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CNS' Barely Managing Editor, Part 2: The Fringe Opinionator

The only thing further to the right than Michael W. Chapman has taken's "news" coverage is the commentary he promotes.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 8/3/2015

Michael W. Chapman managing editor Michael W. Chapman has much more career experience writing for conservative think tanks and talking-point generators than he does in a newsroom, which explains why CNS' "news" coverage is as biased as it is.

But even those conservative outlets where Chapman formerly worked pale in comparison to the aggressively right-wing opinions he promotes under his name on CNS' commentary blog.

Franklin Graham obsession

Chapman has a peculiar obsession with promoting the words of right-wing evangelical minister Franklin Graham -- the more anti-Muslim ("Washington Has Been Infiltrated by Muslims Who Are Advising the White House") , anti-LGBT ("Rev. Graham on 'Transgender' Policy: It's 'Wicked,' and 'They Want to Brainwash Our Children'") and anti-Obama ("Rev. Graham: Obama 'Is Leading This Nation on a Sinful Course, and God Will Judge Him'") the better.

How obsessive? in the first six months of 2015, 46 of the 131 articles appearing under Chapman's byline -- a full 35 percent of his work -- were regurgitations of Graham statements. Chapman also devoted three more articles in that time span to the utterings of Graham's sister, Anne Graham Lotz.

Curiously, for all of Chapman's dedicated Graham sycophancy, there are words of his he won't repeat -- namely, the ones where Graham isn't denigrating people he despises. On the May 6 edition of "Fox & Friends," Graham denounced the Muhammad-cartoon exhibit in Texas where two would-be gunmen were killed, saying the attendees "were wrong" to mock Muslims, adding that "I disagree with Islam, I don’t believe in Islam, but I’m not going to mock them and make fun of them."

While Chapman reprinted numerous anti-Muslim screeds by Graham -- i.e. "Rev. Graham to Obama: ‘Wake Up to The Very Real Threat of Islam’!" -- he apparently didn't believe this statement was worthy of note.

Why? Perhaps because it ran afoul of the MRC's effectively official position on the issue. The same day Graham made his remarks, CNS published a column by Chapman's boss, Brent Bozell, and Tim Graham expressing their support for the "exercise of free speech" at the Muhammad cartoon contest, insisting that while it was "provocative... it wasn't meant to result in two Islamic extremists showing up with assault rifles."

(They don't know that, of course; it's entirely possible Pamela Geller, the anti-Muslim activist who staged the event, wanted to provoke a violent response in order to justify her hatred. Instead, Bozell and Graham complain that some in the media described Geller as "relentlessly shrill and coarse in her broad-brush denunciations of Islam." They don't dispute the accuracy of the description, though.)

In a June 22 Facebook post, Graham said it is time to "set aside" the Confederate battle flag in an effort to boost American unity:

My great-great-grandfathers fought for the South under the Confederate flag during the civil war--both were wounded at Gettysburg and lost limbs. Growing up, many people in the South flew the Confederate flag; but I believe that it’s time for this flag to be set aside as a part of our history. We are all Americans, and we need unity today more than ever. Through faith in Christ we can have love and reconciliation with one another—regardless of race. Jesus Christ can change the human heart and take away the prejudice, racism, and hatred that lies within.

That statement also went unnoticed by Chapman.

More fringe ministers

Graham is not the only fringe minister Chapman has approvingly quoted. In that same time period, he devoted six articles to the views of Rev. Rafael Cruz, father of senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz. (Sample rant: "Rev. Cruz: Obama Admin. 'Has Cursed The Nation of Israel More Than Any Other Administration in History'.")

The elder Cruz has a history of saying incendiary things, such as likening Obama to Fidel Castro and claiming that Obama’s “agenda is to bring us down to a third-world country.” That extreme view is apparently in the mainstream as far as Chapman is concerned.

That's not all. On April 10, Chapman touted a "simple solution" to the issue of "gay activists" who are "attacking Christian bakeries and wedding planners and filing lawsuits to put them out of business because of their religious beliefs," as proposed by a Catholic priest named John Zuhlsdorf: to "show up at the gay wedding wearing a Cross necklace, a Bible-pin on your lapel, and a Bible verse embroidered on your uniform that expresses your morality, such as Mark 10:6-7, 'But at the beginning of creation God made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife.'"

The same day, CNS gave Zuhlsdorf a column to rant about "how homosexualists target Christian businesses for destruction" and advises Christian who cater gay weddings to be "wearing crucifixes and have the Holy Family embroidered on their uniforms. ... When the truck pulls up, speakers will be playing Immaculate Mary. Show them the truck and play the music."

Zuhlsdorf, it turns out, is pretty extreme by Catholic standards. He's considered a "traditionalist" and who is the president of the Tridentine Mass Society, a group of Catholics who cling to the Latin version of the Catholic church service that was conducted before the Second Vatican Council declared that church services should be conducted in the language spoken by local church congregants.

Zuhlsdorf is such an extremist that he expressed his opposition to Pope Francis washing the feet of females as part of a Catholic ritual, insisting that only men may have their feet washed. He also engages in the tacky practice of providing "blessed holy cards" to people who donate money to him.

But extremism is big at the Media Research Center these days. Chapman's MRC bosses, Brent Bozell and Tim Graham, enjoyed Zuhlsdorf's mean-spirited solution so much they touted it in their April 17 column, adding that "if gay couples want to force their lifestyle on others, it naturally follows that religious believers should push their beliefs more elaborately as well."

