The top Southern Baptist public policy official used debunked and exaggerated claims to criticize President Barack Obama for supposedly “living like a playboy.”
Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, leveled the attack against Obama during the July 16 broadcast of his radio program “Richard Land Live!”
“His White House is more expensive than any other White House,” Land said about Obama. “He’s traveled more on Air Force One than any president in history in the comparable time period. And his wife’s White House staff has been increased by tenfold. She has tenfold more people working for her than any other first lady in history. And all these czars that he’s appointed, the White House administrative budget is higher than it’s been under any other president.”
“He ought to live like a country that’s got a debt crisis instead of living like a playboy,” Land added.
Land provided no support for his claims about White House spending, but independent fact-checking organizations had previously debunked the claims that have been circulated via emails and Glenn Beck.
Earlier this month, FactCheck.org debunked the chain email claim that Obama has traveled more than any other president. The group examined both number of missions (round trips from Andrews Air Force Base and back) and “sorties” (individual flights between landings within each mission).
The investigation found that Obama actually flew fewer missions and sorties than his immediate predecessor in the White House.
“[I]n his first two years, Bush took 148 missions with 416 sorties, compared with 126 missions with 324 sorties for Obama over two years,” FactCheck.org explained.
“These latest chain emails are part of a continuing pattern of indignant, anonymous authors spreading false and misleading claims about the travels of the president and the first lady.”
Politifact.com, which won a Pulitzer Prize for its political fact-checking reports, debunked the claim about Michelle Obama’s staff after Glenn Beck made the accusation back in February. The claim was rated as “Pants on Fire,” the worst rating a claim can receive.
Politifact.com found that Michelle Obama’s staff was the same size as Laura Bush’s staff at the end of George W. Bush’s presidency.
“The size of Michelle Obama’s staff is similar to that of her immediate predecessors,” Politifact.com concluded. “In short, Beck’s outrage is based on numbers that are wildly off the mark. We rate his claim Pants on Fire.”
As for the claims about the so-called “czars,” FactCheck.org found that George W. Bush actually appointed more czars during his presidency than Barack Obama has appointed.
“Richard Land is incorrect about President Obama’s travel and the size of Mrs. Obama’s staff, according to highly reputable organizations,” said Robert Parham, executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics. “These are egregious errors. But his assertion that the president lives like a playboy is strikingly shameful and completely unacceptable for a Christian minister.”
“Frank Page, the SBC’s chief executive officer, and Bryan Wright, the SBC’s elected president, should insist that Land publicly apologize for his malicious playboy statement and correct the record,” said Parham. “They should issue a letter of apology to the president. Unless they distance themselves and the SBC from such statements, then they allow Land to present Southern Baptists as a malicious and untruthful people. If they are silent, then they make a mockery of the 2011 SBC resolution calling for civility in public discourse.”
Last month, messengers to the SBC annual meeting passed a resolution “On Civil Public Discourse” that denounced “speech or activities of any individual or group that brings shame upon the name of Christ and His gospel” and urged Baptists “to speak biblically and authoritatively with conviction, kindness, and gentleness.”
Land frequently resorts to name-calling against those he disagrees with politically. In 2008, Land used an obscene Yiddish slur during a chapel address at Criswell College to mock U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, who is Jewish.
After receiving criticism for the remark, Land claimed “ignorance” of the word’s meaning and apologized.
Brian Kaylor is editor and president of Word&Way, associate director of Churchnet, and a contributing editor for EthicsDaily.com.