Experts in journalism ethics have criticized NOLA.com's repeated misgendering of Penny Proud, a transgender woman who was shot and killed in New Orleans this week, calling it "dismissive" and "inflammatory."
NOLA.com has come under scrutiny for its coverage of the murder of Penny Proud, a transgender woman in New Orleans who was shot and killed in New Orleans on February 10. Some of the site's initial reports referred to Proud as a "male" and a "man" while focusing on where Proud was shot, noting that the area has a reputation for prostitution and drug use.
NOLA.com, along with The Times-Picayune, is owned by the NOLA Media Group Division of Advance Publications. The website also serves as a hub for Times-Picayune's online content.
Misgendering a transgender person violates journalistic guidelines established by the Associated Press, New York Times, GLAAD, and the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, which all instruct journalists to refer to transgender people by their preferred pronouns.
NOLA.com's coverage has since been updated to accurately identify Proud as a transgender woman, citing "new information from NOPD," which identified Proud as a male in its initial press statements.But in an interview with BuzzFeed, NOLA.com reporter Prescotte Stokes III defended his decision to misgender Proud:
In a phone call with BuzzFeed News, Stokes explained that he chose how to report his story after speaking to people in the area who may have known Proud.
"They called her a girl but said he was a man," said Stokes "I assume he parades around as a transgender woman, but he is actually a man.
In comments to Media Matters, experts in journalism ethics criticized NOLA.com's repeated misgendering of Proud.
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson asked his supporters to lobby for discriminatory, anti-gay "Religious Freedom Restoration Acts" that a Fox colleague denounced as "homosexual Jim Crow Laws."
In a February 12 email to "Erick's Conservative Activist List" titled "The Facts" and a February 13 blog post on RedState.com, Erickson asked his supporters to petition for the expansion of so-called state "Religious Freedom Restoration Acts" (RFRAs) - laws that would give individuals and businesses a broad license to discriminate against LGBT people on religious grounds:
An absolute majority of American support religious exceptions relating to providing goods and services to gay marriage. But gay rights advocates oppose that. The Supreme Court will undoubtedly impose gay marriage on the nation by June. Our state legislature needs to pass RFRA now to protect people of faith.
Call your state legislators and demand religious freedom protections for conscientious objectors to the culture wars.
Erickson supported his call for RFRAs by citing a number of anti-gay horror stories popularized by Fox News - all cases where a business violated state non-discrimination laws by refusing to serve gay customers.
Religious liberty scholars, southern faith leaders, and some conservative lawmakers and business owners have all publicly denounced RFRAs over concerns that they would create a blank check for anti-gay discrimination.
Even Erickson's colleagues at Fox have noted how extreme and discriminatory these kinds of RFRAs would be. Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers strongly condemned a RFRA bill in Kansas last year, taking issue with those who support the "homosexual Jim Crow Laws" that justify anti-LGBT bigotry in the name of Christianity. Even Megyn Kelly, a consistent enabler of homophobia at Fox, labeled Arizona's controversial license-to-discriminate bill as "potentially dangerous"- a position she later abandoned.
Erickson has a history of cozying up with the anti-LGBT organizations pushing for these discriminatory RFRA bills, including the extremist Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a group CNN found to be behind the "genetic code" of the RFRA bills popping up across the country. ADF's previous work on license-to-discriminate legislation so inspired Erickson that he begged readers of his RedState.com blog to donate money to the group.
From the February 12 edition of CNN's New Day:
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Fox News contributor Robert Jeffress believes that gay marriage and the film release of Fifty Shades of Grey are signs that the apocalypse is nearing. Jeffress said "the Bible prophesized that in the End Times, there will be a lack of moral restraint. And I think we're seeing that manifested in so many different ways."
Jeffress is an evangelical pastor with a long history of incendiary remarks. He is an anti-gay bigot who believes gays lead a "miserable lifestyle," homosexuality is linked to pedophilia, and gay people are promiscuous and engaged in "filthy behavior," and "brainwashing activit[ies]." He's compared Mormonism to a cult, called Islam an "evil, evil, religion," referred to Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism as "false religions," and said Catholicism is a "counterfeit religion" that rose from a "cult-like, pagan religion."
