Donahue As An Example of a Large Problem

Any news source that quotes Bill Donahue as an authority that speaks for Catholics should be ashamed of itself, and shamed in public. The fact is that Donahue never uses his platform to defend Catholics. Instead, it has always been about using his platform for political attacks and religious intolerance. He considers himself, for example, responsible for getting two Kerry staffers fired in 2004:
DONOHUE: Well, Mara Vanderslice in 2004 worked for the Kerry-Edwards campaign. I found out about her background and they had to silence her. Then I got Brenda Bartella Peterson to quit or be fired because of what -- because of her background.
While Donahue gleefully works to get Democratic staffers fired because of his background, he defends Republican staffers when their backgrounds reveal they are child predators. From Think Progress:
During the 2004 presidential campaign, George Bush's Catholic outreach coordinator, 54-year-old Deal Hudson, was outed as a sexual predator for taking advantage of a drunken 18-year old while he was a professor.(...)

Yet at least one prominent right-wing figure came to Hudson's defense: the Catholic League's Bill Donohue, who has spent the last several days calling for the heads of two John Edwards bloggers. Donohue ardently defended Hudson in a statement, even invoking the Virgin Mary in downplaying his sexual assault.
If Donahue was really about defending Catholicism instead of about abusing religion as a means of taking partisan, political scalps, he would have called for firings in both circumstances. However, he defended the Republican, while repeatedly calling for numerous Democrats to be fired.

Bill Donahue also does not care about the values of Catholicism itself. I was raised in the Catholic Church (maybe I'll post some altar boy pictures sometime). My father (happy birthday Dad, by the way) is the former President of the Syracuse Inter-religious council, and still very active in that group. Needless to say, I know a thing or two about Catholic values. One of those values is forgiveness. Donahue failed to extend that value to the Edwards bloggers after their statements yesterday. Instead, he continued to call for their heads. however, when Mel Gibson was the subject of scrutiny for anti-semitic remarks, Donahue immediately lent him a hand of forgiveness.
On the August 1 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country, William A. Donohue, president of the conservative Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said, "There's a lot of people who have made comments which are bigoted who are not necessarily bigots," adding that he is "concerned now about piling on." Of those who won't forgive Gibson, Donohue said: "Who gives a damn about those people?" Donohue then asked, "What kind of blood do they want out of this man?
So, not only does Donahue only target his outrage over anti-Catholicism toward Democrats while simultaneously defending Republicans, he also only extends forgiveness toward conservatives while continuing to attack progressives. This is not a man who is defending Catholics or promoting Catholic values. This is a man who has made it his mission in life to target Democrats and progressives in an attempt to take scalps, while defend Republicans and conservatives at every turn. Since Donahue uses a 501c(3) organization to conduct these attacks, not only is he a hypocrite, as Jeffery Feldman has suggested he is probably also in violation of federal tax law. That is a matter for the New York attorney general to investigate. I am more concerned that any media outlets continue to portray Donahue as someone who speaks for Catholicism, rather than as the partisan, professional political scalper that he is.

Making sure that the Bill Donahues of the world are quoted at will in a wide variety of news outlets is one of the great success of the Republican Noise Machine. The right has developed a "think tank" and advocacy group structure that allows them to consistently portray partisan, ideological attacks against Democrats and progressives as both newsworthy and as non-partisan, or at least as coming under the veneer of speaking for some larger group. No matter what subject is being discussed in the news and what smear attack is being attempted, there are Donahue's all over the place who consistently appear in established news outlets, and who are portrayed as something quite different than the professional, partisan attackers that they are. In fact, somehow it has become news simply that the Bill Donahues of the world are outraged. That is why, for me, this entire episode had nothing whatsoever to do with the actual content of the blog posts in question, but instead about standing up to this false, partisan smear machine for what it is. Once we accept their terms of the debate, that this is supposedly about outrageous statements instead of being about how those statements made it into the media in the first place, he have already lost and reified the power structure that allows the right-wing to smear Democrats and progressives at will.

