Describing Jesus as “King” is as old as Christianity itself, but the implication was lost on media mavens who accused the Republican National Committee of referring to Donald Trump.
A brouhaha erupted on social media after the RNC issued a Christmas message with the line, “this Christmas heralds a time to celebrate the good news of a new King.”
The result was a rash of social-media posts declaring that the RNC was describing Mr. Trump as “a new King.”
As RawStory put it, “Twitter users were baffled and a little horrified to see a major political party calling its Republican-elect a ‘king’ before he’s even sworn into office.”
The website listed a host of tweets from those blasting the RNC for the message, such as FoxSports senior editor Ryan Rosenblatt, who said, “The @GOP is comparing Trump to Jesus and calls him our ‘new King’ because delusion and terror don’t take a break for Christmas.”
MSNBC producer Kyle Griffin said, “No joke—This line is actually in the RNC’s Christmas message.”
RNC spokesman Sean Spicer appeared stunned by the question when contacted Sunday by media outlets, including CNN Politics and BuzzFeed.
“I hope you are kidding,” Mr. Spicer said in an email, according to BuzzFeed. “Christ is the King in the Christian faith. To ask this on Christmas is frankly offensive.”
Mr. Spicer, who has been named Trump White House press secretary, added in a late Christmas post, “Christ is the King. He was born today so we could be saved. [It’s] sad & disappointing you are politicizing such a holy day.”
CNN wasn’t necessarily buying the Jesus-is-King explanation, reporting that, “Last year’s Christmas message from Priebus made no reference to a ‘King.’”
National Review’s David French said he found it “strange and revealing” to see “smart people” alarmed by the RNC message, including New York magazine writer Jonathan Chait and Tufts University professor Daniel W. Drezner.
Mr. Chait informed his followers on Twitter that, “The distinction between a president and a king is not trivial,” while Mr. Drezner said, “OMFG.”
Mr. French asked, “First, are these folks really so ignorant of Christian language and customs that they don’t understand that the ‘new King’ is Christ? I’ve heard that phrase countless times. ‘King’ is capitalized for crying out loud—a clear reference to the divine.”
The episode comes two weeks after New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet told NPR that “media powerhouses don’t quite get religion.”
“Next, do liberal journalists and pundits really think so little of the RNC that they actually believe they’d call Trump a king?” asked Mr. French. “Do they really think they’d compare the president-elect to Jesus? Apparently so, and that’s a big problem.”
In its statement, the RNC said, “Over two millennia ago, a new hope was born into the world, a Savior who would offer the promise of salvation to all mankind. Just as the three wise men did on that night, this Christmas heralds a time to celebrate the good news of a new King. We hope Americans celebrating Christmas today will enjoy a day of festivities and a renewed closeness with family and friends.”