Here in Washington, separating fact from rumor is a major challenge for those of us who are news junkies, and that was especially true in this week’s confirmation of Mary Ann Glendon as the new U.S. ambassador to the Vatican.
Glendon, of course, is well-known to those of us in the Catholic press who have been following her as a newsmaker. In 1995, she was the first woman named to head a Vatican delegation to a major United Nations’ conference, the U.N. Conference on Women in Beijing, and in 2004 she was named president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.
A couple weeks after her nomination as ambassador was announced early last month, speculation surfaced that she was being blocked by Republican members of the Senate. The supposed reason: Glendon had been an adviser to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who some think is not conservative enough on social issues to deserve the party’s nomination next summer. One magazine’s blog even quoted a “senior Republican Senate aide” as saying the nomination was dead on arrival.
But when it is just one blog post quoting one unnamed source, you never really know how good the source is. But because of the Internet, the story spread.
The rumors were fueled further a couple weeks later by a Robert Novak column saying the nomination was being held up in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The culprit this time? According to Novak, it was Catholics for a Free Choice.
Now it is no surprise that Catholics for a Free Choice, which has been condemned by the U.S. bishops, would be opposed to Glendon. But Novak never said whether the group has enough political clout on Capitol Hill to convince Senate Democrats to take a public stand against Glendon. Even when you are the majority party, you don’t pick every fight that you can, especially when it’s not a Supreme Court nominee or some important Cabinet post.
The fact that Glendon was confirmed with no opposition and with little public attention speaks volumes about the role the Internet plays in the spread of both facts and rumors — and trying to tell the difference. Even after the nomination was approved Wednesday evening, one group was still bemoaning the “fact” that the nomination was on hold.
Even early this morning, another news service’s blog was saying the Bush administration might be getting “cold feet” on the nomination (even though it had been confirmed 36 hours earlier).
I guess the lesson is, it’s always best to check your facts first.
PHOTO: Mary Ann Glendon at an April 2007 news conference at the Vatican. (CNS/Alessia Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)