Whatever stuff we dig up on Bill Donahue--and there will be quite a lot we can dig up on Donahue--we have to remember that the focus of these campaigns must always remain squarely on news outlets that fail to properly vet sources like Bill Donahue, not on Donahue himself. As long as the Bill Donahue's of the world are allowed to continue to operate freely within the established media under the false cover of advocacy and non-partisanship, the smear machine will never go away. I hope that what we accomplished yesterday is a step in the right direction on that front, but I still worry that all of the changes we forced will remain specific to this one story, and not make a real dent in the overall operation of the Republican Noise Machine. Part of the responsibility to change this rests upon Democrats to not cave in to these attacks. Part of the responsibility to change this rests upon progressives to build a counter "think tank" structure. Most of the responsibility, however, rests upon the media to stop buying into this structure, and to actually vet their sources before allowing any smear from any winger to suddenly become national news. Until they do so, change will be painfully slow and incremental, and we will have to keep going to the mattress every time something like this comes up. It certainly feels good to have helped slow down one of these attacks, but we won't be so successful every time. We can't always expect to be successful on our own.

Tags: Media, Republican Noise Machine, William Donahue (all tags)

Comments

21 Comments

For the Google searches, it's "DonOhue"

Either that, or try "selective, anti-semitic, hypocritical ankle-biter" -- that should work, too.

by MeanBoneII 2007-02-09 09:45AM | 0 recs
The Giuliani counterexample

 Rudy Giuliani is a walking insult to Catholicism. He's been divorced twice, had a very public affair with a mistress, supports abortion rights, and doesn't hate gay people -- well, at not least until now.

 Do you hear ANYBODY on the religious right complaining about any of this? Do you hear any of the Dobsonites condemning this candidate as living a lifestyle and engaging in behaviors that are blatantly offensive to these sensitive Catholics the Edwards-bashers seem so concerned about? Where's Donohue on Giuliani, a man who publicly and gleefully flouts Catholic values daily?

 No, it's more important to castigate Edwards for long-ago statements (not actions) made by a couple of bloggers.

 So instead of cowering under the table and spewing treacle like "Donohue maybe has a point", maybe some of us might consider bringing out the Giuliani issue and forcing Donohue and the religious-right apparatus to make public excuses for the guy.

by Master Jack 2007-02-09 10:02AM | 0 recs
Donohue had a point

As much as it pains christians like myself to admit it, ask your average Catholic for their reaction to Edwards' bloggers comments. Will they mirror Donohue's reaction more closely or the lefty blogosphere? i'd say 90% the former.

I think the liberal Catholic Commonweal summed it up best:

http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/p ost/index/762/Edwards-vs-Donohue-Death-M atch

It's unfortunate the attack came from Donohue. but in their blind hatred for the guy, the liberal bloggers have no idea just how offensive Amanda's comments are to not only swing voters, but segments of the Dems base who don't typically show up on blogs but sure as hell vote (Latinos, Catholic union types, Catholic grandmas in iowa..)
As i have said before, it woudl behoove Edwards camp to get a Catholic/faith outreach person...and fast.

by ihlin 2007-02-09 10:21AM | 0 recs
Re: Donahue As An Example of a Large Problem

Please spell his name right: DONOHUE. Chris and Nancy both have it wrong in their posts today. Thanks for the good work on this issue. I wrote to Faithful America, asking them to make a statement.

by Gypsy 2007-02-09 10:30AM | 0 recs
Re: Donahue As An Example of a Large Problem

An excellent post Chris - this is  very important and we must think of this constantly.

by Dyana 2007-02-09 10:32AM | 0 recs
Pedophilia

Of COURSE Donahue is PRO-PEDOPHILE.

He is a catholic, and you gotta support the priests.

by dataguy 2007-02-09 10:41AM | 0 recs
Re: Pedophilia
Bad Joke
imho
by maddogg 2007-02-09 10:47AM | 0 recs
Chew him up and spit him out

Chris, You say,


we have to remember that the focus of these campaigns must always remain squarely on news outlets that fail to properly vet sources like Bill Donahue

but isn't this one time where we should engage in the politics of personal destruction?  He's attacking a guy while claiming to represent a larger group.  Should we not attack him back as a whako conservative hypocrite?  Every time he's talked about point out what a nut job he is, and then, and only then, will the media quit taking whatever he says seriously?

