Daily Howler logo
ABOUT THAT GREAT WH*RE! Is John Hagee a Catholic-basher? Solomon didn’t find out: // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, MARCH 25, 2008

SHIRTS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN: We received the following e-mail concerning Barbara Ehrenreich’s unfortunate post. In our view, the e-mail is full of that unhelpful “shirts-and-skins” logic:

E-MAIL: Your Barbara Ehrenreich screed pretty much ignores the substance of the piece, that Hillary Clinton has joined Douglas Coe's right-wing religious group. That group has been written up in the Harpers and Mother Jones articles she cites. The Mother Jones article deals specifically with Clinton's involvement. The Harpers article details the ties that Coe's group has to dictatorships and right wing politicians in this country. Clinton does seem to be your candidate, but a hit job like this on Ehrenrich's (admittedly derivative) piece is a bit much.

But Ehrenreich’s post isn’t “derivative.” Instead, it takes a largely reasonable Mother Jones piece (last Friday, we linked you to it and said you should read it) and turns it into a piece of deceptive—and utterly stupid—political porn. Ehrenreich makes a screeching claim about Clinton’s descent “into the sinister heart of the international right”—and her proof is the lady’s support for a piece of legislation proposed by John Kerry. Playing her readers for perfect fools, Ehrenreich forgot to mention Kerry’s role. She forgot to tell them that the damning legislation is, in fact, bipartisan.

Beyond that, Ehrenreich was concerned about Clinton’s “ever-shifting hairstyles”—and inevitably, she managed to drag Hitler in. Hitler, of course, had only one hairstyle. How did that turn out?

Unfortunately, Ehrenreich composed a piece which was barely sane; the e-mailer gobbled it, then begged for more. But then, we think you know the logic here: When you’re a shirt, you’re a shirt all the way! To the shirts, it’s clear that the skins are demons. About them, any damn thing can be said—and some readers will lap it right up, begging for more more more more.

Some people will never be able to understand how work like that harms liberal/progressive interests—even after you spell it out for them, looking at Ehrenreich playing the same stupid game before the 2000 election. They’re in this game to yell at the skins. They can see how wonderfully vile the skins are. It’s the essence of shirts-and-skins logic.

By the way, since the mailer is busily working out motive: Obama or Clinton is “our candidate.” We vote for the Democrat in the fall—and, on balance, we don’t see a giant difference between the two remaining Dems, as we’ve semi-explained many times. We think the two Dems have different down-sides—but we don’t know whose would be worse. (For the record, we’ll be amazed if Obama is not the nominee.)

We mention this last point for a reason. Please note how this sort of “thinking” works: If you don’t batter the skins in the same way they do, they quickly start typing in motive.

ABOUT THAT GREAT WH*RE: Reading big newspapers can sometimes be frustrating. Consider Deborah Solomon’s interview, in Sunday’s Times magazine, with McCain endorser John Hagee. In just the second Q-and-A, Solomon’s wisdom (or that of her editor) may have produced an omission:

SOLOMON (3/23/08): How did you feel when critics called you a Catholic-basher and said McCain should reject your endorsement?

HAGEE: My statements regarding the Catholic Church have been grossly mischaracterized. I never called the Catholic Church “the anti-Christ” or a “false cult system.” I was referring to those Christians who ignore the Gospels.

Frustrating! Hagee has been repeatedly criticized in recent weeks for (allegedly) calling the Catholic Church “the great whore.” In his answer to Solomon, he doesn’t cite that charge—and Solomon doesn’t ask him about it. Nor does she make any attempt to evaluate the other things Hagee says.

Is Hagee really a “Catholic-basher?” Solomon makes no attempt to find out. And as Steve Benen notes in this post, few other media outlets have examined this matter.

Why is the colorful “great whore” comment missing from Solomon’s interview? We have no way of knowing; it’s possible that the omission reflects editorial judgment about verbal good taste. (Solomon’s features are heavily edited.) But we found Solomon’s interview frustrating for various reasons. Many liberals have criticized the press for failing to examine Hagee’s pronouncements. This interview represented a first pass by the Times, and Solomon made little attempt to fact-check or evaluate anything Hagee said.

But then, fact-checking has been rather light in the whole matter of Hagee. In some areas, Hagee’s statements are a matter of clear public record. For example, Hagee appeared on Fresh Air on September 18, 2006; he was asked to discuss “his best-selling book, Jerusalem Countdown” and the new group, Citizens United for Israel, which he had recently formed. Hagee discussed his views of Middle East politics and Islam—views which are largely based on his interpretation of Biblical texts. Late in the interview, Terri Gross also asked about Hurricane Katrina. Hagee said the following, on the record:

GROSS (9/18/06): I just want to ask you one question based on one of your sermons that—and this isn't about Israel. You said after Hurricane Katrina that it was an act of God, and you said "when you violate God's will long enough, the judgment of God comes to you. Katrina is an act of God for a society that is becoming Sodom and Gomorrah reborn." Do you still think that Katrina is punishment from God for a society that's becoming like Sodom and Gomorrah?

