For years, cable news networks have turned to Evangelical Texas pastor Robert Jeffress to provide a social conservative's perspective on issues ranging from marriage equality to the to the "War on Christmas." But while the pastor's congeniality has earned him favor with media outlets, his history of extreme anti-gay and Islamophobic rhetoric should raise questions about his legitimacy as a mainstream media commentator.
Long before he was making appearances on America's most watched cable news shows, Robert Jeffress was acting as the young pastor of the First Baptist Church of Wichita Falls. Despite his Evangelical background, Jeffress' early ministry work wasn't defined by fire-and-brimstone-type condemnations of homosexuality. In 1998, however, Jeffress made his first public foray into the culture war. According to D Magazine's Michael J. Mooney:
He had just finished preparing a portion of a sermon titled "We Cannot Condone What God Has Condemned" when a member of his church came to him one morning with two books from the Wichita Falls public library. The books, Heather Has Two Mommies and Daddy's Roommate, are both about children raised by gay couples, and the latter features an illustration of two men in a bed together.
He thought about those books. And when he was preaching his message that Sunday, something welled up inside of him. The words just came out. "I'm gonna take my stand right here!" he said. "I'm not gonna return these books!"
Jeffress went on to spearhead an effort to remove the books from the Wichita Falls public library - an effort that earned him national attention as the City Council and ACLU became involved in the dispute. A judge eventually ruled that it was unconstitutional to exclude the books from the library, but the incident helped propel Jeffress' popularity among Evangelicals, and his congregation expanded as a result.
In 2007, Jeffress became the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, where his national profile continued to grow. In March of 2013, the church opened a new $130 million church campus - completing the "largest Protestant church building campaign in modern history."
Fox News' resident anti-LGBT pop psychologist Keith Ablow boldly declared that "marriage died in 2013," badly misreading a recent court decision in Utah to blame same-sex marriage supporters for turning marriage into "the Wild West."
In a December 31 column for FoxNews.com, Ablow congratulated himself for predicting that the legalization of same-sex marriage would result in the legalization of polygamous marriages, citing a recent decision by U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups striking down part of Utah's anti-polygamy statute. Marriage, Ablow argued, has become "the Wild West," with incestuous marriages being the next frontier in the fight for marriage equality:
More than a year ago, when states began to legalize gay marriage, I argued that polygamy would be the natural result. If love between humans of legal age is the only condition required to have the state issue a marriage license, then it is irrational to assert that two men or two women can have such feelings for one another, while three women and a man, or two men and a woman, cannot.
Well, now U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups has found parts of Utah's anti-bigamy law unconstitutional. His ruling comes in a case brought by Kody Brown and his four wives, who are featured in the reality TV show, "Sister Wives."
I believe the U.S. Supreme Court will uphold that finding, if Utah challenges it.
As I predicted, this will officially make marriage the Wild West, in which groups of people can assert that they are married and should have all the benefits of that status, including family health plans and the right to file taxes as married people.
It will also, eventually, lead to test cases in which a few unusual sisters and brothers insist that they can marry, because they are in love and promise not to procreate, but, instead, to use donor eggs or sperm.
Marriage is over.
It was always at least a little funny that a huge percentage of people swore to stay together until death, then divorced and remarried.
But, now, it is, officially, judicially, a joke.
If two men can marry, and three men can marry, and five women and a man can marry, and three men and two women can marry, then marriage has no meaning.
Fox News host Geraldo Rivera defended Alec Baldwin's use of an anti-gay epithet against a photographer, claiming that calling somebody a "cocksucking faggot" isn't actually a homophobic slur.
During the December 19 edition of Fox News' Hannity, host Sean Hannity criticized A&E for its decision to place Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson on indefinite hiatus following anti-gay remarks Robertson made during an interview with GQ.
Rivera compared Robertson's critics to the "fundamentalist gay activists" who criticized Alec Baldwin, who lost his show on MSNBC amid controversy after being recorded allegedly calling a photographer a "cocksucking faggot."
When panelist Rachel Sklar pointed out that Baldwin has a "history of making these homophobic slurs," Rivera shot back, stating that Baldwin's comments didn't constitute a "homophobic slur" because such comments were "commonplace" when he was growing up:
SKLAR: When I heard about what Alec Baldwin - Alec Baldwin had a history of making these homophobic slurs.
RIVERA: That wasn't a homophobic slur.
SKLAR: Okay --
RIVERA: I mean if you grew up where we grew up --
SKYLAR: And yet he is no longer on the network, right?
RIVERA: Sean, Baldwin and I all grew up within ten miles of each other and when we were growing up, in my year especially, those comments were commonplace.
SKLAR: Things have changed, Geraldo.
