Fox's Hume digs in deeper on Woods comments

The Fox News anchor claims his telling the golfer to convert didn't amount to proselytizing

By Alex Koppelman
Published January 5, 2010 2:41PM (EST)

When Fox News' Brit Hume told Tiger Woods, "Tiger, turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world," he wasn't proselytizing. At least, that's what he said Monday night, when he discussed those comments with his network's Bill O'Reilly.

The exchange between O'Reilly and Hume on the subject:

O'REILLY: Was that proselytizing?

HUME: I don't think so. I mean, look, Tiger Woods is somebody I've always rooted for as a golfer and as a man. I greatly admired him over the years, and I always have said to people it was the content of his character that made him, beyond his extraordinary golf skills, so admirable.

Now we know that the content of his character was not what we thought it was. He is paying a frightful price for these revelations. I - - my sense is that he has basically lost his family, and there's a lot of talk about the endorsements he's lost. But that pales, I suspect, in his mind, with what he's lost otherwise. And my sense about Tiger is that he needs something that Christianity, especially provides and gives and offers. And that is redemption and forgiveness.

And I was -- I was really meaning to say in those comments yesterday more about Christianity than I was about anything else. I mentioned the Buddhism only because his mother is a Buddhist and he has apparently said that he is a Buddhist. I'm not sure how seriously he practices that. But I think -- I think that the -- Jesus Christ offers Tiger Woods something that Tiger Woods badly needs.

O'REILLY: Now, if he does go that route, then he would be accused of -- remember in the Bill Clinton years, he got in trouble, he had the Bible and Jesse Jackson and they were praying and, you know, wouldn't Americans...

HUME: That's true, Bill. That wouldn't -- and that wasn't the first time. Remember Chuck Colson, who is one of the leading lights of Watergates, if you will.

O'REILLY: But he made a true conversion.

HUME: He did. And I'm -- what I'm saying is if Tiger Woods were to make a true conversion, we would know it. It would show through in his -- in his being, and he would know it, above all. And he would feel the extraordinary blessing that that would be. And -- and it would shine because he is so prominent. It would be -- it would be a shining light, and I think it would be a -- it would be a magnificent thing to witness.

O'REILLY: Now, what kind of reaction did you get when you said that? A lot of letters and e-mails and things?

HUME: I got some letters and e-mails from people who were like me, who are believers who said, "Great. Right on. Right on. Way to go." I've heard a lot of terrible comments from people who claim that I was a pompous jerk who had no business mouthing off on the subject and that I shouldn't have belittled the Buddhist faith and so on. I really wasn't trying to belittle and demean.

O'REILLY: I don't think so either. What drives -- what do you think drives the negative comments about -- Buddhism aside, I don't think we're trying to denigrate Buddhism. But what do you think drives the negative comments about Christianity?

HUME: It has always been a puzzling thing to me. The Bible even speaks of it, that, you know, you speak the name, "Jesus Christ," and I don't -- and I don't mean to make a pun here, but all hell breaks loose. And -- and it has always been thus. It is explosive. I didn't even say the name in that way. I simply spoke of the Christian faith. But that was enough to trigger this reaction. It triggers a very powerful reaction in people who do not share the faith and who do not believe in it.

I'm fairly sure the reaction to Hume -- at least from what I've seen, and I looked at quite a bit of it Monday -- has much more to do with the "pompous jerk" part than with the mere mention of Christianity. But maybe Hume believes the opposite; even if he doesn't, it certainly plays with O'Reilly's audience. And for Hume to say he wasn't proselytizing is absurd -- as Steve Benen points out, what he did is the dictionary definition of the word.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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