The Catholic -- Er, Cybercast News Service
CNSNews.com makes its pro-Catholic bias so blatant, the word might as well be part of the name.
By Terry Krepel
The initials in CNSNews.com originally stood for Conservative News Service until they were unable to copyright the name, at which point "Conservative" became "Cybercast."
But, really, the C may as well stand for "Catholic" (at least, if a Catholic News Service didn't already exist). Editor Terry Jeffrey is a Catholic, as are major figures in CNS' parent organization, the Media Research Center.
Even if you didn't know about the faith of CNS' top management, the heavily pro-Catholic bias of the website would make it quite clear. Let's examine how that bias manifests itself.
Jeffrey's Oct. 8 CNSNews.com column caries the headline "Obama Administration Prohibits Kennedy Family from Practicing Catholicism." It begins:
The Obama administration has prohibited the Kennedy family from practicing its Catholicism, and the Kennedys now intend to ask the Supreme Court to restore their First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion.
It's not until the third paragraph that Jeffrey mentions it's not that Kennedy family:
John Kennedy serves as president of Autocam and Autocam Medical, Michigan-based companies that produce automobile components and medical devices. He and his family own the companies, which employ 661 people in the United States.
That's deception and manipulation of the most base and cynical kind.
Also typical is a rant in his Sept. 26 column: "Under Obamacare, the administration will force Catholics and other Christians to buy and/or provide coverage for services including sterilizations, artificial contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs that violate the teachings of their faith."
The "abortion pill," RU-486, is not covered. The morning-after pills that are covered, like Plan B and Ella, do not induce abortions. These drugs primarily work by preventing ovulation.
Terry Jeffrey used his Sept. 17 CNSNews.com column to falsely claim yet again that Catholics are being forced to pay for "abortion-inducing drugs" under Obamacare. He went farther than usual by ranting that if the provision stands, Obama "will have succeeded in outlawing the practice of Catholicism in the United States":
Let me repeat that: Obama will have outlawed the practice of Catholicism in the United States.
Jeffrey then went even further by demanding that House Republican Leader John Boehner put his religion before the country by supporting a bill allowing people to opt out of Obamacare on moral objections:
Since March, this writer has asked Boehner's spokesman Michael Steel on multiple occasions whether the speaker will follow through on Cardinal O'Malley's request and attach H.R. 940 to "must-pass" legislation. Steel has never directly answered.
John F. Kennedy famously had to deny that he would put his Catholic faith before the good of the country. Jeffrey is insisting on the opposite.
For Jeffrey, it appears, his Catholicism comes before everything -- even the truth, even the country. That might make him a good Catholic, but it makes him a terribly biased --and, thus, discredited -- journalist.
What is supposed to be a June 28 CNS "news" article by Jeffrey ranting that how the final regulations for health care reform "requires virtually all health-care plans to provide cost-free coverage for sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs" concludes with this definitely-not-objective claim:
The Obama administration now says to Catholics and other Christians who oppose sterilization, contraception and/or abortion: You are not free to exercise your faith. You must act against its teachings. You must do what we say, not what your conscience says.
As he showed with his attack on Boehner, Jeffrey seems to believe that the federal government should follow the dictates of the Catholic Church, which would be a violation of the constitutional separation of church and state.
Jeffrey followed that up with a July 2 "news" article that deviates from journalistic objectivity from the get-go:
The final version of Obamacare’s “preventive services” regulation that the Department of Health and Human Services published on Friday discriminates against faithful members of the Roman Catholic Church by effectively barring them from owning and operating health-insurance companies.
At no point during this lengthy "news" screed does Jeffrey identify any "faithful members of the Roman Catholic Church" who operate health-insurance companies now, meaning that Jeffrey's fretting over this manufactured issue is meaningless.
Lies and deception are morally wrong, but Jeffrey is apparently not that concerned about the effect of those sins on his mortal soul if he can use those lies to somehow stop his fellow Catholics from paying for "abortion-inducing drugs."
Jeffrey is not the only CNS editor who puts his faith ahead of journalistic ethics. A July 15 article by CNS managing editor Michael W. Chapman promoted an apparent threat made by a Catholic bishop in the Dominican Republic against an "openly gay" Obama administration nominee as ambassador to the country:
President Barack Obama’s openly gay ambassadorial nominee to the Dominican Republic, James “Wally” Brewster,” faces strong opposition from the conservative and largely Catholic island nation, where Bishop Pablo Cedano says if Brewster becomes the U.S. ambassador, “he is going to suffer and will have to leave.”
Chapman did not make any attempt to explain what Cedano meant by claiming that Brewster "is going to suffer and will have to leave," but it sure sounds like a threat, doesn't it? One gets the feeling that Chapman seems quite OK with that.
