(NOTE: This article was originally published by Catholic Online Dec. 28, 2015 at http://www.catholic.org/news/politics/story.php?id=66141 )
Like tens of millions of Catholics and others throughout the United States and hundreds of millions of people around the world, I am immensely grateful to God for the priceless gift of the Eternal Word Television Network. From the day of its founding by a Poor Clare nun named Mother Mary Angelica in a Birmingham, Alabama garage some thirty-five years ago, this great tool of catechesis, inspiration, and evangelization has been faithfully proclaiming the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as taught by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church both “in season and out of season,” strengthening and assisting those of us who are “inside the fold” while attractively presenting the beauty of our faith to those outside the Church, leading to many conversions to Catholicism. As someone who has been watching EWTN since 1993, I have been delighted to observe the steady growth of this Catholic cable and satellite network in national and global reach, professionalism, and the quality and variety of programming offered. Since its initial foray into shortwave and AM/FM radio back in the nineties, the advent of twenty-first century media technology has further extended the network’s reach to the Internet, satellite radio, mobile devices, and social media. Along the way, EWTN has acquired a new studio along with its own publishing house which offers our nation’s leading Catholic newspaper, the National Catholic Register, in both print and digital format together with an array of high-quality Catholic books. All of these providential developments have transformed the network from a small amateur TV station of humble origin into the world’s foremost Catholic media apostolate, which is now reaching well over one billion people across the globe.
My current bone to pick with EWTN has to do with the network’s news programming and publishing—and specifically with its overall coverage of the 2016 presidential election campaign—in light of its mission to faithfully proclaim the truth of the Gospel. I have no objection whatsoever to the network offering extensive and in-depth coverage of this election campaign from a faithful Catholic perspective, as it has been doing over the past year on TV and radio programs such as The World Over Live, EWTN News Nightly and Candidate Conversations, as well as through the National Catholic Register. My problem lies with the fact that this coverage has been noticeably slanted—that is to say, unfairly biased—in favor of certain Republican candidates and against others, under the influence of the godless, radically secularist, worldly, dishonest, immoral, corrupt, and money-driven mainstream media establishment whose values are diametrically opposed to those of the network itself.
As a civil nonprofit corporation run chiefly by lay Catholics, EWTN has long prided itself, and rightly so, on its independence from official Church institutions as well as from corporate entities of both a religious and secular nature, which has allowed it to strike its own path and pursue its mission without unwelcome interference. Unfortunately, when it comes to covering American politics and world news, in recent years the network has gradually but perceptibly drifted from its core mission to be an independent voice of truth, and it is now almost slavishly following the lead of the worldly mainstream media both in the stories it is choosing to break and discuss and in the presidential candidates on whom it is focusing. Whereas EWTN News was once accustomed to offering a fresh and balanced perspective on well-known current events and highlighting important stories neglected by the mainstream media, the network’s journalism division is now largely caught up in the Beltway news cycle, airing and discussing much the same headlines and focusing on the same presidential candidates as Fox News, CNN, the New York Times, Politico, and all the other D.C. establishment media outlets. This is quite a sea change from ten years ago, when Raymond Arroyo and other Catholic journalists at the network were known for their refreshingly independent and investigative approach, often digging up interesting stories off the beaten path, occasionally presenting a different angle on well-known stories, and not infrequently interviewing news makers who were being unfairly attacked by the mainstream media--or who might otherwise never appear on television, radio or in print.
A paradigm shift has clearly occurred within the journalism department at EWTN. Prior to this shift, the network was focused on the objective truth of what is happening in the world today, and its priorities were to seek out and discover that truth and share it with viewers as an independent source of faithful Catholic news and commentary. Now the focus is on what is happening in the world as seen through the dirty and short-sighted lenses of the worldly and highly subjective mainstream media, and the priority seems to be to highlight and discuss whatever the mainstream media is highlighting and discussing at the moment. While EWTN News was once prized for original Catholic news and analysis you couldn’t get anywhere else, now its programming is often almost a lock-step imitation of secular mainstream media news broadcasts—secular news with Catholic overtones, if you will. Although faithful Catholic perspectives are still routinely offered on current events, the global Catholic network’s overall news agenda is now largely dictated by the mainstream media. It’s like an orchestra whose members have remained the same, but they now have a different conductor and are playing different music.
