Asked by Wolf Blitzer if She Thanked God for Surviving the Tornado, Oklahoma Woman Responds: ‘I’m Actually An Atheist’

On today’s Situation Room on CNN, Wolf Blitzer interviewed a woman named Rebecca Vitsmun whose family survived the Oklahoma tornado. At one point yesterday, her husband was driving home and worried that something might have happened to Rebecca and their 19-month-old son Anders, but there was no reason to worry; Rebecca left the house as soon as she heard the weather was getting really bad and everyone is safe. Their house may be in ruins, but their family is intact.

Things got a little awkward at the end of the interview, though, when Blitzer asked her if she thanked God that she left her house in time:

Blitzer: Well, you’re blessed. Brian, your husband, is blessed. Anders is blessed… and I guess you gotta thank the Lord, right? Do you thank the Lord? For that split-second decision?

Vitsmun: I… I… I’m… I’m actually an atheist… [Laughs]

Blitzer: Oh, you are! [Laughs] But you made the right call!

Vitsmun: Yeah, yep. We are here! And, you know, I don’t blame anybody for thanking the Lord.

Blitzer: Of course not.

Way to represent, Rebecca :)

(via Washington Free Beacon)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Steven M. Long

    You could see her hesitating, as he really put her on the spot. He seemed to really, really want her to thank the Lord.

    • Anna

      Blitzer was probably falling into the same trap that most people do when they think of Oklahoma. He just assumed she was religious. I don’t think if this story had happened in California or New York that he’d have asked her that question.

      • Paul Reed

        Why was that question even asked in a news segment?

        • Nelson Figueroa

          Exactly my question. A reporter shouldn’t be asking religious or political questions unless it’s relevant to the topic at hand. That was dumb on Blitzer’s behalf and if he should have at least felt a little “red in the face” for assuming someone believes in God simply because she lives in a predominantly religious state.

    • Agrajag

      Does -anybody- think he’d ask someone who lost a loved one: “do you curse the lord for randomly killing your loved ones ?”

      You’re supposed to thank him if things work out well, but NOT to blame him when it doesn’t. That’s nonsense.

  • Glasofruix

    Why would she thank the bastard who destroyed her house?

    • more compost

      Pat Robertson says it is her fault for building her house where there might be a tornado, but if she had prayed, it might have stilled the storm

      • severalspeciesof

        Yea, I heard that too… that’s ripe coming from someone who has their main headquarters in Virginia Beach, Virginia… hurricane area…

        • Gus Snarp

          And his University, where he draws young people to come and live, is meters from the ocean. It’s only a matter of time, Pat. He must have squads of people constantly praying the hurricanes away.

    • Valorie Kappmeyer


    • Ateu, e dai?

      And killed all her neighbours…

  • Chas Stewart

    FUCK YEAH! AOKers standing strong!

    • Damion Reinhardt

      I’m so proud of her! That takes guts to drop the A-bomb on CNN like that.

      • Nelson Figueroa

        Very brave, especially considering where she lives.

        • Damion Reinhardt

          Well, we’re not quite 17th century Salem down here, but yeah. ;)

  • Ken Detweiler

    Mindful reply Rebecca. You represent us well.

  • Jon Anderson

    She is awesome. Its tough to be on the spot like that. She handled it well!

  • TiltedHorizon

    That baby looks good enough to eat; I applaud her self control.

    Joke aside, I’m frustrated, all I can do at the moment is send donations, I’d prefer to pick up a hammer and get these people back into their homes.

  • Diana MacPherson

    Could Blitzer try any harder to lead her into saying she thanks the lord? Jeez, I’m glad she said she was an atheist & she was so nice about it. I would have been more annoyed than that.

    • m6wg4bxw

      Yes, I think he could have tried much harder. All he did was assume her to be Christian and ask if she thanked its god.

  • twaska

    It almost sounded like “You made the right call” was his response to her telling him she was an atheist. In which case, he would have been correct….

