Brangelina! Obama! God! Exclamation points!

I know, I know. I know that it’s absolutely crazy to look for hard, factual material in stories about celebrities — especially when it has anything to do with politics and religion. And in this case, we are talking about the brightest of all possible gossip stars.

I mean, you write the big headline and then you wait for all of those search-engine clicks to roll in. You know, headlines like this one over at Fox News:

EXCLUSIVE: Jon Voight defends Brad Pitt’s mom after she gets death threats for penning anti-Obama letter to the editor.

That’s a perfect storm, right?

However, the story itself has practically zero content of any kind, even by entertainment news standards. In case you have been avoiding cable television or the Internet, here is the top of this Fox News report. Don’t worry, you can find this same story content — for all practical purposes — up and running on websites of every shape and size.

LOS ANGELES – You can always count on family.

Last week, Brad Pitt’s mother Jane Pitt hit headlines after penning a response letter-to-the-editor of her local newspaper, Missouri’s Springfield News Leader, in which she advocated support for Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, referring to him as a “a family man with high morals, business experience, who is against abortion, and shares Christian conviction concerning homosexuality.”

“Any Christian who does not vote or writes in a name is casting a vote for Romney’s opponent, Barack Hussein Obama — a man who sat in Jeremiah Wright’s church for years, did not hold a public ceremony to mark the National Day of Prayer, and is a liberal who supports the killing of unborn babies and same-sex marriage,” she continued. “I hope all Christians give their vote prayerful consideration because voting is a sacred privilege and a serious responsibility.”

However, it seems the backlash surrounding Jane’s opinion has become so vehement that she has reportedly been “scared into silence.”

Yes, “reportedly” is in play, more than once. So is “according to” and other construction devices of that kind. I mean, if crazy people are saying crazy things on Twitter, can’t those anti-bigotry-bigotry quotes be served up from the source itself?

Oh well. Whatever. Nevermind. Exclamation points must be used!

What caught my attention, as you would expect, is the link between this headline-fueling statement and Jane Pitt’s religious affiliation — which remains unknown in most stories. It’s actually pretty easy to click a mouse one or two times and find out that she is an active Southern Baptist.

Does this matter? Well, this decision by a kind-of-celebrity Southern Baptist to raise her voice in defense of a Mormon presidential candidate, who may or may not be under attack by other evangelicals, is kind of interesting. Yes, she also took swipes at President Obama. But the key to the letter is her defense of Romney. Why not cite her actual religious affiliation? It seems relevant to me.

While we’re at it, it wouldn’t hurt to toss in one sentence on Brad Pitt’s professions of atheist-agnostic belief. I don’t know about other readers, but I would be interested in knowing when he left the faith of his youth. Also, now that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are ready to consent to marriage (they have long delayed as a protest, showing their support for those seeking same-sex marriage to be legalized), it would be interesting to know if the wedding will be purely secular or some form of sacred. The betting money appears to be on Buddhism.

As if this story needed one more wrinkle, along comes another major Hollywood voice:

But Mrs. Pitt has at least one high-profile supporter on her daughter-in-law’s side of the family: Jolie’s dad Jon Voight!

“Good for her,” Voight told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column, adding that he agrees with the points-of-view expressed by Jane.

As you would expect, the religious affiliation of Voight isn’t relevant, either. Inquiring minds might want to know that he is a practicing Roman Catholic.

Not that facts matter in stories of this kind. Happy searching and clicking.

PHOTO: This week’s search-engine trinity.

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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.

  • Jerry

    I have a question: Is there someone in media outlets assigned to have eyeball generating stories written? You know, the kind that draw eyeballs to the ads? It seems that celebrity-politics-religion-scandal-threat stories are just perfect for advertisers.

    The intent behind a serious news story is or should be to accurately convey important news. And GR reviews such stories for ghosts, inaccuracies etc.

    Maybe for this kind of story a different yardstick is needed? Maybe it should be evaluated simply on the web/tv/newspaper traffic it generates and any subsequent uptick in advertising results?

  • tmatt


    That’s a given in my post and even in my snarky headline.

    In this case, I actually thought that even A LITTLE hard information on religion actually made the story more interesting — even as a celebrity story.

  • The_Archer_of_the_Forest

    Wow, that article is truly special.

  • tmatt


    Which article? Just trying to make sure I know the target of your arrow.

  • Bill

    Have the Kardashians weighed in on this? Enquiring minds want to know.

  • whispersinthegallery

    Why didn’t Brad defend his mom right to have a different opinion?

  • Mike Hickerson

    This post has now given me the image of Mrs. Pitt and Jon Voight at Thanksgiving dinner, pestering Brad and Angelina about when they’re getting married, why the kids aren’t going to church, whatever happened to the Storybook Bible they gave the kids last Christmas…

  • Aly

    Mrs. Pitt’s letter to the editor was in response to a previous letter from a man discouraging people from voting for Mitt Romney because of his Mormon faith. This piece of information showed up in some stories regarding “the letter” but was left out of others, including this one.

  • matt

    Really, you linked to a Nirvana song? Pathetic.