The most important story this week -- do the math -- has been the reaction to Rep. Todd Akin's comments to an interviewer about what he called "legitimate rape." While people have focused on Akin, it might be worth taking a closer look at the reporter who asked Akin the question about abortion and rape. It came during an appearance on The Jaco Report, hosted by veteran journalist Charles Jaco.
Yesterday I asked why reporters always ask consistent pro-life politicians about rape exceptions but never ask consistent pro-choice politicians about why they support abortion being legal moments before birth, or just because the child happens to be female, or because the child has Down syndrome.
I don't know if Jaco has asked -- or will be asking -- Akin's Senate race opponent Sen. Claire McCaskill good and tough abortion questions, but several days ago I was forwarded an email exchange a viewer says she had with him that gave me pause about his ability to impartially cover hot-button topics such as these.
The viewer was complaining about inaccurate statements that Jaco had made in an aimless commentary against Chick-fil-A. Here's the note Sally Dooling sent to Jaco via an online form:
Name: George and Sally Dooling Email: [redacted]
I do not have a question for Mr. Jaco--I have a comment. The next time you want to quote the Bible in your commentary, I suggest you get your information correct. I saw your very hateful comment on Chick-fil-A this afternoon and and you said that the Bible says that women are subservient to men. The bible says no such thing. It says that the wife is to be submissive to her husband and the husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the church.
The owner made a statement of his personal beliefs and said nothing about gay marriage or homosexuals. He stated that he believes in the biblical meaning of marriage and said nothing demeaning about gay people. The hate speech that has been directed at him is just terrible and you add to that with your comment.
It's a sad day in the U.S when someone can't state their beliefs and sadly it happens all the time to Christians.
Time: Thursday August 2, 2012 at 4:47 pm IP Address: [redacted] Contact Form URL: http://fox2now.com/2012/02/07/contact-the-jaco-report/ Sent by an unverified visitor to your site.
Jaco didn't respond to her complaint about his inaccurate statement about what the Bible says but he did respond with this:
This was NOT the man's personal opinion. As a corporation, Chik Fil A has given over $5 million to anti gay rights groups. So what's your problem? Sent from my Droid Charge on Verizon 4GLTE
The viewer responded:
What is YOUR problem--as a corporation why can't they give some of their profits to whomever they want. Corporations give money to different organizations every day without all the uproar. You did not address the biblical part of my comment. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, as you are entitled to yours and so is Mr. Cathy. We have gay friends and we are not anti-gay, but the strong arm of the gay movement always talks about "TOLERANCE", but they sure don't practice what they preach. Whenever someone disagrees with their agenda, that someone is called intolerant. I think they should practice what they preach.
Have a blessed day Mr. Jaco--I love a good debate. God bless you and your family.
Jaco then more or less lost it. He mixed some, at best, Sam Harris/Dan Savage-level Biblical exegesis with some garden variety bigotry and came up with this:
Since you choose to live as what Thomas Jefferson called, "...a prisoner of superstition," I don't imagine there's much I can do to sway your belief in Bronze Age folk tales as some sort of direct communique from the creator.
I would expect you call yourself a Christian, which is amusing, given that the man you worship had a lot to say about tolerance, and not one word to say about homosexuals. Your bible is loaded with all sorts of admonitions on how to live one's life. It's your choice if you want to cherry-pick the bits that condemn men laying with men, and ignore the parts that say you shouldn't consume swine, or shellfish, or that the woman should be subservient to the man. How does that sort of cafeteria religiosity work, anyway, where you can create a political movement against gay marriage with some quotes, and ignore the rest? As I recall parts of the bible, large chunks also defend slavery.
Gay marriage certainly doesn't affect the sanctity of my marriage. I'm sorry if it somehow devalues yours. I'm even sorrier that you base your fear of it on something written by zealots half a world away 3,200 years ago.
What the what? "Prisoner of superstition" ... "Bronze Age folk tales" ... "direct communique from the creator" ... "you base your fear" ... "something written by zealots half a world away 3,200 years ago"? What in the world is this guy doing in the journalism business? And why do journalists not know that this is unprofessional behavior? I can't be alone in thinking that this incivility -- and refusal to admit error or correct an error -- reflects poorly on our profession. We should always aim to treat our viewers/listeners/readers with respect.
I get that these types of bigoted views are sadly common among people who are in the media. It's hard to ignore that those views make their way into decisions of how to cover the news, what questions to ask, how to frame the issues of the day, etc. But this is not a helpful way for journalists to respond to their listeners, readers or viewers. It certainly goes far to hurting trust between the media producers and consumers.
And if I were his employer, I'd think about whether he's best suited to be interviewing religious conservatives, given his stated bias against them.
For his part, I emailed Jaco to confirm and he* wrote back to say he didn't send the email that comes from his e-mail address and uses his name. He suggests that someone else in his newsroom is pretending to be him, although he doesn't indicate knowledge of who that might be. I'll go ahead and quote his response here:
I did not send the attached communication. The computers in the newsroom are public, and if we log on to our email and fail to log off, are accessable to anyone.
I don't know if that includes the note that says it was sent from the Droid or just the one that I sent him for confirmation that included the sign-off "Charles Jaco," but there you go.
*or someone using his email account, I guess.