07 October 2005

Christian Right leader Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council takes a swipe at my former Chronicle of Higher Education colleague Peter Schmidt in the latest edition of his email newsletter. Peter’s sin? Reporting that Harriet Miers helped establish a lecture series at her alma mater, Southern Methodist University, that has often featured liberal speakers. “The Chronicle is certainly no friend of the pro-life cause,” writes Perkins, “and may have exaggerated Miss Miers’ role in setting up the lectureship.”

I wouldn’t mind if The Chronicle was pro-choice; but it wasn’t and it isn’t. The paper prides itself on objectivity and balance, and while I’m skeptical that either goal can ever really be met, I know from personal experience that The Chronicle tries harder than most. Peter Schmidt is a smart and honest reporter who’s maintained an even keel in the midst of complicated politics — among his subjects and in his office — for years.

So why’s Perkins picking on him? Hard to say. One possibility is that he’s actually chastising The Chronicle for playing into the arguments of conservatives willing to break with Bush over Miers — a course of action Perkins has so far been unwilling to take, leaving him — like other Christian Right leaders forced to choose between political loyalty and ideological purity — in an embarrassing position.
–Jeff Sharlet