Ted Cruz

Gray Lady goes neo-tabloid: Evangelicals, Trump, Falwell, Cohen, Tom Arnold, 'cabana boy,' etc.

Gray Lady goes neo-tabloid: Evangelicals, Trump, Falwell, Cohen, Tom Arnold, 'cabana boy,' etc.

I think that it’s safe to say that Jerry Falwell, Jr., has had a rough year or two.

I don’t say that as a cheap shot. I say that as someone who has followed the adventures of the Falwell family and Liberty University with great interest since the early 1980s, when elite newsrooms — The New Yorker came first, methinks — started paying serious attention to the late Rev. Jerry Falwell.

Of course, there is a good reason for political reporters and others to dig into Falwell, Jr., affairs. His early decision to endorse Donald Trump, instead of Sen. Ted Cruz, helped create the loud minority of white evangelicals who backed The Donald in early primaries. Without them, including Falwell, Trump doesn’t become the nominee and then, in a lesser-of-two-evils race with Hillary Clinton, squeak into the White House.

So that leads us to a rather interesting — on several levels — piece of neo-tabloid journalism at the New York Times, with this headline: “The Evangelical, the ‘Pool Boy,’ the Comedian and Michael Cohen.” The “evangelical,” of course, is Falwell.

Everything begins and ends with politics, of course, even in a story packed with all kinds of sexy whispers and innuendo about personal scandals. Thus, here is the big summary statement:

Mr. Falwell — who is not a minister and spent years as a lawyer and real estate developer — said his endorsement was based on Mr. Trump’s business experience and leadership qualities. A person close to Mr. Falwell said he made his decision after “consultation with other individuals whose opinions he respects.” But a far more complicated narrative is emerging about the behind-the-scenes maneuvering in the months before that important endorsement.

That backstory, in true Trump-tabloid fashion, features the friendship between Mr. Falwell, his wife and a former pool attendant at the Fontainebleau hotel in Miami Beach; the family’s investment in a gay-friendly youth hostel; purported sexually revealing photographs involving the Falwells; and an attempted hush-money arrangement engineered by the president’s former fixer, Michael Cohen.

The revelations have arisen from a lawsuit filed against the Falwells in Florida; the investigation into Mr. Cohen by federal prosecutors in New York; and the gonzo-style tactics of the comedian and actor Tom Arnold.

Basically, this story is built on real estate and court documents (that’s the solid stuff), along with a crazy quilt of materials from sources like Cohen, reality-TV wannabe Arnold, BuzzFeed and a pivotal anonymous source (allegedly) close to Falwell who readers are told next to nothing about, even though he/she is crucial to this article’s credibility.

One key anonymous source? That’s right.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Friday Five: Rachel Zoll, Heidi Cruz, 'The Exorcist,' Tennessee politicos, Christ at the Checkpoint

Friday Five: Rachel Zoll, Heidi Cruz, 'The Exorcist,' Tennessee politicos, Christ at the Checkpoint

Last month, we congratulated Rachel Zoll, national religion writer for The Associated Press, when she received a special recognition award from the Religion News Association.

A tweet embedded with that post hinted at another big honor for Zoll, and now, there is official news of that prize.

AP announced this week that Zoll is one of the winners of the 2018 Oliver S. Gramling Awards, the global news service’s highest internal honor.

From the AP press release:

The pre-eminent voice on religion for more than a decade, Zoll has led AP’s reporting on the subject, cultivating relationships with sources across all faiths, writing remarkable stories and mentoring fellow journalists to better understand the importance of covering religion. Her reporting spans from a series on Christian missionaries in Africa to a 2016 election-year piece on how conservative Christians felt under siege to a story about two churches in Georgia -- one black, one white -- trying to bridge the divide. Zoll’s sourcing led to AP being first to confirm on-the-record the death of Rev. Billy Graham.

Zoll, who has terminal brain cancer, is on medical leave. Big congrats to her on the Gramling Award!

Now, let’s dive into the Friday Five:

1. Religion story of the week: The Atlantic’s profile of Heidi Cruz, wife of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, is interesting and revealing, with various religion-related details. It’s worth a read.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Will white evangelical women push Ted Cruz challenger Beto O'Rourke over the top? Not so fast

Will white evangelical women push Ted Cruz challenger Beto O'Rourke over the top? Not so fast

My baby sister, Christy, is a conservative Christian and a registered Republican in Texas. She never has voted for a Democrat (she insists her vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 general election actually was a vote against Hillary Clinton).

However, Christy, who is in her mid-40s, told me she’s torn on the high-profile U.S. Senate race between incumbent Republican Ted Cruz and Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke.

“I can’t support Beto because he’s pro-choice, and I just think Cruz is a liar,” my sister said in a text message.