During a February 10 appearance on Fox News Radio's The Alan Colmes Show, Jeffress said he saw "radical Islam," gay marriage, and Fifty Shades of Grey as signs of the coming apocalypse.
Jeffress claimed: "The Apostle Paul said in 2 Timothy 1 that in the last days it will be terrible times. And that word terrible means lack of moral restraint. And I think we're seeing that everywhere, whether it is the attempt to change the most basic unit of society, the family and marriage by redefinition of marriage. Or the acceptance of perversion. You know, this Fifty Shades of Grey, or Fifty Shades of Perversion. I think that's symptomatic of what is happening."
On gay marriage, Jeffress added, "I believe that gays have the same constitutional rights as heterosexuals. No doubt about it. But I agree with our last guest that marriage is not a constitutional right. If it were, Alan, 15-year-olds could marry. Siblings could marry." He then asked if a father and daughter should also have the right to marry if same-sex couples could.
Jeffress said he hadn't seen or read Fifty Shades of Grey, but from what he read it "tends to objectify women -- put them in a bondage situation." When asked about if he approves of that in a voluntary situation, he replied, "that's her business." He added that "this movie may represent a new low in popular entertainment. That's all I'm saying. And I'm just saying the Bible prophesized that in the End Times, there will be a lack of moral restraint. And I think we're seeing that manifested in so many different ways."
Fox News host Bill O'Reilly criticized the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for adding former Fox contributor Ben Carson to the group's "extremist files" for his anti-LGBT comments. To defend Carson, O'Reilly invited a senior fellow from the Family Research Council (FRC), a group also listed on the SPLC's "extremist files" for their anti-LGBT rhetoric, to denounce the SPLC.
The SPLC recently added Washington Times columnist Carson to its "extremist files," citing his extreme anti-LGBT rhetoric (emphasis original):
In His Own Words:
"Marriage is between a man and a woman. It's a well-established pillar of society and no group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA [North American Man/Boy Association, a group advocating pedophilia], be they people who believe in bestiality--it doesn't matter what they are, they don't get to change the definition."
--Interview on Fox News' "Hannity," March 26, 2013
"[I]f we can redefine marriage as between two men or two women or any other way based on social pressures as opposed to between a man and a woman, we will continue to redefine it in any way that we wish, which is a slippery slope with a disastrous ending, as witnessed in the dramatic fall of the Roman Empire."
--America the Beautiful: Resdiscovering What Made This Nation Great, 2012 book written with Candy Carlson
"Obamacare is really the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. And ... in a way, it is slavery."
--Values Voter Summit, Washington, D.C., Oct. 11, 2013
"I mean [our government and institutions] are very much like Nazi Germany. ... You know, you had a government using its tools to intimidate the population. We now live in a society where people are afraid to say what they really believe."
--Quoted by Breitbart News, March 12, 2014
On February 10, O'Reilly criticized the designation of Carson and invited FRC's Ken Blackwell on to discuss whether the SPLC was "straying from their mission." During the interview, Blackwell denounced the group as an "auxiliary operation of the political left," and admitted that FRC was designated a "hate organization" by the SPLC. Blackwell said that the designation of Carson as an anti-LGBT extremist is "ridiculous on its face." O'Reilly ended his interview with Blackwell by asking him whether he "consider[s] the Southern Poverty Law Center a hate group?"
The FRC was designated by the SPLC as an anti-gay hate group, owing to the malicious anti-LGBT rhetoric of FRC figures like FRC president Tony Perkins, who has endorsed a Ugandan bill that would have imposed the death penalty for homosexuality, asserted that gay people face "eternal damnation," and compared gays with terrorists. Along with other FRC personalities, Perkins has accused gay men of preying on children and condemned efforts to curb anti-LGBT bullying as part of an effort to "recruit" children "into that lifestyle."
Ben Carson responded to the SPLC in a statement to the conservative website Breitbart.com, saying, "When embracing traditional Christian values is equated to hatred, we are approaching the stage where wrong is called right and right is called wrong. It is important for us to once again advocate true tolerance," adding that "It is nothing but projectionist when some groups label those who disagree with them as haters." Carson's statement continues a pattern of conservative media conflating homophobic views and statements with Christian religious beliefs.