RIVERA: You have to give people some slack.
Earlier in the day, on Fox & Friends, Rivera criticized A&E's decision to suspend Robertson as "political correctness that's gotten malignant."
At what point will Fox News stop conflating anti-gay bigotry and Christian religious belief?
Phil Robertson, one of the stars of A&E's Duck Dynasty, has been put on indefinite hiatus by the network following criticism of a number of anti-gay and racist remarks he made in an interview with GQ. In the interview, Robertson refers to homosexuality as a "sin," comparing it to bestiality and calling gay sex illogical:
"It seems like, to me, a vagina--as a man--would be more desirable than a man's anus. That's just me.I'm just thinking: There's more there! She's got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I'm saying? But hey, sin: It's not logical, my man. It's just not logical."
"Everything is blurred on what's right and what's wrong," he says. "Sin becomes fine."
What, in your mind, is sinful?
"Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men," he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: "Don't be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers--they won't inherit the kingdom of God. Don't deceive yourself. It's not right."
In the aftermath of his anti-gay comments, several Fox News employees have rushed to Robertson's defense, depicting him as a run-of-the-mill Christian who espoused mainstream Christian theology. Host Sean Hannity described Robertson's comments as "old fashioned traditional Christian sentiment and values." Fox reporter Todd Starnes claimed his comments reflected "the teachings of the Bible." And Fox Business' Dennis Kneale claimed Robertson had just "stated his religious beliefs."
But not everyone at Fox News is so quick to accept Robertson's anti-gay comments as what they believe to be basic Christian dogma. During the December 18 edition of Hannity, Fox News analyst Peter Johnson Jr. seemed hesitant to describe Robertson's remarks as "religious," saying, "I wouldn't accept that that's a religious view":
Fox News employees are rushing to defend Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson after A&E placed him on indefinite hiatus for making anti-gay remarks in which he called homosexuality a sin, illogical, and akin to bestiality.
CNN allowed hate group leader Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC), to baselessly accuse marriage equality of creating a slippery slope to polygamy after asking him whether the growing acceptance of homosexuality was to blame for the decriminalization of polygamous relationships in Utah.
On December 13, in the case Brown v. Buhman, U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups struck down a portion of Utah's anti-polygamy statute which aimed at prohibiting polygamous cohabitation, stating that the measure violated constitutionally protected rights of free exercise of religion and due process. Waddoups also cited the Supreme Court's 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down state laws criminalizing gay sex. According to Waddoups, Lawrence pointed to "deeper liberty interests at issue in the home and personal relationships."
During the December 16 edition of CNN's Erin Burnett OutFront, guest host Jake Tapper invited Perkins and anti-polygamy activist Laurie Allen to ask if Waddoups' decision was a result of the slippery slope created by the decriminalization of gay sex in Lawrence v. Texas. During the segment, Tapper read a Tweet from former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum claiming his predictions about gay marriage leading to polygamy were true and asked "do you think it's fair to make that link" between gay marriage and polygamy?:
Fox's Elisabeth Hasselbeck interviewed the owner of a Colorado bakery who was recently found to have violated the state's non-discrimination law by refusing to make a cake for a same-sex wedding, asking if he believed his rights had been violated by efforts to prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination.
During the December 10 edition of Fox & Friends, Hasselbeck invited Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Denver, to discuss a recent ruling by a Colorado judge that found that Phillips had violated that state's law against discrimination when he refused to serve a same-sex couple. Phillips was joined by his attorney Nicolle Martin, who does volunteer work at the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a group notorious for pushing for the criminalization of homosexuality internationally.
During the segment - which featured a graphic declaring "The Death Of Free Enterprise" - Hasselbeck asked Phillips why he believed he shouldn't have to abandon his "personal religious beliefs just to make a buck":
Both CNN and MSNBC devoted significant coverage to the Obama administration's commemoration of World AIDS Day on December 2. Fox News, on the other hand, spent less than 20 seconds acknowledging President Obama's speech outlining significant new efforts to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Fox News spent under five minutes covering the controversy between Republican Wyoming Senate candidate and former Fox News contributor Liz Cheney and her openly gay sister Mary Cheney over Liz's opposition to marriage equality - significantly less than CNN and MSNBC, who both devoted more than one hour.
The actor who plays a transgender character on the Fox television series Glee responded to criticism from Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, who warned that allowing "dopey kids" to watch a transgender character on television might encourage them to experiment with homosexuality.
In April 2012, O'Reilly criticized Glee for introducing a transgender character - Wade "Unique" Adams - struggling with her gender identity in high school. According to O'Reilly, the presence of a transgender character on television might convince "dopey kids to identify as gay or transgender" (emphasis added):