Mendacity, Mitt and Mormonism

MSNBC host Martin Bashir has a show that the cable network pitches as “Martin Bashir takes viewers across America and the globe to uncover the hidden side to the day’s events, with thoughtful and provocative interviews with the people you’re talking about.” It turns out it’s even worse than it sounds.

A few weeks ago, we had a few readers send in links to Bashir bashing Rick Santorum for not giving as much of his tithe money to the church as Bashir thought he should. Readers felt that maybe Bashir should have mentioned the large out-of-pocket expenses the Santorums pay for the care of their disabled child.

But I never know how much we should care about what happens on cable news. The standards seem so low and it’s hard to tell what’s news and what’s just showboating. But my husband sent me a link to a show Bashir had last week which was, at best, ridiculous.

You can watch it above or read the transcript at this link, but here’s a sample.

Today, we wanted to focus on what Mormonism says about lying and the reason is quite simple – Mr. Romney seems to be having some trouble telling the truth. In fact, yesterday, Mitt the Mendacious offered a hat trick of falsehoods.

But his third lie, yesterday, appears to be his all-time favorite. This is his utterly false claim that the president promised to keep unemployment below a certain level.

Mitt the Mendacious knows full well that the president never, ever said such a thing. In fact, that figure of eight percent was a speculative projection, written by two analysts, with limited access to data, and well before the president was even inaugurated. But much more to the point – it is something that the president has never written nor said. But it doesn’t matter how many times he hears the truth, Mitt Romney prefers to tell lies.

Which brings us to the moral codes of Mormonism that Mr. Romney claims to live by. In section 63 and verse 17 of the Doctrine and Covenants of the Mormon Church we find this: “All liars, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie, and the whoremonger, and the sorcerer, shall have their part in that lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

And from the Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 2:34, we find this: “Wo unto the liar, for he shall be thrust down to hell.” Given what the Book of Mormon is clearly saying, Mr. Romney has but two choices – he can either keep lying and potentially win the White House but bring eternal damnation upon himself, or he can start telling the truth. The question for him, I guess, is: which is more important?

Now, the point is not to discuss the politics of this all. Whether you support Romney or don’t, whether you think that Romney has lied about President Obama or whether Bashir is himself having trouble with the truth, that’s really not a helpful avenue for us to pursue.

I only wanted to include a brief portion of the “mendacious” claim for context.

Bashir’s hit was so over-the-top that it’s received some media attention itself. I can only assume that’s Bashir’s intention. In fact, Bashir is known for his mawkish journalism or hostile and (many would say) unfair interviews.

But, on the other hand, Bashir is an MSNBC anchor, a Dateline contributor and, previously, a Nightline anchor. It’s not like this is just some pundit on the airwaves.

If you’re going to condemn a political adversary to eternal damnation on account of his lying, is it necessary or even helpful to pull out the Mormon scriptures? Why not simply mention the 10 Commandments themselves since Mormon’s also hold them? Is there a journalistic defense of Bashir’s attack?

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  • http://ecben.wordpress.com Will

    I take it that other Christians are just fine with lying, according to Mr. Bashir?

  • Jettboy

    No. Then again what defense can be made that there is still journalism? By the way, in Mormon speak, what he said is acting out of bounds of his acclisiastical authority. If Romney is truely worthy of damnation there are people who preside over him that have the right and authority to act. Bashir isn’t one of them. That is why you will probably find even liberal Mormons offended by these remarks.

  • Jeff

    Where or where would we be without the muscular liberals of MSDNC (Bashir, O’ Donnell, Olbermann, Matthews) weighing in manfully with red faces, bulging veins, and thrill-tingled legs on the finer points of Christian and now Mormon theology and all the religious controversies of the day?

  • Jeff

    I don’t mean to imply above that Mormons aren’t Christians, just that Bashir and his like are now intervening in Mormon theological discussion the way they always have in its Catholic and Protestant counterparts.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    By the way, I have no idea why I originally used the word “mendaciousness” instead of mendacity. I blame a lack of coffee.

  • Dave

    To my perception Bsshir is cable opinion and thus not in the central focus of GR as I understand it. I think it’s pointless to try to drain that swamp.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Dave,

    He seems like a cable opinion guy to me, too. But, on the other hand, MSNBC describes him as a news anchor. I actually debated about whether to even post it but since it had received media attention beyond the original broadcast, I figured it was worthwhile.

  • sari

    If you’re going to condemn a political adversary to eternal damnation on account of his lying, is it necessary or even helpful to pull out the Mormon scriptures? Why not simply mention the 10 Commandments themselves since Mormon’s also hold them? Is there a journalistic defense of Bashir’s attack?

