So, did you hear about that wild quote that the president of Chick-fil-A didn’t say the other day?
Here’s a piece of a CNN report that is typical of the mainstream press coverage of this latest cyber-skirmish in America’s battles over homosexuality, commerce and free speech (sort of).
(CNN) — The fact that Chick-fil-A is a company that espouses Christian values is no secret. The fact that its 1,600 fast-food chicken restaurants across the country are closed on Sundays has long been testament to that. But the comments of company President Dan Cathy about gay marriage to Baptist Press on Monday have ignited a social media wildfire.
“Guilty as charged,”, Cathy said when asked about his company’s support of the traditional family unit as opposed to gay marriage.
“We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that,” Cathy is quoted as saying.
Now, one would assume — after reading a reference to the “comments of company President Dan Cathy about gay marriage” — that this interview from the Biblical Recorder in North Carolina (which was circulated by Baptist Press) actually included direct quotes from Cathy in which he talks about, well, gay marriage.
In this case, one cannot assume that.
While the story contains tons of material defending traditional Christian teachings on sexuality, the controversial entrepreneur never talks about gay rights or gay marriage. Why? Because he wasn’t asked about those issues in the interview.
This raises an interesting journalistic question: Is a defense of one doctrine automatically the same thing as an on-the-record attack on the opposite doctrine? In this case, is it accurate for CNN (and others) to say that Cathy made comments about gay marriage when, in fact, he did not speak words addressing that issue?
But wait, readers might say, everyone KNOWS what he was talking about! And, once his actual comments were quoted, kind of, in the mainstream press, it was then possible to quote many people who offered their angry reactions to his actual words because of their interpretation of them.
This is certainly true. It would have been easy to have quoted several of the tsunami of tweets, blog comments and other commentaries blasting Cathy for his defense of basic Christian doctrines. You know, those quotes that sound like this, drawing from the actual interview: