The November 21 Janet Mefferd interview of Mark Driscoll in which she seemed to nail him for plagiarism in his new book, The Resurgence, was a hot item last week, much to the delight of Driscoll’s adversaries. Not only did Driscoll look like a jerk for plagiarizing his friend’s work, but he looked like a double-jerk by responding to Janet’s “gotcha” like a stompy-foot brat, hanging up on her.
Janet took to Twitter with the following:
Except that’s not what happened.
The Driscoll camp produced a recording of the interview from their end that has both Mark and Janet. Before I give my analysis of that recording, let me say that I’ve been a radio broadcast engineer for 39 years. Talented people like Janet Mefferd pay me to tell them what happened or what went wrong in radio interviews. It’s what I do for a living.
Now, to Driscoll’s recording. Nothing significant happens until 1:25 in, so just fast-forward to that point.
At 1:25, Janet is saying, “….and look at the ideas in your book.” That sentence ends at 1:27, and there is nothing but silence for 2 seconds.
Janet waits until 1:29 before she says, “allright, I think we’ve lost him.That is Mark Driscoll, from Mars Hill Church in Seattle, and I guess, uh, he has opted out of the interview.”
Mark speaks up to interrupt that sentence at 1:36, a full 9 seconds after Janet’s sentence ended at 1:27. He says, “I’m still here”, but Janet seems unable to hear him at this point.
Both Mark and Janet continue talking, until she finally says, at 1:38, “…Janet Mefferd show, and we’ll be coming back.” Her bumper music begins at 1:41, and the music continues till the end of the recording at 2:04.
Well, the first thing this audio shows is that Mark didn’t hang up on Janet, and her tweet about “our last interaction was the sound of his phone hanging up in my ear,” is shown to be hyperbole in the least. There was no sound of Mark hanging up in Janet’s ear.
Later in the day, Janet amends her statement with a new tweet:
So now it’s not him hanging up in her ear. Now it’s silence, a pause, and a hang up. And then she changes it a little bit more. In this one, there apparently is no hang up sound at all, but “we watched it drop”.
This one actually makes the most sense, given that at the end of the 9 second pause, Janet is too occupied to be listening for the hangup- she was busy talking and ending the segment. It makes more sense that she “watched” the phone line drop on her display. Except that didn’t happen either, as I am about to explain.
Because the fact is, the phone line never does drop. Not on that recording. How can I be so sure? Because Janet’s bumper music, which continues to play until the end of the recording, is coming to us from Janet’s studio, via the connected the phone line. Remember, this recording is from Mark’s end of the phone line. If you have no phone connection, you don’t have Janet’s music. Clearly, the phone line was up the entire time.
And there is yet another problem in regard to Janet’s claim that, “the line went dead from his end – we watched it drop- before the segment ended, preceded by 9 seconds of silence.” How did she know there was “9 seconds of silence”? Were they timing things as they happened at the end of the interview? No.
She knew that because there was 9 seconds of silence on Mark’s recording! This is clearly not a case of Janet recalling what happened, but a case of Janet usiing Mark’s recording to construct a plausible scenario. There is no other way she could arrive at “9 seconds”.
Now, I ask, when did the “9 seconds” occur? It happened from 1:27, when Janet stopped talking, until 1:36, when Mark finally said something. And then it looks like she is saying, “we watched it drop” at that point, after the 9 seconds.
So Janet is saying that she ended the interview before she “watched [the phone call] drop”. Because in only 2 seconds, at 1:29, Janet says “I think we’ve lost him,”.. but the she is saying she didn’t see the phone line drop until after the 9 second pause, sometime after 1:36. Now isn’t that interesting? Why did she end the interview so quickly, when she could see he was still on the line? Then why would she complain that he hung up on her, when by her own admission she ended the interview before he hung up?
That doesn’t add up.
And here is something else that doesn’t add up: Janet’s music continues to play until the end of the recording at 2:04. Remember where this recording was made? Marks end. How does Janet’s music travel to Mark’s recorder? Through the connected phone line.
So the reality is, Janet’s statement that, “We watched it drop – before the segment ended, preceded by 9 seconds of silence” isn’t true either. The phone line was still up 28 seconds after the 9 second pause. .
I’ve brought this up to them. “Hey, your story doesn’t add up.” First I was met with the claim that it doesn’t matter because Janet would never do anything unethical. Then they’d say the real issue is the plagiarism. And then they’d try ridicule. Here’s one exchange, with Janet’s husband:
These aren’t the actions I’d expect of someone acting with honesty and transparency. These are the actions I’d expect of a politician playing defense. I have asked repeatedly for them to explain how Janet’s bumper music is still on Mark’s recording 34 seconds after Janet claims to have lost the connection. They have refused to answer that question, but instead deny “doctoring the tape”- something I never suggested.
Again, I don’t think they “doctored a tape”. They didn’t have to.
I can’t prove it, because I don’t know what happened on Mefferd’s end. But here is what I think happened:
For whatever reason, Driscoll paused for 2 seconds, from 1:27 to 1:29. At that point, I suspect Janet or her producer muted Mark’s channel on Janet’s board, and Janet closed out the segment with her comments and her bumper music. She then publicly accused him of hanging up on her, and when Mark’s tape surfaced, she began to backpedal and do damage control, giving explanations that seemed plausible to most people, even using Mark’s own recording to come up with the “9 seconds” part of the story.
There are many things that could have happened to prevent Mark’s voice from being heard by Janet. There could have been phone line problems, or Janet’s electronic telephone hybrid could have malfunctioned at exactly that time, or a mistake could have been made by Janet’s producer or possibly even Mark’s assistant.
But given the actions of the Janet Mefferd show, their constantly changing story, and their responses to my questions, I doubt that those other possibilities are what really happened.
I think Mark paused at the end of the interview, probably in stunned disbelief at what just happened to him. And then Janet exhuberantly overplayed her hand, turning off his channel and claiming he hung up. Had it not been for Driscoll’s tape, we’d have been none the wiser. But Driscoll’s tape exposes some overstatements and misstatements on Mefferd’s end. Her unwillingness to admit what happened, or to address the discrepancies in her public statements has made it worse.
Perhaps this has something to do with her response. In the interview, Janet said, “This is my point, Mark. We can have sound doctrine all day long, but if we don’t act in a Godly way, who’s going to listen?….And that applies to me as a regular sheep, and it applies to you as a pastor.”
Yes. Yes it does.