Right-Wing Media Gin Up Another Faux Controversy To Attack Obama's Faith

››› ››› SOLANGE UWIMANA

Right-wing media are using the fact that President Obama did not issue an Easter message to again question whether he is really a Christian. Conservative media have long engaged in a dishonest campaign to question and lie about Obama's faith.

Conservative Media Use Easter Proclamation Story To Again Attack Obama's Faith

On Fox, Lars Larson Claims Obama "Bows Down To Leaders Of ... Muslim Countries And Then He Disses Easter In His Own Country." On Fox News' America Live, guest host Shannon Bream stated: "The president and White House often seem very frustrated about these polling numbers that come out that show a significant amount of Americans question the president's faith and wonder whether he's truly Muslim, even though he says again and again he is a Christian." She then asked: "So is it fair for the White House to take a little heat that he didn't step up and be more vocal on Easter?" Contributor Juan Williams replied that Obama is "not the preacher in chief, he's the commander in chief," adding, "We don't need the politicians in this country to celebrate Easter. I'm a Christian and I'm not looking to him to tell me how to, you know, worship." On the other hand, radio host Lars Larson stated that Obama "is paying more attention" to Muslim holidays. Larson also said:

LARSON: The president of the United States is the public face of this country. This country has a deep tradition in Christianity, although it's a pluralistic country that welcomes all. And yet, why is it that the president somehow seems to forget about the highest Christian holiday and remembers all the rest of them, including made-up phony, baloney ones like Kwanzaa. Now, that's I think just wrong. This president and the fact that his spokesman comes out and laughs it off as, oh, this isn't a big deal -- it is a big deal when the president of the United States fails to recognize this major Christian holiday but seems to remember all the rest of them.

I'm with Juan. I mean, the fact is, is that we joke a lot about whether or not the president chose a whole lot of deference to Muslims and seems to forget Christians. And of course his own path -- past is with a church that seemed to be, you know, focused around hating America. But all that aside, the president should've recognized Easter like he recognizes other holidays, or don't recognize any of them at all. He's not doing a good job as the public face of America, as usual.

[...]

LARSON: The president goes over and bows down to leaders of foreign -- of Muslim countries and then he disses Easter in his own country. That's just not reasonable. [Fox News, America Live, 4/26/11]

Wash. Times: "Obama To Christians: Forget You." In an April 25 editorial headlined, "Obama To Christians: Forget You," The Washington Times complained that the White House did not issue "official statements for either Easter or Good Friday" and wrote that "[t]his basket of Easter problems underscores Mr. Obama's continuing problem with perceptions of his religious identity." From the editorial:

President Obama delivered official messages for Passover, Ramadan and Diwali. But for Easter? Not so much. The White House came under fire this week for neglecting to issue official statements for either Easter or Good Friday, though Mr. Obama did take time Friday to address Earth Day, a celebration observed by tens of thousands of pagan worshippers of the earth goddess Gaia.

[...]

Mr. Obama has had a difficult official relationship with Easter. His 2010 Easter proclamation was criticized because he attempted to include other faiths in what is a uniquely Christian holiday. This was not equal-opportunity multiculturalism; his Ramadan message did not include a shout-out to American Jews, for example, even though his 2011 Passover message bizarrely related the holiday to the current Arab uprisings. Likewise, Mr. Obama's 2009 message stated that, "while we worship in different ways, we also remember the shared spirit of humanity that inhabits us all - Jews and Christians, Muslims and Hindus, believers and nonbelievers alike." He also quoted passages from a historic 1945 sermon delivered by a chaplain in the wake of the fierce fighting on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima but edited out any mention of Jesus.

