Embassy Row: ‘Half-true’ stories

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Raymond Flynn, a former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, is blasting the mainstream media for “sensational half-true stories” about the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and the conclave of cardinals that will pick the Roman Catholic Church’s new pontiff.

Mr. Flynn, a Democrat who served three terms as mayor of Boston, complained that the media are performing a “great disservice to the public” by focusing on “salacious controversy and scandal” and missing this “amazing moment in world history” with the first papal resignation in nearly 600 years.

Benedict shocked the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics when he announced Feb. 11 that he would step down for health reasons. Thursday was his last day as pope. Meanwhile, cardinals from throughout the world are gathering in Rome to select a new pope.

Much of the news media coverage has focused on church scandals such as pedophile priests and critics who demand that the church adopt more liberal doctrines.

“The media spend more time trying to create controversy by interviewing the typical people who ideologically disagree with church values,” Mr. Flynn said in a statement issued to reporters. “The overexposure of critics — who are not only uninformed about the conclave but hostile to Christian values and traditions — has made it nearly impossible to develop sound and reliable sources about the Vatican.”

Mr. Flynn added that the conclave is “not a political election, a soccer match or a popularity contest — it’s much bigger than any of those.”

Mr. Flynn was ambassador to the Holy See from 1993 to 1997 and mayor of Boston from 1984 to 1993.

Tribal tension

Robert F. Godec has been the U.S. ambassador in Kenya for about two weeks and already is facing a potential crisis as voters in the anxious East African nation prepare for an election Monday, six years after massive tribal violence erupted after the last presidential contest.

Mr. Godec has urged Kenyans to conduct a free and peaceful election and to realize that democracy depends on political opponents cooperating after the ballots are counted.

“A successful, credible, nonviolent election is important to secure Kenya’s future,” he told a youth group in the capital of Nairobi in a recent speech. “All Kenyans, no matter their ethnicity or gender, will have a shared responsibility through their own actions to help ensure the election is free, fair and peaceful.”

However, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights warned this week of increasing tribal tension, as it released a list of physical attacks and hate speech fueled by the coming election.

The “chances that the same perpetrators will carry out the very same illegal acts as were witnessed in the last elections are very high,” it said.

Violence after the 2007 elections claimed more than 1,000 lives and displaced about 600,00 people from their homes during months of tribal clashes.

The March 4 ballots will include candidates for the national assembly, governors and local officials. But the most explosive contest is between presidential candidates Raila Odinga of the Luo tribe and Uhuru Kenyatta of the Kikuyu clan, the largest of 42 tribes in Kenya.

Tensions between the Kikuyu and the Luo date to the British colonial period, which ended in 1963.

Mr. Godec was appointed charge d’affaires in August after Ambassador Scott Gration, a political appointee, resigned in June. Mr. Godec, a former ambassador to Tunisia, presented his diplomatic credentials to Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki on Feb. 15.

Kennedy to Japan?

Less than a month ago, Caroline Kennedy was reported to be the leading candidate to serve as the next U.S. ambassador to Canada. Now she is heading for the other side of the world.

Ms. Kennedy, the 55-year-old daughter of President John F. Kennedy, is said to be the leading candidate to serve as ambassador to Japan.

The Bloomberg news service reported this week that “two people familiar” with the appointment say President Obama has settled on her to replace Ambassador John Roos, who has been the U.S. envoy in Tokyo since August 2009.

On Feb. 8, Embassy Row noted that Canada’s respected newspaper, the National Post, was confident that Ms. Kennedy would replace Ambassador David Jacobson in Ottawa.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author
James Morrison

James Morrison

James Morrison joined the The Washington Times in 1983 as a local reporter covering Alexandria, Va. A year later, he was assigned to open a Times bureau in Canada. From 1987 to 1989, Mr. Morrison was The Washington Times reporter in London, covering Britain, Western Europe and NATO issues. After returning to Washington, he served as an assistant foreign editor ...

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