Through its largest outlet, which reaches a massive U.S. and international audience, Forbes misrepresented a Brazilian televangelist in 2013. Then, 6 years later, realizing that its information on the minister was exaggerated and unfair, Forbes used its smaller Brazilian outlet, far away from the U.S. and international audiences, to apologize.
The victim was Pastor Silas Malafaia.
Forbes’s small apology, translated by me from Portuguese, was:
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On January 18, 2013 a report was published on our website entitled “Bishop Edir Macedo is the richest pastor in Brazil with a fortune of $ 950 million — Leader of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God is ahead of Valdomiro Santiago and Silas Malafaia.”
The mentioned report contained information that Pastor Silas Malafaia had estimated assets of US$ 150 million.
Thus, in the face of allegation that the publication of the report at the time would have caused displeasure in Pastor Silas Malafaia, since his patrimony in fact, according to him, allegedly corresponds to only 3% of the amount quoted in the article, according to official documents that he has allegedly voluntarily made available, FORBES, historically committed to ascertaining the truth of facts, regrets what happened and seizes the opportunity to offer excuses to Pastor Silas Malafaia.
Forbes’s apology referred to its Portuguese report and forgot mentioning that Forbes’s main misrepresentation was in English, in a 2013 report titled “The Richest Pastors In Brazil,” which said:
Religion has always been a profitable business. And if you happen to be a Brazilian evangelical preacher, chances of hitting a heavenly jackpot are actually pretty high these days. Even though Brazil remains the world’s largest Catholic country, with about 123.2 million of its population of approximately 191 million defining themselves as followers of the Vatican-based church, the latest census figures pointed to a strong decline among the ranks of Roman Catholics, who now account for 64.6% of the country’s population–down from 92% in 1970.
Meanwhile, the number of Protestant evangelicals has soared from 15.4% of Brazil’s population just a decade ago to 22.2%, or 42.3 million people. It’s likely that the downward trend for Catholicism will continue and it’s estimated that by 2030, Catholics will represent less than 50% of Brazilian churchgoers.
So why are evangelicals taking over Brazil’s religious scene?
One of the evangelicals’ most appealing qualities is their belief that material progress results from God’s favor. While Catholicism still preaches a very conservative look to an afterlife instead of earthly riches, evangelicals–especially the ‘neo-Pentecostal’ ones–are taught that it’s all right to be prosperous. This doctrine, known as ‘Prosperity Theology,’ is in the foundation of the most successful evangelical churches in Brazil.
The value of material progress in Brazil’s evangelicalism is explicit and actively promoted…
Then there’s Silas Malafaia, the former leader of the Brazilian arm of the Assembly of God, Brazil’s biggest Pentecostal church. The most outspoken of his colleagues, Malafaia parted ways with the institution in the late 1990s to start his own spin-off denomination, the Assembly of God-Victory In Christ Church. Malafaia is constantly involved in controversies related to the gay community in Brazil, of which he proudly declares himself to be the biggest nemesis. The supporter of a law that could classify homosexualism as a disease in Brazil, Malafaia is also a prominent figure on Twitter, where he is followed by more than 440,000 users. In 2011, Malafaia–who’s worth an estimated $150 million according to several Brazilian business publications–launched a campaign called “The One Million Souls Club,” that aims to raise $500 million (R$ 1 billion) for his church in order to create a global television network that would be broadcast in 137 countries. Those interested in contributing to the campaign can donate sums starting at $500 (R$ 1,000), that can be paid in installments. In exchange, donors will receive a book. Malafaia also owns one of the four biggest record companies in Brazil’s gospel segment, according to Billboard Brasil, and the country’s second largest gospel publishing company, Central Gospel, with sales of a reported $25 million (R$ 50 million) per year.
Forbes inaccurately published information that Malafaia had a fortune of about $150 million, when actually he has just 3% of that amount.
Only after many years Forbes accepted the truth, because according to Malafaia’s website Vitória em Cristo, “With official documents, Pr. Silas Malafaia proved, in court, that the value of his patrimony corresponds to 3% of the amount quoted in the article.” So it was judicially proven that Malafaia had just 3%. It is proven truth.
The problem is that Forbes apologized only in regard to its report in Portuguese, which had a smaller audience, not to its original English report, which had a massive audience.
For example, Christianity Today, in a 2013 report titled “List of Richest Pastors in Brazil Prompts White House Petition,” mentioned Malafaia according to Forbers’s misinformation. Christianity Today, which is one of the leading Protestant magazines in the U.S., has never apologized to Malafaia and, considering that there is no English apology of Forbes available, it will be unlikely to apologize.
In Brazil, the consequence of the misinformation was also devastating. Coincidentally or not, the Brazilian version of Christianity Today, Cristianismo Hoje, targeted Malafaia in a long 2013 report titled “Malafaia: A quem ele representa?” (Malafaia: Whom does he represent?) immediately after the Forbes report, according to GospelMais, one of the most prominent Protestant websites in Brazil, in its 2013 report “Malafaia não me representa” (Malafaia Does Not Represent Me).
Brazilian Calvinist outlets exploited the Forbes report to increase their attacks on Malafaia. Calvinist Facebook page Bereanos launched a campaign that Malafaia does not represent Brazilian evangelicals.
Calvinist minister Renato Vargens, interviewed by Cristianismo Hoje on Malafaia, seized the opportunity to note: “This has contributed to an unnecessary belligerence between civil society and the Church. So his errors, unfortunately, eventually affect all evangelicals.” He meant Malafaia’s conservative activism, which includes open stances against abortion and the homosexual agenda. Malafaia has been the more forthright evangelical voice in Brazil defending pro-family and pro-life values, even in prominent TV shows.
Vargens and other Brazilian Calvinists consider Malafaia’s message “heretical.” In fact, Vargens said clearly in Cristianismo Hoje that Malafaia’s teaching is “heretical.”
Now that Forbes published an apology in Portuguese to Malafaia, will the Brazilian version of Christianity Today produce an equal long report apologizing to him?
Will Calvinists leaders and outlets that exploited the Forbes report to attack Malafaia publish their apologies?
Yet, Forbes should now publish an apology in English too, because its original report was in English.
After Forbes publishes its apology in English, will Christianity Today publish an apology in English too?
Forbes was unprofessional by publishing inaccurate information that eventually strengthened left-wing and Protestant voices that hate Malafaia’s message, values and stances. For a publication as Christianity Today, to redistribute such misinformation is not only unprofessional. It is unchristian too.
A retraction from the original source and its secular and Protestant redistributors is long overdue.
Portuguese version of this article: Comportamento não profissional da revista Forbes: Seis anos depois de publicar informações errôneas sobre o televangelista Silas Malafaia diante de sua audiência americana e internacional, a Forbes se retratra — somente diante de sua audiência brasileira
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