This basket of Easter problems underscores Mr. Obama's continuing problem with perceptions of his religious identity. Lately, the White House has gone out of its way to ramp up the Christian content on Mr. Obama's schedule, which can in part be read as a reaction to the continuing questions in some quarters over whether Mr. Obama truly observes the faith he publicly professes. An August 2010 report from the Pew Research Center showed that the better the American people get to know Mr. Obama, the fewer think he is a Christian and the more believe he is a Muslim. Oversights like the missing Easter message definitely don't help. [The Washington Times, 4/25/11]

The Jawa Report: "I Don't Believe Barrack [sic] Obama Is A Muslim. I Also Don't Believe He's A Christian." In a post titled, " 'Christian' President Fails to Recognize Easter," a blogger with the handle Rusty Shackleford wrote on The Jawa Report: "I don't believe Barrack [sic] Obama is a Muslim. I also don't believe he's a Christian." The post later added a photograph of lightning hitting the White House and an updated headline that included the words: "God Apparently Not Happy About This." It continued:

Now, he did "celebrate" Easter by taking the family to a church, but I don't think church going every once in awhile qualifies one as a Christian. Especially when church attendance is done for purely political reasons.

Barrack Obama has faith in one thing: the overwhelming awesomeness of Barrack Obama.

[...]

UPDATE: Apparently either JHVH or Zeus is pretty pissed about this. [The Jawa Report, 4/25/11]

Fox Nation Suggests Muslim Holidays Are More Important To Obama. In an article headlined, "WH Fails to Release Easter Proclamation," about how "President Obama failed to release a statement or a proclamation recognizing the national observance of Easter Sunday, Christianity's most sacred holiday," the Fox Nation repeatedly suggested that Obama views Muslim holidays as more important. While the article noted that the Obamas attended an Easter service at a Baptist church and that the president hosted an Easter breakfast for Christian ministers and an Easter egg roll, it also stated: "By comparison, the White House has released statements recognizing the observance of major Muslim holidays and released statements in 2010 on Ramadan, Eid-ul-Fitr, Hajj, and Eid-ul-Adha." The article continued:

[T]oday, the president and first lady will host 30,000 people for the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. The secular celebration of Easter includes readings, games, and a yoga garden. This year's theme, "Get Up and Go!" is part of the first lady's anti-obesity campaign and will also display produce from the White House garden.

In 2010, Obama was criticized for releasing an all-inclusive Easter greeting. He reached out to Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and people of no faith at all in a statement about a holiday that is uniquely Christian.

"All of us are striving to make a way in this world; to build a purposeful and fulfilling life in the fleeting time we have here," Obama said in his 2010 "Easter" message. "A dignified life. A healthy life. A life, true to its potential. And a life that serves other." "These are aspirations that stretch back through the ages -- aspirations at the heart of Judaism, at the heart of Christianity, at the heart of all the world's great religions," the president added.

When the White House released statements about Muslim holidays, no attempts were made to include Christianity or to mention a spirit of inclusivity. For example, in his 2010 statement on Hajj and Eid-ul-Adha, Obama made no references to Christianity or any other religion.

By contrast, former President Bush traditionally included Scripture passages in his Easter messages and made a point to explain what Easter is about. Like Obama, though, he did not release statements marking Good Friday. [Fox Nation, 4/25/11]

Fox's Steve Doocy: "The President Released An Eight-Paragraph Statement On Earth Day, Nothing About Easter." In a segment in which Fox & Friends hosts mentioned that the White House hosted an Easter egg roll and that Obama made "some comments about Easter at a breakfast last week," they nevertheless wondered why "this White House has never had a proclamation on Easter, the most holy of Christian holidays." Co-host Steve Doocy stated: "This year, the president released an eight-paragraph statement on Earth Day, nothing about Easter." From Fox & Friends:

DOOCY: Here's Jay Carney, yesterday, being quizzed about that.

[begin video clip]

REPORTER 1: The highest Christian holiday and you don't know if you put out a statement? I mean, Jay, come on.

[unintelligible]

REPORTER 1: There was a statement?

REPORTER 2: No proclamation.

