Media Duck Questions After People of Praise Accuser Exposed For Fabulism

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October 1, 2020

Several news outlets are standing by stories featuring a suspect source who aired extraordinary allegations against the People of Praise, the Christian charismatic group connected to Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.

Coral Anika Theill, a former member of the group, told the Associated Press that it treated her like a "brood mare," accusing its male leaders of directing every "consequential personal decision" in her and other members' lives. Washington Free Beacon report demonstrated that Theill has a history of fabulism, litigiousness, and hyper-partisanship.

A spokesperson told the Free Beacon that the AP stands by its story. Other outlets that cited Theill's testimony in reports involving Barrett include Reuters, the Washington Post, Politico, and Newsweek.

Theill's emergence raises questions about how a source of uncertain credibility appeared in reporting from industry-leading publications. Her incendiary allegations recall others that upended modern Supreme Court confirmations, such as those of Justices Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh.

Reuters told the Free Beacon that it updated its Sept. 22 report featuring Theill to include additional information. Those changes, however, do not include new qualifiers about her credibility. An internet archive shows Reuters last updated its story on Sunday, Sept. 27, one day before the Free Beacon's story was published.

"As more information became available, we updated our story and added comment from a People of Praise representative," a Reuters spokesperson told the Free Beacon.

Newsweek did not respond to requests for comment. The National Catholic Reporter, whose 2018 interview with Theill was referenced in stories from the Washington Post and Politico, likewise did not provide comment.

While Theill's accusations have enjoyed a wide hearing in print, the broadcast media may be more reticent about airing them.

On her personal Facebook page, Theill claims that she sat for a pre-taped interview with CBS's Inside Edition and scheduled an appearance on CNN. She has not appeared on camera for either platform as of this writing, and the Free Beacon could not independently confirm that she has communicated with either organization. CNN and Inside Edition did not respond to the Free Beacon's inquiries about Theill's alleged interviews or whether they will appear on future broadcasts.

A Sept. 23 television interview on Democracy Now!, an independent news program, brought certain presentation problems into sharp relief. Theill's answers were rambling and unfocused, and she appeared to be reading from prepared remarks.

Over the course of the eight-minute interview, Theill accused her ex-husband of kidnapping her during their time in the community, compared her life with the People of Praise to The Handmaid's Tale, and said the group resembled the Jim Jones cult. Jones staged the mass murder-suicide of his Peoples Temple followers at a Guyana commune in 1978.

A tendency to deal in extremes was highlighted in the Free Beacon's Sept. 28 report. A review of Theill's writings, litigation history, and social media footprint shows that she has accused her therapists, her attorneys, her parents, and even her own children of abuse and neglect, while waging a quixotic legal crusade against them. Her ex-husband, Vaughn Martin Warner, obtained a defamation judgment against her in 2014.