During a report for NBC’s Today show on Tuesday, correspondent Anne Thompson eagerly hoped that a new book from Pope Francis was meant to be an attack on President Trump, even though Trump is never mentioned in the text.
“Pope Francis says the pandemic has exposed ‘the virus of indifference.’ He is offering us some solutions, as well as some pointed criticisms, in an effort to help humanity overcome its problems,” Thompson proclaimed. Moments later, she made it clear that she though Trump was one of “problems” that needed to be overcome.
Talking to British author Austen Ivereigh, the Pope’s collaborator for the book, Thompson noted: “It’s the first papal book to be drafted in English.” She then wondered: “Is this a book aimed at the English-speaking world?” Ivereigh admitted that American politics was top of mind as the book was written: “Certainly we were thinking over the summer a lot about the United States, about the political situation in the U.S. That’s why the Pope gets into questions like, the George Floyd protests and the pulling down of statues.”
Thompson enthusiastically followed up: “Is he embracing the Black Lives Matter movement?” Ivereigh acknowledged that the Pontiff was, though with some reservations: “He sees it as a protest in favor of human dignity against an abuse of power, but he also then goes on to say that he disagrees very much with pulling down of the statues, which he sees as an attempt to erase history.”
Trying to turn the discussion to partisan politics, Thompson highlighted certain portions of book: “He criticizes people for pulling out of the Paris agreement on climate change. He criticizes leaders who say that the coronavirus is the result of foreigners.” She then hopefully asked: “Is he talking about President Trump?” Ivereigh replied: “Well, the short answer is I don’t know.”
Thompson didn’t try to hide her disappointment: “You didn’t push him on that?” Ivereigh countered: “No. And I wouldn’t, because I know how he is. He never does name names. He’s very careful never to personalize or to accuse or to attack particular individuals.”
Conveniently missing from the segment was any mention of President-Elect Joe Biden and his obvious conflicts with Catholic teaching on issues like abortion. Also ignored were the serious challenges to religious freedom around the world, including in the United States, especially amid pandemic restrictions.
Were these topics covered in the papal book? NBC didn’t bother to ask because the network wasn’t interested. Clearly all Thompson wanted to know was how it could be used to trash Trump.
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Here is a full transcript of the December 1 report:
7:41 AM ET
HODA KOTB: We’re back now, it is 7:40, with In-Depth Today. This morning, an inside look at a thought-provoking new book from Pope Francis.
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Yeah, that’s right. Ahead of a holiday season unlike any other, the Pope is offering guidance for Catholics and non-Catholics alike. It’s the first papal book ever drafted in English and NBC’s Anne Thompson spoke with the Pope’s collaborator. Anne, good morning. It’s in English, that give us a chance. [Laughter]
ANNE THOMPSON: It does. And you know, this is a very accessible papal book. Most papal books aren’t, they’re very intellectual. But this is really personal, and in this book, Pope Francis says the pandemic has exposed “the virus of indifference.” He is offering us some solutions, as well as some pointed criticisms, in an effort to help humanity overcome its problems.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: The Pope’s Pandemic Message; Calls for Hope in New Book Addressing 2020’s Many Issues]
In a new book, Let Us Dream, Pope Francis admits that during the pandemic he’s been overwhelmed, but never hopeless.
AUSTEN IVEREIGH: He’s offering spiritual guidance for how to navigate this dark night.
THOMPSON: Austen Ivereigh is the Pope’s collaborator on the book, in which Francis says “The basic rule of a crisis is that you don’t come out of it the same.” The author of two Francis biographies, over the summer, Ivereigh exchanged phone calls, recordings, emails and documents with the Pope, while Francis was locked down in the Vatican and Ivereigh was in England. It’s the first papal book to be drafted in English.
Is this a book aimed at the English-speaking world?
IVEREIGH: Certainly we were thinking over the summer a lot about the United States, about the political situation in the U.S. That’s why the Pope gets into questions like, the George Floyd protests and the pulling down of statues.
THOMPSON: Is he embracing the Black Lives Matter movement?
IVEREIGH: He sees it as a protest in favor of human dignity against an abuse of power, but he also then goes on to say that he disagrees very much with pulling down of the statues, which he sees as an attempt to erase history.
THOMPSON: He criticizes people for pulling out of the Paris agreement on climate change. He criticizes leaders who say that the coronavirus is the result of foreigners. Is he talking about President Trump?
IVEREIGH: Well, the short answer is I don’t know.
THOMPSON: You didn’t push him on that?
IVEREIGH: No. And I wouldn’t, because I know how he is. He never does name names. He’s very careful never to personalize or to accuse or to attack particular individuals.
THOMPSON: The Pope does have a lot of praise for women’s leadership during the pandemic, commending female political leaders for “making decisions swiftly and communicating them with empathy.” Though he does not endorse women priests, Francis points out he has elevated lay women to leadership positions in the Church.
IVEREIGH: And what Francis is doing is saying we need women leaders in the Church. I mean, nine out of ten of the lay people that he appointed to oversee the Vatican’s finances were women.
THOMPSON: The pandemic, the Pope says, reminds us that “In serving people, we save ourselves.” It’s time, he says, for the world to move away from what he calls “the selfie culture” and embrace “a culture of fraternity.”
IVEREIGH: In every crisis, in every period of intense suffering and tribulation, there is a grace. There is an opportunity to change.
GUTHRIE: And, Anne, the Pope talks about how crisis in his own life changed him.
THOMPSON: He does, Savannah. He speaks of his “three personal COVIDs,” as he calls them. And one in particular concerns when he was hospitalized at age 21 and they removed part of his right lung. He says he understands how people on ventilators struggle to breathe because he struggled to breathe at that age. And he also mentions two nurses who cared for him who taught him that no one is saved alone. And that is the central theme of this book.
GUTHRIE: Really fascinating. Anne, thank you so much for bringing it to us. Appreciate it.
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