Quoting old movies, apropos of nothing

Chapman served up a bizarre June 8 blog post headlined "John Wayne Schools Liberal Author on American Freedom and Giving Thanks to God." That headline gives the impression that Chapman will quoting Wayne saying something patriotic to respond to some modern-day "liberal author" who said something Chapman didn't like. Turns out that's not it at all -- Chapman is simply repeating dialogue from a film Wayne starred in, in this case 1946's "Without Reservations," in which a "liberal author" played by Claudette Colbert says apparently liberal things and Wayne's character "sets her straight" with a lecture about how, in Chapman's words, those "who founded and built America did not rely on big government for a hand-out or demand 'insurance for their old age,' but were rugged individualists, self-reliant, real 'men' who looked up at the sky and said, 'thanks God, we’ll take it from here.'"

Chapman doesn't mention that "Without Reservations" is a romantic comedy in which Wayne and Colbert are the star attractions who resolve their differences and hook up at the end (in a 1946 Hollywood way, of course). Or that Colbert's character actually wants Wayne's character to star in the film adaptation of her book, which suggests that the snippet of dialogue Chapman quoted is at least a little out of context. Or that Wayne was simply repeating dialogue somebody else wrote for him (in this case, Andrew Solt); if he said them with such conviction that it melted Chapman's heart, that makes him nothing more than a very good actor.

Chapman also forgets that, despite insisting on telling us that this film was "highly successful" and pointing out that it had "a reported budget of $1,683,000, and it grossed $3,000,000 at the box office," there is not necessarily a direct relationship between a given film's popularity and its quality. For instance, "Citizen Kane" lost money during its initial theatrical release, but nobody's calling it a bad film.

Recycled hate

Chapman's June 2 article rehashing an anti-gay psychiatrist's claim that "transgenderism is a “mental disorder” that merits treatment" looked a little familiar. Turns out we were right.

Last August, as ConWebWatch documented, Chapman devoted an article to "a recent commentary in the Wall Street Journal" by "Dr. Paul R. McHugh, the former psychiatrist-in-chief for Johns Hopkins Hospital and its current Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry," even though the article had been published a full two months earlier and had ceased being news, if it ever was (except by CNS standards, anyway). We noted that Chapman made no effort to mention the many mental health professionals who disagree with McHugh's claims, meaning all he did is summarize McHugh's commentary. That's stenography, not journalism.

The link provided for that August article now pulls up the June 2 article. All Chapman did is slap a new date on his discredited 10-month-old piece to pretend that it's relevant with the coming out of Caitlyn Jenner as a transsexual.

Smearing Stephen Colbert

Chapman's Twitter account is dedicated not only to repeating CNS article but also to promoting the right-wing talking points of the day. he's also not afraid to express his right-wing opinions there, even though his employer would excoriate any non-conservative journalist who dared expressed an opinion in a tweet.

For instance, Chapman wrote in a June 27 tweet: "Watch: Moral Degenerate Stephen Colbert Celebrates Marriage Equality, Skewers Dissenters." Most of that headline repeats the headline of the Variety article he links to, but "moral degenerate" is Chapman's addition.

The mere fact that Chapman apparently considers anyone who supports gay marriage to be a "moral degenerate" says volumes about the editorial agenda he's advancing at CNS; the fact that he's resorting to a discredited birther to attack gay marriage is ample evidence.

Publishing a birther

CNS has reflected the creeping WND-ism of its parent, the Media Research Center, as it continues to go right-wing and offer "news" that is less than factual. Another sign of it under Chapman: CNS has published op-eds by a birther.

A June 11 CNS column featured Herbert W. Titus and his law partner, William J. Olson, ranting against same-sex marriage and declaring that the Surpreme Court has no right to sit in judgment of the constitutionality of same-sex marriage because Sir William Blackstone said so, or something. CNS' bio for Titus highlights how he "taught Constitutional Law for 26 years, and concluded his academic career as the Founding Dean of Regent Law School."

What CNS doesn't say about Herb Titus: He's a birther, and the birthers at WND love him.

In a 2009 WND article, Titus proclaimed that "Obama cannot be a natural-born citizen, even if he’s born in Hawaii," because he did not have two parents who were American citizens and that his "loyalties" lie with his long-deceased Kenyan-born father. In a 2012 WND article, Titus asserted that natural born citizenship is "God-given" and that the concept "is written into the very nature of the universe of nation-states" and "exists independent of any human power, legislative or otherwise. That is why ‘natural born citizenship’ is not defined in the Constitution."

Never mind that the Constitution makes any mention whatsoever about "loyalties," or that courts over the past century or so have routinely defined the term as applying to anyone born in the U.S. regardless of their parents' citizenship.

By contrast, Titus has been much less vocal about the eligibility status of Ted Cruz, whose political views align much closer to him than Obama's and who is also not eligible to be president under his extremely narrow definition of the term.

Religion Dispatches points out that Titus is an admirer of the late R.J. Rushdoony, the father of the far-right principle of Christian Reconstructionism -- a principle also followed by WND editor Joseph Farah.

Apparently CNS couldn't get enough of Titus' legally suspect opinions, so he returned in a July 6 column declaring that the Supreme court's ruling on same-sex marriage is "illegitimate and unlawful" and "Worthy only to be disobeyed." Titus concludes his article by he will "will continue to release articles" on how Americans can and should break the law -- a strange position for a so-called legal expert to take.

Given that Titus' view on Obama's eligibility and the definition of "natural born citizen" can be found nowhere in U.S. jurisprudence, it makes anything he has to say on any legal issue rather suspect.

This is the guy who CNS has deemed acceptable to write an opinion column for it.

* * *

CNS' news coverage demonstrates that Chapman is clearly incapable of generating fair and balanced reporting, and his editorial stances prove just how CNS is driven by agenda over facts. Every time the MRC attacks a media outlet for alleged bias, it's complete hypocrisy since its continued employment of Chapman shows it has no intention of applying the same standards to its own "news" outlet.

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