Fox News pundit Brit Hume is facing a backlash over his comments this past weekend that golfer Tiger Woods should convert from Buddhism to Christianity because Buddhism can’t “offer the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith.”
Since making the comment on Fox News Sunday, Hume has been accused of proselytizing for the Christian faith and denigrating Buddhism’s estimated 350 million followers.
But Hume insists that he never meant to insult Buddhism, and stands behind his call for Woods to become a Christian. Perhaps most tellingly, he has not — as some commentators, including the Washington Post‘s Tom Shales, have suggested — apologized for the remark.
“I was really meaning to say in those comments yesterday more about Christianity than I was about anything else,” Hume told Fox’s Bill O’Reilly Monday night. “I mentioned the Buddhism only because his mother is a Buddhist and he has apparently said that he is a Buddhist. I’m not sure how seriously he practices that.”
Hume went on to insist, as he did in the Fox News Sunday segment, that converting to Christianity would solve Woods’ marital and personal problems.
And, in a statement that used the language of true, old-fashioned proselytization, Hume explained his argument that Woods’ conversion would be a boon to Christianity.
“What I’m saying is if Tiger Woods were to make a true conversion, we would know it,” Hume said. “And — and it would shine because he is so prominent. It would be — it would be a shining light, and I think it would be a — it would be a magnificent thing to witness.”
That’s not the response some political observers were looking for. Arguing that Hume should apologize for denigrating the Buddhist faith, Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales wrote, “If Hume wants to do the satellite-age equivalent of going door-to-door and spreading what he considers the gospel, he should do it on his own time, not try to cross-pollinate religion and journalism and use Fox facilities to do it.”
Shales added that Hume’s “remark will probably rank, even only a few days into January, as one of the most ridiculous of the year.”
Outraged by criticism of the avowedly religious news host, blogger Tim Graham at the conservative news site NewsBusters demanded that liberals critical of Hume apply the same standards to Fox News as are applied to cartoon shows on the news channel’s sister broadcast network.
“Why are liberals like Shales so angrily offended by a brief statement of evangelism on a TV news show?” Graham asked. “Why are liberals so much less offended when Fox broadcasts scabrous anti-Christian mockery on Seth MacFarlane’s Sunday night comedies?”
But perhaps even more damning was the commentary from Washington Post faith columnist pastor Welton Gaddy. “I would hope that, as a reporter of the news, Mr. Hume would report truth to people of all religions with mutual respect and not use the cover of ‘a news cast’ to engage in proselytization,” Gaddy wrote. “Ironically, Mr. Hume is engaging in a practice that most religious leaders in the nation try to avoid.”
This video is from Fox News’ O’Reilly Factor, broadcast Jan. 4, 2010.