Todd Akin interviewer denies blunt attack on Christianity

The most important story this week — do the math — has been the reaction to Rep. Todd Akin’s comments to an interviewer about what he called “legitimate rape.” While people have focused on Akin, it might be worth taking a closer look at the reporter who asked Akin the question about abortion and rape. It came during an appearance on The Jaco Report, hosted by veteran journalist Charles Jaco.

Yesterday I asked why reporters always ask consistent pro-life politicians about rape exceptions but never ask consistent pro-choice politicians about why they support abortion being legal moments before birth, or just because the child happens to be female, or because the child has Down syndrome.

I don’t know if Jaco has asked — or will be asking — Akin’s Senate race opponent Sen. Claire McCaskill good and tough abortion questions, but several days ago I was forwarded an email exchange a viewer says she had with him that gave me pause about his ability to impartially cover hot-button topics such as these.

The viewer was complaining about inaccurate statements that Jaco had made in an aimless commentary against Chick-fil-A. Here’s the note Sally Dooling sent to Jaco via an online form:

Name: George and Sally Dooling
Email: [redacted]

I do not have a question for Mr. Jaco–I have a comment.  The next time you want to quote the Bible in your commentary, I suggest you get your information correct.  I saw your very hateful comment on Chick-fil-A this afternoon and and you said that the Bible says that women are subservient to men.  The bible says no such thing.  It says that the wife is to be submissive to her husband and the husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the church.

The owner made a statement of his personal beliefs and said nothing about gay marriage or homosexuals.  He stated that he believes in the biblical meaning of marriage and said nothing demeaning about gay people.  The hate speech  that has been directed at him is just terrible and you add to that with your comment.

It’s a sad day in the U.S when someone can’t state their beliefs and sadly it happens all the time to Christians.

Phone: [redacted]

Time: Thursday August 2, 2012 at 4:47 pm
IP Address: [redacted]
Contact Form URL: http://fox2now.com/2012/02/07/contact-the-jaco-report/
Sent by an unverified visitor to your site.

Jaco didn’t respond to her complaint about his inaccurate statement about what the Bible says but he did respond with this:

This was NOT the man’s personal opinion. As a corporation, Chik Fil A has given over $5 million to anti gay rights groups. So what’s your problem? Sent from my Droid Charge on Verizon 4GLTE

The viewer responded:

What is YOUR problem–as a corporation why can’t they give some of their profits to whomever they want.  Corporations give money to different organizations every day without all the uproar.  You did not address the biblical part of my comment. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, as you are entitled to yours and so is Mr. Cathy. We have gay friends and we are not anti-gay, but the strong arm of the gay movement always talks about “TOLERANCE”, but they sure don’t practice what they preach.  Whenever someone disagrees with their agenda, that someone is called intolerant. I think they should practice what they preach.

Have a blessed day Mr. Jaco–I love a good debate. God bless you and your family.

Jaco then more or less lost it. He mixed some, at best, Sam Harris/Dan Savage-level Biblical exegesis with some garden variety bigotry and came up with this:

Since you choose to live as what Thomas Jefferson called, “…a prisoner of superstition,” I don’t imagine there’s much I can do to sway your belief in Bronze Age folk tales as some sort of direct communique from the creator.

I would expect you call yourself a Christian, which is amusing, given that the man you worship had a lot to say about tolerance, and not one word to say about homosexuals. Your bible is loaded with all sorts of admonitions on how to live one’s life. It’s your choice if you want to cherry-pick the bits that condemn men laying with men, and ignore the parts that say you shouldn’t consume swine, or shellfish, or that the woman should be subservient to the man. How does that sort of cafeteria religiosity work, anyway, where you can create a political movement against gay marriage with some quotes, and ignore the rest? As I recall parts of the bible, large chunks also defend slavery.

Gay marriage certainly doesn’t affect the sanctity of my marriage. I’m sorry if it somehow devalues yours. I’m even sorrier that you base your fear of it on something written by zealots half a world away 3,200 years ago.

Charles Jaco

What the what? “Prisoner of superstition” … “Bronze Age folk tales” … “direct communique from the creator” … “you base your fear” … “something written by zealots half a world away 3,200 years ago”? What in the world is this guy doing in the journalism business? And why do journalists not know that this is unprofessional behavior? I can’t be alone in thinking that this incivility — and refusal to admit error or correct an error — reflects poorly on our profession. We should always aim to treat our viewers/listeners/readers with respect.

I get that these types of bigoted views are sadly common among people who are in the media. It’s hard to ignore that those views make their way into decisions of how to cover the news, what questions to ask, how to frame the issues of the day, etc. But this is not a helpful way for journalists to respond to their listeners, readers or viewers. It certainly goes far to hurting trust between the media producers and consumers.

