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Politico reporter apologizes for 'clumsy words' about 'Christian nationalists': 'I fell short'

Politico's Heidi Przybyla walked back her comments about "Christian nationalists" after critics accused her of smearing Christians and being ignorant of US civics.

Politico correspondent Heidi Przybyla offered a mea culpa for what she calls "clumsy" remarks she made last week knocking "Christian nationalists."

Przybyla went viral following her MSNBC appearance when she said "Christian nationalists" believed the rights of Americans "come from God" rather than government institutions like Congress and the Supreme Court, facing accusations of demonizing Christians and of being ignorant of US civics. 

After initially remaining defiant against her critics, Przybyla ultimately walked back her comments. 

"Due to some clumsy words, I was interpreted by some people as making arguments that are quite different from what I believe," Przybyla wrote on Thursday. "Excerpts of what I said were promoted widely in some political circles by some activists whose primary objection, I feel sure, was not my television appearance but my coverage in POLITICO about the tactics and agenda of political activists who subscribe to a philosophy they call ‘Christian Nationalism.’ Christianity is a religion. Christian Nationalism is a political movement. As I said on air, there is a big difference between the two."

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"Reporters have a responsibility to use words and convey meaning with precision, and I am sorry I fell short of this in my appearance," Przybyla continued. "To state the obvious, the above is not a good definition of Christian Nationalism. Many people have views about our rights as Americans that would coincide with those of many of our nation’s founders. In my full remarks, I noted that many other individuals and groups on all sides of the political equation have cited natural law, including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who invoked the concept in his fight for civil rights. But, of course, the question of which policies and rights and values can be ascribed to natural law is in the eyes of the beholder."

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The Politico correspondent went on to deny claims that she has a "bias against religion" when reporting on Christian activism in politics. 

"Those who complain must recognize that in a pluralistic society people on the other side of policy debates have religious or idealistic convictions every bit as sincere as their own. Neither side should try to assert that they have unique insight to represent God’s will, or that the other side is in opposition to that will," Przybyla added.

Her mea culpa came one day after Fox News Digital reported that Politico received a letter from two prominent Christian groups demanding an apology for her "deeply disturbing" comments. 

During an appearance on MSNBC's "All In," Przybyla was asked about the "infusion of Christian nationalism" in GOP politics, something she had written about earlier in the week when she reported that top allies of former President Trump are ready to "infuse" Christian nationalism into a second administration if he's elected, spearheaded by his former White House budget director and current president of the conservative think tank Center for Renewing America Russell Vought.

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"The base of the Republican Party has shifted, right?" Przybyla said on Thursday night. "Remember when Trump ran in 2016, a lot of the mainline evangelicals wanted nothing to do with the divorced, you know, real estate mogul who had cheated on his wife with a porn star and all of that. So what happened was he was surrounded by this more extremist element. They're gonna hear words like ‘Christian nationalism,' like the ‘New Apostolic reformation.’ These are groups that you should get very, very schooled on because they have a lot of power in Trump's circle."

"The thing that unites them as Christian nationalists - not Christians, by the way, because Christian nationalist is very different – is that they believe that our rights as Americans, as all human beings, don't come from any earthly authority. They don't come from Congress, they don't come from the Supreme Court. They come from God. The problem with that is that they are determining – man, men, it is men are determining what God is telling them," Przybyla continued. 

"And in the past, that so-called natural law is, you know, it's a pillar of Catholicism, for instance. It has been used for good in social justice campaigns, Martin Luther King evoked it in talking about civil rights, but now you have an extremist element of conservative Christians who say that this applies specifically to issues including abortion, gay marriage, and it's going much further than that," she added. 

Critics panned her comments on social media, many pointing her to the Declaration of Independence.  The second paragraph of the Declaration begins, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

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