I thought about Christy this week as I read a New York Times story from Dallas on some white evangelical women — who have supported anti-abortion candidates in the past — putting their support behind O’Rourke:

DALLAS — After church on a recent Sunday, Emily Mooney smiled as she told her girlfriends about her public act of rebellion. She had slapped a “Beto for Senate’’ sticker on her S.U.V. and driven it to her family’s evangelical church. 

But then, across the parking lot, deep in conservative, Bible-belt Texas, she spotted a sign of support: the same exact sticker endorsing Beto O’Rourke, the Democrat who is challenging Senator Ted Cruz.

“I was like, who is it?” she exclaimed. “Who in this church is doing this?”

Listening to Ms. Mooney’s story, the four other evangelical moms standing around a kitchen island began to buzz with excitement. All of them go to similarly conservative churches in Dallas. All are longtime Republican voters, solely because they oppose abortion rights. Only one broke ranks to vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016. But this November, they have all decided to vote for Mr. O’Rourke, the Democratic upstart who is on the front line of trying to upend politics in deep-red Texas. 

In the Senate race, one of the most unexpectedly tight in the nation, any small shift among evangelical voters — long a stable base for Republicans — could be a significant loss for Mr. Cruz, who, like President Trump, has made white evangelicals the bulwark of his support.

If you’re unfamiliar with O’Rourke, he’s a rock star among the national Democratic Party and a favorite of national news media eager to explore whether his candidacy might turn Texas — long a red state — blue:

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Why Texas Sen. Ted Cruz getting a haircut wasn't just news — it was, believe it or not, religion news

Why Texas Sen. Ted Cruz getting a haircut wasn't just news — it was, believe it or not, religion news

Dude.

Religion stories pop up in the most unexpected places. For example, the barber chair.

That's where U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz found himself over the weekend as the Texas Republican campaigned for votes in his re-election bid against Congressman Beto O'Rourke, Cruz's well-financed Democratic challenger.

In the nation's most expensive Senate race, perhaps it's no surprise that Cruz getting a haircut — "and an earful," as the Dallas Morning News described it — made headlines.

But was there really a religion angle in the snip, snip, snip?

Believe it or not, yes, as noted by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Bud Kennedy.

Check this off as example 3,127,629 why the religion beat is never boring.

Also, give credit to the Texas media who covered Cruz's retail politics (which later included Texas barbecue, which beats anything cooked in Tennessee, as I'm sure tmatt will attest) for not missing the faith angle.

The name of the barber shop offered the first clue: It's called Kingdom Cuts.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

White evangelical women reportedly tiptoeing away from Trump, but big questions remain

White evangelical women reportedly tiptoeing away from Trump, but big questions remain

I'm feeling grumpy.

A friend suggests that a lot of people seem to be in a foul mood today. Perhaps it has something to do with that time change over the weekend?

So there's at least a chance my state of mind is influencing my take on a New York Times story published over the weekendIf my critique impresses you as overly negative, by all means, feel free to call me on it.

The article in question concerns white evangelical women — "core supporters of Trump" — having second thoughts about the Republican president. It's an interesting thesis, but the piece is one that — at least for me — raises more questions than it answers. 

Let's start at the top:

GRAPEVINE, Tex. — Carol Rains, a white evangelical Christian, has no regrets over her vote for President Trump. She likes most of his policies and would still support him over any Democrat. But she is open to another Republican.
“I would like for someone to challenge him,” Ms. Rains said, as she sipped wine recently with two other evangelical Christian women at a suburban restaurant north of Dallas. “But it needs to be somebody that’s strong enough to go against the Democrats.” Her preferred alternative: Nikki R. Haley, the United Nations ambassador and former South Carolina governor.
One of her friends, Linda Leonhart, agreed. “I will definitely take a look to see who has the courage to take on a job like this and do what needs to be done,” she said.

The story is written by a national political correspondent, not a religion beat pro, which may play into some of my questions.

For example: The location of the interview — a restaurant — seems like a strange scene setter for a story with a religious focus. Was there not a women's Bible study or other church gathering that would have made more sense for the opening? Just curious.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

A Monday-morning quarterback re-examines a foggy religion news forecast for 2016

A Monday-morning quarterback re-examines a foggy religion news forecast for 2016

This Memo must begin with a confession.

The Religion Guy was among countless newsies who thought Donald Trump would lose. He figured it was close, Trump would win Ohio and Iowa, and had a good shot in Florida and North Carolina. But it didn’t seem likely (to say the least) the president-elect could grab Wisconsin, Michigan (where The Guy went to college), Pennsylvania (where his in-laws live) and fall only 1.5 percent short in Minnesota (that super-blue land of Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale). 

