Stormy Daniels

Your weekend think piece: David French's painful letter to Trump's evangelical defenders

Your weekend think piece: David French's painful letter to Trump's evangelical defenders

Last summer, I did something that I had been thinking about ever since the first years of this 14-year-old blog.

I read went to this website's archives and looked around a bit, glancing at quite a few topics and then scanning posts inside some key ones. It's pretty easy to spot big, repeating topics, since the press has a pretty consistent worldview when it comes to deciding what is news and what is not. As the old saying goes: The news media don't really tell people what to think. However, they do a great job of telling news consumers what to think ABOUT.

After taking lots and lots of notes, I wrote out an outline for a journalism classroom lecture entitled, "The Seven Deadly Sins of Religion Reporting." This weekend's think piece is linked to Deadly Sin No. 2:

* Assume that religion equals politics -- period. After all, politics deal with things that are real, as opposed to mere beliefs. Thus, whenever people claim that their actions are based on centuries of doctrines and traditions, journalists should assume that those actions are actually rooted in political biases, party politics, economics, sociology, etc. Whatever you do, go out of your way to ignore doctrine.

Examples: Too many to number.

This brings us to this weekend's think piece, which is linked to one of those topics that you know will appear in elite media at least once a week -- Donald Trump's loyal defenders among white evangelicals. Here's a key post I wrote on this topic, just before the election: "Listen to the silence: It does appear that most evangelicals will reluctantly vote Trump."

Now, please check out this National Review piece by David French, a Harvard Law graduate who is a religious-liberty specialist. He is also one of the nation's most outspoken #NeverTrump religious conservatives.

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Concerning evangelicals, Trump and Stormy Daniels, named sources are more credible

Concerning evangelicals, Trump and Stormy Daniels, named sources are more credible

First is not always best.

That's my quick critique of the NPR story that made such a splash Friday. You know, the one that reported evangelical leaders are very concerned about swirling allegations "about the president and a payout to a porn star to cover up a sexual encounter." 

Those leaders, NPR said, "are organizing a sit-down with President Trump in June."

Alrighty, but where's the story coming from?

The answer would be "four sources with knowledge of the planned meeting." In other words, we have what has become all too frustratingly common in the Trump era: a narrative based on anonymous voices.

Bottom line: Such sources know what they're talking about. Or they don't. You can trust them. Or you can't. And therein lies the problem.

I'll admit my bias: I wish major news organizations would stop using anonymous sources (who have an agenda or wouldn't be talking). Make people go on the record (so readers will have more information on which to judge a source's agenda). Or simply don't quote them. It's that simple.

Anonymous sources do nothing to improve the credibility of journalism in an age in which the president of the United States scores cheap political points by criticizing what he calls the #FakeNews media.

After quoting the anonymous sources, NPR includes a named source — yah! — who pooh-poohs much of the earlier storyline:

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A former Playboy centerfold complicates Donald Trump's 'changed life' timeline

A former Playboy centerfold complicates Donald Trump's 'changed life' timeline

While citizens of these here American States of America await the latest blast from Hurricane Stormy (on CBS tonight), people who are interested in religious themes in the life and affairs of Donald Trump may have connected some other dots this past week.

I am, of course, talking about former Playboy Playmate of the Year Karen McDougal baring her soul in a lengthy interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, one of America's high priests of elite grocery-aisle journalism.

The key -- especially for the president's evangelical apologists -- is how the details of her allegations fit into the timeline of events in Trump's campaign for the White House, including his efforts to convince cultural conservatives that he was, and is, one of them. Here's the top of a Washington Post story about the CNN interview:

Former Playboy model Karen McDougal spoke on camera for the first time about the 10-month affair she says she had with Donald Trump shortly after the birth of his youngest son, baring the relationship’s most intimate details and tracing its arc -- from the moment she first met the future president to what she says was her decision to end the romance later. ...
The hour-long interview on CNN marked a particularly sensational moment, for both Trump, as allegations about past affairs draw more scrutiny, and the media, for whom McDougal’s in-depth questioning from host Anderson Cooper was a prime-time event. If Trump’s presidency and the headlines it has generated have been considered a reality show, this was the grocery aisle tabloid rebuttal.
McDougal spoke about a physical relationship she says began in 2006, alleging Trump offered her money the first time they were intimate and choking up as she recounted the guilt she felt for being a party to an affair. ...
“When I look back where I was back then, I know it’s wrong,” McDougal said, choking back tears. “I’m really sorry for that.”

Forget the steamy parts. What is truly interesting is how this fits into the larger Trump timeline, in terms of religious issues. We are, of course, talking about an extramarital affair -- one that led McDougal to offer an on-air apology to Melania Trump.

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