Friday, August 1, 2008

WYD in Syd—Part 6:
'The Morning Show'*

On Australia's Channel 7 "Morning Show," July 17, 2008

After appearing on the hostile "Current Affair," I was nervous about doing more Australian press.

In the wake of Caroline Overington's profile of me in The Australian that had caught the "Current Affair" producers' attention, I was also invited onto "Mornings with Kerri-Anne," whose producer likened it to an Australian "Oprah."

My friend Tim Blair, who along with his wife was hosting me in Sydney, told me that despite the comparison to America's New Age-loving superstar, I was likely to be treated well by Kerri-Anne, as she was the only Australian TV interviewer to give Mark Steyn a favorable hearing. But when the Kerri-Anne producer then called back to cancel, citing an unexpected avalanche of papal coverage (as Tim told me, hardly anyone in the Aussie press expected WYD to be so huge), I accepted an offer from its rival "Morning Show," a national program on the order of NBC's "Today." The show is on immediately following "Sunrise," the weekend version of which coincidentally I had done via satellite in May.**

Having appeared on "Today," I knew I could at least survive "Morning Show," but I did not expect it to be a walk in the park. The "Morning Show" producer told me she was bringing a doctor on with me to discuss whether chastity was advisable. That kind of setup is not favorable for a TV guest who is not a medical professional; a doctor has built-in credibility that weighs heavily against an author who is neither credentialed nor bestselling. The "Today" show had made a true attempt at balance, letting me have my say versus a similarly uncredentialed, non-bestselling author, and then bringing in a good-natured therapist to say, "They're both right!"

The awkward setup aside (which I think stemmed, as often happens in the mainstream media, from a misunderstanding of balance rather than an active anti-chastity agenda), I was professionally treated by the staff and am very grateful to them for having me on the show.

Be that as it may, the night before the broadcast, when I looked up the Web site of the doctor that "Morning Show" had chosen, what I saw—including her characterization of "anti-abortionists" as "extremist[s]" and "religious zealot[s]"—confirmed my fear she would take an adversarial role. So, I requested prayer from Dawn Patrol readers.

I arrived at the "Morning Show" green room the morning of Thursday, July 17, with my "minder," John Lamont—the reader who had graciously offered to squire me around town. There was a man seated at one end of the couch—a telegenic gent in his late 30s whose white long-sleeved shirt had what looked to me to be a fashionable Nehru collar—and some sheets of paper scattered at the other. "Someone left these here," the man said, courteously moving the papers onto the coffee table so I could sit down.

Picking up the papers out of curiosity, I saw they were "Sesame Street" character Elmo's "Talking Points" for that morning's show: "THIS WEEK ON SESAME STREET: Sarah Jessica Parker and Ellen DeGeneres teach Elmo the meaning of of 'sigh' and 'ballet.'"

I read it that line loud to John and groaned. "'Sesame Street' sure has changed from when I was a kid."

That got a smile from the white-shirted man, who volunteered that the show had changed since his childhood too. His favorite memory of it, he said, was Ernie's classic exchange with Bert, which he remembered perfectly:
Bert: "Hey, you've got a banana in your ear!"
Ernie: "I know, I'm keeping the alligator away."
Bert: "But there aren't any alligators on Sesame Street!"
Ernie: "I know, it's working!"
Then his call came up and he left to enter the studio. Watching the monitor, I realized with some embarrassment that what I had thought was a Nehru collar was actually a clerical. He was Father Ryan, a Catholic priest on the show to provide live commentary as the Pope's arrived at Sydney's Government House.

When Father Ryan was done, I managed to catch him on his way out. Explaining why I was on the show, I asked for a blessing, which he gave along with a word of support.

What a surprise that was, to have the opportunity to be blessed just before going onto the show. It had special meaning for me because, whenever possible, I like to receive a blessing before doing a speaking appearance, but the last place I would have expected to find a priest was the "Morning Show" studio, even during World Youth Day week. Father Ryan's presence there made me think about how God was giving me so many unexpected graces during my Sydney trip. It also made me even more thankful for Dawn Patrol readers' prayers, as I felt that their petitions, along with those of people I had met in Sydney, were covering me and making such graces possible.

Speaking before any kind of audience is a lonely feeling—all the more so when taking up a controversial topic before people who are not disposed to be supportive. I did not realize how necessary prayer support was for such appearances until, over the course of touring, I was able to contrast the experiences of speaking without the benefit of much (or any) intercessory prayer beforehand versus doing so under the covering of intercessory prayer. There is a difference.

That difference, I believe, is why I ended up putting in a better appearance on "The Morning Show" than I had on "Current Affair" just two days prior—indeed, better than I had on any of the TV shows I had done to promote my book The Thrill of the Chaste, apart from the friendly waters of EWTN. I was able to make all the points I wanted to make and counter those of the doctor, who, as I had suspected, was quite critical of chastity. So, ad majorem Dei gloriam, and thank you!

*This post is chronologically out of order; my next WYD post will cover my talk at the Love and Life Site the day before doing "The Morning Show."

** Only now do I notice that the male "Morning Show" co-host is the same one from "Weekend Sunrise."