Conservative radio host Janet Mefferd has decided to pull her report on plagiarism by Christian Right megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll, but not for the reasons you might think. The evidence is quite clear that Driscoll repeatedly engaged in plagiarism, but Mefferd has decided to pull incriminating documents, and even copies of her initial interview with the pastor, in what appears to be a reaction to criticism from Driscoll’s allies.
On the Wednesday edition of her radio show, Mefferd even apologized to Driscoll: “The interview should not have occurred at all, I should have contacted Tyndale House [Driscoll’s publisher] directly to alert them to the plagiarism issue and I never should have brought it to the attention of listeners publicly. I would like to apologize to all of you and to Mark Driscoll for how I behaved, I am sorry.”
Reflecting on the matter, Carl Trueman of the Westminster Theological Seminary wondered: “Is journalism no longer considered a legitimate Christian calling? Or is the task of the Christian journalist simply to strengthen the hand of the vested interests?” Blogger Dee Parsons noted that Driscoll may have been especially offended that the charges of plagiarism came from a woman.
Indeed, it seems that Mefferd faced tremendous pressure and criticism from Tyndale House Publishers and Driscoll’s allies, one of whom called for an interview boycott of her show.
One of Mefferd’s producers, Ingrid Schlueter, even resigned in reaction to the criticism.
Schleuter used to work for VCY America’s Crosstalk (whose host is her father, Vic Eliason). But she left in 2011, warning that “the mafia crime families have nothing on ‘Christian ministry.’”
Warren Throckmorton grabbed Schleuter’s posts about the Driscoll plagiarism scandal before they were removed from an online forum:
I was a part-time, topic producer for Janet Mefferd until yesterday when I resigned over this situation. All I can share is that there is an evangelical celebrity machine that is more powerful than anyone realizes. You may not go up against the machine. That is all. Mark Driscoll clearly plagiarized and those who could have underscored the seriousness of it and demanded accountability did not. That is the reality of the evangelical industrial complex.
I’ve read much speculation online, which is understandable given the confusing situation, most of it dead wrong. Being limited in what I can share, let me just say that truth tellers face multiple pressure sources these days. I hosted a radio show for 23 years and know from experience how Big Publishing protects its celebrities. Anything but fawning adulation for those who come on your show (a gift of free air time for the author/publisher by the way) is not taken well. Like Dr. Carl Trueman so aptly asked yesterday in his column at Reformation 21, does honest journalism have any role to play in evangelicalism now? (It was rhetorical.) My own take on that question is, no, it does not. The moment hard questions are asked, the negative focus goes on the questioner, not the celebrity, when there is something that needs scrutiny. Those who have the temerity to call out a celebrity have tremendous courage. The easiest thing in the world is to do fluffy interviews with fluffy guests on fluffy books. So hats off to those like Janet who have the courage to ask at all. And my own opinion on Mr. Driscoll is that despite the bravado, despite the near silence of his Reformed peers and enablers, his brand is damaged, and damaged by his own hand. (emphasis ours)
UPDATE: Jonathan Merritt reports that Mefferd refuses to comment on the cae:
It seems likely that, at the very least, Schlueter’s did in fact resign. I say this because I called and spoke with Mefferd moments ago. I asked her to confirm whether Ingrid Schlueter did, in fact, resign. She responded, “No comment.” I asked a round of six follow-up questions about Schlueter and whether Mefferd still believes the allegations she made were true. Each time, she responded with “no comment.”
Emails to Bobby Belt, another producer with the Janet Mefferd Show, have not been returned.