MSNBC, CNN Use Media Matters Tip to Attack Gingrich's Criticism of Notre Dame

March 25th, 2009 6:49 PM

David Shuster, MSNBC Anchor | NewsBusters.orgBoth MSNBC’s David Shuster and CNN’s Rick Sanchez pulled their scoop straight from Media Matters’ blog, and focused on Newt Gingrich’s Twitter comments criticizing President Obama’s upcoming commencement address at the University of Notre Dame, instead of the controversy over the speech itself. Shuster targeted the former Speaker of the House during the “Hypocrisy Watch” segment on Tuesday’s 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue program, saying that Gingrich was “already telling Notre Dame what to do,” even though he wasn’t Catholic yet and had gone through two divorces.
Almost a day later on Wednesday’s Newsroom program on CNN, Sanchez devoted a whole segment to Gingrich’s Tweet, and also brought up the divorce issue: “Newt Gingrich couldn’t resist taking a shot at President Obama. He seems to infer that the president shouldn’t talk to a Catholic university because of quote, ‘values.’ Should Newt Gingrich, thrice married, go there? Really?”

Jamison Foster, Media Matters’ executive vice president and a former research director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, pointed out Gingrich’s Tweet on Media Matters’ County Fair blog early on Tuesday afternoon, and recounted the former Speaker’s marriage issues:

Gingrich has only been divorced twice so far. There was Jackie, his former high school math teacher, whom he divorced as she was in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery, and Marianne, whom he married shortly after divorcing Jackie, and with whom he was still married when he began his relationship with Callista -- an affair that occurred around the time he was promising to never give another speech as Speaker of the House without mentioning the Lewinsky scandal. He and Callista are still married.

Just over six hours later, Shuster used almost identical language during his “Hypocrisy Watch” segment:

SHUSTER: Here’s the Gingrich Twitter. Quote, ‘It is sad to see Notre Dame invite President Obama to give the commencement address since his policies are so anti-Catholic values.’ Anti-Catholic values? Well, that’s interesting, because Newt Gingrich has been divorced twice. There was Jackie, his former high school math teacher. Gingrich divorced her as she was in a hospital recovering from surgery. Then there was Marianne. Gingrich married her soon after divorcing Jackie. Years later, while still married to Marianne, Gingrich had an affair with a third woman named Callista. Gingrich divorced Marianne and is now married to Callista, wife number three.

Foster also updated his post, citing how Gingrich was converting to Catholicism. His response: “So he isn’t even a Catholic yet, and he’s already lecturing Notre Dame about how best to uphold Catholic values. Nice.” Shuster echoed Foster’s sentiment in the conclusion of his segment: “We’ve learned today that Gingrich is converting to Catholicism in the weeks ahead. Amazing. He isn’t even Catholic yet and he’s already telling Notre Dame what to do. Mr. Former Speaker, given the way you’ve led your life, when you lecture anybody about upholding Catholic values, that’s hypocrisy, and it’s wrong.”

Rick Sanchez, CNN Anchor; & Bill Donahue, Catholic League President | NewsBusters.orgSanchez, who had the Catholic League’s Bill Donahue on during his segment about the Gingrich Tweet, used the same line as Shuster in one of his questions, as he rolled his eyes in contempt: “Is Newt Gingrich, Bill, the guy who should be telling the Catholic Church who is and is not allowed to speak to them?” He also raised the issue of Gingrich’s marriages in his promo for the segment: “Newt Gingrich couldn’t resist taking a shot at President Obama. He seems to infer that the president shouldn’t talk to a Catholic university because of quote, ‘values.’ Should Newt Gingrich, thrice married, go there? Really?”

This is the second time this month that Sanchez has turned to Media Matters. On March 4, the CNN anchor had Eric Burns, the organization’s president, on to “fact check” Representative Mike Pence. On the other hand, Sanchez at least read the statement from the office of Notre Dame’s president, which referenced the “life issues” of abortion and embryonic stem cell research as the main reasons why President Obama was such a controversial pick to be a commencement speaker. Shuster didn’t even raise these issues.

