Most of the time, Shepard Smith is the sole voice of reason and intelligence at Fox News. Other times, though, like this morning, it feels like he's that plus some kind of much-needed national conscience. It's of course predictable and tragic that viewers of the network that employs him won't listen to a goddamn word he said and will likely bombard that network with acidic, amusingly misspelled e-mails complaining about him, but that doesn't matter. The fact is he stated what needed to be stated in response to the arrival of Pope Francis and the apoplectic freak-out from Republicans over who he his, what he stands for, and why he refuses to toe their party line like he's apparently supposed to.
Here's what happened: During Fox News's live coverage of the pope's visit to the White House today, Bill Hemmer and Shep were talking back and forth, when Hemmer brought up Francis's supposed propensity for "going political" and the ways it tends to frustrate, confound and occasionally infuriate everyone. Hemmer called Francis an "equal opportunity offender," which is such a horseshit bromide that as soon as he uttered it a hook should've appeared from off-camera and yanked him away by his neck. No doubt at the behest of the Ailesministration, Hemmer made sure to get all hung up on the pope's alleged politics and how divisive they are, particularly here in 'Murica. But, as usual, Shep was having none of it. As usual, he took the opening to drop a 50 megaton bomb of pure reality directly into the Fox News bubble -- and it was beautiful.
Here's what he said:
I don't know -- I think we are in a weird place in the world when the following things are considered political. Five things, I'm going to tick them off. These are the five things that were on his and our president's agenda. Caring for the marginalized and the poor -- that's now political. Advancing economic opportunity for all. Political? Serving as good stewards of the environment. Protecting religious minorities and promoting religious freedom globally. Welcoming [and] integrating immigrants and refugees globally. And that's political? I mean, I don't know what we expect to hear from an organization's leader like the Pope of the Catholic Church, other than protect those who need help, bring in refuges who have no place because of war and violence and terrorism. These seem like universal truths that we should be good to others who have less than we do, that we should give shelter to those who don't have it. I think these were the teachings in the Bible of Jesus. They're the words of the pope, they're the feelings of the president. And people who find themselves on the other side of that message should consult a mirror, it seems like. Because I think that's what we're supposed to do as a people, whatever your religion. I mean, it seems to me and I think to probably, as Bill O'Reilly would put it, most clear-thinking Americans -- that that's how we're supposed to roll.
Coincidentally, Bob Cesca and I were talking about this recently on the podcast we do. When did basic humanity become "political?" The answer is that it didn't. Pleading politics is something partisans do when they know they're backed into a corner and can't fight their way out without looking terrible. It's "calling mercy" disguised as a righteous and principled stand. I may not agree one bit with the belief system that's the foundation of Pope Francis's fight for the poor, for action in the face of global climate change, and for an end to the kind of soulless capitalism that crushes so many underfoot, but the fight itself is a noble one. If you believe in Jesus as his teachings were described in the Bible, what the pope is advocating shouldn't shock or off-put you one bit. What he demands from all of us with regard to these subjects is what the biblical Jesus demanded. And, as Shep said, there's nothing at all political about Francis's unwillingness to budge on subjects that are vital to the survival of individuals around the world and the world as a whole.
You want Francis to once again sing the old Vatican classic about "the sanctity of life" (as sniveling opportunist Rep. Paul Gosar said he'd like to hear in his sanctimonious announcement declaring that he would be boycotting the pope's speech to Congress)? Guess what? That's what Francis is talking about. The sanctity of life for the entire planet. The planet that we're killing. He's talking about the sanctity of life for those who have nothing in this world. It's understandable that today's conservatives may not find value in the lives of the less-fortunate given that they've already been born and don't automatically receive protection as part of the "right to life" cause, but that right does in fact extend to people who've managed to get past the fetus stage.
It's like this: Republicans are just pissed because Pope Francis is calling them out on their charade of self-righteousness and because he won't be the ventriloquist dummy they can hide behind and make do their bidding. So, small men and women that they are, they try to dismiss the pope's message as nothing more than politics. But that's only because they've got nothing and have no choice but to cry mercy.