Wayne Grudem

NPR could have asked: What should evangelicals say about a president caught in adultery?

NPR could have asked: What should evangelicals say about a president caught in adultery?

Every journalist knows this essential truth: It’s very easy to report and write a story that you have already reported and written in your mind — even before you make the first phone call to the first source.

During the week leading up to Christmas, I was bracing myself for one of those stories, focusing — #DUH — on Donald Trump and all of those white evangelicals in Middle America who, in most media coverage, worship the ground on which he walks.

As it turned out, that’s the kind of story that showed up in the spectacular scandal at Der Spiegel, where editors had to face the fact that superstar reporter Claas Relotius had been making up lots of the material reported in his feature stories — including a piece about Trump supporters in the American heartland.

In my post about that media storm, I wrote the following:

The key is that one of the most celebrated newsrooms in Europe decided to probe the dark heart of Middle America in the age of Donald Trump. You know: How do solid, faithful, ordinary Americans in the heartland make peace with their support for a demon? That sort of thing.

Frankly, I have been bracing myself for exactly this kind of feature during the Christmas season, a kind of 'It’s Christmas in Donald Trump’s America' vision of life in some heavily evangelical Protestant town in the Bible Belt.

Well, that hasn’t happened. Yet.

To which, a longtime GetReligion responded: “How about this one, courtesy of NPR?”

Well, the story in question isn’t a Christmas piece. It’s an end-of-the-year feature with this headline: “For Evangelicals, A Year Of Reckoning On Sexual Sin And Support For Donald Trump.” But, as we would say in Texas, it’s close enough for horseshoes and hand grenades.

As always, this NPR story featured the following piece information:

About 80 percent of white evangelical voters backed Trump in 2016, and exit polls from this year's mid-term election showed little or no erosion of that support.

As always, I would have preferred, for the sake of nuance and accuracy, that this sentence have said that these evangelicals “voted for” Trump in 2016, rather than “backed” — since many actually opposed his candidacy and reluctantly voted for him as a painful way to defeat Hillary Clinton. Click here for more poll research on that point.

But the simple fact of the matter is that this NPR piece pushes lots of valid buttons, using a mix of sources — such as evangelicals and, if would appear, former evangelicals. Here is the overture:

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Maybe Twitter helped some editors see bigger puzzle of Trump and evangelicals

Maybe Twitter helped some editors see bigger puzzle of Trump and evangelicals

After months of "Evangelicals love Donald Trump!" coverage, it appears some major news organizations are starting to put together a few key pieces in the American Evangelical Protestant puzzle.

Is this because, in the wake of the very well-timed "hot mic" tape leak, more of these news reports are being written by veteran religion-beat professionals, as opposed to the tone-deaf folks in the political-journalism pack?

That is certainly a big part part of the picture.

Is it because of Twitter and other forms of social media, which allow editors to see (without needing to meet any of these religious nuts) evidence that the world of #NeverTrump #NeverHillary has existed on the cultural right since the start of the White House race? After all, how many pros in the Acela Zone follow developments in Utah or know about the Gospel Coalition? I'm amazed, even at this point in the game, how many journalists have never heard of the Rev. Russell Moore.

Before we get to the Sarah Pulliam Bailey round-up for today, it is significant that the Associated Press has produced a feature with the headline, "Why Do Evangelicals Prefer Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton?"

Of course, this headline should have included the word "some," as in "some evangelicals." Down in the body of the feature, AP made it rather clear that many -- perhaps even most -- religious conservatives are not planning to vote for Trump, but against you know who. This is not news to people who follow religion trends, but it will be surprising to some editors at daily newspapers:

Recent polls show the GOP presidential nominee drawing about 70 percent of the white evangelical vote. Although some evangelicals defended Trump's character, many couched their endorsements in pragmatic terms, focused on Trump's promise that he will appoint conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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