Religion Blogger Exaggerates Fox' Take on Obama No-Show at National Day of Prayer Events

Wayne Slater suggested conservatives in general and Fox News in particular are hypocrites for questioning why President Barack Obama failed to publicly observe the National Day of Prayer.

Slater wrote in his May 7 Dallas News Religion blog post:

Fox & Friends is on fire this morning stoking the controversy over President Obama not publicly observing the National Day of Prayer as predecessor George W. Bush did. Lots of graphics about how many churches are near the White House. Much gnashing of teeth over the president slighting godly expression. No mention of Matthew 6:5-6:

"And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret."

Based on Slater's timestamp and his note about the graphics, it appears his post was a response to the 7:08 AM EST discussion on “Fox & Friends” between co-hosts Steve Doocy, Gretchen Carlson and Brian Kilmeade:

GRETCHEN CARLSON, co-host: Let's talk a little bit about the national prayer day today because you are not going to see-

            BRIAN KILMEADE, co-host: How about right now?

CARLSON: -the White House, you're not going to see the White House observing this as they have in the past, at least for the past 8 years where they had an interfaith ceremony. Not just Christian religion, Jewish, Muslim, et cetera. You are not going to see that publicly now. The Obama administration has decided today that they will observe this day with proclamation but that the president himself will observe it in private. No doubt this is going to stir a lot of debate today about why this is happening.

STEVE DOOCY, co-host: Well, this is, there is a big difference between this president and the last one. George W. Bush went to church a lot. Went to that yellow church just across from Lafayette Square from the White House. This president, I don't believe has selected a church that he will attend regularly. You know, and while some might say, you know, why isn't he doing this? Because we are a religious nation when you look at the statistics. There are others on the other side of, for instance, the American Atheist, a group by that name, says that the president, forget about the fact that he is going to observe it privately at the White House, he shouldn't observe it at all. They say it is not his job to tell people to pray. That's their side of the story.

KILMEADE: Let's look at all the places the president could choose to go to church today or any day. And it took him awhile to pick a church. Here we go. That's the google map. Then you go click on it and you can see all the churches that will pop up.

DOOCY: Points of interest.

KILMEADE: You can zoom in, zoom out. These are the points of interest right there. I have them on my laptop.

CARLSON: See I thought the message of the Obama administration was to unify everyone together. And what better way to do that than to observe national prayer day. I just worry that this is like giving into the PC society that we live in today that we are going to appease the smaller groups of people instead of the masses. And I'm wondering if it's a political decision because president Bush did it and so president Obama is not going to do it. I hope that's not the case.

DOOCY: Well, Dan Gilgoff from US News and World Reports who was our guest about an hour ago, he said that observing in public could provide a PR problem for Obama's liberal base because they don't want him to appear as religious. What do you think? Email us right now

Doocy was referring to his discussion in the 6:00 EST hour with Michael Hall, pastor of The People's Church in Washington and Dan Gilgoff, senior writer at U.S. News and World Report.

Hall predictably expressed disappointment over the administration's decision, but Gilgoff stated he was “actually kind of surprised that they [the administration] are skipping this event given how eager this White House has been to showcase prayer” and that “Obama starts his public events outside the Beltway with local leaders delivering prayers.” Gilgoff tempered his remarks by also noting, “this is a tradition that had only been at the White Hosue for the last eight years.”

Gilgoff also hinted Obama's liberal base could have played a role in his decision to not participate in events this year, “You know, the White House has disgruntled a lot of liberals by embracing religious figures, Rick Warren at the Inauguration, and so you think of having James Dobson, you know the National Day of Prayer task force operates out of his Focus on the Family. Think about having him at the White House.”

“Stoking the controversy” is a bit of stretch on Slater's part, especially as Doocy noted the anger from the atheists about Obama even issuing a proclamation, and as Gilgoff pointed out, the White House embraces prayer at other events.

Colleen Raezler is a research assistant at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.