McCain's Media-Manufactured 'Pastor Problem'

First it was Rev. Jerry Falwell, then Rev. John Hagee, now Rev. Rod Parsley.

For the second time in less than a month, major media outlets have attempted to hang a Reverend Jeremiah Wright around the neck of presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain.  Before that, they were comparing Wright to the late Falwell.

Rev. Wright is the recently retired pastor of the church Democratic frontrunner Barack Obama has attended for nearly twenty years.  Obama has credited Wright with leading him to Jesus Christ, described Wright as his mentor, and maintained a close relationship with him until last month.  Obama's presidential candidacy has been damaged severely by disclosure of Wright's extreme political and religious views.  

This morning, on ABC's Good Morning America, anchor Diane Sawyer led the show by announcing that “pastor problems” are “plaguing” McCain as well.  Sawyer introduced an “investigation” by reporter Brian Ross into McCain's “ties to a preacher who has made controversial, fiercely anti-Islamic comments.”

According to Ross, McCain “sought and received a big endorsement” from Rod Parsley, a prominent Ohio minister.  Parsley, author of the book Silent No More, has warned Americans passionately in print and in the pulpit that Islam intends to conquer the world.

“Campaign aides later positioned Parsley behind McCain for photographers, apparently unconcerned about what Parsley stands for,” said Ross.  “As the senior pastor of the World Harvest Church in Columbus, Ohio, Parsley has made no secret of his feelings that Islam is the enemy.”

Ross went on to play video clips of McCain making conciliatory remarks about Muslims, alternating with clips of Parsley criticizing Islamic theology.

ABC's Rev. Parsley endorsement story closely resembles a story in Newsweek's May 12 issue about McCain's endorsement by Texas pastor John Hagee, an outspoken critic of Roman Catholic theology (see CMI's analysis, "Newsweek Helps Obama Four Different Ways").  CMI's Kristen Fyfe wrote, “It is obvious that Newsweek is seeking to mitigate the damage Wright has done to Obama by trying to make a comparison to the Hagee-McCain relationship.”

On April 30, on ABC's The View, Whoopi Goldberg attempted to blunt criticism of Rev. Wright by invoking the specter of the Rev. Jerry Falwell.   Wright said America deserved to be attacked on 9/11 because of her foreign policy.  Goldberg paraphrased Falwell's take on the 9/11 attack, that America was being judged by God for sexual sin: “We have all seen, Jerry Falwell said that the towers came down because of gay folks and, you know, the lesbians.”  Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne made the same comparison in a May 2 column (see CMI analysis, "Left Wing and Wright Brained?").

Brian Fitzpatrick is senior editor at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.