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CBS's Pelley Glowingly Wonders How the Pope 'Inspired' Obama; Omits Religious Liberty Spat

Friday's CBS Evening News featured a previously unaired portion of Scott Pelley's softball interview of President Obama on his recent meeting with Pope Francis. The Vatican noted on Thursday that "there was a discussion on questions of particular relevance for the Church...such as the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life and conscientious objection" – a reference to the Catholic Church's objection to ObamaCare's abortifacient/contraception mandate.

But instead of asking about this discussion, Pelley gave the President the kid glove treatment, and wondered how the encounter affected the liberal politician: [MP3 audio available here; video below]

SCOTT PELLEY: What did the Pope say to you in that meeting that inspired you?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, we spent a bulk of our conversation around issues of poverty and inequality –  themes that he's been talking about quite a bit – and, obviously, issues that I care about deeply. Those of us who do well in this global economy are doing better than ever, but big chunks of the middle class [are] feeling like their position is slipping. The very poor are finding fewer and fewer ladders to get into the middle class. What the Pope is able to do, in a way that no politician to (sic) do, is to shake people's conscience, and to shine a light on the problem.

The CBS anchor followed up with an eyebrow-raising historical quotation from a notorious mass murderer: "But how practical is that? Stalin once said of the power of the papacy, 'How many divisions does the Pope have?'" Pelley would only need to look at the history of the 1980s to find out that the man who made then-Father Jorge Bergoglio a bishop – Pope John Paul II – didn't need a military to help bring down the communist bloc in Eastern Europe. He used his bully pulpit and his influence to pave the way for the freedom of his home country of Poland.

The transcript of the Pelley/Obama segment from Friday's CBS Evening News:

SCOTT PELLEY: President Obama met [Pope] Francis for the first time yesterday, and we asked the President about that in our interview today.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA (from pre-recorded interview): I think he projects the kind of humility and kindness that is consistent with my understanding, at least, of Jesus' teachings. He seems to have a good sense of humor. And I suspect – my sense is – is that he's a little bit uncomfortable with all the trappings of – of being pope.

PELLEY: Embarrassed by them?

OBAMA: Well, you know, that – that's not his style, and that is part of why I think he has been so embraced around the world.

PELLEY: What did the Pope say to you in that meeting that inspired you?

OBAMA: Well, we spent a bulk of our conversation around issues of poverty and inequality –  themes that he's been talking about quite a bit – and, obviously, issues that I care about deeply. Those of us who do well in this global economy are doing better than ever, but big chunks of the middle class [are] feeling like their position is slipping. The very poor are finding fewer and fewer ladders to get into the middle class. What the Pope is able to do, in a way that no politician to (sic) do, is to shake people's conscience, and to shine a light on the problem.

PELLEY: But how practical is that? Stalin once said of the power of the papacy, 'How many divisions does the Pope have?'

OBAMA: I tell you, I – I'm a big believer in the power of conscience; the power of faith; the power of a message of hope. I think, over time, that's what moves history. Tanks and divisions and dollars and cents – you know, all those things, obviously, make a difference. But ideas are – are the most powerful thing on Earth.

PELLEY (live): The President told us he invited the Pope to come to the United States. And Mr. Obama told me that he expects Francis to accept, and told the Pope that Americans would be – quote, 'overjoyed.'

— Matthew Balan is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Matthew Balan on Twitter.