Donahue As An Example of a Large Problem

Any news source that quotes Bill Donahue as an authority that speaks for Catholics should be ashamed of itself, and shamed in public. The fact is that Donahue never uses his platform to defend Catholics. Instead, it has always been about using his platform for political attacks and religious intolerance. He considers himself, for example, responsible for getting two Kerry staffers fired in 2004:
DONOHUE: Well, Mara Vanderslice in 2004 worked for the Kerry-Edwards campaign. I found out about her background and they had to silence her. Then I got Brenda Bartella Peterson to quit or be fired because of what -- because of her background.
While Donahue gleefully works to get Democratic staffers fired because of his background, he defends Republican staffers when their backgrounds reveal they are child predators. From Think Progress:
During the 2004 presidential campaign, George Bush's Catholic outreach coordinator, 54-year-old Deal Hudson, was outed as a sexual predator for taking advantage of a drunken 18-year old while he was a professor.(...)

Yet at least one prominent right-wing figure came to Hudson's defense: the Catholic League's Bill Donohue, who has spent the last several days calling for the heads of two John Edwards bloggers. Donohue ardently defended Hudson in a statement, even invoking the Virgin Mary in downplaying his sexual assault.
If Donahue was really about defending Catholicism instead of about abusing religion as a means of taking partisan, political scalps, he would have called for firings in both circumstances. However, he defended the Republican, while repeatedly calling for numerous Democrats to be fired.

Bill Donahue also does not care about the values of Catholicism itself. I was raised in the Catholic Church (maybe I'll post some altar boy pictures sometime). My father (happy birthday Dad, by the way) is the former President of the Syracuse Inter-religious council, and still very active in that group. Needless to say, I know a thing or two about Catholic values. One of those values is forgiveness. Donahue failed to extend that value to the Edwards bloggers after their statements yesterday. Instead, he continued to call for their heads. however, when Mel Gibson was the subject of scrutiny for anti-semitic remarks, Donahue immediately lent him a hand of forgiveness.
On the August 1 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country, William A. Donohue, president of the conservative Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said, "There's a lot of people who have made comments which are bigoted who are not necessarily bigots," adding that he is "concerned now about piling on." Of those who won't forgive Gibson, Donohue said: "Who gives a damn about those people?" Donohue then asked, "What kind of blood do they want out of this man?
So, not only does Donahue only target his outrage over anti-Catholicism toward Democrats while simultaneously defending Republicans, he also only extends forgiveness toward conservatives while continuing to attack progressives. This is not a man who is defending Catholics or promoting Catholic values. This is a man who has made it his mission in life to target Democrats and progressives in an attempt to take scalps, while defend Republicans and conservatives at every turn. Since Donahue uses a 501c(3) organization to conduct these attacks, not only is he a hypocrite, as Jeffery Feldman has suggested he is probably also in violation of federal tax law. That is a matter for the New York attorney general to investigate. I am more concerned that any media outlets continue to portray Donahue as someone who speaks for Catholicism, rather than as the partisan, professional political scalper that he is.

Making sure that the Bill Donahues of the world are quoted at will in a wide variety of news outlets is one of the great success of the Republican Noise Machine. The right has developed a "think tank" and advocacy group structure that allows them to consistently portray partisan, ideological attacks against Democrats and progressives as both newsworthy and as non-partisan, or at least as coming under the veneer of speaking for some larger group. No matter what subject is being discussed in the news and what smear attack is being attempted, there are Donahue's all over the place who consistently appear in established news outlets, and who are portrayed as something quite different than the professional, partisan attackers that they are. In fact, somehow it has become news simply that the Bill Donahues of the world are outraged. That is why, for me, this entire episode had nothing whatsoever to do with the actual content of the blog posts in question, but instead about standing up to this false, partisan smear machine for what it is. Once we accept their terms of the debate, that this is supposedly about outrageous statements instead of being about how those statements made it into the media in the first place, he have already lost and reified the power structure that allows the right-wing to smear Democrats and progressives at will.

Whatever stuff we dig up on Bill Donahue--and there will be quite a lot we can dig up on Donahue--we have to remember that the focus of these campaigns must always remain squarely on news outlets that fail to properly vet sources like Bill Donahue, not on Donahue himself. As long as the Bill Donahue's of the world are allowed to continue to operate freely within the established media under the false cover of advocacy and non-partisanship, the smear machine will never go away. I hope that what we accomplished yesterday is a step in the right direction on that front, but I still worry that all of the changes we forced will remain specific to this one story, and not make a real dent in the overall operation of the Republican Noise Machine. Part of the responsibility to change this rests upon Democrats to not cave in to these attacks. Part of the responsibility to change this rests upon progressives to build a counter "think tank" structure. Most of the responsibility, however, rests upon the media to stop buying into this structure, and to actually vet their sources before allowing any smear from any winger to suddenly become national news. Until they do so, change will be painfully slow and incremental, and we will have to keep going to the mattress every time something like this comes up. It certainly feels good to have helped slow down one of these attacks, but we won't be so successful every time. We can't always expect to be successful on our own.

Keep Piling On The Pressure

Your pressure is working. You guys are unbelievable! Consider the following:
  • Already, more than 1,0201,1501,2701,525 people have sent emails to the news organizations who produced shoddy, stenographed stories on the Edwards bloggers yesterday.

  • Yesterday, you sent emails to Nedra Pickler of the AP asking her to point out Donahue's history of racially intolerant statements. Not only did she comply, in her new story, she included the exact same Donahue quote you asked her to include. You pressure works.

  • Salon is now reporting that it was pressure from the liberal blogosphere that allowed Marcotte and McEwan to keep their jobs. I don't know if this is true, but it could be taken as a very strong indication that your pressure is working. Either way, it gives us lots of cred.

  • Media Matters and MoveOn.org have engaged this fight as well. You are not alone in applying pressure. It is coming from all regions of the new progressive infrastructure.

  • William Donahue is scared to death of you. He just promised a nationwide campaign to fight the success you have made possible. Ha! Bring it on. It is about time this wingnut is exposed, and the media shamed for treating him like a mainstream Catholic figure in the first place.
This is awesome. You can still help by recommending this action over at Digg, and by joining in the fun and writing an email to news outlets at the BlogPac site. If we are going to hit 1,000, why not shoot for 1,500?

This is lightning in a bottle, and a potentially pivotal turning point in turning back the right-wing smear machine. Be a part of it.

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