CARNEY: I'm glad you're asking these key important questions, guys. The fact is, the president took his family to church in a very high-profile way to celebrate Easter. I think it was highly visible to most Americans. And he -- as a devoted Christian, he believes it's a very important holiday for him personally, for his family and for Christians around the country.

[end video clip]

BRIAN KILMEADE (co-host): Well, that -- it's true. I mean, there's a lot of issues breaking around the world that you want the president to weigh in on, from Syria to what's happening here with gas prices, but I will say that's another management issue. I mean, you know, the president can't be saying, "Hey, what did you do with the proclamation? I gotta run to church." He's gotta be -- that's gotta be somebody in the chief of staff on down to handle stuff like that.

JULIET HUDDY (guest co-host): This isn't the first time he was criticized for not giving an Easter proclamation. And the reaction, I think, that a lot of people are having isn't so much to that as it is to Jay Carney's sort of laughing it off -- and ha, why are you asking me? -- like delegitimizing the question.

[...]

DOOCY: We should point out that apparently, the president did make some comments about Easter at a breakfast last week, but when you look at the fact that the White House has never issued -- this administration has never had an Easter proclamation and then you look at some of the other days that they have had big proclamations about -- Earth Day. This year, the president released an eight-paragraph statement on Earth Day, nothing about Easter.

HUDDY: Education and Sharing Day, that's a big one. National Equal Pay Day on April 11, there was a proclamation for that, as well. The April 7 National Volunteer Week and Cesar Chavez Day March 30

DOOCY: [laughter]

HUDDY: -- proclaimed.

KILMEADE: But no egg roll for any of those days. We did have a big egg roll yesterday. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/26/11]

Fox Guest: "It's Actions Like These That Really Make People Wonder What It Is The President Really Believes." In a later segment on Fox & Friends, guest Rev. Robert Jeffress, a senior pastor with Dallas-based First Baptist Church, was invited to discuss the issue, with Doocy asking him, "Jay Carney just said, look, the president went to church on Easter and, you know, he has affirmed his Christianity. He's gone on to say things like that. But what do you think about the fact that this White House has never issued an official proclamation regarding Easter, which is one of Christianity's most sacred holidays." Jeffress replied:

JEFFRESS: Let's look at what's really going on here. On the one hand, we have a president who never met a Muslim holiday he didn't like, or at least wasn't willing to issue a proclamation for; and on the other hand, here he is refusing to acknowledge publically the most important event in Christian faith: the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. And yet the White House is wondering why do 20 percent of Americans believe the president is a Muslim. Well, as my kids would say, "Duh." You know, I mean, it's actions like these that really make people wonder what it is the president really believes.

[...]

JEFFRESS: I really think, Steve, there's only one of two explanations. Either he has advisers who are telling him that it's politically expedient to ignore Christianity and elevate other world religions like Islam. And if that's the case, Republicans need to pray that those advisers stay in place through the 2012 election cycle. The only other explanation is that there's something deep within the president himself that will not allow him to issue these public proclamations about Christianity, when he on Easter will issue a proclamation about Earth Day or he will recognize Muslim holidays. I think either explanation is deeply troubling for Christians. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/26/11]

Hannity: "I'm Not Questioning His Religion, But People Said, 'Why Wouldn't He Do It On This?' " Discussing why "the White House doesn't release an Easter proclamation despite several proclamations for holidays of other religions," Sean Hannity stated, "I'm not questioning his religion, but people said, 'Why wouldn't he do it on this?' " Republican strategist Nancy Pfotenhauer replied by calling it "a mistake," and "a political error of such magnitude that it almost defies explanation." She added: "I mean, it leaves people thinking that he is either hostile or indifferent. I think it's much more likely to be the latter." Pfotenhauer also called Carney's "tone," in responding to reporters' questions, "disrespectful" and "almost mocking." Hannity said it was "dismissive." [Fox News, Hannity, 4/25/11]

