WashingtonPost.com is standing by the decision to allow Glenn Beck to write a column for its On Faith blog in spite of his history of offensive comments and violent rhetoric, according to the site's top editor, Sally Quinn, who defended running the piece because readers know "who he is and what he is."
"When you run somebody like that, people already come to it knowing who he is and what he is," Quinn told Media Matters. "He represents a certain segment of society and he's got a following."
She also said it was On Faith that reached out to Beck, seeking his take on a religious issue for the site, which bills itself as a "Conversation on Religion and Politics."
Asked why the website would seek a view from a commentator with Beck's record, Quinn said, "He represents a huge segment of society and actually I thought that he had a sort of a unique take on the situation. We don't only run people we agree with or disagree with. We like to get all points of view. I didn't see that there was anything offensive about the column or controversial."
Beck's column was posted February 19 and attacked President Obama for announcing that rules promulgated under his health care reform law would give women access to health care plans covering contraception at no additional cost. Beck responded by declaring, "we are all Catholics now."
Beck also wrote:
This is why Americans are offended by the ruling from the White House that would force church-run institutions to pay for birth control and morning-after pills, which are tantamount to abortion. The so-called compromise is no compromise - under government-approved health insurance plans that the church pays for, abortifacients would be covered. Sin by proxy - that's the compromise.
Obama's birth control policy has broad support from Catholic hospitals, colleges, and charities, and recent polls show a majority of Catholics believe employers should be required to provide health care plans that cover contraception at no additional cost.
The decision to give Beck space came in spite of Beck's repeated condemnation by Jewish groups for offensive comments, as well as his history of violent rhetoric. It also follows his departure from Fox News last year.
Sally Quinn doesn't understand the "war on Christmas":
The whole argument about Happy Holiday vs Merry Christmas is silly. If stores want to advertise with "Merry Christmas," they are private places. You don't have to shop there if you are offended, one way or the other. I say Merry Christmas to those friends I know celebrate Christmas. I say Happy Holidays to those who don't or I'm not sure about. We all get a holiday this time of year anyway, both at Christmas and New Years. What's the competition all about? Why so much rancor?
At first glance, that probably seems quite reasonable. indeed, it is reasonable. But it also demonstrates a lack of understanding of "The whole argument about Happy Holidays vs Merry Christmas."
Quinn seems to think the silly argument is that people are offended that private stores "advertise with 'Merry Christmas.'" In fact, this annual absurdity is the result of people who are offended -- or, more likely, pretend to be offended -- that private stores don't say "Merry Christmas." There is no large scale, high-profile effort to bludgeon stores into saying "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas." There is, however, such an effort to bludgeon stores into saying "Merry Christmas" rather than "Happy Holidays." It is an effort underway every year on Fox News and in conservative newspaper columns, among other places.
Now, maybe you're thinking "Quinn gets the substance right -- who cares whether the guy at Best Buy says 'Merry Christmas' or 'Happy Holidays'? So what if she gets the source of the controversy wrong?" Here's the problem: Quinn's version of the controversy -- to the extent that there is one -- adopts and reinforces the persecution myth the Armstrong Williamses and Jay Nordlingers of the world are peddling. She portrays it as a situation in which private businesses are under attack for even mentioning Christmas. That's backwards, and plays into the hands of the people who want this silly argument to take place every year -- people who want to manipulate their audience into feeling persecuted and marginalized and angry.
When you think of America's deepest and most respectful religious thinkers, do you think of Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin? On Faith co-moderators Sally Quinn and Jon Meacham seem to.
On Faith is the Washington Post microsite dedicated to discussions of religion. Creators Quinn & Meacham have explained:
[I]n a time of extremism -- for extremism is to the 21st century what totalitarianism was to the 20th -- how can people engage in a conversation about faith and its implications in a way that sheds light rather than generates heat? At The Washington Post and Newsweek, we believe the first step is conversation-intelligent, informed, eclectic, respectful conversation-among specialists and generalists who devote a good part of their lives to understanding and delineating religion's influence on the life of the world. The point of our new online religion feature is to provide a forum for such sane and spirited talk, drawing on a remarkable panel of distinguished figures from the academy, the faith traditions, and journalism.
