In a series of articles by its editorial board, media columnist Margaret Sullivan, and former Voice of America Director Amanda Bennett, the Washington Post has mounted a coordinated attack on Robert R. Reilly, the new nominee for VOA director, claiming he is an existential threat to the organization’s mission to provide independent reporting to foreign audiences.
The reason they deem Reilly disqualified to serve as VOA director isn’t about a lack of credentials. He was director from 2001 to 2002 and for a decade before that produced a weekly talk show on VOA. No, according to Bennett and WaPo, Reilly is “dangerous” because he believes what the Catholic Church teaches on sexuality — which is ironic, to say the least, given legacy media’s favorable coverage of Joe Biden’s Catholic faith.
Reilly’s Traditional Views Are ‘Extreme’
In a Dec. 11 op-ed for the Washington Post, Bennett labeled Reilly’s beliefs on homosexuality “extreme.” She cited Reilly’s 2014 book, “Making Gay Okay: How Rationalizing Homosexual Behavior Is Changing Everything,” as evidence. Bennett says the book describes “homosexual acts as ‘habitual moral failure’ and lament[s] the ‘legitimization of homosexual behavior.’” The Washington Post editorial board similarly maligned Reilly for his “tirade against the LGBTQ community.”
They might be forgiven for not knowing that “Making Gay Okay” was published by one of America’s preeminent Catholic publishing houses, Ignatius Press. It has also published books by Benedict XVI, John Paul II, cardinals, and many bishops.
Bennett, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, should not be so easily excused for either not knowing or failing to acknowledge that Reilly’s book is simply restating and expanding on official Catholic teaching about sex. For example, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
Granted, it is no surprise that Bennett, Sullivan, and the Washington Post take issue with Reilly’s views on homosexuality. What is alarming, however, is how they tacitly declare any person who subscribes to Catholic teaching on this issue to be effectively ineligible for public office.
A Sorry Excuse for Journalism
It gets worse. Bennett added: “In an earlier book, ‘The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist Crisis,’ Reilly asserted that Islam abhors reason and has committed ‘intellectual suicide.’” Read that sentence closely, and you’ll see that Bennett’s study of Reilly’s book on Islam appears to have amounted to little more than a quick Google search. Indeed, her description of the book is simply to rephrase the title. If this is what counts as journalism at VOA, perhaps it’s better that Bennett resigned.
It’s possible Reilly’s books are bad, although the Washington Post or other prominent legacy media are not in a good position to tell us, as they ignored both when they were published. The publications that did bother to review Reilly’s book on Islam, including the Imaginative Conservative, the American Spectator, and the Objective Standard, all praised it for being well-researched and well-argued and for offering interesting insights on contemporary trends in the Muslim world, especially as they relate to the academy and scientific research.
Moreover, Reilly certainly had professional experience regarding Islam. He worked in the Near East/South Asia section of International Security Affairs in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
Also in Reilly’s favor is that he has a long career in academia and federal service, and his books — including his most recent one defending the American founding — have been published by respected conservative or Catholic publishing houses with high professional standards. What is more plausible is that Bennett, Sullivan, and the Washington Post don’t really know much of anything about what Reilly thinks about homosexuality or Islam because they haven’t bothered to read more than an Amazon page or a book jacket cover.
The Left Doesn’t Understand the Right
This points to two broader problems, one of which is shameful, the other deeply concerning. The first is that the left is largely ignorant of intellectual conservatism.
The Washington Post, to take but one example, has not bothered to review some of the most prominent conservative books published this year. Not Michael Anton’s “The Stakes,” not Rod Dreher’s “Live Not by Lies,” and not Joshua Mitchell’s “American Awakening.” Indeed, this year the Washington Post didn’t bother to review a single book by Encounter Books, one of the most prestigious conservative publishing houses in America. It reviewed only two books by another prominent conservative publisher, Regnery.
Compare this to the fact that The Federalist, The Claremont Review of Books, National Review, New Criterion, First Things, and the American Conservative, among other conservative publications, have widely reviewed the most popular books on the left. Those include the works of Ibram X. Kendi, Robin DiAngelo, and Ta-Nehisi Coates.
To put it bluntly, it is clear from this that conservatives read and try to understand liberals far better than the reverse. Recent data substantiates this: In his book “The Righteous Mind,” Jonathan Haidt discusses a survey of more than 2,000 Americans in which he discovered that conservatives were far better at articulating the views of liberals than liberals were at articulating the views of conservatives. Other surveys have discovered similar results.
So Much for Tolerance
Not only does the left have difficulty understanding conservatives and right-leaning Christians, but it regularly demonizes and targets them. Before Reilly was Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh, Mike Pence, and many others.
Kamala Harris maligned Brian C. Buescher, a nominee for the U.S. District Court in the District of Nebraska, for his affiliation with the Catholic charitable organization Knights of Columbus. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Biden’s choice to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, used his authority to enforce pro-abortion policies against religious and pro-life groups, including the Little Sisters of the Poor. Becerra has a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood.
The hypocrisy here is thick. Many on the left, although claiming the mantle of tolerance and pluralism, engage in ignorant caricatures and prejudice to vilify conservatives whose ideas they don’t even bother to study. Beyond the blatant posturing is a normalization of anti-Christian bigotry in the media, in academia, and in the halls of power that threatens to remove faithful Christians, be they Catholic or anything else, from public service.
The Washington Post, meanwhile, messages that Biden, who has been publicly censured by numerous Catholic clerics, will promote a different understanding of what a “Catholic in good standing” looks like. In other words, only a WaPo-endorsed version of Catholicism will be allowed in Washington. There’s a word for this: bigotry.