I suppose when you read a lot of news reports about one story, you begin to notice details. I know I have in the whole Chick-fil-a imbroglio. There is one particular error in reporting that I keep seeing over and over. I have seen it in The New York Times, The Associated Press, and countless others. The error goes something like this:
Dan Cathy recently expressed support for traditional marriage in an interview with the Baptist Press. His controversial remarks were not received well by those who support gay marriage. In a later interview, Cathy said that Americans are “inviting God’s judgment” in their attempts to redefine marriage.
This report is based on a chronological error. Dan Cathy did in fact express support for the biblical definition of the family in the Baptist Press interview. That interview touched off this latest controversy. As far as I can tell, he hasn’t said another word about it since that interview. The quote about “God’s judgment” comes from an interview that Cathy gave a month earlier with a local radio host in Atlanta—an interview that almost no one paid attention to at the time. Gay marriage wasn’t mentioned in either interview, and the remark about “God’s judgment” was more of an aside.
Why is this significant? Report after report makes it sound like Dan Cathy expressed his support for traditional marriage and then later doubled-down on that support with a reference to “God’s judgment.” It gives the impression that Cathy was spoiling for a fight on this issue. It makes it look as if after beginning the controversy, he amped it up a notch. But that is not at all what has happened. Cathy has been silent since the backlash began. If anything, the company has tried to deescalate the controversy, but this particular error obscures that fact.
Why are major media outlets propagating this inaccuracy? The error is probably accidental. Perhaps it continues to go unnoticed because it feeds into a narrative that reporters want to believe. The only problem is that it isn’t true.