CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer misquoted and took out of context a lecture delivered by James Francis Cardinal Stafford at CUA several times when reporting on the good Cardinal’s critique of President-elect Obama’s abortion stance. Matthew Balan of NewsBusters reports the not-so-great journalism standards that Wolf Blitzer employs when “reporting” the news for CNN.
On Tuesday’s Situation Room, CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer referred to a Catholic cardinal’s criticism of Barack Obama’s abortion position as a “scathing rant“ and a “diatribe.” A CNN graphic also used the “scathing rant” term, and Blitzer later referred to the cardinal’s words as a “blistering rant.“
All three of these terms came during Blitzer’s promos for a report by CNN correspondent Brian Todd, which focused on recent comments made by Cardinal James Francis Stafford, who referred to Obama’s pro-abortion stance as “aggressive, disruptive, and apocalyptic.” Just before the top of the 5 pm Eastern hour, Blitzer gave the following promo for the segment: “Also, a scathing rantagainst Barack Obama from a rather surprising source, a Roman Catholic cardinal — the story behind his diatribe against the president-elect.” Ten minutes later, the CNN anchor gave another promo for Todd’s report, in which he stated that the cardinal unleashed “a blistering rant on the president-elect.”
It seems the cardinal’s concerns about being taken out of context were justified. The sound bite from his lecture that Todd played during the report didn’t provide some of the context of his words. The clip was taken from a YouTube posting by The Tower, the student newspaper at CUA, which included audio excerpts from Cardinal Stafford’s lecture. Just before making his “apocalyptic” statement, Cardinal Stafford quoted from a speech Barack Obama gave to Planned Parenthood on July 17, 2007, in which the Democrat asserted that the “first thing I will do as president is to sign the Freedom of Choice Act.” The act, if passed, would overturn most, if not all laws regulating abortion in the U.S. The prelate then labeled Obama’s promise, among other comments he made during the speech, “post-modernist” rhetoric, and that they point to “an agenda and vision that are aggressive, disruptive, and apocalyptic.” During this portion of his lecture, Cardinal Stafford used a calm tone of voice, contrary to the “blistering” impression Blitzer had given earlier.
In addition to misquoting Cardinal Stafford, Wolf Blitzer went on to misrepresent Catholic Social Teaching as being in agreement with President-elect Obama.
At the end of the segment, Blitzer misrepresented the Catholic Church’s stances on various issues. He stated that the Church and Obama “do agree on some hot button issues, including opposition to the war in Iraq, greater access to health care, and more equitable tax codes,” as a CNN graphic referred to the health care issues as “universal health care.” On the last two issues, this is an oversimplification. Paragraph 2211 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to the “political community’s” duty to “honor the family, to assist it, and to ensure,” among other things, “the right to private property, to free enterprise, to obtain work and housing, and the right to emigrate” and “in keeping with the country’s institutions, the right to medical care, assistance for the aged, and family benefits.” The same Catechism, which lists the official teachings of the Catholic Church, says nothing of “more equitable tax codes.” It only states how it is “morally obligatory to pay taxes” (paragraph 2240) and that tax evasion is “morally illicit” (paragraph 2409).
Are we seeing the mainstream media setting up the Catholic Church to be the antagonizers of the “good” Obama presidency? This will be creating an even more hostile situation for the Catholic Church with gross misreporting such as Wolf Blitzer’s. The sad note is that Wolf Blitzer is known to be relatively even-handed in relation to many other of his cohorts, so to see him succumb to the liberal phobia of religion is quite surprising and bold.