Grace Church, Pastor Steve Berger
 

Steve Berger, the pastor of Governor’s Lee’s home church, said in a sermon Sunday that the news media, including News4, had not been fair in our reporting on his accounts of the riots in D.C. 

“Unfortunately, the news media has absolutely lied through their teeth,” Berger said. 

For complete transparency, News4 has documented our attempts to reach Berger and a timeline of how events occurred.  

On January 6, Berger made comments during a Facebook LIVE which were obtained by News4 Investigates. 

When News4 Investigates first learned of the Facebook LIVE on January 7th, our content center reached out by phone to Berger’s assistant to ask for an interview. 

At 4:22, on January 7th, Berger’s assistant, Elise Glasser, responded in an email stating that the pastor was unavailable. 

From: Elise Glasser <elise@gracechapel.net
Sent: Thursday, January 7, 2021 4:22 PM
To: Billy Hodge <Billy.Hodge@wsmv.com>; Alex Heider <Alex.Heider@wsmv.com>
Subject: [EXTERNAL] re:WSMV REQUEST 

  

Hi Billy –  

Thank you so much for your email. Pastor Steve is unavailable  for an interview. 

  

Have a fantastic evening, 

Elise Glasser 

Executive Assistant to Senior Pastor Steve Berger 

Grace Chapel | Franklin 

(615) 591-5091 Ext. 112 

  

Our assignment editor then emailed back at 4:30, inquiring when Berger would be available to talk as wanted to give him every opportunity to explain his time in D.C. that day. 

 

From: Billy Hodge 
Sent: Thursday, January 7, 2021 4:30 PM
To: Elise Glasser <elise@gracechapel.net>; Alex Heider <Alex.Heider@wsmv.com>
Subject: RE: WSMV REQUEST 

  

Hi Elise, 

  

When will he be available for an interview? 

We would like to talk to him on the record. We have seen his posts on Facebook from his time in Washington. We will be asking  Gov. Lee about his pastor and what has happened at the Gov.’s presser tomorrow. We want to make sure that Pastor Steve has every opportunity to speak to his reasoning for attending the rally and what happened in Washington. 

  

Thanks, 

Our content producer then emailed back at 4:30, inquiring when Berger would be available to talk as News4 wanted to give him every opportunity to explain his time in D.C. that day. 

From: Billy Hodge 
Sent: Thursday, January 7, 2021 4:30 PM
To: Elise Glasser <elise@gracechapel.net>; Alex Heider <Alex.Heider@wsmv.com>
Subject: RE: WSMV REQUEST 

  

Hi Elise, 

  

When will he be available for an interview? 

We would like to talk to him on the record. We have seen his posts on Facebook from his time in Washington. We will be asking  Gov. Lee about his pastor and what has happened at the Gov.’s presser tomorrow. We want to make sure that Pastor Steve has every opportunity to speak to his reasoning for attending the rally and what happened in Washington. 

  

Thanks, 

News4 Investigates also tried repeatedly to reach Berger through the church’s voicemail system to no success and aired our coverage of his Facebook LIVE at 10:00 p.m. on January 7.

In that original reporting on January 7, we reported that it was unclear if he had traveled to D.C. for the rally. 

On Saturday, January 9, we received this email from Berger's assistant, responding to our request for comment and noting that they had issued a press release. 

From: Elise Glasser <elise@gracechapel.net
Sent: Saturday, January 9, 2021 11:41 AM
To: Billy Hodge <Billy.Hodge@wsmv.com>
Subject: [EXTERNAL] Re: WSMV REQUEST 

  

Billy 

You have asked for comments regarding Steve’s most recent trip to DC and we wanted to make you aware of his press release we just posted. See attached. 

  

Blessings, 

Elise Glasser 

Executive Assistant to Senior Pastor Steve Berger 

Grace Chapel | Franklin 

(615) 591-5091 Ext. 112 

 

News4 then updated our reporting to include Berger’s statement. 

On Sunday, January 10, during his sermon, Berger posted this screen shot of an email, from his assistant to News4, with a time stamp of 5:54 on January 7, quoting the pastor as saying, “I didn’t go to attend the rally. I went for other reasons and walked through the rally to observe the situation and pray as I often do in D.C.” 

Email from Elise to Billy

Berger then claimed that News4 omitted that statement from our coverage. 

Once News4 learned of this screen shot, our news organization looked through our emails sent to us on January 7 at that specific time, and have not been able to find any email sent from Berger’s assistant to our assignment desk or to any member of our news department. 

Had we received that email, it would have come hours before our deadline, and would have been included in our report that evening and in our online stories. 

It is worth noting again that when Berger sent his statement on Saturday, his assistant wrote, “You have asked for comments regarding Steve’s most recent trip to DC and we wanted to make you aware of his press release we just posted.” 

Nowhere in that email that sharing his statement, again sent on Saturday, January 9, did Glasser bring up the email in question, that Berger showed during his sermon and said News4 omitted, or question why News4 had not included that email in our coverage. 

News4 Investigates reached out to Glasser Monday, who reiterated that they did send the email at 5:54 on January 7.

Glasser then sent what she said was a time-stamped series of emails sent to News4 on January 7, though we have no record of every receiving the final email in question. 

As an editorial note, it is important for News4 viewers and readers to understand why we go through such a rigorous review of our reporting to make sure that we are fair and accurate. 

On Saturday, when our original online story was revised by News4 staff in order to update information on the pastor's press release, it was incorrectly noted that Berger claimed to be back in his hotel room by 11:00 p.m., and it should have read he claimed to have returned at 11:00 a.m.  

That revision of that story also cited a statement from Berger about not intentionally misleading anyone.

The revision incorrectly cited that he made that statement during the Facebook LIVE, but Berger made that comment in his press release.

As soon as those error were discovered, they were corrected. 

News4 welcomes any feedback from readers or viewers on any story, especially if errors are discovered.

 
 

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Chief Investigative Reporter

Jeremy Finley is the chief investigator for News4 Investigates. His reporting has resulted in criminal convictions, legislative hearings before the U.S. Congress, and the payout of more than a million dollars to scam victims.

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