Obama Hosted Easter Prayer Breakfast, Mentioned Easter In Weekly Radio Address

Obama Prayer Breakfast Statement: There's "Something About The Resurrection Of Our Savior, Jesus Christ, That Puts Everything Else In Perspective." From remarks Obama gave during an Easter prayer breakfast he hosted:

OBAMA: To all the faith leaders and the distinguished guests that are here today, welcome to our second annual -- I'm going to make it annual, why not? (Laughter and applause.) Our second Easter Prayer Breakfast. The Easter Egg Roll, that's well established. (Laughter.) The Prayer Breakfast we started last year, in part because it gave me a good excuse to bring together people who have been such extraordinary influences in my life and such great friends. And it gives me a chance to meet and make some new friends here in the White House.

I wanted to host this breakfast for a simple reason -- because as busy as we are, as many tasks as pile up, during this season, we are reminded that there's something about the resurrection -- something about the resurrection of our savior, Jesus Christ, that puts everything else in perspective.

We all live in the hustle and bustle of our work. And everybody in this room has weighty responsibilities, from leading churches and denominations, to helping to administer important government programs, to shaping our culture in various ways. And I admit that my plate has been full as well. (Laughter.) The inbox keeps on accumulating. (Laughter.)

But then comes Holy Week. The triumph of Palm Sunday. The humility of Jesus washing the disciples' feet. His slow march up that hill, and the pain and the scorn and the shame of the cross.

And we're reminded that in that moment, he took on the sins of the world -- past, present and future -- and he extended to us that unfathomable gift of grace and salvation through his death and resurrection.

In the words of the book Isaiah: "But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed."

This magnificent grace, this expansive grace, this "Amazing Grace" calls me to reflect. And it calls me to pray. It calls me to ask God for forgiveness for the times that I've not shown grace to others, those times that I've fallen short. It calls me to praise God for the gift of our son -- his Son and our Savior.

And that's why we have this breakfast. Because in the middle of critical national debates, in the middle of our busy lives, we must always make sure that we are keeping things in perspective. Children help do that. (Laughter.) A strong spouse helps do that. But nothing beats scripture and the reminder of the eternal. [WhiteHouse.gov, 4/19/11]

Obama Weekly Address: Passover And Easter Give Us "A Chance To Give Thanks For Our Blessings And Reaffirm Our Faith." From Obama's April 23 weekly address:

This is a time of year when people get together with family and friends to observe Passover and to celebrate Easter. It's a chance to give thanks for our blessings and reaffirm our faith, while spending time with the people we love. We all know how important that is - especially in hard times. And that's what a lot of people are facing these days. [WhiteHouse.gov, 4/23/11]

Right-Wing Media Repeatedly Insist Obama's Christian Faith Is Not Christianity

Limbaugh: "Obama Says He's A Christian But Where's The Evidence?" On his radio show, discussing the 2010 White House Easter egg roll, Limbaugh stated: "The guy holds an Easter egg roll -- the White House website promoting the Easter egg roll does not mention Jesus or Christ. It talks about environmentalism. Obama says he's a Christian but where's the evidence?" [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 8/19/10]

Beck: "I Think He Is A Christian That Christians Don't Recognize." On his radio show, Glenn Beck addressed the findings of a Time poll showing that 24 percent of Americans believe Obama is a Muslim, saying, "Here's the problem with this. I find that a disturbing poll because I don't think -- I think that is the easy answer for people who are like, 'Well, it doesn't make sense. Nothing makes sense.' And I think the easy thing is to say, 'I think he's a Muslim.' I don't -- I really don't. I think he is a Christian that Christians don't recognize." [Premiere Radio Networks, The Glenn Beck Program, 8/19/10]

Beck: Obama's Comments Show "Contempt For The Scriptures." On his show, Beck and his co-hosts attacked Obama for comments he made about the Bible that they said show "a lack of understanding" and that are "not Christianity." Beck went on to claim that Obama's comments are "such a distortion" and "shows contempt for the Scriptures." Beck added that Obama's Christianity "is again liberation theology," and his comments were "his understanding of distorted Christianity." [Premiere Radio Networks, The Glenn Beck Program, 8/19/10]

