Republican National Convention

Serious charges against a preacher friend of George W. Bush (oh, and Barack Obama, as well)

Serious charges against a preacher friend of George W. Bush (oh, and Barack Obama, as well)

Here is a name that may or may not ring a bell for many news consumers: The Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell.

Maybe the video at the top of this post will refresh your memory. That's Caldwell, a megachurch pastor from Houston, saying one of the prayers at the 2001 inauguration of George W. Bush as president.

At the moment, Caldwell is -- as Texans would say -- in a heap of trouble, as you can see at the top of this report in The Houston Chronicle, under this headline: "Kirbyjon Caldwell -- Houston megachurch pastor and spiritual adviser to George W. Bush -- indicted on fraud charges."

A prominent Houston pastor and spiritual adviser to President George W. Bush has been indicted on federal charges that he sold millions of dollars in worthless Chinese bonds to elderly and vulnerable investors, according to federal authorities.
Kirbyjon H. Caldwell, 64, and Shreveport financial planner Gregory Alan Smith, 55, were charged with 13 counts of conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering.
Caldwell is accused of using his position as the senior pastor of the Windsor Village United Methodist Church to help lure nearly $3.5 million in investments into historic Chinese bonds that are not recognized by the Chinese government. He and Smith told investors they could see returns as high as 15 times their initial investment, according to the indictment.

Now, pause and remember that many, and perhaps most, Americans who still read newspapers simply scan the headlines and then decide whether they want to dig deeper into a story. So read that Chronicle headline again.

Done? Now read this ABC News headline about the same story: "Megachurch pastor with ties to Presidents Bush, Obama to surrender Monday: Attorney."

Did you spot an interesting difference in these two headlines?

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Was I too easy on Religion News Service for covering Democratic convention but not GOP one?

Was I too easy on Religion News Service for covering Democratic convention but not GOP one?

My post last week on why Religion News Service covered the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia but not the Republican National Convention in Cleveland generated a fair amount of response both in the comments section and on social media.

I pretty much accepted RNS editor in chief Jeremy Socolovsky's explanation for the decision:

The reason we did not have someone at the GOP convention is that we weren't able to get accreditation.

But a number of folks thought I was too easy on RNS.

For example, reader Mikehorn commented:

This is so lame I hardly know where to begin. Was the Internet broken? Was Cleveland under quarantine? Did your computers disappear and you had no typewriters or pencils?

Twitter responses to the post were similar.

Meanwhile, our own Terry Mattingly asked:

Question from a veteran reporter, about RNS and RNC: Wait a minute, wasn't every single moment of the GOP convention on C-SPAN?
I would add: I am sure that RNS veterans have thick files of contact info for leaders in various wings of the GOP, correct?

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The reason Religion News Service covered the Democrats this week and not the GOP last week

The reason Religion News Service covered the Democrats this week and not the GOP last week

Sorry, conspiracy theorists (including myself).

There's a logical reason why Religion News Service provided extensive coverage of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this week after skipping Donald Trump and the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last week. And no, it has nothing to do with bias. I'll explain in a moment.

First, a little background: RNS national correspondent David Gibson has been all over various religion angles in the City of Brotherly Love, from asking "Can Hillary Clinton finally close the 'God gap?'" to exploring "Who boos an opening prayer? The Berniacs of 2016, that’s who." 

Other topics have included "The divided soul of the Democratic Party" and "Can Clinton-Kaine bring Democratic voters back to the Democrats?"

But here's a question posed by a reader: Where was the RNS last week when Donald Trump and the Republicans were holding their convention?

My first thought: Did nobody on the RNS staff want to go to Cleveland? I hear it's nice this time of year.

Seriously, it's a legitimate question to ask: How can a news service that claims to be impartial cover one national political convention and not the other?

"Well, you know, religion and GOP politics just don't mix," quipped Terry Mattingly, GetReligion's editor.