And if I were his employer, I’d think about whether he’s best suited to be interviewing religious conservatives, given his stated bias against them.

For his part, I emailed Jaco to confirm and he* wrote back to say he didn’t send the email that comes from his e-mail address and uses his name. He suggests that someone else in his newsroom is pretending to be him, although he doesn’t indicate knowledge of who that might be. I’ll go ahead and quote his response here:

I did not send the attached communication. The computers in the newsroom are public, and if we log on to our email and fail to log off, are accessable to anyone.

I don’t know if that includes the note that says it was sent from the Droid or just the one that I sent him for confirmation that included the sign-off “Charles Jaco,” but there you go.

*or someone using his email account, I guess.

  • Free Pioneer

    Being from St. Louis I have had my issues and confrontations with Mr. Jaco The most recent was when i called out his bias during an interview with the Archdiocese of Saint Louis, (he pretty much grilled the guy for a full 5 minutes) He replied back to me and called me a “right-wing nutjob”

    If you remember Jaco from his CNN days he was the guy that faked like he was in the middle east covering the gulf war in 1990, fake palm tree and all. From Youtube:

    Charles Jaco was the CNN reporter famous for covering the 1990 Persian Gulf War.

    The first part of this video shows the stage set he was on, and he was clowning around with fellow CNN staff. The Saudi Arabian “hotel” in the background were fake palm trees and a blue wall in a studio. This clip was leaked by CNN staff.

    The second part of this video was a live CNN satellite feed recorded onto VHS showing the final cut. Charles Jaco was wearing a different jacket, but he had the same act. The acting was terrible as Charles Jaco wore a gas mask, and his fellow correspondent Carl Rochelle wore a helmet. The sirens and missile sound effects are part of the stage set. The camera never pans out or shows the sky.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTWY14eyMFg

    No one should trust this guy, he’s a fake and a phoney.

  • http://profiles.google.com/JohnMcG JohnMcG

    I am also from St. Louis, and will say that Mr. Jaco has usually impressed me as a good, straightforward reporter.

    The question he posed to Rep. Akin is a standard question posed to pro-life people, and one Rep. Akin should have been prepared for.

    And Rep. Akin did not get into trouble by biased and deceptive reporting of his own words. He was buried by broadcasts of those actual words.

    In fact, I don’t think it reflects well on getreligion to focus on the person asking the questions rather than the questions themselves.

    • Vicki

      Really???? You don’t think “BIAS” counts for anything?
      Of course it’s been years ago since I took Journalism, but it appears that bias doesn’t matter anymore. Sad.

      • http://profiles.google.com/JohnMcG JohnMcG

        We’re all human beings and have biases that we take with us in any jobs we do.

        For it to “count for anything” one has to demonstrate the impact this bias has on how Jaco did his job. In my opinion, that Jaco asked Rep. Akin the same question that has been posed to every pro-life politician for the past several decades is insufficient to demonstrate that this has had such an impact.

  • mollie

    John McG,
    We don’t focus on politics here, we focus on media. I specifically have said that the question posed to Akin is asked all the time of pro-life politicians and is “good and tough.” And I personally agree that he should have been more than prepared for it, given the last several decades of that question being asked to the point of becoming a cliche. I have wondered why similar “good and tough” questions aren’t asked of consistent pro-choice politicians.
    I am not blaming anyone for Akin’s idiocy — it’s just that Akin’s idiocy is not a focus of this blog (there are eleventy billion other blogs on the internet where that theme is much discussed right now – I’ve even been taking part in some of them).
    We only focus on, well, the media issues. That means the people asking the questions and the questions themselves (as I have pointed out in this and previous posts). We don’t focus on the people responding to the questions or the issues that are raised.
    We keep this tight and narrow focus here pretty religiously.
    So for purposes of this discussion, we should focus on whether this exchange is professional, whether it indicates a deep bigotry against Christians that could affect one’s professional work, etc. I’m also curious if Jaco asks pro-choice politicians about Down syndrome babies, abortions targeting unborn children simply because they’re female and late-term abortions and the like. Consistency is called for in these debates, when it comes to journalistic integrity.

    • http://profiles.google.com/JohnMcG JohnMcG

      I, of course, am not a journalist, (and I am very pro-life though not an Akin supporter even before this incident), but I don’t see it that way.

