In a media culture driven by clicks, shares, and uninformed retweets, reporters certainly know what they’re doing when they wildly misrepresent a story.
That’s exactly what Robert Costa, a political reporter for The Washington Post, did Tuesday, when he shared an article about the government shutdown and Russell Vought, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Rather than comment on the contents of the story itself, Costa used the opportunity to malign Vought’s faith and misrepresent the comments he made during his confirmation hearing in June of last year.
The official now leading OMB and the Trump team’s shutdown response nearly had his nomination derailed due to his comments about Muslims. https://t.co/ox68mXIZks
— Robert Costa (@costareports) January 9, 2019
Costa is following the lead of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who essentially established an unconstitutional religious test during his questioning of Vought, whom the Vermont lawmaker ultimately suggested is unfit for public office due to his faith.
Sanders put Vought’s Christianity centerstage, calling into question an article the then-nominee wrote in January 2016 in which he explained why Muslims and Christians do not worship the same God, a debate that was at the time ongoing at Wheaton College in Illinois.
Vought’s article was prompted by a decision by Wheaton’s leaders to dismiss a professor, Dr. Larycia Hawkins, after she suggested in December 2015 that Muslims and Christians are “people of the book” who “worship the same God.”
“You wrote, ‘Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ, his son, and they stand condemned,’” Sanders told Vought. “Do you believe that statement is Islamophobic?”
Vought, of course, did not see his statement as “Islamophobic,” telling the left-leaning senator he embraces “a Christian set of principles based on my faith.”
In fact, one would be hard pressed to find a Christian, Muslim, or Jew who doesn’t believe in the infallibility of the truths taught by their respective religious traditions. What would be the point of a person adhering to one specific faith if he or she wasn’t convinced of its veracity?
Sanders, nevertheless, continued to pester Vought on the issue, asking him once again if he believes Muslims and Jews “stand condemned” if they don’t believe — as the Christian faith requires — in the divinity of Jesus Christ.
Vought told the disgruntled politician he believes every human being is “made in the image of God,” but refused to renege on his conviction that Christianity is the one true religion. Sanders angrily concluded Vought “is really not someone who this country is supposed to be about.”
From that interaction, one could clearly walk away disagreeing with Vought’s faith and his certainty in his personal convictions, but his remarks can hardly be characterized as “Islamophobic” or even really “about Muslims,” as Costa claimed.
Vought was defending his own personal beliefs after being attacked for writing about the central tenet of the Christian faith — that Jesus Christ is the only true God — in an article addressing a topic that dealt primarily with theological interpretation.
But with his 22-word tweet, Costa explained none of that context. The reporter knew what he was doing and did it anyway, knowing it would result in clicks, shares, and at the time of this article’s publishing, nearly 100 uninformed retweets.