The full transcript of Sanchez’s segment with Bill Donohue, which began 54 minutes into the 3 pm Eastern hour of Wednesday’s Newsroom program:

SANCHEZ: Welcome back. I’m Rick Sanchez. Newt Gingrich is Twittering. Yep, this thing that we started right here on this little show is really catching on. But you got to be careful what you Tweet, lest you be questioned not so sweet -- couldn’t resist it -- as is the case when the former Speaker of the House suggests the standing president of the United States shouldn’t be invited to speak to Catholics. Let me read this one to you -- it’s a Tweet. ‘It is sad to see Notre Dame invite President Obama to give the commencement address, since his policies are so anti-Catholic values,’ says Newt Gingrich.

Joining us now is Bill Donahue of the Catholic League, one of my favorite guests of all time. Let me just go straight out with this --


SANCHEZ: Is Newt Gingrich, Bill, the guy who should be telling the Catholic Church who is and is not allowed to speak to them?

DONAHUE: No, I think it begins with Catholics. He’s not a Catholic yet. I understand he’s becoming a Catholic in a couple weeks --

SANCHEZ: Yes, he is.

DONAHUE: And I think that not only the Catholic community should look at this, but particularly the people at Notre Dame. It’s their school. It’s the board of trustees -- it’s the faculty, the students, the administrators, the alumni. That’s why the Catholic League has not put out any official statement on this. But I do think it’s tragic. I’ll tell you what -- my phones have been ringing off the hook since last Saturday. I think this broke maybe on Friday, and people have been e-mailing the Catholic League and contacting us through our website. This is the most polarizing thing I’ve seen in the Catholic community in some time.

SANCHEZ: You know, it’s interesting. By the way, let me just read you real quick -- to be fair to the university, here’s what they say. They say, ‘The invitation to President Obama to be our commencement speaker should not be taken as a condoning or endorsing of his positions on specific issues regarding the protection of human life, including abortion [and] embryonic stem cell research.’ You know, that’s the point with all of this. As a Catholic, both you and I belong to a church that's always been very inviting. Wouldn’t -- wouldn't this be like saying you and I as Christians should not be allowed to speak to a Jewish organization?

DONAHUE: I think there's a couple differences here, Rick, and that is this -- number one, in 2004, the bishops put out a statement, ‘Catholics in Public Life,’ which said that you should not give an honorary position or platform to somebody whose views are that contrary to Catholic teachings. Number two, if they invited him onto -- into the law school, for example, to be involved in a symposium, I think that’s entirely a different matter altogether. The problem -- the problem gets kind of sticky when you start giving people awards. That’s what -- that’s what has really raised the hackles of a lot of Catholics.

SANCHEZ: Well, and you know what? For Newt Gingrich -- look, let me just ask straight out. Is this a hit -- is this a political hit by Newt Gingrich? Would Newt Gingrich have said this if it hadn’t been the president speaking -- if it had been anybody else? Is he on the record in the past saying -- criticizing who Notre Dame invites?
DONAHUE: I don’t know, but I can tell you this. I mean, any active Republican or Democrat -- and Newt certainly is -- is always going to be driven by politics. But look, you’ve got a situation here. You get the local ordinary, or the local bishop there in Fort Worth [sic] who governs the South Bend, John D’Arcy, who says he’s not going to go through the commencement exercises. You have Archbishop Chaput, a very outspoken and bright guy from Denver who’s saying, you know, sign the petitions --

SANCHEZ: Yeah, and that’s an ecumenical deal. I mean, these guys are in the Church and they have a right to have opinions on this. The question is when a politician involves himself on this, and that’s why I wanted to have you on. Bill, we’re out of time. We’ll get you back -- always will.

DONAHUE: Thank you so much.

SANCHEZ: Enjoy having you every time. Thanks so much.