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Wednesday, November 11, 2020

What Would Mother Angelica Say about EWTN's Enabling of Calumny and Slander? Part 1

Editor's Comment: We live in a time where calumny, detraction, and slander slap us in the face every single day: in the media, in political races and hearings over judgeships, in casual conversations. How many Catholics see these things as serious sins against justice? People have an absolute right to their good names. That an organization like EWTN refuses to recognize this and redress the wrong they did should trouble every viewer. Any confessor will tell you that those who sin against the 8th commandment have an obligation to try to undo the wrong. It is especially baffling that EWTN refuses, since their participation in the calumny appears to have been out of ignorance not malice. Nevertheless, they still have an obligation to correct the error and promote the truth. 
Guest Post

Falsehoods at EWTN – Catholic network abetted defamation then ducked responsibility; top officers Michael Warsaw and Doug Keck part of problem 

by Dexter Duggan

We’ve all seen a shocking lack of truth and ethical behavior in dominant secular media, but bad surprises can be uncovered elsewhere, too. This includes the “global Catholic network,” EWTN, and its top officers.

I’ve written at a few sites including Les Femmes – The Truth in recent years about the amazing, dismaying behavior of Missouri Catholic historian James Hitchcock, Ph.D., regarding his book published in 2016, Abortion, Religious Freedom, and Catholic Politics, in which he described Donald Trump as a “bizarre threat” to the pro-life movement if he were elected president.

As of Nov. 9, 2020, as I write this, the WorldCat book-search site shows Hitchcock’s falsehood-peppered book at 163 universities and institutions around the world, from Arizona to Australia, from Montreal to London to Zurich -- not to mention however many other buyers there may be. During two full interviews with Hitchcock – not brief clips of a sentence or two of his words -- EWTN repeatedly promoted the book for sale, including offering to provide it directly to EWTN audience members who contacted the network.

For some reason that Hitchcock has never revealed during these many months, despite my repeated efforts to obtain an explanation, he devised an assortment of outright falsehoods and serious errors against me as a lifelong pro-lifer and longtime writer for The Wanderer, the oldest national Catholic newspaper in the U.S., founded in 1867. He repeatedly misattributed the statements of other, clearly identified people directly to me. A person merely had to read my actual Wanderer articles to see how Hitchcock outright misrepresented them. This wasn’t a matter of differing interpretations or opinions about words.

Without any proof, Hitchcock even falsely painted me in his book as giving support to strongly pro-abortion politicians – which makes me a seriously sinful Catholic. Where did Hitchcock’s animosity come from? He won’t say. EWTN helped Hitchcock spread such calumny but never apologized or let me inform the audience of how it was misled. Good Catholic behavior by EWTN? Not!

Hitchcock never double-checked with me about accuracy before the book’s publication or even told me it was in production, although he was aware of my pro-life reputation when we both were contributing editors at the National Catholic Register decades ago.

To review some of the points in his misbehavior, please see Les Femmes’ article “Meet me in St. Louis, Dr. Hitchcock,” and the Arizona Daily Independent’s “Anti-Trump historian peddling fake news retreats into silence over his bold errors,” which has links to two Wanderer articles I first did about this calumny in mid-2017. The Independent article was written back in June 2018 but little has changed since then except that Hitchcock retired, St. Louis has a new archbishop, and Hitchcock sent me a four-sentence letter in June 2019 which still failed to acknowledge that he made even a single error and just insulted me again.

Today, however, I wish to devote more attention to stubborn complicity by EWTN in Hitchcock’s defamation. If EWTN doesn’t like the plain facts I am about to write – as the saying goes, “Take me to court.” A courtroom would provide a useful disinfectant to its misbehavior. On the other hand, as befits proper Catholics, EWTN could apologize to me and let me correct the record.

Many Catholic readers probably are aware of EWTN, or maybe even regard it as reliable. For those who haven’t followed it, here are a few facts.

A powerful media presence with 24-hour programming that focuses on Catholicism, and presumably the ethical obligations thereby involved, EWTN is based in Alabama. Although its impressive-looking website would make one think of a thriving operation, it actively seeks charitable contributions. Soliciting such money, EWTN says: “Your tax-deductible donation is stewarded by EWTN to touch lives with the Catholic faith. In its 38th year, EWTN is the largest religious media network in the world.”

As I later was to learn from EWTN lawyer John Manos, big EWTN is sensitive about potentially losing money from donors.

