During the Sunday Morning liveblog, it was noted that Tim Russert, dean of gotcha journalism, all but ignored one of the more controversial events of the week, anti-Catholic bigot John Hagee's endorsement of GOP frontrunner John McCain. It seemed to be a tailor-made moment for Russert, and the opportunity was well served up by McCain partisan Mike Murphy, but Russert whiffed. Media Matters recounts the blow-by-blow:
MURPHY: The McCain campaign's got to -- in my view, anyway, from the outside -- understand that the primary is over, they don't need to be campaigning with televangelists in San Antonio. They need to pivot to the general election in a way...with all due respect to the good reverend, and I will say as a Catholic boy who's spent a lot of time with John McCain, there is not an anti-Catholic atom in John McCain; he loves my people -- but pivot to the general election and take the fact that McCain is a different kind of Republican and run with it in a very bad environment where we need that kind of guy to win, or Democrat city. It'll set the conservative movement back 50 years.
RUSSERT: Let me show you another issue where there will be a difference between John McCain and either Obama or Clinton, and that's NAFTA, [panelist and Republican strategist] Mary Matalin. North America Free Trade Agreement.
Media Matters does a fine job parsing Russert's hypocrisy, noting that previously, he had "persisted with questions to Sen. Barack Obama about Louis Farrakhan's support of Obama, despite Obama's repeated denunciations of Farrakhan's statements." But what is perhaps more galling is that Russert is a Catholic himself -- proud John Carroll University alum and author of Big Russ And Me, which lovingly details the lessons learned from a Catholic upbringing. With this background, it's jarring that the Hagee endorsement didn't inspire any outrage in Russert or any fodder for discussion on Meet The Press.
Sadly, Russert is hardly alone in his inattention to the matter. NBC's Sunday morning lineup is dominated by media celebrities who strongly identify themselves as Catholic, and precisely none of them seemed capable of working up a scintilla of ire at the Hagee endorsement. Crooks and Liars' John Amato wondered where Holy Cross graduate Chris Matthews stood on the matter last Saturday. As of last night, he's still waiting. And rather than unleash the full contents of his fusty box of anger on McCain, John McLaughlin -- who was once an ordained Catholic priest -- seemed more intent on lowering the boom on what the Obama campaign may or may not have said to Canadian officials on NAFTA.
The unwillingness among these Catholic media figures to stand up for their fellows is nothing short of baffling. Sad, even -- so far, the loudest outcry on the matter has come from frothing Catholic League lunatic Bill Donohue. But it's easy to see how McCain, who once stood firm against "agents of intolerance," is going to skate by this election cycle seeking the warm embrace of bigots: too many agents of tolerance occupy the space where scrutiny is warranted.