NBC’s Tom Brokaw defends Speaker Pelosi’s statements

On 24 August house Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on the Sunday morning news show Meet The Press told host Tom Brokaw a pack of lies about what the Catholic Church teaches. 

She stated incorrectly that the Church has not made a determination about when human life begins (it begins at conception), cherry-picked a non-relevant quote from the fifth-century theologian St. Augustine of Hippo (whose knowledge of embryology wasn’t very advanced) and then… what is worse… said it didn’t make a difference when life began, women should be able to choose abortion anyway.

Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) was on Meet The Press yesterday.   There was this exchange with Tom Brokaw.  They are discussing the choice of Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) as the GOP’s VP candidate.  My emphases and comments.

GOV. PAWLENTY: I would also say on that, Tom, if I could, you never hear Barack Obama getting asked whether he would pick a pro-life candidate for his ticket…

MR. BROKAW: Huh.

GOV. PAWLENTY: …or whether it was important to have a pro-choice candidate on the Democratic side. You notice that question never gets asked of the Democrats.

MR. BROKAW: In the governors race–as a matter of fact, Nancy Pelosi and I talked about this just last week, and [1] she got in a lot of trouble with the Catholic Church because [2] [s]he refused to say when life begins, and when I asked her about it, she then had [3] her own explanation based on what she thought was church doctrine, and [4] the church came after her. So [5] we have put that on the table, I just want to get that on the record if I can.

There are several points to discuss here.  Let’s take them in order.

Note that Brokaw’s comments seem a bit a non sequitur

I surmise he had every intention of saying something at some point during the show, saying precisely this, as a matter of fact.  This was probably a statement he had thought through, rather than spoke off the cuff.  As such, it must bear some scrutiny.

 

1. "she got in trouble with the Catholic Church". 

Speaker Pelosi misstated the teachings of the Church, on American television, during one of the most viewed Sunday morning new talks shows in the world, in the midst of a presidential campaign.  Pelosi, introduced her errors by saying that she is an "ardent" Catholic.  "Ardent" suggests sincere attachment and even love for the Church and the Catholic Faith.  When you love something, you seek to know it thoroughly and in truth.  You want to know the details, the history, the thoughts of the people you love.  A Catholic who is ardent desires to know what Holy Church teaches about serious issues.   If she "got in trouble", she didn’t do so as an ignorant little girl making a mistake in listing the seven sacraments before her first Holy Communion.  Brokaw phrases this as if she was slapped on the knuckles with a ruler.   I sense that he is subtly trying to diminish the importance of the reaction of the  Church’s leaders and elevate Pelosi’s sincere attempt to express herself, poor thing.

2. "[s]he refused to say when life begins". 

Nancy Pelosi, the "ardent Catholic", could have simply responded "some people have differing views, and it is hard to understand, but as a Catholic, I know that the Church teaches that life begins at the moment of conception".  After all, no one really expects that the Speaker of the House of Representatives has the authority to pronounce on this matter.

However,… A public figure who is Catholic, who knows what the Church teaches and who refuses to state when human life begins when publicly questioned, is hardly able to be defended.   And I think we must accept that she knows what the Church teaches and that her subsequent response was a dodge. 

3. "her own explanation based on what she thought was church doctrine"

Is it possible that Nancy Pelosi the self-professed "ardent Catholic" should deliver her own position on the beginning of human life? 

She said she studied the issue.  Is it possible that she got it so wrong by accident?  If so, then she must be monumentally dense.  But I suspect stupid people don’t get named as Speaker of the House. 

Brokaw’s statement attempts to paint her has having been sincere.  In her poor attempts to express her genuine understanding of the teachings of her Church she, oops, got it wrong and the "Church" rapped her knuckles.

4. "the church came after her"

Had someone on Meet The Press started to misquote Brokaw’s words or writings, I think Brokaw would have objected and tried to clarify the situation.  Imagine for a moment tom Brokaw interviewing a man who wrote a book denigrating the memory of the selfish people of "the greatest generation" during the Second World War:

GUEST: As you wrote in your own book, Tom, those who lived, and worked, fought and died during World War II, were not the "greatest generation".  As you argued, we really don’t know what they were. 

