Same show, different planets

In an interview last year with Salon, Terry Gross of Fresh Air addressed the charge of some conservatives that National Public Radio works from a liberal bias:

Do you think that you have a bias?

On the air?

Yes.

I think we try to be very fair on the air. We're always asking ourselves if we're being fair -- we have constant editorial discussions about how to handle issues.

How about off the air? Which way do you lean politically?

Off the air I have opinions which I don't care to share publicly. Because I have confidence as a professional that I can treat issues fairly. It doesn't mean I don't have opinions -- but I like to leave them out of my public life.

I do not doubt that Gross and her colleagues strive for fairness or that they often believe they have achieved it. But if anyone thinks fairness means treating her guests with equally relaxed conversational styles or equally demanding questions, compare her interviews with Bishop Gene Robinson and Bishop Robert Duncan.

My summary of those two interviews: Gross asks Robinson how it feels to be a victim of oppression, and asks Duncan why he's so hung up on homosexuality.

Gross covered the religion-and-politics front yesterday by conducting separate interviews with Richard Land and Jim Wallis. We can at least be thankful she avoided the usual shouting festival that emerges when Wallis occupies the same studio as Jerry Falwell.

From Land (photo at top right, of course) we learn that conservatives care about more than abortion and gay marriage -- though Gross tweaks him, somewhat fairly, when he says reporters never ask him about issues other than abortion and gay marriage.

From Wallis we learn that his prolife beliefs do not mean he favors "criminalizing agonizing, desperate choices."

"I want to actually do something about abortion and not just argue about it at election time and ignore it in between those elections," Wallis adds. (Actually, Jerry Falwell believes the same thing and acts on it through his Thomas Road Baptist Church)

Even Wallis' minimalist political approach to abortion is too much for Katha Pollitt of The Nation, who either does not grasp or does not believe his promise not to "criminalize" anything:

Fortunately, God shares his priorities: Wallis often points out that the Bible mentions poverty thousands of times and abortion only a few. I'm not sure what this tells us -- first we eradicate poverty and then we force women to have babies against their will? But in any case, Wallis is wrong: The Bible doesn't mention abortion even once. Wallis cites the text antichoicers commonly use to justify their position: "For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother's womb" (Psalm 139:13). Say what? Nothing about abortion there, pro or con. Nobody who wasn't sure that somewhere in the Bible there must be a proof text against terminating a pregnancy would read that meaning into these words.

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