Back in March, Hillary Clinton gave an address at a journalism awards ceremony and used the occasion to make a pledge to attendees with notepads: “I am all about new beginnings: a new grandchild, another new hairstyle, a new e-mail account,” she quipped, “Why not a new relationship with the press? So here goes. No more secrecy. No more zone of privacy,” said Clinton at a ceremony for the Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting.
The packed crowd at a D.C. church this morning heard a similar pledge from the 2016 Democratic presidential front-runner. Clinton gave an address at the celebration of the bicentennial of Foundry United Methodist Church, the 16th Street NW church which she and her family attended during Bill Clinton’s presidency. Amid remarks expressing her fondness for the church and her own Methodist upbringing, Clinton struck a media theme.
In the moments before the service, Clinton said from the pulpit, she received some advice from Dr. J. Philip Wogaman, the former Foundry senior pastor who’d served the first family. “He basically said, if you’re going to read and listen to Romans: 12, you gotta to be nicer to the press,” said Clinton, to laughs from the congregation. “I will certainly take that to heart.” She also said she’d put the counsel “into effect.”
The reference to Romans: 12 came from the morning’s service, which featured it as a scripture reading. In a post-service chat with the Erik Wemple Blog, Wogaman said that he’d had a “nice conversation” with Clinton before the service. The advice about taking a new approach to the media, he said, was “half in jest,” and rooted in the passage of Romans mentioning the “gifts that we have,” says Wogaman. The relevant passage reads, in part, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” Pursuant to those teachings, says Wogaman, the media has an “important” role in “advising” those in power.
We asked Wogaman if, perhaps, he was basing his advice on the part of Romans that says, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” No, he said; that wasn’t it. Clinton’s reference to the press comes after a spell of extensive media availability, including interviews with Andrea Mitchell of NBC News/MSNBC, the Associated Press and ABC News. The tour featured an outright apology for her e-mail practices as secretary of state.
Wogaman has a history of issuing advice to the Clinton family. During the Monica Lewinsky crisis, he was one of three religious leaders with whom President Clinton met on a regular basis for support and guidance. After the president apologized for the whole affair, Wogaman told The Post, “My prayer is that the president will so conduct himself as a man and as a leader that at the end of his time in office even those displeased with him today will be pleased that he was not removed from office,” he said.
(Disclosure: The Erik Wemple Family Blog is a member of Foundry and last week attended its annual family camp).