Quinn: Obama "Says He's A Christian But I've Never Seen Him In A Christian Church." After saying that he believed Obama is a Muslim, Quinn stated: "What am I to think when he says to George Stephanopoulos, 'Nobody has criticized my Muslim faith,' and Stephanopoulos says, 'You mean, Christian.' And he, 'Oh, yeah, yeah, Christian faith.' What am I to make of a guy who says he's a Christian but I've never seen him in a Christian church?" Quinn continued: "And don't give me the Reverend Wright, because the Reverend Wright's church isn't Christian." [Clear Channel, The War Room with Quinn & Rose, 7/13/10]

Hannity Criticizes Obama For Receiving "Daily Devotionals ... From One Faith After Another." Responding to Obama's statement that he receives a daily devotional on his BlackBerry containing "a passage, Scripture, in some cases quotes from other faiths to reflect on," Hannity guest, author Richard Miniter, said, "Sean, the big question is, what are the other faiths? Is he talking about Islam? ... Every president has had a personal relationship with God. And for him to say, well, some days it's Buddha, some days it's Jesus, it's kind of strange." After Kirsten Powers noted that President Bush didn't go to church, Hannity stated, "I know for a fact that he had Bible study often. And the thing -- he wasn't receiving, you know, devotional, daily devotionals, as you point out, from one faith after another." [Fox News, Hannity, 2/2/10]

Gretchen Carlson: "Some" Say Obama Discussing God "Was Disingenuous Coming From A President Who Does Not Go To Church On A Regular Basis." After airing a video clip of Obama invoking God during his speech on the BP oil spill, Gretchen Carlson asked, "Did you find it at all disingenuous because some people are analyzing that this morning and saying it was disingenuous coming from a president who does not go to church on a regular basis." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/16/10]

Special Report On Obama Church Attendance: "Commitment Issues?" Host Bret Baier reported that the Obamas "decided against joining a church in the area because of the security involved in a presidential visit." During the segment, the on-screen text stated, "Commitment Issues." [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 3/30/10]

Fox News Contributor Jonathan Morris: Obama's Interpretation Of His Faith Is "Not How The Average Christian In The United States" Would Put It. On September 29, 2010, Fox News' America's Newsroom hosted Father Jonathan Morris -- a Catholic priest and Fox News contributor -- to analyze Obama's statements about why he became a Christian. Morris stated:

MORRIS: You know, not too bad. Charitably interpreted, pretty good. But it's not how the average Christian in the United States would answer that question. "I'm a Christian by choice." "It was the precepts of Christianity -- of Jesus Christ that attracted me." The precepts. That's not how the average Christian would respond. Christianity for most Christians who have it as a big part of their life, it's a falling in love not with precepts. Who's going to fall in love with the Ten Commandments? It's the falling in love with -- or the getting to know personally -- a person named Jesus of Nazareth.

[...]

MORRIS: The fact that he has not chosen a church after two years in Washington also says something. Does it mean he's a bad Christian? Far be it for me to say that. It says something. [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 9/29/10]

Right-Wing Media Relentlessly Drive Obama-Muslim Falsehood

Right-Wing Media Have Relentlessly Pushed The Myth That Obama Is A Muslim. In the past two years, conservative media have continued to lie about Obama's personal history, dishonestly distorting his faith to claim that he is in fact a Muslim and not a Christian. Those untruths include outright claims that Obama is a Muslim to alleging that he "is a Christian that Christians don't recognize"; attempts to use his family and upbringing in Indonesia to portray him as an "Islamist"; claims that he has an agenda that shows he has a "preference of Islam over Christianity"; and attempts to pick out symbols associated with his administration to perpetuate the lie about his faith. [Media Matters, 8/19/10]

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