The Ringer

Trump is what matters: Mark Burnett/Roma Downey faith duet gets a nod in The New Yorker

Trump is what matters: Mark Burnett/Roma Downey faith duet gets a nod in The New Yorker

During the summer of 2017, I spent some time trying to get ahold of Mark Burnett, originator of “The Apprentice,” “Survivor,” “Shark Tank” and other reality TV shows.

I was researching a story on Paula White, A key spiritual advisor to Donald Trump. She’d told me she’d held Bible studies for cast members of “The Apprentice” and I wanted to see if Burnett would talk about having her on the set.

This Hollywood player had an obvious Christian connection, as he’d been married to “Touched by an Angel” co-star Roma Downey since 2007, so I thought a few questions about Paula’s Bible studies shouldn’t faze him. But he’d been under pressure to release tapes from “The Apprentice” (so people can check to see if Trump said anything outrageous on them), so he was not commenting on anything to do with the show. Downey, by the way, is one of the most openly Christian actresses in Hollywood.

So I was intrigued to read more about his religious journey in a new story out in The New Yorker. The gist of this long tale isn’t faith by any means. Like so much news fodder these days, the key is Trump, Trump, Trump.

This feature story wanders around, asking this question: Does Burnett feel any responsibility for staging the show that propelled Trump toward the presidency? In other words, Burnett created this monster and how does he live with it?

Answer: Very well. If Burnett feels any qualms about his curious role in American history, he’s not talking about it. As good and insightful as the article is –- and I certainly learned a lot from it –- I’ll not be dwelling on most of it. But I do have something to say about the religious parts.

Downey, who grew up in a Catholic family in Northern Ireland, is deeply religious, and eventually Burnett, too, reoriented his life around Christianity. “Faith is a major part of our marriage,” Downey said, in 2013, adding, “We pray together.”

For people who had long known Burnett, it was an unexpected turn. This was a man who had ended his second marriage during a live interview with Howard Stern. … In 2008, Burnett’s longtime business partner, a lawyer named Conrad Riggs, filed a lawsuit alleging that Burnett had stiffed him to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. …

Years ago, Burnett told Esquire that religion was “a waste of time.” (Second wife) Dianne Burnett told me that when she was married to him he had no interest in faith. “But you know what? People change,” she continued.

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Holy ghosts in sports stories? It turns out somebody besides GetReligion has noticed them

Holy ghosts in sports stories? It turns out somebody besides GetReligion has noticed them

Holy ghostbusters!

This certainly is an interesting development.

I just came across a piece recently published by The Ringer, the website founded by sportswriter Bill Simmons. The headline: "NFL Scoops From Heaven." (Thanks to Arthur Freyre for the tip!)

Basic gist of the article: Why a Christianity-focused website got the exclusive when running back Matt Forte decided to retire:

This February, when Matt Forte decided to retire, he could have leaked the news to any NFL insider he wanted. Adam Schefter has the biggest reach. Handing the scoop to a reporter in Chicago, where Forte spent most of his career, would’ve counted as a goodwill gesture. But the reporter Forte settled on had one distinct advantage over the rest: He and Forte had talked about their faith in Christ.
On February 27, Forte called Jason Romano, who writes for a Christian website calledSports Spectrum. “I am a Christian athlete,” Forte told me. “Actually, I’m more Christian than athlete, and I wanted people to realize that first. I felt if I used one of the regular publications that are strictly sports-oriented that they’d leave Jesus’s name out of it.”
Romano prepared the scoop in just the way Forte wanted: with a brief statement and a podcast interview. Then Romano went to bed and hoped the news held. “My honest to God thought was, I hope this doesn’t get leaked to Adam Schefter or any of the guys on the NFL Network,” he said. The next morning, Sports Spectrum published its exclusive. In a competitive season of NFL scoopage, the site was credited by everyone from ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini to the Associated Press.

For years, we at GetReligion have been pointing out the God-sized holes in sports stories (examples here, here, here, here and here). For those new to this journalism-focused website, we refer to such holes as "holy ghosts."

In a 2010 piece for the Wall Street Journal, former GetReligion contributor Sarah Pulliam Bailey — now a national religion writer for the Washington Post — delved into why "God" talk tends to get sidelined in sports media:

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