CNN's Erick Erickson spent much of the January 31 broadcast of his radio show discussing criticism of the fast-food chain Chick-fil-A for its support for anti-gay organizations -- and in doing so, Erickson agreed with a caller who asserted that gays "have nothing to be happy about" and did not disagree with the same caller's explanation that "their life is perverted. It's evil." Erickson also suggested that gays cannot be part of "real families" and condoned workplace discrimination against gays and non-Christians.
A January 29 New York Times article noted that Chick-fil-A has faced criticism for "strict hiring practices, which require potential operators to discuss their marital status and civic and church involvement" (the company settled a lawsuit filed by a Muslim restaurant owner who said he was fired for not praying to Jesus) and that "the company's operators, its WinShape Foundation and the Cathy family have given millions of dollars to a variety of causes and programs, including … groups working to defeat same-sex marriage initiatives." Most recently, a Pennsylvania Chick-fil-A franchise's "sponsorship of a February marriage seminar by one of that state's most outspoken groups against homosexuality" drew criticism.
And Erick Erickson knows all of that -- we know he knows it because he read a portion of that very article on-air. But despite being aware of the fact that Chick-fil-A settled a lawsuit filed by an employee who says he was fired for not praying to Jesus, Erickson repeatedly downplayed the Chick-fil-A controversy, pretending it is based entirely on the donation of some chicken sandwiches by an individual franchise, and mockingly claiming that Chick-fil-A critics are complaining that the company is racist for serving only white meat.
Here's how Erickson explains the controversy:
ERICKSON: The gays are boycotting Chick-fil-A because a Chick-fil-A franchisor -- not the company, ladies and gentlemen, not the corporation, not all of the Chick-fil-A operators in the country, one Chick-fil-A independent franchisor in Pennsylvania provided free food to a nonprofit group that just happens to be conservative, and supports families. Like, real families.
Erickson knows that isn't true -- he's read a New York Times article that explains that there have been complaints about the parent company, not just an "independent franchisor in Pennsylvania." In other words, he's lying. (And, in doing so, implying that "real families" do not include gays.)
Erickson then spends much of the broadcast pretending that people are criticizing the company's sandwiches, rather than its employment practices and financial support for anti-gay organizations. (And repeatedly mocks critics as complaining about "hate on a bun," which it seems none have ever done.) Here's a representative bit of Erickson's disingenuousness:
ERICKSON: For those of you who don't know, it's a breaded chicken sandwich with two pickles on a regular old bun with some butter on it. Does that sound like it's discrimination to you?
Again: We know Erick Erickson read an article that mentions criticism of Chick-fil-A's employment practices. So we know he's lying when he suggests people are accusing the company's breaded chicken sandwich, rather than its employment practices, of being discriminatory. Later, Erickson pretends people are complaining that Chick-fil-A is anti-gay because its employees serve guests efficiently:
ERICKSON: Chick-fil-A can turn around a line faster than anybody. I mean, you go to c-f-a during lunch, you can have 200 cars in the parking lot, poof, they're gone! … Somehow I guess efficiency is anti-gay, too.
Is Erick Erickson an idiot, or does he think his listeners are? It should go without saying, but: The fact that people have criticized Chick-fil-A over anti-gay policies does not mean that people think everything about Chick-fil-A is anti-gay.
Things really went off the rails when Erickson took questions. Here, for example, Erickson praises a caller's statement that gays "have nothing to be happy about":
CALLER: I take exception with the word "gays." I call them "homosexuals." They have nothing to be happy about, in the sense that marriage is between a man and a woman. They produce children. Not a man and a man and not a woman and a woman. It's more than just Chick-fil-A here, Mr. Erickson. The homosexuals want to turn this country inside out and upside down. They--
ERICKSON: I'm still stuck on you not calling them gays because they have nothing to be happy about. That's actually pretty good.
CALLER: They have nothing to be happy about in the sense that their life is perverted. It's evil. It's unsavory. Look, traditional marriage is what makes America great and wholesome. They're not a lifestyle. They proclaim that they're a lifestyle. It's much more than just a lifestyle. It's a perversion. It's a travesty against the holy Bible. And God. And they cannot produce children.
ERICKSON: Well, Scott, I'm, this is the longest, this is disappointing. This is the longest you've gone without tying something to Goldman Sachs and the Jews ever. Doggone it. Man, what a letdown. I was just expecting, you know, generally when Scott calls, within the first minute or so it's tied directly into Goldman Sachs and the Jews. Not tonight. Apparently, ladies and gentlemen, apparently the gays rank higher than Goldman Sachs for Scott tonight. Wow. Man, what a letdown. Scott, you disappointed me tonight.
Though Erickson mocked the caller, he did not disagree with the explanation that gays "have nothing to be happy about" because "their life is perverted. It's evil." Erickson's decision not to disassociate himself from that comment is particularly noteworthy in light of the fact that he had previously declared the statement that gays have nothing to be happy about "actually pretty good."
A few minutes later, Erickson finally discussed criticism of Chick-fil-A's employment practices -- but only because a caller brought up the company's alleged discrimination:
CALLER: Chick-fil-A has employed many gay people, when I was in college, many gay people. What I can say is that you will never be promoted as a gay person to run a Chick-fil-A, what would you say, "franchise," if you will.
ERICKSON: Yeah, and you know, that's one of the things that they admit.
CALLER: And I absolutely, I respect that and that's OK, and the fact that Chick-fil-A is closed on sunday, Truett Cathy and the Cathys are very, are religious persons, and they run a very good operation, and if that's what they want to do, I'm OK with that.
ERICKSON: They are certainly efficient.
CALLER: So I don't see them as an anti-gay operation at all.
ERICKSON: Well, David, I appreciate the phone call. Thank you for calling back on that. You know, David does make a point, they are privately held and one of the things the New York Times notes is "The company's Christian culture and its strict hiring practices, which require potential operators to discuss their marital status and civic and church involvement, have attracted controversy before, including a 2002 lawsuit brought by a Muslim restaurant owner in Houston who said he was fired because he did not pray to Jesus with other employees at a training session." Yeah, Chick-fil-A does like its franchise owners to be married and have families for stability reasons. And consequently, if you're gay, you generally can't be married and have kids, so they would view that, not that they're denying you because you're gay per se, but they kind of like to have family, family-oriented businesses, I guess you could say.
So, basically, Erick Erickson thinks its fine for Chick-fil-A to fire an employee for not praying to Jesus, and to discriminate against gays.