From the November 23 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
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Right-wing Colorado pastor and radio host Kevin Swanson suggested that the terrorist attack at the Bataclan concert hall in Paris was "a message from God" and posed a question to the "concert-goers, at least those who survived: 'Did you love the devil and did you love the devil's works as your friends were being shot up in that massacre?'"
On the November 19 edition of his show Generations Radio, Swanson said he was "deadly serious" about wanting to ask survivors of the terrorist attack, which occurred during a concert by the Eagles of Death Metal, whether they "appreciate[d] the works of the devil as their friends where being shot up in that concert" (emphasis added):
SWANSON: These events are important. I think it's important to analyze them. They're symbolic to what's happening in our entire society today, and when you get a wake up call like what happened at France's 9/11 last Friday night, at the concert I think we all need to pay attention to what's happening. This is a message from God. God is shooting a shot across the bow and we better be paying attention to this. Music matters, culture matters. Culture ultimately is a reflection of world view, and so if you want to know world view just take a look at the culture and say 'oh that's what the world view is all about.'
SWANSON: It's a warning. Certainly a providential irony here. These are the works of the devil, the mass murder itself, are the works of the devil. In other words, there was a demonstration of the devil and his works happening at the time that they were singing the song "who'll love the devil, who'll sing his song, I'll love the devil, I'll sing his song." At the moment they were singing that, the devil himself or at least the devil influencing these murderers and entered in showed the concert-goers the works of the devil. Now at that point, I think we need to ask concert-goers, at least those who survived "Did you love the devil and did you love the devil's works as your friends were being shot up in that massacre?" I think we ought to ask the question right now. And I'm very serious, I'm deadly serious asking this question. "You were dancing to this worship service to the devil, the devil came in, the devil did what the devil does best: he killed, he massacred, he destroyed. As the devil did his works," again, the microphone is in the face of those who were attending the conference [sic] right now, I'm asking the question of those attending that concert "did you appreciate the works of the devil as your friends where being shot up in that concert?"
Swanson has a track record of inflammatory rhetoric, as well as being an influential figure in right-wing political circles. According to Right Wing Watch, during his closing remarks at the November 7 National Religious Liberties Conference he organized, Swanson declared that the Bible called for the death penalty as the punishment for homosexuality. The conference was attended by Republican presidential candidates including Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, and then-candidate Bobby Jindal.
Swanson's extreme rhetoric has drawn media attention to the GOP candidates who attended his November conference. During the November 5 edition of CNN's The Lead, host Jake Tapper asked Ted Cruz if his alliance with Swanson wasn't "in some ways" an endorsement for "conservative intolerance." During the November 9 edition of her show on MSNBC, Rachel Maddow also blasted the conference's homophobic content and criticized the three Republicans attending, asking whether Fox Business would push candidates to explain their stance during the November 10 debate (emphasis added):
This was a conference about the necessity of the death penalty as a punishment for homosexuality. This religious liberties conference in Iowa this weekend. And there were pamphlets about why gay people should be executed. There were multiple discussions about it from the stage.
There were at least two other speakers besides the host of the event who have publicly called for gay people to be executed. There was discussion at the event in print about whether or not -- there was discussion at the event by people who have described the finite differences between the different methods of execution that should be used to kill people should they be thrown off cliffs, should they be stoned to death? Apparently both of those are sanctions means of execution for the crime of being gay.
And again, this host of the event who interviewed three Republican presidential candidates on stage, who convened the entire event, he has spoken in the past about the need to execute gay people in order to live in a properly Christian society. He did not hide that light under bushel once the candidates were there. He talked about that repeatedly at this event from the same stage that these candidates appeared.
And Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal are going to be at the kids' table at the next Republican debate, which is tomorrow night in Milwaukee. Ted Cruz will be on the main stage because Ted Cruz is now polling third in a number of polls nationwide.
I don't know if that is considered to be a scandal anymore in Republican politics. I mean, it will be interesting to see if it comes up in tomorrow night's debate, right? I don't know if our friends over at the Fox Business Channel will feel comfortable raising this issue with Senator Cruz or with any of the other candidates who went to the "kill the gays" event this weekend.
