Bernie Sanders VS Donald Trump Speaking to the Pope

Posted on May 2, 2016 by


Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, two political presidential candidates, one being a Jew and the other being a Christian. They both interacted with the Pope, Bernie Sanders was invited to see the pope, while Trump simply caught wind of a comment that the pope made, their exchange isn’t as direct but it’s still an interaction. So why am I writing this? Why is it even news when the Pope does anything with a political figure? That is because American politics are saturated with religious influence- most of it being Christian/ Catholic. 20% of the voter population is Catholic [1], and according to Catholic beliefs the Pope is a holy man, and the successor to Saint Peter. However his influence with the church isn’t perfect. The pope when it comes to democrats and liberals is very well liked, however it’s not the same when it comes to the Conservative/ Republican population as you can see in the visual aid below [11].

Regardless he is a figure with heavy enough political influence that any interaction with political figures and the pope will not go unreported. Here I will go over how different news sources framed the event of their interactions, and the many different agendas that could have aimed for.

First let’s talk about how the media handled Bernie Sander’s. What I found interesting was that most of the articles that talked about Bernie’s interaction with the Pope had a neutral outlook on it, very few were supportive of it and some were against Bernie. His meeting with the pope wasn’t very controversial either- so there wasn’t as much coverage on it as Donald Trump’s. Out of the 10 sources I have 1 that supported Bernie 100%, and this article wasn’t even about the meeting with the pope. This article took place a few months prior, an article called “Pope Francis Endorses Bernie for President”[10] and talks about the Pope endorsing Sanders in a speech to the Synod; it quotes the Pope saying “The synod experience also made us better realize that the true defenders are not those who uphold its letter, but its spirit; not ideas but people; not formulas but free availability of God’s love and forgiveness,” and “I see in Senator Bernard Sanders a man of great integrity and moral conviction, who understands these principles and genuinely wants what’s best for all people.” The rest of the article talks about the lack of support the Pope receives from the GOP and how alike these two figures are. This is a theme talked about in a lot of articles about this topic, they almost always bring up how they have similar views except for abortion and gay marriage. It’s even brought up in articles that seem to have a neutral stance on Bernie Sanders. This pro Bernie article came from The National Report.
In contrast to our supportive article we have two articles that speak ill on his meeting with the Pope. One from CNN and the other from the Daily Mail. The one from CNN was headlined “Bernie Sanders Says He Met Pope Francis” [2]. Right from the get go this headline gives off a feeling of doubt, it implies a message of “he said he met the Pope but we have no evidence of it … so…” which is a point made in the article, it makes it a point that they have no photos of the event, and another point it seems to want to get across is how short it was. All new sources that ever bring up the amount of time the meeting lasted says it was 5 minutes, however its always done by quoting Donald Trump so it’s still unknown to me how long the meeting really was. Up top there was also a video, containing an interview with Bernie Sanders. The interview seems like an average interview but the captions below seem to make it… well not so neutral in stance.
The captions flashing across the bottom of the video accuses Sanders of laughing off accusations of abandoning his campaign to make the trip, implying he just told them that he didn’t abandon anything and left it at that. The video does however show him doing that but it also shows him telling the interviewer why he was ok with leaving New York for Vatican. Other captions said things like “Pope shook the Sander’s hand; It was Manners”, “Sanders had “Extraordinary” Meeting With Pope”. The first one is written in such a way that implies that the Pope shook his hand only out of manners and wants nothing to do with him personally, which is a point not too far from the truth. In other articles it is constantly talked about that the Pope didn’t meet Sanders to make a political statement and didn’t shake his hand as the form of a political agreement, but rather out of manners. The last one for some reason puts quotes around “extraordinary” to imply that something did go wrong- we just don’t know yet, even though this is probably used to quote Sanders calling his experience with the pope “extraordinary”. The daily mail’s anti Bernie message was centered on Trumps response to Bernie’s meeting with the pope, the article was called ‘He was only there five minutes’: Donald Trump Mocks Bernie Sanders’ Brief Meeting with Pope Francis.[7]” Now I would assume that this could just be an non biased coverage on Donald Trump’s comment, but there are a few things about the article that implied a pro Trump agenda. For one there’s this image set found near the top of the article.

