Amen! More candor, please

dz alarm kleinWell, I really think I have to agree with veteran columnist and media critic John Leo. The following sentences are some of the strangest I have read in a major newspaper in a long time. Here's the context. You have a taxi driver in Nashville who is accused of trying to run over two students after they were involved in a heated debate about religion while riding in his cab.

The driver's name is Ibrahim Sheikh Ahmed.

At that point, reporter Christian Bottorff of The Tennessean -- a major Gannett operation -- wrote the following:

According to a police report, the three men had a conversation about religion while in the taxi that "became heated." Shortly after the men paid Ahmed, he chased them in his van across the parking lot and over a curb, police said.

Metro police spokeswoman Kris Mumford said one of the students is Catholic and the other is Lutheran. Mumford said that Ahmed's religion was not known.

All kinds of questions spring to mind at this point. Was the police spokeswoman working off a document that recorded the religious affiliations of the near victims, but not the man arrested? Cops at the scene asked the students for this information, but not Ahmed? Or did some of the people at the scene volunteer the information, while describing the content of the debate, but not others? There was no information available about the doctrinal beliefs of the taxi driver?

Or, perhaps, were Bottorff and his editors following an actual Gannett policy that said it was acceptable to mention some religious faiths but not others?

Writing in City Journal, Leo made this logical observation in a short piece titled "Sins of Omission: Newspapers clam up about race, religion, and politics":

The paper reported: "Metro police spokeswoman Kris Mumford said one of the students is Catholic and the other is Lutheran. Mumford said that Ahmed's religion was not known." Maybe so, but many readers probably wondered: if the driver had been a conservative Christian trying to run down a Muslim, wouldn't the newsroom have summoned the energy to find out, and to confront Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell on the evils of Islamophobia?

If the tables were turned, this is a page-one story and, perhaps, even the banner. It might make the cable television networks -- CNN for sure.

What makes this case even more bizarre is that the "heated" discussion that led to the alleged crime was about religion. There is no question that the faith content is at the heart of the the story. Now, I realize there is a chance that Ibrahim Sheikh Ahmed might be a convert to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and that the people involved in the argument were divided over the issue of predestination, biblical authority or the precise role of Holy Communion in the salvation of the human soul. But I doubt it.

Why not answer the obvious question? Or, why ignore the answer that was already -- perhaps -- in the police report?

As Leo ended his piece: "More candor, please."

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