Andrew Bolt has been one of Cardinal Pell's most vocal defenders, right up until the moment Pell said something that seemed so unforgivable Bolt had to pretend he wasn't a defender at all. Right up until Bolt took that back and blamed everything on the loony left, it's been a ride. Comedian JR Hennessy reports.
JR Hennessy

3 Mar 2016 - 12:59 PM  UPDATED 3 Mar 2016 - 1:03 PM

Perform a Google search of Andrew Bolt’s blog for the word ‘Pell’ and you will be returned 2,590 results, each more wonderful than the last. Whether backing Cardinal George Pell’s climate change skepticism (calling critics “anti-science, anti-human pagans”) or throwing himself full-throated into denying any culpability on Pell’s part for deflecting public attention from Catholic child abuse cases, Bolt is Pell’s media pitbull, essentially ready to defend him against any slight, real or imagined.


There are so many blogs on Bolt’s website with names like “In defence of Pell”, “Smearing Pell” and “Pell triumphs” that for a single shining moment you might forget that Bolt has a whole raft of other retrograde beliefs for your consumption. His defence seems less rooted in actual personal Catholic faith — he’s agnostic, as he points out in every single goddamn column about Pell like it makes him immune from all criticism — and more oriented towards his desire to put the boot into THE LEFT in whatever way he feasibly can.


My favourite Bolt argument about Pell — which is somewhat akin to saying “my favourite venereal disease” — is where he compares Pell to… Lindy Chamberlain. His point of reference for a vast institutional failure in the Catholic Church to address serious problems with child abuse is the ‘dingo ate my baby’


This slavish devotion to attacking Pell’s ever-growing list of critics seemed a little shaken on Tuesday, when appeared on television lightly condemning Pell’s response to the Royal Commission in which he said a particular event of abuse was “not of much interest” to him. It wasn’t a particularly excoriating critique — in fact, it can probably be described as ‘lightly uneasy’ — but it was pretty huge to see Bolt turn on the man whom he had dedicated more words than I have ever written in my life to defending.


Bolt is in Rome to cover Pell’s testimony for Sky News — I couldn’t tell you why, as there doesn’t appear to be a material benefit to anyone in having Andrew Bolt in Rome. Except for those glad he isn’t on Australian soil, and perhaps the Sky News tax department, if they’ve worked out an elaborate minimisation scheme involving flights to Italy. So it was interesting seeing Bolt on the rain swept streets looking a little bit sad as he vaguely condemned the man he had previously subjected to zero criticism for his conduct.


But it was obviously not to be. Just when it appeared that Bolt had developed a moral backbone, he went crazy thinking about how he had just inadvertently given ammo to his most loathed enemy: progressives on the web. He said he was now “trending positively” on Twitter, a phrase you might use if you had never been on Twitter or online at all. Bolt couldn’t condemn heinous institutional conduct if it meant that some crass lefty dingus online was going to tweet something like “Andrew Bolt is Hitler, but not Hitler at this specific moment”.


So he walked back his minor critique. Now, Pell saying that he wasn’t interested in child abuse happening parallel to his authority was just another thing that progressives were using to get pointlessly mad at the Catholic Church. It's as if Bolt's sanctified image of Pell as the stitch that holds together the entirety of Australian society totally absolves him of whatever else he may have done. Or, maybe, Bolt just likes being a contrarian. Hey, we've all been there. But normal people do it over TV shows ("The Wire season 5 is actually good, guys") or Sydney lockout laws or something.


Bolt's tiny little slipup into non-partisan decency when it came to leveling what a normal person would describe as a pretty reserved criticism of George Pell puts into stark light the rest of his estimated one million blog posts about the guy. Guess any suggestion that he may have a functioning moral compass underneath the disdain for lefties online weren't that well-placed.



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