UPDATE: The SPLC issued a statement on February 11 announcing that it has removed Ben Carson from its "extremist files" list. The statement also notes that "Dr. Carson has, in fact, made a number of statements that express views that we believe most people would conclude are extreme" and that "his views should be closely examined."
Conservative media have been quick to use "religious liberty" as an excuse for forgiving all kinds of homophobic rhetoric in the public square. But an employment discrimination complaint against Ford Motor Co. reveals the ugly logical conclusion of the right's conflation of Christianity and anti-gay bigotry.
Conservative media have worked to conflate blatant homophobia and mainstream Christianity, usually in order to defend prominent right-wing homophobes. For instance, Fox News figures rallied to the defense of the Benham brothers, whose HGTV reality show was canceled in May after their history of bigotry was exposed. Fox host Megyn Kelly claimed that while "gay rights are more and more protected in this country," the same didn't hold for "Christian beliefs and Christian rights." Similarly, Sean Hannity deflected criticism of the homophobia expressed by Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson, excusing it as nothing more than "old-fashioned, traditional Christian sentiment and values."
In keeping with that reasoning, a Michigan man named Thomas Banks filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on January 28 against his former employer, Ford. Banks was fired in August after he allegedly violated Ford's anti-harassment policy. According to the EEOC complaint, Banks responded negatively to a shared online article outlining Ford's LGBT-inclusiveness:
For this Ford Motor should be thoroughly ashamed. Endorsing and promoting sodomy is of benefit to no one. This topic is disruptive to the workplace and is an assault on Christians and morality, as well as antithetical to our design and our survival. Immoral sexual conduct should not be a topic for an automotive manufacturer to endorse or promote. And yes - this is historic - but not in a good way. Never in the history of mankind has a culture survived that promotes sodomy. Heterosexual behavior creates life - homosexual behavior leads to death.
Banks is being represented by the anti-LGBT legal group Liberty Institute, which claims that Ford Motor Co. violated Bank's religious liberty by punishing him for his "sincerely held religious beliefs." The Liberty Institute actually cites Banks' "sincerely held religious beliefs" seven times in the first two paragraphs of its complaint:
UPDATE: Starnes' post now includes an "Editor's Note" correcting the inaccurate $200,000 figure:
Editor's Note: A previous version of this column stated that the Kleins could face a fine of at least $200,000. However, an attorney for the bakers says the actual amount is at least $150,000.
In fact, $150,000 is the most the Kleins could face in fines - a maximum of $75,000 per person suing. No ruling on amounts has been made. The incorrect figure remains unchanged in the body of the post.
Fox News' Todd Starnes falsely reported that the Oregon bakers who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple could face up to $200,000 in fines, badly misinterpreting local reports about the case, according to the state's Bureau of Labor and Industries.
On January 29, an administrative law judge in Oregon rejected a request from the lawyers representing Sweet Cakes by Melissa to dismiss a discrimination complaint filed against shop owners Aaron and Melissa Klein. The case has been ongoing since early 2013, when the bakers refused to provide a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in violation of the state's non-discrimination law. A March 10 hearing will determine what damages the couple is owed.
On February 3, Fox News reporter and serial misinformer Todd Starnes published his report on the Kleins' failed attempt to have the complaint dismissed, stating that the bakers could face $200,000 "in fines and damages":
An Oregon administrative law judge ruled on Jan. 29 that the owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa did, in fact, discriminate in 2013 when they declined to provide a wedding cake for a lesbian couple because it would have violated their Christian beliefs against same-sex marriage.
The judge's ruling paves the way for a March 10 hearing at which the Christian business owners could be ordered to pay $200,000 in fines and damages.
Starnes' "$200,000" number is a blatant misreading of the original Oregonian report he cites. In actuality, it was the anti-gay bakers who were asking the judge for $200,000 in damages, court costs, and attorney fees:
An administrative law judge has rejected an attempt by lawyers representing the owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa to dismiss the case and award them $200,000 for damages, court costs and attorney fees.
