Dobson misrepresented teacher's guide to anti-bigotry SpongeBob video

››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

On the January 21 edition of FOX News' Hannity & Colmes, Focus on the Family founder James C. Dobson falsely claimed that an anti-bigotry children's video featuring cartoon characters such as SpongeBob SquarePants is being sent to schools alongside "a teacher's guide that talks the teachers through homosexual changes of attitude." A January 20 New York Times article reported and refuted similar erroneous accusations Dobson made, but that did not stop him from repeating the false charges the following day on Hannity & Colmes.

Dobson based his assertion on a "pledge of tolerance" available on the website of the We Are Family Foundation, one of the groups that produced the video. The pledge originated at Tolerance.org, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Before reading the pledge aloud on Hannity & Colmes, Dobson claimed that "the purpose [of the video] is to drive them [children] toward a pledge of tolerance" that "elementary schoolchildren are going to be asked to sign." In fact, according to the foundation's founder and website, neither the video nor the accompanying teacher's guide make reference to the pledge or to homosexuality.

The tolerance pledge on the We Are Family Foundation's website states: "I pledge to have respect for people whose abilities, beliefs, culture, race, sexual identity or other characteristics are different from my own." But according to founder Nile Rodgers, there is no mention of that pledge or of sexual orientation in the "We are Family" video or the accompanying educational materials, as The New York Times reported on January 20. According to the Times, Rodgers suggested that Dobson "might have been confused because of an unrelated Web site belonging to another group called 'We Are Family,' which supports gay youth."

According to the foundation's website, the educational package -- which "will be distributed to 61,000 public and private elementary schools in the United States on March 11, 2005" -- includes "a DVD of the music video and a booklet containing educational lesson plans developed in collaboration with the Anti-Defamation League's Miller Early Childhood Initiative of A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE ® Institute." The Miller Early Childhood Initiative produces booklets to promote "Bias-Free Foundations."

Nevertheless, on the January 21 Hannity & Colmes, Dobson claimed he was the victim of "media spin." Host Sean Hannity immediately echoed the claim, stating: "Dr. Dobson, what a shock -- the liberal media totally got a story wrong. You know, it, like, happens to me now every day."

Dobson is the founder of the conservative Christian organization Focus on the Family, which supports amending the U.S. Constitution to bar same-sex couples from marrying, as Media Matters for America has noted.

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, LGBTQ
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