A snippet from Mike Pence’s life as vice president has appeared twice in recent major-media writing about him, both times at the end of a piece and both times as though this information offers keen insight into an empty soul.
As has become too common in journalism today — especially when The New York Times discusses Donald Trump’s White House — journalists need to look carefully at the origins and attribution of one person’s subjective experience.
This story seems the most damning in the version passed along by Peter Baker of the Times, reviewing reporter Tom Lobianco’s book “Piety and Power: Mike Pence and the Taking of the White House”:
When an evangelical pastor who once prayed with Pence in his congressional office ran into him at a ceremony last year, he told him: “You know, Mr. Vice President, more than anything, we need you to find your conscience, the country desperately needs you to find your conscience.”
“It’s always easier said than done,” Pence replied cryptically, and then walked away.
The mind reels. Who was this unnamed evangelical pastor who once prayed with Pence? Franklin Graham? Pat Robertson? Fellow Catholic-turned-evangelical Larry Tomczac? Did this language about Pence finding his conscience have a context? Was it focused on a specific moral issue? Would readers like to know if this pastor is a conservative or progressive evangelical?
Maureen Groppe, describing the same book 20 days earlier for USA Today, named the pastor and grounded the confrontation in a specific event:
Robert Schenck, who had prayed with Pence in his congressional office years before, watched his old friend administer the oath of office in 2018 to Sam Brownback, Trump’s new ambassador for religious freedom.