In the Dec. 26 issue of Christian Century, James M. Wall, senior contributing editor for the magazine, came to the defense of former president Jimmy Carter, who has come under withering criticism for factual errors and distortions in his book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.
In Carter’s defense, Wall rehearses the former president’s role in brokering the 1977 peace agreement between Israel and Egypt and asserts that the former president is different from the Bush and Clinton administrations because of his willingness to listen to the Palestinian “narrative.” Wall writes: “His book describes the quest of an inquisitive president, one who wants to know what we can do about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
Interestingly enough, Wall does not address well-substantiated criticisms of Carter’s book.
Nor does Wall address the financial support the Carter Center has received from anti-Zionist financiers in the Arab world.
Wall’s silence on Carter’s links to Arab money is particularly ironic given his oft-repeated concerns over Israeli influence on American foreign policy. For example, in a April 18, 2006 column, Wall complains of the “extraordinary political power” of the Israel lobby as described by Stephen Walt and John Mearscheimer.
It is no surprise that Rev. Wall is not interested in plumbing issues that raise legitimate questions about Jimmy Carter’s credibility. Christian Century‘s archives reveal that Wall ran Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign in Illinois during the 1976 and 1980 presidential elections. During the 1976 campaign, Wall took a two-month leave of absence from the editorship of the Christian Century (a post he held from 1972 to 1999) to serve as Illinois chairman of the Carter-Mondale campaign. Four years later, he served again in this post.
In a profile of Chicago delegates to the Democratic National Convention that appeared in the Aug. 13, 2000 Chicago Daily Herald, Wall described his political history as follows:
My specialty is being a delegate. This will be my sixth convention. I haven’t held a political office, but I have run campaigns. I did Jimmy Carter’s Illinois Campaigns in 1976 and 1980. I was also on the Democratic National Committee as the representative from Illinois during Carter’s term in office.
In the Nov. 26, 1980, issue of Christian Century, Wall stated he cherished his friendship with the president, and acknowledged that the relations had the potential for damaging his objectivity as a journalist.
My respect for him, my regard for him as a man of principle with a deep religious commitment, has not diminished. Indeed it has grown. However, I do not expect ever again to have this kind of conflict between partisan loyalty to a president and my responsibility as a journalist and churchman. …
It has been said elsewhere, and perhaps should be repeated, that journalists should not become friends with those they cover.
Given the lack of journalistic standards at the Christian Century, it is no surprise that the board members of the Christian Century Foundation, the charity that manages the magazine, allowed Wall to take part in two presidential campaigns; but at least then the decision was made with full disclosure. In his lastest piece on Carter, no such disclosure was made, depriving readers information about the conflict between Wall’s “partisan loyalty” and his “responsibility as a journalist.”