With so-called “fake news” bursting all around us these days, it’s important to see the distinction between 1) simply wild stories that don’t survive a moment’s inspection and 2) scholarly seeming tales that may sound impressive – but also collapse at the instant a person investigates them.
The problem with category two is that if the scholar has a Ph.D., he may appear reliable. People could grant him credibility. Which makes it more astounding and inexplicable when examination reveals he wrote a book peppered with his easily exposed falsehoods, errors, and seriously misleading claims.
I’m not talking about matters of opinion or interpretation that may be up for debate. I mean outright false claims and misrepresentations that the scholar doesn’t attempt to defend when he is exposed. He just falls silent and apparently hopes no one notices.
In this case, I was told by an attorney it could cost tens of thousands of dollars in legal expenses to seek redress because neither the author nor publisher made any apology or correction – or even bothered to give an explanation — over more than a year’s time. Instead, even after I flagged his errors, he went on the major Catholic network EWTN in 2018 to continue trying to sell his book – with EWTN’s direct assistance in taking orders for it! EWTN calls itself the “Global Catholic Network.”
After I brought some of the serious errors of James Hitchcock, Ph.D., to the attention of EWTN chairman Michael Warsaw, Warsaw replied to me that Hitchcock’s hour-long interview with Father Mitch Pacwa, S.J., would not be rebroadcast. However, Warsaw didn’t grant my repeated requests for my own interview time on his network to alert its many followers to how Hitchcock’s book misleads.
It’d be so much simpler if James Hitchcock admitted he made mistakes and proceeded to rectify the false claims without further delay. And this course of action is all the more necessary because the elderly author made his reputation as a historian at a major Catholic institution, Missouri’s Jesuit St. Louis University, and, as historian emeritus, he still occasionally teaches at the archdiocesan seminary there. One calumny in this Catholic professor’s book is that I’m a seriously sinful Catholic.
Hitchcock didn’t think that Donald Trump would be a good president. He wrote a book that had as one of its themes the bleak view that the Manhattan developer would be no friend to the pro-life movement. As the book closed, Hitchcock said that regardless of whether Trump or Democratic foe Hillary Clinton won in 2016, there would be “a tragic ending indeed” for the “pro-life struggle.” Hitchcock didn’t entertain evidence there was hope for Trump being better. The book was overbroadly titled Abortion, Religious Freedom, and Catholic Politics.
Because the book went to press right around the November 2016 election, Hitchcock lost the opportunity to wait at least a few months to see how valid his theory was turning out to be. By 2018, of course, pro-lifers were proclaiming Trump to be the most pro-life president of all. But Hitchcock maintained a sullen silence.
Abortion, Religious Freedom, and Catholic Politics originally was produced by Transaction Publishers, a firm soon acquired by the international academic publisher Taylor & Francis, which put out Hitchcock’s book under the Routledge imprint. Unhelpful people I’ve encountered at Taylor & Francis are Dean Birkenkamp, Tyler Bay and attorney Julie Smith.
Almost everything Hitchcock wrote about me on 20 pages listed in the index is false or seriously misleading. This is quite a feat when Hitchcock simply is supposedly citing and quoting from published articles I’ve written for the 150-year-old national weekly Catholic newspaper The Wanderer (www.thewandererpress.com). It’s not as if he had to rely on secret sources or whispered gossip. Still, he got almost everything about my articles significantly or completely wrong. Given this performance, how reliable are we to regard his treatment of others?
This is even more mystifying because in the early 1980s both he and I were contributing editors to the National Catholic Register weekly, then headquartered in Los Angeles – although neither of us lived there. (Decades later, EWTN bought the Register.) Occasionally in his opinion column, Hitchcock even referred favorably to something I’d written. It’s not as if I’m some utter stranger to him. Or does he think I am? At his age by now, have memory and comprehension become unreliable? One wonders at times if his book even went through the hands of a serious editor before going to press.