The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) investigators involved in the case have actually recommended that the bakers pay $75,000 in damages per person.
In a statement to Media Matters, BOLI Communications Director Charlie Burr confirmed that Starnes' reporting was false:
Todd Starnes is writing that the bakery owners face fines of up to $200,000 in damages. That's false. In fact, it's the Kleins who have asked for $200,000 in damages from our agency for our enforcement of the Equality Act. We rejected the request due to jurisdictional issues.
The agency's prosecution unit is seeking up to $75,000 per person in damages, but no ruling on amounts has been made. [emphasis original]
An AL.com columnist incorrectly described the legal challenges to prohibitions on same-sex marriage and declared he is "thankful" for Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who recently announced he was opposed to recent federal marriage equality rulings. Moore has urged the state's Governor to stand against "judicial tyranny" and warned he might not accept the U.S. Supreme Court's final decision on this matter.
On January 23, a federal judge in Mobile struck down Alabama's voter-approved prohibition on same-sex marriage, ruling that the ban violated the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. On January 27, Moore wrote a letter to Alabama Governor Roy Bentley, asking Bentley to join him in ignoring the federal civil rights decision. Moore also expressed his "dismay" that probate judges in Alabama planned to "recognize and unilaterally enforce a federal court decision which does not bind them" and stated that he "would advise them that the issuance of such licenses [to same-sex couples] would be in defiance of the laws and Constitution of Alabama."
On January 28, he appeared on the Family Research Council's radio show to defend the Supreme Court's now-overturned decision in Bowers v. Hardwick that affirmed state bans on gay sex. Moore told host Tony Perkins that "the danger of [marriage equality decisions] is, if we let judges overturn the will of the people and do nothing about it and do not push that, then the United States Supreme Court turns around and says, 'Well, now, 30 states have adopted this, and that's a majority of the people that want it.'" He followed up this defense of anti-LGBT discrimination on January 29 in a radio interview on The Matt Murphy Show, where he reportedly claimed "that's a very hard decision" as to whether or not he would follow the decision of the Supreme Court if it upheld the marriage equality decisions he condemns.
"Good for him," AL.com's J. Pepper Bryars wrote in support of Moore's recent stand against the federal judiciary's endorsement of marriage equality in his February 3 column. He also applauded Moore's decision to take "an all-too-rare stand against judicial activism in America," and admonished "lawmakers [who] loudly complain about federal judges, but then meekly abide by their rulings without any serious action, it's refreshing to see someone finally push-back in a real way":
Whatever side of the aisle you're on, it should be troubling that our democratic society so easily -- and perhaps too eagerly -- bends the knee to the bench on practically every issue. Is there anything that isn't under their purview? Is there anything that "we the people" can decide for ourselves? It appears that when the courts decide those questions for themselves, without any serious check and balance, the answer is clearly "no."
It's not that federal courts don't have the power of judicial review -- the ability to ensure that laws aren't clearly forbidden by the federal constitution -- it's a matter of scope. As noted in Moore's letter, "nothing in the United States Constitution grants the federal government the authority to redefine the institution of marriage."
He's right. There's nothing in the constitution that remotely touches upon marriage, or abortion for that matter, except the part that says whatever isn't written in there must be left to the states to figure out, or to the people. Yet we allow more than a million unborn babies to be killed annually in the United States because nine judges said it was okay back in the 1970s. We're still submitting to that unjust ruling.
From the February 2 edition of Comedy Central's The Daily Show:
The anti-gay hate group American Family Association (AFA) announced that Bryan Fischer -- the organization's most prominent face -- had been fired as the organization's director of issues analysis due to his years of inflammatory rhetoric. Fox News has a history of whitewashing Fischer's anti-LGBT extremism.
On January 28, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow reported that AFA had fired Fischer as the group's long-time director of issues analysis. In 2010, AFA was labeled an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, thanks largely to Fischer's extreme rhetoric about the LGBT community.
The announcement came in advance of a controversial AFA-sponsored trip to Israel that nearly 100 RNC members are scheduled to take this weekend. Fischer has made a number of disparaging comments about "counterfeit religions" and has repeatedly blamed gay men for the Holocaust:
Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore praised a 1986 Supreme Court decision upholding anti-sodomy laws during a radio interview with a prominent anti-gay hate group.