In practice, however, On Faith frequently promotes bigots like Cal Thomas and Bill Donohue and Tony Perkins and James Dobson. Sally Quinn and Jon Meacham have yet to explain how promoting a ranting, hateful lunatic like Bill Donohue "sheds light." Nor have they explained why they promote anti-Muslim writings by Cal Thomas that closely resemble the Islamophobia Quinn denounces in others.
But On Faith's troubling tendency to reward some of the most virulently hateful figures in American public life by passing them off as "intelligent" and "respectful" and "distinguished" leaders is not the only way in which it seems to diverge from its stated goals.
So far this year, On Faith has featured 35 discussions, each kicked off with a brief introduction. Only 11 of those 35 discussions were framed around the views of a specific person or group -- and five of those 11 discussions were been built around the deep thoughts of noted spiritual leaders Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck:
August 30: "In the wake of his weekend rally, Glenn Beck kept up the drumbeat of criticism about President Obama's religion, calling it a 'perversion' and saying that America 'isn't recognizing his version of Christianity,' which Beck characterized as 'liberation theology.' … Why is there so much attention on Obama's religion? Does it matter what religion the president is?"
July 19: "The New York City community board endorsed the Cordoba House, a community center and mosque planned for construction near Ground Zero. Significant opposition has emerged against the project. Sarah Palin even weighed in this weekend, tweeting, 'Peace-seeking Muslims, pls understand, Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts. Pls reject it in interest of healing.' Should there be a mosque near Ground Zero?"
May 17: "Sarah Palin pleased fans and angered foes with her speech to the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, calling herself a 'frontier feminist' and saying, 'choosing life may not be the easiest path, but it's always the right path . . . God sees a way where we cannot, and He doesn't make mistakes.' … Can you be a feminist and oppose abortion in all circumstances? Can you be a person of faith and support abortion in some circumstances?"
April 12: "Fox News commentator Glenn Beck claims that faith-based calls for 'social justice' are really ideological calls for 'forced redistribution of wealth . . . under the guise of charity and/or justice,' and that Christians should leave their churches if they preach or practice 'social justice.' … Who's right? How does the pursuit of justice fit into your faith? Is 'social justice' an ideology or a theology?"
January 11: "Media biased against Christians? Fox News analyst Brit Hume said 'widespread media bias against Christianity' was to blame for criticism of his suggestion that Tiger Woods should embrace Christianity to find redemption. 'Instead of urging that Tiger Woods turn to Christianity, if I had said what he needed to do was to strengthen his Buddhist commitment or turn to Hinduism, I don't think anybody would have said a word,' Hume told Christianity Today. 'It's Christ and Christianity that get people stirred up.' Sarah Palin and other conservative Christians have made similar claims. Is there widespread media bias against Christianity? Against evangelicals such as Hume and Palin? Against public figures who speak openly and directly about their faith? Against people who believe as you do?"
It probably goes without saying, but On Faith has not similarly framed discussions around the views of progressive political and media figures. In fact, nobody else's views have been the impetus for as many On Faith discussions as Palin's or Beck's. For reasons that defy imagination, the Washington Post's On Faith site treats Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck as the nation's leading religious thinkers -- and nobody else is even close.
Why does the Washington Post's On Faith site continue to promote the anti-Muslim rantings of a man who neatly fits site founder Sally Quinn's description of an "Islamophobe"?
Here's Sally Quinn, August 19:
One of the fears of Islamophobes is that Muslims will take over the country, impose their own religious laws (Sharia) on Americans who will no longer be able to worship as they please. Aren't they doing to American Muslims exactly what they fear will be done to them?
