Diane Sawyer wrinkles her nose in concentration

After looking at the tape more carefully, I have a somewhat more nuanced view (cue: lofty NPR background music) of Diane Sawyer’s PrimeTime special with Mel Gibson. She did not wrinkle her nose in disdain nearly as much as I thought she did.

Nevertheless, I still find it somewhat predictable that evangelical scholar Darrell Bock is labeled an “evangelical scholar,” while the other experts are all given more neutral titles. Take the Jewish scholar, for example. Was she Orthodox, Conservative or Reform? And that former priest, scholar John Dominic Crossen, is he consistently on the left side of every Catholic debate? Viewers might like to know things like that. The implication, again, is that there are conservative views on biblical issues and then there are normal, scholarly, sensible views.

But on second viewing, I was more impressed with the range of material covered in the actual quotations in the special. There were major insights. Clearly, Gibson is not going to speak ill of his father. But clearly the son has no doubts about the reality of the Holocaust.

It also seems that Gibson knows that there are historical and doctrinal issues on both the Jewish and Christian sides of the many historical questions about Jesus. As he told Sawyer:

Let’s get this out on the table and talk about it, you know. This is what the Talmud says. This is what the Gospel says. Let’s talk. Let’s talk. People are asking questions about things that have been buried a long time. … I hope it inspires introspection.

Finally, I was fascinated by Sawyer’s final remark. It seems that reporting this story created tension in the newsroom. Was it hard to be fair when covering such an emotional, complex topic? Here is all she would say: “One more note, we should point out that all of us at ABC News who worked on this report learned a lot about each other, too. We hope you join in our conversation.”

Perhaps ABC wants feedback, as well.

Print Friendly

About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • http://weblog.theviewfromthecore.com ELC

    “And that former priest, scholar John Dominic Crossen, is he consistently on the left side of every Catholic debate?” As far as I can tell, if he’s not effectively an atheist, he’s the next thing to it. It would surely be more accurate to call him, not merely a former priest, but a former Catholic, if not a former Christian altogether. (He argues that Jesus was not resurrected, but rather that his corpse was more likely dug up from a shallow grave eaten by wild dogs. I’m not making this up.) But it is instructive to recall how often he is trotted out by mainstream media — mostly because he largely agrees with them that all that Bible stuff is a bunch of superstitious rot.

  • http://god-of-small-things.blogspot.com/ Bob Smietana

    Amy-Jill Levine (the Conservative Jewish scholar) is the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of New Testament Studies at Vanderbilt.

  • jamey

    diane had a look on her face the whole time like “you actually *believe* this religion stuff… he isn’t making it up….”

    and the look on her face when mel told her ‘all of us are responsible’ was priceless… (using the classic robotic voice) “does not compute, does not compute, does not compute….”

    she really seemed amazed that he believed what he has been saying he believes all along.

  • Archie

    Please comment on two statements that Gibson made.

    1. That all people are children of God. (What happened to adoption?)

    2. That all faiths can reach heaven.

  • http://www.einvolved.org Stacy L.Harp

    Gibson is wrong about all of us being children of God. The Scripture clearly states that only those who have received Christ as Savior and Lord are God’s children.

    We are all created by God and we are all God’s creation. There is a major difference there.

    As for John Dominic Crossen, I believe he is part of the Jesus Seminar people who just flat out deny Jesus is who he said he is. I am not surprised at all that Sawyer used liberals to be her experts. They are afraid of the truth…which ultimately this is what all of this is about isn’t it.

    I am curious however about the conversations that took place among the staffers at ABC.

    I’m also curious about the other 4 hours of the interview with Mel and how long it actually took to cut and paste the worst parts of the interview so the world could see how crazy Gibson is for actually believing this stuff! :)

  • RedCleric

    I couldn’t help but smile when Sawyer asked, “what does Satan want?” and Mel said, “He wants you Diane.”

    I’m using it this week in my sermon.


  • http://www.knightopia.com/journal/ Steve K.

    “Distain,” Terry? Don’t you mean “disdain”? ;-)

  • http://www.knightopia.com/journal/ Steve K.

    Isn’t the Web great? You can fix little typos like “distain” to “disdain” with the click of a mouse. Try doing that with dead tree media!

    I was just having fun with you, Terry. Don’t you just love editors? LOL.

  • Dev Thakur

    In Catholic Theology, members of all faiths *can* be saved . . . but they are still saved through Jesus Christ, the Only Savior. So he didn’t contradict anything there. Way back in the 14th century, Dante puts non-Christians in Purgatory/Heaven. Secondly, we are God’s children in a very real sense because we are created by him in Love. We are in a much fuller sense his children when we become his adopted sons…adopted to hold a position of younger brother/sister to Jesus. So it’s quite a different and much greater thing. Even now, we are not fully children of God, because that fullness will only be in heaven.

    So maybe Mel’s phraseing wasn’t perfect, but I don’t think he said anything heretical.