When tens of thousands gather in Washington to protest legalized abortion, The New York Times has in recent years ignored it entirely - which seems especially odd when they spotlight tiny liberal protests as newsworthy. It happened again on Thursday, as the Times ran a photograph of about ten protesters of the National Prayer Breakfast - outside the Capitol Hill house of "The Family," the secretive evangelical group that sponsors the event.
Times religion reporter Laurie Goodstein offered a story loaded with liberal Prayer Breakfast critics, and no supporters. (A spokesman for "The Family" offered several comments on the group and its secrecy, but not on the breakfast.) The headline was "Prayer Breakfast, Long a Must in Washington, Draws Controversy." She began by suggesting the breakfast is a longtime networking event of "scrambled eggs and supplication."
She then described how Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), described only as an "ethics group" and a "government watchdog group," advocated that government leaders should not show up, and that C-SPAN cameras should go away, all because of the "a combination of the intolerance of the organization's views, and the secrecy surrounding the organization."
The Times didn't notice that it might seem ironic for people to address "intolerance" by advocating censorship of C-SPAN coverage.
Goodstein highlighted critics of "The Family" and their "accusations that it has ties to legislation in Uganda that calls for the imprisonment and execution of homosexuals." Group spokesman J. Robert Hunter rebutted that about 30 Family members from America "recently conveyed their dismay about the legislation."
Goodstein also highlighted leftist author Jeff Sharlet (with no ideological label) and publicized his book "The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power."
The story ended with more publicity for liberals, but at least the L-word finally made an appearance, in paragraph 16: "Liberal members of the clergy and gay rights leaders organized the alternative events in haste this year, calling theirs the American Prayer Hour."
Wayne Besen, a radical gay activist with the group Truth Wins Out, went unlabeled as he wrapped up the story: "They have symbolically taken the mantle of religion...and I think it's time to take it back. And the American Prayer Hour is a step in that direction."
They didn't quote what Besen wanted to ask the Prayer Breakfast crowd: "Would you like a glass of fresh blood with your bacon?"
The Times didn't find anything controversial at the Truth Wins Out press conference, but Karen Schuberg of CNSNews.com did:
Obama Adviser Stands by Assertion That Pope Benedict XVI Is 'Hurting People in the Name of Jesus'
And: First Openly Gay Episcopal Bishop Says St. Paul Was Condemning Homosexual Acts by Heterosexuals