    There is no defense for his attack on Romney or that MSN parades this as news or even commentary. One can find similar attacks from the opposite direction on other networks, but that doesn’t make it right. Disgusting and the reason why we no longer watch news on television.

    To which commandment do you refer? The third, which prohibits swearing an oath in G-d’s name (e.g., swearing on Scripture before giving testimony in court) or the ninth, which forbids slander and gossip? Neither directly prohibits lying, which may be the only ethical course of action in some circumstances.

    My choice would be number nine. Bashir engaged in deliberate defamation of character. Cherry picking Mormon Scripture was unnecessary and inappropriate. It suggested that Mormons live by a different moral/ethical code than other Americans, another dis and definitely not the case.

  • Ann

    I frequently wonder why many/most religion coverage of politicians ignores blatant lies. For me it is a fundamental determination on whether the politician lives the claimed religious beliefs and whether the individual is trustworthy.

  • Chris Bugbee

    Contrast Bashir’s:

    Given what the Book of Mormon is clearly saying, Mr. Romney has but two choices – he can either keep lying and potentially win the White House but bring eternal damnation upon himself, or he can start telling the truth. The question for him, I guess, is: which is more important?

    with Mollie’s redaction:

    “If you’re going to condemn a political adversary to eternal damnation on account of his lying, ”

    and you see the problem. Bashir did not say (or condemn) what Mollie says he said. Rather, he cited relevant scripture (at least in his view) from the Book of Mormon and challenged the candidate to reconcile the apparent contradiction between Mormon teaching on the subject and Romney’s behavior.

    So I would ask Mollie to cite specifically about what makes the substance of Bashir’s question journalistically out of bounds.

  • Jettboy

    Chris, read my number three. That is what makes it out of bounds! If he really wanted to make more than political points then his words would have been delivered to the LDS Leadership and that in private. As it stands, his pontification shows he has no idea what Mormonism is other than a lone quote from the Book of Mormon.

  • Jettboy

    sorry, number two response.

  • http://forgottencenotaph.blogspot.com J. Lahondere

    I actually agree with Chris on this one and I’m LDS. The man claims to be a Mormon. While it’s true that all Christians are against lying and bearing false witness “Wo unto the liar, for he shall be thrust down to Hell,” is a very popular scripture in the LDS community. Romney claims to be Mormon but is engaging in the sinful act of willfully misleading people (at least according to Bashir).

    He used uniquely Mormon examples against Romney because Romney is Mormon. Would it not be appropriate to do the same with a practicing Muslim politician and the Koran?

    As for Jettboy’s response about ecclesiastical leaders: they are not in charge of condemning people to Hell, at least not in the Latter-day Saint religion. Lying is between the man, the person he lied to, and God. If a person lies that’s not usually enough to put your church membership in jeopardy.

    It may be silly showboating but I understood Bashir’s point. It’s definitely “commentary” and not “news,” though.

  • Stan

    It is certainly true that many self-confessed Christians frequently lie–indeed, I suspect that Christians regularly bear false witness–but I think Bashir’s point in looking specifically at Mormonism and Mormon doctrine about lying was to acknowledge that many Christians do not accept Mormonism are truly Christian. If Mormons are not Christian, then they are not bound by the Judeo-Christian books that are superseded by the holy books of Mormonism.

  • Jettboy

    Stan, I have no idea what you mean. Not sure I want to know because Mormonism is NOT superseded by the Judeo-Christian books as they accept the Bible as the Word of God.

    J., you aren’t as far off from my point as might be supposed. Since, “Lying is between the man, the person he lied to, and God,” then Bashir still has no reason to be condemning Romney. That is pretty much what he was doing. He basically called him a liar and then used religious scriptural authority as declaring a penalty. The only people who have that authority on this earth in LDS terms is his Priesthood leaders to excommunicate or disfellowship. They haven’t even done that to Harry Reid who lots of Mormons wish would have LDS Church sanctions carried out on him. Now that is a story that is getting missed.

  • http://friarsfires.blogspot.com Brett

    I think Mr. Bashir may have been trying to be satirical but simply didn’t deploy any subtlety in support of it and thus wound up sounding weird at best and prejudicial at worst. I think a similar omission hamstrung his observation earlier this week that Mr. Romney’s teetotaling ways made him unlikely to be an effective president.

  • http://themcj.com Christopher Johnson

    A few days after that, Marty said that Governor Romney shouldn’t be president because he doesn’t drink. So anything the Bash says about Romney should be taken with three or four salt mines.

  • Jerry

    He seems like a cable opinion guy to me, too. But, on the other hand, MSNBC describes him as a news anchor

    . Of course someone can be both. So the question is was he acting as a news anchor or an opinion guy?

