Donohue vs. the Edwards bloggers: A Snapshot of the Controversy
On Tuesday John Broder at the NYTimes published a piece picking up Bill Donohue’s noise making about the past posts of two bloggers recently hired by the Edwards campaign.
As Glen Greenwald pointed out, “But when the Times claims that the Edwards campaign is “in hot water,” what they mean is that there are complaints from a few bloggers fueled by the right-wing Catholic League’s Bill Donohue.”
Wolf gets on the situation and then CNN’s internet reporter collects a bunch of no-comments from campaigns that, yes, have bloggers too. So the narrative emerges: the Edwards campaign hired two bloggers whose past writings are vulgar and highly critical of some religious mores. Catholic League head Bill Donohue finds out about the offending posts, and as he always manages to do gets substantial press coverage with accusations of “anti-Catholic bigotry.”
Pointing to “a February 2 article in Women’s Wear Daily that described Donohue’s efforts to “manufacture controversy,” Media Matters for America includes the definitive list of discrediting quotes from Donohue and also critiques the unquestioning early media coverage treating Donohue as the representative of Catholicism. In fact, many Catholic organizations disagree with his POV.
For example, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good issued this press statement:
“We also invite Catholic League president Bill Donohue to focus on promoting the values and message at the heart of the Catholic faith — the common good, and a concern for the least among us — and to address his own political hypocrisy. In 2000, Mr. Donohue called out Gov. George W. Bush for speaking at Bob Jones University. Gov. Bush later condemned the school’s anti-Catholic views, and Mr. Donohue quickly accepted the renouncement. Mr. Donohue rapidly accepted Mel Gibson’s apology for anti-Semitic remarks. We ask him today to join us to renew focus Jesus’ message of the common good, social justice, and forgiveness, to drop his rhetoric of division and personal defamation. We invite him to join in debate about an authentic Catholic response to the real problems facing our nation and culture.”
Donohue’s response, as usual, is about silencing political enemies cloaked in hyperbole that drives the MSM’s coverage of religion. As David Goldstein points out Huff Post: “For his part Donohue now promises a “nationwide public relations blitz” against Edwards, attacking him for his religious “bigotry”… this from a man who freely laces his own public statements with anti-semitic rhetoric.” Evidence? From the 12/08/04 broadcast of Scarborough Country, Bill Donohue everyone: “Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. It’s not a secret, OK? And I’m not afraid to say it. That’s why they hate this movie. It’s about Jesus Christ, and it’s about truth. It’s about the messiah.”
And yes, even arch conservatives like William F. Buckley criticized Donohue for attacking an ethnicity as ideology.
Responses have come in from many corners of the blogosphere, blending varying degrees of disgust at Donohue and discomfort with the writings of the bloggers in question.
At MyDD, Nancy Scola sums up her feelings with this: “And it’s absurd to claim to know that Amanda is anti-Catholic deep within her soul because of a few blog posts. But in her writings she certainly warmly embraced the tactic of mocking that faith. To pretend otherwise is to run away from a nut that does need to be cracked at some point: have we made the Democratic tent big enough to welcome religious activists without constantly snickering behind their backs?” A variety of similar posts at the Catholic blog/magazine Commonweal strike on similar notes.
Pastor Dan of Street Prophets is having none of it. He writes that “This is a reprehensible and feather-weight charge, and it should be rejected. I was particularly upset to read the posts in question and discover that there’s nothing there that others haven’t already said – including Catholics – albeit less colorfully. That is to say, the entire case for the alleged bigotry is a matter of tone and vocabulary, not substance.”
Faithful Progressive hopes that this would lead some bloggers to give religious ideas more respect. Tone matters.
Faithful Democrats (Edwards is Southern Baptist) grants Edwards a kinda pass on this, but objects to the from-the-gut (or lower) rhetoric of the two bloggers. Jesse writes:
They’re not political arguments; they’re condemnations of people who hold certain religious beliefs. They’re not funny; they’re sardonic; they’re mean; they’re contemptuous. And calling out Marcotte and McEwen is entirely appropriate.
The Edwards camp, as most know, has decided to retain the bloggers:
“The tone and the sentiment of some of Amanda Marcotte’s and Melissa McEwen’s posts personally offended me. It’s not how I talk to people, and it’s not how I expect the people who work for me to talk to people. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that kind of intolerant language will not be permitted from anyone on my campaign, whether it’s intended as satire, humor, or anything else. But I also believe in giving everyone a fair shake. I’ve talked to Amanda and Melissa; they have both assured me that it was never their intention to malign anyone’s faith, and I take them at their word. We’re beginning a great debate about the future of our country, and we can’t let it be hijacked. It will take discipline, focus, and courage to build the America we believe in.”
The Rev. Chuck Currie provides some historical context about when the Donohue attacked his blog. Then the good Reverend Currie concludes: “I don’t like the rhetoric employed by the bloggers the Edwards campaign hired. We need more civil discourse than that. But Donohue is nothing more than another right-wing political activist trying to high jack the Christian faith for his own political gain. Make no mistake about that.”
Instead of retyping the tired old messages from the loudest bigots of religion, the “mainstream media” needs to listen to more mainstream folks [shameless plug warning] like these thoughtful religious Americans.