New York Times reporter Michael Luo's front-page Saturday story on Hillary Clinton's religious faith, "For Clinton, Faith Intersects With Political Life,” was a pretty transparent attempt to moderate the candidate's secular reputation by emphasizing her religiosity.
Meanwhile, Luo naively cast Hillary Clinton as a passive spouse betrayed by her husband during the Monica Lewinsky scandal -- as if Bill Clinton’s White House philandering came as a total shock after all the years in Arkansas.
"Long before her beliefs would be tested in the most wrenching of ways as first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton taught an adult Sunday school class on the importance of forgiveness. It is a lesson, she says, that she has harked back to often."
Through the long piece, Luo portrayed Hillary as a victim.
"Her Methodist faith, Mrs. Clinton says, has guided her as she sought to repair her marriage, forgiven some critics who once vilified her and struggled in the bare-knuckles world of politics to fulfill the biblical commandment to love thy neighbor."
Unless the neighbor happens to work for the White House Travel Office, in which case all bets are off?
"Mrs. Clinton, the New York senator who is seeking the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, has been alluding to her spiritual life with increasing regularity in recent years, language that has dovetailed with efforts by her party to reach out to churchgoers who have been voting overwhelmingly Republican.
"Mrs. Clinton’s references to faith, though, have come under attack, both from conservatives who doubt her sincerity (one writer recently lumped her with the type of Christians who 'believe in everything but God') and liberals who object to any injection of religion into politics. And her motivations have been cast as political calculation by detractors, who suggest she is only trying to moderate her liberal image."
Luo was swept up with the symbols of Clinton’s religiosity, symbols the Times would no doubt see as suspicious or bothersome if openly displayed by a Christian conservative.
"In the interview and a subsequent telephone conversation, she described her spiritual habits -- she carries a Bible on her campaign travels, reads commentaries on Scripture and on other people’s 'faith journeys' and spoke of experiencing 'the presence of the Holy Spirit' on many occasions.
Luo has still more on Saint Hillary, who graciously forgives Republicans for their sins.
"And she talked of forgiveness. Mrs. Clinton volunteered that she was moved by apologies in recent years from David Kuo, a Republican speechwriter and evangelical Christian who later worked in the Bush administration, and Senator Sam Brownback, Republican of Kansas, both of whom have confessed to harboring hateful thoughts of her. She spoke of her own shortcomings -- 'it's a challenge every single day' -- in leading a moral life and of turning to Christian writers for solace after her husband’s infidelity."
After highlighting some brief criticism from right and left, Luo returned to his credulous portrayal of Clinton’s religious beliefs:
"Mrs. Clinton's religious roots run deep....As for how literally to interpret the Bible, she takes a characteristically centrist view….Shortly before her father's death in 1993, Mrs. Clinton sought to meld her faith and political ideology into an overarching philosophy of public service. In delivering a passionate speech on health care, she said Americans suffered from a 'sleeping sickness of the soul' and called for a 'new politics of meaning."
"Liberal and conservative pundits alike jumped on what they called her religious moralisms wrapped in New Age language. But Melanne Verveer, her former chief of staff, said the speech was merely an extension of how Mrs. Clinton's religious values infused her sense of public service."
Luo was not nearly so respectful of the religious views of Republican Mitt Romney in a May 10 story. Ostensibly covering the controversy over Al Sharpton's suggestion that Mormons weren't real Christians, Luo instead devoted most of his story to allowing Sharpton yet more attacks on Mitt Romney's Mormon faith as racist and backward.
For more New York Times bias, visit Times Watch.