On Tuesday’s Situation Room, CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer referred to a Catholic cardinal’s criticism of Barack Obama’s abortion position as a "scathing rant" and a "diatribe." A CNN graphic also used the "scathing rant" term, and Blitzer later referred to the cardinal’s words as a "blistering rant."
All three of these terms came during Blitzer’s promos for a report by CNN correspondent Brian Todd, which focused on recent comments made by Cardinal James Francis Stafford, who referred to Obama’s pro-abortion stance as "aggressive, disruptive, and apocalyptic." Just before the top of the 5 pm Eastern hour, Blitzer gave the following promo for the segment: "Also, a scathing rant against Barack Obama from a rather surprising source, a Roman Catholic cardinal -- the story behind his diatribe against the president-elect." Ten minutes later, the CNN anchor gave another promo for Todd’s report, in which he stated that the cardinal unleashed "a blistering rant on the president-elect."
Cardinal Stafford, who is the former archbishop of Denver and now works in the Vatican, critiqued President-Elect Barack Obama’s pro-abortion position during a lecture at Catholic University of America on November 14, 2008. During his introduction to the actual report, Blitzer quoted the cardinal’s "apocalyptic" comment, and called these words "surprisingly-harsh." Todd, who had interviewed the Catholic prelate over the comment, then gave his own introduction: "Wolf, this cardinal told me he wants to make sure that his words are not taken out of context, but he is not backing down from some very strong criticism of Mr. Obama, specifically over his willingness to sign pro-choice legislation when he becomes president."
It seems the cardinal’s concerns about being taken out of context were justified. The sound bite from his lecture that Todd played during the report didn’t provide some of the context of his words. The clip was taken from a YouTube posting by The Tower, the student newspaper at CUA, which included audio excerpts from Cardinal Stafford’s lecture. Just before making his "apocalyptic" statement, Cardinal Stafford quoted from a speech Barack Obama gave to Planned Parenthood on July 17, 2007, in which the Democrat asserted that the "first thing I will do as president is to sign the Freedom of Choice Act." The act, if passed, would overturn most, if not all laws regulating abortion in the U.S. The prelate then labeled Obama’s promise, among other comments he made during the speech, "post-modernist" rhetoric, and that they point to "an agenda and vision that are aggressive, disruptive, and apocalyptic." During this portion of his lecture, Cardinal Stafford used a calm tone of voice, contrary to the "blistering" impression Blitzer had given earlier.
At the end of the segment, Blitzer misrepresented the Catholic Church’s stances on various issues. He stated that the Church and Obama "do agree on some hot button issues, including opposition to the war in Iraq, greater access to health care, and more equitable tax codes," as a CNN graphic referred to the health care issues as "universal health care." On the last two issues, this is an oversimplification. Paragraph 2211 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to the "political community’s" duty to "honor the family, to assist it, and to ensure," among other things, "the right to private property, to free enterprise, to obtain work and housing, and the right to emigrate" and "in keeping with the country’s institutions, the right to medical care, assistance for the aged, and family benefits." The same Catechism, which lists the official teachings of the Catholic Church, says nothing of "more equitable tax codes." It only states how it is "morally obligatory to pay taxes" (paragraph 2240) and that tax evasion is "morally illicit" (paragraph 2409).
On the other hand, Blitzer did correctly state that Obama and the Church "strongly disagree on embryonic stem cell research; abortion rights...and civil unions for gay couples, all of which Obama supports -- the Catholic Church opposes."