Fox! Muslim! Easter!

    Despite the fact that America’s foremost phony issue has now been laid to rest, it would be naive in the extreme to assume that birthers will renounce their batty ways and rejoin the real world. More likely, they’ll simply find other avenues for their fevered imaginations. The whole point of their mental exercise is to cast Barack Obama as an UnAmerican Other, and that won’t change. For starters, he’s still black. And he still has the kind of name that sounds like maybe he’s a Muslim who maybe disdains Christians…Bingo!And to keep that meme alive, we shall always have Fox News. I’m referring, of course, to its coverage of the president’s purported War on Easter.Last Dec. 17, on this page, I detailed a ground-breaking national poll (sponsored by The Program on International Policy Attitudes, at the University of Maryland) which vividly demonstrated that self-identified frequent viewers of Fox News are far less cognizant of factual reality than those who regularly tune in elsewhere. And given the latest fact-challenged episode, it’s no wonder.If you happened to watch Fox the other day, you would have gotten the impression that Obama the secret Muslim has been busy dissing all things Jesus. What follows is a key exchange between Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy and his honored guest, veteran crackpot pastor Richard Jeffress.Doocy: “What do you think about the fact that this White House has never issued an official proclamation regarding Easter, which is one of Christianity’s most sacred holidays?”Jeffress: “Steve, let’s look at what’s really going on here. On the one hand, we have a president who never met a Muslim holiday he didn’t like, or at least wasn’t willing to issue a proclamation for, and on the other hand, here he is refusing to acknowledge publicly the most important event in Christian faith, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and yet the White House is wondering why do 20 percent of Americans believe the president is a Muslim? Well as my kids would say, ‘Duh.’ I mean, it’s actions like these that really make people wonder what it is the president really believes.”Doocy: “Do you think this was just a sloppy work on the part of the White House, where, you know, ‘We probably should have done it, but we just didn’t do it,’ or do you think there is something else behind it?Jeffress: “I really think, Steve, there’s only one of two explanations. Either he has advisers who are telling him that it’s politically expedient to ignore Christianity and elevate other world religions like Islam and if that’s the case, Republicans need to pray that those advisers stay in place through the 2012 election cycle. The only other explanation is that there is something deep within the president himself that will not allow him to issue these public proclamations about Christianity, when he on Easter will issue a proclamation about Earth Day or he will recognize Muslim holidays. I think either explanation is deeply troubling for Christians.”Credulous Fox viewers would never have known, from hearing those two guys, that Obama (a) attended an Easter service, (b) presided over the annual Easter egg roll on the South Lawn, perpetuating a Christian tradition that dates back more than 130 years, and (c) hosted his second annual Easter prayer breakfast.At the prayer breakfast, Obama said that “as busy as we are, as many tasks as pile up, during this season, we are reminded that there’s something about the resurrection – something about the resurrection of our savior, Jesus Christ, that puts everything else in perspective….It calls me to pray. It calls me to ask God for forgiveness for the times that I’ve not shown the grace to others, those times that I’ve fallen short. It calls me to praise God for the gift of our son – his Son and our Savior.”Fox’s goal was to ensure that Fox fans remained blissfully ignorant of (a), (b), and (c) – especially the copious comments within (c) – and to instead gin up outrage over Obama’s failure to honor Easter with an official proclamation. As Jeffress lamented, “it’s actions like these that really make people wonder what it is the president really believes.”Fox fans were thus led to assume that Obama was alone among U.S. presidents in declining to issue an Easter proclamation – further evidence of his otherness. But Fox & Friends failed to inform Fox fans about certain fascinating statistics that are easily accessible here, courtesy of The American Presidency Project. It’s a list of presidential proclamations, year by year. All you need to do is scroll down to the Easter season in any given year.The number of official Easter proclamations issued by George W. Bush: Zero.The number of official Easter proclamations issued by Bush’s father: Zero.The number of official Easter proclamations issued by Ronald Reagan: Zero.It’s no mystery why these empirical facts were not fed to Fox fans. Evidence and context are for wusses. The fear factor, endlessly reaffirmed, is what keeps the credulous coming back for more. The mere release of a long-form birth certificate certainly won’t deter Fox from its dumb-down mission – particularly now, with an election on the horizon, and with so many other avenues for innuendo.——-In a newspaper column this morning, I wrote about the current status of unusually fluid and ill-defined Republican presidential race. Don’t forget the first debate, to be aired on Fox next Thursday (although, given the paltry lineup, you may opt to skip it). Meanwhile, the latest news is that Republicans are anxiously awaiting word from Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. Will he or won’t he?At the moment, by the way, he’s stuck with quite a dilemma. Indiana, courtesy of its legislature yesterday, became the first state to cut off all government money for Planned Parenthood. Will Daniels sign this bill? If he does sign, he’ll please the social and religious conservatives who suspect that he might be too moderate for their tastes (at a winter confab, he said that the GOP should shelve its morality crusade by declaring a “truce” on social issues) – but he’ll tick off the landslide American majority that wants Planned Parenthood to keep its funding. On the other hand, if he decides to veto the bill, he’ll please the landslide American majority but alienate the social and religious conservatives who dominate the early Republican contests in Iowa and South Carolina.If Daniels vetoes and still decides to seek the nomination, he is a brave man indeed.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.