      I imagine there exists a journalist who would ask a pro-choice candidate the questions you list, but not ask a pro-life candidate about rape exceptions. I would rather live in a world where both exist, both ask their questions, and politicians are accountable for answering them than one where journalist fear that if a politician flubs the perfectly fair question they are asked, then watchdogs will start digging up their private correspondence to hang them with.

      Either Jaco’s question to Congressman Akin was fair, or it wasn’t. The determination of that answer has little to do with his rude correspondence, the contents of his editorial comment, or whether he would ask another politician a similarly tough question.

      I have seen no evidence offered that this question was out of line, and this article smells of a “shoot-the-messenger” mindset that I find unseemly.

      • mollie

        JohnMcG,
        First off, let me say that I think you raise a good point and do so fairly. However, this was an issue that was brought to my attention after several people had begun discussing the correspondence. It merits coverage here.
        I am not bringing up Jaco because he asked Akin a perfectly typical question that you ask of consistent pro-life candidates. My own views on Akin probably could not be more negative, but that’s neither here nor there. And from what I see of the interview above, Jaco did fine. My only criticism would be that he didn’t hold Akin’s feet to the fire when he issued his “magical uterus” comments. However, I’m not going to criticize him for that because I sympathize with how one might be prepping for the next question and failing to listen acutely to what the listener said.

        Anyway, how journalists engage with viewers is definitely important. It’s part of a bigger issue we deal with all the time. Many people feel that journalists secretly believe, well, the types of things that were issued in the email above. I spend a lot of time trying to assure them that reporters are not bigoted against them, that they care about their craft and they aim to be fair.
        As part of that job, though, I must also point out why viewers sometimes get that impression and hold people accountable for giving that impression. Whether that’s someone in this newsroom impersonating Jaco — as he claims — or something else, it’s worthy of discussion here. I know that Jaco’s correspondent was taken aback by how she was treated. And to her credit, her biggest complaint is that he didn’t address her information about factual inaccuracy.

        Also, one final thing, you can imagine there exists a mainstream journalist who asks tough questions of pro-choice candidates but not pro-life candidates, but I wonder if you could name him or her. I can’t. I could probably name hundreds who fit the other category. We have to rely on journalists to set aside their own particular feelings on abortion — about which they care deeply, we know — and simply ask tough questions of everyone. If they need help developing those questions, they can talk to people who don’t share their ideology to see what they’d like asked.

  • Mike

    Isn’t there a journalism ethics problem with publishing private emails where you only have he consent of one party? If Jaco says he didn’t write the emails, why are you reprinting unvarified Emile between private people?

    • mollie

      Good question, Mike. However, Jaco is a public figure. I did make sure to run the offending comment by Jaco and print up his response. I made it abundantly clear that Jaco (or someone using his email account and name) says these emails, which came from his email account and include his name in the sign-off, did not come from him. And the headline is that he denies he wrote these comments. Nowhere in the email thread is there any indication that the parties wanted it kept private. I attempted confirmation with both parties (I didn’t receive the emails from either of the original parties). Ms. Dooling was still upset by her treatment (and Jaco’s failure to correct his original mistake). And Jaco didn’t ask me to not run these emails — he denied that he had sent them.
      I don’t know what else to say.
      I’m sure that Jaco is currently getting to the bottom of whoever hijacked his email account to issue bigoted comments and harass viewers in his name. If I were the station manager, I’d figure it out pretty darn quick, too.

      • mollie

        For what it’s worth, I’ve asked KTVI what they’re doing to get to the bottom of who sent this email (and to just confirm what Jaco said is true). I’ll let you know when they respond.

        • mollie

          And the mgmt at KTVI responds that they will be looking into the issue and will let us know what they find out.

        • deiseach

          Mollie, I’d be inclined to believe he didn’t send the e-mail (whatever his own opinions on religion might be). I seriously doubt that the ‘stars’ or ‘talent’ slog through the letters, comments on blogs, emails, etc. that are generated by a programme – that’s the kind of job the unpaid intern gets.

          Anyone want to bet the investigation will reveal it was Jake Nobody, go-fer (unpaid) who actually sent out the message and that his is the head that will roll?

  • Steven

    The bulk of the post is about Mr. Jaco’s statement re christianity not the fairness of his question. Shouldn’t he also know how to respond professionally, or at least how to log off. Mollie also stated that she thought Akin’s comments were idiotic. Also these are no more private than letters to the editor. Why shouldn’t people like Jaco or Mollie for that matter except to be scrutinized.

  • http://www.twitter.com/beliefbeat Nicole Neroulias

    Perhaps pro-life politicians get asked tougher questions about abortion because they’re the ones seeking to change state and federal laws. The pro-choice politicians already have the law on their side.

