The move by Sinclair Broadcasting to inflict the right-wing views of management on its 140+ local television stations has gotten plenty of attention. But in a partisan political environment, the Trump administration has been relying on an even friendlier mass media outlet: Christian television.
As Politico notes, Christian television is no longer just the venue for televangelists offering prayers and seeking donations. Instead, it is an overtly political channel that the Trump administration is happy to use to its own benefit.
Last year, President Trump gave more interviews to the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), the brainchild of Pat Robertson, than to CNN, ABC or CBS. Trump administration officials, including cabinet members, regularly appear on CBN.
CBN is just one outlet. Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) is the largest Christian channel, with more local stations than Fox. While not as political as CBN, it’s top-rated show is hosted by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, whose daughter is the White House secretary, and is gleefully partisan. (Trump appeared on that show for an interview too.)
Huckabee, who is reliably homophobic, typically pulls in more than a million viewers a show.
The Trump administration knows it has a good thing going in Christian television. It’s a direct line to Trump’s core supporters, white evangelicals whose love of Trump is unshaken by his myriad of moral failings.
The interviews are friendly and the questions are soft balls. As an added benefit, the interviews themselves seldom escape the Christian bubble to cause additional headaches in the mainstream media.
The administration has rewarded the Christian networks not only with access but with journalistic credibility. CBN reporters get called on at White House briefings to ask questions, and Trump chose the network’s chief political correspondent, David Brody, to ask the first question at a joint press conference with Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Of course, Pat Robertson is still a source of laughable pronouncements about the state of the world, especially on LGBT issues. But Robertson’s crazy outbursts obscure the real power that his network, and those like it, have.
The televangelists are still preaching to their choir, but now they are preaching politics. As Trump’s poll numbers show, the choir is all too happy to listen.