And here's Cal Thomas, August 23:
[Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf] could "blunt the power of that coup" if he did not subscribe to Wahaabism, refuse to call Hamas a terrorist organization and favor the destruction of Israel when he talks about a "one state solution," which is code for the destruction of Israel and the one state being a Palestinian one.
Terrorism expert Steve Emerson is about to publish the details of 13 hours of interviews with Rauf which will prove all these things and more. Our enemies are using our Constitution and religious pluralism against us. They have a plan to infiltrate us, build mosques and ultimately impose Sharia Law. They say so. They mean so. People who are in denial about this are dupes and self-deluded.
Go ahead and call me names. That won't change the reality that the Muslims are coming. In fact, they are already here. [Emphasis added]
Cal Thomas is, by Sally Quinn's definition, an "Islamophobe." Thomas peddles the claim, which Quinn derides as the work of "conspiracy theorists," that the Park51 community center is an attempt by "our enemies" to establish a "beachhead" from which to launch further terrorist attacks on America.
So why does Sally Quinn's On Faith site continue to feature Cal Thomas as a "distinguished" panelist and part of an "intelligent, informed, eclectic, respectful conversation"? And why doesn't Quinn mention Thomas when she criticizes Muslim-bashers like Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich? Speaking out against FOX's anti-Muslim extremists rings a bit hollow when you're promoting your own at the same time.
Does Sally Quinn read the Washington Post microsite On Faith? You know, the one she writes for, created, and runs -- and which uses her name and photo in its banner graphic?
Quinn posted her thoughts on the proposed Park51 Islamic community center last evening, endorsing the project and denouncing its critics. But Quinn seems unaware of the commentary her On Faith site has featured.
Quinn ridicules Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich for their strident opposition to the community center -- ridicule that is well-deserved. She mocks Charles Krauthammer for failing to indicate exactly what he considers "Ground Zero" and how far away from it he would keep Muslims. She tweaks Gingrich for his plans to appear at a demonstration with a Dutch politician "who has called for a ban on the Quran."
Quinn's criticisms of Palin, Gingrich and Krauthammer are appropriate, as is her scorn for "conspiracy theorists" who claim that the cultural center will be "connected to terrorism." And that's why I have to wonder if she actually reads the site she moderates. See, On Faith has hosted some pretty far-out and incendiary commentary about the Park51 project, most notably Cal Thomas's angry July 21 screed. Thomas called Muslims liars, insisted that the cultural center is about "celebrating" the deaths of thousands of Americans, suggested that America should take Saudi Arabia's lead when it comes to religious tolerance, and claimed that the cultural center is an attempt by "our enemies" to establish a "beachhead in America" from which to "launch new terror attacks and forcibly convert Americans to their way of thinking and believing." Thomas did all that under Sally Quinn's banner, presented to the world by her as a "distinguished" panelist and part of an "intelligent, informed, eclectic, respectful conversation."
It's great that Sally Quinn is calling out merchants of fear and intolerance like Palin and Gingrich. But why is she ignoring her own panelist's reckless smears of Muslims and of the community center she endorses? If she is really concerned about the "growing Islamophobia in this country," why does her site embrace and promote one of its most influential practitioners?
Is the Washington Post's "On Faith" microsite (billed as "A Conversation on Religion and Politics with Jon Meacham and Sally Quinn") trying to be a one-stop shopping source for all your religious intolerance needs? Or is it just happening that way by chance?
The site's current lead story is a splashy "Discussion" titled "Should religions intermarry?" (Sample response: "Is this a trend we should encourage? Not if you are committed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.")
Then there's a "discussion" about a community center & mosque planned for construction near Ground Zero in Manhattan -- the introduction to which cites exactly one person: noted religious scholar Sarah Palin. Perhaps that's appropriate, given that many of the On Faith contributors took a Palin-esque approach to the question.
This one took the improbable position that there is some sort of pro-Islam bias in America, as a result of which "fundamentalists are given a pass."
