An Iowa radio talk show host recently made headlines and provoked outrage when he suggested Catholic nuns who were traveling the country engaging in political activism ought to be pulled over and pistol-whipped. Not helping matters was the fact the radio show's guest, an Iowa Congressman, laughed at the "pistol whip" comment.
But at Fox News there was virtually no discussion about the disturbing incident. The infamous Fox outrage machine was definitely not cranked up this week, and hosts did not invite on a bevy of guests to express their shock and dismay at such wildly anti-Catholic rhetoric filling the airwaves and being laughed at by a politician.
In fact, the ugly incident wasn't mentioned once on Fox's primetime programs. And this from an outlet that at times this year has sounded like the in-house news channel for the Archdiocese of New York.
Why did Fox pass on what should have been low-hanging fruit for a channel that has spent so much of 2012 obsessing over supposed political slights directed at Catholics, and claiming Democrats have declared war on the church?
Three reasons. First, the traveling nuns are protesting deep budget cuts advocated by Republican Paul Ryan; cuts the nuns say will adversely affect the poor, disabled and elderly. Second, the Iowa host who made the violent "pistol whip" crack is a right-wing talker. And third, the guest who chuckled at the comment was a Republican, Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA).
In other words, this Catholic story was completely off-message for Fox and its copyrighted narrative about how Obama's Democrats are waging war on the church. The nuns story was just one of several that Fox has been eagerly avoiding in recent weeks.
The anti-Catholic battle cry was sounded in January when the administration announced church-affiliated organizations were required to provide health insurance plans that cover contraceptives for women free of charge. Angry Catholic leaders insisted the ruling infringed on the their first amendment right to freedom of religion. (Polling has shown that a majority of Catholics support the idea of employers being required to provide contraception.)
Rallying around the birth control controversy, Fox has spent an inordinate amount of time this year pushing the specious claim that the White House is openly hostile to Catholics and that Democrats in general have somehow declared wide-ranging war on the pontiff. Fox has transformed itself into something of a Catholic hothouse, where issues of church and state are endlessly discussed. (The ties between the two are so tight the Vatican recently hired a Fox News reporter to serve as its new public relations man.) According to Nexis, Fox this year has hosted at least 200 segments where the Catholic Church was discussed; or more than one segment per-day.
And yes, most of that discussion has taken the form of Fox hosts and guests ceaselessly bashing Obama:
But here's what Fox has spent very little time on this year; addressing the many ways the Catholic Church and Catholic representatives have generated news supporting the Obama agenda while condemning the policies of the Republican Party. In typical Fox fashion, its news is only viewed through very narrow partisan blinders.
On June 15, the Obama administration announced it would begin granting work permits to certain young immigrants who had entered the country illegally. Among the groups applauding the president's decision was the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. For years, the Bishops had been urging Congress to pass the similar DREAM Act (filibustered by Republicans), calling it "a practical, fair, and compassionate solution for thousands of young persons."
This Monday, the United States Supreme Court ruled on a strident anti-immigration law passed by Arizona lawmakers. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops expressed "concern" that the controversial centerpiece of the strict law was upheld by the conservative court. The Bishops had been critical of the Arizona law for years, calling it "draconian" and condemning its lack of human dignity.
On neither occasion however, did Fox viewers see a steady stream of Catholic leaders parading on TV to express their opinion about the DREAM Act or the Arizona law and how they supported the Obama administration. In fact, Catholic leaders were essentially locked out both times when Fox focused its coverage on landmark immigration developments. Unlike its anti-Obama contraception crusade, when Catholic voices side with Obama they're of little use to Fox.
That's likely why Fox has shown no interest in the Nuns on The Bus tour that's been traveling around the country, spreading a distinctly progressive message of social justice. According to Nexis, not one of the Fox programs that the transcription service monitors has mentioned Nuns on the Bus this month.
Fox's phony claim about a Democratic War on Catholics has never made much sense. The fact that Fox works so hard to ignore how often Catholic leaders and activists support Obama only underscores that point.