On the left you see Donald Trump giving a speech to the people with dramatic lighting, on the right you see Bernie Sanders in the Vatican making a non-flattering squinting face that kinda makes him look like he’s pouting. Another reason I have is that is uses Donald Trump’s quote “So the pope gave him five minutes. I wonder why the pope gave him five – he shouldn’t have given him that much time really” this quote is written not once but twice in the entire article. Constantly using Donald Trump’s words to drive the point in, and the point that they tried to drive in specifically was that Bernie Sanders meeting the Pope wasn’t a big deal.
We have a few neutral articles, coming from NBC news, and the New York Times. NBC news had the headline “Bernie Sanders Meets Pope Francis during Visit to Vatican City[3]” unlike our CNN coverage on the event this article states outright that he did in fact visit the Pope in the Vatican. The article didn’t seem to claim a political view, it was friendly to Bernie but it didn’t seem to push a pro Bernie agenda or an anti-Bernie Agenda. It looked like it was just news done professionally. The New York Times one was called “Bernie Sanders Meets with Pope Francis [6]” the coverage here was more of a play by play of his visit to the Vatican, it does mention the controversy of the accusation of him ditching his New York Campaign trail to visit the Pope- but it doesn’t do it in a way that incriminates him but rather in a manner that just mentions that it’s an existing controversy without trying to tell us what to think about it. What I find odd with these articles is Bernie Sanders is the only one that seems to have neutral coverage on this event, meanwhile with Trump’s articles they either seem strongly for… or against.

There are a lot of anti-Trump articles, in my list of 10 sources I have 4 sources that weren’t supportive of Trump. The first one will be CNN’s coverage. The headline to this one is “Pope Suggests Trump ‘is not Christian [4]” right off the bat this headline should speak to people who think Trump is a Christian man looking after Christian values, this headline challenges that perspective. The video at the top of the article shows the Pope talking about Trump in an interview and saying that any man that seeks to build walls rather than building bridges is not a Christian. In the next segment we have Trump at what looks like a rally firing back at that statement, reiterating that he is a Christian and that he will not see the Christian faith fall. This is an example of two different people trying to define what makes a Christian. In the video he also calls the Pope “disgraceful” for even making such a statement. The article below talks even more into Trump’s response to this statement. “If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, which as everyone knows is ISIS’s ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the Pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been president,” was one of his responses. It’s also very bitter when it comes to Trump; saying the Pope said other comments related to other subjects such as his opinion on using contraceptives to help protect against the Zika virus- only for this commentary to get overshadowed by a few lines targeting Trump. The article also low key calls Trump a hypocrite for calling the Pope disgraceful for criticizing somebody else’s faith by mentioning that Trump has criticized Obama’s faith. NBC’s article “Pope Francis to Trump: Building Mexico Wall ‘Not Christian [5]” shows its disliking for Trump by showing a lot of support for the pope and his message presented while putting Trump in a bad light. It does this by talking on and on about the Popes accomplishments and how this is a holy man, while shaming Trump for his message. The Atlantic with “Pope, Trump, Decline to Turn Other Cheek [9]” contrasts NBC’s message by doing almost the opposite- shaming both Trump and the pope. This article turns what the other articles saw as a moral debate, or political debate into a pathetic spat between children. The subtitle reaffirms this with its message; “The pontiff and the presidential candidate have taken turns bashing one another in an unlikely fight stemming from Francis’s trip to Mexico.” Making it not all about the Pope making an innocent comment and it all spiraling out of control because of Trump- but rather it makes it sound like he did a personal attack to further his own agenda and Trump just responded to said attack. The article itself words it that way as well, implying that this was all for the popes agenda. Also mentioning that this spat didn’t seem to injure his campaign at all. And finally we have CNN’s “Donald Trump Tones down Fight with Pope Francis.[1]” I found this one interesting because like what you’ll find out soon most sources that even dare to bring up that Trump tried to deescalate the fight will do it with a positive light, this one however talks about how a large population of voters are catholic and how it’s not normal for Trump to take negative comments back. Making this whole event about him tightening up his image.
I found 2 articles that were supportive, one of them is the Daily Mail one that was already addressed above, the other is from the Washington Times; ” Donald Trump: Pope Francis Was ‘actually Very Nice’ the Day after Spat [8]. The headline itself opens up with the idea of Trump being a forgiving person who now supported the Pope. I get the idea of this being a Trump supporting article from the fact that it never implies something bad about Trump. One example of this is that it quotes Trump on his line about the Vatican having some really big walls- this same point was made in articles that seemed against Trump and it was always proceeded with the statement about the fact that yes the walls are very tall but it also has a very big door. That ending statement isn’t made at all, so Trump doesn’t look like a fool here. It also mentions the Pope saying that he would give Trump the benefit of the doubt- something I never saw mentioned in the other articles, and lastly is ends with a statement that the Pope didn’t mean it as a personal attack on Donald Trump- an effort to make it appear as if the Pope doesn’t despise Trump.

