CNSNews.com managing editor Michael W. Chapman knows a story that's too good to spend much time fact-checking when he sees one -- especially when it fits his preconceived right-wing political and religious notions -- so he wrote a Feb. 8 blog post that began this way:
While commenting on President Donald Trump's very public support for Christianity, as well as the frequent Bible studies and prayer gatherings held at the White House, evangelical Pastor Paul Begley said first lady Melania Trump demanded that the White House be spiritually cleansed and that pagan, demonic items and artificats from the Obama and Clinton years be removed.
Melania Trump reportedly said, "I’m not going to go into that White House unless it has been completely exorcised," according to Pastor Begley. One thing was left, a cross on the wall. "They cleansed the White House," he said. "They had people in there anointing it with oil and praying everywhere.”
Pastor Begley made his remarks during the Feb. 2 edition of Weekend Vigilante, hosted by Sheila Zilinsky.
Chapman decided that Begley's reference to the purported "Haitian witch-doctor influence" on Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton’s lives" and that "They spent their honeymoon with a witch doctor" need a little fact-checking. Just a little, though, enough for Chapman to decide the story was plausible enough:
According to the Washington Post, the Clintons did go to Haiti for their honeymoon in 1975. The Post further reported, “They toured the old hotel where the writer Ernest Hemingway once stayed and visited a voodoo high priest dressed in all white.” The article does not say why they visited the voodoo high priest."They decorated their homes with Haitian art," said The Post. "They flew back again and again. Hillary Clinton once said that theirs was a 'Haiti-obsessed family.'"
In his book, My Life, Bill Clinton explained that he and Hillary attended a voodoo ceremony where an alleged "spirit arrived," participants rolled flaming torches over their bodies and walked on hot coals and, at one point, a person bit off the head of a chicken.
Chapman wrote that "CNSNews.com contacted Pastor Paul Begley and asked for more information about the spiritual cleansing. Begley said his source for the story was close to 'those working in the White House' and requested that he (or she) not be named." Despite lacking any sort of actual proof that any of this ever happened, Chapman went on to justify it anyway:
Melania Trump is a Catholic. Her husband, President Donald Trump, is a Presbyterian. The two were married in an Episcopal church in 2005. When Melania came down the aisle she was holding a Catholic rosary and a vocalist was singing the Ave Maria, reported the Washington Post.
Having a home blessed by a priest is a common practice among Catholics, especially if there is any concern that anything unholy may be in or have occurred in the home or on the property in the past.
What Chapman never bothered to do, however, is contact the first lady's office. A few days later, the Associated Press reported that "A spokeswoman for the first lady says multiple reports that Melania Trump had a ceremony to rid the White House of demons before moving in is false. Stephanie Grisham said the reports that were shared widely on social media are 'not true in any way.'"
But in the few weeks that have passed since that story first appeared, Chapman has never corrected it or written a follow-up noting the White House's denial. (Begley, for hispart, still insists the story is true.)
As Right Wing Watch details, Begley's story fits the right-wing narrative -- pushed by Chapman and CNS -- that Trump is a deeply religious man despite having spent much of his life never expressing any evidence of such, and it has become the funhouse-mirror reflection of how right-wingers treated President Obama:
Throughout Obama’s presidency, the far-right justified their animosity toward him by, in part, claiming that he was secretly Muslim or just not a real Christian. Now, the Religious Right fringes are performing the reverse trick with Trump, justifying their support for a man who allegedly paid tens of thousands of dollars in hush money to cover up an affair with a porn actress by claiming that he has found, or is in the process of personally finding God.
Paul Begley’s insistance that Melania had rid the White House of demons showed how these Trump-finds-God stories have spread through the pro-Trump media and the fringes of the Religious Right. The fact that the far-right media took the story at face value—to the point that the first lady’s office had to rebut it—shows just how much power that narrative has.
Indeed, at the end of his blog post, Chapman stated that "In his many prayer meetings, President Trump reportedly has welcomed evangelical Protestants, Catholics and Jews."
Chapman clearly isn't about to let the facts get in the way of his narrative. That's pretty disturbing for a man who is the managing editor of what purports to be a "news" operation.