How a news story is framed is terribly important. In any piece of writing, how the author presents the context at the opening of the piece leads a reader to see an argument one way or another. That’s why it’s so interesting that the Independent Record framed the Franklin Graham visit to Helena with this opening sentence: “Prayer, not politics, topped the agenda at Montana’s Capitol on Tuesday, where evangelist Franklin Graham held a rally meant to encourage Christians to “live out their faith at home, in public and at the ballot box.”
The rest of the piece, while acknowledging that Graham was emphasizing points made by Donald Trump, kept returning to the theme that the visit was not about politics, but prayer. Sure, the piece mentioned the whispered bigotry from the crowd and pointed out that some of the Christians in the crowd refused to link hands with a woman who was committing the sin of wearing a Planned Parenthood pin, but it took pains not to present the event for what it was: an evangelical get-out-the-Republican vote tour, designed to help Republican candidates and enrich Franklin Graham.
Everything about Graham’s tour is about serving those two agendas. A visit to the web site for the events is decked out in the red, white, and blue of political campaigns, with even the name and font used for the event evocative of the way cable news presents elections. The simple fact that Graham is crossing the country, holding rallies at state capitals, makes it clear his is a political message, his disavowal and coy flirtation, rather than outright endorsement of Donald Trump notwithstanding.
What was also missing in the story was any detail about Franklin Graham, who has compared teaching students to be tolerant of transgender students to Soviet brainwashing, stereotyped all the adherents of Islam as enemies of America who hate liberals and conservatives alike, argued that President Obama doesn’t believe in God, supported Vladimir Putin’s crackdown on the LGBTQ community, suggested the internment of American Muslims, among other positions that are entirely non-political, of course.
Oh, and he has compared Donald Trump to Moses and David.
So the IR piece was perhaps a bit short on context and incorrectly framed a political speech as one not about politics. It’s also strange that the reporter couldn’t find one group in Helena with a response to Graham and his message, something else that would have provided context for readers.
I’m not an evangelical. I can’t pretend to understand how people who espouse the values they hold dear can vote to elect a xenophobic, thrice-married, thug with only a superficial understanding of the Bible President. A more interesting story, it would seem, is finding out how those voters are coming to the position they’ve apparently adopted, not giving largely uncritical coverage of a political activist hiding under the cloak of religion to enrich himself while impoverishing our election discourse.