ABC's empty assault on Jesus

Posted: Nov 05, 2003 12:00 AM

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.

Doesn't it seem amazing that ABC is more nervous about investigating potentially nasty stories about Bill Clinton than they are about potentially nasty stories about Jesus Christ? ABC would not accept Bill Clinton was an adulterer until all the DNA testing was complete. ABC absolutely refused to make any attempt to broadcast the extraordinary claims of Juanita Broaddrick that President Clinton had raped her before he ascended to the White House. But the Jesus-bashers get an hour in prime time to bash the Son of God. Talk about confusing the sacred and the profane!

As with ABC's "Search for Jesus" a few years ago, the network seems determined to sell wild stories and conjectures about Jesus Christ. In promoting the show, Elizabeth Vargas emptily proclaimed, "For me, it's made religion more real and, ironically, much more interesting -- which is what we're hoping to do for our viewers." ABC "News" isn't interested in truth here; it's merely interested in being "interesting."

Just as it's unthinkable that the networks would prepare a fictional TV movie making up demonizing lies about Democratic presidents, as CBS did with "The Reagans," so is it unthinkable that the networks would prepare a 60-minute special trashing one of America's religious minorities. You'll find no deconstructing Buddha, or shredding the Bhagavad Gita, and certainly no maligning the Muslims.

In fact, on "Nightline" in February, this is how ABC's Ted Koppel glowingly promoted the holiness of Islam: "It is an awesome, beautiful and harmonizing annual gathering. A spiritual obligation that every able-bodied Muslim is required to perform at least once in his or her lifetime. A journey, according to Islamic teaching, that cleanses the soul and wipes away sins. It is the Hajj, the pilgrimage that has once again brought some two million Muslims from around the world to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia."

To ABC, Islam is holy. But Christianity is easily pierced as a fraud, an oppressive faith, a creed so repulsive that a "news" division doesn't require any evidence before it rubs salt in the wounds of our Savior.