Focus on the Family founder James Dobson is mad at the secular media — again — and wants the world to know that, unlike published claims in the Washington Post, he thinks Harry Potter is a dangerous individual.
A page 1 story on July 18 characterized Dobson, who heads the massive Colorado Springs-based Christian media empire, as having “praised” the Harry Potter series. The story, by reporter Jacqueline Salmon, explored the heady question put forth to readers: “Could the next Harry Potter be a devout Christian?” (and includes this line: “Critics have said that the lightning-bolt scar on Harry’s forehead represents the mark of the antichrist.”)
A correction was soon dispatched, when Focus on the Family notified the newspaper that Dobson’s feelings about Harry and his world of the “occult” are quite the opposite.
CORRECTION (from the Washington Post)
This article incorrectly said that Christian parenting guru James Dobson has praised the Harry Potter book series. Dobson believes their focus is on the occult and therefore potentially dangerous, said a spokesman.
The correction apparently wasn’t enough to smooth things over, and Dobson also posted the following on the front page of Focus on the Family’s Website, letting everyone know exactly where he stands on Harry Potter:
Dr. James Dobson wants all friends of Focus on the Family to know about an error involving him that appeared on Page 1 of Wednesday’s Washington Post. In a story about Christians’ views on the Harry Potter books and films, reporter Jacqueline Salmon wrote that “Christian parenting guru James Dobson has praised the Potter books.”
This is the exact opposite of Dr. Dobson’s opinion – in fact, he said a few years ago on his daily radio broadcast that “We have spoken out strongly against all of the Harry Potter products.” His rationale for that statement: Magical characters – witches, wizards, ghosts, goblins, werewolves, poltergeists and so on – fill the Harry Potter stories, and given the trend toward witchcraft and New Age ideology in the larger culture, it’s difficult to ignore the effects such stories (albeit imaginary) might have on young, impressionable minds.
Ms. Salmon has not only acknowledged, but apologized for, the mistake and has promised the Post will correct it Friday. It seems she simply repeated misinformation that appeared in a less high-profile publication; she acknowledged she should have contacted us directly to make sure the assertion was true – and we appreciate her humility and professionalism in saying so.
The correction will also be offered to papers that subscribe to the Post’s wire service and which may have also published the piece.
Dr. Dobson and the entire Focus family thank you for your continued interest in and support of our ministry.
The Harry Potter saga is the latest chapter in Dobson’s mostly-hate relationship with the secular media. In April, he got mad at US News and World Report after the magazine reported Dobson’s statement about potential presidential candidate Fred Thompson: “Everyone knows he’s conservative and has come out strongly for the things that the pro-family movement stands for. “[But] I don’t think he’s a Christian; at least that’s my impression.”
That comment was bolstered by Focus on the Family spokesman Gary Schneeberger, whe, the magazine reported, said in a follow-up phone conversation, that, “We use that word-Christian-to refer to people who are evangelical Christians … 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.”
After the story appeared, Focus on the Family accused the magazine of “mischaracterizing” his positions and issued the following: “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.”
However, unlike last week’s Washington Post story, it was unclear exactly how Dobson, and Schneeberger’s, own words had been taken out of context. Click here to read more on that.
Cara DeGette is a senior fellow at Colorado Confidential, and a columnist and contributing editor at the Colorado Springs Independent. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org