Media faces backlash after taking swipes at candidates' religions

Shannon Bream reports from Washington


Some members of the media are facing significant backlash after taking swipes at both Catholicism and Mormonism in the context of the 2012 Republican primary race. Not all of them are willing to apologize.

Writer Larry Doyle published a piece called "The Jesus-Eating Cult of Rick Santorum" on the Huffington Post website last week. 

In the article, Doyle identifies himself as someone who "managed to escape" Catholicism. He mocks communion rites, implies a link between the Catholic Church and pedophiles, and then ends with the sentence, "Need I remind you that only once in our great history has a Roman Catholic been elected president, and how tragically it ended?" 

The reference to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was not lost on readers.

After taking heat over the original posting Doyle told readers it was satire. "It's traditional at this point for me to half-apologize, to say that I'm sorry if anybody was offended, but I really don't mind if anybody was offended."

A number of conservative leaders have sent a letter to Arianna Huffington, Editor-in-Chief of the Huffington Post, demanding an apology. 

Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, was among those who signed the request. While Perkins says it's legitimate to discuss religious views, he says there is a line. 

"To marginalize or demean someone because they actually have a faith that impacts their decisions, that's going too far," he said. 

The letter also takes issue with what the signers view as a double standard. They argue that if a piece similar to Doyle's was written about Islam or Judaism "the public outcry would be overwhelming, and rightly so."

Some journalists have been willing to acknowledge when they've crossed the line in recent weeks. After MSNBC political contributor Joan Walsh tweeted a swipe at Mitt Romney and Mormon baptismal practices, she encountered a flood of angry replies. She later apologized.

New York Times columnist Charles Blow also took on Romney in a tweet during the last GOP debate. He ended it with, "Stick that in your magic underwear" - an apparent reference to the sacred temple garments many Mormons wear. 

Two days later, Blow said he regretted the "inappropriate" remark adding, "I'm willing to admit that with no caveats."

Political analyst Michael Barone says going after a candidate on such a personal topic is never well-received. "It basically backfires when you attack a candidate's religion or when you ridicule or make fun of it," he said.