Christmas much more secular in the new era:

When former social secretaries gave a luncheon to welcome Ms. Rogers earlier this year, one participant said, she surprised them by suggesting the Obamas were planning a "non-religious Christmas" -- hardly a surprising idea for an administration making a special effort to reach out to other faiths.

Notice how Stolberg tried to downplay the idea of a "non-religious Christmas," since that shocks no one at the deeply agnostic New York Times. But the shock grew deeper at Team Obama’s discussions about rejecting the traditional manger scene in the East Room to be "more inclusive."

The lunch conversation inevitably turned to whether the White House would display its creche, customarily placed in a prominent spot in the East Room. Ms. Rogers, this participant said, replied that the Obamas did not intend to put the manger scene on display - a remark that drew an audible gasp from the tight-knit social secretary sisterhood. (A White House official confirmed that there had been internal discussions about making Christmas more inclusive and whether to display the creche.)

Yet in the end, tradition won out; the executive mansion is now decorated for the Christmas holiday, and the creche is in its usual East Room spot.

This goes in the same file folder of holiday bumbles as the plans to cut the White House Hanukkah party guest list in half. But Stolberg hasn't discovered that story (or grumpy Jewish Democrats and liberals who fear they'll be snubbed). The Washington Post found that story for last Saturday's paper.

In a commentary for Foxnews.com, Eric Metaxas grasped how much bigger a public-relations mess this could have been for a White House still haunted by the odors of Rev. Jeremiah Wright:

If President Obama wanted to fuel the fears of every serious Christian in America and actually prove that he is every bad thing they've ever heard about him on every crazy Web site, the idea of symbolically taking Jesus out of the White House at Christmas would be just the ticket!

Let's face it: "Brand Obama" dodged a bullet by not going forward with this terrible idea, but only barely dodged it. After all, the facts of the story are right there in The New York Times for all to see.

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