I guess I don't understand why the focus should be on the media when we should be tearing this guy down.  If the person making an attack gets torn down, wouldn't the right wing noise machine make pause before sacrificing him?  If the person making the attacks knew he was going to be attacked and taken down personally, wouldn't he take a pause before making them?

Now, I know some people are going to react to what I'm suggesting by saying, "we shouldn't do what the right-wing does".  To that I can only say, I'll advocate that we stop when they stop.

by maddogg 2007-02-09 10:46AM | 0 recs
Re: Chew him up and spit him out

I guess I don't understand why the focus should be on the media when we should be tearing this guy down.

Because it's an easy way to gain traction. Make the New York-based papers and cablenewsers feel embarrassed.

The reason they call in Donohue? It's because he's based in Manhattan: a decision he deliberately made when he took over the Catholic League and turned it into part of the noise machine.

Tell the producers and media bookers that they're being lazy. Tell them that they should be ashamed of going no further than Midtown to seek out representative opinions.

It calls out their professionalism. Journalists do cut corners. They do make logistical decisions on who to bring into the studio and quote on the record. And the Right-Wing Noise Machine has perfected the art of being a short ride from a studio and never turning down an invitation to go on the record. But the game is up.

by etagloh 2007-02-09 10:57AM | 0 recs
Donohue is not a Catholic community leader

Donohue is a $350,000/year right-wing media assassin whose board of directors looks nothing like the U.S. Church and everything like the winger thinktankia and publishing worlds.  About 15% percent of that organization's budget is to pay Donohue.  Well-paid media assassin, I'd say.

His client is wingerdom, who you will not find that often among 60 million U.S. Catholics.  His target is the progressive movement, i.e. every liberal blogger and non-blogger activist.  His goal is a seat at the big kids' table at the winger Thanksgiving, 2008.  

Confusing this man's smear tactics with the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth or with the habits and morals of decent people anywhere is a serious mistake, one he's hoping you and I make, so he can sucker punch you and me in the face.

by Bruce Godfrey 2007-02-09 11:02AM | 0 recs
Re: Donohue is not a Catholic community leader

so when Christians do something good- then they are Christians, and when they do something bad then they aren't Christians.

by bruh21 2007-02-09 11:36AM | 0 recs
Re: Donohue is not a Catholic community leader

Don't be silly.

If Donohue were the leader of, say, the American chapter of Opus Dei, he'd be a sanctioned Catholic representative who's a conservative bigot.

But he's not even that. He's a right-wing operative and media whore who just happens to specialize in Catholic Outrage. Look at the way he operates and the people on his board of advisers.

There are conservative Catholics with church authority who say and do things other Catholics disagree with. But he's not one of them. And that needs to be made very clear to the news organizations. The people who can do that, most of all, are Catholics.

by etagloh 2007-02-09 12:09PM | 0 recs
Re: Donohue is not a Catholic community leader

No, he's still a Catholic.  I am not a Catholic, though I was one growing up; I have made enough public statements indicating my non-belief in the tenets of the Catholic faith that I think it qualifies as a "formal act" of separation under canon law.  But Donohue is a Catholic who, sadly, is also a bigoted right-wing tool and asshole (in my opinion.)

What he's not is a Catholic community LEADER.  He has a donor base but no community.  Call it "sacroturf."  Actually, I recommend that word generally - "sacroturf."

I point out Donohue's hypocrisy because, well, it's so blatant that not to do so would give it cover.

by Bruce Godfrey 2007-02-09 12:24PM | 0 recs
Re: Donohue is not a Catholic community leader

i like the word sacroturf- did you make it up?

by bruh21 2007-02-09 12:35PM | 0 recs
Re: Donohue is not a Catholic community leader

:-)

by Bruce Godfrey 2007-02-09 12:43PM | 0 recs
Re: Donohue is not a Catholic community leader

least anyone get offended- I like the turn because like christianist and christofascist it represents what is really going on- how people flip religion into political arguments without batting an eye so that we aren't suppiose to notice what's going on.

by bruh21 2007-02-09 12:51PM | 0 recs
Giuliani's Divorces

"maybe some of us might consider bringing out the Giuliani issue and forcing Donohue and the religious-right apparatus to make public excuses for the guy."

