Saturday, February 17, 2007

Idiot William Donohue

In my last post, I discussed the resignations of bloggers Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan from the John Edwards presidential campaign. The person leading the charge to get rid of these two bloggers was William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. According to its website, “Motivated by the letter and the spirit of the First Amendment, the Catholic League works to safeguard both the religious freedom rights and the free speech rights of Catholics whenever and wherever they are threatened.”

As Donohue charged on the February 7 edition of the MSNBC show “Tucker” (hosted by Tucker Carlson):

“If you take a look at some of the stuff on the blogosphere that's said about Christians in general, Catholics in particular, it's absolutely mind-boggling. Muslims are given more respect. Look I don't want Muslims to be disrespected. I'm simply saying that in a country that's 85 percent Christian -- that was founded by Christians -- you would think that we might at least be able to catch up with Muslims. I mean, it's -- that's because, you know, there's the cultural left in this country, which sees Christianity because of its sexual reticence, as the enemy -- and the Catholic Church in particular. And the kind of respect that is afforded to everybody else is not afforded to us.”

The last line is particularly interesting – “And the kind of respect that is afforded to everybody else is not afforded to us.” Looking at the history of what William Donohue has said in the past few years, that statement qualifies as a “Do as I say, not as I do.”

Donohue himself has quite a history of hate speech. Below are a few examples of Donohue’s “greatest hits” (and a nod to Media Matters for America here for some of these examples):

April 11, 2004 edition of “Scarborough Country”: “The fact of the matter is it's due to the behavioral recklessness of gay men in New York City, that they're endangering the lives of everybody. So, you want to talk about the Catholic Church intervening in other people's lives? The gay community has yet to apologize to straight people for all the damage that they have done -- for contaminating the blood supply in New York City and around the country. And I find it amazing that, when people are acting so morally delinquent, that they're asking for more rights at the same time.”

December 8, 2004 edition of “Scarborough Country”: "We've already won. Who really cares what Hollywood thinks? All these hacks come out there. Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. It's not a secret, okay? And I'm not afraid to say it. ... Hollywood likes anal sex. They like to see the public square without nativity scenes. I like families. I like children. They like abortions. I believe in traditional values and restraint. They believe in libertinism. We have nothing in common. But you know what? The culture war has been ongoing for a long time. Their side has lost."

February 9, 2006 edition of “Scarborough Country”: “Well, look, there are people in Hollywood, not all of them, but there are some people who are nothing more than harlots. They will do anything for the buck. They wouldn't care. If you asked them to sodomize their own mother in a movie, they would do so, and they would do it with a smile on their face.”

July 31, 2006 press release from the Catholic League: “What Mel Gibson apparently said is indefensible. The remark attributed to him, ‘The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world,’ is anti-Semitic and irresponsible. Fortunately, he has apologized for his bigoted outburst. Unfortunately, his apology is being rejected by some who should know better. To wit: Abraham Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League, has branded Gibson’s apology ‘unremorseful and insufficient.’ Moreover, Foxman concludes that it shows what a ‘sham’ it is for Gibson to portray himself as the ‘tolerant, loving person’ who made ‘The Passion of the Christ.’ …

But Mel’s enemies will never cut him a break. Their real goal is to discredit ‘The Passion of the Christ,’ and that is why their propaganda machine is in full gear.”

October 2, 2006 press release from the Catholic League: “[Rosie] O’Donnell, and the other panelists [on the ABC ‘The View’], err again by talking about the ‘pedophile’ scandal in the Church: it’s been a homosexual scandal all along, as the data make painfully clear.”

October 4 2006 press release from the Catholic League: “Foley knows that the public is prepared to believe the worst about priests in today’s environment—they can count on Jay Leno to bash priests one more time—even though only .02 percent of the 42,000 priests in the U.S. had a credible accusation of sexual abuse made against him in 2005. But he will stop at nothing to mitigate his actions.

As for the alleged abuse, it’s time to ask some tough questions. First, there is a huge difference between being groped and being raped, so which was it Mr. Foley? Second, why didn’t you just smack the clergyman in the face? After all, most 15-year-old teenage boys wouldn’t allow themselves to be molested. So why did you?”

I’m not defending the statements made by Marcotte and McEwan against the Catholic Church. Based on the above quotes, however, I hardly think that Mr. Donohue possesses the moral authority to lead a campaign against their ouster.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Idiot O'Reilly Ego

On the Tuesday, February 13 episode of the his show "The O'Reilly Factor", host Bill O'Reilly opened:

"Literally within minutes of our report on 'The Factor' last night, Amanda Marcotte, a viciously anti-Christian blogger, left the John Edwards campaign. And today, her partner in crime, Melissa McEwan was shown the door as well."

Moments later, O'Reilly opined: "It was only after critical mass was reached and millions of people around the world actually saw what these women were putting on the Net that Edwards came to his senses."

Then, O'Reilly conducted an interview with Jane Fleming of Young Democrats of America about the bloggers' departures. Fleming declared Edwards "showed his leadership and he did not have a knee-jerk reaction - he waited until he spoke to the two women and then made his decision. The women resigned after getting lots of hate mail and threats." O'Reilly challenged Fleming's assertion: "He didn't make his decision until after we announced we were going to do the story. That's the truth, Ms. Fleming, that is what happened."

Now, I am a firm believer that a pundit is entitled to his or her own opinion. No pundit, however, is entitled to his or her own facts.

