Media Drill Republicans With Questions About Faith

Post a Comment » Written on January 5th, 2008     
Filed under: News
MANCHESTER, NH (June 5, 2007) – Editor’s note: Stan Friedman covered both the Democratic and Republican debates on behalf of Covenant News Service. Following is his report on the concluding debate involving Republican contenders.

By Stan Friedman

There must be at least 30 fewer members of the press corps here for tonight’s debate than two nights ago, when the Democrats faced off.

Between the two debates, three of the leading Democratic candidates – Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Barack Obama – have appeared in a forum in Washington D.C. at Pentecost 2007, sponsored by Sojourners/Call to Renewal. I ask other journalists in the media room whether they watched. Few reply they did. Those that did watch weren’t sure what to make of it.

Spin roomDuring the debate, the Republican candidates are asked several questions related to their religious faith. The people in the media room already are uncomfortable with all the focus on whether the candidates believe in God, but are downright embarrassed that one of their own just asked the candidates whether they believe in creation or evolution.

Ron Claiborne, the weekend anchor for ABC News’ Good Morning America later says in the Spin Room (accompanying photo) – where the candidates or their representatives talk with the press following the debate – that he finds the question odd. He still is unsure of what to make of all the focus on a candidate’s personal religious beliefs.

Several of the candidates or their representatives tell me they didn’t care for the creation versus evolution question.

“I think there are more prescient issues for the Commander in Chief,” says Tagg Romney, Mitt Romney’s oldest son. “Is this really what the voters are asking?”

Tagg Romney wonders whether so many questions regarding the candidate’s faith are necessary. “He’s not running to be head of America’s church,” he says.

Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, who has been outspoken about his Christian convictions, restates his answer from the debate regarding the evolution question: “I think we must engage faith and reason together.”  He also questions, however, whether the question is appropriate, adding “I don’t think we should be legislating those issues.”

The President does not have to be a person of religious faith, Brownback says, but the senator does say religious beliefs inform his decisions. That faith, he says, has led him to push the Bush Administration to take strong action against genocide in Darfur. He has sold of all his investments that included stocks of companies doing business with the Sudanese government.

“My faith informs me because it tells me that people are sacred, that the child in Darfur is sacred. God loves that child,” he explains. “I think the same is true for the person in prison. This is something that can expand the party.”

Brownback, who has two adopted children from foreign countries, notes that his religious faith has led him to support immigration reform. “We need to look at people as people, not as problems,” he says.

He rolls his eyes when asked what he thinks of presidential candidate Tom Tancredo’s comments during the debate in which he said, “We have to stop all legal immigration except for people coming into this country as family members, immediate family
members, and/or refugees.” Brownback states firmly, “No.”

Working to get a question asked of the candidates can be difficult. Lots of pushing and shoving. One not-as-tall reporter who must work for a very small-time outfit asks if I can move to the right a couple inches so he can get his recorder closer to Brownback.

I oblige, but then he pushes himself all the way in front of me and begins being obnoxious to the candidate, firing question after question and then mumbling his disdain for the answers even when other reporters are trying to ask Brownback for comments on different issues.

“Would you please be quiet while I’m asking my question – you’ve had your turn!” one reporter angrily asks. I’m grateful. I honestly want to shove the guy, but figure that would be bad form just several feet away from Brownback. The candidate looks uncomfortable and amused at the same time.

As I turn to leave, I stop to ask a conservative blogger who had sat next to me during the debates, about being admitted to the event.

“It’s huge,” says Bill Smith, editor of, whose day job is working as an information technology specialist. “Even four years ago you couldn’t get into this.” He notes that one question at each of the debates was submitted by a blogger.

Smith and 14 other people were chosen to participate by WMUR TV, which worked with to choose five Republicans, five Democrats, and five independent bloggers.

He says he is not a Christian and is uncomfortable with the focus on candidates’ faith. He’s not looking for someone to be the country’s pastor.

The conversation makes even more clear that times are changing when it comes to who the media are and how they are covering faith and politics. Our nation may never be the same.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Report This Post

Leave a Reply

Report This Blog