Chick-fil-A and Journalistic Malpractice
The libel of Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A continues. This time, it’s journalist Dana Milbank of the Washington Post, making unsubstantiated claims about Chick-fil-A’s commitment to serve its customers. He begins with an absurd complaint that former Gov. Mike Huckabee’s call for supporters of the restaurant chain to eat there next Wednesday encourages “obesity,” (as if eating fast food once will explode waistlines across the country), and then heads straight downhill from there:
The trouble began last week, when the Baptist Recorder published an interview with Chick-fil-A’s president, Dan Cathy. Cathy defended his closed-on-Sunday policy and his contributions through a foundation to conservative causes. Cathy, though attesting that his wasn’t a “Christian business,” said he was “guilty as charged” when asked about opposition to gay marriage: “We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives.”
This implied that gay people (not to mention divorced people) had no business eating at Chick-fil-A.
Apparently Milbank is only playing at being a journalist—there’s no evidence here that he can read. Baptist Press interviewer K. Allan Blume did not ask Cathy about gay marriage. Cathy did not imply that gay people were unwelcome at Chick-fil-A (how are they supposed to know—see whether men swish as they come through the door?) . The foundation in question is the company’s. If I was running a newspaper and had an employee with that much trouble with the English language, he’d be out the door pronto.
The reaction was furious: Boston’s mayor said he would block the company from the city, and the Jim Henson Co. stopped developing children’s meals for the restaurant. Chick-fil-A quickly retreated, saying in a statement that “Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.”
The controversy might have wasted away, but Huckabee fed it with a call to defend Chick-fil-A against “vicious hate speech and intolerant bigotry from the left.” He protested: “If Christians affirm traditional values, we’re considered homophobic, fundamentalists, hate-mongers, and intolerant.”
Actually, the controversy was kept alive by a pair of Chicago pols weighing in and demonstrating that they had no more of a grasp of the First Amendment than Mayor Menino (who has since backed off and acknowledged that he actually has no power to prevent Chick-fil-A from opening a restaurant in Boston—duh).
Huckabee is thus forcing Americans to take a stand: If they eat at Chick-fil-A, they are affirming Christian principles and opposing gay marriage. But what about millions of people who don’t wish to make such a statement and merely like chicken nuggets (preferably with ranch or honey-mustard sauce) and waffle fries?
I feel fairly sure that it was Thomas Menino, Rahm Emanuel and Proco Moreno who were calling people to take sides, along with their allies in the LGBT movement and the mainstream media that apparently went looking for something to gin up controversy (how often does the MSM go looking at Baptist Press for news?)
I asked T.J. Parker, the owner of the Chick-fil-A franchise in Silver Spring, what he thought about Huckabee. He looked stricken, as he should: He operates in a blue part of a blue state, across the street from Ben & Jerry’s and down the block from Whole Foods. “For any comments involving anything, you have to contact public relations,” he pleaded.
If only Cathy, and Huckabee, had shown such restraint.
Oh, for the love of...Cathy did an interview with the news service of his religious denomination. He was speaking to like-minded believers. He was repeating a long-standing stance of his family and his company. It was publicity whores like Menino, Emanuel, and Moreno who made a big deal out of this. It’s pseudo-journalists like Milbank who keep flogging it. It’s crackpots like the Human Rights Campaign and Equality Illinois (which is organizing “kiss-ins” in front of Chick-fil-A franchises) that is treating this like a big deal, and acting as though supporting traditional marriage is the equivalent of supporting Jim Crow.
There’s a difference between shunning a company simply because you don’t like the management’s politics and punishing a company for a specific misdeed. Chick-fil-A changed categories last week, and Cathy, realizing his mistake, is trying to retreat.
What? On what basis does Milbank say anything so inane? Chick-fil-A has committed no “misdeed,” except taking a political position that certain incipient fascists on the left cannot abide, and are seeking to demonize and drive from the public square. Cathy has not retreated on anything, though I’m sure he has noted certain inconvenient facts, such as that Chick-fil-A does not discriminate in either hiring or service.
Milbank’s column is journalistic malpractice that ought to embarrass the Post. “Ought to,” mind you, not “does.”
PS—I should mention that Milbank’s performance here is by no means an isolated instance of journalistic malpractice regarding Chick-fil-A. As Mark Hemingway of the Weekly Standard notes, CNN made the same mistake of claiming that Cathy was asked about gay marriage, and Time magazine’s website has this extraordinary headline: “Boston Mayor Blocks Chick-fil-A Franchise from City over Homophobic Attitude.”
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