Family Research Council

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  • A Year After Marriage Equality, It's Time For Media To Stop Giving Anti-LGBT Liars A Pass

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    In the year since the Supreme Court struck down state-level same-sex marriage bans, anti-gay extremists have continued to peddle misinformation about LGBT equality in the media. After more than 12 years of pushing lies and wildly inaccurate predictions about the consequences of marriage equality, it’s time for the media to stop letting anti-gay activists comment on LGBT rights without disclosing their proven track record of dishonest extremism.

    It’s been a year since the Supreme Court’s June 26, 2015, Obergefell v. Hodges decision which found state-level same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional. In the decade leading up to the decision, anti-LGBT extremists and hate group leaders peddled specious talking points about the consequences of “redefining traditional marriage.” In media appearances, these figures predicted that allowing same-sex couples to marry would cause a “slippery slope” to legalized bestiality, incest, and pedophilia; pushed the myth that gay men are more likely to engage in pedophilia than straight men; and hyped claims that pastors and churches were in danger of being forced to perform same-sex marriages.

    Several of these groups were so deceptive that in 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), designated them anti-LGBT “hate groups” for “propagating known falsehoods” and pushing “demonizing propaganda.” One of these groups was the Family Research Council (FRC), whose officials have accused gay people of trying to "recruit" children into homosexuality and endorsed a Uganda law that would have imposed the death penalty for engaging in gay sex.

    For years, major cable news networks have hosted FRC representatives to comment on LGBT equality without identifying FRC as a hate group. Despite the efforts of progressive Christians to stop outlets from letting FRC representatives conflate their extremism with mainstream Christianity, the group continues to have a significant media presence. Since last June’s Obergefell decision, mainstream media outlets have continued to call on FRC to discuss LGBT rights, including:

    • The New York Times, NPR, and USA Today all cited FRC’s commentary on the Obergefell marriage equality decision without noting the group’s history of hate.
    • ABC's This Week invited FRC's Ken Blackwell -- who previously blamed same-sex marriage for a mass murder -- to discuss the court's decision.  
    • NPR featured FRC’s Senior Fellow for Policy Studies Peter Sprigg -- who spent 10 years as a "professional actor" before joining FRC -- to debate same-sex parenting.
    • FRC’s President Tony Perkins appeared on MSNBC to discuss meeting with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump assemble an “Evangelical executive advisory board,” featuring anti-LGBT extremists.

    In the past year, the media have given other anti-LGBT hate groups similar passes. In September, mainstream news outlets like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Reuters failed to identify Liberty Counsel, the anti-LGBT hate group representing Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, instead calling it merely a “Christian” or “conservative” organization. In April, major news outlets largely failed to identify the American Family Association (AFA) -- the group organizing a boycott of Target over its transgender-inclusive restroom policy -- as an anti-LGBT hate group.

    The few instances when mainstream media like The Associated Press and CBS News’ Bob Schieffer did properly identify hate group leaders, anti-gay conservatives were predictably outraged. Right-wing anger at journalists who expose anti-LGBT extremism illustrates why it’s so vital to disclose when sources or commentators represent hate groups. The public has a right to know that the same groups with a track record of fearmongering about children’s safety to oppose marriage equality are now those peddling the anti-LGBT movement’s new favorite myth that LGBT nondiscrimination protections endanger the safety of women and children in bathrooms.

    A year after Obergefell, it’s time for the media to stop letting the same extremists use media appearances to float new lies and recycle mythical talking points to oppose LGBT equality. Outlets seeking to provide balanced coverage of LGBT rights ought to find commentators who don’t have a decade-long track record of spreading hateful lies about LGBT people. 

  • New Evangelical Advisory Board Disproves Trump’s Claim Of Being An LGBT Ally

    ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Nearly a week after declaring himself a “real friend” to the LGBT community, GOP presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump participated in a “conversation” with hundreds of conservative Christians organized in part by two anti-LGBT hate groups. Then his campaign announced an “Evangelical Executive Advisory Board,” a 26-member group featuring several well-known anti-LGBT extremists who have a well-documented history of opposing LGBT equality and making inflammatory comments, such as calling LGBT families “discombobulated, Frankenstein structures” and blaming the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on marriage equality.

  • Chris Cuomo Debunks The 'Bathroom Predator' Myth Behind Anti-LGBT Laws

    Chris Cuomo: "You Are Creating The Problem. You Are Not Solving It."

