Bill Donohue, the feisty leader of the Catholic League, told BizPacReview this week that he thinks it was “insane” that Neil Cavuto of Fox News didn’t allow him to talk about the context for the burning of Notre Dame, which was that there have been hundreds of incidents of vandalism of Catholic churches throughout France in recent months.
“I never mentioned the word Muslim or Islam or any religion or any secular group,” he told BizPacReview. “I didn’t mention anything. I simply stated the obvious. I’m a sociologist, so I tend to put things in social context. And I described what happened, just last month… to a 17th century church and smashing statues and what not. And then I get cut off. And then Neil tries to go on to some inane kind of topic about how much money it’s going to cost to rebuild. How do I know? So I went right back to my point…”
Donohue, who’d been asked to call in to Cavuto’s show during live coverage of the horrific fire at the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, was cut off a second time by Cavuto when he persisted in talking about the desecration of churches in France, with Cavuto saying, “Wait a minute, Bill. I love you dearly, but we cannot make conjectures about this so thank you, Bill. I’m sorry, thank you very very much,” and disconnecting the call.
“I hadn’t even gotten there,” says Donohue. “And all of a sudden we say, ‘Wup, can’t have that…’”
Donohue says he was gratified to get so much support afterwards, from friends and acquaintances and most prominently, from talk radio king Rush Limbaugh. And he doesn’t think it was all about what happened to him.
“I think what people are reacting to is, ‘Are there some changes over there at Fox? What seems to be happening? Why do you bring on Donna Brazile? Why are you rolling out special audiences for Bernie Sanders? Why are you asking some of the hosts, and then this comes out, telling them to tame it, and this and that,’” he said.
“I simply stated the obvious.”
“Is it because Fox feels that they’ve been marginalized?” Donohue asked. “Because a Democrat says, ‘You’re not going to anchor a debate.’ Are they trying to make sure that they’re in good stead with the mainstream media so we’re going to make a few genuflections that way? I think it goes beyond that, quite frankly. Whatever it is, they need to rethink their policy on having guests on. You have a guest on so you allow him to speak his mind. Now if I said something bigoted, racially, religious, or whatever, that might be different… I’m just explaining the social context, and I’m not allowed to do that? That’s insane. No wonder I got such a strong response from so many people who were, quite frankly, angrier about it than I was.”
Donohue says it seems higher ups at Fox News seem to have decided, “We’re not going to go there.”
“Well then, if you don’t want to go there,” he said, “don’t even have any guests on the show then. Just go ahead and tell everybody: ‘We don’t know anything…’ But don’t ask people to come on there and tell them, ‘Well, we think you might mention something therefore we have to cut you off.’ It was bad TV. Bad journalism.”
“Surely they have to know better at Fox, and surely, it wasn’t a good hour for them,” he added.
But Donohue says people who called him afterwards were more upset than he was about the segment, and that he doesn’t hold it against Cavuto, whom he’s known for decades.
He says he noticed that Cavuto said, “Bill, I love you dearly” right before cutting him off.
“Why did he say that? Because I think he felt torn,” he said.
Donohue says Cavuto hasn’t contacted him since the show last week, but that he’s OK with that.
He said he thinks Cavuto was just “doing pretty much what he had to do” and following orders that someone was giving him in his earpiece.
“These things happen,” he said. “It’s regrettable. And if I see Neil again, and no doubt I will, we’ll just put this behind us and go on from there.”
On the Notre Dame fire, Donahue says he’s really wondering whether the investigation into the cause hasn’t already been compromised.
“The thing that stung me most about the situation in France,” he said, “is that the authorities declared that this was just a fire when they hadn’t even done a forensic investigation. That’s what bothers me about it. You don’t know the answer until you do the investigation. So why the impulse to deflect from terrorism?”
Churches across France have been vandalized by Muslim immigrants in recent years, with the 17-century Church of Saint-Sulpice, the second largest Catholic church in Paris, set on fire on March 17, 2019, just one month before Notre Dame went up in flames. Officials confirmed that the cause of the Saint-Sulpice fire was arson.
The Catholic League was founded in 1973 as a response to anti-Catholicism in American culture. Donohue has been the president since 1993. In addition to leading the organization, he’s also the author of seven books, with his latest, Common Sense Catholicism, from Ignatius Press, due out on April 27.
Margaret Menge is a freelance journalist writing for BizPacReview. She’s worked as a journalist for the last 17 years, contributing to the New York Observer, Columbia Journalism Review, U.S. News & World Report, Breitbart and The American Conservative, and serving as the editor of small newspapers in New York and Florida.
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