Topic: Media

The NewsMax Christmas Smear
(12/29/2005)

Biased and unethical reporting isn’t only the dominion of liberal-tilting news media; conservative news media are hard at work slanting the news as well. An egregious example comes from NewsMax.com, one of Matt Drudge’s favorite sources. Right before the holidays it blared out this headline¬Ö

22 Congressmen Hate Christmas

The story listed the names of the alleged Christmas-hating Congressmen, too. How did NewsMax conclude that the hallowed halls of Congress included Scrooges and Grinches? The twenty-two had voted against a grandstanding resolution put forth by a GOP representative as her contribution to the Christmas culture wars. It read:

Whereas Christmas is a national holiday celebrated on December 25; and

Whereas the Framers intended that the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States would prohibit the establishment of religion, not prohibit any mention of religion or reference to God in civic dialog: Now, therefore be it resolved, that the House of Representatives –

(1) Recognizes the importance of the symbols and traditions of Christmas;
(2) Strongly disapproves of attempts to ban references to Christmas; and
(3) Expresses support for the use of these symbols and traditions, for those who celebrate Christmas.

Twenty-two Democrats voted nay to this, and NewsMax decided to publically state as fact that Christmas hatred was their reason, turning a presumption into the focus of the story. This it could not do and continue to make any claims of being a fair and ethical news reporting service. It could not possibly know that the Congressmen voted against the resolution because they “hate Christmas,” because there are many far more plausible and reasonable justifications any or all of them could have for their negative vote. For example, the twenty-two could have reasonably concluded one or more of the following:

  • This is an especially silly resolution that causes Congress to take sides on an issue that is none of its business: how American society wants to treat Christmas within its culture.

  • It is a thinly disguised effort at blatant and cheap pandering to the foaming-at-the-mouth conservative partisans who have been whipped into a frenzy by commentators on Fox News, particularly Bill O’Reilly and John Gibson, about the supposed “liberal plot” against Christmas.

  • “Expressing support” for the use of Christmas symbols, presumably Christian symbols like the Nativity and angels, “for those who celebrate Christmas” could be reasonably interpreted to mean “Come on, you Christmas celebrators! Let’s proclaim the real meaning of Christmas to our fellow citizens! Your government wants to see you make it clear that you believe that December 25 is the birthday of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord!” And that message is exactly what the Constitution prohibits.

  • The resolution is a sneaky way to get some Democratic representatives to irritate their core constituents who are as emotionally invested in the other side of the Christmas controversy as the Fox News gang is in its “Merry Christmas, you pagan non-believer!” crusade.

In short, the twenty-two didn’t vote against the resolution because they “hate Christmas.” They voted against it because they hated the resolution, and unlike the large numbers of other representatives who also probably hated it, they had the guts to go on record as saying so. That is ethical conduct. Misrepresenting their motivations in a misleading and sensational headline isn’t.

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