Speaking with Fox News host Sean Hannity in an interview aired on March 12, Vice President Mike Pence said that after The View co-host Joy Behar called him to apologize for remarks she made on The View on February 13 that ridiculed his Christian faith, he accepted her apology. However, he also encouraged her to apologize publicly to “tens of millions of Americans who were equally offended.”
On the program, Behar referred to statements that Pence had made about his Christian faith and how Jesus spoke to him. Most Christians would understand his words in the proper sense — not as having heard literal voices from Jesus, but receiving a message from Jesus in other ways, such as from the reading of the Bible. But Behar either misunderstood this or pretended to misunderstand it, saying, "It’s one thing to talk to Jesus. It’s another thing when Jesus talks to you…. That’s called mental illness, if I’m not correct. Hearing voices."
The next day, Pence expressed his objections to Behar’s comments with C-SPAN, stating, “To have ABC maintain a broadcast forum that compared Christianity to mental illness is just wrong. It is simply wrong for ABC to have a television program that expresses that kind of religious intolerance.”
On February 15, just two days after Behar made her offensive comments on The View, Media Research Center President Brent Bozell issued an open letter to James Goldston, president of ABC News. Bozell wrote:
I am writing to bring a serious problem to your attention. Yesterday, I issued a statement on Twitter, addressing offensive comments made by Joy Behar and Sunny Hostin of The View regarding Vice President Mike Pence’s Christian faith. I referred to comments they made after playing a clip from Celebrity Big Brother. Omarosa Manigault-Newman trashed Pence as an “extreme Christian” who has conversations with Jesus. The panel then took turns taking shots at the Vice President’s faith.
Ms. Hostin, who identifies as Catholic, called Pence’s Christianity “dangerous”: “When you have a Mike Pence who now puts this religious veneer on things and who calls people values voters, I think we're in a dangerous situation. Look I'm Catholic. I'm a faithful person, but I don’t know that I want my vice president, um — speaking in tongues and having Jesus speak to him.”
Ms. Behar mocked the Vice President directly, equating his faith to “mental illness”: “Like I said before, it's one thing to talk to Jesus. It's another thing when Jesus talks to you,” she warned. Hostin agreed: “Exactly. That's different!” Behar responded: “That's called mental illness, if I'm not correct. Hearing voices.”
These characterizations of the Vice President’s faith are insulting not just to him, but to all Christians. Yet as of the writing of this letter, neither Ms. Hostin, nor Ms. Behar, nor ABC have apologized.
A March 8 report in the Washington Post noted that Behar’s manager, Bill Stankey, told the Post that Behar “recently” apologized to Pence during a phone conversation.
“Yes, she did speak to Vice President Pence, they had a great, very nice conversation,” the report quoted Stankey. “The vice president was very gracious and very understanding. He understood that Joy wasn’t attacking anybody and that there was some miscommunication.”
However, a White House source told the Post that Behar “in no way suggested her comment was a ‘miscommunication.’”
“She apologized to the vice president, he accepted and said he wasn’t offended by her comment for his own sake but on behalf of the millions of evangelicals who watch ABC and her show,” the source wrote in an e-mail. “[Pence] encouraged her to make the same apology publicly on the show that she did privately to him.”
The Post report noted that as of March 8, Behar had not publicly apologized to Pence on The View.
Speaking with Hannity, Pence said,
You and I know that criticism comes with public life. But I felt it was important that I defend the faith of tens of millions of Americans against that kind of slander. And I did so. And you know, I give Joy Behar a lot of credit. She picked up the phone. She called me. She was very sincere, and she apologized and one of the things my faith teaches me is grace; forgive as you’ve been forgiven.
To which Hannity said: “So does mine, but I’m not as good at it as you.”
Look, but I said to Joy, of course, I forgive you. That’s part of my faith experience. But I did encourage her and I’m still encouraging her, to use the forum of that program or some other public forum, to apologize to tens of millions of Americans who were equally offended.
It took almost a month, but USA Today reported on March 13 that Behar used the previous day’s episode of The View to apologize for her comments “conflating some Christians’ belief that Jesus talks to them with mental illness.”
Behar told her audience, “I think Vice President Pence is right. I was raised to respect everyone’s religious faith, and I fell short of that. I sincerely apologize for what I said.”
Photo: AP Images