Fox News is witnessing the nasty byproducts of its endless campaign to depict extreme, virulent homophobia as a normal part of mainstream Christianity.
It's long been standard practice at Fox News to conflate anti-gay bigotry with Christianity. Last December, for instance, the network rushed to defend Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson after he compared homosexuality with bestiality and equated gay people with "drunks" and "terrorists," with Megyn Kelly referring to Robertson as "[t]his Christian guy," Sean Hannity describing his comments as "old fashioned traditional Christian sentiment and values," and Fox News commentator Todd Starnes defending Robertson as upholding "the teachings of the Bible."
Meanwhile, Fox has repeatedly touted business owners who refuse service to gay couples, taking up their mantle in regular "Fight for Faith" segments. The network has championed some of the country's most extreme anti-gay hate groups as mainstream Christian organizations. When New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio declined to attend he city's St. Patrick's Day Parade over its ban on LGBT groups, Fox News attacked him as a "religious bigot." And the network regularly describes even basic legal protections for LGBT people as anti-Christian.
Now, a new anti-gay controversy has once again provided fodder for Fox to depict extreme anti-gay bigotry as grounded in mainstream Christianity. Earlier this month, HGTV cancelled a forthcoming reality show slated to be hosted by brothers Jason and David Benham. The cancellation came after Right Wing Watch unearthed the brothers' history of extreme anti-gay and Islamophobic activism, including condemning homosexuality as "demonic" and "destructive."
Anchor Megyn Kelly responded to HGTV's move by asserting on the May 8 edition of The Kelly File that while "gay rights are more and more protected in this country," the same didn't hold for "Christian beliefs and Christian rights."
During the May 16 edition of Kelly's show, guest host Martha MacCallum invited right-wing radio commentator Dana Loesch and Democratic strategist Jessica Ehrlich to discuss the controversy engulfing the Benham brothers. Perfectly encapsulating the right's bogus homophobia-as-Christianity narrative, Loesch dubbed Ehrlich an "anti-Christian bigot" for deigning to criticize the brothers' extreme anti-gay views:
LOESCH: I just don't understand the anti-Christian bigotry. I mean, I think the world is big enough for us all, don't you think?
EHRLICH: It is absolutely -- what you just said encapsulates my argument completely.
LOESCH: How so?
EHRLICH: There is no anti-Christian bigotry here. They have cloaked their political views in a religious -
EHRLICH: These are not Christian views... Those are not the views of all Christians, and for you to say that is outrageous.
LOESCH: So, how does that make them anti-Christian, using your logic, Jessica, using your logic, if they are anti homosexual because they believe in a biblically based -
EHRLICH: Because not all Christians believe -
LOESCH: You'll learn more if you keep your mouth shut. Now, Jessica, how is that that they are anti-homosexual but you are not anti-Christian? [emphasis added]
In her rush to accuse Ehrlich of being an anti-Christian bigot, Loesch didn't bother dwelling on the vehement anti-gay activism of the Benham brothers. David Benham asserted in 2012 that "homosexuality and its agenda" were "attacking the nation," has compared the fight against LGBT equality to the struggle against Nazi Germany, and has highlighted Leviticus' prescription of the death penalty for gay sex. As Ehrlich noted, those aren't the views of all Christians. A poll released by the Public Religion Research Institute in February found majority support for marriage equality among white mainline Protestants (62 percent), white Catholics (58 percent), and Latino Catholics (56 percent). And even though substantial majorities of evangelicals oppose same-sex marriage, they're hardly unanimous, with 59 percent of black Protestants and 69 percent of white evangelicals expressing their opposition.
Loesch's unhinged defense of the Benham brothers is an unsettling illustration of the danger that comes with Fox News's campaign to depict homophobia as nothing more than mainstream Christianity. It ends up excusing even the most extreme forms of anti-gay bigotry while painting a misleading picture of what most American Christians actually believe.