Reminders of fallibility are necessary as The Guy turns Monday-morning quarterback and re-examines the forecast for 2016 by the team of pros at www.religionlink.com, an essential resource on the beat sponsored by our Religion Newswriters Foundation. (Tax-deductible donations welcomed.) Its Web postings are especially helpful in listing knowledgeable observers and advocates for reporters.

Naturally, ReligionLink led with the election. On the January day its 2016 forecast appeared, the RealClearPolitics poll average among Republicans put Trump first with 35 percent, followed by three rivals with substantial evangelical appeal who together claimed 38.3 percent: Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Dr. Ben Carson, in that order. Uh, that was essentially “white evangelical” appeal, due to African-Americans’ Democratic fealty.

ReligionLink cited Rubio’s pitch to evangelicals but ignored the devout Cruz and Carson.

Remarkably, Trump’s candidacy was not mentioned.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Yo, Washington Post editors (again): Some conservatives don't really care about the GOP

Yo, Washington Post editors (again): Some conservatives don't really care about the GOP

Challenge No. 1: Write a history of conservative political life in the post-Roe v. Wade era -- focusing on the Republican Party in particular -- without mentioning the role of cultural and religious conservatives.

Do you think historians could pull that off?

Challenge No. 2: Write a news feature about the GOP race for the White House in 2016 without mentioning the role of religious conservatives -- white evangelical Protestants and traditional Catholics, in particular -- in the primary battles between Citizen Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz, etc. Do you think journalists could write such a story without including strong references to the prominent role of evangelical leaders in the #NeverTrump camp, as well as old-guard Religious Right folks in team Trump?

Actually, we sort of know that political-desk journalists at the Washington Post can meet that challenge, or one very similar to it. You see, they have already done that. See this earlier post: "Hey Washington Post czars: Evangelicals and Catholics are irrelevant in #NeverTrump camp?"

Now, here is Challenge No. 3: Go to Denver and cover the RedState Gathering for conservative leaders -- note that Trump was not invited -- and produce a report that includes zero information about the views of #NeverTrump religious and cultural conservatives.

Yes! The Washington Post political-desk pros are up to that challenge as well! See the recent feature that ran with this headline: "Once in control of their party, conservatives agonize over the election and beyond."

What does the word "conservative" mean in that equation? Honestly, after reading the story several times, I have no idea. Here is the overture:

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Hey journalists: Name a mainstream pro-life leader who didn't pound Trump the other day

Hey journalists: Name a mainstream pro-life leader who didn't pound Trump the other day

OK, raise your hands if you are surprised that Citizen Donald Trump appears to have had zero serious contact with the Right to Life movement, in either its conservative or progressive forms.

Ironically, the main people who know how tone-deaf he is on life issues are people who are actually in the movement. People outside the movement may actually think that Trump's verbal misadventures on MSNBC the other day raised edgy and important issues.

So here is another way of looking at this: Raise your hands if you are surprised that the Associated Press team put someone on this story who appears to have had zero contact with the pro-life movement and, thus, had no idea what that movement actually believes on issues linked to women who have had abortions?

Check out the top of this stunningly unbalanced -- the word "blind" would be a kind way of stating things -- AP report on the Trump fiasco:

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Frustrated Republicans grappled with new fears about Donald Trump's impact on their party Wednesday, as the billionaire businessman's campaign rivals targeted his punitive plan for fighting abortion and extraordinary defense of his campaign manager, who police say assaulted a female reporter.
Concern rippled through Republican circles nationwide, yet few dared criticize the GOP front-runner directly when pressed, leery of confronting the man who may well lead their election ticket in November.
Their silence underscored the deep worries plaguing the party's leaders -- particularly its most prominent women -- who are growing increasingly concerned that a Trump presidential nomination could not only cost the 2016 election but also tarnish the party brand for a generation of women and young people.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Hey media, here's one way to overcome that tired 'anti-Muslim backlash' storyline

Hey media, here's one way to overcome that tired 'anti-Muslim backlash' storyline

The backlash is baa-aack.

More precisely, the "Muslim backlash" stories are back. Just check out the front page of Thursday's USA Today.

As for an actual backlash against Muslims in the U.S.? That's a subject of some debate.

Here at GetReligion, of course, we've touched on this topic again and again and again.

With your indulgence, I'll reference one more time what I said in the immediate aftermath of this week's Brussels terror attacks:

Key, again, is factual reporting that highlights the various strains of Islam (as we have said a million times, there is "no one Islam") and avoids the simplistic "Islamophobia" propaganda that plagued so much of the coverage last time.

USA Today, whose news coverage is to journalism what McDonald's cheeseburgers are to fine dining, didn't get the memo. But give the national newspaper credit for going all the way with its totally predictable, stereotypical approach. This is the online headline on the story featured in Thursday's print edition:

Please respect our Commenting Policy