As CBS prepared to throw in the towel on its "meticulously researched" fictional hit piece on the Reagans, another network found the imaginative capacity for a much more offensive production. On Nov. 3, ABC "News" -- one has to use quote marks here -- devoted an hour-long special to a bizarre conspiracy theory based in a best-selling novel. Yes, a novel, and the novelist asserts that Jesus Christ, known to many millions of Americans as the Son of God, was really just a misunderstood married fellow with a child.
The novel is "The Da Vinci Code," and the author, Dan Brown, was ABC's king for a day. His storyline has Jesus married to Mary Magdalene, who had a child and left after the Crucifixion to protect his bloodline. A secret society forms to protect this uncomfortable genetic truth from an oppressive, lying Catholic Church, a society that supposedly included Leonardo Da Vinci.
The program's host, ABC reporter Elizabeth Vargas, claimed she would reveal "surprising truths" about this bizarre thesis. But over and over, it was apparent ABC had not uncovered a thing. They used the strange journalistic method of interviewing a pile of experts in a field -- such as art history -- then admitting that "we could only find one art historian" who believed that the figure of the apostle John in Da Vinci's painting of the Last Supper is really a woman. Then they let the expert with whom everyone else disagreed expound on his oddball theories for five minutes.
Wouldn't you think that in the hard-bitten, skeptical environs of the television news business -- where the mottoes boast about "if your mother says she loves you, check it out" -- this entire concept would be laughed right out the window before it started? A "news" special based on a novel? A news special making "extraordinary claims" about Jesus being a husband and a father, which at the end of 60 minutes, admits it has really not located any empirical evidence to support itself? There's not enough evidence in this special for a two-minute E! channel news story, let alone a 60-minute ABC broadcast.
In short, this story is a journalistic atrocity, a complete abandonment of professionalism. It should be more embarrassing for ABC than the network's trumped-up Food Lion fakery. Geraldo found more in Al Capone's vault than the goods ABC tried to pin on the Catholic Church. They have lost complete control of their journalistic senses and now babble with an irreligious incontinence. It was so bad that the New York Times (!) trashed it as "woolly and underthought." ABC's liberal political and cultural agenda clearly was more important than its reputation.