But RNS editor in chief Jerome Socolovsky, who joined RNS less than a year and has been open to addressing questions of RNS' perceived liberal leanings, said there's a simple reason why the wire service didn't cover the GOP convention.

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Are you kidding me!? Some Muslims actually support Donald Trump for president

Are you kidding me!? Some Muslims actually support Donald Trump for president

Hey, remember that time Donald Trump called for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the U.S.?"

It's kind of hard to forget (but if you need refreshment, click here, here, here, here and here).

To read most news reports, Trump is the King of Islamophobia. So it's obvious that no serious, clear-thinking follower of Islam would deign to support Trump for president. Right?

Well, actually ...

There are some interesting stories in the mainstream press this week that quote Muslim supporters of Trump. Reuters, for example, has a story on a campaign to register a million Muslim voters against Trump. But near the end of that piece, the wire service quotes the Muslim who offered a brief benediction Tuesday night at the Republican National Convention:

U.S. Muslim backers of Trump said they were trying to build their own coalitions in swing states.
Baltimore businessman Sajid Tarar said he launched American Muslims for Trump because he favored Trump's stance on combating radical Islam.
"ISIS (an acronym for the Islamic State), al Qaeda, Taliban, they have killed more Muslims than anything else, and that's a message Muslims need to hear and understand," he said, referring to various militant groups.

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Muslims and the GOP: Charlotte Observer shuns real questions for public relations

Muslims and the GOP: Charlotte Observer shuns real questions for public relations

Good hustle, Charlotte Observer. You knew Rose Hamid staged a one-woman protest at Donald Trump's rally in South Carolina. So when she showed up in a hijab in Cleveland during the Republican National Convention, you  pounced with a profile and indepth on Muslim-American relations

But why the lame, propagandistic headline -- "Charlotte Muslim leader brings message of love to Republican convention"? You could have written "Triteness Alert!" in fewer words.

And the top of the story ain't no model of fresh reporting either:

Red flower pen in hand, Charlotte’s Rose Hamid spoke in Cleveland’s Public Square Monday, delivering the message she hopes to bring to a larger audience at this week’s Republican National Convention: that Islam is not a violent religion to be feared.
"It doesn’t have to be us versus them," she told a few dozen listeners. "These terrorist groups are not following the Islamic doctrine."

Hamid may be telegenic and articulate, as when she talked to the BBC after being tossed out of the rally in Rock Hill, S.C. But that doesn't make it a good idea to recycle clichés that could have been written by, say, Nihad Awad.

Especially because in this story, we heard directly from Awad, head of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. He was in Cleveland the same day, saying, "We all have the same love for and commitment to America." Triteness by association, I guess.

Only in paragraph four does the Observer spell out its thesis: the contrast between loving, patriotic American Muslims and a political party that is turning against them:

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Who is Mark Burns? Prosperity gospel takes center stage at Republican National Convention

Who is Mark Burns? Prosperity gospel takes center stage at Republican National Convention

Who is the Rev. Mark Burns?

That's what some may be wondering after the South Carolina pastor's prayer caused a minor kerfuffle on the opening night of the Republican National Convention (as opposed to the major social media storm over apparent plagiarism in Melania Trump's speech).

Plenty of folks, on the left and right, were not amused by what Burns had to say.

Here's a hint for journalists: When delving into Trump's faith, it seems, the prosperity gospel is an appropriate place to start. That is not exactly breaking news. Nonetheless, it's certainly a relevant, timely topic for journalists to explore. Especially when it comes to Burns. So what happened in the coverage in this prayer mini-firestorm?

A personal note: I was not familiar with Burns until he stepped to the podium of a Donald Trump rally that I covered earlier this year for The Christian Chronicle:

As thousands welcomed Trump to the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City on Friday, an African-American pastor named Mark Burns -- who preaches for the Harvest Praise and Worship Center in Easley, S.C. -- led an opening prayer.

Burns assured the crowd that Trump believes in Jesus Christ and said -- with his election -- “Christians will again have a friend in the White House.”

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