On January 27, Moore wrote a letter to Gov. Roy Bentley recommending that he ignore a U.S. district court's decision striking down Alabama's same-sex marriage ban, in deference to Alabama law and "the Biblical admonition stated by Our Lord." The letter prompted the Southern Poverty Law Center to file a judicial ethics complaint against Moore for failing to "conform his conduct to the canons of judicial ethics" and ignoring the basics of "Constitutional Law 101" - that the judge "has himself taken an oath to uphold the federal constitution, even if there are other sources of authority he agrees with or prefers."
On January 28, Moore appeared on Washington Watch -- the radio show of the Family Research Council (FRC), a notorious anti-gay hate group -- to discuss the controversy surrounding his letter. FRC president Tony Perkins praised Moore for challenging the district court's decision, wrongly asserting that states aren't required to abide by pro-equality decisions made by federal courts other than the Supreme Court.
Moore went on to praise the Supreme Court's now-overturned 1986 decision in Bowers v. Hardwick, which upheld state laws criminalizing sodomy (emphasis added):
PERKINS: This has been happening in state after state. We've seen, you know, I think 23 or so states where judges have overturned votes of the people -- 21 states where they have overturned the vote of the people, substituting their view for the view of millions of Americans. What's it going to take to stop this?
MOORE: Well, I think, Tony, we need to wake up to what the Constitution says. And the danger of this is, if we let judges overturn the will of the people and do nothing about it and do not push that, then the United States Supreme Court turns around and says, "Well, now, 30 states have adopted this, and that's a majority of the people that want it." This should be brought out, because that is maybe what's going to happen. And in doing so, we're letting the judiciary run the country without constitutional authority. And that was exactly what the Supreme Court of the United States said in 1986 when they had a case in Atlanta, Georgia, Bowers versus Hardwick, and they refused to recognize sodomy as a right. And they said, "If we do so, we will become closest to illegitimacy." And then they said, "If we redefine a category of rights wrongfully, then we're attempting to rule the country without a constitutional authority." And I think that's what you're seeing here. You're seeing the Supreme Court intimate, in the cases they've had previously on this issue, and what the federal courts have picked up and started striking down all the traditional marriage laws of the states and people not reacting to it, not standing up against it, then the United States Supreme Court's going to take this case in April and simply say, "Well, we have all these states that have now adopted, or, you know, turned to same-sex marriage, so we're bound by it."
MOORE: And I think that's wrong, and I think this has to stop. And in Alabama, I'm simply doing my duty. I'm not doing anything to be noticed, which I've been accused of. I'm saying what the law is. The law is that they can't force their will upon us, because it doesn't affect our court -- our state court system. But when they try to make probate judges issue licenses, that is affecting our court system.
The Fox TV station in Houston has repeatedly mischaracterized the city's recently passed non-discrimination law in its reporting about a legal challenge against the measure, falsely stating that it would allow men to enter women's restrooms.
In May, the city of Houston approved the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of a number of characteristics, including sexual orientation and gender identity. Opponents of the ordinance, including the extreme Houston Area Pastor Council, collected signatures to put the measure up for a repeal vote, falsely claiming that HERO would let sexual predators sneak into women's restrooms while pretending to be transgender.
In its coverage of the legal proceedings, Fox's Houston affiliate has uncritically echoed the myth that HERO allows men to enter women's restrooms.
In a January 26 report, for example, reporter Damali Keith wrote:
Chances are you've heard of the fairly new Houston ordinance that allows transgender men to use women's restrooms among other things. Now a judge and jury will hear about the ordinance. Today is day one of a trial that names Mayor Annise Parker as a defendant.
The next day, Keith published another report suggesting that "transgendered men" would be allowed to enter women's restrooms:
The controversial equal rights ordinance came under fire when it was revealed as part of the measure transgendered men would be allowed to use women's restrooms. This petition is an effort to give Houstonians the right to vote on the ordinance.
