Waldman Sets Warren Straight

Rick Warren is currently on something of a media rehabilitation tour, trying to recover from the controversy that arose when he was tapped to deliver the invocation at Barack Obama’s inauguration, giving interviews to Larry King, Hugh Hewitt, Neil Cavuto, and Christianity Today insisting that his support of Prop. 8 and his statements equating homosexuality with pedophilia and incest were wildly overblown.

But one person he hasn’t sat down with is BeliefNet’s Steve Waldman, to whom he first made the incest and pedophilia comparisons.  And now Waldman has weighed in to set the record straight as Warren tries to gloss over his previous statements and re-write history:

After the interview ran, Warren wrote me a note asking if he could clarify some things he said. I gladly printed those clarifications. Interestingly, though, it was not this gay marriage comment he wanted to clarify. Rather he wanted to be clear that he didn’t believe civil unions were a constitutional right. (“No American should ever be discriminated against because of their beliefs. Period. But a civil union is not a civil right. Nowhere in the constitution can you find the “right” to claim that any loving relationship identical to marriage.”)

After the controversy exploded, he issued a video clarifying that he did not equate homosexual relationships with those other kinds. Here’s his full statement. He suggested that the misunderstanding happened because the “media loves to create conflict” and bloggers “who really need to get a life” aspire to practice rudeness from the safety of their homes.

He went on to mischaracterize the interview in another subtle but meaningful way:

“In that interview I named several other relationships. In fact I’ve done it several other times. I’ve named other relationships such as living together or a man with multiple wives or brother-sister relationships or adulterous relationships or adults with children, common law partnerships. Or all kinds of other relationships. I don’t think any of them should be called marriage.”

Actually, in my interview, the only relationships he mentioned were the most nefarious ones, between siblings (incest), an older man and a child (pedophilia) and polygamy. He did not mention people living together or common law partnerships, and if he had, it would have entirely changed the implication of his comment.

In his Larry King and Christianity Today interviews he said he’d privately apologized to gay friends. That’s interesting because, as far as I know, he’s never done that in public.

This whole controversy could have been easily avoided if he’d taken a modicum of responsibility and said, “I’m sorry. I did accidentally imply that homosexuality and these other relationships were morally equivalent. That’s not what I believe, and I apologize for implying that.” Instead, he’s blamed other people for distorting his words.