This shift seems to have begun back in 2008 when the TV studio for the network’s flagship news magazine, The World Over Live, was permanently relocated from Birmingham to Washington, D.C. Whereas prior to this big move, the weekly news program was produced in a small, devoutly Catholic media enclave on the outskirts of a large city in central Alabama, now it comes to us from Capitol Hill, where the idols of money and power generally hold sway and where the alluring yet toxic influence of the mainstream media is difficult to resist. Over time, this significant change of environment has led, regrettably yet predictably, to a noticeable change in both the content and tone of the EWTN News programming. Without constant vigilance and the help of God’s wisdom and grace, how could any good Catholic journalist who lives and breathes this radically secular environment not find himself being gradually influenced by it as time passes? It will increasingly reshape his ways of thinking and acting, until eventually he is hardly distinguishable from his worldly peers.
Yes, it must be acknowledged that a certain degree of worldliness has crept into the journalism department at EWTN. This is clearly evident from just a cursory glance at its coverage of the 2016 presidential election cycle thus far, which—with the notable exception of Raymond Arroyo’s brief interview with Senator Rand Paul, a true statesman of character and principle—has generally mimicked the mainstream media coverage. This coverage has been unfairly skewed in favor of wealthy Republican candidates such as billionaire real estate magnate Donald Trump, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, with insufficient attention given to the moral character, voting records, and issue positions of these candidates—the things that really matter to faithful Catholics looking to cast their vote responsibly in next year’s elections. Trump, a longtime Democrat and a good friend of Hillary Clinton, has donated money to Planned Parenthood, supports ObamaCare, and earned much of his fortune by forcing other companies into bankruptcy. That EWTN’s news director would unhesitatingly embrace him as a good candidate and give him so much positive attention on a faithful Catholic TV network this past summer was an example of irresponsible journalism that betrayed a serious lack of wisdom and discernment.
Meanwhile, just about every other leading and longshot Republican presidential candidate has been interviewed or discussed at some length on one or more EWTN news programs during this past year, indicating that some degree of fairness and balance does still prevail within that realm. However, there is one leading Republican candidate who, for no good reason, has been glaringly conspicuous by his near-total absence from the network’s news programming and publishing. Perhaps there is no better way to highlight the problem under discussion here than to pose the following simple question: Why is EWTN boycotting Ben Carson?
Now, it’s true that the term “boycott” usually refers to a consciously activist, deliberate and explicit decision to exclude a certain person, product, or service from one’s support or patronage because he, she or it in some way violates the principles held by the one engaged in the boycott. I am not aware of any conscious or explicit decision on the part of EWTN executives to ban Dr. Carson from the network airwaves or press; nor am I aware of anything in Carson’s character, achievements, or issue positions that would warrant such a boycott by a faithful Catholic media powerhouse. Yet the fact remains—having grown painfully obvious over the past few months—that, aside from occasionally mentioning him briefly in passing on a few programs and in one or two news articles, EWTN News has been avoiding Carson like the plague, neglecting to interview or discuss him and in general refusing to have anything to do with him. There seems to be an implicit, unspoken decision by the network’s journalism staff to simply ignore Ben Carson. And the answer to the simple question posed by this article is unfortunately also quite simple: EWTN is boycotting Dr. Carson because the corrupt and worldly mainstream media—from which the network’s journalism department now takes its cues—is deathly afraid of this particular presidential candidate and hates him with a passionate vengeance.
This, of course, leads to another question: Why does the Washington, D.C. media establishment so deeply fear and loathe Ben Carson? And the answer to this is that the Beltway media elite correctly perceives that Dr. Carson’s candidacy poses a major threat to everything it stands for. And what exactly does this radically secularist mainstream media empire stand for? Moral relativism, religious syncretism, unbridled materialism and hedonism, abortion on demand, continued funding for Planned Parenthood, the retention of ObamaCare and the unjust HHS mandate, unlimited government growth, higher taxes, endless national debt accumulation, the destruction of the nuclear family through sexual immorality and deviant lifestyles, the radical homosexual agenda, the continued stranglehold of powerful special interest groups on our national politics and economy, the recension of our Constitutionally guaranteed rights and liberties, and the thorough de-Christianization of our country.
The answer is that he is different from the other Republican presidential candidates in key respects—and these differences may collectively afford him a decisive advantage over his rivals when it comes to winning both the Republican nomination and the presidency. Among the unique characteristics that set Dr. Carson apart from the rest of the field:
1. He is a citizen statesman running for president by popular demand for the good of our country, not a career politician seeking high office for his own benefit.
2. He is a devout Christian man who reads the Bible daily and puts his faith into practice, not a Christian in name only.
3. He is a trustworthy and courageous man of impeccable character and principle who always strives to do what is right, or what he thinks is right, in any given situation regardless of public opinion or other external pressures.
