In light of the recent New York Times scandal, you'd think the press would be more careful about what they do. I don't know whether it's laziness or willful blindness that accounts for the incredibly twisted perspective the press gives to the belief system of 80 million Americans. That's the latest number, according to Gallup, who claim to be born again.
If you watch the press coverage of the religious world, you would think that all those Christian people are cranky religious fanatics, good for nothing except as objects of derision.
For example, the leader in the effort to help the AIDS victims in Africa was Franklin Graham. He lobbied intensively in Washington, and the two of us met with President Bush to strategize about how to increase support from the people and the Congress. Many of you responded to BreakPoint with phone calls. And as a result of that pressure, an historic bill was passed. Fifteen billion dollars are now available, with abstinence the top priority.
What appeared in the Boston Globe? A cartoon that showed a hospital patient lying on a bed labeled "Africa," President Bush standing with a clipboard marked "AIDS plan," and an angry preacher in the doorway. He was carrying a bag labeled "Religious Right," saying, "If you want a second opinion, I say she's a sinner." This cartoon makes villains out of heroes.
A more recent example was the release of a study by the University of Pennsylvania about IFI, Prison Fellowship's faith-based prison program. It was a five-year, $400,000 research project peer-reviewed by secular scholars at Harvard and Princeton.
The president had a group of us into the White House when the study was released. The press was there, and they took pictures. University of Pennsylvania put out an excellent press release. When we left the White House, Secretary of Labor Elaine Chow, Jim Towey, the president's assistant, Mark Earley, and I addressed the White House press corps. Dr. Byron Johnson, who conducted the study, explained the report. This is the first thoroughly documented, academic peer-reviewed study of a faith-based program.
This is a hot issue, debated repeatedly on Capitol Hill with much press and fanfare. So you would think this would be widely reported. But you would be wrong. USA Today printed a picture of me walking out of the White House, no mention of the report, simply Chuck Colson making an emotional return to the White House he had left in disgrace years ago. Then they recited the Watergate litany. The Washington Post and the New York Times didn't cover it at all, though the Wall Street Journal published a magnificent editorial.
Is it willful blindness? Dare we say, bias? It's hard to believe it's ignorance when you're dealing with a world health crisis of enormous proportions or a report that has huge implications for the multi-billion-dollar prison system.
This is one reason why I hope you'll stay tuned to BreakPoint. We will cover the things that are important, and we will say the word that the press dare not say—God.