As a writer, I often web-search my name to see if anyone has said something about me. In late April 2017 I was surprised to see a claim online that I personally likened U.S. Sen. John McCain to “a mad scientist.” I also managed to see a few other distressing assertions against me. What was this? A blog? An ebook? It turned out to be a published book by Hitchcock, so I had to order it to discover the full impact. It turned out I was on nearly 10 percent of its pages.

The softcover edition I received had a little over 200 pages. The index shows me on 20 pages while Planned Parenthood is on only 10, so I seem to be twice as important as this major abortionist. In Hitchcock’s strange authorial selectivity, the veteran pro-life activist Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, isn’t listed at all, but Prohibition and the Spanish American War are. I read that the hardcover edition sold for around $100 a copy. After I obtained and read the entire remarkably inaccurate book in May 2017, I typed a four-page letter to Hitchcock saying that I was listing only some of his errors at the time because I wanted to bring them to his attention “before more time goes by…. After I receive your acknowledgement, I will provide additional corrections.” 

In late May 2017 I mailed both Hitchcock and his publisher a copy of the same letter – his international publisher, Taylor & Francis, having an office in New York City. The name of the book’s editor I obtained was Dean Birkenkamp. Neither Hitchcock nor Birkenkamp replied. I sent Hitchcock and Birkenkamp two more letters each. By the end of June 2017 I was able to initiate an email correspondence with a different Taylor & Francis worker, Tyler Bay, which proved futile.

Despite my additional letters, Hitchcock didn’t reply for just over two entire years, not until I finally advised him that I as a fellow Catholic would initiate canonical action against him for besmirching me. That’s when he sent me his inexplicable four-sentence letter -- addressing me as “Mr. McDermott” although the text concerned my situation. The envelope was sent to “D. Duggan.” He wrote that he had not misrepresented me, that I was at fault and was not an orthodox Catholic. Still no acknowledgement by Hitchcock that he made any error, no defense of his errors, and no proof of his assertions.

Having first written Hitchcock three letters from late May through June 2017 but receiving no reply, I was shocked to see him doing an hour-long EWTN interview with Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J., in early January 2018 to promote and sell his book, with Pacwa telling viewers how they could obtain the book directly from EWTN. What was going on? A half-year after I advised Hitchcock of his serious errors, he still dared go on the “global Catholic network” to promote them?

I promptly wrote a two-page letter on Jan. 6, 2018, to Pacwa, with a separate copy to his producer Jason Addington, both by certified mail, noting some of Hitchcock’s errors and pointing to my two mid-2017 Wanderer articles on Hitchcock that they could see online. My letters were delivered on Jan. 9. I felt sure they’d want to correct their error in boosting him. I concluded, “Because you prominently promoted this book, I believe I deserve a chance to reply for your many viewers.” However, neither Pacwa nor Addington answered me.

Persisting, I wrote a one-page certified letter on Feb. 2, 2018, to EWTN Chairman of the Board and CEO Michael Warsaw. I said that Pacwa and Addington hadn’t replied, even though “I asked for the opportunity to set the record straight on the air” because of the interview with Hitchcock. I wrote Warsaw that Hitchcock’s book “is peppered with easily revealed falsehoods, seriously misleading statements, and lack of research. It is inexplicable that a well-known historian like Dr. Hitchcock put his name on such a book.” I said I’d written criticisms of his errors, including the two mid-2017 Wanderer articles available online, and would be happy to go over the errors with Warsaw. I also said I’d called the false attacks to the attention of Hitchcock and his publisher, but Hitchcock never replied. I also asked that EWTN stop selling the book.

Warsaw promptly replied on Feb. 8, 2018, and said that interview “is not scheduled to be aired again.” He acknowledged that I requested airtime to correct the errors that EWTN spread to its audience by promoting the book, but Warsaw said that “EWTN does not intend to revisit the subject on air at this time.” He did not indicate any plan for EWTN to issue corrections or apologize to me, nor did Warsaw offer an apology that EWTN promoted a book that calumniated me as a practicing Catholic. He acknowledged my request for EWTN to stop selling the book, but he didn’t indicate EWTN would do so. 

Although recognizing that I asked for airtime to reply to what EWTN aired, Warsaw took the strange position that if I wanted the errors corrected, I should contact the publisher – even though I told him I already had done so. Indeed, I first wrote the publisher eight months before EWTN entered the picture. I wasn’t requesting that EWTN ask the publisher to make corrections. I asked EWTN to allow me to correct Hitchcock’s falsehoods and errors as sold to its own audience.

