The Washington Post's Idea Of “Respectful Conversation”

We've seen previously that the Washington Post's On Faith microsite, which claims to be a haven for “respectful” and “constructive” conversation in “a time of extremism,” instead regularly promotes ugly attacks on gays and Muslims. So let's take a look at one of the “distinguished” panelists the Post chose for its On Faith lineup: Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, who recently denounced criticism of violent rhetoric as “another form of violence against the human spirit.”

Pavone is among the nation's most vitriolic opponents of reproductive rights, regularly denouncing his opponents as baby killers. Pavone used to call Dr. George Tiller “Tiller the Killer.” Then, when TIller was murdered by anti-abortion zealots, Pavone suggested that legislative efforts to solidify reproductive choice would be met with further acts of violence -- not that he would condone such acts, of course:

“I wouldn't put it past abortion advocates in Congress to use this tragedy to put more protections in place for the so-called right to choose,” said Frank Pavone. “That would just feed into the problem. There's a lot of disappointment and frustration out there as a result of 2008 elections. People feel desperate. I'm not justifying what happened to Tiller at all when I say that it's not surprising that a pattern begins to develop — the administration is hostile to the anti-abortion movement, there are acts of violence from people who feel helpless.”

In a statement he released about Tiller's murder, Pavone made sure to claim that prior to his death, Tiller had “escaped prosecution.” And in a YouTube video about the murder, Pavone managed to describe Tiller's work as “killing” five times in just 3 minutes and 45 seconds (with a “massive holocaust” thrown in for good measure.) And Pavone wonders why some people were skeptical of his disclaimers that he didn't condone violence against Tiller.

In a subsequent video, Tiller said the biggest danger of the Tiller murder was that it would “make some people feel guilty for being too aggressive in the effort to stop the killing of children.” Then he compared himself to Martin Luther King and Gandhi.

“In Remembrance of September 11, 2001,” Pavone equated doctors performing legal medical procedures with the terrorists who killed thousands of people:

The evil of September 11 was that some human beings had a blatant contempt for the right of other human beings to live.

As we fight terrorism, the evil we fight is a reflection of the evil we do. The same contempt for human life is found in every abortion clinic.

Pavone called Barack Obama's election “One of the biggest mistakes the American people have made in the entire history of our nation … here we have a president-elect who cannot tell the difference between serving the public and killing the public.” That was no heat-of-the-moment hyperbole: In January, 2010, Pavone again accused “public servants” of “killing the public”:

This year is an election year, and too many people still think that religion and politics don't mix. But with so many public servants failing to tell the difference between serving the public and killing the public, religion is more important than ever to clarify what does and does not belong to the common good.

In 2004, Pavone equated political candidates who support reproductive rights with supporters of terrorism:

If a candidate who supported terrorism asked for your vote, would you say, “I disagree with you on terrorism, but where do you stand on other issues?”

I doubt it.

In fact, if a terrorism sympathizer presented him/herself for your vote, you would immediately know that such a position disqualifies the candidate for public office -- no matter how good he or she may be on other issues. The horror of terrorism dwarfs whatever good might be found in the candidate's plan for housing, education, or health care. Regarding those plans, you wouldn't even ask.

So why do so many people say, “This candidate favors legal abortion. I disagree. But I'm voting for this person because she has good ideas about health care (or some other issue).”

Abortion rights supporters aren't the only targets of Pavone's ire: According to Pavone, the overwhelming majority of people who disagree with his position on end-of-life issues are pro-murder, too. When Terry Schiavo died, Pavone called her husband a “murderer” and said the Democratic Party “walks in lockstep with the culture of death.”

These are not isolated examples of overheated rhetoric: They are standard operating procedure for Pavone. He routinely accuses those he disagrees with -- and not just on abortion -- of support for murder and terrorism. And he uses his platform at the Washington Post to suggest that gay sex "serves death" and to encourage military chaplains to denounce their gay congregants.

If this is the Washington Post's idea of a “distinguished” panelist for its “respectful” conversation, I'd hate to see who they're turning away.