That was fast. The celebration in St. Peter’s Square hadn’t yet died down and the world was still digesting the news that Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio had become Pope Francis. Almost immediately, some media outlets were out to find downsides and discord.
CNN had the dubious distinction of being first out of the gate, waiting just seven minutes after the white smoke signaling a new pope to interview activists for women priests. “We have been hosting pink smoke vigils to raise awareness on women's inclusion,” said Erin Saiz Hanna of the Women's Organization Conference to CNN Correspondent Miguel Marquez. Once the new pontiff’s identity had been announced, ABC’s “Nightline” co-anchor Terry Moran celebrated the new Pope Francis, saying that now the Catholic Church can “turn a corner” and “revive” its original mission of aiding the poor. When the Church abandoned that mission, he didn’t say.
NBC’s Luke Russert tweeted to suggest people keep the politics out of the new pope news: "Before we slice and dice every political statement this Pope has ever made during his entire life....breathe, take it in." But within 14 minutes, on an MSNBC blog page, Russert was lecturing the new pope on the “hallmarks of my religion” which are “faith, guilt, and charity” and passing along liberal talking points as advice to the pontiff. “Instead of a Catholic faith where priests are expected to completely suppress their sexuality, an acknowledgement that the many of the Church’s recent problems stem from the unnatural requirement of celibacy,” he wrote.
While ABC and NBC were mostly positive and respectful in their evening broadcasts, CBS “Evening News” was quick to bring up divisive social issues. Correspondent Allen Pizzey introduced Pope Francis as “a conservative and opposes abortion, supports celibacy and called gay adoption ‘discrimination against children.’ But he could not stop Argentina from becoming the first Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage or dissuade the government from promoting free contraception and artificial insemination.”
Correspondent Mark Phillips read in the crowd’s enthusiasm for the new pope’s greeting a repudiation of Benedict XVI. “Not just the pope changed tonight, the language and the tone of the papacy changed as well. And judging from the reaction of the multitudes, it was a change, Scott, that they needed.”
Carter Evans told viewers, “According to a CBS/New York Times poll, more than half [53% on CBS slide] of Catholics in the U.S. believe that the church is out of touch with their needs. Especially on issues like birth control, ordaining women, and allowing priests to marry.” Evans signed off saying, “How Americans will react to the philosophy of the new pope remains to be seen. Today though they say that they’re hoping a new era of communication between the pope and the people of the church is beginning.”
Liberal sites on the web reacted as expected. The Daily Beast noted disappointment with the new pope’s “attitude towards homosexuality.” Salon also published an article describing Pope Francis as a pope, “who unsurprisingly has terrible views on gay and reproductive rights.” TMZ, to better educate the public on the new pope, released a Pope Francis facts list. The first fact shown? “He staunchly opposes gay marriage and abortion.”
The more explicitly liberal the news outlet, the nastier the tone and content. The Huffington Post splashed in big red letters Francis’ orthodox stances on gay marriage, abortion and contraception, along with a leftwing conspiracy theory that he was complicit in the Argentine junta’s kidnapping, imprisonment and murder of priests in the 1970s. By morning, they had amped up the volume with a massive headline that read:
“PAPA DON'T PREACH!
Pope Called Gay Marriage 'Destructive Attack On God's Plan'... 'Staunchly Opposes Abortion, Contraception'... Believes Gay Adoption Is 'Discrimination Against Children'... Accused Of Conspiring With Murderous Junta In Priest Kidnapping – OR He 'Saved Their Lives'
2011 FLASHBACK: 'What Scandal If The First Pope Ever To Be Elected From The Americas Had Been Revealed As An Accessory To Murder And False Imprisonment' “
Gawker zeroed in on gay marriage as well, but at least admitted there is no evidence to back up the kidnapping claims. Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation, tweeted her own attack. “New Pope is a Jesuit, cares about poor but also a man who'd persecute gays & refuse to trust women 2 own their bodies. Why label ‘reformer’?”
Soros-supported liberal site Alternet also gave play to the conspiracy theory, and mentioned Bergoglio’s “troubling association” with an “international right-wing group.” Alternet also warned that Francis is “theologically closer to the last two prelates, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, than to the liberal and beloved Pope John XXIII, for whose legacy many Catholics yearn for a return. But Bergoglio campaigned against same-sex marriage in Argentina, and said that adoptions by LGBT people discriminate against children.” Funny, but John Paul II, and to a lesser degree, Benedict XVII definitely qualified as “beloved” by many Catholics, and they were conservative. Hard left magazine Mother Jones published an article titled, “Pope Francis I is Really, Really Opposed to Gay Adoption.”
And leave it to “comedian” and militant atheist Bill Maher to deliver the most hateful derision about an event of great important to 1.2 billion Catholics. Taking to Twitter, he wrote: “Congratulations to the Vatican on the new pope! And this time, they found one who never was a Nazi! (we hope, he's from Argentina).” He followed up with: “Can we stop this ’Pope is intellectual’ bs? Can't be an intellectual if U think Unicorns r real, or Klingons,or obvious myths from Bronze Age”.
However Francis’s papacy turns out, he’s off to a good start – annoying all the right – or left – people.
Editor's Note: Matt Philbin also contributed to this report