Last Thursday, Andrew Cuomo, the Democrat governor of New York, cited the pope in his call to repeal the death penalty. The media didn’t bat an eye.
“Today, in solidarity with @pontifex (Pope Francis) and in honor of my father, I will be advancing legislation to remove the death penalty from State law once and for all,” tweeted New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Last week, Pope Francis declared the death penalty “inadmissible” in all cases.
Imagine the reaction if House Speaker Paul Ryan, a practicing Catholic, announced that he — in solidarity with Pope Francis — sought to ban the morally indefensible practice of abortion.
The mainstream media would serve up an avalanche of outrage and make it a major national story. Guests on CNN would talk about the dangers of theocracy. There’d be think pieces in The Atlantic about how Republicans want to turn America into a modern day Handmaid’s Tale. The New York Times would cap it off with an editorial warning against the dangers of intertwining church and state.
This is probably the first you’ve heard of Cuomo’s statement. The same group of national writers who think Vice President Mike Pence’s faith makes him a “theocrat” and “holy terror” haven’t expressed concern over Cuomo’s pronouncement. Nor have they asked why his “solidarity” with the pope doesn’t extend to abortion or marriage. In fact, the national media have been more interested in whether the Catholic governors of Nebraska and Texas will continue overseeing executions.
That’s a perfectly legitimate line of questioning, but it’s a different tack than the mainstream national media takes on Catholics who support abortion. The headline of 2015 New York Times profile of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was “In Pelosi, strong Catholic faith and abortion rights coexist.”
There’s a significant distinction between Catholic teaching on abortion and the death penalty, too. The pope’s death penalty pronouncement is new, a reversal of 2,000 years of Catholic teaching and at odds with the Old Testament’s prescription of the death penalty for certain crimes in ancient Israel. The church’s opposition to abortion, however, has never wavered.
This type of bias is exactly why conservatives distrust and despise the press. The national mainstream media routinely mock Republican politicians who quote the Bible or who seem to take their religious beliefs seriously. There’s no comparable outcry when Democrat politicians cite the Scripture when it fits their political agenda.
For instance, last month, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., quoted Psalm 23 in opposing the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh. At the same press conference, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., quoted Matthew 25. No outrage from the media, even though both of those senators are thinking about running for president in 2020.
When Attorney General Jeff Sessions quoted the Bible to defend enforcing immigration law earlier this summer, the media went nuts. Last year, Politico ran a story headlined, “Marco Rubio is tweeting the most Republican part of the Bible.” USA Today then did an article on a group from Wisconsin asking Rubio to stop posting Bible verses on his Twitter feed. Yes, really.
Either bringing religion into politics is a big deal, or it’s not. If they don’t want to advertise their bias, the liberal media should pick one standard and stick to it.
Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen to him discuss his columns each Monday at 9 a.m. with Kevin Wall on 790 Talk Now. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.