NY Times article on Clinton's faith lacks sources for those who question her "sincerity"
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A July 7 New York Times article by reporter Michael Luo exploring how Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-NY) Methodist faith "intertwines" with her "political life" asserted that Clinton "has been alluding to her spiritual life with increasing regularity in recent years," and that those references "have come under attack, both from conservatives who doubt her sincerity ... and liberals who object to any injection of religion into politics." Yet the article cited only one named conservative source attacking the "sincerity" of Clinton's faith -- Weekly Standard senior editor Andrew Ferguson, whose comments were taken from a separate interview on MSNBC, previously noted by Media Matters for America -- as well as unnamed "conservative bloggers." By contrast, in addition to interviewing Clinton about her faith, Luo cited numerous sources -- including those close to Clinton, Republican candidate for president and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (himself a Baptist minister), theologians, and other religious experts -- asserting in a variety of ways that Clinton is, as John C. Green, senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, was quoted as saying in the article, "a person of deep and sincere faith." Notwithstanding Luo's assertion about "attack[s]" on Clinton's "references to faith" from both conservatives and liberals, the article did not quote -- either by name or anonymously -- any "liberals who object" to Clinton's "injection of religion into politics."
From the Times article:
Long before her beliefs would be tested in the most wrenching of ways as first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton taught an adult Sunday school class on the importance of forgiveness. It is a lesson, she says, that she has harked back to often.
"We all have things that oftentimes we're upset about, or ashamed of, or feel guilty over, and so many people carry these enormous burdens around," Mrs. Clinton said in a recent interview. "One of the great gifts of faith is to let it go."
The themes of wrongs, forgiveness and reconciliation have played out repeatedly in Mrs. Clinton's life, as she has endured the ordeal of her husband's infidelity, engaged in countless political battles and shared a deep, mutual distrust with adversaries.
Her Methodist faith, Mrs. Clinton says, has guided her as she sought to repair her marriage, forgiven some critics who once vilified her and struggled in the bare-knuckles world of politics to fulfill the biblical commandment to love thy neighbor.
Mrs. Clinton, the New York senator who is seeking the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, has been alluding to her spiritual life with increasing regularity in recent years, language that has dovetailed with efforts by her party to reach out to churchgoers who have been voting overwhelmingly Republican.
Mrs. Clinton's references to faith, though, have come under attack, both from conservatives who doubt her sincerity (one writer recently lumped her with the type of Christians who "believe in everything but God") and liberals who object to any injection of religion into politics. And her motivations have been cast as political calculation by detractors, who suggest she is only trying to moderate her liberal image.
Luo later identified the "one writer [who] recently lumped her with the type of Christians who 'believe in everything but God'" as Ferguson:
Andrew Ferguson, an editor at the conservative Weekly Standard, told an MSNBC interviewer that Democrats could win over only the religious voters who were "religious in the way that Hillary Clinton is religious, which is to say a very liberal Protestant sort of view, in which they believe in everything but God."
Indeed, as Media Matters noted, on the June 14 edition of MSNBC's Tucker, host Tucker Carlson asked Ferguson if Clinton "could, in the end, be a Jimmy Carter in the sense that she gets a significant percentage ... of evangelical votes," later asking: "Can you imagine a scenario, though, where the Democrat gets religious voters? Or is abortion still the stumbling block?" Ferguson answered: "Only in -- religious in the way that Hillary Clinton is religious, which is to say of a very liberal Protestant sort of view, in which they believe in everything but God."
In addition to quoting Ferguson, Luo cited only unnamed "conservative bloggers" to support the assertion that conservatives doubt Clinton's "sincerity" on her faith:
Mr. Green, the Pew fellow, said Mrs. Clinton's increasing willingness to talk about faith could help attract Protestants and Roman Catholics in the political middle. But she is unlikely to make many inroads among religious conservatives, he said.
For example, after a forum last month for Democratic candidates that was organized by Sojourners, a liberal evangelical group, some conservative bloggers attacked Mrs. Clinton's professions of faith as "a little too convenient," "a little too timely" and "a little too scripted."
On the other hand, the article contained a variety of named sources, many of whom either know Clinton personally or are religious experts, attesting to the validity and genuine nature of Clinton's faith. For example, in addition to Green's comment, the article quoted Huckabee saying of Clinton: "I think that she has genuine faith." The article noted that Clinton "was influenced by the Rev. Donald Jones," her youth minister in high school, who took her "to hear the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr." and was quoted as saying that he "focused more on social responsibility" as Clinton's youth minister. The article then noted that Clinton's college chaplain, Rev. H. Paul Santmire, "got to know Mrs. Clinton as part of a group of religiously inclined students who discussed the social issues of the day," adding that according to Santmire, "This was sort of a '60s movement type thing." The article also quoted evangelical pastor Rev. Gordon MacDonald, who advised the Clintons in the aftermath of the Monica Lewinsky affair, stating that "[t]hey would have times of prayer at breakfast."