CV NEWS FEED // A New York Times reporter abruptly ended her phone interview with CatholicVote President Brian Burch after he challenged her to report about pornographic LGBTQ books marketed toward children.
CatholicVote President Brian Burch explained the ordeal to LOOPcast co-host Tom Pogasic.
Burch said that The New York Times reached out to CatholicVote “about an incident that occurred in San Diego where apparently two individuals checked out books that they objected to and sent a letter to the library.” The letter, he said, seemed very similar to the one his organization was recommending as part of the successful nationwide Hide the Pride campaign.
The CatholicVote President wrote back to the Times reporter, which he said “was kind of fun” as he changed the subject line to “CatholicVote Library Porn,” adding “because it’s exactly what it is.”
Burch proceeded to book a phone interview with the reporter, which took place about a week ago. “The interview was probably the most hostile interview I’ve been on, and I’ve been interviewed by a lot of hostile people,” he told Pogasic.
Journalists are supposed to be even-keeled, gather the story, not get emotionally involved in the story they’re reporting on. This reporter just did not take lightly to some of the comments I was making and some of the characterizations, and frankly, some of the ways that I was trying to push her to cover the story.
Specifically, what I told her was that I think she and many journalists are getting this story all wrong, and what they’re doing is they are writing stories to please their readers who are ideologically predisposed to think of people like us as book-burning right-wing fanatics that hate gay people – and that we just want to go back to the Dark Ages and that we have no sympathy or appreciation for the plight of gay and lesbian kids, and how dare we go into public libraries and try to keep resources and healthy information away from kids.
I mean, that’s the story they want to write: “Big Bad Catholics, Big Bad Brian Burch, Big Bad CatholicVote.”
After the Times journalist had asked Burch a few questions about the incident, he challenged her to “get away from the politics” and the so-called “war of persons.”
“The substantive question here,” he told her, “is the content of these books. And, it’s interesting that…no national reporter of any significance that I’m aware of is willing to write on the actual story which is, What is it that is in these books that is so objectionable? Why are parents…trying to check out books to keep them away from kids?”
He asked the reporter if she was familiar with what was in the “pride” books in question. “I looked at them,” she answered.
Burch asked her which ones she looked at. “She couldn’t answer,” he noted.
He asked her if she actually read the content of any of the books. “No, she had not.”
Burch observed that she was “writing a story about books that parents object to, and she as the reporter has not even read any of them.”
Luckily, the CatholicVote President came prepared with excerpts of the books in front of him. He said to the hostile Times writer:
The trouble here is…I can’t even read the excerpts of these books to you in a phone interview as adults, because they’re so vile, terrible, pornographic and obscene.
Because I have enough respect for you as a person, whether or not you’re a journalist or not, I’m not going to degrade myself and degrade you by reading some of the things that are in here.
“And yet,” Burch added, “these books are being foisted on our kids, put on library displays, and being characterized as these essential resources that kids need to read.”
Again, he said to the reporter, “I can’t believe that you are not willing to publish the content of these books.”
He asked her, “Will you commit to me to put in your story excerpts?”
And she said, “That’s not how journalism works, you don’t tell me what to do.”
I’m not telling you what to do. I’m trying to help you understand the story here is the books, not the people. And yet, you want to focus on the people. You want to focus on these parents in San Diego [who are] trying to protect kids’ innocence. And you’re going to focus on me and what big bad CatholicVote is trying to do to encourage parents to do this.
“A decade ago we weren’t having these controversies and now we are. Why is that? What changed?” Burch added. “What changed is the books. And yet these reporters refuse to talk about it.”
“We went back and forth and she again tried to accuse me of telling her how to do her job, to the point where it got so tense that she just ended the interview,” Burch recounted. “She said, ‘Well, thank you very much,’ and we ended the conversation, very abruptly, very awkwardly.”
Burch clarified that ending the interview was solely on the part of the Times journalist, as he very much wanted to continue the discussion. “I certainly wasn’t done. I was ready to answer any of the questions that she wanted to ask,” he said.
About three minutes later, the reporter called him back. Burch joked to the LOOPcast listeners, “I guess she took a couple of deep breaths.”
She asked him to clarify a few more facts. “Then I didn’t hear from her again. We’ve been waiting now for this New York Times story to happen.”
“That was only Chapter One” of the story, Burch said:
Chapter Two [is] I get an email yesterday, the reporter is writing me back again.
She says, “We’re getting ready to publish our story any day now and we’d like to know if you would be willing to be photographed for our story.”
And so of course, you know me, I love getting CatholicVote attention and who doesn’t like getting attention from the New York Times, as despicable as that paper is.
Burch wrote in reply to the photo request:
Thank you for writing back. As I mentioned in our phone call, I am concerned that your story will avoid the actual story here, namely the content of these books that have led to widespread opposition and efforts to shield them from kids.
The fact that you want my picture tells me your story is about me, CatholicVote, or the individuals trying to protect kids from indecent books, rather than the books themselves.
My sense is, this is a big reason why this country is so divided over these issues.
Journalists like you write stories to appease ideologues making the personal the political, framing people as the problem, rather than providing a basis for compromise and dialogue on the substantive issues that are driving this debate.
For that reason, he wrote, “I don’t see any value in having my picture taken for a story that will likely be unfair given your hostility over the phone, and a story that will regretfully avoid the actual story that needs to be reported.”
“And so, here we are,” Burch said later. “Any day now we expect this New York Times story to come out, regrettably for those with New York Times subscriptions, no photo of me included.”