Why is the media giving a platform to pastor with history of inflammatory rhetoric?
Blog ››› ››› ERIC SCHROECK
This morning, Fox News' Fox & Friends and CNN's American Morning hosted Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress to promote his website that aims to root out "Grinch" businesses that "shut-out expressions of Christmas."
But what viewers didn't hear about during these appearances was Jeffress' long history of inflammatory attacks on gays, Muslims, Mormons, and Hindus.
As The New York Times reported, in 1998, as a pastor of a church in Wichita Falls, Texas, Jeffress attempted to rid an area public library of books about children with gay parents. The Times reported that Jeffress "compared his effort to proposals to protect children from tobacco advertising, saying homosexuality causes 'the deaths of tens of thousands every year through AIDS.'" The Fort Worth Star-Telegram also reported [accessed via Nexis] that Jeffress called AIDS "a gay disease."
In 2008, Jeffress delivered a sermon at his Dallas church titled, "Why Gay Is Not O.K." The Dallas Morning News reported that, in the sermon, Jeffress "addressed what he called two 'myths' about homosexuality: that prohibitions exist only in the Old Testament, and that Jesus never condemned this behavior."
Jeffress' inflammatory rhetoric hasn't been limited solely to homophobic attacks on gays.
In August, Jeffress attacked Islam as an "evil" and "violent" religion that "promotes pedophilia." In a September 5 column, The Dallas Morning News' Steve Blow wrote:
On Aug. 22, First Baptist's Sunday evening service featured the annual "Ask The Pastor" event. One of the written questions that Jeffress took that night asked about comparisons between Muslim jihad and the Christian Crusades.
Jeffress acknowledged terrible misdeeds by Christians, although he said many have been "overblown."
He went on to say that Christian atrocities were always contrary to the teaching of the New Testament. "But Muslims, when they commit violence, they are acting in accordance with what the Quran teaches," he said.
He was just getting started.
He went on to talk about Islam's oppression of women and how it is "a violent religion."
"And here is the deep, dark, dirty secret of Islam: It is a religion that promotes pedophilia - sex with children. This so-called prophet Muhammad raped a 9-year-old girl - had sex with her," he said.
"Around the world today, you have Muslim men having sex with 4-year-old girls, taking them as their brides, because they believe the prophet Muhammad did."
Finally, his finger jabbing the air, he proclaimed: "I believe, as Christians and conservatives, it's time to take off the gloves and stand up and tell the truth about this evil, evil religion."
In 2007, Jeffress attacked Mitt Romney and Mormonism, saying that "Mitt Romney is a Mormon, and don't let anybody tell you otherwise. ... Even though he talks about Jesus as his Lord and savior, he is not a Christian. Mormonism is not Christianity. Mormonism is a cult." According to The Salt Lake Tribune, during a 2008 speech, Jeffress again called Romney a "cult" member and attacked Mormons, Hindus, and Muslims as worshiping a "false god." Jeffress also reportedly said, "I believe we should always support a Christian over a non-Christian." From a September 26, 2008, Salt Lake Tribune article (accessed via Nexis):
Romney, a Mormon, is not a Christian, the Rev. Robert Jeffress said, but a member of a "cult."
"I believe we should always support a Christian over a non-Christian," Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, told a packed audience of journalists at last weekend's Religion Newswriters Association (RNA) annual meeting. "The value of electing a Christian goes beyond public policies. . . . Christians are uniquely favored by God, [while] Mormons, Hindus and Muslims worship a false god. The eternal consequences outweigh political ones. It is worse to legitimize a faith that would lead people to a separation from God."
During the CNN interview, co-host John Roberts did confront Jeffress with criticism the website has received, including from some businesses that had been placed on the site's "Naughty" list. But over at Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson was sure to note that "we are celebrating Christmas in full force here, but not all businesses do this," before allowing Jeffress to promote his site. Carlson ended the interview by directing viewers to Fox & Friends' own website for more information. (Which makes sense, as Fox & Friends constantly hypes stories that advance its War on Christmas narrative.)
But given Jeffress' history of inflammatory, hate-filled rhetoric, why did Fox and CNN feel it was at all appropriate to give him a platform to promote his website?