Repeating the right-wing trope that the mainstream media "leans to the left," Fox News contributor Erick Erickson criticized media outlets for describing animus towards LGBT people as "bias" and falsely suggested that most Americans oppose LGBT equality.
In a September 13 blog post for his RedState.com website, Erickson misleadingly claimedthat a majority of Americans oppose the affirmation of "alternative lifestyles" - and that media outlets should therefore avoid describing people who condemn homosexuality as harboring "bias":
Erin Burnett of CNN and formerly of CNBC is a wonderful person and a great reporter. But I'll never forget being on air the night of June 5, 2012.
John King and Erin Burnett were chatting as Erin promoted what was coming up on her show. A pastor was losing his church because he supported gay marriage. His congregation had left and there was too little money coming in. "It's a pretty powerful story of conviction and also the bias that is still very prevalent in certain places in this country," Burnett gravely stated. "Bias ... in certain places."
At the top of the seven o'clock hour, Burnett ran a David Mattingly story about Grace Community United Church of Christ in St. Paul, Minnesota. The real story happened seven years earlier. The pastor of the African-American church, way back then, supported gay marriage at the 2005 national meeting of the United Church of Christ over the desires of his congregation. Most of the congregation left his church. The week of June 5, 2012, would be perhaps, in David Mattingly's words, "the last service before the church closes its doors for good. What I saw was a far cry from the days when the seats were full."
It is not that Erin Burnett and David Mattingly's report clearly made the pastor who defied his congregation the hero and his congregants who demanded faithful adherence to their scripture the bigots. The media does this all the time. In a nation whose voters routinely tells pollsters they support gay marriage while routinely voting against gay marriage, most of the media is very much in favor of gay marriage. Stories about Christian pastors seem to focus on the bigoted and hateful few contrasted with a few open minded, tolerant Christians whose churches are dwindling as they embrace alternative lifestyles.
But we are a nation where a majority of states, through democratic processes, prohibit gay marriage. And the story was cast not as a preacher disobeying his congregation and dealing with the consequences, but as "bias ... in certain places" causing a church to close down. The presupposition of the story was against the congregation, not against the pastor who directly disobeyed the wishes of his congregation. [emphasis added]
As anyone familiar with the polling on marriage equality could attest, Erickson's depiction of an anti-equality majority is inaccurate. Indeed, Gallup found in July that a majority of Americans now support federal marriage equality, under which the rights of gay and lesbian couples wouldn't be subject to the state referendums. And even in states where voters previously backed anti-equality ballot measures, public opinion has rapidly shifted. In 2004, 62 percent of Ohioans voted to ban same-sex marriage, while 54 percent now tell pollsters they would repeal the ban. Mainers, meanwhile, defeated marriage equality in a 2009 vote, only to reverse course and approve it last November.
Moreover, contrary to Erickson's claim that media outlets ignore anti-LGBT voices, mainstream media have proven all too willing to provide platforms to fringe figures. Take the network Erickson cited as a paragon of pro-LGBT bias; CNN routinely invites hate group leader Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council (FRC) to spread smears and misinformation about LGBT people, and the network has also hosted the FRC's Peter Sprigg to comment on matters including marriage equality and the Boy Scouts' membership policy. Other hate group figures who have appeared on CNN include the American Family Association's Bryan Fischer and Save California's Randy Thomasson, who used his recent appearance on the network to call a transgender male guest a lady.
But for a man like Erickson, who recently solicited donations for a group working internationally to criminalize homosexuality, the media's willingness to mainstream hate groups still isn't enough to match the level of anti-LGBT coverage he'd like to see.