A Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, a liberal US think-tank, has defended comments he made during an email exchange about Catholic involvement in American politics, saying that the scandal they have prompted is “fake.”
A row erupted yesterday when a series of emails from 2011 were released via Wikileaks between Jennifer Palmieri, now Hilary Clinton’s director of communications and John Halpin, a former Democrat strategist.
Halpin said in the exchange: “Many of the most powerful elements of the conservative movement are all Catholic (many converts) from the [Supreme Court] and think tanks to the media and social groups.
“It’s an amazing bastardisation of the faith,” he added. “They must be attracted to the systematic thought and severely backwards gender relations and must be totally unaware of Christian democracy.”
In a statement for thinkprogress.org Halpin said that the statements were taken out of context. He said he made the comments in reaction to a news story about Rupert Murdoch baptising his children Catholic.
He said: “This email wasn’t an exposition on the nature of people’s faith or an expression of contempt for people of faith. It was simply a fleeting reaction from within the Catholic tradition to something I read.
“That’s the context of this email, none of which has been reported in media accounts that erroneously accuse me of being an anti-Catholic bigot in an attempt to attack my former colleagues for political purposes.
“All the individuals in this email chain are respectful and tolerant people who are being unfairly slandered in a fake scandal based on out-of-context accounts of a stolen email exchange I started long ago.”
Explaining the background to the emails, he said: “My email to my colleagues was in response to an article in The New Yorker by Ken Auletta on Rupert Murdoch. The author starts off with an account of ‘an exclusive 18-page spread’ in another magazine covering the baptism of Murdoch’s children in Jordan, with celebrities attending including Nicole Kidman and Ivanka Trump, and then proceeds to talk about Murdoch’s relationship with then-managing editor of the Wall Street Journal, Robert Thomson.
“Now I don’t care that Murdoch and Thomson raise their kids Catholic. Catholics have great values and a Catholic upbringing provides good guidance about how to live one’s life.
“What I reacted to in my email, rightly or wrongly, was the grand public display of Catholicism from a right-wing billionaire who owns a media conglomerate, including Fox News, that routinely assaults the values of the poor, sows racial discord, and attacks immigrants. This seemed inconsistent with what I was taught about Catholic values, so I penned off an email to my other Catholic colleagues.”
Haplin also said that he had been disturbed that at the time he sent the email, House of Representatives Speaker, Paul Ryan had just unleashed a budget plan “proposing large tax reductions for the rich, severe cuts in social welfare spending, the privatisation of Medicare, and the repeal of health care for millions of low-income people.”
He added: “I’m a progressive Catholic who was reacting in a private email to the arguments of leading conservatives who often misuse Catholicism to defend their agenda. Liberals can be just as guilty of this as conservatives. That’s what makes Catholic social teaching powerful — it doesn’t fit squarely within in any one party or ideological movement.”