So there you have it; 10 articles about how the media treated these two similar yet different events. Somebody whom is loyal to CNN coverage would see this event in the light of Bernie Sander’s visit to the Vatican was shady, and that Trump was shady too in his attempt to salvage a mistake. A loyal NBC news reader could assume a neutral outlook on Bernie Sanders and a strong dislike for Trump. The majority of these 10 articles have an agenda they are working with, and something to tell to an audience. We have a story about a presidential candidate visiting the pope out of admiration and common beliefs, versus a story about the Pope making a comment about Trump not being a true Christian and Trump lashing back out only to withdraw. Trump’s is especially important because it shows just how much impact the Pope has on American Politics. The pope may say he doesn’t want to get involved in American politics but whether he likes it or not his opinion does matter in this election.


[1] Burke, Daniel. “Donald Trump Tones down Fight with Pope Francis.” CNN. Cable News Network, 19 Feb. 2016. Web. 30 Apr. 2016. <;.

[2]Landers, Elizabeth, and Faith Karimi. “Bernie Sanders Says He Met Pope Francis.” CNN. Cable News Network, 16 Apr. 2016. Web. 27 Apr. 2016. <;.

[3]Thompson, Anne, Nick Bailey, and F. Brinley Bruton. “Bernie Sanders Meets Pope Francis During Visit to Vatican City.” NBC News. N.p., 16 Apr. 2016. Web. 27 Apr. 2016. <>.

[4]Burke, Daniel. “; Cable News Network. CNN, n.d. Web. < >.

[5]Thompson, Anne. “Pope Francis to Trump: Building Mexico Wall ‘Not Christian'” NBC News. N.p., 18 Feb. 2016. Web. 28 Apr. 2016. <;.

[6]Horowitz, Jason, and Yamiche Alcindor. “Bernie Sanders Meets With Pope Francis.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 16 Apr. 2016. Web. 28 Apr. 2016. <;.

[7], Clemence Michallon For. “‘He Was Only There Five Minutes’: Donald Trump Mocks Bernie Sanders’ Brief Meeting with Pope Francis .” Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 17 Apr. 2016. Web. 28 Apr. 2016. <;.

[8]Sherfinski, David. “Donald Trump: Pope Francis Was ‘actually Very Nice’ the Day after Spat.” Washington Times. The Washington Times, n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2016. <;.

[9] Green, Emma. “Pope, Trump, Decline to Turn Other Cheek.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 18 Feb. 2016. Web. 28 Apr. 2016. <;.

[10] Paulson, Shane. “Pope Francis Endorses Bernie Sanders for President.” National Report RSS. National Report, 26 Oct. 2015. Web. 28 Apr. 2016. <;.

[11] Webster, Bill. “Pope Francis’ Effect on Views of the Catholic Church: More Positive Than Negative.” Pew Research Centers Religion Public Life Project RSS. N.p., 06 Oct. 2015. Web. 28 Apr. 2016. <;.

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