Let's be clear: the Da Vinci Code portrays Christianity as a fraud and the Roman Catholic Church as a murderous conspiracy. As Archbishop Angelo Amato, the number two official in the Vatican doctrinal office which was headed by Pope Benedict until his election last year recently stated, if "such lies and errors had been directed at the Koran or the Holocaust they would have justly provoked a world uprising."
Yet the Today show has decided to offer the movie, scheduled for release this week, untold millions in free advertising by devoting hours of, um, worshipful coverage to it, going so far as to send Matt Lauer to Europe for the week to be "On the Road with the Code."
This morning we were treated to Matt exploring the Louvre, where the Code begins. We were told of a new wave of Code tourism, in which people plan travels around the world to explore the sites portrayed in the movie. NBC reporter Melissa Stark engaged in respectful, at times almost giddy, interviews with some of the films actors and with director Ron Howard.
Finally, some 47 minutes into this morning's show, Today timidly stuck its toe into the matter, as Stark timororously mentioned that the Da Vinci Code had stirred controversy "for the Church." Controversy "for the Church"? Not for the author, producer and director? It's the Church that's on the spot?
And just whom did Today choose to discuss the controversy? Archbishop Amato himself or another Vatican spokesman? William Donohue, whose Catholic League has written an open letter to director Howard? Perhaps Pat Buchanan, an MSNBC analyst and frequent Today guest who has written an outraged column about the Da Vinci Code? Nope. Today chose . . . Da Vinci Code director Ron Howard himself!
Stark respectfully asked Howard "how do you deal with it?" - the controversy. Howard made some vague, elliptical remarks about the movie encouraging people "to make some choices themselves and about what they feel and how they believe." Howard let us know that "I feel that kind of engagement is a healthy thing." Thanks for sharing, Ron.
That was the sum total of Today's coverage of the controversy this morning. No follow-up from Stark to Howard's musings. Incredibly, Today never even told us what the controversy was all about. If they rely on the Today show, unsuspecting Roman Catholics would enter theaters unaware that the movie portrays their religion as a malevolent, murderous fraud.
Again, try to imagine a movie that, in the same way, treated Mohammed as a hoaxster and Islam as a murderous fraud of a religion. Do you think Today would devote days to celebrating the magnificence of the film and its themes and bury any criticism with some oblique comments from the movie's director?
As Buchanan said in his column: "the hoopla attending the release of 'The Da Vinci Code,' based on the Dan Brown novel that has sold 7 million copies in the United States, tells us something about whose God it is permissible to mock and whose faith one is allowed to assault."