Another week, another New York Times column brimming with undisguised religious bigotry. This time its author is Maureen Dowd, not Bill Keller -- and its target is one Republican presidential candidate in particular, rather than all of them. The premise of Dowd's piece is simple, and noxious: Hey, isn't Mormonism really weird, and sort of creepy?
At an appearance at George Washington University here Saturday night, Bill Maher bounded into territory that the news media have been gingerly tiptoeing around. Magic underwear. Baptizing dead people. Celestial marriages. Private planets. Racism. Polygamy. “By any standard, Mormonism is more ridiculous than any other religion,” asserted the famously nonbelieving comic who skewered the “fairy tales” of several faiths in his documentary “Religulous.” “It’s a religion founded on the idea of polygamy. They call it The Principle. That sounds like The Prime Directive in ‘Star Trek.’ ”
After regurgitating more bile from the trollish Bill Maher, Dowd shifts to quoting another aggressive athiest about Mormonism:
Another famous nonbeliever, Christopher Hitchens, wrote in Slate on Monday about “the weird and sinister belief system of the LDS,” the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Aside from Joseph Smith, whom Hitchens calls “a fraud and conjurer well known to the authorities in upstate New York,” the writer also wonders about the Mormon practice of amassing archives of the dead and “praying them in” as a way to “retrospectively ‘baptize’ everybody as a convert.”
Next up, Dowd interviews some Mormon academics, and asks one to discuss Mitt Romney's undergarments:
As for the special garment that Mitt wears, “we wouldn’t say ‘magic underwear,’ ” Bushman explains. It is meant to denote “moral protection,” a sign that they are “a consecrated people like the priests of ancient Israel.” And it’s not only a one-piece any more. “There’s a two-piece now,” he said.
Finally, she lays her own disdain for Mitt Romney's faith at the feet of...Republicans:
Republicans are the ones who have made faith part of the presidential test. Now we’ll see if Mitt can pass it.
Actually, madam, it was you who just devoted an entire newspaper column to exploiting religious fault lines. Also, polls show that liberals are significantly more likely to reject a political candidate based entirely on his Mormon faith, so spare us the sanctimony. Despite what you might think of us, we're not that stupid, Maureen. Incidentally, I browsed your archives for a similarly alarmist piece about Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who also happens to be a Mormon. That search came up empty, curiously. I also scoured the web for your column examining the strain of Black Liberation Theology that Barack Obama heard preached from the pulpit of his church over the course of two decades. Again, nothing. What a surprise.
In an ham-fisted attempt to sow fears about the latest Republican she detests, Dowd trots out mean-spirited and scathing indictments of his religion from two militant athiests, repeats a fellow liberal's brow-furrowed reportage about Romney's role as a member of his church, then tries to attribute her own bigotry to all the other Republicans she detests. What a nasty little hit job. I'd imagine Dowd might defend this piece by pointing out that the more objectionable bits were technically other people's words. This is a well-worn trick that her own newspaper just employed against Herman Cain in a "news" story:
And while his casual style of racially inflected humor works to ingratiate him with mostly white audiences at campaign rallies, it has angered some black critics, who believe he uses age-old stereotypes. He has no qualms, for instance, about playing off black clichés: should he become president, his Secret Service codename should be “Cornbread,” he wrote in his memoir, “This is Herman Cain! My Journey to the White House.” Mr. Cain’s traveling aide, Nathan Naidu, already refers to him as Cornbread on the internal campaign schedule. (Why? Mr. Cain says he just loves cornbread.) Those kinds of comments have drawn criticism from the likes of academics like Cornel West and entertainers like Harry Belafonte, who called Mr. Cain “a bad apple.”
Of particular concern, some say, is how he seems to make a parody of black vernacular and culture. “It makes the hair on my neck stand up,” said Ulli K. Ryder, a visiting scholar at the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America at Brown University. “The larger issue that a lot of people have, and I certainly have, is that he uses a certain kind of minstrelsy to play to white audiences. Referencing negative stereotypes in order to get heard to a white audience in the 21st century is really a problem.”
In this case, the Times outsources its race baiting (minstrelsy?) to a no-name "visiting scholar at the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America at Brown University." If it weren't so distasteful, it would be rich fodder for satire. Unfortunately, it's no laughing matter. The Left knows it's has absolutely nothing to run on in 2012, so they'll resort to vicious personal demonization -- while insisting that their opponents are the racists, bigots, and demonizers. Hold on to your hats, conservatives, and strap it in for thirteen more months of this. I'll leave you with Mitt Romney's eloquent discussion of religious tests, the presidency, and the Constitution at Tuesday's debate:
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography