Matthew Warner

Exactly How is that Slander, Del. Marshall?

A fascinating train wreck of hairsplitting and religious stupidity now rumbles through Virginia, and its name is Delegate Bob Marshall.

To recap: Marshall was quoted as saying that disabled children are religious punishment for having had an abortion. He made the remark at a press conference to oppose state funding for Planned Parenthood. The Capital News Service dutifully reported the remarks, and the world joined in universal condemnation of him, just as Pat Robertson was condemned for his recent claim that the Haitian earthquake was God’s punishment for engaging in a voodoo ritual centuries ago. Marshall, predictably, now says his remarks were taken out of context and that he’s been slandered.

Let’s look at the facts:

1. According to Marshall’s own website, this is what he said:

“The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion who have handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the first-born of any, Nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children. In the Old Testament, the first-born of every being, animal and man, was dedicated to the Lord. There’s a special punishment Christians would suggest, and with the knowledge they have from faith has been verified by a study by the Virginia Commonwealth University.”

2.  The Capital News Service on 2/22 reported Marshall’s statement with the following lead: “State Delegate Bob Marshall of Manassas says disabled children are God’s punishment to women who have aborted their first pregnancy.”  It then went on to reproduce Marshall’s statement verbatim.

3.  Public outrage ensued.  And now, today’s news carries this headline: Marshall demands apology for ‘slanderous’ story.  It describes his speech Wednesday to the House of Delegates in which he said in part, “”The disabled and their families are reacting in part to words I never said, never meant and don’t believe.”

So, essentially what Marshall is claiming is that he was slandered by the news service’s use of “God,” specifically in how it characterized his remarks as saying that disabled children are God’s punishment, when in fact he never used the word “God.”

My reaction is: what exactly did you expect, fool?

Look closely at point #1 above.  He said “Nature” takes it vengeance on children whose mothers have previously had an abortion, but then he couched it in the same breath with analysis of the Old Testament, the Lord, and punishment that Christians supposedly know about through their religious faith.  So was it really, truly, a slanderous stretch of interpretation to report that Marshall said disabled kids are God’s punishment?

Come on, Bob.  Stop playing games by splitting these hairs.  You know exactly what you meant to say.  Absolutely, you fully intended to draw a straight line between abortion, disabled kids, and God—but now you’re backtracking like a cockroach caught in the sunlight because you’ve discovered the world isn’t actually full of fundamentalist wackos.  The worst thing the Capital News Service did was to use a synonym.

Just own up to your words.  Say, “I’m sorry.  I made a mistake.  I was wrong to make that statement.”  Don’t blame others for your own failure to speak kindly of defenseless children.