On Friday August 17, PBS’s Bill Moyers criticized Karl Rove for cynically invoking God and Christianity for political purposes while telling others that he is an agnostic, calling him “a skeptic, a secular manipulator.”
Two days later, when Rove appeared on Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace asked him to take on Moyers’ criticism. “I’m a Christian. I go to church. I’m an Episcopalian,” responded Rove. “You know, Mr. Moyers ought to do a little bit better research before he does another drive-by slander.”
Earlier this week, Moyers argued that Wallace shouldn’t have taken Rove’s “every word as gospel,” but instead, should have challenged Rove’s assertion with other sources who report that he is an agnostic. On Fox News Sunday this morning, Wallace responded to Moyers’ rebuke, saying Moyers failed to do “reporting 101″:
Well, to save on postage, Bill, here’s my response. If you want to find out about someone’s religious beliefs, a good first step might be to ask him. If you had talked to Rove as I did, you would have found out he reads a devotional every day and the biggest charitable contribution he ever made was to his church. Of course, you never called Rove. That’s reporting 101, but it would have gotten in the way of a tasty story line about a non-believer flimflamming the Christian right. I guess, Bill, reporting is easier when you don’t worry about the facts.
While taking Rove’s “word as gospel,” Wallace completely disregards the numerous contradictory reports that justify Moyers’ claims:
1) “The White House will miss his indubitable political acumen. What other agnostic could have mobilized hundreds of thousands of conservative Christians behind a political banner?” – San Antonio Express News, [8/14/07]
2) “I could be wrong here, but I distinctly recall conversations with Rove friends who’ve told me that his struggles with faith did not lead him to Jesus Christ. Yet he knew and understood how to interact with (and manipulate, at times) the standard-bearers of the evangelical Right and the Catholic conservative intellectual elite…..” – The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder, [8/13/07]
3) “[Rove] told his friend Bill Israel years ago that he was agnostic and that ‘he wished he could believe, but he cannot.’” – James Moore, co-author of Rove bio, Bush’s Brain, [8/13/07]
4) “Rove once told a colleague that he had no religious affiliation and was ‘not a Christian.’” – James Moore and Wayne Slater in Bush’s Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential.
Additionally, journalist Christopher Hitchens has said he’s learned that “Karl Rove is not a believer.”
Moyers has not said whether he attempted to contact Rove. Still, there is a solid basis for his claims. Wallace never challenged Rove with any of the contradictory accounts of his faith, instead just blindly accepting what he said. As any reporter knows, healthy skepticism is also part of “reporting 101.”
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