President Donald Trump hosted a "huge state-like dinner" — as the Christian Broadcasting Network described it — for 100 evangelical leaders invited to the White House on Monday night.
What, you didn't hear about it?
Apparently, the event was not considered particularly newsworthy by major news organizations — which is surprising to me given how often Trump's evangelical supporters make it into headlines. (Hey, did you know that 81 percent of white evangelicals voted for the brash billionaire?)
Is what the president of the United States says to some of his strongest and most influential supporters not worthy of prominent ink?
The Washington Times characterized the dinner this way:
President Trump hosted a dinner of Evangelical leaders at the White House Monday night and told them that he has delivered “just about everything I promised” on policies of religious liberty and defense of life.
“The support you’ve given me has been incredible,” Mr. Trump told the group. “But I really don’t feel guilty because I have given you a lot back, just about everything I promised.”
Among those attending the event were the Rev. Franklin Graham, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., Faith and Freedom Coalition founder Ralph Reed, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson and Pastor Paula White, a prominent spiritual adviser to the president.
Mr. Trump said under his administration, “the attacks on the communities of faith are over.” He cited actions to defend the religious conscience of health-care workers, teachers, students and religious employers; executive branch guidance on protecting religious liberty, and proposed regulations to bar taxpayer money from subsidizing abortion.
“Unlike some before us, we are protecting your religious liberty,” Mr. Trump said. “We’re standing for religious believers, because we know that faith and family, not government and bureaucracy, are the center of American life. And we know that freedom is a gift from our Creator.”
Meanwhile, The Associated Press devoted six sentences — a total of 125 words — to the gathering.
The Washington Post, which publishes hundreds of stories, graphics and photos each day? It ran the short AP item. For the record, Fox News ran the same item. (It's also interesting to note that the AP item is written in present tense, the style the wire services usually for quick broadcast items.)
USA Today ignored most of Trump's remarks to the evangelical leaders but came up with a different angle — a negative one toward the president — on the dinner. The headline:
Trump references John Adams White House 'prayer,' leaves out 'honest and wise' part
Other media, such as the Wall Street Journal, referenced the dinner as an aside in noting what Trump said to the pastors about the late Sen. John McCain.
The New York Times didn't — as far as I could tell — cover the president's public remarks (White House transcript here) to the evangelical leaders concerning issues ranging from abortion to religious liberty.
But the Times did obtain an audio recording of what Trump said after journalists and television cameras were ushered out of the room and report on that. From a story published this afternoon:
“I just ask you to go out and make sure all of your people vote,” Mr. Trump told the group of about 100 evangelical ministers. “Because if they don’t — it’s Nov. 6 — if they don’t vote we’re going to have a miserable two years and we’re going to have, frankly, a very hard period of time because then it just gets to be one election — you’re one election away from losing everything you’ve got.”
Certainly, I'm interested in the private comments. They're definitely newsworthy.
But why so little news coverage of the actual event?
Who was there? What was the purpose? What was said by the president? These seem like relevant questions and worthy of attention, even for mainstream news organizations often critical of Trump. Surely I'm not the only reader interested in such details.
In this social media age, the best coverage that I've seen so far came from — of all places — a Twitter Moment compiled by Religion News Service national correspondent Emily McFarlan Miller.
Miller's collections of tweets — from those who were there as well as key outside observers — do a nice job of piecing together much of what occurred:
Miller's tweet promised an upcoming story from RNS. Here is a link to that story by Miller and her colleague Jack Jenkins.
I'd love to hear from you, dear reader: Do you agree with me that the White House dinner deserved more attention from the press? Why or why not?
Comment below, and please explain your reasoning. Also, remember that GetReligion is interested in journalism and media issues, not in your support or opposition of the president and/or evangelicals.