CNN Wolf Blitzer's "Diatribe" of Cardinal Stafford

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CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer misquoted and took out of context a lecture delivered by James Francis Cardinal Stafford at CUA several times when reporting on the good Cardinal’s critique of President-elect Obama’s abortion stance.  Matthew Balan of NewsBusters reports the not-so-great journalism standards that Wolf Blitzer employs when “reporting” the news for CNN.

On Tuesday’s Situation Room, CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer referred to a Catholic cardinal’s criticism of Barack Obama’s abortion position as a scathing rant and a diatribe.”  A CNN graphic also used the “scathing rant” term, and Blitzer later referred to the cardinal’s words as a blistering rant.

All three of these terms came during Blitzer’s promos for a report by CNN correspondent Brian Todd, which focused on recent comments made by Cardinal James Francis Stafford, who referred to Obama’s pro-abortion stance as “aggressive, disruptive, and apocalyptic.” Just before the top of the 5 pm Eastern hour, Blitzer gave the following promo for the segment: “Also, a scathing rantagainst Barack Obama from a rather surprising source, a Roman Catholic cardinal — the story behind his diatribe against the president-elect.” Ten minutes later, the CNN anchor gave another promo for Todd’s report, in which he stated that the cardinal unleashed “a blistering rant on the president-elect.”

It seems the cardinal’s concerns about being taken out of context were justified. The sound bite from his lecture that Todd played during the report didn’t provide some of the context of his words. The clip was taken from a YouTube posting by The Tower, the student newspaper at CUA, which included audio excerpts from Cardinal Stafford’s lecture. Just before making his “apocalyptic” statement, Cardinal Stafford quoted from a speech Barack Obama gave to Planned Parenthood on July 17, 2007, in which the Democrat asserted that the “first thing I will do as president is to sign the Freedom of Choice Act.” The act, if passed, would overturn most, if not all laws regulating abortion in the U.S. The prelate then labeled Obama’s promise, among other comments he made during the speech, “post-modernist” rhetoric, and that they point to “an agenda and vision that are aggressive, disruptive, and apocalyptic.” During this portion of his lecture, Cardinal Stafford used a calm tone of voice, contrary to the “blistering” impression Blitzer had given earlier.

In addition to misquoting Cardinal Stafford, Wolf Blitzer went on to misrepresent Catholic Social Teaching as being in agreement with President-elect Obama.

At the end of the segment, Blitzer misrepresented the Catholic Church’s stances on various issues. He stated that the Church and Obama “do agree on some hot button issues, including opposition to the war in Iraq, greater access to health care, and more equitable tax codes,” as a CNN graphic referred to the health care issues as “universal health care.” On the last two issues, this is an oversimplification. Paragraph 2211 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to the “political community’s” duty to “honor the family, to assist it, and to ensure,” among other things, “the right to private property, to free enterprise, to obtain work and housing, and the right to emigrate” and “in keeping with the country’s institutions, the right to medical care, assistance for the aged, and family benefits.” The same Catechism, which lists the official teachings of the Catholic Church, says nothing of “more equitable tax codes.” It only states how it is “morally obligatory to pay taxes” (paragraph 2240) and that tax evasion is “morally illicit” (paragraph 2409).

Are we seeing the mainstream media setting up the Catholic Church to be the antagonizers of the “good” Obama presidency?  This will be creating an even more hostile situation for the Catholic Church with gross misreporting such as Wolf Blitzer’s.  The sad note is that Wolf Blitzer is known to be relatively even-handed in relation to many other of his cohorts, so to see him succumb to the liberal phobia of religion is quite surprising and bold.

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  1. …..missed the Blitzer misrepresentation. And I go so what no institution gets worse media coverage than Holy Mama Church. Comes with the requisite Obama worship. My advice to all those who are aggrieved by the Blitzer blitz- satellite. radio. My XM has many and varied music channels. Just added great new ones from new parent company Sirius. My own favorite- brace yourselves…… The Grateful Dead Channel. 24/7 music from a band whose leader- Jerry Garcia of blessed memory- clearly deserves rank in the pantheon of Lennon/McCartney, Brian Wilson, Motown geniuses, Gamble/Huff here in Philly. Two hours of their music = supreme bliss. There will be enough sturm und drang in next few years. A blast of the Dead and life gets better. Oh- also has the superfine Catholic Channel, too. Father Dave is a hoot. Learn about your faith. Better than griping about MSM.

  2. Since my sensitive eyes do not partake of cable teevee honkers…

    Actually there’s a channel that accommodates those of us with sensitive eyes and common sensibility. Perhaps you could tune into Fox News especially between 1:00 and 3:00 PM. Martha McCallum is so soothing to eyes that she could inform you that the world will come to an end in two hours and you’d be happy. Then again, maybe that’s just me…

  3. It’s not just that Wolf occasionally veers from good stabdards oif journalists. He is actually a bad journalist. He doesn’t even know how to ask questions that can reasonably be answered, and virtually all his questions are begging for a specific, channeled response. This is actually true all around and really has been for some time.

    Perhaps it has always been this way.

    “The inadequate and biased transmission of news, and the profitable dissemination of nonsense, barred the general public from any intelligent or concerted participation in politics, and made democracy impossible.”

    – Will Durant, on newspapers of the 17th century, in The Age of Reason Begins

  4. How significant were the Obama-related remarks in the cardinal’s speech? It seems to me like he dedicated a few minutes to current events, compared to the fifty minutes dedicated to general theological concerns. Did the CUA newspaper and the rest of the press seize on the political aspects?

  5. Gerard,

    I share your sympathies about television in general. I don’t have cable but I picked up this tidbit of information from Matthew Balan of NB. I’ve stopped watching tv in general with the exception of two comedies to be named later.

  6. Tito- my sensitive eyes largely confine themselves to pigskin stuff. Cannot wait for upcoming SEC championship scrum between Florida and Alabama. Major heavyweight bout, 4 rounds or TKO. Winner sure to play Big 12 South winner in BCS Game- TexTech, Oklahoma or Texas. Serious fun. But you you may ask but G.E. you’re Pennsylvanian why antipathy for Penn State? Simple. Am proud alum of Temple University, major urban institution. Penn State is 500 miles from nowhere. Nit Lions regularly pound my Owls, including 45-3 beatdown this past October in Happy Valley. Thanks to Iowa Hawkeyes for 24-23 field goal win over Nits. Insures- a. Hawkeye Coach Kirk Ferentz keeps job; b. We get SEC Winner vs. Big 12 South Winner, with Heisman Trophy Winner at QB (Harrell of TexTech? McCoy of Texas? Oklahoma’s Bradford?) Let PSU partisans point their Winnebegos to lovely Pasadena and Rose Bowl against worthy Pac 10 foe- probably Oregon State with Coolest Name In Sports- freshman pheenom Jaquizz Rodgers. Will Beaver fans offer novenas to St. Jaquizz?

  7. I’m partial to OU, brothers coach of my alma mater Arizona. So I’m hoping for an OU run to the national title game.

    Other than that, I read Catholic material via the hardcover variety and digital.

  8. “We feel we must disagree with those prophets of gloom, who are always forecasting disaster, as though the end of the world were at hand.

    “In the present order of things, Divine Providence is leading us to a new order of human relations which, by men’s own efforts and even beyond their very expectations, are directed toward the fulfillment of God’s superior and inscrutable designs. And everything, even human differences, leads to the greater good of the Church.”

    John XXIII

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