Eagles of Death Metal is a side project of Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme, who is raising money for the families of those killed during the attacks.
During a hearing on a bill aimed at denying protections for transgender students, a Wisconsin state representative called out the extreme anti-LGBT legal organization working to enact similar laws across the country.
On November 19, the Wisconsin Assembly Committee on Education held a hearing on AB 469, a bill that would prohibit transgender students from using the bathroom or locker room that corresponds with their gender identity. The bill was based in part on "model" legislation drawn up by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).
State Representative Mandela Barnes (D) called out Alliance Defending Freedom for working to criminalize homosexuality abroad during the hearing on the bill:
REP. MANDELA BARNES (D): It was said that the bill came from a group called... the Alliance for Defending Freedom. And I just want to confirm that that's the case, that's where the bill -
REP. JESSE KREMER (R): No, the bill did not originate there. The bill originated somewhere - there was a bill that was being worked on that was more like the Minnesota bill, and that's what we were looking at originally. We were also looking at the Nevada bill, and as I mentioned, I talked to the authors in both of those states, and then we found out about Alliance Defending Freedom bill, policy, that they had kind of come up with also - so we kind of merged the policies together to get something that would hopefully work for Wisconsin for everyone.
BARNES: I don't know how much people really know about Alliance Defending Freedom. They're not really a friendly group.
REP. JEREMY THIESFELDT (R): Representative Barnes, Alliance Defending Freedom is not on trial here today.
BARNES: Oh, I understand that.
THIESFELDT: Keep your comments to the bill, please.
BARNES: But it's sort of the company we keep and where the ideas come from. We should be really aware of that, really conscious of where some of this policy is coming from. Because this is an organization that's tried to criminalize homosexuality in other countries. And I don't think that's the type of place where we should be getting any of our policy here in the state of Wisconsin.
Barnes' description of ADF's extreme anti-LGBT work is accurate. While the group is best known for its "religious liberty" work, ADF has also sought to promote and defend anti-sodomy laws that criminalize gay sex in countries like Belize and Jamaica.
ADF has launched a concerted nationwide effort to push its own "model" policies denying transgender students equal access to school facilities. As State Representative Jesse Kremer, who introduced AB 469, pointed out, Wisconsin's bill mirrors similar legislation in Minnesota and Nevada. As Media Matters has documented, those bills also drew heavily from ADF's model legislation:
ADF's influence in shaping discriminatory state and school policies is a significant story in the ongoing debate over protections for transgender students. Journalists should follow Representative Barnes' lead and tell audiences what they need to know about ADF, its extreme international work, and the group's campaign to sneak their discriminatory model legislation into statehouses across the country.
The Washington Post's editorial board denounced the "fear-mongering" that "has become a staple" of debates over transgender student rights and led to "tragic discrimination" against transgender students. The fearmongering is based on the debunked "bathroom" myth hyped by right-wing media.
Conservative media have repeatedly and falsely claimed that anti-discrimination policies that protect transgender students would be exploited by students who will pretend pretend to be transgender in order to sneak into restrooms or locker rooms of the opposite sex and behave inappropriately. The myth has been thoroughly debunked by schools and experts from cities and states across the country with existing protections for transgender students.
In a November 17 editorial, the WaPo's editorial board slammed the bathroom myth "fear-mongering" that has "unfortunately become a staple" of the debate surrounding equal-protection for transgender students, while shining a light on how these myths can dangerously foster discrimination against and stigmatization of students. The Post highlighted the "tragic discrimination" an Illinois transgender student encountered after she asked "to change clothes privately within the girls' locker room," noting that accommodating transgender students is a "critical matter for school districts everywhere" and calling for schools to replace "emotion with reason:"
To understand the bid of a female transgender student to use the girls' locker room at her suburban Chicago high school, it is necessary to get past all the fear-mongering that unfortunately has become a staple of these debates about bathrooms. Listen instead to what this young girl has told school officials: about having her own sense of privacy, about being isolated and ostracized and about how all she wants is "to be a girl like every other girl."
