For anyone unfamiliar with Rep. Vance McAllister, he’s a Louisiana congressman who ran on a Christian family values platform. But now he’s in trouble with some voters — and presumably his wife — after he got videotaped kissing a staff member (not a peck on the cheek, by the way).
Last week, I praised the serious, respectful nature of the New York Times’ reporting on McAllister’s predicament, his request for forgiveness and the various reactions of folks in his northeast Louisiana district.
It’s no surprise that a 1,700-word Washington Post Style section treatment of the same story contains more snark — and innuendo — on McAllister’s relationship with Melissa Anne Hixon Peacock:
The McAllisters and Peacocks were close friends. Two friends — speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation — said they thought it was unusual that McAllister seemed to openly flirt with Peacock in public, even sometimes when his wife was present.
Sorry, that’s not journalism. That’s gossip. But I digress.
Way up high, the Post portrays its piece as a story about politics and passion, God and sin, and yes, ducks (think the bearded, camouflaged Robertsons of “Duck Dynasty” fame, as the family supported McAllister’s candidacy).
Since this is GetReligion, we’ll focus on the “God and sin” part.
You have to read quite a bit about politics and passion before you get to the story’s religious content, but 1,000-plus words in, the Post presents this important background:
But, more than anything, he presented himself as a deeply religious family man.
In an ad that featured his wife and five children around a kitchen island, McAllister talked about their Sunday morning routine before going to church and urged voters to send him to Washington to “defend our Christian way of life.” In another ad, he said, “I need your prayers.”
Later, there’s this:
McAllister’s emphasis on his Baptist faith has intensified the reaction to his indiscretion. He represents an area that many here call the “buckle of the Bible Belt,” a heavily Protestant zone that is closer — geographically and in temperament — to Jackson, Miss., and Little Rock, Ark., than to New Orleans.
“It’s just another one of those tremendous disappointments,” Paul Hurd, a Monroe-area attorney, said. “You think you’re electing a good man. You don’t expect him to be kissin’ on the help.”
Since I live in Oklahoma City, I should interject here that I thought we were the “buckle of the Bible Belt.” That’s how The Associated Press described us earlier this year. And, as much as it pains me to admit it, I may have referred to Nashville, Tennessee (in keeping with a strange new AP style, I reluctantly spelled out that state name) as “the buckle of Bible Belt” in my own AP days.
More from the story:
After the video went viral, McAllister spoke in spiritual terms. “There’s no doubt I’ve fallen short and I’m asking for forgiveness,” he said in a statement, “asking for forgiveness from God, my wife, my kids, my staff, and my constituents.”
But the impression McAllister seemed so intent on imprinting was tempered by the pained reaction of the friend he’d betrayed. On CNN, Heath Peacock, who said he was “headed for divorce,” asserted that McAllister “broke out the religious card” during the campaign “and he’s about the most non-religious person I know.”
That’s it — the entirety of the religion angle in this story purportedly about “God and sin.” There’s no attempt to interview McAllister’s pastor. There’s no attempt to reach the Robertsons, who travel the country touting “faith, family and ducks.” There’s no real digging into McAllister’s Christian background at all. That’s a shame.
It’s like visiting Willie’s Duck Diner and getting a few spoonfuls of gumbo when you were counting on a full platter of frog legs, catfish fillets and fried oysters.
As a result, the Post story is simply not very filling. But for some reason, I’m suddenly feeling hungry.