The Daily Caller is known for publishing its fair share of anti-LGBT opinion columns, but even the website's "straight news" reporting is replete with anti-gay demagoguery, evidenced by its latest report on the Obama administration's reaction to Uganda's extreme new anti-gay law.
On March 24, Daily Caller White House correspondent Neil Munro published a report on the Obama administration's move to cut aid to Uganda after President Yoweri Museveni signed legislation imposing life sentences for "aggravated homosexuality." The Obama administration has moved to cut aid programs tied to the new law - including $6.4 million that would have gone to a primary backer of the measure. The administration has also rerouted aid for tourism and environmental protection to NGOs and halted a survey on populations at risk for HIV due to safety concerns.
Throughout his ostensibly "straight news" report, Munro depicted the Obama administration's decision as an example of its "hard-edged effort to punish countries that disagree with its gay rights agenda." According to Munro, opposing life imprisonment for gay people is part of an effort to "rapidly elevate the status of gays in Africa":
President Barack Obama is cutting U.S. aid for the poor African country of Uganda and blocking a health survey, because its elected government signed a popular and harsh law against homosexual conduct.
The penalty spotlights the administration's top-level and hard-edged effort to punish countries that disagree with its gay rights agenda.
The cuts are part of an ambitious foreign policy effort to rapidly elevate the status of gays in Africa and in other continents.
Munro noted that the Obama administration had also condemned Russia's law cracking down on so-called gay "propaganda" - which could include displays of affection between same-sex couples. Channeling Vladimir Putin's defense of that measure, Munro uncritically referred to the measure as a ban on "advocacy of Western-style gay rights" and repeated the baseless notion that criminalizing gay "propaganda" would somehow encourage population grown:
Anti-gay activist Austin Ruse continues to write for Breitbart.com, even two weeks after an anti-gay hate group cut its ties with Ruse over his declaration that liberal professors "should all be taken out and shot."
Filling in for American Family Radio host Sandy Rios on March 12, Ruse commented on the case of a Duke University student who revealed that she had acted in porn to help pay her college tuition. Ruse seized on the story to condemn "the hard left, human-hating people that run modern universities, who should all be taken out and shot." In response, the American Family Association, an anti-gay hate group, broke off ties with Ruse.
For nearly two weeks since after Right Wing Watch reported that decision, Ruse didn't publish any material at Breitbart, where he has made a name for himself as the site's go-to anti-gay extremist. But on March 25, Breitbart published a new piece by Ruse celebrating the news that Missouri recently became the sixth state to have only one abortion clinic.
With his editors at Breitbart apparently unbothered by Ruse's recent incitement to violence, it's unclear what the website would consider a bridge too far. As the president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), also an anti-gay hate group, Ruse is no stranger to inflammatory rhetoric and deeply offensive commentary - much of it spewed during his time at Breitbart.
Here's a round-up of some of Ruse's greatest hits.
Given the AFA's own record of extremism, its decision to cut ties with Ruse demonstrates that even hate groups have a limit for how much toxic rhetoric they're willing to tolerate. It's a limit that apparently doesn't exist at Breitbart.
As Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) woos young voters ahead of an expected 2016 presidential bid, it's become conventional wisdom among many Beltway pundits that Paul could broaden the GOP's appeal with his ostensibly tolerant views on social issues - never mind that that this narrative is completely divorced from Paul's traditional conservative positions on such topics.
Paul's effort to win over Millennials and other constituencies historically suspicious of the GOP came to the fore with his March 19 speech at the University of California, Berkeley, where Paul condemned government surveillance programs as a threat to privacy.
The chattering class proclaimed that the speech was emblematic of Paul's appeal as an unconventional, "intriguing" Republican. And despite Paul's conservative stances on issues like marriage equality, reproductive choice, and creationism, many media outlets have also pointed to Paul as the kind of candidate who could help move the GOP away from its hardline social positions. It's a narrative that even some of Paul's conservative critics have come to accept, as Charles Krauthammer showed when he called Paul "very much a liberal on social issues."
A look at media coverage of Paul helps explain where Krauthammer got that notion.
Referring to gay people as "homosexual" is a practice that's quickly falling out of favor with major news outlets due the term's often pejorative connotation and frequent use by opponents of LGBT equality. But Fox News has yet to update its language when referring to gay and lesbian people.
On March 23, The New York Times published a piece exploring the often derogatory connotation of the term "homosexual." Writing for the Sunday Styles section, the Times' Jeremy Peters noted that experts increasingly view "homosexual" as an offensive and stigmatizing term, even if many people still see the term as relatively "innocuous" (emphasis added):
To most ears, it probably sounds inoffensive. A little outdated and clinical, perhaps, but innocuous enough: homosexual.
But that five-syllable word has never been more loaded, more deliberately used and, to the ears of many gays and lesbians, more pejorative.
" 'Homosexual' has the ring of 'colored' now, in the way your grandmother might have used that term, except that it hasn't been recuperated in the same way," said George Chauncey, a Yale professor of history and an author who studies gay and lesbian culture.