  • Guest

    Congrats to her! It seriously would have been an epic response if she had added “Why would I thank a supposed god for having destroyed my home and people’s lives?! I am safe for having the knowledge to seek suitable shelter, not because some god saved me! I thank the meteorologists, and scientists who have helped make weather predictions and warnings available to the general public so we can make informed choices to find shelter, to dress appropriately, and more. Thank you scientists for being able to warn me to get the hell out of my house and city, because YOU located a tornado and altered me! Thank you!”

  • Stephanie Morales

    Congrats to her! It seriously would have been an epic response if she had added “Why would I thank a supposed god for having destroyed my home and people’s lives?! I am safe for having the knowledge to seek suitable shelter, not because some god saved me! I thank the meteorologists, and scientists who have helped make weather predictions and warnings available to the general public so we can make informed choices to find shelter, to dress appropriately, and more. Thank you scientists for being able to warn me to get the hell out of my house and city, because YOU located a tornado and alerted me! Thank you!”

  • AtheistPowerlifter

    Wolf is a moron. CNN is the National Enquirer of News Networks.

  • Justin Miyundees


  • sk3ptik0n

    It reminds me of a similar foot in mouth episode that happened at CNN when they were interviewing Morgan Freeman. Some dingbat asked him “You are a man of God”, at which Freeman looked horrified and said something like “No, no no, when did I say I was a man of god?”. Loved the expression on his face even though eventually he had to concede some “spirituality” of some sort to the interviewer el;se she was going to run away screaming from the set.

    • Artor

      But…but… he plays Gawd in some movies! He MUST be Xtian, right? It’s not like he’s a top-notch actor or anything.

      • The Other Weirdo

        And God made him that way, and led him to those roles that garnered all that recognition for him. Everyone knows that Morgan Freeman, a man who could narrate my boring life and make sound exciting, is completely lost without the strings of the Great Puppet Master in the Sky™.

  • Richard Wade

    I hope Blitzer’s foot tastes bad enough that he’ll not use that annoying cliche leading question again. Just stick to the annoying cliche questions like “How does it feel to see your home and all your possessions destroyed?”

    How does it fucking feel. Tell us the goddamn news and then shut the fuck up.

    I’m grumpy. I need a nap.

    • Luther

      What kind of a God would let Wolf have such an embarrassing moment. He better pick another one quick.

      • Amirina

        Loki? I’m going with Loki.. Jotunn, God, Frost Giant, whatever… still going with Loki for that.

      • Randay

        I find it very strange that Blitzer who is Jewish should pander to the Xians in such a manner. Though he is a strong supporter of Israel, he used to work for AIPAC, I find no mention of whether he is a secularist or a religious person. I suspect the former and so wouldn’t even ask himself the question.

    • Mario Strada

      I was watching a video with Erin Burnett and her questioning was all along the lines (and what did you feel when the roof of the school ripped off the foundations?”. I’d love to answer one of these bozos one day: “How do you think it fucking feels? Uh? What kind of question is that?”

  • Xochipilli2012

    Tornado in a teapot. (Too soon? Sorry.) But really–no big deal there. It was a bit awkward, but she handled herself very well, with humor–and I think Wolf also may have been a little embarrassed to put her on the spot like that. Most people in the US are theists of one kind or another–and unless someone knows different, Blitzer seems like one of them. Let’s focus on how well she represented herself, rather than getting outraged over Blitzer’s ignorant, but non-malicious conduct.

    • Julie Lada

      I don’t think anyone is outraged or anything even close to it, or assumes that Blitzer was being deliberately malicious. What is noteworthy here is that Blitzer made an assumption about something as personal as faith, and even got a little pushy about it, and it backfired. I think we’re all just a little amused by someone assuming religiosity and having their public embarrassment broadcast on a national level.

  • Artor

    I hope more people who randomly pander to their delusions in public find it an awkward situation. Why is a CNN anchor blathering about Jeebus?

  • m6wg4bxw

    This is the first time I’ve seen this happen! How refreshing!

