You'd think Katie Couric would aspire to be an anchorwoman for all the American people now that CBS appears to be wooing her for the Throne of Rather. So why did she have to be so rough on Thomas Monaghan, the founder of Domino's Pizza, for being a Catholic?
Monaghan has an extraordinary American story. After struggling badly with his brother in a failing pizza business, he bought his brother out in 1960 and, by the 1980s, had accumulated amazing riches. He was enjoying them, too, all the gaudy trappings of success, and then he read the book "Mere Christianity" by C.S. Lewis. Reading about the great sin of pride, his life changed dramatically. He stopped concentrating on material things, instead focusing his energies, and his wealth, in pursuit of spiritual good. He poured millions upon millions of dollars into pro-life and Catholic philanthropy. Among other ventures, he founded Ave Maria University. After facing zoning problems with his first location in Michigan, Monaghan struck a deal in southern Florida, not to merely build a Catholic college, but a truly Catholic town, open to anyone aspiring to live in communion with traditional values.
That, of course, is when he earned the ire of Katie Couric. Monaghan and his developer partner Paul Marinelli appeared on the three network morning shows on March 3, but whereas ABC and CBS were calm, Couric's performance on NBC was so harsh it was jaw-dropping.
Not once throughout the entire interview did she salute him, thank him or congratulate him for his philanthropy. Monaghan is putting up a whopping $400 million to create an island of peace in a world gone mad, and she had nothing nice to say about it. She only joked lamely he was spending $400 million of his own "dough" (get it? As in pizza?) -- and moved straight to hardball.
As NBC dutifully plastered the words "Catholic Town USA" on screen, Couric began pestering Monaghan about his hope that pharmacists would not sell contraceptives there. She asked about it four times. After four denials, she started dropping the bombs. "Some people," she claimed, think Catholic values might be "deemed wholesome, but in other ways, I think people will see this community as eschewing diversity and promoting intolerance." Marinelli refused to take the bait, instead calmly explained that this town was open to all people of all faiths with a "traditional family value perspective." Couric was unconvinced and shot back, "Does that mean you would welcome Jewish residents?" It was an ugly question with the veiled accusation of bigotry lurking just below the surface.
And when she was done, she switched gears, clumsily dragging in words that suggest racism to the audience: "But do you think the tenets of the community might result in de facto segregation as a result of some of the beliefs that are being espoused by the majority of residents there?" What in the world was Couric imagining in Ave Maria, Fla. -- the great Catholic menace?
After pestering the Ave Maria duo about whether the cable TV system will be smutty enough, Couric returned to touting the "people" (and notice it's always "people" or "some people," never a source identified). "At the same time you can understand how people would hear some of these things and be, like, wow, this is really infringing on civil liberties and freedom of speech and right to privacy and all sorts of basic tenets this country was founded on? Right?"
Like, wow, Tom Monaghan is now un-American? Somehow, the concept of freedom of association, that people are free to build a community based on common beliefs, something American children learn about in their history books, from Amish communities to Shaker communities to Mormon communities to Jewish communities, is a frightening and alien concept to Couric -- but only when conservative Catholics start talking about it.
Couric betrayed her secular liberal allegiances by baldly concluding the interview: "Well, we'll probably be following this story, because I know the ACLU is, too." Then she laughed.
Even today, other religions have started up communities founded on their beliefs. In southwestern Iowa, some New Age Hindus have created the town of Maharishi Vedic City, a religious center based on the principles and teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. There's been no dire civil-liberties alert from Couric yet, even though the city has banned the sale of non-organic food and the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.
Stop the presses! Get Couric on the line! Civil rights at risk! Intolerance and bigotry afoot! Oh, wait ... wait. You said Hindus? Oh, never mind.