Consider the following phrases: homosexual community, homosexual activist, homosexual marriage. Substitute the word "gay" in any of those cases, and the terms suddenly become far less loaded, so that the ring of disapproval and judgment evaporates.
Some gay rights advocates have declared the term off limits. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, or Glaad, has put "homosexual" on its list of offensive terms and in 2006 persuaded The Associated Press, whose stylebook is the widely used by many news organizations, to restrict use of the word.
George P. Lakoff, a professor of cognitive science and linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, has looked at the way the term is used by those who try to portray gays and lesbians as deviant. What is most telling about substituting it for gay or lesbian are the images that homosexual tends to activate in the brain, he said.
"Gay doesn't use the word sex," he said. "Lesbian doesn't use the word sex. Homosexual does."
Peters highlighted use of the term by anti-gay figures like Rush Limbaugh, whose comments on the "homosexual" NFL prospect Michael Sam and the efforts of the "homosexual lobby" to defeat Arizona's anti-gay discrimination bill smack of contempt.
Use of the term is also pervasive at Fox News - and not just from the likes of the network's hate group mouthpiece Todd Starnes, who recently warned that "Christians are trading places with homosexuals" in the military. Just as the network insists on misgendering transgender subjects, Fox also has no qualms about regularly referring to gay men and lesbians by a term many of them shun.
Fox employees from Megyn Kelly to Sarah Palin continue to use the word "homosexual" to describe gays and lesbians. Fox Supreme Court reporter and pro-discrimination champion Shannon Bream teased a forthcoming segment on "homosexual adoption":
Fox's "Medical A-Team" member and anti-LGBT pop psychologist Keith Ablow uses the term "homosexual sex" while criticizing pro-gay advertisements.
And Fox's Bill O'Reilly was recently mocked for a segment in which he attacked the Girl Scouts for "leaning left," seizing in particular on the organization's employment of a spokesman who participated "in a punk rock band with homosexual overtones":
Experts in 12 states -- including law enforcement officials, government employees, and advocates for victims of sexual assault -- have debunked the right-wing myth that sexual predators will exploit transgender non-discrimination laws to sneak into women's restrooms, calling the myth baseless and "beyond specious."
News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch charged that gay groups had "bullied" Guinness into pulling out of New York City's St. Patrick's Day Parade, calling for a boycott of the Irish brewer.
Guinness announced on March 16 that it would not participate in the parade, citing the event's exclusion of gay and lesbian groups. "Guinness has a strong history of supporting diversity and being an advocate for equality for all. We were hopeful that the policy of exclusion would be reversed for this year's parade," the company said in a statement.
Murdoch denounced the decision on Twitter, writing that he hoped "all Irish boycott the stuff":
Murdoch's attack on Guinness' pro-equality stance comes after Fox News personalities repeatedly assailed New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for not participating in the event and justified the parade's anti-gay discrimination by citing the existence of gay pride parades:
Two days after frequent Breitbart News contributor Austin Ruse proclaimed that liberal academics "should all be taken out and shot," the American Family Association announced that it was cutting its ties with the inflammatory social conservative.
Filling in for American Family Radio host and Fox News contributor Sandy Rios on March 12, Ruse weighed in on the controversy surrounding a Duke University freshman who recently revealed that she has acted in porn to help pay her college tuition:
RUSE: That is the nonsense that they teach in women's studies at Duke University, this is where she learned this. The toxic stew of the modern university is gender studies, it's "Sex Week," they all have "Sex Week" and teaching people how to be sex-positive and overcome the patriarchy. My daughters go to a little private religious school and we pay an arm and a leg for it precisely to keep them away from all of this kind of nonsense. I do hope that they go to a Christian college or university and to keep them so far away from the hard left, human-hating people that run modern universities, who should all be taken out and shot.
As Right Wing Watch reported on March 14, American Family Radio announced on its Facebook page that Ruse would no longer be filling in there:
Ezra Klein's nascent news and policy site Vox.com promises readers that its journalists will "really know the topics they cover." But newly minted Vox writing fellow Brandon Ambrosino - a frequent commentator on LGBT issues - has repeatedly demonstrated that his understanding of LGBT topics is superficial at best, and frequently dangerously off-base.
In Vox's Facebook post announcing the hire, Ambrosino noted his interest in LGBT topics. That interest has manifested itself in numerous pieces whitewashing the homophobia of figures like Jerry Falwell and Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson, asserting that homosexuality is a choice, and condemning LGBT rights activists as bigoted.
Vox's home page promises that it's "hiring journalists who really know the topics they cover" because "[t]here's no way we'll be able to help readers understand issues if we haven't done the work to understand them ourselves":
But a look at Ambrosino's body of work demonstrates that he doesn't understand several basic facts about one of his purported specialties:
In two pieces in The New Republic, Ambrosino asserted that he had made a "choice" to be gay, failing to explain when, why, and how he made that choice. His pieces were criticized for their misuse of academic texts. His assertion also contradicts mainstream medical expertise, which overwhelmingly concludes that a person's sexual orientation isn't chosen.
