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Reporting on C Street

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In the last several months, a political storm has brewed around a religious right group called the Family and its center of activities, a residential dwelling reported for tax purposes as a church located on C Street in Washington, D.C. South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, Nevada Senator John Ensign, and former Mississippi Congressman Chip Pickering are three scandal-plagued figures who resided at the C Street townhouse. C Street has gotten heavy coverage with major media, which is something of a breakthrough, considering that issues with religious right groups like the Family have in the past simply been laughed off or ignored. In the last few days, however, the Family and the scandal surrounding C Street have gotten attention—with sharply differing treatment—in the media of the Christian right as well.

World Magazine, a leading Christian right publication, opens with a double-track assault on the Family in a cover-story entitled the “ABCs of C Street.” They trace the history of the C Street house and the principal figures behind it, and then turn to the money trail. As the lede makes clear (“an organization big on protecting its own and small on church ties and theology”), their attitude is critical and exacting. The piece looks like serious journalism, much like the publication’s exposé work on Ralph Reed and other scandals in the past.

Meanwhile, Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network has an entirely different take. They pass by the role played by C Street fellowship in the unraveling of marriages, focusing instead on the glass that’s half filled. They quote Michael Cromartie of the Ethics and Public Policy Center:

“It is anything but a sort of conservative Republican kabal,” Cromartie said. And yes, while Sanford and Ensign morally failed even while attending C Street, there is a flip side. “The fact of the matter is what you ought to do if you want to do a real story on C Street is find out how many affairs were thwarted because of the accountability of this house,” Cromartie said.

Talkingpointsmemo reports that as originally aired, the CBN piece featured announcer Gordon Robertson talking about the organization’s intense secrecy and then remarking “God bless ‘em!” However, CBN took down the video version of the piece.

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