TOM: Ummm… hey…. wait a ….

GUEST: They were, as a matter of fact, probably pretty selfish and just in it for their own gain and fame.  At least that is what your book says.

TOM: WHAT?!?   That is not at all what I…

GUEST: And I have studied your book really carefully since I am a huge fan of yours.  Sure, there might be countless of examples of selflessness and sacrifice in the millions of people from those days, but none of that really matters: In the final analysis you had no idea what to say about them in your book and we should be able to run them down.

TOM: Clearly, sir, you have not the slightest idea what is in my book.  You have mischaracterized it.  You either didn’t read it at all or you are purposely distorting it for your own purposes. 

See what I mean?  Any person or organization with a public stance and record of statements has the right to be cited and quoted correctly, in such a way that those positions are not distorted.  Someone who is mischaracterized has the right to object. 

This was decidedly not and matter of the "Church going after her", as if the negative attention she gained was undeserved, as if the Church was a playground bully at the parish school. The leaders of the Church had the right to object to Pelosi’s misstatements.  However, the Church also has the right to correct a member of the flock, an "ardent" member, who has seriously gone astray in public about one of the gravest matters of our day.

5. "we have put that on the table, I just want to get that on the record if I can"

He had every intention of making this statement on the show and this was his moment.  What he stated was thought through and really reflects what he thinks.  He is aiming at a certain effect with his words.

And that target wasn’t the truth about what happened with Speaker Pelosi on Meet The Press.

Tom Brokaw’s statement was a defense of Nancy Pelosi and Pelosi’s position as well as a criticism of the Church. 

Now watch the 24 August interview with Pelosi again and listen carefully.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nM2VqqNLWxQ]

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38 Responses to NBC’s Tom Brokaw defends Speaker Pelosi’s statements

  1. TNCath says:

    Tom Brokaw: “her own explanation based on what she thought was church doctrine”

    This sums it all up. Rationalization at its finest. The cult of individualism in high gear.

    Tom Brokaw: “we have put that on the table, I just want to get that on the record if I can”

    Yes, on the table indeed. And, yes, Tom, it’s on the record: Pelosi was wrong. Period.

    Tom’s just mad because the Catholic bishops called Speaker Pelosi out on her positions during his comeback gig on “Press the Meat.”

  2. Andreas says:

    GOV. PAWLENTY: I would also say on that, Tom, if I could, you never hear Barack Obama getting asked whether he would pick a pro-life candidate for his ticket…

    Brokaw(ski) never addressed that statement. He tried to fudge it, but it remains very true: the media will question a pro-life politician’s choices but takes the anti-life politician’s choices for granted. They would never ask Obama or Hilary and the like whether they might consider picking a pro-life candidate for their ticket. That will always be a mute point with them.

  3. David Osterloh says:

    If so, then she must be monumentally dense. But I suspect stupid people don’t get named as Speaker of the House.

    Do not assume such things Father :-)

  4. One wonders whether the Speaker would’ve gotten any different kind of reaction to her comments from Tim Russert, given the press’ reports about how devout a Catholic he was.

  5. Tim Ferguson says:

    I don’t get the “Brokaw(ski)” part of Andreas’ comment above. Is it an attempt at a Polish slur? Brokaw comes from a French Huguenot family.

  6. Geoffrey says:

    I’ll admit I’m having a bit of trouble following. I didn’t think Tom Brokaw was defending Pelosi, as much as simple re-stating her position. But that’s just me.

  7. RBrown says:

    Tom Brokaw: “her own explanation based on what she thought was church doctrine”
    Comment by TNCath

    Which MO lends itself to a multitude of applications:

    Stalin’s own explanation for murdering so many was based on what he thought was best for the Russian people.

    Hitler’s own explanation for the Holocaust was based on what he thought was best for all humanity.

    Lay and Swilling’s explanation for fraud was based on what they thought was best for the company.

    Abp Weakland’s explanation for using archdiocesan money to pay off his boyfriend was based on what he thought was best for the archdiocese.

  8. Contra says:

    The fact that there is still any debate on this issue or that a well educated such as Ms Pelosi would say such misguided things is a result of the breakdown in Catechism. Far too many Catholics are out there who really have no idea what it the Church teaches let alone why.

  9. Philip says:

    “After all, no one really expects that the Speaker of the House of Representatives has the authority to pronounce on this matter.”

    I thought she and 54 other Catholic Democrats made very clear in Feb. 2006 that they had the authority to pronounce on these matters: “we believe we can speak to the fundamental issues that unite us as Catholics.” Of course, I read “speak to” as meaning “authoritatively inform.” What I got from that video is Rep. Pelosi suggesting that in the religious dispute of abortion, she may be on the more traditional, Augustinian end of the Catholic Church.

  10. Thomas says:

    “One wonders whether the Speaker would’ve gotten any different kind of reaction to her comments from Tim Russert, given the press’ reports about how devout a Catholic he was.”

    Not likely, Father Jay. I remember when Pope Benedict was elected Russert had a roundtable discussion including Father Fessio. Of course, for “balance” he had one of those womynpriest-supporting nuns from FutureChurch. Sort of like the Senate versus the House. Equal representation in the Senate no matter how disproportionate the various camps are in size.

    Father Fessio, rightly, commented that this wasn’t a serious place to discuss these issues in soundbite format to which Russert responded rather angrily. Of course, Father was correct and Russert showed he was just as “in the bag” for the Pelosi-Catholics of the world as he was for the Democrat Party in general.

  11. Mitchell says:

    Has she come out on TV and done any of her own damage control yet? Or is Brokaw hoping to soften the blow.

  12. Massachusetts Catholic says:

    One question I’d love to see someone ask Nancy Pelosi: The New York Times has reported that 90 percent of Down Syndrome babies are aborted. What does she think of that “choice”? What would Brokaw say?

    Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/09/us/09down.html

    (I couldn’t believe it when I first read that statistic. I wish more people knew!)

  13. Fr. Z,

    Thanks for posting on this. I was hoping you would analyse it. I like how you broke it down.

    Spot on!

  14. Mark Ma says:

    Your wit is too much, Father Z. I especially like the fictional exchange you came up with. Hilarious.

  15. Stephen Morgan says:

    Here’s my problem: I’m just an old limey but I’ve just spent another blissful 2 weeks on holiday in the US and I can’t understand how the “Catholic” Democrats can get this so wrong. I can’t imagine another country on earth where Catholic politicians could repeatedly assert as true, things that everyone knows are untrue; could repeatedly claim to be in good standing and yet use their legislative votes to demonstrate that they are not and yet not get hounded out of public life by the press for rank hypocrisy. I’d also like a Civics 101 of when the Democrats sold their soul to Planned Parenthood.

  16. Deusdonat says:

    Stephen – asserting something as true when it is not is the very nature of politics. Nothing really new here.

  17. Brian says:

    MSNBC is completely in the sack with Obama. Is it possible that someone had a little talk with Brokaw after his interview with Pelosi?

    Contra, Is the issue here breakdown of catechism, or a breakdown of integrity?

  18. RBrown says:

    Stephen,

    The US has been much influenced by Protestantism. That means that it is not uncommon for Catholics to have adopted the highly subjective concept of faith (and morals) that is found in Protestantism. And so in the States “Catholic faith” often refers only to the person, not to what the person believes. Consequently, the notion of Practicing Catholic has been all but lost, especially in the public forum.

    And in many cases the performance of the US hierarchy has been underwhelming.

  19. CK says:

    The scary (but mostly disingenuous) thing about Pelosi’s convenient ignorance is that she uses the fact that she’s grown up with the Church, its teachings, her family before her, etc., and somehow (even after witnessing the March for Life annually)as part of her defense and then proceeds to base her entire understanding/familiarity of the actual facts to someone completely out of her baileywick of comprehension. Now that kind of limited intelligence is really scary for someone acting on behalf of the common good.