HAGEE: All hurricanes are acts of God because God controls the heavens. I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God, and they are—were recipients of the judgment of God for that. The newspaper carried the story in our local area that was not carried nationally that there was to be a homosexual parade on the Monday that the Katrina came, and the promise of that parade was that it was going to reach a level of sexuality never demonstrated before in any of the other Gay Pride parades. So I believe that the judgment of God is a very real thing. I know that there are people who demure from that, but I believe that the Bible teaches that when you violate the law of God, that God brings punishment sometimes before the day of judgment, and I believe that the Hurricane Katrina was, in fact, the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans.

GROSS: So I know you're very opposed to homosexuality, but you think that the whole city was punished because of things like the forthcoming Gay Pride parade.

HAGEE: This is true. All of the city was punished because of the sin that happened there in that city.

Gulfport, Mississippi was apparently punished for that parade too. But Gross didn’t ask about that.

We have no idea why people believe they can read and interpret ancient texts this way. But this subject is largely taboo in the American press; we think it would be a very good thing if big news orgs spent more time on this important matter. That said, Hagee’s statements here are a matter of record. So are the Q-and-A’s in which Solomon cited Katrina:

SOLOMON: Let’s talk about your much-quoted comment that Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment for a gay rights parade in New Orleans.

HAGEE: We’re not going down there. That’s so far off-base it would take us 33 pages to go through that, and it’s not worth going through.

SOLOMON: I am not eager to rehash it either, although I wish that evangelicals were not so hard on gays.

HAGEE: Our church is not hard against the gay people. Our church teaches what the Bible teaches, that it is not a righteous lifestyle. But of course we must love even sinners.

SOLOMON: Do you have any gay friends?

HAGEE: I don’t want to say that I have any friends, because when you say, “Who are they?” I don’t want them jumping off the balcony.

To some, Hagee’s highlighted statement will seem hard to reconcile with his view about Katrina’s origin. In our view, when a person’s reasoning process differs from our own this much, it’s hard to know just where the contradictions begin and end. And of course, we have no idea about Hagee’s connections with, or behavior toward, individual gay people. Hagee seems to have extremely unconventional views about a wide range of topics. It’s hard to know how “logic” works in perusing his various statements.

At any rate, Hagee’s statements about Katrina are a matter of public record. Not so, it would seem, his alleged “great whore” remark. In this matter, we liberals are now taking talking points from Democrat-bashing public ranter William Donohue, the excitable head of the Catholic League. But Donahue’s claims are often bogus, and we’ve been unable to find a clear source for his most colorful claim—the claim that Hagee has called the Catholic Church “the great whore.” In Donohue’s press releases, he has cited this remarkable YouTube clip as the source for his colorful charge. We strongly suggest that you watch it, if only to ponder how strange Hagee’s presentation is. But we’ll admit, we don’t have the slightest idea whether Hagee is calling the Catholic Church “the great whore” in this short sermon clip. Hagee told Solomon that this charge is wrong. Again, Solomon made no attempt to evaluate this claim, and we don’t really know how to judge it.

As we’ve read liberal posts on this matter, we’ve been struck by several things. First, we’ve seen many people citing Donohue’s “great whore” claim—but we’ve found no one providing an actual quotation from Hagee. (Wikipedia can’t even nail this one down. You know what to do—just click here.) In our view, based on a decade of work, making thunderous claims based on this kind of evidence is a good way to do bad journalism—and bad progressive politics.

Beyond that, it probably isn’t the greatest thing when liberals take their talking-points from Donohue—although since we’re reverentially citing “Mister Drudge” at this point, it seems our standards are falling rapidly. Finally, it would be a very good thing if big news orgs did more work on this sort of religiosity—preferably outside an immediate partisan context. We look forward to reading Jeff Sharlet’s new book; he has done valuable work on these types of religion, and on the way such religious beliefs may connect to political power. But big news orgs tend to stay away, treating such topics as taboo; we think it would be better by far if they made a better attempt to explain what is happening—to cite one example—inside Pastor Hagee’s (large) church. (We’re not attempting to prejudge what news orgs might find in such venues.)

By the way: Does Ernest Angley really heal all those people? We see him do it every Sunday, on our local Fox affiliate; in fact, we’ve seen him do it for decades now, going back to the 1970s. In all those years, we’ve never seen a single journalist check out Angley’s remarkable claims. If your brand of aspirin doesn’t work, you can’t go on TV and say it does. But in our society, almost any claim is A-OK—if it’s made as a part of religion.

PLEASE NOTE: Our e-mailer may thunder about this post. When you’re a shirt, you’re a shirt all the way! He may judge that we, allegedly a shirt, haven’t battered the skins hard enough. Many people get into politics to play on one team—and to batter the other. All the good people are on their team. On the other team, people are bad.

People, those skins just won’t stop fouling! Result? If they think Obama is better, then Clinton must be linked to Hitler. It all makes perfect sense to them—and it’s bad for progressive interests. Al Gore said he invented the Internet! Ehrenreich said so, eight years back. How did that bull-roar turn out?