The new Inquisition

By Joan Walsh
Published March 2, 2004 4:03AM (EST)

Why are mainstream journalists doing the Christian right's work? First came Newsweek's grand inquisitor, Howard Fineman, grilling the late, great Howard Dean about whether he'd accepted Jesus Christ "as the son of God." Sunday it was the New York Times' Elizabeth Bumiller in the Democratic primary debate, with a gotcha question about whether John Kerry agrees with President Bush that "God is on America's side." As if to emphasize the inanity of her question, Bumiller insisted Kerry answer it "really quick."

Really quick, Kerry didn't have a fabulous answer: "Well, God will--look, I think--I believe in God, but I don't believe, the way President Bush does, in invoking it all the time in that way. I think it is--we pray that God is on our side, and we pray hard. And God has been on our side through most of our existence." But Kerry deserved a pass on the question, since it's something you'd normally expect in a religious, not secular setting. Fineman and Bumiller, however, have now served notice that the Christian right's candidate-vetting process is also the mainstream media's. Candidates should show up for all future debates ready to out-God one another -- unless they can figure out a way to shame journalists out of this new Inquisition.

Joan Walsh

Joan Walsh is the author of "What's the Matter With White People: Finding Our Way in the Next America."

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