And Cal Thomas took the rather odd position that America's religious tolerance should be no greater than Saudi Arabia's:
A mosque near Ground Zero is not about tolerance, but triumphalism. It isn't about honoring the dead, but celebrating their deaths. Recall those who danced in the streets in Muslim lands on 9/11. That is reality. Refusing to speak the truth about their goals is self-delusion. If tolerance and understanding are the objectives of this and other mosques that have been built, or are under construction, or planned, ask yourself why Muslim nations do not allow the construction of synagogues and churches in their countries. Shouldn't tolerance and understanding cut both ways?
Thomas concludes that the real purpose of the Cordoba House is to establish a "beachhead" from which to "launch new terror attacks":
Don't we know why our enemies desire a beachhead in America? They wish to launch new terror attacks and forcibly convert Americans to their way of thinking and believing. What will we gain by allowing this to happen?
Accusing those who want to build a cultural center of wanting to "launch new terror attacks" isn't exactly my idea of "a fruitful, intriguing, and above all constructive conversation" -- but it seems to be Sally Quinn's, Jon Meacham's, and, worst of all, The Washington Post's.
On Faith, the Washington Post religion web site edited by Sally Quinn and Newsweek's Jon Meacham, currently features guest post by Media Research Center president Brent Bozell, writing on behalf of something calling itself "Citizens Against Religious Bigotry." Bozell and his ostensibly-anti-bigotry buddies are upset about some animated show Comedy Central may or may not produce and may or may not air.
What's striking about the Post's decision to grant Bozell and "Citizens Against Religious Bigotry" this forum is not the substance of their criticism of Comedy Central, but the fact that the coalition is made up of some of the most irredeemable bigots you'll ever encounter.
Take, for example, Catholic League president Bill Donohue. Donohue is a rabid anti-gay bigot with a long history of highly questionable commentary about religions he does not practice. He has said, for example, that "[p]eople don't trust the Muslims when it comes to liberty" and that "Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular." Donohue has also demonstrated selective outrage when it comes to the religious bigotry of others, defending conservative writer Jerome Corsi's attacks on the Catholic Church and conservative actor Mel Gibson's anti-Semitic rants. (Donohue has previously been granted a guest post at On Faith.)
Or Tony Perkins, another anti-gay bigot who is a member of the "Citizens Against Religious Bigotry." Perkins has said "the soil of the Islamic faith just does not work with democracy" and has spoken to the Louisiana chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a hate group that "oppose[s] all efforts to mix the races of mankind … and to force the integration of the races."
Or Michael Medved, another member of the "Citizens Against Religious Bigotry." Medved has said that "Islam, as a faith" has "a special violence problem." (Medved also seems to have more problems with gay people than you might expect from a member of an anti-bigotry coalition.)
Tim Wildmon, another member of Bozell's band of self-described opponents of bigotry, has praised a far-right author who has advocated the execution of gays, adulterers, and doctors who perform abortions.
I'm sure there are plenty more examples, but you get the point: Bozell's "Citizens Against Religious Bigotry" is made up of some of the most notable bigots in American public life. And yet Sally Quinn and the Washington Post allowed them to portray themselves as opponents of bigotry, without any indication of their own enthusiastic bigotry towards a wide range of people.
Sally Quinn and Jon Meacham offer a one-sided and misleading summary of the Brit Hume/Tiger Woods controversy on their Washington Post "On Faith" site:
Media biased against Christians?
Fox News analyst Brit Hume said "widespread media bias against Christianity" was to blame for criticism of his suggestion that Tiger Woods should embrace Christianity to find redemption. "Instead of urging that Tiger Woods turn to Christianity, if I had said what he needed to do was to strengthen his Buddhist commitment or turn to Hinduism, I don't think anybody would have said a word," Hume told Christianity Today. "It's Christ and Christianity that get people stirred up."
Sarah Palin and other conservative Christians have made similar claims. Is there widespread media bias against Christianity? Against evangelicals such as Hume and Palin? Against public figures who speak openly and directly about their faith? Against people who believe as you do?
