Despite Poll Numbers to Pray For, NBC Sneers at Power of Prayer

March 16th, 2006 8:08 AM

You'd think that of all days, they'd be believers over at Today this morning. After all, they were blessed with presidential poll numbers for which they were surely praying.  Numbers so low that Matt Lauer, Tim Russert et. al could spend an extended first segment reveling in them. 

Ironically, in sowing some GOP dissent, Lauer even used the language of religion, suggesting the low numbers were "a blessing in disguise" for congressional Republicans because "they can look and say I don't have a popular president here, I can turn my back on that president."   Remind Frist and Hastert not to invite you to the next GOP Unity Rally, Matt.

But far from praising the power of prayer, when it came to the next segment, Today indulged in the kind of skeptical, sneering disdain for fundamentalist Christianity that is the MSM at its worst.  The topic was a new book by evangelist Joel Osteen, 'Your Best Life Now.'  Rather than focusing on the book's message of hope and optimism, Today targeted the large publisher's advance that Osteen has received. 

Katie set the tone with this intro: "While he preaches The Good Book to millions worldwide, now televangelist Joel Osteen is celebrating a very good book deal, one that is said to be one of the richest in history."

NBC's Martin Savidge narrated the segment.  He opened by mentioning that various celebrities, including Bill Clinton, didn't get advances as big as Osteen's reported $13 million.  Of course, given that Osteen was said to reach 225 million people every week via the TV and internet, and that his previous book sold three million copies, a very large advance would seem to make economic sense.

In case anyone missed the mean-spirited message, NBC found a reason to display photos of disgraced televangelists Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart.  Savidge claimed that it's a far cry from the 1980s when, thanks to "the likes" of Baker and Swaggart, TV evangelism didn't seem "to have a prayer."

NBC closed by making its cynicism unmistakably clear.  As a clip rolled of people in church placing donations into an offering bucket, Savidge snidely intoned "there's no question: by telling Americans how to lead a better life, Osteen will certainly be able to live . . . the good life."

Finkelstein lives in Ithaca, NY. 'Right Angle', the TV show he hosts, was recently named 'Best of the Best' among public-access shows in his area. Contact him at: