Most people, if they get the enormous challenge of cancer and become cancer patients, include prayer as very much a part of their story. It’s natural. Alex Trebek, the beloved longtime Jeopardy! host, had a ferocious cancer battle ahead of him with Stage IV pancreatic cancer, which has a nearly hopeless prognosis — and two months after telling the public about it, very specifically asking for their prayers, he miraculously went into an apparent remission, his tumor reduced by at least half, though he still has months of treatment ahead of him.
Did the press report his natural reaction of rejoicing from the power of prayer, as well as thanking his world-class medical providers? Nope, not the prayer part.
According to NewsBusters, ABC reported Trebek’s story with the expected accuracy, but NBC cut out Trebek’s statement about the power of prayer:
Now let’s look at NBC’s edits. Correspondent Joe Fryer played the same soundbite of Trebek’s vow. But in this one, the NBC reporter spoke over the prayer part so it sounded like this: “I plan to beat the low survival rate statistics for this disease.” And so the edit stood out in the video provided.
Next came the part where Fryer skipped over Trebek’s credits in the People magazine piece: “He tells People, “I’ve got a couple million people out there who have expressed good thoughts… I told the doctors this has to be more than just the chemo.” For Trebek, that support is part of the answer.” Compare that to what Muir said and what People magazine wrote.
It was highly relevant to his story because Trebek last March requested that the public pray for him — here was his poignant statement last March:
Now, just like 50,000 other people in the United States each year, this week I was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Now normally, the prognosis for this is not very encouraging, but I’m going to fight this, and I’m going to keep working. And with the love and support of my family and friends and with the help of your prayers also, I plan to beat the low survival rate statistics for this disease. Truth told, I have to! Because under the terms of my contract, I have to host Jeopardy! for three more years! So help me. Keep the faith and we’ll win. We’ll get it done. Thank you.”
World-class medical care matters — who doesn’t shudder when he thinks of Steve Jobs opting for some quack’s fruit diet even as other billionaires warned him to get real medical treatment for his pancreatic cancer, which seems to have happened? What’s more, in recent years, pancreatic cancer treatment has advanced amazingly. But prayer matters to people with the uncertainty of cancer.
Cancer is such a strange disease that sometimes even the best care doesn’t work. Nobody knows why people get cancer or why some people get it and some people don’t. People can get it regardless of how rich they are or how far they have risen in the world, and all their money suddenly doesn’t matter. Treatment can be extensive and life-upending and go on for a couple of years or sometimes even more. I met a prominent surgeon at a children’s school recital last year whose never-smoked-a-cigarette young wife had been fighting lung cancer for more than a decade. Imagine having that as your lot as the mother of small kids putting on their elementary school performances for Christmas. So it’s natural that people pray, and they appreciate prayers, they ask for prayers, they get prayers, and they attribute any remission to prayers, too. If they are not cured, they are not alone. If they are, they are going to be grateful and will have the privilege of Someone to thank. Their doctors are viewed by them as emissaries and agents of something higher. And in the midst of all this, it’s natural also to want to tell the world. Even scientific studies show that prayer helps.
This shows how petty and obnoxious NBC was to cut out Trebek’s statements on the power of prayer. They didn’t want people to know this; it was too, too embarrassing to them. By doing this, they actually dis-reported the news, as Trebek told it. They also denied the public the right to know if their prayers had been heard since quite a few had been busy praying for him. ABC got the story right, but NBC was reporting something effectively made up by its omission, something that wasn’t the actual story.
Was that a bid to erase prayer from the public sphere, maybe with the ultimate aim of leaving only the state as its replacement? Well, that is a lefty agenda item, and the press is its handmaid. Sure sounds like it to me. But it also distorted actual news in favor of something more Orwellian. They would have been better off not reporting Trebek’s story at all if they cared about news accuracy, but they knew just enough to know that the public would be interested. Wanting to have it both ways, they went with their lefty agenda because they couldn’t stomach Trebek’s reference to prayer, and they ended up reporting something weird — with their ABC competition allowing us to see what they were up to and what the real story was.
Image credit: Jim Greenhill via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0.