CNN blog reports from anti-Mormon Bizarro-Land

July 8, 2011 | 24 comments
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The CNN blog just ran a lengthy interview with Tricia Erickson, who makes a variety of arguments that no believing Mormon should ever be elected President. (Link here; note that in her interview she cites language from the endowment ceremony).

Erickson’s arguments are predictably bad. She repeats the old evangelical anti-Mormon reasoning that Mormons are all basically automatons, and suggests that any Mormon politician would have a secret church-promoting agenda. It’s an argument straight out of The Manchurian Candidate (and reminiscent of the anti-Catholic arguments raised against JFK). Her argument, such as it is, is sufficiently silly and hyperbolic that it is essentially self-refuting. But what are the implications of the article’s prominent publication today — what does it say about the current political and religious discourse?

I found it interesting for a couple of reasons. First, it surprised me that CNN would run this sort of thing. The article was a silly, self-serving (buy my book!) hack job. Erickson isn’t particularly accurate in her discussions of the church or church members. She also quotes lines from the temple, which CNN should know will bother church members. The decision to run this anyway suggests that there is still an audience for this kind of thing, which is unfortunate. Her article is interesting not for its content but as an illustration of attitudes which still exist. (Check the comments at CNN, if you dare. Yikes.)

On the flip side, CNN also asked Richard Bushman to weigh in, and he did. In his response, included after her interview, he reasonably points out that Erickson has not given any actual evidence that Romney or any other LDS politician would be a puppet. CNN also asked CAIR (the Council on American-Islamic Relations) to weigh in, probably because Erickson’s interview was full of random potshots at Muslims. CAIR spokesmen also responded, and the statements from the CAIR folks defended Mitt Romney and Mormons. It was a good showing from CAIR, and from Richard Bushman. (And it serves as an illustration that, as MikeInWeHo has suggested, a “Mormon ADL” could serve a useful role, providing organizations like CNN with responses to this kind of thing when needed.)

24 Responses to CNN blog reports from anti-Mormon Bizarro-Land

  1. MC on July 8, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    Richard Bushman is a one-man Mormon ADL, bless him.

  2. Last Lemming on July 8, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    As long as they give somebody like Bushman an opportunity to respond (unlike, say, that Fox station in Memphis), I have no problem with CNN posting this. Most of this stuff goes on in the anti-Mormon echo chamber and normal people are unaware of its existence. Preemptively establishing to the mainstream that such such wackiness exists and is (a) false, and (b) socially unacceptable will prove very useful when Rick Perry comes on the scene.

    Unless it turns out to be socially acceptable. Then we have a problem.

    Also, I would have been more explicit than Bushman in denouncing Erickson’s most scurrilous implications.

  3. Bro. Jones on July 8, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    Kind of touching to see the National Legislative Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations coming down on this, too. (Statements from them appear in the CNN piece that basically say, “Really? It’s not cool to come down on religious people like this.”)

  4. Dave on July 8, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    It seems like some MSM outlets view affiliated blogs as sort of a free-fire zone where a variety of stories and opinion pieces can be published with little or no regard for the standards that apply to stories and even editorials that the sponsoring MSM outlet publishes in their mainstream outlet (the newspaper, magazine, or network that sponsors the blog site). MSM views blogging as sort of an op-ed zone where *any* opinion is legit and *no* editorial control is exercised. All op, no ed. This is bad news for those concerned about media coverage of LDS stories.

  5. Dave on July 8, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    Okay, I suppose CNN deserves some “ed” credit for running rebuttals by Richard Bushman and the other contributors. My prior comment is more of a general reflection on what keeps bubbling up in the marginal mainstream media (MMSM) about Mormonism.

  6. jimbob on July 8, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    I wish in the beginning that she would have just said: “Later on, I’m going to quote Ed Decker approvingly.” I could have stopped reading at that point.

  7. Jax on July 8, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    I agree with Lemming that a more forceful Bushman in denouncing some of her conclusions would have been nice. And I seriously hope that this kind of “news” from CNN won’t become socially exceptable. It usually isn’t, but maybe we’re still outside the mainstream just enough to make it possible. The Fox Station in Memphis was just are unacceptable, especially without someone in the church’s favor, but this piece was a much more vicious attack.

  8. Tim on July 8, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    The recent E! piece wasn’t any better. It had been a while since I’d read anything anti-Mormon in mainstream media. Then, all of a sudden this week, three different news organizations with three different anti-Mormon pieces.

    On the upside, it’s always good to see other minority religions sticking up for us. Here’s hoping we return the favor.

  9. Kaimi Wenger on July 8, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    One non-LDS friend thought that the overall effect of the CNN piece was actually quite pro-LDS. The interviewers gave Erickson all sorts of space, and she gave a lengthy rant; then Richard Bushman weighed in with a calm and reasoned reply. It provides quite a contrast.

  10. chris on July 8, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    I thought it was quite well balanced. She hit all the important points. She even mentioned how much she loved us Mormons and she also made it clear that even having a Mormon as governor is a bad thing. Although, I guess to be fair she did miss one important point, presumably, you shouldn’t employ a Mormon, because that might also let their light shine.

  11. Julie M. Smith on July 8, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    Kaimi, I agree. I think most people will realize that she is using cheap rhetorical tricks (“I cannot explain to you in a few words here just how completely violent, mind controlling and alarming these ceremonies are.”) and he’s just calm and classy.