That might -- might -- have been a reasonable post had Hume merely suggested that Woods "should embrace Christianity to find redemption." But that isn't what happened. Hume also suggested Woods' current religion is inadequate -- that's the part that upset people.
An accurate and neutral framing of the "question" of whether the media is "biased against Christians" wouldn't have adopted Hume's claim that nobody would have been upset if Hume had said Woods needed to "strengthen his Buddhist commitment." Instead, such a framing might have asked what the reaction would be if a someone said Christianity lacks a clear-eyed, fact-based view of the world, so he should adopt atheism instead. That's directly analogous to what Hume said. And had, say, Keith Olbermann, said anything like that, there would have been a firestorm that would have made the Hume/Woods controversy look like a love-in.
In a post raising the possibility of media bias, Quinn and Meacham only demonstrate their own.
Matthew Yglesias makes fun of Mark Halperin's complaints that Barack Obama hasn't succeeded in "Wooing Official Washington":
If a failure to woo "official Washington" is one of the major failings of an administration, then I'd say the administration is doing pretty well. Especially because if you read the item, it's clear that by "official Washington" Halperin means something like "my friends" rather than anything actually "official"
The people I know who work in the administration, though by no means "top aides," generally seem quite busy. They're trying to govern the country under difficult circumstances! And I think the public will generally sleep easily knowing that more time is being put into policies aimed at improving people's lives than on hankering for the "establishment seal of approval."
Yglesias is right on the merits, of course. But we shouldn't simply ignore Halperin's hurt feelings; this is the kind of idiocy that contributed to the elite media's hatred of the Clintons:
Actually, it could be said that Sally Quinn has been floundering around for the last couple of decades, when she failed first as a journalist, then as a novelist, before emerging as a hostess in a Washington society that even she admits is in its death throes. Which brings us to a central question: Who appointed Quinn as the mouthpiece for the permanent Washington establishment, if there is such an animal? A peek into Quinn's motives reveals a hidden political agenda and the venom of a hostess scorned, and ultimately, an aging semi-journalist propped up by a cadre of media buddies, carping at the Clintons because they wouldn't kiss her ring.
According to society sources, Sally invited Hillary to a luncheon when the Clintons came to town in 1993. Sally stocked her guest list with her best buddies and prepared to usher the first lady into the capital's social whirl. Apparently, Hillary didn't accept. Miffed, Sally wrote a catty piece in the Post about Mrs. Clinton. Hillary made sure that Quinn rarely made it into the White House dinners or social events.
In return, Sally started talking trash about Hillary to her buddies, and her animus became a staple of the social scene. "There's just something about her that pisses people off," Quinn is quoted as saying in a New Yorker article about Hillary.
Oh, and just this morning the Washington Post ran a column by that same Sally Quinn. She has had enough, and demands the resignation of the White House social secretary. Then again, Quinn just knew all along Desiree Rogers wasn't right for the job:
White House social secretary Desirée Rogers came under fire after the Salahi scandal erupted. From the start, Rogers was an unlikely choice for social secretary. She was not of Washington, considered by many too high-powered for the job and more interested in being a public figure (and thus upstaging the first lady) than in doing the gritty, behind-the-scenes work inherent in that position.
From the November 11 broadcast of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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From the October 23 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Discussing the scandal involving New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and why "wives go out and stand beside their husbands," The Washington Post's Sally Quinn said on MSNBC's Morning Joe: "The only thing I can think of is that women who are married to these powerful men have -- the power that they have is derivative. They get their power from their men and their status and that they don't want to lose that power."
In a report on "powerful men who cheat and the women who stand stoically by them," CBS News' Nancy Cordes aired a clip of The Washington Post's Sally Quinn saying, "I can only think that ambition, their own personal ambition, is part of why they stick by these men, because they are accomplished women in their own right. And so, why would a Hillary Clinton or a Silda [Wall Spitzer] stand by her man and allow herself to be humiliated unless there was something in it for her?"