    EDIT: TheBlaze posted this story also. The comments section is, well, as expected. It thought I would link to it for the masochists.

    • cathouseumbrella

      I came here to post this. The comments on The Blaze are every bit of hilarity I’d expect from that crowd.

      • MD

        At first it was funny, but after a few minutes I started to feel nauseous. “God didn’t save her, he saved the baby, she just happened to be next to it because she’s the mother.”

        • Miss_Beara

          I guess he didn’t care about the other children who died.

          I can’t read stuff like that. I do agree that it is mildly amusing at first but then you realize that these people are serious. Then the nausea kicks in.

          • Imatheisttoo

            “I guess he didn’t care”: You’re right. If God exists, his role in the tornado was either negligent or malevolent. Neither are benevolent, and neither is acceptable from humans–why is it acceptable from a “perfect” being, eh?

            I wrote a mock-up news article pointing that out. It sounds like something that belongs on The Onion, really.

            I just find it pathetic that people defend their “God’s” actions/inaction in cases like this.

    • Gus Snarp

      Despite my morbid curiosity, I wouldn’t dream of sullying my browsing history with that URL, let alone gracing them with the hit count.

    • Billy Bob

      I just read a few of the comments and I felt my brain cells committing suicide. There are people actually arguing that it was perfectly moral for God to send the tornadoes through there.

  • Cos2mwiz2

    Can we PLEASE find a way to contact her and donate to her paypal, or set up a fund to help her family recover? Suggestions?

    • m6wg4bxw

      I’m sure some Christians are also trying to get her contact information so they can correct her lack of Christianity.

      • Cos2mwiz2

        Sadly, I’ve no doubt you’re right. Pitiful.

      • irmapuddingpopp

        LOL~yeah, so many “helpful charities” want recipients to hear their message to get the goods. One of the reasons I donate to the JUF because they just want to help regardless of religion or lack of.

        • Bob Becker

          Being too judgmental I think. Following Katrina for example many Christians pitched in, some as highly organized groups, some just “how can we help” volunteers. They weren’t seeking out Christians in particular to help, and they didn’t ask the beliefs of people they were handing out food to or water or blankets or rebuilding houses for or were pulling off roofs. They just helped, most of the ones I know of, without asking what the victims believed.

          And so I’m just a little put off by this “hey! She’s one of us! Let’s get her some help because she’s one of us!”

          • Ewan

            Without context, I can certainly see why that sort of apparently tribal response would be off putting.

            Sadly though, we’re not short of context in which public declarations of Atheism in some parts of the US come with strong negative consequences. I think there’s an element of wanting to help to make sure she doesn’t lose out.

          • Dan Ortiz

            Well said…

    • Anne Orsi

      This! This is what I want to do, too!

    • Kevin_Of_Bangor
      • ShoeUnited

        After this event, I don’t know how well she’d be checking facebook. Tornadoes are little more destructive than flooding or hurricanes.

        Is there any other means we could help these people?

        I mean in addition to this:

        • Kevin_Of_Bangor

          She shared the story on her facebook page an hour ago so she is checking it.

        • Gus Snarp

          Just heard a story on NPR interviewing a woman in a shelter after the storm who mentioned checking Facebook. This is how a lot of people connect to friends and family far away who may be concerned about them and all you need is a smartphone and to get near a working cell tower or someone who still has WiFi.

        • sware73

          I’m in a FB group where a member reached out to her trying to offer to raise money for her to which she responded that they lived within their means & have plenty of savings to cushion them until insurance comes through. They also have a good family network to help keep them homed. Some of her friends and family have pitched in to get their son some of his favorite items that were lost so he wouldn’t be quite so shell shocked, but they aren’t requiring any funds at this time. She spoke of the people in the nearby trailer park and lower income areas that were also leveled, a lot of whom probably have no insurance to cover their losses and was more concerned with redirecting her offer of help to those people around her. Now that is a great human story you won’t see
          in the news.

