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No Weigel Room For NBC’s Non-Disclosure

Originally posted at Talk to Action.

George Weigel, who has frequently appeared on the NBC Nightly News as a “Vatican analyst” in the run up to the Conclave of Cardinals that will select the next pope, has served as a  consultant on Catholic issues to NBC since 1999.  But what NBC does not tell us — is that Weigel is no ordinary expert.  He is one of the leaders of today’s Catholic Right.

NBC‘s go to guy on all things Catholic in fact, has a long record of helping to create a more stridently conservative Catholic Church and has published a new book to help evangelize for it. (The book was was recently cheered on Twitter by no less than mega-church Pastor Rick Warren.)  This comes on the heels of years of working in the trenches building a conservative Catholic-Evangelical alliance that has culminated in The Manhattan Declaration, a manifesto attacking a series of progressive positions from contraception to marriage equality.

I’ve noted over and over again, Weigel is a Catholic neocon par excellence, having served as a leader of both the Institute on Religion and Democracy and Ethics Public Policy Center as well as being one of the original signatories of the Project for the New American Century.  

NBC‘s failure to disclose Weigel’s relevant affiliations and obvious biases violates the most basic standards of journalism.

As if any and all this were not enough, there is more that merits disclosure:  Notably, his service as an Adviser to the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights headed by the bombastic William Donohue.Nightly News viewers might be taken aback by Donohue’s recent role in trying to obfuscate Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn’s misdemeanor conviction for failing to report suspected child abuse by Father Shawn Ratigan.

NBC viewers are also kept in the dark about Weigel’s disapproval of over a century Catholic economic principles.  And not only is he one of the most prominent Catholic neo-conservatives, he condescendingly dismisses those co-religionists who disagree with his orthodox Catholic vision as “Catholic Lite” or as being “a culture of dissent.” In essence, he is belittling the majority of American Catholics in one-way or another.

There are many good reasons why disclosure of potential bias if not conflict of interest is considered the minimum ethical standard for news organizations.

Weigel is, for example, using his analyst perch to subtlety advance his agenda. Consider this recent appearance on MSNBC’s Hardball (countered here at least by National Catholic Reporter editor, Tom Roberts). At the 1:21 mark, Weigel substitutes his desire for that of the Cardinals that the next pope continues in the more aggressive evangelization begun by John Paul II. (That Weigel is, in fact, selling a new book on the subject, went unmentioned.)  Later, at the 3:41 mark, he dissembles on priestly celibacy, speaking as if it always existed. As Tom Roberts pointed out, that was not the case.

To fully comprehend how far off the mark NBC is in failing to disclose their Vatican analyst’s outlook, just consider that even Fox News generally alerts its viewers of an on-air guest’s philosophical leanings.


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