In the first segment of his interview with Sarah Palin, Charlie Gibson seriously distorted the meaning of a prayer Palin said about Iraq. I don’t blame Gibson for this; I believe he reasonably relied on an Associated Press story that cut off Palin’s quote in a highly misleading fashion. I hope that Gibson will go back and look at Palin’s original remarks, and clarify the record in a future segment.
Here’s the relevant exchange:
GIBSON: You said recently, in your old church, “Our national leaders are sending U.S. soldiers on a task that is from God.” Are we fighting a holy war?
PALIN: You know, I don’t know if that was my exact quote.
GIBSON: Exact words.
PALIN: But the reference there is a repeat of Abraham Lincoln’s words when he said — first, he suggested never presume to know what God’s will is, and I would never presume to know God’s will or to speak God’s words.
But what Abraham Lincoln had said, and that’s a repeat in my comments, was let us not pray that God is on our side in a war or any other time, but let us pray that we are on God’s side.
That’s what that comment was all about, Charlie.
GIBSON: I take your point about Lincoln’s words, but you went on and said, “There is a plan and it is God’s plan.”
This is a distortion of what Palin said. Palin didn’t say the war was a task from God. She said: pray that the war is a task from God. She didn’t say the war was God’s plan. She said: pray that it is God’s plan. In other words, pray that we are carrying out God’s will.
Here’s the accurate quotation, from the Huffington Post, complete with a clip:
“Pray for our military men and women who are striving to do what is right. Also, for this country, that our leaders, our national leaders, are sending [U.S. soldiers] out on a task that is from God,” she exhorted the congregants. “That’s what we have to make sure that we’re praying for, that there is a plan and that that plan is God’s plan.”
Just as Palin said in her interview with Gibson, Palin is clearly praying that the U.S. plan is God’s plan. In other words, as she said to Gibson: “let us pray that we are on God’s side.”
As Hot Air pointed out last Thursday, however, the Associated Press quoted Palin’s prayer this way:
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin told ministry students at her former church that the United States sent troops to fight in the Iraq war on a “task that is from God.”…
“Our national leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God,” she said. “That’s what we have to make sure that we’re praying for, that there is a plan and that plan is God’s plan.”
Allahpundit explained the problem:
What’s missing from the AP’s version? Right — the beginning of what she said, the part that makes clear she’s not asserting that we’re doing God’s will but simply praying that we are. It’s the difference between me saying “McCain will win” and “I pray McCain will win.” The first is an assertion of fact/secret knowledge, the second is an expression of desire/hope. The AP actually stoops to picking up the quote mid-sentence to make it better fit the stereotype of the holy-roller yokel claiming divine inspiration for Bush’s Crusade.
As I have pointed out, Palin’s prayer was in the tradition of speeches by past leaders, such as FDR during World War II. This is still a largely religious country, and a leader praying that we carry out God’s will is simply not startling at all. Claiming that Iraq is a “task from God” would be different — but Palin didn’t do that. Gibson suggested she did — but she didn’t.
Readers may not be as charitable as me, but I’m going to give Gibson the benefit of the doubt and assume that he didn’t know he was distorting Palin’s prayer. You have to have been paying attention pretty closely to know what the AP did; if you weren’t reading Hot Air or a similar site, you could easily be misled by the AP spin. I can’t tell you how many friends of mine have misunderstood what Palin said, and have told me that they were disturbed that Palin was claiming that Iraq was a task from God.
She didn’t. Yet Charlie Gibson has, in effect, told the country that she did.
I sincerely hope that Gibson will go back and look at the original language Palin used, and will correct the record, so that the AP‘s distortion of Palin’s prayer is not compounded by its repetition in what is sure to be one of the most widely watched programs of the campaign.
UPDATE: I have now watched the segment and part, but not all, of the relevant quote from her statement in church is set forth. It’s cut off, however, at the end of the phrase “on a task that is from God.” Thus, it omits the context showing that the phrase about “God’s plan” was a prayer — not a statement — that we are carrying out God’s plan. The net effect is wholly unfair and should really be corrected.
UPDATE x2: Every single observation in this post was made first by Allahpundit. I’m just highlighting this one because I think it deserves highlighting.
UPDATE x3: Via Ace we learn that ABC edited out a) Palin’s objection that Gibson’s initial quote was incorrect, and b) Gibson’s riposte: “Exact words.” They also (as I noted in my first update) included the full “Task from God” quote. I just went back and looked at the tape, and this is true.
But it doesn’t correct Gibson’s misleading quote: “I take your point about Lincoln’s words, but you went on and said, ‘There is a plan and it is God’s plan.'” That was left in, and it was wrong. She said: “That’s what we have to make sure that we’re praying for, that there is a plan and that that plan is God’s plan.” Very different.