  12. clark on July 8, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    This is how the media works. There has to be, to maintain an interesting narrative, a period of praise, a period of blowback/conspiracies, then a period of reconciliation. We’ve gone through the Huntsman, Trey & Matt Mormon lovefest in the media. Now we’re entering the blowback phase. We’ve had a ton of stories about how those goofy Mormons are so lovable. Now we have to be prepared for a slew of negative stories centered around, “can we really trust them?” However like good Hegelians the media dialectic will end on an attempt to reconcile the two.

  13. Sonny on July 8, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    A little off topic, but I think Bushman is perhaps the greatest voice we have in Mormonism today.

  14. Romney / Huntsman 2012 on July 8, 2011 at 10:22 pm

    I’m voting for Romney, no doubt. So I disagree with the anti-Mormon lady on the CNN blog post. However, her complaint sort of makes you think.

    Would we be comfortable voting for a devout Muslim to be president? Most Mormons probably would not.

    Truth be told, in modern times, no Mormon takes the temple oaths 100% literally, and that’s why it’s okay for one to be president.

  15. Kaimi on July 9, 2011 at 12:26 am

    Good question, R/H 2012. I would think it would depend on the person in question. A devout Wahhabi or Salafist who also adheres to the teachings of Qutb would almost certainly not be an appropriate U.S. President. This would especially be the case if the person adhered to the specific further writings of Zawahiri.

    However, there are lots of moderates in just about every branch of Islam (Sufi, Salafi, Shia).

    (And really, the same might be said for Mormons. A Mormon who is a devout follower of the criminally violent Lebaron group would not be a good President.)

  16. Kirk C on July 9, 2011 at 1:33 am

    “I experienced this same ceremony myself when I was married in the Mormon Temple. I cannot explain to you in a few words here just how completely violent, mind controlling and alarming these ceremonies are.”

    I guess I have never attended the same Temple as she did. Shame on CNN for even printing this.

  17. Chino Blanco on July 9, 2011 at 7:18 am

    Apparently, Daniel Peterson didn’t get the memo.

  18. goosie on July 9, 2011 at 8:48 am

    Apparently Ms. Erickson doesn’t realize that the day of the anti-Mormon superstar has passed, and that nowadays even mentioning the name of Ed Decker is sufficient to disqualify one from any claim to credibility.

  19. Romney / Huntsman 2012 on July 9, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    Even though Romney was AP on his mission and a stake president in Boston, I think you could safely say he’s not an extreme Mormon.

    I doubt he wears his Sunday best all day on Sundays, I’m sure he’s had caffeine, and I would bet money he’s seen an R-rated movie.

  20. chris on July 9, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    I believe this is the same woman…
    http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/modeling_scam.htm

  21. David on July 11, 2011 at 7:43 am

    I have heard little about the “White Horse Prophecy”, from church people. But the prophecy is out there and will come out to the general public in time. The former CEO of the John Birch Society allegedly believe he was to fulfill that prophecy. While the Sanints suffered terribly, that will be forgotten and other problems will step to the forefront. Polygamy, Mountain Meadows Massacre, etc will come out to hurt the candidate.

  22. john f. on July 12, 2011 at 8:08 am

    Would we be comfortable voting for a devout Muslim to be president? Most Mormons probably would not.

    I would be comfortable voting for a Muslim for president and let’s hope you’re not right about your guess that most Mormons probably would not.

    It was indeed touching to see CAIR weigh in to support Mormons and specifically Romney. This was especially generous given Romney’s unfortunate decision to run with the crowd in not supporting the building of a mosque in Manhattan near Ground Zero.

    Evangelical Christians should be wary of insisting that Mormonism and specifically Mormon beliefs are relevant to a person’s qualifications to run for President because if a Mormon candidate has to go down a list of Mormon beliefs, as framed by non/anti-Mormons, and say “Yes I believe that” or “No I don’t believe that”, then this will be a legitimate exercise to which Evangelical creedalist candidates will also need to be subjected. That might not turn out as well as Evangelical creedalists might think in the abstract.

  23. john f. on July 12, 2011 at 8:13 am

    Richard Bushman’s response was perfect. It was classy, eloquent, took this unhinged lady at face value, responding to the idea of her rant but not engaging in any ridiculous particulars. This is a very good model for how we could respond/react to such treatment. It was a very academic response, so that might prevent it from being more widely followed among Church members who will probably be more likely to react with outrage and emotional argumentation.

  24. Smith on July 22, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    I can entirely appreciate the opinion that a Mormon is unfit to be president based solely on his religion. Here’s the concern as I see it:

    The President must be guided by the Constitution, our country’s laws, and our country’s history and values. The President represents the nation, and, as such, we expect the President to not be guided by the tenets of any one faith.

    Members of the Mormon church make oaths and covenants of allegiance to the Church and its leaders. We sustain Church leaders as “prophets, seers, and revelators.” (If you’re not LDS, that’s some pretty heavy stuff.) And the Mormon church is not a politically neutral church. The Church takes positions, and it encourages its members to spend time and resources advocating those positions.

    Concern: If the President has made “covenants” to follow the leader of the Mormon church, will that interfere with his decision-making as President of the U.S.? I can certainly appreciate how many would answer “yes.”

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