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Selective Religious Outrage

The Media Research Center is offended by anti-Catholic statements -- unless they're made by a prominent right-wing evangelist who has endorsed a Republican presidential candidate.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 3/20/2008

The Media Research Center has normally been quick to pounce on those who expresses what it considers anti-Catholic bias:

  • A key part of MRC head Brent Bozell's attack on two bloggers hired last year by John Edwards' presidential campaign was statements by the blogger critical of the pope: "Bill Donohue at the Catholic League waved the red flag of anti-Catholic bigotry." Bozell has even (misleadingly) accused Katie Couric of anti-Catholic bias.
  • In June 2007, NewsBusters' Noel Sheppard accused ABC's "The View" of taking "anti-Catholic positions." 
  • Michael Chapman -- former MRC communications director, now managing editor of -- noted that "Robin Williams riffed on Catholic priests as pedophiles" in a June 2007 appearance on NBC's "Tonight Show with Jay Leno," "proving that anti-Catholic bigotry is alive and well and condoned among Hollywood's elite, and apparently among the liberal media as well." 
  • NewsBusters' Dave Pierre attacked ABC for running a segment on the "Pope Joan" legend, which he called "a slanderous tool to tarnish the Catholic Church and degrade Catholics." 

So you'd think that anyone who has a history of making anti-Catholic statements would get the full MRC treatment, right?

Not so much.

On Feb. 27, right-wing evangelist John Hagee endorsed Republican presidential candidate John McCain -- an endorsement McCain reportedly sought -- and the two held a joint press conference to announce it. But Hagee has a record of making anti-Catholic statements. As the Catholic League's Bill Donohue -- whom Bozell approvingly cited in his attack on the Edwards bloggers -- said:

There are plenty of staunch evangelical leaders who are pro-Israel, but are not anti-Catholic. John Hagee is not one of them. Indeed, for the past few decades, he has waged an unrelenting war against the Catholic Church. For example, he likes calling it ‘The Great Whore,’ an ‘apostate church,’ the ‘anti-Christ,’ and a ‘false cult system.’


In Hagee’s latest book, Jerusalem Countdown, he calls Hitler a Catholic who murdered Jews while the Catholic Church did nothing. ‘The sell-out of Catholicism to Hitler began not with the people but with the Vatican itself,’ he writes.

“For the record, Hitler persecuted the Catholic Church and was automatically excommunicated in 1931—two years before he assumed power—when he acted as best man at Joseph Goebbel’s Protestant wedding.


“Senator Obama has repudiated the endorsement of Louis Farrakhan, another bigot. McCain should follow suit and retract his embrace of Hagee.”

What was the MRC's response to these anti-Catholic statements? Virtual silence.

Over the next two weeks, the only significant mention of Hagee on any MRC website was a March 4 article by Josiah Ryan that focused on the endorsement and pointed out other controversial statements. Strangely, no apparent effort was made to contact McCain's campaign for a response beyond reporting previous statements distancing McCain from Hagee's views but not renouncing the endorsement.

By contrast, a March 4 NewsBusters post by Brent Baker mentioned it only in passing but focused instead on complaining that a statement in which Gloria Steinem allegedly "ridiculed John McCain's years as a prisoner of war" did not get more play. Baker also put the word "controversy" in scare quotes to describe Bill Cunningham's attack on Barack Obama last week.

Bozell even devoted his March 13 column to attacking comedian Lewis Black for making what he called anti-Catholic statements -- "Now, on the cusp of the Easter celebration, it’s Catholic-hunting season again" -- but there was no mention whatsoever of Hagee.

Finally, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, with the burgeoning controversy of inflammatory remarks made by the pastor at his Chicago church, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, gave the MRC cover to address Hagee -- and to equivocate him away.

A March 14 post by John Stephenson likened Wright to the notorious gay-haters at the Westboro Baptist Church -- Stephenson offers no evidence that any member of Wright's church, Obama included, travels around the country hurling slurs at funerals -- but he makes no mention of Hagee.

Tim Graham wrote in a March 15 NewsBusters post:

If you have liberal friends who try to rebut you and say that the same networks that had largely ignored Obama’s pastor Jeremiah Wright also ignored John McCain being embraced by harshly anti-Catholic evangelist John Hagee, you can first say that there’s a huge difference between someone’s selected pastor of two decades and a new endorser.

Graham then noted network coverage and concluded: "McCain satisfied the Catholic League that he had rejected Hagee's whore-of-Babylon wheezing." But if it's so important to note the Catholic League acceptance of McCain's distancing himself from Hagee's "whore-of-Babylon wheezing," why wasn't it important for the MRC to note it in the first place?

Indeed, before Donohue declared on March 10 that “Sen. McCain has done the right thing and we salute him for doing so. As far as the Catholic League is concerned, this case is closed,” the Catholic League issued numerous other criticisms of McCain that the MRC also ignored:

In other words, nearly two weeks of mounting criticism culminated in a distancing that Donohue could find acceptable -- something Graham and the rest of the MRC does not think is worth mentioning, even though, as noted above, they are normally eager to parrot Donohue's various crusades.