Catholic executive Warsaw washed his hands of EWTN’s direct responsibility for abetting the errors, and declined to allow me to reply. By deciding not to rebroadcast the Pacwa interview, EWTN seemed to acknowledge there was something undesirable in it, but would not allow me to tell the audience. Even newspapers run correction boxes. 


Kathleen1031 said...

We live in a strange world, with events going by so rapidly it's almost impossible to keep up. Lousy things happen. I'm not minimizing this, it's rotten and should never happen, but lousy things happen that are horrible and unfair and I don't know the answer. Powerful people operate on a schedule of their own and the rules don't often apply to them as they do for the rest of us. I wish that weren't true but it is. When our good reputation is sullied it's so unfair. God sees it, but even that may not be consoling enough.
Mother would not have tolerated much of what has gone on at EWTN, the network I give so much credit to for my conversion. EWTN in the 1980's was excellent, we saw mostly priests, bishops, religious. I don't watch it anymore, but last time I looked it was very "Francis-y", and we want no part of him or Francis Church. I was once a Media Missionary, that seems like eons ago, when our world was sane.
Perhaps a nice official letter from an attorney might facilitate more understanding from others. Sometimes that's the only way justice happens.

turkeyridge said...

Mr. Duggans story begs the question: Has he considered suing for libel? If not, why not?

Susan Matthiesen said...

Mother Angelica would say, "Blow the place up!"

Mary Ann Kreitzer said...

Turkeyridge, a libel lawsuit would be great, but presumes deep pockets. This is not a national issue like the attack on the Covington boys that would attract a team of high powered attorneys. I've known Dexter for years. Like many of us, he lives on a modest income from his primary job and his writing. How many of us could afford to pursue a lawsuit? My mom paid thousands to initiate a lawsuit against an evil man who did tremendous damage to my brother and probably contributed to his early death. She basically got zero for her tens of thousands of dollars. Sometimes the war comes down to a spiritual battle. Please pray for Dexter and others who suffer tremendous injustice from those who should be vigilant in its pursuit. Mother Angelica would have been. Today's Network is a shadow of her great and holy project.

Susan Matthiesen said...

James Hitchcock would say, "Dexter Duggan fan advocates violence against EWTN."

Kathleen1031 said...

I wonder if God doesn't take something like this very seriously. I mean, isn't one of the deadly sins denying someone their wages? In a way this falls under that category, when you slander someone unfairly when they are a writer it denies them wages and their good name. That seems to make it a sin that gets God's attention in a big way. Has anyone here not been unfairly treated in a way that harms their reputation? I know I have. I could name one incident that would curl your hair. People can be rotten. They can. People can be selfish and uncaring about others, and our world only leans more and more in that direction. When we get to heaven we'll notice the definite improvement. Until then, we suffer.
But while we're here, we're entitled to make as much of a stink about things as we want to. We are not required to slink away and suffer silently. Even if a lawyer is not retained one can still be vocal about objections. One time when my son was not even a teenager he bused tables at a local restaurant. When he left they did not give him his last week's pay. I told them I was going to be walking up and down in front of their restaurant with a sign that let the public know they kept wages from a 12 year old.
Money obtained. (and yes, I would have done it.) I can't stand bullies.

Mary Ann Kreitzer said...

You pegged it, Susan. LOL!

Kathleen, I love your style. I'd be out there in front of the restaurant with you!

Kathleen1031 said...

You'd be welcome! Being a thorn can be lonely work, lol. But sometimes it's the only way what is right and good will happen. You have to find that thing they don't want, tell them you'll use it, but be prepared to use it. As Dr. Phil once said about teenagers "Everybody has currency" (something they don't want to lose). If you are enough of a thorn, they'll probably see it your way. Give them a chance to make it right. Tell them what you want. I'm a believer in a lawyerly letter. An attorney will write one even if you don't intend to go further, for a small fee of course. But have that Plan B in play. That can be many things, but organizations don't like bad publicity. Be persistent. Get the signatures of others on a petition. That makes it bigger in their eyes. Even if you fail, you can know you gave it your best shot. Sometimes that's enough.

Dad29 said...

She basically got zero for her tens of thousands of dollars.

My father, an attorney, said it a million times: 'In a lawsuit, only the lawyers win.'

There's a reason that the Israelites were ALWAYS clamoring for 'justice.'