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Calling BS on Newsweek’s Evan Thomas (Update)

John on April 25, 2007 at 1:33 am

Update 12 Noon: Last night I sent an e-mail to one of the authors of the Star-Ledger piece. Today I got a response:

When I attended the services on Sunday, there were only four kids there who looked like they were high school freshmen or in middle school. They would’ve been much younger when Cho was here. Neither the photographer nor I got the sense that this was a wealthy church by any means — especially compared to some of the other Korean churches that we’ve gone to. For example, another church that we stopped by had an accounting department and you could tell from the way the parishioners dressed that they had money. These people, judging from their style of dress do not. The church also does not even have a paved driveway — it is gravel and the church building itself is not in the best of shape. The 7 women we talked to own laundromats and work in food services, just like the Chos did.

That said, it has been five years since Cho attended the church. There very well could’ve been some rich kids bullying him in the youth group, but no one mentioned that to us when we were there…..

So my guess last night (six kids) was an overestimate. There were four kids and no sign of a youth group at all. And as I suggested, this is a working class church made up of hardworking immigrants. Rich kids? I don’t think so.

I’m seriously considering contacting the pastor of this church. I hate to intrude on them, but I think this claim is too high profile to let pass without a follow up.

[End update]

Evan Thomas has a big piece on the Va Tech shooter in this week’s edition. Because I wrote about Campus Crusade at Va Tech’s attempts to reach out to Cho a couple days ago, this bit of Thomas’ piece struck me:

Cho was trapped in a generational warp, neither quite Korean like his parents nor American like his peers. His parents turned to the church for help with his emotional problems, but he was bullied in his Christian youth group, especially by rich kids. “Cho was a smart student who could understand the meaning of the Bible,” recalled his boyhood pastor at Centreville (Va.) Korean Presbyterian Church, who asked not to be identified in an interview with NEWSWEEK to avoid further media inquiries. But the pastor doubted that Cho believed the words.

I didn’t grow up in church youth groups but I now work for a church that has one. So far as I can tell youth group kids (especially boys) rib each other as kids that age are wont to do. But bullying? Again, it doesn’t sit well with my own experience.

A google search brought me to an article about Cho’s former church by Katie Wang and Mia Wong. Like Evan Thomas, they interviewed Cho’s former pastor. Unlike Thomas, they appear to have actually visited Korean Presbyterian Church of Centerville as they interview several people who attend. What they report about the church doesn’t jibe with Evan Thomas’ assertion at all:

Founded in 1995, the church kept its name when it moved to Chantilly in 2001, into a two-story building wrapped in a maze of freshly constructed town homes and houses. The church only has about 40 members, mostly middle-class immigrants who like the Chos settled in Fairfax County because of the schools and affordable homes.

Two things jump out. First off, this is a church of 40. Chances are a church of 40 doesn’t have much of a youth group. What would that be exactly, six kids? I suppose it might have been larger at one time, but probably not recently. The church moved to its current location (financial trouble?) in 2001, more than a year before Cho started school at Tech.

Secondly, it’s not a wealthy church. It’s middle class at best. So the idea that Cho was part of a youth group where he was bullied by rich kids…I don’t see it happening. Not at this church. This detail is one for which Thomas conveniently offers no source and no corroborating evidence.

Who could his source have been anyway? Thomas doesn’t appear to have spoken to anyone in a position to know besides the church’s pastor. But according to the Star-Ledger story, the pastor was in complete shock over the shooting. In fact, his first thought was to worry that Cho might have been a victim. Frankly, even if it had happened, I don’t think this pastor would tell Evan Thomas. So where did this come from?

Numerous stories have reported that Cho was bullied in high school, including at his after-school science club. But at church…? I don’t buy it so I’m calling Thomas out on this one. I don’t think he’s got anything to back up this statement because I don’t think it happened.

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Category: MSM & Bias |

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