Warner Todd Huston joined in the Great Obama Equivocation with a March 15 NewsBusters post: "Obama had many decades of intimacy with Rev. Wright proving that Wright's hate speech could not possibly have bothered Barack very much at all, much less have come as any surprise. While John McCain had only just met John Hagee proving that his history of anti-Catholic statements is not something that McCain could have had long and intimate contact with." 

"McCain had only just met John Hagee"? Wrong. McCain has known Hagee since at least July 2007, when he attended an conference run by Hagee's group, Christians United for Israel. Given that McCain has known Hagee for several months at the very least, shouldn't he have done a better job of vetting Hagee before accepting that endorsement?

Huston also falsely claimed that it was "late last week" that Hagee's anti-Catholic attacks "began to surface," ignoring Donohue's late-February statements.

Hagee's comments -- which, by the way, covered not only anti-Catholicism but anti-gay and misogynistic comments, which the MRC hasn't said a peep about -- was not the only McCain-related controversy the MRC has been studiously ignoring. Another evangelical pastor McCain has hooked up with, Rod Parsley, has asserted that Christians have been called upon to wage a "war" against the "false religion" of Islam with the aim of destroying it.

The only mention of Parsley in relation to McCain anywhere to date on an MRC website is a March 17 NewsBusters post by Matthew Balan noting that CNN commentator Roland Martin "equivocate[d]" Wright’s comments to "two ministers who have endorsed John McCain -- John Hagee and Rod Parsley." That's a rather rich complaint considering the MRC's own equivocation on the subject.

(A July 2007 NewsBusters post by Balan, meanwhile, complained that a CNN profile of Parsley "characterized Parsley as 'no agent of tolerance,' due to his stance against homosexuality and criticism of Islam" and "featured the standard left-wing labeling of Christian conservatives.")

And a March 18 column by Bozell railed against Wright -- "If Obama really meant any of this rhetoric about healing racial divisions – in any of his speeches over many months of campaigning – he would have quit his hate-spewing minister and his Church of Slurs a long time ago" -- but didn't mention Hagee or Parsley.

Bozell's demand that Obama cut off all ties with Wright contrasts with his own behavior toward conservative evangelist Jerry Falwell, who said, among numerous controversial statements, that the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks can be blamed on "the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians ... the ACLU, People for the American Way -- all of them who have tried to secularize America -- I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen.'" In a May 23, 2007, column eulogizing Falwell after his death, Bozell wrote:

It wasn’t hard to disagree with Jerry Falwell. As a Catholic I could easily disagree with many of his theological positions. I didn’t always agree with him on politics, either. But these disagreements never reached the point of enmity because I could applaud him for so much more.


Every obituary in the mainstream press has regurgitated Falwell’s ill-timed statement after 9/11 for which he was condemned by liberals and conservatives alike, and for which he would later apologize. That is part of the historical record, and deserved inclusion. But for his enemies it deserved to be far more than that. It needed to be the centerpiece of his obituary, that which by its essence would define Falwell as an extremist, at the virtual exclusion of his manifold achievements.

If Bozell is willing to overlook Falwell's extremism, why shouldn't Obama overlook Wright's?

The MRC is not the only slice of the ConWeb to ignore McCain's ties to Hagee and Parsley. Not only has WorldNetDaily yet to publish an original "news" article about it, no columnist has so much as breathed a word about it -- which is strange because WND editor Joseph Farah deplored the idea of evangelicals endorsing McCain a year ago.

In a Feb. 12, 2007, column, Farah expressed dismay that "several major American Christian leaders seem ready to accept the possibility of a John McCain presidency," including "my friend John Hagee." Indeed, Hagee is enough of a friend to have written a column for WND for a time in 2002, and WND's online store sells at least one Hagee-penned book, as well as one by Parsley.

Farah went on to bash McCain as "morally bankrupt, intellectually dishonest and emotionally unequipped for the Oval Office," as well as "emotionally and psychologically unstable" in the tradition of Hillary Clinton, Captain Queeg and "Charles Logan, the fictional president in season five of '24.'" He then praised Focus on the Family's James Dobson because he "all but ruled out supporting McCain under any circumstances."

There is a history here, but why is WND being silent now? The short answer appears to be that as much as Farah despises McCain -- and he does; in a March 19 column, he says he'd rather see a Democrat in the White House than McCain -- he also doesn't want to offend his friend Hagee, so WND will not put Hagee on the spot and either call him out for his controversial statements or run to his defense.

Then again, WND may also concur with Hagee's anti-Catholic bias. In a October 2006 article, WND suggested that Georgetown University, a historically Catholic school, wasn't Christian -- even putting "Christian" in scare quotes describing the school -- because it had barred Protestant student ministries from campus. Yet there is nothing in the WND archive regarding the decision in 2000 by Baylor University's Board of Regents to make the Baptist Student Ministries the only chartered denominational organization on campus, thus kicking all other Christian ministries off campus.

All of this would seem to be a contradiction of WND's mission statement to be "credible, fearless, independent." There's nothing credible, fearless, or independent about being afraid to offend a friend of the owner.

Just like Bozell and Falwell -- indeed, Bozell called Falwell a "friend."

If Bozell and the MRC really to lead by example and provide a precedent to follow, all they need to do is simply and unequivocally denounce McCain for hanging with Hagee and Parsley.

But they won't. They have sold out their religious faith in the service of partisan politics.

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