Jeanine Pirro provided a textbook demonstration of media bias against the Catholic Church during her stint as a substitute host for CNN Headline News's "The Joy Behar Show on March 29. Pirro never gave her guest a chance to defend the church and interrupted him six times within 1 minute, 59 seconds.
Pirro is a former Westchester County, N.Y., district attorney and judge who now hosts the TV program, "Judge Jeanine Pirro." She also appears on network and cable news programs as a legal analyst.
First, she stacked the deck. Pirro hosted a panel discussion about the recent allegations that Pope Benedict XVI failed to act when confronted with evidence about priests sexually abusing children. Of the three panelists, only Catholic League president Bill Donohue defended the church. The other participants included Kevin Cullen, a Boston Globe reporter who was part of the investigative team that broke the 2002 story of the Boston diocese covering up sexual abuse and Jeffery Anderson, an attorney who has filed thousands of suits against the church since 1983.
Pirro told Anderson he was "right" in one instance, and then proceeded to call one of Donohue's argument's "hogwash," despite the fact that The New York Times backed up the claim that Benedict, as a cardinal, did not know that a priest in Germany accused of sexual abuse was transferred and allowed to serve in another parish.
Second, Pirro didn't allow the only person on to provide a semblance of balance to speak without interruption. Anderson framed his argument without challenge from Pirro. "This is the first documentation we've seen directly from this cover-up of the serial predator in Wisconsin through the archbishop, directly to Cardinal Ratzinger [now the Pope] and Rome and then Rome and Cardinal Ratzinger instructing the archbishop and other clerics to abate the process, keep it secret and forget about the kids," he stated.
Yet Pirro refused to allow Donohue to place the actions of Wisconsin's Archbishop Rembert Weakland into context without interruption:
JEANINE PIRRO: All right, now I`m going to go to you, Bill --
BILL DONOHUE, PRESIDENT OF THE CATHOLIC LEAGUE: Right.
PIRRO: -- I mean, you know, what we`ve got here are two Bishops who, in this case and the priest in Wisconsin beseeched the Vatican and said get rid of this guy and asked him to take action against him. Instead the church trial was halted and they refused to defrock him. Bill, what`s going on here?
DONOHUE: I want to take issue with several things that have been said including -- this is probably the biggest frame I`ve ever seen in my life.
PIRRO: But why would anybody want to frame the church at this point? We went through this eight years ago.
DONOHUE: Can I -- can I -- let me go through the timeline, which neither one of these gentlemen did. Abuses took place in the 1950s. For reasons we don`t know --
PIRRO: No, no, not that case, I`m talking Wisconsin.
DONOHUE: No, that`s what I`m talking about.
DONOHUE: In the 1950s that`s when it started.
PIRRO: If you yell, it doesn`t make your point, Bill. And I can hear you.
DONOHUE: But Jeanine, Jeanine --
DONOHUE: You gave these two guys both of them -- their opportunity, right? They began in the 1950s. The victim`s families didn`t bring it to the attention of the authorities until the mid-1970s. The cops investigated and they found nothing and they dropped it. The great hero, Archbishop Weakland out of Wisconsin never even bothered to notify the Vatican until 1996. Ratzinger never even knew about this.
PIRRO: So let me ask you this Bill. You -- you deny that Ratzinger, now the pope, knew about it. And you say that because it was beyond the statute of limitations there was nothing they could do.
DONOHUE: As a matter of fact --
PIRRO: Isn`t there a Canon Law, Bill irrespective of the civil law and they were not referring these cases to civil courts anyway. Shouldn`t you, instead of leading these victims, you know, delivering them to the wolves, shouldn`t you be shepherding the victims as opposed to moving these pedophile priest around?
DONOHUE: First -- first of all, the hero of the left, Archbishop Weakland could have brought -- could have had a trial on this in Wisconsin. He could have been investigating this. Why did he wait so long? But look, it went to Ratzinger`s office. Ratzinger`s office. I get hundreds of letters every day that I don`t read. His office gets thousands. But even --
PIRRO: Oh, don`t even go there, Bill. You know the buck stops at the top.
DONOHUE: No, no, and you know what? What did they do, they could have said, the statute of limitations has run out. Instead they said let`s authorize a trial.
DONOHUE: You know why they didn`t defrock him because he hadn`t been found guilty yet and the guy died. What in the world do you want them to do at that point?
Any defense of Cardinal Ratzinger's actions, as well as the point that the archbishop of Wisconsin didn't notify the Vatican about the accusations against Father Lawrence Murphy until 1996 when the alleged abuse occurred throughout the 1950s, '60s and '70s, were lost amidst Pirro's constant interruptions.
"Besides the fact that there is no evidence he even knew of the case, [Cardinal Ratzinger's] office actually lifted the statute of limitations - the abuse took place in the '50s and '60s - and began an investigation," Donohue stated in a March 29 press release.
As for the priest in Germany who received therapy and was transferred to a different parish after admitting to abusing children, Donohue said that in that instance, "the church bought the liberal line on this nonsense in giving therapy because a psychiatrist can fix people" and that he "would have thrown him out."
Pirro wouldn't allow more discussion on that point, and instead maintained that Ratzinger knew exactly what was happening.
Donohue expanded his statement in a March 19 press release. "In the 1960s, '70s and '80s - the very period when the vast majority of cases of priestly sexual molestation took place - the prevailing zeitgeist was to rehabilitate and renew. Had the church dealt punitively right off the bat with alleged offenders, it would have been branded heartless and un-Christian at the time," he argued. "How perverse it is, then, that those who sold us the idea that every malady could be cured by rehabilitation are now the very ones condemning the Catholic Church for following their prescription. That they are selectively doing so is all the more infuriating."
Third, when all else failed, Pirro resorted to sarcasm to undermine her guest. Pirro asked Donohue at the very end of the segment how faith in the Catholic Church can be restored. He pointed out that it's happening now, as "there were six accusations made between 2008 and 2009" and noted that he was "setting the record straight" in a New York Times ad scheduled to run in the March 30 Opinion section.