Over the years, the growing National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) organization has grown accustomed to having the president of the United States appear at its annual Washington convention. The 1977 meeting was held the week after Jimmy Carter’s inauguration, and even though the White House staff never confirmed that the President would attend, there were high expectations that he would show up. He didn’t.

Carter’s name was on the program as the special “invited guest” at the Sunday-night opening session. After he did not appear for that, rumors made the rounds that he would be at the final banquet on Wednesday. He ate elsewhere.

NRB members who stayed in Washington long enough to read the following day’s newspapers learned that while they were hearing a written message from the new President, he was at a Washington Press Club party honoring the new Congress.

The President’s greetings, read by fellow Georgian Jimmy Waters, chairman of the Southern Baptist Radio and Television Commission, assured the broadcasters of his “warm support and understanding.” In remarks at the Press Club social across town, Carter joked about his celebrated Playboy magazine interview and about the possibility of sending a copy of it to guide Vice President Walter Mondale during his visit to Paris. Mondale’s wife was also a guest at the party.

The President’s absence from the NRB convention was all the more conspicuous since several prominent broadcasters had taken issue with him over the Playboy interview during the month before he was elected. The NRB had also arranged two September conferences at which President Gerald Ford, Carter’s opponent, gave his views to Christian leaders. Carter was interviewed by three NRB representatives later in the campaign. ...

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