In the grand tradition of the guy who apologized to Dick Cheney for getting his face in front of the vice president’s shotgun blast a few years ago, Janet Mefferd is apologizing to Christian right superstar Mark Driscoll for catching him plagiarizing.
Mefferd, one of the most extreme of the right wing radio hosts, started attacking Driscoll for plagiarizing long portions of some of his books. And she had him pretty much dead to rights on it. But then, it seems, pressure was brought to bear and Mefferd started backtracking:
“The interview should not have occurred at all, I should have contacted Tyndale House [Driscoll’s publisher] directly to alert them to the plagiarism issue and I never should have brought it to the attention of listeners publicly. I would like to apologize to all of you and to Mark Driscoll for how I behaved, I am sorry.”
Notice that she doesn’t say she was wrong (and she wasn’t), only that she should not have revealed his total lack of ethics publicly. One of her producers, Ingrid Schlueter, has resigned over it and posted the following to a Christian web forum:
I was a part-time, topic producer for Janet Mefferd until yesterday when I resigned over this situation. All I can share is that there is an evangelical celebrity machine that is more powerful than anyone realizes. You may not go up against the machine. That is all. Mark Driscoll clearly plagiarized and those who could have underscored the seriousness of it and demanded accountability did not. That is the reality of the evangelical industrial complex…
I’ve read much speculation online, which is understandable given the confusing situation, most of it dead wrong. Being limited in what I can share, let me just say that truth tellers face multiple pressure sources these days. I hosted a radio show for 23 years and know from experience how Big Publishing protects its celebrities. Anything but fawning adulation for those who come on your show (a gift of free air time for the author/publisher by the way) is not taken well. Like Dr. Carl Trueman so aptly asked yesterday in his column at Reformation 21, does honest journalism have any role to play in evangelicalism now? (It was rhetorical.) My own take on that question is, no, it does not. The moment hard questions are asked, the negative focus goes on the questioner, not the celebrity, when there is something that needs scrutiny. Those who have the temerity to call out a celebrity have tremendous courage. The easiest thing in the world is to do fluffy interviews with fluffy guests on fluffy books. So hats off to those like Janet who have the courage to ask at all. And my own opinion on Mr. Driscoll is that despite the bravado, despite the near silence of his Reformed peers and enablers, his brand is damaged, and damaged by his own hand.
And to underscore her point, that posting was later removed from the forum too. And as Right Wing Watch points out, this is not the first time Schlueter has said something like this.
Schleuter used to work for VCY America’s Crosstalk (whose host is her father, Vic Eliason). But she left in 2011, warning that “the mafia crime families have nothing on ‘Christian ministry.’”
Pass the popcorn.