  20. TJM says:

    Tom Brokaw isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer and is in a business, sadly, that does
    not value critical thinking. He is also in an industry which has taken
    sides, politically and culturally, with the far left. That’s why the old media is dying.
    Well educated readers are waking up to the patent bias and spin thrown at them 24/7 by
    the old media. Tom

  21. Supertradmom says:

    Thank you for posting this information. Ignorance is chosen, especially if the one resting in ignorance is an adult. Seems that the ignorant must defend each other. How sad that truth cannot prevail in prime-time media…

  22. Nick says:

    It is the Catholic vote that puts these people into office — that and spineless leadership.

  23. RichR says:

    Cafeteria ardency: “I am fervently devoted to this system of beliefs…..well, parts of it….sort of.”

  24. Clayton says:

    The original interviewer of Barack Obama didn’t ask “when does life begin?”. He asked, “when does a baby get human rights?” This is a different question than the one posed to Pelosi by Brokaw. She doesn’t say when life begins. She obfuscates the question further by answering a totally different question, “when does a foetus receive a soul?”

    Egads!? Are these people at all even in the same conversation? What I see here is the old party game of “telephone”, where one player begins by passing a statement to the next and they go around to the beginning, for the fun of seeing how distorted the original message can become. Do we take the same pleasure here? It seems so. But why?

    If I had to refer back to my Freud I’d have to speculate that the reason this kind of non-communication happens in the first place is because none of the people involved with this ‘telephone’ game really want the answer to be said. The question of “when do we become human?”, “what guarantees our rights?”, “are our rights really unalienable?” points to an anxiety over the fear that there is nothing particularly special about being a human. Nobody really has rights. Nobody is fully human. Maybe no one is really very special.

    Well, maybe not nobody. Maybe just democrats.

  25. Andy says:

    It is truly evil the way these politicians hate life.

  26. joe says:

    The bishop of Scranton PA came out against allowing pro choice Catholic politicians from receiving communion. It was in all the local papers

  27. Brian says:

    As reported here: http://www.thedailyreview.com/articles/2008/09/01/news/tw_review.20080901.a.pg3.tw01communion_s1.1917408_loc.txt

    When asked whether the Democratic vice presidential candidate would be refused Communion should he tour the region, the diocese held firm to its past statements.
    “I will not tolerate any politician who claims to be a faithful Catholic who is not genuinely pro-life,” Bishop Martino said in a pastoral letter Sept. 15, 2005, and reiterated this week.
    “No Catholic politician who supports the culture of death should approach Holy Communion,” Bishop Martino said. “I will be truly vigilant on this point.”

    Interesting, AP reports that today Sen. Joe Biden, was campaigning in his boyhood town of Scranton

    God Bless you Bishop Joseph F. Martino. Thank you for you clear and courageous leadership.

  28. JohnE says:

    I’ve read the transcripts, but this is the first time I’ve seen the video. I also get the sense that she knows that what she’s saying is not true — the wide eyes, the hard swallow, the typical pro-abortion catch-phrases about abortion being between a woman, her doctor, and her god. The truly horrifying part is that she says none of it makes any difference anyway — that no matter what, the right to choose trumps the right to life.

  29. Chironomo says:

    I would contend that this attitude extends to other issues of faith as well as abortion. When someone really believes that they are an “ardent” Catholic, then their strongly held beliefs become a part of their view of the faith. In other words, their views become “the Catholic view” because a)They hold these views & b)They see themselves as Catholic. It is difficult for anyone to admit that something they believe strongly in is inherently wrong, but on the other hand, they are too self-righteous to allow it to exclude them from being “Catholic”. This is also the fundamental dynamic in the Womanpriest issue… people unable to admit that their beliefs are actually wrong.

  30. TJM says:

    Pelosi is a cultural Catholic, not an ardent one. Tom

  31. Did anyone notice how when she was explaining how Roe v. Wade laid everything out clearly and she made trimester divisions with her hands…OOPS she called the fetus a BABY but quickly caught herself and tried to cover it up by going on and hoping no one noticed?