You won't have to, that's what the Republican Primaries are for. The religious right has serious qualms about Giuliani. He won't win the nomination without walking over a bed of coals on the matter first.

by Jose 2007-02-09 12:46PM | 0 recs
Re: Donahue As An Example of a Large Problem

Several years ago there was a right-wing blowhard who managed to get on all the national talking (and back then screaming) heads shows for a while and kept ranting on about the culturally elitist and immoral Hollywood left, and how it was controlled by uber-liberal Jews who used their power to keep out Christian and pro-Christian values and artists. I'm 99% sure that this was the same Bill Donahue who is leading the charge against the Edwards campaign on an anti-Catholic basis.

If it is, then we have all the material we need to turn the tables on him and accuse HIM of being a racist bigot for being an anti-Semite (which I have zero doubt that he is). To accuse "Hollywood Jews" of being "ultra-liberal" and promoting "left-wing values" is indisputably anti-Semitic and needs to be hounded to death to shut this fuckwad up and silence anyone else who is stupid enough to try this tack. The days of being allowed to get away with this swill must end NOW.

by kovie 2007-02-09 01:42PM | 0 recs
Re: Donahue As An Example of a Large Problem

I read the Wiki pages on both Donohue and the League, and I don't see how an organization with a budget of 2.9 million, pays one guy over 300K.

Something stinks in the Catholic league.  I wonder how many of its members/donors know what they're supporting?

Maybe it's time the light shined on them.  

by scientician 2007-02-09 06:51PM | 0 recs
I really enjoyed when...

Aravosis developed and enunciated the "The Republican leadership loathes evangelicals, thinks of them as useful idiots."

Donahue is a great example of a useful idiot. Now the press is being a bunch of useful idiots by giving him a megaphone.

by msnook 2007-02-09 08:19PM | 0 recs
Closing the Catholic League

or getting the IRS to rescind their 501(c)3 status is not  really in the cards.  

Historically the IRS has almost never done this.  
The law has a number of maxims which would govern. "the power to tax is the power to kill" "This (tax category 501(c)3 or) 527 is like breath to free expression."
The legal presumption would be in favor of the organization with the tax free status.  

In no way can demanding that a campaign fire someoneone be considered by all the usual FEC rules as an "intervention" in an election. Intervention are things like sending out ads or mailers saying "Don't vote for Edwards" (Nor for all sorts of free speech issues surrounding non profits do I think it ever should.)  Donahue is an odious anti semite but if we use this to shut him down then can they use it as a weapon against us.  To see why I think this is a bad idea see my comments on that thread at DailyKos
http://www.dailykos.com/comments/2007/2/ 8/95321/56338/121#c121, http://www.dailykos.com/comments/2007/2/ 8/95321/56338/132#c132
http://www.dailykos.com/comments/2007/2/ 8/95321/56338/135#c135

And I checked the NYS Attorney General Rules on non profits and to follow is th elist of impermissable things. None would seem to apply.

Limits on Nonprofit Activities
The following are some rules that a not-for-profit corporation must follow in order to retain their tax-exempt status:

Nonprofit corporations cannot contribute money to political campaigns
Nonprofit corporations can engage in only limited lobbying activities
Nonprofit corporations must not distribute profits to members, officers or directors
Nonprofit corporations must pay taxes on income from "unrelated activities"
Nonprofit corporations cannot make substantial profits from unrelated activities
When a nonprofit corporation dissolves, its assets must be distributed to another tax-exempt group

We should do what we do well which is to pressure the media to behave more responsibly so that maybe we won't alwys be pushing back because they are actually being fair and telling the truth.  We just look naive pushing for legal remedies that are either not possible or, in this case, in my opinion, something we shouldn't want.

by debcoop 2007-02-09 08:50PM | 0 recs

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