Article Exposes Mikey Weinstein “Stretching” the Truth
Mark Stricherz at aleteia (tagline: “Seekers of the Truth”) wrote a lengthy exposé on Michael “Mikey” Weinstein and his self-founded charity, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, entitled “Meet “Mikey” Weinstein, the Questionable Critic of the Pentagon’s Religious Policy.” (It was repeated at Newsmax as “Man Leads Effort to Scrub God From Military.”) While some of the article is a mere statement of Weinstein’s positions or status, Stricherz does an excellent job of revealing Weinstein’s reliance on hyperbole and showmanship (even Weinstein’s wife admits he goes “overboard“) — something that undermines Weinstein’s credibility in a meaningful way.
For example, Stricherz starts off with Weinstein’s opening statement to November’s congressional hearing, in which
Weinstein made an opening statement in the familiar manner of those who testify before Congress.
It was a fairly droll narration of a prepared statement. But that’s not how Weinstein portrayed it later [emphasis added]:
[Weinstein] gave readers the impression he had spoken like a bull-horn wielding political activist on the National Mall.
“In my introduction, I was blunt. I noted the abject fecklessness and Christian supremacy and exceptionalism of the present regime of religious oppression in the armed forces,” Weinstein wrote, despite the fact that he did not say the words “Christian,” “exceptionalism,” “oppression,” or “supremacy” at all.
Was Weinstein being “colorful,” or untruthful? Stricherz summarizes [emphasis added]:
The discrepancy between Weinstein’s opening statement and his description of it revealed more than his penchant for flattery and for demagoguery. It revealed his tendency to stretch the truth and make questionable claims.
And that is an astute observation that has been made here many times before. If Weinstein can’t be trusted to truthfully convey a message verifiable with public information, how can he be believed when he tells ‘anonymous’ stories or makes unfounded claims with the demand that people just ‘trust me?’
After revealing Weinstein’s trouble with the truth in recent events, Stricherz continued to peel back the onion and questioned the veracity of Weinstein’s other claims, including his claim he was a “legal counsel in the White House” — a claim that Weinstein “proved” by showing a picture of himself shaking Ronald Reagan’s hand.
Weinstein also admitted for the first time that he was at the White House “on detail from the Air Force” — not as a “political appointee,” as some of his supporters have claimed. The position Weinstein describes in his White House claim is traditionally considered an administrative support position. In other words, Weinstein was as likely to be coordinating schedules as making legal arguments. The fact that Weinstein has declined to say what he actually did in the White House makes his claim carry less weight, particularly in light of his tendency to “stretch the truth.”
With Weinstein’s credibility now in doubt, Stricherz also questioned the veracity of one of Weinstein’s prized possessions: his hate mail, much of which is unverifiable because it originates from fake addresses. For others, this scrutiny might be unnecessary, but Weinstein has demonstrated his inability to stick to the truth and his insatiable desire for attention. He also profits from his hate mail (literally, via publishing it in book form), a fact that influences how much credibility he can be given when he publicizes it.
Ultimately, Stricherz’s article makes an excellent attempt at a legitimate point [emphasis added]:
Few in the military establishment or the mainstream or the religious media have taken a hard look at Weinstein or his claims about his organization; in a notable exception, The Air Force Times revealed that Weinstein set his own salary (of $273,355) in 2012, a departure from federal guidelines…
If Weinstein recognizes the discrepancy between his calls for scrutiny of military religious policy and the lack of scrutiny about him, he has not said.
It is likely “few in the military establishment” have looked closely at Weinstein, which is probably why he is less well-known than he or others might like to think. Still, that has worked to his advantage. In general, Weinstein has “won” concessions from military leaders who didn’t know him. In several cases, when they subsequently found out who he was, his “victory” was reversed — and he lost his access to that leader.
Both Weinstein and his research assistant Chris Rodda frequently make unsubstantiated and unsupportable claims. Besides the above examples, Weinstein claims to represent thousands of “clients,” a term he intentionally left undefined for years (until 2009, when he defined it so broadly that it was essentially anyone who contacted his organization). His attempt to legitimize his cause by claiming “thousands” of “clients” is undermined when you discover some of those “clients” merely sent him an email.
Similarly, Weinstein had to walk back his claim he served ’10 years as an Air Force JAG’ amid criticisms it didn’t seem mathematically possible. But he made the original claim, which was less than completely forthright, because he thought saying it bolstered his credibility. The “truth” wasn’t “fantastic” enough.
Some claims that can be substantiated (like Weinstein’s characterization of his public testimony) are ultimately proven to be less than truthful. That makes it difficult to grant Weinstein any credibility — and yet many people and organizations seem to do that very thing.
Much of this would be moot if Weinstein wasn’t causing harm or had nothing to gain from his tendency to “stretch the truth.” But he has caused harm to religious freedom in the US military — harm that is very slowly being reversed. And he does have something to gain, not the least of which is a paycheck of nearly $300,000 a year, funded entirely by “charitable” donors motivated by his “overboard” statements and unverifiable claims.
A history of “stretched” truths, and a financial windfall as a result? For the wise, scrutiny is certainly warranted.