Hitchcock and I never were close, and maintained no relationship after the Register years. Still, I was shocked in late April 2017 to discover by chance on the Internet that I was a victimized target in some anti-Trump book titled Abortion, Religious Freedom, and Catholic Politics, published a half-year earlier. Even with his role as a historian, Hitchcock never had contacted me to review or warn me of what he planned to write. Given that he favorably referred to some of my writing in the 1980s, didn’t it strike him as strange that he was about to attack me now for supposedly holding a very different viewpoint?
I’ll cite enough of Hitchcock’s remarkable errors to give you an idea without, I hope, becoming boring. When I typed them up single-spaced for an attorney to review, they covered 16 pages of letter-sized sheets on one side. Later, I’ll tell you how to find more if you’re interested.
In my Wanderer articles, I often cite other people making comments. But Hitchcock claimed their words were my own, even though the actual speakers were plainly identified. He said that I made statements by California black activist Ted Hayes, Arizona conservative GOP activist Rob Haney (twice), New Zealand conservative activist Trevor Loudon, Virginia political strategists Gray Delany and Zach Werrell, and, in a very garbled way, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Nor are these comments the beginning words in my articles and Hitchcock just grabbed the first thing he could. Instead, he had to read deeply into the text for what he used, so he presumably very well knew the content and context by then – the 27th paragraph, the 30th paragraph, the 46th paragraph.
For instance, in the 27thparagraph of a Dec. 17, 2015, Wanderer story about California activist Hayes speaking on the 14thAmendment to the Constitution, I wrote: “U. S. blacks ‘are moving toward Donald Trump’ because they recognize ‘he’s speaking more to our interests’ on the 14th Amendment, Hayes said.”
However, Hitchcock took Hayes’ words and wrote (p. 172): “Blacks too, Duggan said (Dec. 17), were opposed to immigration and would flock to Trump’s banner.” Hitchcock got the speaker wrong, the verb wrong (moving, not flocking), and misrepresented Hayes’ reference to illegal immigration as being only about “immigration.” Hayes had mentioned Trump in passing; the major topic of his talk was the 14th Amendment.
But under Hitchcock’s hand, Hayes and his talk disappear, and I’m misrepresented as being some unreasoning Trump fan who apparently reads the minds of blacks and knows the depth of their Trump fervor.
When I quoted Arizona activist Haney for four sentences opposing U.S. Sen. John McCain (p. 62), Hitchcock took just two of Haney’s sentences, used quotation marks and ellipsis, and said these were my own words. As Hitchcock had portrayed me as a super fan of Trump, now I’m so biased against McCain that I supposedly openly declare him to be “like a mad scientist.” These don’t appear to be accidental errors. They’re falsifying, to make a fake case against me.
Hitchcock asserts that The Wanderer shirks Republicans. However, he removed references to the GOP that I wrote. For instance, in the Aug. 6, 2009, Wanderer, I cited Washington Times reporter Ralph Hallow writing up the GOP’s 2008 vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, saying that “she is eager to campaign for Republicans, independents, and even Democrats who share her values on limited government, strong defense, and ‘energy independence’.”
Although Hallow’s quotation explicitly has Palin eager to stump for GOP candidates, Hitchcock garbles this to pretend I’m stating my own views — and the GOP has no place in them. Wrote Hitchcock: “In 2009 (Aug. 6) Duggan placed his hopes in either conservative Democrats, a possible third party, or Sarah Palin” (p. 68).
And where did the third party come in? Oh, that started in the 28th paragraph of my story, where I cited not Palin or myself but the president of Concerned Women for America about voter interest in that topic.
I reported on the Jan. 16, 2010, annual meeting of the Maricopa County, Ariz., Republican precinct committeemen in The Wanderer dated for Jan. 28, 2010. I noted opposition expressed there against Martha Coakley, the Massachusetts Democrat extremist running in a Jan. 19 special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat of the late Edward Kennedy. Coakley had suggested that Catholics shouldn’t work in emergency rooms because of their moral views. However, Hitchcock removed the Republican identification and claimed that “Duggan reported” on a gathering of Arizona “true conservatives” instead – a term he uses to mean those who look down their noses at pro-lifers. They “were ecstatic,” he alleged, over a “newly elected” pro-abortion Republican – whose election hadn’t even been held yet (p. 154).