  32. OOPS myself. Pelosi did not say “baby” she said, “CHIL…” uh, eh, uhhhh trimester….

  33. Jane M says:

    Well, don’t forget that the whole trimester thing is another lie. Even Nancy Pelosi was pretending that abortions are prohibited during the third trimester by the Supreme Court but this is not so at all. During the first trimester you can have an abortion. During the second trimester you can have an abortion if you have any reason. During the third trimester you have to have some reason. That’s all.

  34. Deusdonat says:

    Jane – you know, you are absolutely correct. I have always wondered how easy it is for a woman in her 3rd trimester to say she was raped, file a police report, then get an abortion. Does anyone have any info here?

  35. “…I surmise he had every intention of saying something at some point during the show, saying precisely this, as a matter of fact. This was probably a statement he had thought through, rather than spoke off the cuff. As such, it must bear some scrutiny….”

    Surmise: to imagine or infer on slight grounds; a thought or idea based on scanty evidence: Conjecture;

    In light of the discussion regarding translations from USCCB of a few weeks back, “surmise,” the operative word of the statement, should be properly defined.

    How is this any different from telling a falsehood about a neighbor, based upon conjecture, and having other neighbors believe it as truth without any foundation? How is this any different than spreading a false rumor? Never been an expert on venal and mortal sins, but seems one is riding a slippery slope.

    I watched Brokaw’s rebuttal in “real time” on Sunday. I thought that he was sincere, and he did a good job of reiterating the Church’s teaching, given the source.

  36. Anne says:

    Christopher Mandzok: *How is this any different from telling a falsehood about a neighbor, based upon conjecture, and having other neighbors believe it as truth without any foundation? How is this any different than spreading a false rumor? Never been an expert on venal and mortal sins, but seems one is riding a slippery slope.

    I watched Brokaw’s rebuttal in “real time” on Sunday. I thought that he was sincere, and he did a good job of reiterating the Church’s teaching, given the source.*

    And the difference in your supposition is what? You see it one way and I see it another yet because we disagree I’m labeled as a liar and slanderer? This is a news commentator and I question them all the time. Don’t you?

  37. “…And the difference in your supposition is what?…”

    That I took him at face value, not surmised an opinion based upon utter conjecture.

    However, my point was that Father’s post was akin to rumors and gossip, which, as related to my (non) expertise in the nature of sin, seemed to be a venial sin at a minimum. In mere laymen’s terms, gossiping is wrong and probable a venial sin.

  38. Miriam says:

    Deusdonat, you asked, “I have always wondered how easy it is for a woman in her 3rd trimester to say she was raped, file a police report, then get an abortion. Does anyone have any info here?”

    There are a lot of misconceptions (pardon the pun) about Roe v. Wade, perhaps because few people have “studied” it, and even fewer have read or done any study on its twin, Doe v. Bolton.

    If a woman is in the last three months of her pregnancy, and she desires to get an abortion, and she wants to use rape as the reason for the abortion, she does not need to file a police report, either before or after the abortion. All she has to do is find an abortionist who is willing to kill an unborn baby that old (and come up with the money for it).

    The twin abortion decisions of 1973 allowed abortion on demand for all nine months of pregnancy, for any reason or no reason at all, with no substantiation for that reason (or non-reason).

    One of the most unfortunate parts of the whole debate on abortion is that the voices of those who have been most intimately affected by abortion — the women who have undergone or submitted to or been forced to get an abortion — are largely ignored, discounted, or denied by the mainstream media.

    What is really sad, though, is that it is women, like Nancy Pelosi, who are goading other women into abortions by their falsehoods about how “it won’t change anything” and “your life will go back to what it was before you got pregnant” and “you don’t have a choice – you have to get an abortion” and the like. Thankfully, Pelosi went a little bit too far with her interview on Meet the Press, and revealed that, to hard-core pro-abortionists, it doesn’t matter one whit whether the unborn baby is alive or not — abortion is a sacred right that trumps all other rights, even that of the right to life.

    May the Holy Spirit work powerfully through Pelosi’s bumbling!