Popemania in full swing for media at White House stop

President Barack Obama and Pope Francis stand at attention during the playing of the national anthems during a state arrival ceremony for the pope, Wednesday on the South Lawn of the White House. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Barack Obama and Pope Francis stand at attention during the playing of the national anthems during a state arrival ceremony for the pope, Wednesday on the South Lawn of the White House. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
It was all-pope-all-the-time Wednesday morning as television media ignored virtually any other news to reverently cover Pope Francis' address at the White House.

Wherever one turned, there he was, acknowledging the perils of climate change and deriding inequality in one of his longest English-language speeches ever: ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News Channel, even CNBC and Fox Business Network.

Of course, old reliable C-Span was there but without any intrusion from anchors, reporters or academic pundits.

There was as much emoting as cold analysis, even on Fox, where many viewers surely take issue with Francis' unequivocal views on climate change, if not other matters.

Fox stalwart Shepherd Smith said, "It feels like the sort of thing you can get on a Sunday [at church]: 'Take in those that need it, protect the things that god gave us. Be good stewards, live honorably and do what's right.'"

"I am confident that people will find fault with this somewhere," Smith said in what surely was an understatement when it comes to just his own audience. "But I think it did me some good."

"You can disagree with some of it," he finished. "But most of it came from a pretty good place."

Chris Cuomo on CNN spoke of the pope's message of "tolerance and inclusiveness" as relevant to both the political left and right.

"When he spoke the hush became a silence of intensity," said Cuomo.

"It may be a partisan crowd but it is a proud crowd," said Terry Moran, ABC's chief foreign correspondent.

And if there is already one favorite and facile media symbol of Francis, it's his small Fiat 500. Detroit auto marketers would crave to have their expensive commercial campaigns for any car conjure up such an effective, instant image as the Fiat has, at least for the press.

For CBS' Norah O'Donnell, it's evidence of Francis wanting "a simpler church" and the intent of "focusing on the more pastoral element" of the church.

Her colleague Major Garrett provided some leavening of the morning -- long journalistic genuflection -- to Francis by getting into the politics of all this. For a moment, reflexive admiration morphed into what they'd know at the State Department as cold-blooded realpolitik.

Garrett spoke of how the White House will exploit its seeming unanimity with Francis on climate change, especially when it comes to an upcoming international climate change conference.

The Francis message, which might have left diehard Catholics who deny climate change slightly stuttering, is "completely resonant with the president's political message," Garrett underscored.

At minimum, there is a synchronicity between the pope's U.S. visit and Obama's agenda on a variety of topics, notably the environment and immigration.

But, of course, the broad coverage didn't mean America didn't possess other options, especially in the cable universe.

As Francis spoke, ESPN broke into coverage, too.

But it was covering dour New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick offering minimalist responses at a press conference on the team's next game.

That likely didn't do too many much good.

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    James Warren

    New York City native, graduate of Collegiate School, Amherst College and Roosevelt University. Married to Cornelia Grumman, dad of Blair and Eliot. National columnist, U.S. News & World Report. Former managing editor and Washington Bureau Chief, Chicago Tribune.

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