February 2006 – One of the responsibilities I have as president of American Family Association is to do media interviews. Others on staff also do interviews, but I do as many as anyone attempting to communicate our message and concerns to the general public. In recent months I have done about 100 interviews including newspapers, radio talk shows and television news programs. Some of the better known media are CNN, Fox News, ABC News, MSNBC, The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Radio Factor with Bill O’Reilly.
My objective in participating in these programs is three-fold. First, I want to represent the Christian perspective on whatever issue it is we are discussing. Secondly, I want to let more people know about our work here at AFA, so that perhaps we can gain new supporters. And finally, I want to generate pressure to bring change in our culture.
In December I received an invitation to appear on The O’Reilly Factor television program on the Fox News Channel. The subject was the War on Christmas. The date I was invited to appear was December 20. It was a topic with which I was very familiar, since American Family Association has been one of the organizations documenting the efforts of some people and groups to purge the real meaning of the season from the cultural landscape. So I agreed to do the interview.
One of the producers called and said they would send a car to pick me up and take me to a studio in Memphis where I would do the program. My 12-year-old son Walker – who served as my personal assistant – and I were chauffeured in a Lincoln Town Car. In earlier interviews for cable news shows, I had gone to a television station in Memphis, but this time we went to a private studio. As I changed into a suit and tie Walker surveyed the situation and told me that he had noticed the earpiece I was to wear was not clean so he proceeded to give it a thorough rubdown with some alcohol. I told Walker, in the words of Bill O’Reilly, I appreciated him looking out for me.
The lone camera man was friendly enough. The set consisted of a chair with a bookshelf in the background and two bright lights shining down on my bald head. The glare blinded me. I couldn’t see the camera eight feet away. I listened to Bill do the segments before ours. One segment featured Dr. Jerry Falwell. Just before our segment Bill talked briefly to both of us and thanked us for coming on the show. Then it was time to do the interview and try to make some sense of the issue. The show is taped an hour before it airs. There are no retakes.
There was no video monitor, so I could not see O’Reilly. It’s not easy talking to someone you cannot see. We went for eight minutes and because Bill was sympathetic to our side on this issue, the interview was much easier than if we been adversaries in the “No Spin Zone.” Although he is generally conservative, I have seen the Irish-American chew up a few conservatives and spit them out of the “Zone.”
It is amazing how many people watch his program. I got an e-mail from a friend in Tasmania, Australia, who saw the show.
Our hope is that because of all the attention the War on Christmas received in 2005, we will see less hostility towards Christmas and the Christian message in 2006.
One of the risks you run by doing these interviews is you say something that does not make sense, or you lose the debate because you can’t respond quickly enough. That is why I always pray and have others pray as I go to be interviewed. I believe if you do your homework and pray, the Lord will give you the words to say.
In 2006 let me encourage you to write three letters to the editor of your local newspaper on various issues. Did you know that these letters are the second most read part of the paper outside the front page stories? People are interested in what others in the community are saying. Before you send it, let someone else who has good writing skills read over it and make corrections and suggest changes so that your letter will be as persuasive as possible.
Affecting public opinion for righteousness’ sake can have a lasting impact on your community and your country, whether it be on national television or in your local paper.