4. He is a clear and independent common-sense thinker whose issue positions are not predetermined by partisan rhetoric.
5. He is a great communicator, blessed with a unique ability to discuss and explain complex issues and topics in simple terms that anyone can understand.
6. He has a clear vision for America’s future based on a return to sound Constitutional government and the wisdom of our nation’s Founders.
7. He is a splendid example of the American dream and a role model for American youth, having risen from childhood poverty to become one of the world’s greatest neurosurgeons.
8. As a philanthropist, he has made a significant contribution to improving America’s education system through the Carson Scholars Fund.
9. He is the most highly decorated American civilian among all the presidential candidates and the only one to have received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
10. He has built up, and continues to steadily build up, a massive following among the American people, having already sold far more books, recruited far more campaign volunteers, and received far more individual donations than Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, or any other presidential candidate.
Those running the mainstream media establishment are all too happy to promote politically correct presidential candidates like Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump who are in line with their own radically secularist philosophy and values. But the mere thought of a principled citizen statesman like Dr. Carson even approaching the White House is enough to send them into panic. The fact of the matter is that, despite his lack of political correctness, Ben Carson stands a significant chance of being nominated and elected President of the United States. The media elite is clearly aware of this, which explains their vicious and despicable attempt to destroy Carson’s candidacy. They desperately wish that he would just go away.
But the biggest reason of all for the mainstream media’s fear and hatred of Ben Carson is this: polls consistently indicate that he is the only Republican presidential candidate who can decisively defeat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 general election. Another unique characteristic of Dr. Carson as a presidential candidate is that, as an African-American who is deeply respected among his own people, he is the only Republican candidate who can realistically win a significant percentage of the black vote. If he were to win only 17 percent of the black vote in the general election, he would defeat Hillary Clinton and win the presidency. Furthermore, despite the mainstream media’s all-out effort to destroy his candidacy, polls reveal that Ben Carson has now gained the support of about 20 percent of African-American voters—and that percentage is likely to grow in the near future. In other words, Dr. Carson is the only Republican presidential candidate who can put an end to Hillary Clinton’s hope of finally becoming president herself. And therefore, Ben Carson is the only Republican who can realistically win the White House in 2016.
As the Second Vatican Council reminded the Church, those who are in charge of the communications media bear a serious responsibility to transmit the truth and to help shape public opinion in accordance with what is objectively true and good and right. When it comes to the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign, the truth is that Ben Carson is the only viable alternative to Hillary Clinton as America’s next president. Therefore, EWTN should be taking advantage of its unique position as an independent and massively influential bully pulpit to help promote Dr. Carson’s candidacy among its U.S. viewers, listeners and readers and to galvanize millions of faithful American Catholics in support of his presidential campaign. I am not asking the network or its journalists to explicitly endorse Ben Carson for president (although that might not be such a bad idea); I only ask that they candidly recognize his providentially unique qualifications to lead our nation in light of the basic realities of the current presidential landscape and give him the fair share of attention he deserves.
EWTN’s beautiful and appropriate motto is “Sharing the Splendor of Truth,” and the network continues to do just that in admirable fashion as far as Catholic doctrine, liturgy, the sacraments, morality, prayer and spirituality are concerned. But when it comes to the Catholic media apostolate’s news coverage of the critically important 2016 presidential election season, the truth is not served by sweeping the best and most promising candidate in the race under the rug. It seems clearly apparent that Ben Carson has received so little attention on EWTN thus far because he has been so perniciously attacked, maligned, and belittled by the morally toxic Washington mainstream media establishment. That’s a shame. A faithful Catholic television network should not be permitting the lies and deceptions of worldly mainstream media outlets to influence the decisions of its own journalism department. On the contrary, EWTN should do whatever is necessary to reclaim and preserve its original identity as an independent voice of truth and reason, clarity and common sense in a world ever more filled with lies, irrationality, ambiguity and craziness. Instead of allowing itself to be dragged along by the Beltway media machine, EWTN News should be setting its own agenda based on its own values and striving to influence political discussions and events in a wholly different direction.
The unjustified and irrational EWTN media blackout of Ben Carson must end. The network can, and should, utilize its tremendous influence to support and further advance the presidential candidacy of Dr. Carson with the true good of our country in mind. As Catholics vote, so goes our nation. If we can get a majority of American Catholic voters firmly committed to Ben Carson, we can elect a new president who shares our Christian faith and moral values and prevent another radically secularist, scandal-ridden career politician from succeeding Barack Obama. That is a goal worth achieving, but it may be very difficult to achieve it without the vital support and assistance of the Eternal Word Television Network.
Copyright © 2015 Justin D. Soutar. All rights reserved.