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Friends,

    This is not the place to go into politics or defend or attack Romney or defend or attack Democrats. Keep comments focused on journalism.

    I’ve had to delete quite a few here.

  • http://www.smitemouth.com smitemouth

    Well, if Bashir was to pull out Scripture to rebuke Romney, it would make sense to pull out the Mormon ones since they hold them to be at a higher level than the OT/NT. Mormon doctrine holds that there are errors in the OT/NT because they haven’t been translated correctly.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Are we not to mention it if a so-called TV journalist appears to clearly be following what has been mentioned many times in the media is part of one political party’s playbook to attack another candidate AND that involves the candidate’s religion as part of the attack??? Sometimes all 3 are tightly intertwined: politics,journalism, and religion.

  • TElden

    I used to respect Martin Bashir, for example, when he did the Michael Jackson interviews, but since he has been on msnbc his prejudices against conservatives has been so blatant, even to the point of attacking conservative candidates over their religion, that I no longer give him any credibility. Bashir may think he is calling Romney to account for “lying”, but you won’t find him calling his buddy, Obama, to account for lying.

  • Julia

    Seems to me that Bashir is yet another in a line of British provocateurs like Ricky Gervais and Piers Morgan who are hired because they get a rise out of people in the US.

    The NYT was on to Piers Morgan right off the bat. Say provocative things and everybody will talk about you and boost ratings. Nothing different with Bashir.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/17/business/media/17cnn.html

  • KWelch

    It is 2 Nephi 9:34 (that is “NINE – thirty four”)

    Wo unto the aliar, for he shall be thrust down to hell.9:34

    I would say that a lie is only a lie if one knowingly says something untrue. Otherwise it is a mistake.

    Yes…The Bible says it sufficiently in the 10 commandments.

  • Raymond Takashi Swenson

    Bashir is arrogating himself the authority to pass judgment on another person, to the point of saying they should go to hell. But God makes it clrar in the Bible AND the Book of Mormon that it us God’s prerogative to pass judgment on men, not ours. Bashir asserys the authority to act in God’s name to pass judgment on the character of Romney’s actions. that is “taking the name of the Lord in vain”, a violatuon of the ten commandments. He is a self-serving hypocrite.

  • http://joelsmonastery.blogspot.com Rameumptom

    What Bashir misses by cherry picking quotations is the Book of Mormon (and Bible) also says that mankind may repent of sins and be saved. God recognizes that we are not perfect.

    You’ll note the Doctrine and Covenants states that it is the person who makes and loves lying that shall be thrust to hell. First, one must determine if Romney was actually lying. Bashir claims so, but from what I’ve read and studied and remember Pres Obama saying, I do not think so. Yes, perhaps words can be nuanced, but what Pres Obama said could be viewed in various ways – meaning that Romney isn’t lying, just taking one of several valid interpretations of the event. This is what historians and journalists do all the time: they take the known facts and interpret them, often leaning to whatever bias they may have. That does not mean it is a lie.

    Even if Romney lied, does it mean he loves lying? Is he embracing evil things intentionally and eternally, in order to move ahead? Pres Obama is also a Christian. Has he and his people not “lied” regarding certain things before? For example, they were calling Romney a flip-flopper, but now claim he is a hard right winger. Well, which one is it? He can’t be both at the same time, can he? Obviously, Mr Bashir could also provide a segment on Pres Obama’s proclivity to lie, as well. In the Bible, Revelation 21:8 clearly tells us that there is a place in hell for liars, which is basically what LDS-specific scripture also states. So, Pres Obama should be judged according to his lies and truths, as well, if Bashir chooses to be a real journalist, and not just a liberal goon.

  • Kyle

    Bashir is certainly wild in his exaggeration, but at least he got your attention. I must say he’s articulate and logical in his editorial, even if you disagree with him. If he makes a point it is that any pretense to the truth is getting thrown out the windows in the media and the lines between reporting and opinion are getting blurred. It should matter to people who try to adhere to religious morals, regardless of which faith or denomination. Integrity is seriously lacking all around.

  • Hector_St_Clare

    Re: Yes…The Bible says it sufficiently in the 10 commandments.

    I’m not sure it is specifically addressed in the Ten Commandments, you can raise question about what ‘bearing false witness against thy neighbour’ means exactly, and whether it forbids all lying, or just certain kinds. Other biblical verses do forbid lying categorically, e.g. Revelation 21:8.

    “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, *and all liars*, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”

  • John Pack Lambert

    I have to admit that I have never heard of Bashir before. Is he a journalist, or a cable editorial speaker? He seems more like the later.


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