Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Huffington Press, LZ, the Colorado Shooting, Libel, and a Destroyed Reputation

LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. In light of the way that he presents Christians, this is not surprising. Granderson writes:

  • For all of the rhetoric about Christianity being under attack in this country, oftentimes it feels no one does a better job of hurting Christianity than the people who call themselves Christians.
According to Granderson, even if Christians are under attack, it’s all our fault – a classic case of let’s-blame-the-victim!

Even though I found this statement quite offensive from the get-go – but it’s certainly not offensive to those looking for more ammo against Christians – I decided to read on:

  • For example, after the September 11 terror attacks, Jerry Falwell blamed the ACLU, as well as feminists, gays and lesbians, for lifting God's veil of protection.
I was feeling a little better. If he had to resort to an 11-year-old case to bring home his point, it shows that Granderson really had to stretch. He then appealed to the off-the-mark words of Pastor John Hagee and Pat Robertson to make the case that Christians deserve the abuse they receive.

Then, Granderson brought his “evidence” into present time with the Colorado shooting:

  • And just this weekend, as the nation is trying to heal from the theater shootings in Aurora, Colorado, Jerry Newcombe, a spokesman for the evangelical group Truth in Action, took time out of his day to inform mourners that some of their loved ones were going to hell.
Hm? That sounded strange to me. Not that this type of thing has never been expressed by a professing Christian – Fred Phelps comes to mind – but I was surprised to hear that Jerry Newcombe had informed “mourners that some of their loved ones were going to hell.” However, if “the journalist of the year” had said it, it must be true, right?

Fortunately, my perplexity was put to rest by another article – one written by Newcombe’s brother, Rick, founder of Creators, a worldwide media company that syndicates hundreds of columnists and cartoonists. And he doesn’t even share Newcombe’s beliefs. In “A Misleading Story on The Huffington Post,” Rick writes:

  • Several weeks ago he [Jerry] wrote a column about hell, saying that, in his opinion, too many people don't fear it. On the morning of the tragic shooting in Colorado, he retold the same basic column, saying that we had lost fear of hell as a society and that’s part of the reason such evil things happen. In the new column, he wrote, “Tens of millions of young people in this culture seem to have no fear of God. It’s becoming too commonplace that some frustrated person will go on a killing spree of random people. If they kill themselves, they think it’s all over. But that’s like going from the frying pan into the fire. Where is the fear of God in our society? I don’t think people would do those sorts of things if they truly understood the reality of Hell.” 
Of course, any talk about hell or eternal consequences is offensive to many. However, others have understandably noted the connection between the awareness of these consequences and how this has restrained their conduct. Without this restraint, the mass murders committed by the Communists and National Socialists are easier to understand.

However, even if talk of hell might be offensive, informing the Colorado “mourners that some of their loved ones were going to hell” is entirely another matter. From where did Granderson obtain this tasty piece of gossip? Rick Newcombe explains:

  • After the column was posted, Jerry was then interviewed by a Christian radio network (AFA out of Mississippi) on the morning of the shooting…The Huffington Post used words from Jerry taken out of context from that radio interview, as if he were talking specifically about the victims of the Colorado massacre. He never made any comment, nor would he, about the state of those who were killed; he even noted this week how some of the victims showed “Christ-like behavior in shielding other victims.”  However, he did say of the alleged shooter: "The next time someone wants to take out their frustrations on others by killing innocent victims, they ought to consider the eternal consequences of their evil actions." On the Monday after the shootings, The Huffington Post ran this headline: "Jerry Newcombe, Evangelical Leader, Says Only Christian Victims Of Colorado Shooting Going To Heaven."
Well, couldn’t this misunderstanding – this libel - be easily cleared up? Rick writes:

  • Jerry immediately contacted The Huffington Post and complained that he never discussed the victims of the shooting; they refused to take the column down or run a correction.
However, a juicy story is more appealing than making apologies and doing retractions:

  • More than 7,000 readers made comments, mostly condemning Jerry, kicking The Huffington Posts' straw man over and over… Many experienced journalists have warned that, with the decline of newspapers, there are fewer safeguards to make sure that the public is presented accurate information. The Huffington Post, in this instance, violated every principle of basic journalism by claiming that Jerry was talking about the victims of the Colorado shooting, when he was not, and by refusing to correct the error after it was pointed out to them.
Evidently, Granderson happily lifted his dirt from the Huffington Post. Was he aware of the controversy? Who knows? When the media is the information gatekeeper, it is hard to get a word in edgewise, and perhaps Granderson hadn’t been privy to Newcombe’s word of protest. But why bother checking out the facts, even if they sound highly suspect, when you know that your story is going to cater to popular marketplace tastes, and perhaps even win another award.

Meanwhile, a man’s reputation is destroyed, but he’s just a bigoted “fundy” anyway. He brought it all on himself, just as Granderson alleges.

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