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    New Day host Chris Cuomo debunked the baseless defense of a recent anti-LGBT law in North Carolina that broadly bans transgender people from using bathrooms that align with their gender identity by Peter Sprigg, a spokesperson for anti-LGBT hate group, the Family Research Council. Although CNN's New Day still did not identify FRC as a hate group, Cuomo slammed Sprigg's false claim based on the repeatedly debunked "bathroom predator" myth that allowing transgender people to use bathrooms that align with their gender identity will allow men to pretend to be transgender to sneak into bathrooms and commit sexual assault. Cuomo noted that these "risks" haven't "play[ed] out in any statistic." From the April 4 edition of CNN's New Day:

    CHRIS CUOMO (HOST): I think its more about culture and I think we should have that discussion. But just to be clear, Title IX, okay, which is obviously the discrimination on discrete categories, there hasn't been a specific case about transgender yet. But we do know that transgender has been in many cases applied as a Title IXrequirement category. So that would be the legal basis of this contravening federal law would then trigger funding mandates about places that receive federal funds. But, again, whether this is legal or not can be tested out. But this is about something else. This is about what folks in North Carolina and Mississippi right now, Georgia recently, want and don't want.

    PETER SPRIGG: Well, I agree that it's about culture and it has always been a part, not only of our culture but of every culture that has ever existed that we separate biological males and biological females for the purpose of certain intimate activities the like bathing, dressing, and going to the bathroom. And that's all that this bill provides is retaining the status quo with respect to that longstanding tradition.

    CUOMO: But times change. And that's what this is really about. Are you ready to change in North Carolina? Are you ready to respect transgender people for what they say they are? Because you can't point to any potential danger here. I know that's what you are doing and others are doing, saying there is a risk to women. But we don't see that play out in any statistic that you can cite. You know I know you have been using the baker analogy that we saw with gay marriage. You shouldn't have these bakers be having to bake cakes for people they don't want. You shouldn't have these girls having to go into bathrooms with people they don't want. We don't see that risk. However, we do see the reciprocal risk. We do see the risk to transgender people when they are called out and exposed to this kind of scrutiny.

    [...]

    SPRIGG: When you see someone who is obviously a man, regardless of whether they're wearing a dress or not, I think a woman in a restroom where she expects only to be with women or a girl who expects to be with girls, has the right to feel uncomfortable about that. And to feel like her privacy has been violated. It is a privacy issue. Even if their safety is never violated in practice.

    CUOMO: But the point is that the reason it looks like a man is because the person identifies as a man. So they want to go into the men's bathroom. You're saying yeah but on the birth certificate, it still says that that person is woman so they have to go into the women's bathroom. You're creating the problem. You're not solving it.

    SPRIGG: No, No. The transgender people are creating the problem by pretending to be the opposite of their actual biological sex even when people can see that they are their biological sex.

    CUOMO: See, but that's the pretending part, though, Peter, right? Because that's the concern. You're saying they're pretending. They're saying they're not pretending. And this is part of cultural evolution. You seem unwilling to embrace that.

    SPRIGG: I am unwilling to embrace that. And most of the American public is unwilling to embrace the idea that people's inner feelings somehow trump the objective reality of their, biological reality of their bodies. It's very much a world view issue, and it's one where the American public is not on the side of the transgender movement.

    Cuomo continued to debunk the myth in a series of tweets:

    [Twitter, 4/4/16]

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  • CNN Invites Hate Group Spokesperson to Debate Mississippi's Extreme Anti-LGBT Law

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    CNN hosted a spokesperson from a notorious anti-LGBT hate group during a discussion of an anti-LGBT bill under consideration in Mississippi, giving him a national platform to peddle misinformation about the purpose and impact of the bill.

    On the April 1 edition of CNN's New Day, guest host Don Lemon interviewed Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council (FRC) to discuss Mississippi's HB 1523 -- which is being referred to as the "most sweeping anti-LGBT legislation in the U.S." and which would establish a legal defense for discrimination against LGBT people in a number of settings.

    FRC has been designated as an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The group has a history of making wild and inflammatory attacks on LGBT people while masquerading as a serious policy organization in the media. Sprigg has called for recriminalizing gay sex in the U.S. and suggested that LGBT people should be "export[ed]" from the country. CNN failed to identify Sprigg as a hate group spokesperson, and Sprigg took advantage of the national platform to spread misinformation about the bill and its potential impacts.

    CNN has been criticized for hosting an FRC representative in the past. In 2013, just minutes after the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), CNN hosted Tony Perkins -- president of FRC -- to peddle lies about the decision's impact on religious liberties. In response, more than 32,000 people signed a petition asking CNN to stop hosting the hate group leader.