Of course, Ambrosino has previously spoken of when he started experiencing "gay feelings" and realized he "was attracted to men" - strongly suggesting that his sexual orientation was something he realized, not selected. It's certainly a choice whether or not to embrace one's sexual orientation, but as Ambrosino's own words attest, it isn't a switch you can flip on and off.
In the same New Republic pieces, Ambrosino urged gays and lesbians to learn from the transgender community. Transgender activism, he wrote, is "fueled by the belief that the government has the responsibility to protect all of us regardless of our sexual choices."
But being transgender isn't a choice, much less a sexual choice. A person's gender identity is a deeply ingrained, intrinsic characteristic. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a person's gender identity is usually established by the age of four. Being transgender, as one expert put it, is "part of the human condition." It also has nothing to do with a person's sexuality or sexual orientation.
In addition to not understanding the most basic realities of what it means to be transgender, Ambrosino has also used the term "tranny" - a transphobic slur - to describe transgender people. Assuming that Ambrosino didn't have malicious intent, his use of the slur still reflected a remarkable ignorance of transgender issues for a frequent commentator on LGBT issues.
Ezra Klein's much-hyped news and policy site, Vox.com, has hired Brandon Ambrosino - a gay man who has made a name for himself by suggesting that being gay is a choice and whitewashing anti-gay bigotry and discrimination.
Vox, the news and policy site headed by Ezra Klein, announced on March 12 that Ambrosino had been hired as a writing fellow:
Klein's new venture - announced to considerable fanfare in January - will provide Ambrosino a formidable platform as the go-to gay writer for anti-gay conservatives seeking to legitimize their homophobia.
Ambrosino - whose professional background is as a jazz and tap dancer - first garnered considerable attention with an April 2013 essay for The Atlantic. Titled "Being Gay at Jerry Falwell's University," Ambrosino's piece recounted his experience as a student at Liberty University, founded by the inflammatory fundamentalist preacher in 1971. Describing himself as "the world's most hypersexual fag," Ambrosino admitted he was an unlikely candidate to attend Liberty, but in his experience, it was "very different from what you might think of it." He lamented that the school "gets a bad rap because of a few of Falwell's soundbytes."
Those sound bites included Falwell's notorious reaction to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, for which he pinned some of the blame on gays and lesbians. Speaking with Pat Robertson on The 700 Club, Falwell said:
[T]he pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way - all of them who have tried to secularize America - I point the finger in their face and say "you helped this happen."
Ambrosino's take on Falwell? He argues that the guy with the "big fat smile" has been unfairly maligned by progressives like Bill Maher. While Ambrosino never got the chance to tell Falwell that he's gay, he "wouldn't have been afraid of his response." After all, Ambrosino wrote, he's confident that Falwell wouldn't have supported stoning Ambrosino.
Right-wing media figures are celebrating a new paper purporting to demonstrate anti-Christian and anti-conservative bias in the Southern Poverty Law Center's (SPLC) listing of extremist hate groups -- conveniently ignoring the clear biases of the paper's author and the paper's glaring methodological problems.
On March 10, Breitbart.com's in-house anti-gay extremist Austin Ruse touted a new "study" from University of North Texas sociologist George Yancey, the author of "Watching the Watchers: The Neglect of Academic Analysis of Progressive Groups," a paper appearing in the journal Academic Questions. In the "study," Yancey purports to have found that the SPLC's practice of identifying and labeling hate groups ignores extremism on the left, instead maligning right-wing groups like the Family Research Council (which Yancey calls the "Family Research Center"). Moreover, Yancey charges that the SPLC is far too liberal with its use of that designation, unfairly smearing sensible conservatives as hateful bigots.
Before taking his arguments seriously, here's what media outlets and the public should know about Yancey's anti-SPLC polemic:
1. It Isn't A Study. Yancey's paper -- republished in full on Breitbart's website -- is little more than a screed against the SPLC filled with right-wing boilerplate. ("Progressive groups who value tolerance may display intolerance when reacting to conservative individuals," Yancey writes, echoing conservative bloviators like Erick Erickson.) But Yancey's "study" lacks a systematic and coherent methodology. There's no objective metric by which he determines whether the SPLC goes too hard on conservative groups and too easy on leftist ones.
Instead, he fixates on the fact that the SPLC hasn't labelled the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) as a hate group. This perceived failure on the SPLC's part is Yancey's central example of its alleged pro-leftist, anti-conservative bias.
2. The SPLC Does Hold Non-Conservative Groups Accountable. The SPLC has done extensive work highlighting phenomena like black separatism and black supremacism. In fact, it was the SPLC who exposed last summer an African-American "race war" proponent working for the Department of Homeland Security. Conservative outlets like Fox News and WorldNetDaily highlighted the story, even though those organizations have condemned the SPLC in the past.