Chapman also hid an anti-gay slur voiced by the Dominican Republic's Catholic cardinal. He writes:
Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez, the archbishop of Santo Domingo, also expressed disappointment with the nomination of Brewster. As reported first in the Dominican newspaper La Opinion and then the Associated Press, Cardinal Nicolas said, “We don’t have to do anything. It’s the government’s job to accept them [homosexuals]. They’re interested in advancing their agenda, but they have to know there are many people in the world who are against that, both in Christian and non-Christian governments.”
“Ask the Muslim world what they think about that, in addition to Christians and Evangelicals,” said the cardinal.
If Chapman has no problem with a bishop threatening a gay man, why would he get all squeamish about an anti-gay slur? Perhaps he's trying to protect the Catholic Church from folks who might look askance at a man of God using such vile language.
A Dec. 6 article by Chapman attacked the new U.S. ambassador to the Vatican for formerly heading a group that accepted government money and for being well compensated for doing so:
Ken Hackett, the new U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, previously headed the non-profit charity Catholic Relief Services (CRS), which receives hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. government grants each year, and which paid him $384,013 in total compensation in 2011. He received similar compensation in earlier years.
Yes, that's really the gist of Chapman's story -- a Catholic was well-compensated before accepting a job as an ambassador to the Vatican.
Chapman then undermined his attack by pointing out the large sums of money Catholic Relief Services receives -- more than $822 million in 2011 alone.
By contrast, Chapman's Media Research Center boss, Brent Bozell, makes more than $400,000 a year despite the MRC having only $11 million in assets. It seems that Catholic Relief Services got a good bargain in a leader compared to the MRC.
Chapman also played the MRC game of religious Heathering, suggesting that Hackett is insufficiently Catholic because he donated a small amount of money to Obama's campaign:
Despite the Obama administration’s promotion of abortion on demand and same-sex-marriage, as well as the Obamacare regulation it issued mandating that health plans provide cost-free coverage for contraception, sterilization, and abortion drugs (which the Catholic bishops have declared “unjust and illegal” and a “violation of personal civil rights”), Ambassador Hackett told the National Catholic Register: “I don’t have a problem representing this administration.”
This is nothing more than a partisan political attack dressed in religious overtones.
CNS has long tried to enforce its conservative interpretation of Catholicism though biased reporting. In 2009, CNS gave a platform to critics of Notre Dame University for inviting President Obama to speak at graduation. Much of that criticism was driving by a Catholic group called the Cardinal Newman Society, but CNS never reported to its readers that Brent Bozell, the head of the Media Research Center that operates CNS, is on the Cardinal Newman Society board.
That tradition of skewed reporting and advocacy for a specific strain of Catholicism has continued at CNS. James Beattie wrote in a Nov. 12 article:
Gov. Chris Christie said last week that.he is “happy” for same-sex couples who got married in New Jersey after his administration withdrew its appeal of a court order to start issuing them marriage licenses.
Beattie didn't say whether the Catechism of the Catholic Church forbids people from expressing happiness that gays can marry. We don't recall that from our own Catholic childhood, so we're willing to guess that it doesn't. Nor did Beattie explain what qualifies him to pass his brand of Catholic judgment upon Christie.
Which means that CNS published an article attacking Chris Christie for expressing happiness for someone. Apparently, CNS reporters have nothing better to do with his time than to make such a mean, petty attack.
Barbara Hollingsworth kicked off her Dec. 3 CNS article by stating:
A number of prominent lay Catholics are taking issue with New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s statement on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday that were it not for the Obamacare's treatment of abortion, undocumented immigrants and provisions that require they violate the "dictates of our conscience," Catholics would be among the loudest “cheerleaders” for Obamacare.
But Hollingsworth quotes only right-wing catholic who criticize Dolan, one of whom is her boss, Brent Bozell.
Hollingsworth might want to check CNS' mission statement, which calls for her to "fairly present all legitimate sides of a story." Or did Hollingsworth decide that any support for Obamacare is somehow illegitimate?
Hollingsworth followed that up with a one-sided attack on a critic of a Catholic university in a Dec. 18 CNS article:
Faith in Public Life, a group that has been funded by atheist billionaire George Soros, is behind an attack on The Catholic University of America (CUA) for accepting a $1 million donation from the Charles Koch Foundation, says Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.
What Hollingsworth didn't mention: Her boss, Media Research Center chief Brent Bozell, is on the Catholic League's board of advisers as well as the Cardinal Newman Society board.
This is Journalism 101 -- disclosing your conflicts of interest. Why is Hollingsworth so incapable of doing this one simple thing?
Hollingsworth committed another act of journalistic laziness in her article (which she's apparently prone to): She made no apparent effort to permit Faith in Public Life respond to the attacks from Donohue and the Cardinal Newman Society.