Yesterday, there was a dustup on The View, the type of which that a few years ago, back when the show really mattered, would have created a massive storm of news. It focused on far left co-host Joy Behar mocking Vice President Mike Pence for apparently speaking to his Lord, Jesus Christ, as a sign of “mental illness.”
These comments did cause a controversy among the Twitter crowd. However, the story has only really resonated on Fox News Channel, which of course will never miss an opportunity to allow its conservative, white, Christian audience to feel aggrieved and outraged, even though the people they elected currently control virtually every lever of our federal government, and dominate the vast majority of the states.
Way back in 2009, during the show’s heyday, I appeared on The View for what was a very contentious interview about the media coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign. Behar, with whom I tend to disagree on almost everything, was very disrespectful to me both on and off the air. However, if you know me at all you realize that whether I like someone or not has absolutely nothing to do with whether I am willing to defend or criticize them.
In this case, Behar’s comments about Pence are being unfairly, and at least somewhat hypocritically, attacked.
Behar did NOT say that Christianity was a “mental illness.” She said that claiming that Jesus Christ speaks to you regularly is an indication of that ailment.
That’s not only a perfectly reasonable thing to say, it also happens to almost certainly be true. Truth used to be, and still should be (though in this politically correct era it is not) the ultimate the defense with regard to the legitimacy, or lack thereof, of any public comment.
I grew up as a Christian, and I am a product of eleven years of Catholic education. I agree with Behar that if our vice president really thinks that Jesus Christ is literally speaking to him that this is both absurd and very problematic.
Just because someone makes a claim within the context of religion should not shield that belief from any real criticism. What is weird about this situation is that the primary reason that Pence is largely protected is that the religion he is part of happens to be so incredibly popular.
If Pence was a member of Scientology, or some other far less popular religion, then we would have no problem with casting his claim that person who has been dead for two thousand years speaks to him often as a sign of “mental illness.” But because that truth offends too many people to be worth telling in the mainstream media, no one ever dares to say it (this is similar to the Catholic belief that at each Mass the bread and wine are, through a process called “transubstantiation,” literally transformed into the ACTUAL body and blood of Jesus Christ).
Popularity, or lack thereof, should not dictate what the “truth” is, or what is an acceptable opinion. However, it is clear that, at least in this current media era, this is usually the most important, if not the only, relevant factor.
Behar’s biggest mistake was not in her evaluation of Pence supposedly speaking to Jesus — which was also obviously intended to be humorous — but rather in her, and the entire panel, accepting that Pence actually believes he does this. The only apparent source of this information was reality TV star and former White House “aide” Omarosa Manigault, dishing on the Big Brother reality show to a bunch of D-list celebrities.
Blindly believing what Omarosa says about anything is more perilous and naïve than even taking President Trump at his word. But doing so about Pence, with whom there is no evidence she has even had close contact, and on a forum as silly as this one, is just plain ridiculous.
Here is where the lines between a “news commentary” program and a pure “entertainment” show get so blurred as to be indecipherable. Because what Omarosa said was simply too juicy to resist discussing, it was treated as credible, even though it was not. This is how, all too often, believability in the modern news media is determined.
Omarosa, who shares a remarkable ability to manipulate the media with the man who made her “famous” in the first place, obviously knew that this would be case. She is only the winner in this mess and that alone should tell you all you need to know about how incredibly broken our national discourse really is.
John Ziegler hosts a weekly podcast focusing on news media issues and is documentary filmmaker. You can follow him on Twitter at @ZigManFreud or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org