That “liberal” media had done it again – taken the words that came straight out of Focus on the Family chairman James Dobson’s mouth and put them into a story in the U.S. News & World Report.
As Colorado Confidential reported in late March, the story explained how Dobson – who has been likened an evangelical kingmaker to the presidency – had praised Newt Gingrich as the “brightest guy out there” while questioning whether another Republican who may run, Fred Thompson, is a Christian.
Shortly after the story appeared, Focus on the Family’s spin control room swept in with righteous indignation trying to adjust the context of the Dobson’s very own words.
“We would caution friends of our ministry not to believe what they read about Dr. Dobson in the secular media today,” according to the prepared statement posted on the media empire’s Website. “Never in the 30-year history of this ministry has there been more misreporting and outright distortion of his beliefs and teachings. It is apparent that those who represent a liberal worldview seek to marginalize him and confuse our friends.”
(Does this include the warnings about gay SpongeBob, or the clearly “gay” animated penguins in Happy Feet, or even Dobson’s claims that Rep. Mark Foley was the victim of a “prank” by young Congressional pages?)
Back to Gingrich and Thompson and the U.S. News & World Report. Let’s revisit just a portion of the original story, including what Dobson was quoted saying – which was later clarified and reiterated by his spokesman, Gary Schneeberger:
“Everyone knows he’s conservative and has come out strongly for the things that the pro-family movement stands for,” Dobson said of Thompson. “[But] I don’t think he’s a Christian; at least that’s my impression,” Dobson added, saying that such an impression would make it difficult for Thompson to connect with the Republican Party’s conservative Christian base and win the GOP nomination.
Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Thompson, took issue with Dobson’s characterization of the former Tennessee senator. “Thompson is indeed a Christian,” he said. “He was baptized into the Church of Christ.”
In a follow-up phone conversation, Focus on the Family spokesman Gary Schneeberger stood by Dobson’s claim. He said that, while Dobson didn’t believe Thompson to be a member of a non-Christian faith, Dobson nevertheless “has never known Thompson to be a committed Christian-someone who talks openly about his faith.”
“We use that word-Christian-to refer to people who are evangelical Christians,” Schneeberger added. “Dr. Dobson wasn’t expressing a personal opinion about his reaction to a Thompson candidacy; he was trying to ‘read the tea leaves’ about such a possibility.”
Here are a few “issues” that Focus objected to, after the article appeared:
First, there was the headline, which was “Focus on Family Founder Snubs Thompson, Praises Gingrich.” In its statement, Focus on the Family termed it “an outright mischaracterization of the views Dr. Dobson expressed. His words weren’t intended to represent either an endorsement of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich or a disparagement of former Sen. Fred Thompson.”
It’s not clear exactly how the headline was inaccurate, however. When an evangelical Christian leader suggests that someone who may run for president is not a Christian, is that not a snub?
In addition, the U.S. News & World Report story noted that Dobson “was not endorsing any Republican presidential candidate.” Isn’t that pretty clear? The article also quoted Dobson saying “Gingrich was the ‘brightest guy out there’ and ‘the most articulate politician on the scene today.'” Seems pretty clear –