        • David Wood

          I contacted Red McCall of Oklahoma Atheists and he is collecting donations for our fellow Nones in Norman, Oklahoma. Show support by going to
          And designate “Tornado Relief” in the “add special instructions to seller” field,

          In reference to Rebecca and her family from the Wolf Blitzer video:

          “Yeah she is quite the celebrity right now. We have been in contact with her from the start and she has had a very hard journey. We have had other members who were heavily affected as well. No one was hurt, but some members have lost everything.”

          Again from Red,

          “If you wish to make a donation to help them specifically you can do so at and put “tornado relief” in the “add special instructions to seller” field. Thank you for writing and wanting to help.”

          Red McCall

          • Dan Ortiz

            why only the nones… don’t other people need help too?

    • Someguy

      According to a poster called Drshell on Phryngula, she’s a member of Oklahoma atheists. I quote: “she is a member of Oklahoma Atheists, so I bet if you contacted the
      president, Red McCall, he could hook you up with our assistance efforts:”

  • Emma

    Yes, of course she’d thank God for directing the tornado through two elementary schools and killing 20 children. Anybody who’s saying thank God in this case is pretty much saying exactly that.

    Edit: My mistake, the count went down to 8 children. However, the point still very much stands!

  • Diogeron

    It’s about time someone stopped playing this “God was good to our family because He saved them” with the correlative implicit conclusion “but He obviously didn’t care about that family down the block.” Just report the news, Wolf.

    • grindstone

      I wish I could put this comment on billboards. God saved you, but the kids who died… Not worth saving? Evil? God wasn’t omnipotent? Because there is that corollary, and it goes blissfully ignored.

      I’m not telling people not to thank their god, like the dog lady, I understand her perfectly and that was in the moment, but think about what you’re saying as other people are grieving.

      • Miss_Beara

        I strongly dislike the excuse that god needed more angels whenever children die of sickness, violence or natural disaster. If I lost a child and I heard that, fist meet face.

      • Stev84

        They’ll just say “god works in mysterious ways”, “we can’t understand god” or “only god can answer that”.

    • ReadsInTrees

      Yep, just like the story about a woman who said God answered her prayers by saving her dog….but, apparently, refused to answer the prayers of parents fearful for their childrens’ lives.

  • Godslayer

    God didn’t send the tornado to kill his believers. It was sent from a Kenyan Muslim Gay Communist.

    • Matt D

      Hey, it’s not his fault….you see, the secret weather control machine was corrupted by Satan’s own infernal creation (and combo ice maker) known as the “Dark Gaydar”.
      And the reason hmmm…ah….Satan is upset that Obama resembled him on the History Channel recreation… so he’s logically out for vengeance, and by logic, I mean, what I say is the truth cause I’ll convince a mob to beat you if you disagree.

  • Godslayer

    CNN = Certified Nincompoop Network

  • Kotargnskit

    This girl is awesome. Great job when put on the spot!

  • compl3x

    It’s so weird to see reporters talking about religion and god to people they are interviewing. I don’t notice that happening on T.V. her in Australia all that often. When it does happen it sticks out like a sore thumb.

    • Trickster Goddess

      You’ll never see a Canadian reporter ask a question like that. It’s just too presumptuous.

    • Mario Strada

      You should get a load of the bozo doing the commentary on CNN. A face I had never seen before. I have never heard as many “Thank god”, “we’ll pray” and other religious comments and exclamation outside of religious programming.

  • Anonymous

    CNN has the interview with this woman featured on their main page, but this segment was edited out.

    • ShoeUnited

      I saw that too, looking for more you can’t even find it on there. Shame really, a little human touch could go a long way in an editorial piece.

    • chicago dyke

      wow. i knew CNN was bad, but still.

      that’s almost as bad as the stuff i read over at the gay blog. we’re not allowed to even exist? i guess not according to Christian Nonsense Network.

  • Kevin_Of_Bangor

    If anyone wants to send her a message. This is her facebook page.

  • Miss_Beara

    Her fast thinking saved herself and her baby. Why would she thank a lord that devastated a town and killed people? She relied on herself because she knew no supernatural being was going to and came out alive. She and her baby were one of the lucky ones. People are to afraid to realize how much luck plays into our lives.

