The Washington Post

God bless Fox News

Dick Durbin nearly exploded on Fox News’s “Bret Baier” show yesterday when he was asked why the Democratic Party platform for 2012 didn’t contain the term “God,” unlike iterations from previous years. Perhaps acting upon the mantra that defense wins championships, Durbin, the Senate majority whip, replied:

If the narrative that’s being presented on your station and through your channel and your network is that Democrats are godless people, they ought to know better. God is not a franchise of the Republican Party.

Baier, acting like a newsman, pointed out to Durbin that he was just asking a question. Sniffing something more conspiratorial than just a question, Durbin responded, “If you’re trying to draw some conclusion that the Democrats are godless, present your evidence. Present your evidence,” said the senator.

After Baier said it ain’t so, Durbin quipped, ”You are carping on a trifle.”

Perhaps it’s a trifle, but if so, it’s a trifle stemming from the publicly released positions of the Democratic Party. That stuff isn’t only fair game for a guy like Baier, it’s required game. If Durbin doesn’t want to defend the party’s platform, maybe he should turn down the next invite to appear on air with Baier. And if the Dems don’t want to defend the removal of “God” from the document, then keep it in there.

The platform does contain a strong section on faith, and it decrees, among other things, “Faith has always been a central part of the American story, and it has been a driving force of progress and justice throughout our history. We know that our nation, our communities, and our lives are made vastly stronger and richer by faith and the countless acts of justice and mercy it inspires.”

Media Matters is banging on Fox for what it terms a “dishonest” Fox graphic that doesn’t properly convey the fact that in election years past — 2000 and 2004, for instance — the Democratic platform has carried more “God” mentions than the Republican platform.

It also notes that Fox has been “fixated” on the issue. That’s a good thing, actually. So much of political coverage “fixates” on the stuff that’s there, in plain sight. The absences and omissions often deserve greater attention.

The God-drop burst onto the Web courtesy of David Brody, the chief political correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). Brody has some history snooping around for references to faith and religion in platform documents. In 2008, for example, presidential candidate Barack Obama attempted to appeal to “voters of faith,” says Brody, “so I went in and looked at the platform back then.”

This time, he says, a longtime source tipped him off to the change. He checked the documents and presto — huge news flash! Brody can likely commune a bit with Baier: His attempts to pry a comment from the Democratic National Committee about the change for his news-breaking post fetched nothing. “For whatever reason, the DNC decided not to return my e-mails on it,” he says.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.


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