Over the weekend, the NYT’s Frank Rich raised a few eyebrows when he highlighted the disconnect in the media between Obama’s relationship with his controversial former pastor (Jeremiah Wright) and McCain’s relationship with a crazed televangelist (John Hagee). Rich’s point was both provocative and persuasive — that the media obsesses over Wright and gives McCain a pass on Hagee because of race. “A sonorous white preacher spouting venom just doesn’t have the telegenic zing of a theatrical black man,” Rich said.
NBC News’ Tim Russert appeared on Don Imus’ talk show yesterday, and explained why the black preacher’s remarks receive wall-to-wall coverage, while the white preacher’s remarks are largely ignored. (via FDL)
IMUS: Big stretch for Frank Rich to suggest that Rev. Hagee, that somehow McCain has the same relationship with him as Obama had with Rev. Wright but he did run it up the flag pole yesterday, didn’t he.
RUSSERT: He sure did. There’s been a lot of chatter on that, you know, about Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson’s comments after September 11th. If there was video of Hagee, it makes all the difference in the world….
At first blush, Russert’s point sounds compelling. Television is obviously a visual medium, and people tend to respond more to images than text. (The Abu Ghraib torture had been reported on before it became an international scandal, but few took notice until there were pictures.) Seeing Wright say “God damn America” from his pulpit generates an emotional response, far more than reading about Hagee calling the Roman Catholic Church, among other things, “the great whore.”
But therein lies the problem with Russert’s defense for the media giving McCain a pass: there’s all kinds of video of Hagee -- and Rod Parsley and Jerry Falwell -- and it still hasn’t made all the difference in the world.
“If there was video of Hagee, it makes all the difference in the world.” Does the DC bureau chief of NBC News not realize that videos like these have been making the rounds for months? The Frank Rich column that Russert was talking about mentioned this in the first paragraph.