Christian Media Battle Over Controversial Figure
The day after CT’s article was published online, the Post published a long piece titled, “Sources in ‘Second Coming Christ Controversy’ Face Scrutiny,” followed days later by another with the less subtle headline, “Christianity Today Writer Ken Smith Is Founder of a Company Fined for Deceptive Business Practices; With Child Porn Ties.”
The main thrust of the first of the two Post pieces was to disprove the allegations that Jang’s followers considered him a new messiah by calling into question the legitimacy of the CT sources who made these claims.
But the attacks in this first response seem mild compared to the piece that followed alleging that Olsen’s co-writer Ken Smith was somehow connected to child pornography. Penned by the Post’s Katherine T. Phan, it highlights Smith’s work as the founder of the now defunct software company, Zango (which web-savvy readers may remember for their intrusive advertising in web browsers).
Smith acknowledged that Zango “partnered with some people that we should never have partnered with” in a 2009 post on his blog—which the CP article cites—titled “What Zango Got Wrong.”
When I asked if he was aware of Smith’s history with Zango, Olsen told me that “The child porn thing really came out of the blue. It wasn’t an issue that was on my radar until CP ran the article.” He continued, “That headline was really shocking. Did he distribute child porn? was the question in the headline. If you read the article the answer is no. Zango is not a child porn company and never was.”
What the article did indicate to Olsen was that, “there are different standards of journalism at work. Their article struck me more as an effort to smear and discredit the writer than to actually address what was in the article.”
Tim Dalrymple, who’s been watching and writing about the controversy, observed that “the response from the Christian Post was so over-the-top defensive of David Jang, and so massively pejorative toward anyone who questioned him, that the Christian Post (at least in that instance) essentially abandoned the pretense of journalism and became Jang’s defense attorney.”
Ted Olsen told me, “I was aware of almost everything in the [Post] article…There wasn’t anything that, even if it was true—which I have questions about—would have negated anything in our [CT] article.”
This shouldn’t come as a surprise since a meeting was held between the two prior to CT’s publication of the original article in which the Post attempted to present evidence that contradicts CT’s findings. According to Olsen, who noted that his understanding was that the meeting was off the record until the Post made it public, representatives of the Post and Olivet University wanted “to try to get CT to postpone publication.”
“The reasons for that were multi-fold,” he says, “but they were not compelling… not reasons that would have led us to postpone or kill the story.”
Repeated requests for comment from the Christian Post went unanswered, though I was eventually informed that the Post’s editor, Michelle Vu, who authored the August 17 response, had “politely decline[d]” my request.
Instead, I was provided with a brief statement: “Christianity Today wrote an article that implicated the Christian Post. CP responded with our own fact-finding article about the sources used. CP had already told CT and sent documents to the publication regarding the questionable integrity of its sources. Nothing should come as a surprise to CT.”