    Also, I guess we’re sticking with “pro-life” and “pro-choice” here, not the AP Style recommendation for “pro-abortion rights” and “anti-abortion?” At least for now – sometimes these things take time. Or is there an objection to the recommendation?

    • mollie

      Oh right, that must explain why people trying to change change state and federal laws about marriage get asked the tough questions, right?
      Oh wait. That can’t be it. I wonder if there’s something else at play.
      Anyway, I bet tmatt would prefer I use the AP style (as I’m sure he’ll tell me here shortly) but those phrases are so loaded that I prefer to just go with the self-descriptors. The abortion debate is so fraught as it is, it seems a small gesture toward civility.

      • http://www.twitter.com/beliefbeat Nicole Neroulias

        The same-sex marriage issue doesn’t have much gray area, especially not compared to the abortion debate (stage of pregnancy, where does life begin, circumstances of conception, gender selection, paternal rights, implications for contraception and IVF, etc. etc. etc.). And that’s neither here nor there, but I would also posit that the greater burden of proof is on the side arguing to criminalize a legally protected freedom, not the other way around.

        • mollie

          Um, OK.

        • http://www.issuesetc.org Todd Wilken

          “a legally protected freedom”
          Freedom to do what?

  • Mary

    ” My only criticism would be that he didn’t hold Akin’s feet to the fire when he issued his “magical uterus” comments.”-Mollie
    Magical uterus? Really? Is that showing journalistic integrity?

    • mollie

      You’re right. I am wrong. That’s beneath me.

  • http://www.issuesetc.org Todd Wilken

    Now, how can I be sure that Mollie’s last comment really came from Mollie? Are we altogether sure it isn’t someone posing as Mollie using her account?

    • mollie

      You make an excellent point. Who is writing this comment right now? It’s a mystery.

  • http://fkclinic.blogspot.com tioedong

    I always wondered: If I give money to an organization that teaches Confucian values, will I be called a bigot and a follower of a Bronze age philosopher?

  • Bill McKenzie

    I live in St. Louis and have heard Charles Jako many times. He varies his words from centrist to extreme left. The quotes attributed to him above are very typical of what I have heard when he is in the mood to insult Christians.
    I too wonder why Todd Aiken and his staff did not prepare for this standard question from an extremely liberal pro-Obama journalist shortly before a pivotal election in which the Missouri Senatorial contest many well determine who controls the Senate. Amazingly naive! Why didn’t they know?

  • Will

    Uh, didn’t Weiner give “my account was hacked” as an excuse?

  • John M.

    Nicole,

    If you are unable to see the shades of gray in the gay “marriage” debate, it’s because you haven’t looked very hard. But of course nobody in the mainstream media has hel

  • John M.

    Sorry–somehow my thumb reached up and hit the “Done” button, which I guess in the new forum means “Publish”.

    The mainstream media certainly hasn’t helped you to think deeply about these issues, so I guess I can understand your confusion.

    -John

    • http://www.twitter.com/beliefbeat Nicole Neroulias

      There are shades of gray in every debate, but the abortion debate is much, much more complex than the gay marriage debate! You’d be better of comparing it to the gun control debate, since both abortion and guns are legal, there’s life/death issues at stake, and there’s a plurality of people falling somewhere between advocating allowing everything and banning everything — and those who feel something along the lines of, “I don’t like this personally, but I don’t support outlawing it for everyone else.”

      But in any case, this is off topic. I’m sure there will be a post here soon complaining about “liberal media” coverage of the upcoming state votes on gay marriage, and we can discuss it then.

      As for bias: there are now THREE posts here arguing that the mainstream media, including the reporter involved in the Akin exchange, are the bad guys here and NO examination of what role Akin’s religious education and community played in his outrageous comments, his erroneous beliefs, and his expectations of forgiveness. No bias there?

      • sari

        Thank you, Nicole. One thing I noted in the initial coverage, and something that usually gets GR bloggers upset, was journalists’ failure to specify–explicitly–that Akin was Christian and the denomination to which he belongs. The reader was left to infer Akin’s religion from Mike Huckabee’s comments. No mention at all was made of Akin’s religious affiliation. Is he Baptist, Catholic, Pentacostal, Mormon? Heck if I know. The first AP article:

        http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=335&articleid=20120819_335_0_SLUSMs97396
        Later articles riff off the first. Most of the other newsfeeds were similar. As a reader, I sure would like to know what Huckabee meant when he referred to Akin as a “a Bible-based Christian”. That phrase alone deserves to be explored and expanded for the reader.

        • Jami

          Mr. Akin has a Masters of Divinity degree from a seminary associated with the Presbyterian Church in America.


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