A number of cities in Texas have taken the historic step of passing non-discrimination laws protecting LGBT people, only to see those laws challenged by the extreme right-wing U.S. Pastor Council -- a group that has called Houston Mayor Annise Parker a "sodomite" and labeled gay people "forces of spiritual darkness."
On January 20, opponents of an LGBT non-discrimination law recently enacted in Plano, Texas, announced that they had collected enough signatures to put the measure up for a public repeal vote. The effort had been organized by the Texas Pastor Council, a group that's become a political force for anti-LGBT activists across the state.
In 2003, extremist Texas pastor Dave Welch founded the Houston Area Pastor Council (HAPC) "to bring a united, Biblical voice to the city, state and even nation." Though HAPC is described as an "affiliate" of the national U.S. Pastor Council (USPC) and Texas Pastor Council (TXPC), it's unclear if the organizations are actually distinguishable. All three are run by Welch, share the same website and contact information, and are often lumped together -- even on the USPC website.
El 20 de enero, los opositores de una ley de no discriminación LGBT recientemente promulgada en Plano, Texas, anunciaron que habían recogido suficientes firmas para poner la medida a votación pública para derogación. El esfuerzo había sido organizado por el Consejo Pastoral de Texas, un grupo que se ha convertido en una fuerza política para los activistas anti-LGBT en todo el estado.En 2003, el pastor extremista de Texas David Welch, fundó el Consejo Pastoral de Houston (HAPC) "para llevar una voz bíblica unida a la ciudad, al estado, e incluso a la nación." Aunque HAPC se describe como una "filial" del Consejo Pastoral de Estados Unidos (USPC) y del Consejo Pastoral de Texas (TXPC), no está claro qué distingue a una organización de la otra. Welch está a cargo de las tres, comparten el mismo sitio web e información de contacto, y suelen agruparse - incluso en el sitio web USPC.
Louisiana Governor and GOP presidential hopeful Bobby Jindal is the keynote speaker for a rally funded and organized by an anti-LGBT group that has blamed gay people for causing the Holocaust and advocated imprisoning homosexuals. So why isn't his appearance garnering national media attention?
On January 24, Jindal will keynote a six-hour prayer event at Louisiana State University called "The Response: A Call To Prayer For a Nation In Crisis." The event is sponsored and funded by the American Family Association (AFA), one of the most extreme anti-gay hate groups in the country. It's also being staffed by a number of notorious anti-LGBT activists.
The event has drawn protests from members of the LSU community. On January 22, the Faculty Senate passed a resolution expressing displeasure with the event, and a university spokesperson has clarified that the rental of an LSU facility "does not imply any endorsement."
Jindal has thus far dismissed criticism of the event, according to The Clarion-Ledger:
Asked if he agreed with the American Family Association's agenda, Jindal sidestepped that question and said, "The left likes to try to divide and attack Christians."
Jindal said the protesters themselves should consider joining the prayer rally. He said they "might benefit from prayer."
AFA's status as a hate group is largely thanks to the work of its spokesman, Bryan Fischer, whose anti-LGBT remarks go well beyond mainstream social conservatism. Fischer's inflammatory comments about gay people include:
As the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote in a 2011 report:
The AFA has been extremely vocal over the years in its opposition to LGBT rights, marriage equality and allowing gay men and lesbians to serve in the military. The group's arguments are filled with claims that equate homosexuality with pedophilia and argue that there's a "homosexual agenda" afoot that is set to bring about the downfall of American (and ultimately, Western) civilization.
The event is likely to attract widespread media attention - largely seen as a precursor to Jindal's eventual presidential run. Texas Gov. Rick Perry launched his 2012 presidential bid with a similar AFA-backed "Response" prayer event in order to reach out to social conservatives. But Perry's association with the extreme hate group wasn't scandalous enough for major media outlets that covered the event.
And aside from a few outlets noting AFA's "controversial" stances, national coverage of Jindal's association with the hate group has similarly been glossed over by the media. It's a stark contrast to the tremendous media attention surrounding GOP House Majority Whip Steve Scalise's infamous 2002 speech to a white nationalist group. When it comes to GOP politics, media outlets have a hard time seeing what's newsworthy about a hate group like AFA being used to cement the campaign of a potential presidential candidate.