In the wake of Mitt Romney’s on-and-off the air debate with an Iowa radio host last week, there has been a huge uptick in coverage of Romney’s religion issues. I’ve read probably twenty such stories in the past two days, but that’s the punishment I’m willing to take to filter it all and bring you just the good stuff. Unfortunately, that’s left me with little time to come up with anything original to say about the new wave of coverage, but that’s okay, because few of these stories say anything original either.
But that doesn’t mean I won’t point you to the good ones. First of all, there’s a long (for a blog) piece at GetReligion that argues against the continuing coverage of Romney’s religion because it does the disservice of obscuring the man behind the believer. Which is a pretty ludicrous thing if you think about it. It’s not often in America that one’s faith, and adherence to that faith, are seen as more important than one’s graduate degrees, fortune, or snappy fashion sense, to pick a few of the things we usually obsess over. One wonders if Romney ever gets jealous of Hillary Clinton, who only has to deal with extended coverage of her cleavage and past marital troubles. If only Romney could make a foray into plunging necklines . . .
Remaining on the positive side, take a look at this entry by Scott Whitlock at Newsbusters, titled “ABC Continues to Grill Romney on Religion; Gushed over Faith of Dems. ” Mr. Whitlock observes (as noted previously on R.E.) that ABC seems to find faith in Democrats inspiring, while treating it as a real problem for Mitt Romney. He’s riffing off of a Good Morning America interview of Romney by George Stephanopoulos, in which the candidate was asked whether he needs to do more to address this challenge. Romney responded with a bit of a counterpunch for his questioner:
“There seems to be an interest constantly in my faith. And that’s fine, on the part of the American people. But I think the media has more interest than the people do.”
His wry delivery on this line makes it worth watching the video itself.
This is an extremely salient point, and one that Romney ought to hit every time he’s asked about it. While there is unquestionably some interest in Romney’s religion in the public, it is inconceivable that average citizens care about Mormonism as much as the press does. This is confirmed by the huge flood of stories on the topic that followed the release of the Iowa radio show’s video. It’s as if there are thousands of journalists out there wishing they could write on the topic, but their editors are making them wait until something breaks in the field. Well, something broke, and the floodgates opened. There is no question that the press is hugely interested in this story line, while there’s little reason to believe that the rest of America is.
And now, just a nod to the negative stories out there. This category is best represented by this piece by ABC’s Dan Harris, a man that’s accumulating a track record of pushing this issue. The Headline, referring to Romney, reads “Spreading a Political and Religious Message?” Subhead: Evangelicals Voice Concerns a Romney Presidency Would Add Credence to the Mormon Faith.” Harris notes a few odd pieces of Mormon doctrine, of course, and then quotes exactly ONE evangelical voicing concerns– and he’s voicing the concerns of other, unnamed evangelicals he claims to be speaking for. This reporting simply cannot justify those headlines, especially given the presence in the story of two very prominent Christian leaders stating that they have no objection to Romney based on his Mormonism at all. Harris finds a way to frame these quotations so as to lessen their impact, which exposes his clear agenda in trying to justify his headline. We’ve seen this trick before. And by the way, we’ve also addressed the question of whether Romney would legitimize Mormonism if elected. But the bigger question is whether stories like this one from Dan Harris are de-legitimizing journalism– an institution that is far more important to the public debate than Mormonism. Despite what the media is saying lately.