“He’s extreme,” Manigault Newman said to her fellow contestants about Pence, who has ties to the evangelical community. “I’m Christian. I love Jesus. But he thinks Jesus tells him to say things. I’m like, ‘Jesus ain’t saying that.’ ”
That prompted the women of “The View” on Feb. 13 to critique Pence’s faith. Co-host Sunny Hostin said, “I don’t know that I want my vice president, um — speaking in tongues and having Jesus speak to him.”
Behar responded: “It’s one thing to talk to Jesus. It’s another thing when Jesus talks to you. That’s called mental illness, if I’m not correct, hearing voices.”
On C-SPAN the next day, Pence attacked ABC, saying that the network should not have broadcast a “forum that compared Christianity to mental illness.”
“It’s an insult not to me, but to the vast majority of the American people who like me cherish their faith,” he said. “It demonstrates how out of touch some in the mainstream media are with the faith and values of the American people. That you could have a major network like ABC permit a forum for invective against religion like that.”
The right-wing Media Research Center launched an effort to hold “The View” accountable for promoting “anti-Christian bigotry,” according to an open letter to ABC News from the group’s president, Brent Bozell. The MRC describes itself as the “nation’s premier media watchdog,” with the mission of exposing and neutralizing the “propaganda arm of the Left: the national news media.”
By the end of February, the MRC’s campaign had led to at least 30,000 calls insisting that Behar apologize, as well as 6,000 calls to the daytime show’s sponsors, according to Fox News.
On Thursday, more than three weeks after “The View” episode aired, top officials at Disney, which owns ABC, addressed the issue during the question-and-answer portion of a shareholder meeting. Justin Danhof, a shareholder and the general counsel for the National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative think tank, asked Disney chief executive Bob Iger about what he called the company’s pattern of “bashing conservative or religious Americans.”
He cited Behar’s comments as an example, as well as those of ESPN reporter Jemele Hill, who called President Trump a white supremacist on Twitter last fall. ESPN is also owned by Disney.
“What do you say to the tens of millions of Christians, and President Trump supporters, that your networks have so blatantly offended and ascribed hateful labels?” Danhof asked. “Specifically, do you think, like Mrs. Hostin and Mrs. Behar, that the Christian faith is akin to a dangerous mental illness?”
Iger responded by saying that Behar had already apologized to Pence, which he believed was “absolutely appropriate.”
Behar’s manager, Bill Stankey, confirmed to The Washington Post that Behar recently apologized to Pence during a phone conversation. They both talked about how they were raised Roman Catholic, he said, and mentioned that Pence told Behar that he was confirmed in the church, taking the name “Christopher.”
“Yes, she did speak to Vice President Pence, they had a great, very nice conversation,” Stankey said. “The vice president was very gracious and very understanding. He understood that Joy wasn’t attacking anybody and that there was some miscommunication.”
But a White House source told The Post that Behar “in no way suggested her comment was a ‘miscommunication.’ ”
“She apologized to the vice president, he accepted and said he wasn’t offended by her comment for his own sake but on behalf of the millions of evangelicals who watch ABC and her show,” the source wrote in an email. “He encouraged her to make the same apology publicly on the show that she did privately to him.”
As of Thursday, Behar had not publicly apologized to Pence on “The View.”