No ghosts here: Faith in the 'Vindication' of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell

There was big news in Virginia on Thursday.

The banner headline atop today's Richmond Times-Dispatch makes that evident:

This is the straight-news, inverted-pyramid version of what happened:

Federal prosecutors on Thursday moved to drop their corruption case against former Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, bringing to a close a case that gripped the state capital, tarnishing the former governor’s reputation and the state’s.
In a brief motion, federal prosecutors asked the Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to send the case back to a district court. There, the U.S. will file a motion to dismiss the indictment against Bob McDonnell — once touted as a potential Republican candidate for national office — and against Virginia’s former first lady.
“Today is a great day in which my family and I rejoice,” Bob McDonnell said in a statement. “More than 3½ years after learning of an investigation, the final day of vindication has arrived.”
The Justice Department said in a brief statement: “After carefully considering the Supreme Court’s recent decision” overturning Bob McDonnell’s convictions “and the principles of federal prosecution, we have made the decision not to pursue the case further.”
In September 2014, a federal jury in Richmond convicted Virginia’s 71st governor and the former first lady on corruption charges stemming from their acceptance of more than $177,000 in gifts and loans from Jonnie R. Williams Sr., then-CEO of Star Scientific, in exchange for promoting the company’s dietary supplement, Anatabloc.

So where is the religion angle in this long-running political drama? Why highlight this story here at GetReligion?

Because there's a strong faith component to the former governor's reaction to the dropped charges — and the Times Dispatch absolutely nails that focus in its coverage.

Print readers have to turn to the jump page. But in an exclusive interview with Bob McDonnell, veteran political reporter Jim Nolan details the former governor's faith journey in a way seldom seen in mainstream news coverage, particularly in a spot news report:

In the interview, the humbled and faith-driven former governor, a Catholic, recounted his experience, reflected on what he has learned and how it has transformed his life, and discussed his plans for the future.

More from the interview:

He said that the 11 months in office under the shadow of an investigation were emotionally difficult and disruptive. “If it weren’t for God’s amazing grace and remarkable friends during that time, I don’t know how I would have endured.”

And still more:

McDonnell said that day (when a jury convicted him in 2014) began “a deeper walk in faith, with so many people around the state and country” who supported him and said they were praying for him.
“That began the most amazing two years of my life,” the former governor said. “I have never felt as much love and affection and appreciation and kindness and unmerited favor and grace in my entire life, during these two years of some very deep suffering but some remarkable kindness from people.”
McDonnell said the experience allowed him to enjoy “the simple things in life — my children, simplifying my life in a lot of ways, downsizing,” and adding four grandchildren to his family over the past 18 months. “That was a remarkable blessing.”
He said he focused on one day at a time, whether it was working at his business, babysitting a grandchild or volunteering for a charity and “trusting in God’s providence for the future.
“It was a very new and radical way of living,” McDonnell said. “When you’re governor you think you can do everything. You’ve got a hundred thousand people working for you, you’ve got capable people, you’ve got immense power,” he explained. “And then you go into a circumstance where you are completely powerless against the decisions of the federal government. It was a vast shock to the system.”

Readers can make their own judgment about McDonnell's guilt or innocence — and even the sincerity of his faith — but give the Times-Dispatch credit for its willingness to quote Bob McDonnell in his own words. Too often, news organizations feel compelled to edit or censor religious language.

The story ends this way:

McDonnell credited his weekly prayer group in Richmond with helping him handle the ups and downs of the past 43 months. “People have surrounded me with prayer in such a way that it’s allowed me to completely release any anger, any bitterness, including anger with myself,” he said.
He spoke of the Bible stories of Joseph and Job, as guides and inspiration for his journey.
“They persevered; they endured,” he said. “At the end of the day, Joseph becomes the number two leader in Egypt, and Job has everything that was taken away from him restored double.”
McDonnell said his “faith life has increased dramatically.” He said that at the end of his ordeal, “I know that I am innocent. I know my lawyers believe I’m innocent. I know we’ve got the best system of justice in the world, and I know God is faithful.”
“Those beliefs have all been vindicated today. And I’m just amazingly grateful for this.”

Nice job, Times-Dispatch.

As the GetReligion reader who shared the link with us noted, "That it was done as an immediate story and not some look-back in a year is all the more remarkable." 

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