It's mystifying that some solution couldn't be reached between the two parties, but details of the two-year investigation prompted by the girl's complaint paint a far different picture than that suggested by the rhetoric of school officials. How the girl, who is undergoing hormone therapy and is recognized by the school as a female in all other respects (including her use of bathrooms), first asked -- and was denied -- an opportunity to change clothes privately within the girls' locker room in an area such as a restroom stall. How the school's insistence she use separate facilities for the past two years has stigmatized her. It is clear from the government's investigation, which included inspection of the facilities and interviews with school staff about conduct common in the locker rooms, that the privacy of all students could be protected without singling out this girl for separate and discriminatory treatment. It is a point that was underscored by the hundreds of students and community members who signed a student-led petition in support of her access to the locker room.
It is estimated that there are very small numbers of transgender students, but as school superintendent Daniel E. Cates pointed out in his public statements, figuring out how to best accommodate them is an emerging and critical matter for school districts everywhere. Those challenges, though, are nothing compared with the difficulties that confront transgender adolescents, so it's important that schools set the example by replacing emotion with reason.
The Post's calls for equality for transgender students are backed by the collective experience of 17 school districts around the nation that have implemented policies protecting transgender students with no negative consequences, and falls during Transgender Awareness Week, which according to LGBT media advocacy organization GLAAD, "help[s] raise the visibility of transgender and gender non-conforming people."
From the November 17 edition of Premier Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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From the November 13 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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From the November 13 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
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Fox News has announced that Jesse Watters, correspondent for The O'Reilly Factor, will be hosting his own show on the network. Watters has a track record of producing segments where he shames homeless Americans and mocks members of the LGBT community. Watters has also repeatedly made disparaging comments about immigrants, women, and African-Americans while guest hosting shows on Fox.
The Dallas City Council recently voted to clarify and update the language in the city's existing non-discrimination ordinance, which has protected LGBT people from discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations since 2002. Anti-LGBT groups are attacking the vote, claiming it creates new protections that would allow male sexual predators to enter women's restrooms. But these protections have existed for over a decade, and experts in Dallas have already debunked right-wing talking points about bathroom safety.
The majority of Christians in America now believe that homosexuality should be accepted by society. But major media outlets routinely depict homophobia as just Christian or religious belief, giving a pass to some of the most extreme anti-LGBT activists and organizations in the country.
For years, media coverage of the fight for LGBT equality has followed a "God vs. gays" narrative that pits LGBT equality against religious -- and specifically Christian -- communities.
But according to recent polling data, 54 percent of all Christians now say that "homosexuality should be accepted by society." The data come from Pew's 2014 Religious Landscape Study, which surveyed more than 35,000 U.S. adults as a follow up to Pew's 2007 study. Now, the majority of major Christian groups, including Catholics, mainline Protestants, Orthodox Christians, and historically black Protestants, believe homosexuality should be accepted by society:
Despite the shifting attitudes of Christians in America, major media outlets continue to accept right-wing framing that conflates homophobia with mainstream Christian or religious beliefs.
In fights over LGBT equality, hate groups with track records of disparaging and demonizing gay people are referred to as Christian organizations by mainstream media. This tendency was on full display during the recent controversy surrounding Kim Davis - the Kentucky clerk who refused to provide wedding licenses to same-sex couples. Media outlets described Liberty Counsel, which represented Davis in her legal battle, as a "Christian" organization with no mention of its hate group status or history of anti-LGBT extremism. Hate group leaders like Family Research Council's Tony Perkins are routinely given airtime to act as the voice of Christian voters.
That conflation is even worse in right-wing media, where even blatantly homophobic remarks are spun into testaments of Christian faith. When Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson compared homosexuality to bestiality, Fox News' Sean Hannity defended his "old-fashioned traditional Christian sentiment." When the Benham brothers, a pair of right wing activists, were criticized for their extreme anti-gay rhetoric, conservative radio host Dana Loesch lamented the "anti-Christian bigotry" at play.