Again, a totally false description, supposedly based on my writing, but it’s useful deception for an author pushing his fake-news tales. Coakley completely disappeared, even though one might think Hitchcock would be pleased to have reported she was criticized.
During the campaign for the 2016 presidential election, many voters were looking for clues about Trump, who everyone realized had seemed to move easily among a liberal crowd in the milieu of his Manhattan headquarters. Was he actually better attuned to conservatives?
Father Frank Pavone, a New Yorker and national director of an organization named Priests for Life, had been observing Trump up close and liked what he saw about the candidate on issues. Pavone had been well-known in national pro-life circles for decades. Interested, I did an interview with him that occupied about two-thirds of p. 3 in the tabloid-sized Wanderer dated for June 23, 2016, more than four full months before the November election. It was headlined, “Fr. Pavone Says Trump Speech ‘Crystal Clear’ Supporting Life, Religious Liberty.”
Obviously, though, Pavone wasn’t in tune with Hitchcock’s views. Despite the priest’s decades of pro-life involvement, neither his name nor his belief in Trump appear in the index of Hitchcock’s book – although Prohibition and the Spanish-American War do!
Hitchcock is a lifelong resident of St. Louis (p. ix), which may explain his confusion about the record of Arizona’s late U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater – although historians are expected to understand more than their hometowns. On the other hand, I’ve spent the large majority of my life in Phoenix.
On p. 69 alone, which is packed with glaring, unsubstantiated errors, Hitchcock wrote that I’m a “Paleoconservative” who didn’t like Reagan Democrats because they “were oblivious to ‘true conservatism’.” Others and I “decried” their helping “facilitate the betrayal of conservative principles.” Meanwhile, “Goldwater showed himself to be fanatically pro-abortion,” but I “considered the pro-abortion Goldwater worthy of unqualified support.” We “Paleoconservatives” wanted “to persuade pro-lifers to transcend their narrow outlook and support a wider agenda.”
There’s the calumny against me as a Catholic. For a practicing Catholic to give “unqualified support” to a “fanatically pro-abortion” politician is a grave sin. Seminary instructor Hitchcock tosses off falsehoods like this without providing any proof. His import is that without repentance, I’ve condemned myself to Hell.
Hitchcock can’t seem to understand that Goldwater never ran for the Senate as a strong pro-abortionist. Indeed, for his final race, in 1980, he pledged his commitment to a Human Life Amendment and thereby received the valuable endorsement of Arizonans for Life, the state’s largest pro-life political group at the time, in what was a tight race. Only in 1981, the year following his successful re-election, did Goldwater start his strong public attacks on us moral traditionalists, and we responded suitably against his tough words.
Also, Hitchcock said columnist Pat Buchanan in 2015 “faulted the Republican leadership (March 26) for opposing Obama’s foreign policy and particularly for continued Republican support of Israel.” Hitchcock immediately added, “On that issue Duggan (May 21) appeared to agree, praising Rand Paul … for his anti-interventionist foreign policy” (p. 172). My May 21, 2015, article said nothing about opposing Israel. If Hitchcock sounded like he was delivering a sideswipe hint of anti-Semitism, it’s the low level that he chose to play at.
Although Hitchcock told the EWTN network earlier this year that he’s a regular reader of The Wanderer and marks it up as he reads, he has never acknowledged or replied to two seriously critical articles I wrote there more than a year ago, after I had time to obtain and read his appalling book.
You can enter these two links:
There also are articles under my byline at the “Jim Hitchcock and Chris Manion Conversations” blog:
Or if you’re really interested, you might complain to the St. Louis archbishop, whose seminary the apparently untouchable Hitchcock teaches at: The Most Reverend Robert J. Carlson, Archbishop of St. Louis, Cardinal Rigali Center, 20 Archbishop May Dr., St. Louis, Mo. 63119.
There’s plenty more I could call attention to, but why cause you, dear reader, more Hitchcock pain?