    I hope this doesn’t get blown out of proportion and christians harassing her and her family over this nonevent.

    Stay safe Rebecca, Anders and husband.

  • Dorothy

    i know he put her on the spot, but i the way she stuttered made me think that she felt apologetic about admitting it. Like i hear every week in the opening segment of The Thinking Atheist podcast, there’s “no need to feel apologetic or quiet about it”.

    • David Kopp

      I’m guessing you don’t live in a region or work in a business where it actually could be a big deal. When you’re not independently wealthy or secure, you have to worry a little bit about what the people that control your paycheck and your social access think.

    • Houndentenor

      She lives in Oklahoma. It was brave of her to say she was an atheist.

  • ShoeUnited

    God got a little sloppy this week as he killed untold number of Christians, aimed for an atheist’s house, but missed.

    • PushingBack

      “But like a poor marksman, you keep missing the target.”

  • Alessia Lane

    She wins the internet!

  • Robster

    What a terrific woman! Positive, laughing and just enjoying having her child safely in her arms. The “loving god” of Wolf Blitzer is completely useless. The only thing god does well is nothing.

    • The Other Weirdo

      Well, that’s not true. He’s really good at taking credit for scientifically-predictable natural events and using them to smite random people who happen to live in the areas subject to said natural events. Please be more respectful next time.

  • Keulan

    I hope Wolf Blitzers learns not to assume that everyone he interviews is religious from this awkward moment.

  • kielc

    CNN’s reporters are simply terrible. Blitzer is one of the worst. What kind of question is that? Glad he got his presumptuousness tossed back into his smug beard.

    • Houndentenor

      CNN is horrible about putting complete morons on the air. They just repeat whatever they just heard. No fact checking and no concern for accuracy. This is the sorry state of what passes for “news” in the 21st century.

  • Ted Thompson

    Brian Williams made up for this by stating on air “These are good people, they’re religious…” blah blah blah. Thanks fucker. Because non religious people wouldn’t be able to make it through this and pull together for the betterment of all. Asshat. I’d find the quote, but I can’t give less fucks about this guy right now.

    • Gus Snarp

      What an awful statement. The usual conflation of “religious” with “good people”, as if religious fervor is the main barometer of moral goodness. As if countless scandals involving religious politicians and pastors, not to mention the daily behavior of a large number of Christians and centuries of history didn’t prove the correlation non-existent.

  • HenningBjerre


  • Kristen

    She’ll probably get death threats now from people saying she and her family should have died in the tornado for saying she’s atheist.

    • The Other Weirdo

      But she said it afterwards. How could she have been killed retroactively? It’s not as though their puny god is omnipotent or anything.

  • Georgina

    I still think it would have been better if she had replied “Hell no, who do you think sent the bloody tornedo?”
    But then, I guess in America that would not be wise.

    • Anthony C. Okafor

      i think she went with the nicest way possible. Why? I have no idea

  • A3Kr0n

    That is so much better than the woman who thanked God for saving her dog.

    • Gus Snarp

      God: Saving dogs and killing school children since 4,000 B.C.

  • Graeme

    She should have said, no, I don’t thank any lord, only the technology and weather forecast which warned me in time, certainly not the lord that destroyed my home. Not like the dumb loon who thanked god for her surviving the Hudson river ditching where she should have thanked the extremely skilful pilot that was her savior.

    • Felyx Leiter

      After surviving an effing tornando, she “should have said” whatever she damn well pleased. If being pressed into coming out as an atheist on national TV isn’t enough for you, you’re the one with the problem, not her.

      I understand your point, but trying to put this woman in the position to explicitly express your point of view, while living in a very religious state, and after losing nearly everything she owns, is ridiculous.

  • Gus Snarp

    That poor woman. After all that she’s been through, to be put on the spot like that and forced to either be honest and out herself on national television or to lie, was just awful. But she made the courageous and honest choice and kept her sense of humor at the same time. Kudos to her, I don’t think I could have done any better.