First, despite O'Reilly's implications, the Edwards campaign did not fire Marcotte or McEwan. Marcotte announced on her blog "Pandagon" late Monday that she was resigning because: "I was hired by the Edwards campaign for the skills and talents I bring to the table, and my willingness to work hard for what’s right. Unfortunately, Bill Donohue [head of the Catholic League] and his calvacade of right wing shills don’t respect that a mere woman like me could be hired for my skills, and pretended that John Edwards had to be held accountable for some of my personal, non-mainstream views on religious influence on politics ...

Regardless, it was creating a situation where I felt that every time I coughed, I was risking the Edwards campaign. No matter what you think about the campaign, I signed on to be a supporter and a tireless employee for them, and if I can’t do the job I was hired to do because Bill Donohue doesn’t have anything better to do with his time than harass me, then I won’t do it. I resigned my position today and they accepted."

Now, if there's any doubt that Marcotte was harassed, here are three samples of the posts sent to her:

"It’s just too bad your mother didn’t abort you. You are nothing more than a filthy mouth slut. I bet a couple of years in Iraq being raped and beaten daily would help you appreciate America a little. Need a plane ticket?"


"Amanda, after reading your vile screed against Catholics and the Holy Spirit, I just had to see what you looked like. (I envisioned you eyebrow-less, with no visible pupils, and a blank, dead stare.) I see I was correct about the blank, dead stare, but other than that you’re not too bad. I then thought maybe you were mad at God (and by proxy Catholics) for making you ugly, but now I’m figuring you’re just mad at him for making you a woman."

McEwan announced her resignation on her blog "Shakespeare's Sister" on Tuesday. In her announcement, she explained: "I would like to make very clear that the campaign did not push me out, nor was my resignation the back-end of some arrangement made last week. This was a decision I made, with the campaign's reluctant support, because my remaining the focus of sustained ideological attacks was inevitably making me a liability to the campaign, and making me increasingly uncomfortable with my and my family's level of exposure.

There will be some who clamor to claim victory for my resignation, but I caution them that in doing so, they are tacitly accepting responsibility for those who have deluged my blog and my inbox with vitriol and veiled threats. It is not right-wing bloggers, nor people like Bill Donohue or Bill O'Reilly, who prompted nor deserve credit for my resignation, no matter how much they want it, but individuals who used public criticisms of me as an excuse to unleash frightening ugliness, the likes of which anyone with a modicum of respect for responsible discourse would denounce without hesitation."

There is little doubt that both Marcotte and McEwan were provocative -- and often vulgar -- on their personal blogs. And, both made comments that were highly critical of Catholic theology, especially when that theology became intertwined with conservative politics.

It is also clear that the participation of both bloggers put the Edwards campaign in a bind. In an attempt to generate "net-roots" support, Edwards was walking into unfamiliar waters. Politicians are always measuring what they say, so as not to be perceived as controversial. Bloggers often strive to be controversial to be heard in the blogosphere. Thus, politicians and bloggers could be seen to be a natural cross-purposes. To his credit, Edwards refused to fire Marcotte and McEwan for their previous blog comments, while disavowing the content of some of their posts. In the end, however, that position proved untenable for both sides when conservative flame-throwers such as Bill Donohue weighed in (more on him in a later post).

But, for all of his belief in his perceived political power, Bill O'Reilly played no role in these resignations. Why should Marcotte and McEwan be afraid of O'Reilly? The people he appeals to are not the audience the two would even care about.

For example, in the 4th quarter of 2006, "The O'Reilly Factor" averaged 2,029,000 total viewers and 447,000 viewers in the 25-54 demographic. Nielsen figures report that 2/3 of Fox News viewers are over the age of 55. In addition, a May 2006 Zogby Poll revealed that 74% of Fox news viewers are married 64% have children, 85% of them come from non-union families, half go to church frequently (more Catholics, Protestants and Born-again Christians watch Fox News than any other news network)and 82% of Fox News viewers identify themselves as politically conservative. The notion that a story by Bill O'Reilly would scare Edwards to fire Marcotte and McEwan, and for the two of them to resign is ludicrous.

In fact, it qualifies as a "Most Ridiculous Item of the Day"!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Idiot News Coverage

Don't get me wrong. I am sorry that Anna Nicole Smith died. I feel even worse for her daughter, who has lost her half-brother and mother within the last six months and there's going to be a nasty custody battle between two men who claim to be her father.

On the other hand, why are we getting wall-to-wall news coverage of Anna Nicole Smith? President Gerald Ford died recently, and he did not receive anywhere near the coverage Smith has received.


Is this the recipe for fame now in this country: Be an exotic dancer. Attract the attention of a guy 95 years old. Marry him. Know that at best he might make the age to be on Willard Scott's Smucker's commercials. Get embroiled in a 11-year legal battle for the estate of your husband who only lives one more year. Put on 60 pounds. Get a cable show that reduces each viewer's IQ by 10 points with every episode. Take pills and lose all the weight. Go on awards shows wasted and purr to the audience about your body. Get pregnant by someone. Take (or continue to take) methadone. Don't prevent your son from taking methadone. Go to the Bahamas and give birth. Watch son die from heart problem exacerbated by methadone use. Marry your lawyer, who may or may not be baby's father. Die mysteriously.

Might our news organizations have their priorities messed up?