Movers and shakers from the realms of media and politics can’t get enough of those five Sunday morning TV news gabfests from Washington. Meanwhile, millions of churchgoers ignore the weekly action, unless they religiously remember to set their DVRs.
It’s an important season for these influential shows due to the upcoming presidential campaign, tight competition for ratings, and three big changes in the cast of characters.
On behalf of his fellow geezers, the Religion Guy is tickled that spry Bob Schieffer, 78, the host of CBS’s “Face the Nation,” regularly grabs more viewers than the younger hosts. This summer he retires to be replaced by John Dickerson (a former colleague at “Time” magazine). After last year’s tumult over David Gregory, NBC’s venerable “Meet the Press” is gaining ground with replacement Chuck Todd. In the third switch, CNN cable has tapped Jake Tapper as Candy Crowley’s “State of the Union” successor come June.
The other two personalities: Chris Wallace, Son Of Mike and a onetime “Meet the Press” anchor, has led “Fox NewsSunday” the past dozen years. It’s much the ratings also-ran on broadcast but nears audience parity due to Fox News cable reruns. Onetime Friend Of Bill George Stephanopoulos continues on ABC’s “This Week.” (Religion beat veterans know his father Robert as the longtime dean of Greek Orthodoxy’s archdiocesan cathedral in New York, and his mother Nikki as the Greek-American church’s news director.)
Here’s what we got in the entirety of the five shows for May 10, chosen because there was no one commanding news story gobbling up air. That would have allowed for a timely little roundup on religion and the 2016 race. Though important news on this broke only the day before, it was easily anticipated, so it would have been easy to book a couple knowledgeable talking heads to accompany some brief video from the field. But all five shows were inattentive to this and much more interested in matters like pro football’s “deflategate” scandal. After all, it was a week that began with the entry of Mike Huckabee, who plays up his Christian credentials and hopes to be the first ordained minister in the White House (the devout President Garfield was merely a lay preacher with the Disciples of Christ).
The week ended with former Gov. Jeb Bush’s commencement address at the Falwell-founded Liberty University, one of the more intriguing religious talks of this or any other campaign and well worth some analysis. Politics aside, as a religious matter the Catholic convert, yes, sought to give a wet kiss to the “religious right,” but there was much more than that to his remarks.
However, Hillary dominated the political chatter, so all we got was Susan Page of USA Today and noted Scientologist Greta van Susteren of Fox News (appearing on ABC) each briefly noting the “evangelical vote” is split in several directions this time.
On that very theme, the programs could have shown some of the formal announcement by Seventh-day Adventist neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who said he only succeeded in school because his mother “asked God for wisdom,” and promised new tax policies “if God ordains that we end up in the White House.” Also snubbed was what 11 Republican hopefuls said and didn’t say about the religious-liberty fuss during a “Freedom Summit” in Greenville, S.C.
Two other religion footnotes from May 10: All the shows spent considerable time on the growing threat of domestic terrorism, but almost totally avoided words like “Islamic” or “Muslim,” nor was any real-life Muslim asked to participate.
Also, on this particular Sunday morning the various talkers used God’s name “in vain” only two times.