CNN's Foreman uncritically reported that McCain "doesn't advertise his faith"

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

On The Situation Room, discussing an AP article which reported that "John McCain, who has long identified himself as an Episcopalian, said this weekend that he is a Baptist and has been for years," Tom Foreman stated that McCain "has said for years that he doesn't advertise his faith." But Foreman did not note that the same AP article quoted McCain saying he has publicly expressed his faith "hundreds of times."

On the September 17 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, discussing the fallout from a September 16 Associated Press article which reported that "Republican presidential candidate John McCain, who has long identified himself as an Episcopalian, said this weekend that he is a Baptist and has been for years," CNN correspondent Tom Foreman reported that "McCain has said for years that he doesn't advertise his faith." Foreman then aired a clip from 2000 of McCain telling an audience, "I am a man of faith, but I also have to tell you that I believe that my relationship with God is a private one." But Foreman left out other relevant information from the AP article: Notwithstanding McCain's denial that he "advertise[s] his faith," he was quoted by the AP saying that he has publicly expressed his faith "hundreds of times."

The article also noted that McCain "does discuss faith on the campaign trail." From the article:

McCain, at a campaign stop at a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Anderson [South Carolina], said he has made plenty of public expressions of his faith. "I've done that hundreds of times," McCain said, adding he has spoken at length with his pastor at the church and has been told there is no need for him to be baptized to be a full member of the church.

The Associated Press asked McCain on Saturday how his Episcopal faith plays a role in his campaign and life. McCain grew up Episcopalian and attended an Episcopal high school in Alexandria, Va.

"It plays a role in my life. By the way, I'm not Episcopalian. I'm Baptist," McCain said. "Do I advertise my faith? Do I talk about it all the time? No."

McCain does discuss faith on the campaign trail. He regularly tells crowds about a North Vietnamese POW guard who would loosen his bindings while he was a prisoner. One Christmas, the man surreptitiously signaled his Christian faith, McCain says, by making the sign of a cross with his toe in the dirt.

In a July 18 speech to the national convention of Christians United for Israel, McCain told the audience: "As some in this audience may know, I spent several years as a prisoner of war, a time when all my freedoms were rescinded. And yet it was my very faith in a Supreme Being that sustained me and strengthened me while at the hands of my captors." He concluded by saying that "today I stand as I believe so many of you do: a Christian, proudly pro-American and proudly pro-Israel."

Furthermore, McCain's campaign website links to a June 11 McClatchy Newspapers article that discusses how his campaign "is reaching out to conservative Christians." The article describes McCain's "rich and fulfilling spiritual life":

Learned in childhood. Deepened in Vietnam. Nourished today by a redemptive Baptist church, daily prayer, generally in the evening, sometimes holding hands with wife, Cindy, occasionally reading a family Bible, always seeking "guidance, comfort and wisdom in almost every aspect of my life."

From the 4 p.m. ET hour of the September 17 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

BLITZER: Is he a Baptist or is he an Episcopalian? That's the question some people are asking about Senator John McCain. Let's go to CNN's Tom Foreman. He's here in The Situation Room, he's watching this. So what's the answer?

FOREMAN: Well, the answer is, this is a nutty story here, but the answer is both.

[begin video clip]

McCAIN: There's been some talk about my religious persuasion.

FOREMAN: John McCain in South Carolina referring to an Associated Press article this weekend that has some people talking. The senator from Arizona and Republican presidential hopeful told the AP that he was a Baptist, but Episcopalian is the faith listed in his biography in the latest guide of members of Congress and in the most recent edition of the Almanac of American Politics.

And, in an interview with McClatchy Newspapers in June, McCain said he still called himself an Episcopalian.

We ask him about his faith.

McCAIN: I was raised in the Episcopal Church and attended high school at a high school called the Episcopal High School. I have attended North Phoenix Baptist Church for many years. And the most important thing is that I am a Christian. And I don't have anything else to say about the issue.

FOREMAN: McCain says his wife and two of their children have been baptized in the Baptist church they attend, but that he has not, telling AP, "I don't find it necessary to do so for my spiritual needs."

McCain's campaign says none of this is new and that the issue was given a thorough vetting when McCain first ran for president in 2000. McCain says religion plays a role in his life, but he said for years that he doesn't advertise his faith.

McCAIN: My religious belief is clear. I am a man of faith, but I also have to tell you that I believe that my relationship with God is a private one. And I am not ashamed of my religious beliefs or my faith, but, at the same time, I believe that that relationship is generally a private one.

[end video clip]

FOREMAN: The only reason this is getting any headlines is where he made these comments. He did it in South Carolina. That holds the first Southern primary. It's a state dominated by Baptists. So some people are saying he's pandering with this, trying to get votes. But McCain says he was Baptist the last time he ran for president, and it didn't help then, because then-Governor George Bush defeated McCain in the South Carolina primary.

Wolf, as we would say on "Raw Politics," this kind of has the smack of a cheap shot. It's not like he said he was a devil worshipper. Like a lot of families, people have different influences of different faiths, and McCain is explaining it away, but explaining it well.

BLITZER: And he says he's a man of faith --

FOREMAN: Exactly.

BLITZER: -- and he's a Christian.

All right, thanks very much, Tom Foreman.

Network/Outlet
CNN
Person
Tom Foreman
Show/Publication
The Situation Room
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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