CBS, ABC Embrace Left-Wing Christians, Greet Conservatives with Skepticism

“A New Kind of Political Holy War.” Those were the words CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric used to open her October 18 segment exploring whether the GOP can count on the votes of evangelical Christians in the upcoming presidential election.

And right out of the gate Couric swung left.  After her opening statement Couric smiled and asked the question, “Do you believe that evangelical Christians are still the domain of the GOP?”

Jim Wallis, founder of the leftist group Sojourners, answered with an emphatic “NO.”  He told Couric that the evangelical vote is “up for grabs.”

The entire segment was designed to show a “chasm” – to use Couric's word – between “progressive” evangelicals (which is the term she used to describe Wallis) and “traditional” evangelicals.  Representing the traditional side was Dr. Richard Land, head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the public policy branch of the Southern Baptist Convention.  Wallis was quoted five times to Land's three.

The liberal slant of the entire piece is evidenced in the following excerpt.  Couric started off by describing the impact of evangelical Christians in the Reagan era.

COURIC: Politics supplied the perfect bully pulpit for their conservative viewpoints, emphasizing two issues above all -- opposition to gay rights and abortion rights. For more than two decades, their support at the polls has been critical to Republican victories. But that may be changing, and many younger evangelicals are behind it.

WALLIS:  A whole generation says no, there are more than two moral

values issues. There's Darfur. There's global poverty. There's climate change. There's human trafficking.

COURIC: And in this new agenda, the old issues aren't as prominent. A new CBS News poll out tonight shows that abortion (2 percent) and gay rights (0 percent) aren't even among the top four priorities evangelicals want presidential candidates to discuss. In fact, healthcare and Iraq dominate, which creates a chasm between progressive evangelicals like Jim Wallis and more traditional leaders like Richard Land.

WALLIS: Why were the followers of the Prince of Peace the easiest ones to convince to go to war in Iraq?

LAND:  I believe when people are at war with you, it's best to be at war with them.

(Sound on tape) We are doing spiritual warfare and battle here.

COURIC: Land also thinks the two issues that united evangelicals shouldn't divide them now.

LAND:  The protection of the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death and everywhere in between. Secondly, protection of traditional marriage.

COURIC: But our poll shows that poverty trumps abortion as an issue evangelicals care about. In fact, Jim Wallis believes the term “pro-life” should be redefined.

WALLIS: If I'm an unborn child and I want the support of the far religious right I better stay unborn as long as possible because once I'm born I'm off the radar screen. No health care, no child care, no nothing.

COURIC: Different priorities may mean a new acceptance of a different kind of GOP candidate. Current frontrunner Rudy Giuliani, the first Republican nominee in three decades to support abortion rights, is almost tied for first among white evangelical voters.

Couric's piece was timed to precede this weekend's Values Voters Summit in Washington, D.C.  The Summit will feature leaders from prominent Christian organizations like the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family.  Couric mentioned that all of the major GOP candidates will be at the event.

One of those candidates, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, was profiled on ABC's World News with Charles Gibson on October 18.  The profile is a part of a regular Thursday feature on the broadcast which is designed, as anchor Charles Gibson said, “(to go) beyond the stump speeches and position papers to get the measure of the candidates.”

In the Huckabee profile Gibson referred to the candidate's attendance at “Baptist church” and his education at “religious schools.”  He questioned Huckabee on his experiences as a pastor and the transition to politics.

After Huckabee commented that the pastoring experience “sensitized” him to the fact that policy makers didn't have a clue about poverty and struggle (Huckabee grew up poor in Hope, Arkansas), Gibson threw down a liberal cautionary statement.  “People might be uncomfortable with someone coming out of a religious background, and then coming into politics.”

Funny.  The liberal media are quick to tout the faith and religious convictions of Democrats – or “progressive Christians” as in the CBS piece – but treat the religious beliefs of Republican candidates as something “uncomfortable.”

Gibson didn't stop there though.  He then asked Huckabee how a “just God” could “do something” like give a young woman spine cancer.  Gibson was referring to Huckabee's wife, who was diagnosed with such a cancer when they were first married.

Will Gibson ask the same question of John Edwards, whose wife suffers from cancer, when he interviews him?

Huckabee answered Gibson head on, and to ABC's credit, the interview was not edited to make Huckabee appear like a crazed fundamentalist.  On the question of whether a religious background should make people uncomfortable with a politician, Huckabee said, “Faith means that we need that element of our lives to make up the deficiencies that we acknowledge are there. If a -- if a person's faith makes him think he's better than somebody, it's a pretty dangerous faith.”  And on the “just God” question, Huckabee responded in part, “He's a comfort.  He's a strength.”

Kristen Fyfe is senior writer at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.