Saturday, April 09, 2011

The mischief caused by Lisa Ling's portrayal of Todd Bentley continues

[Posted at Bene Diction Blogs On Marach 17, 2011]

Lisa Ling, host of Our America on Oprah's new TV network, is still doing evangelist Todd Bentley a good turn even after her episode on "faith healing" has been pulled off the OWN website.

Standard procedure for the show's online excerpts, it looks like, is to only post the latest epsiode and highlights from previous episodes. The featured clips from the faith healing episode are Ling's interview with Todd Bentley, and the story of the wheelchair-bound man who wanted so badly to be healed. [I'm glad that some of the commenters on the Bentley interview clip picked up--as I did in my comments on the full episode--that perhaps some journalistic "sins of omission" were in play.]

But although the Our America episode with Todd Bentley is now not fully online, and may not be rebroadcast for a while, a column in the Denver Post newspaper a few days ago shows that the evangelist may still be benefiting from the program.

Remember the children's party game Telephone? It's the one where the kids line up and one starts by whispering something in the next child's ear, who then whispers to the next child in line, and so on. At the finish, both ends of the line say what the phrase was, and it is usually quite garbled in transit.

Lisa Ling's version of "I told a friend and they told a friend..." has similar results.

Doni Luckutt, a lifestyles columnist for the Denver Post newspaper, wrote a column on the episode , which went on the papers website March 11.

Luckutt begins by writing that "embracing America's diversity as being key to FAITH" and expressing that she regretted that various religious leaders didn't get back to her by her deadline.

However, Lisa Ling's episode on "faith healing" and what looks like quotes from Ling herself, allow Luckutt to address the question.

A description of the show argues that it provides "a decidedly deep look" at issues facing America, so much so that viewers are "perhaps even questioning what we consider to be truth."

This paragraph shows the possible mischief. Emphasis mine:
"As Ling herself took a leap of faith, the first episode of her show focused on faith healers, in which she follows a man in a wheelchair looking to walk again, a mother with aggressive cancer, and others for whom hope had been fostered by faith-healer Todd Bentley. "I'm a typical T.V. producer and thinking 'if he does not walk we don't have a show,'" she [Ling]offered. But the people featured in the episode made her re-evaluate preconceived notions, in the end, squashing skeptical thoughts and providing a completely different point of view. "This is completely demonstrative of what faith means," she said."

Lisa Ling's program, I respectfully suggested, showed evidence of a lack of even handedness. If you had not watched the ABC Nightline program or read the story in World about the "healed" people at Lakeland going on to die of their illnesses, you would have no reason to doubt what Ling has to say. Ling's lack of even-handedness is passed along to columnist Luckutt who follows along like a little lamb.

So, Luckutt's readers, should Bentley come to Denver, are led to think that Bentley is someone who engenders faith. Lisa Ling said so on her show. Luckutt passes that on in her column. It must be true.

A crucial quote from Ling too. "I'm a typical T.V. producer and thinking 'if he does not walk we don't have a show.'" I'm glad that she realizes that people need to have faith without immediate results. But Ling shows a propensity for bias here. There is much evidence that Todd Bentley has a propensity for creating much out of little when it comes to results. If this had been mentioned in Ling's story, however, this would have led people to say, "Other Christian faith healers aside, why are you covering this fellow, with his track record, and character."

May we say that, in Ling's mind, Bentley had to be covered as someone who was probably or possibly able to hear people, or there was no show? Did this affect what she reported about him and his background on the program and what she did not?

Do we have a case of not letting the facts get in the way of a good story?