The conflation goes beyond whitewashing bad actors -- it also legitimizes discrimination against LGBT people under the guise of "religious liberty." "Religious freedom" laws like the controversial Indiana law this past March are built around the right wing narrative that serving LGBT people violates Christians' religious beliefs. Anti-LGBT groups have used the media to popularize stories about Christian business owners who are fined for refusing service to gay customers, depicting them as Christian martyrs who've been victimized by non-discrimination laws.
There's no reasonable limit to the kind of animus that anti-LGBT conservatives can justify under the guise of Christian or religious belief. In October 2014, a pediatrician in Michigan cited her religious beliefs after she refused to work with the baby of a same-sex couple. A former Ford Motor employee filed a complaint with the EEOC claiming that his "religious liberty" was violated after he violated the company's anti-harassment policy with a hate-filled response to an article detailing Ford's efforts to be more LGBT-inclusive. A teacher who was fired from a private school for refusing to accept a transgender child appeared on Fox News recently, and Fox host Megyn Kelly said that the teacher's "Christian beliefs ... don't support this."
While it's not the role of the media to question the validity or sincerity of a person's religious beliefs, it is imperative that journalists not blindly follow that self-identification. In the fight against Indiana's "religious freedom" law, religious leaders were some of the most outspoken critics of the anti-LGBT legislation - yet in the media, these religious voices were often drowned out by those of anti-LGBT extremists. Anti-LGBT groups and activists may sincerely identify themselves as Christian, but it's irresponsible and misleading for the media to advertise their views without noting that they increasingly contradict dominant Christian beliefs in America.
Image at top via Flickr user Danny Hammontree using a Creative Commons License.
A commentary video from the National Rifle Association claimed it's "a complete lie" that "the only acceptable definition of minority is non-white, or sometimes non-straight" before drawing a parallel between the experiences of gun owners and racial and LGBT minorities.
The claim was made on the NRA's Noir web series, a show hosted by gun blogger turned NRA News commentator Colion Noir. The series is part of the NRA's increasing efforts to appeal to a younger demographic.
The November 10 episode of Noir displayed stock footage of civil rights marches and suffragette protestors while Noir said, "No other country empowers its minorities the way that we do. We defend minorities' speech, minority opinion, and yes, minority gun rights, because differences are the foundation of our greatness."
While suggesting that gun owners are a minority and that "majorities by definition accept the status quo, minorities change it," Noir likened people who have guns to several great Americans, including "Martin Luther King Jr., who thought about race differently."
Noir drove his claim home that gun owners are like minorities by saying it's "a complete lie" that "in today's media-driven world, the only acceptable definition of minority is non-white, or sometimes non-straight."
Noir's grouping of gun owners with racial minorities, LGBT people, and women who fought for equal rights falls flat. Protected classes are often formed upon the theory that it is wrong to discriminate against people because of their immutable characteristics, such as skin tone, gender, or sexual orientation. Gun ownership is not immutable, it's a choice.
Another common characteristic of a protected class is that it encompasses an individual or group who has unequal access to the political process, something that cannot be said for gun owners, especially given the political efforts of the NRA.
And Noir did nothing to establish that gun owners have faced the type of systematic and institutional discrimination that protected classes have historically faced.
A better argument might be to contend that gun ownership falls within the same class as other rights that the Supreme Court has deemed "fundamental," but that wouldn't produce the type of inflammatory hot take that Noir is known for.
The claims in the November 10 episode of Noir represent the other side of the coin to the NRA's common claim that restrictions on firearms are tantamount to Jim Crow, segregation, or other laws that discriminate on the basis of race. Past NRA president Marion Hammer infamously put forward this argument with her claim that assault weapons bans are like racial discrimination because "banning people and things because of the way they look went out a long time ago. But here they are again. The color of a gun. The way it looks. It's just bad politics."
From the November 10 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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From the November 9 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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From Fusion's November 5 live-streamed interview with Ben Carson:
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a powerful "religious freedom" legal organization with a history of anti-LGBT extremism, is working to eliminate non-discrimination protections for transgender students. Relying largely on the myth that allowing transgender people equal access to bathrooms is a "safety" concern, ADF has drafted model legislation and policies, testified at hearings, and encouraged the enactment of school district policies and statewide legislation that would prevent transgender students from accessing facilities consistent with their gender identity.