    However, with hours of pondering, I’ve come up with a response to keep ready in case tragedy and Wolf Blitzer ever descend on me:

    I thank the scientists who’ve spent their careers, and some who’ve risked their lives, to give us a better understanding of tornadoes and improved our ability to predict them so that we could have more warning and ability to protect ourselves than was possible twenty years ago. But I couldn’t possibly be thankful to a god who I believed had consciously spared my life while killing all those school children.

  • Houndentenor

    I love how she laughed off his douchy question. It’s one thing for people to express their religion in these interviews, but it’s bizarre to have them prompted to do so by a “reporter”. How did “journalism” get to the sorry state that it’s in today. Seriously I’m embarrassed both for Blitzer and CNN, but the woman handled herself well (especially considering all she’s been through).

  • HealerWomyn

    I am filled with pride that she didn’t buckle to the generally accepted paradigm and mouth insincere platitudes about a non-existent god. Good for you, Rebecca!!!

  • Robyman4

    What a calm response. God’s got NOTHING to do with her survival – instead why don’t we put it down to having good old common sense. I wouldn’t have been so polite, but her answer is an excellent model for angry atheists like me to try to emulate. I don’t know who wouldn’t be ticked off once they found out they’d been lied to all their life by their parents and priest/pastor/minister, but lately I’ve been steering my attitude toward one of patience (and no small amount of pity) toward those who say an invisible being somewhere above our heads is watching out for them…

  • atheisticallyyours

    No “blame”, but certainly a look of confusion a “lord-thanker” is worthy of!

  • bismarket 1

    I think there’s quite a few who could learn a lot from this (Myself included). Not only did she come across as genuine/normal/honest/strong, her answer was taken in a positive way. He may have made an understandable assumption but was humble when corrected. If only all interactions between Atheists & Christians could be like this. It really shows to me that despite the problems that do exist, at least she was free to declare her lack of belief whereas if this was an interview done by & for a Bangladeshi (or any Islamic) disaster victim, no doubt a mob would have gathered & finished off the job nature started.

    • Candee Bell

      Yes. I’m glad he didn’t start preaching to her like most would have. They had a good laugh and no one was hurt.

  • Taz

    At first I thought this was kind of amusing, but the more I think about it the angrier I get. Blitzer owes a public apology.

    “You gotta thank the Lord.”
    “Did you thank the Lord?”

    What kind of crap is that?
    Blitzer is the same sanctimonious jackass that demanded that Hilary Rosen look into the camera and apologize to Ann Romney.

    • Justin Miyundees

      Old Wolfie is eternally grateful to his Christian overlords and will toe the party line with glee. If it weren’t for George the First’s crusade, the old Scud Stud never would have hit the jackpot and he knows it!

  • Thin-ice

    Thank which Lord? Lord Krishna? Lord Jesus? Lord of the Rings? Lord Peter Whimsey? Help me out here Wolf . . .

  • White dove

    Well maybe you all should check this one out watch till the end , nobody even asked her if she thanked anybody
    God bless

    • Art_Vandelay

      Wow. Well, you win…I’m converted. Praise the lord!

      • White dove

        I’m glad , maybe that could save your dog one day :)

        • Gus Snarp

          I’d rather he had saved the ten children who died.

  • Melissa Cartun

    It’s sad that she felt the need to be apologetic about it by saying they don’t blame anybody who does thank the lord, as if she hadn’t said that then the assumption would be that she was a baby eating satanist who summoned the tornado herself. You don’t hear Christians say “we thank the lord but we don’t blame anyone who doesn’t.”

  • IsisUptown

    After I’d ordered my T-shirt, it came to light that I know Rebecca Vitsmum; when she was a teenager, and used her original surname, she dated my son for about a week, and she was among the teenagers who’d hang out at my apartment after school.

  • Rachel

    What king of moronic journalist brings their personal religious beliefs into an interview? Words fails me. What an idiot.

  • adam