    Media outlets routinely invite anti-LGBT hate groups to comment on federal policies, state laws, and Supreme Court cases, needlessly exposing audiences to misinformation while failing to hold those groups accountable for their track records of dishonesty and inflammatory rhetoric. If a media outlet thinks it necessary to host a hate group with a history of misinformation in a report or segment, it should at the very least properly identify the group as anti-LGBT extremists.

  • Here Are The Big Players In The Inevitable Smear Campaign Against Judge Merrick Garland

    ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    As President Obama reportedly prepares to announce Judge Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court, media should be prepared to hear from several right-wing groups dedicated to opposing the nominee, no matter who it is. These advocacy groups and right-wing media outlets have a history of pushing misleading information and alarmist rhetoric to launch smear campaigns against Obama's highly qualified Supreme Court nominees, using tactics including, but not limited to, spreading offensive rumors about a nominee's personal life, deploying bogus legal arguments or conspiracy theories, and launching wild distortions of every aspect of a nominee's legal career.

  • Trump Isn't The Only GOP Candidate Backed By Bigots

    ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    While media cover ongoing controversy surrounding GOP front-runner Donald Trump's refusal to clearly disavow the Ku Klux Klan, the bigoted history of some of Republican hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz's prominent endorsers is receiving less scrutiny. Cruz is endorsed by both Tony Perkins, who has past ties to former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke, and Gun Owners of America (GOA), an extremist group that gave money to a white supremacist organization. He is also often touted by conservative radio host Michael Berry, who has compared black teens to "jungle animals" among other racially charged comments.

  • Cruz, Carson To Attend Right-Wing Media Convention Featuring Anti-LGBT, Anti-Muslim Extremists

    ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Republican presidential candidates Sen. Ted Cruz and Dr. Ben Carson are scheduled to attend the National Religious Broadcasters' "Proclaim 16" Convention, which will run from February 23 to 26 in Nashville, TN. The annual convention has a history of anti-LGBT and anti-Muslim content, and this year convention will feature three anti-LGBT hate groups, a panel sponsored by the Islamophobic extremist organization behind Trump's proposed Muslim ban, and multiple notoriously anti-gay extremist speakers.

  • The Nation Explains Why It's So Appalling That Troy Newman Was Made "National Co-Chair" Of Cruz's Anti-Choice Coalition

    Newman Joins Hate Group Leader Tony Perkins To Lead Cruz's "Pro-Life" Agenda

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    On January 27, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz announced the formation of his new anti-choice coalition: "Pro-Life For Cruz." As part of the announcement, Cruz named anti-choice extremist Troy Newman as a "national co-chair" of the group, despite Newman's problematic history of harassing abortion providers and endorsing violent rhetoric about them.

    Reporting for The Nation on January 28, George Zornick detailed why Cruz's "doubling down on his connection with Newman" was as problematic as Newman's own appalling history of anti-choice activism. According to Zornick, Cruz praised Newman for having "led the charge for the pro-life cause" and being a "true inspiration." Yet Newman has a well-established history of harassing abortion providers and spouting violence-endorsing rhetoric against them.

    As the president of the anti-choice organization Operation Rescue, Newman argued that "the murder of abortion doctors is legally permissible" and he openly harassed clinic employees. In his radical book Their Blood Cries Out, Newman suggested that 9/11, AIDS, and even California's historic drought were all punishments from God for allowing legal abortion. Newman's views are so extreme that, as The New York Times reported in 2015, Australia cancelled Newman's visa over "concerns that he might encourage violence against abortion providers or women seeking the procedures."

    Most recently, Newman served as a board member of The Center for Medical Progress (CMP), the organization responsible for propagating a smear campaign so fraudulent that the organization earned the title of Media Matters' Misinformer of the Year for 2015. Last week, the president of CMP, David Daleiden, and one of his co-conspirators were indicted by a grand jury in Harris County, Texas for their involvement in this attack on Planned Parenthood. Troy Newman is no longer on the board of CMP -- as The New York Times reported, he "resigned from the center's board when Mr. Daleiden was indicted."

    As The Nation's Zornick noted, Cruz also praised Tony Perkins, the leader of known hate group Family Research Council for agreeing to lead the "Pro-Life For Cruz" coalition. From The Nation:

    With the Iowa caucuses only days away, Senator Ted Cruz has announced the formation of a "Pro-Lifers for Cruz" coalition that aims to "champion every child, born and unborn."

    Among the national co-chairs of that coalition is Troy Newman, one of the more malevolent figures in the anti-choice movement. He is the president of the radical anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, and a board member at the Center for Medical Progress, which just saw two employees indicted in Houston for deceptions conducted while creating the now-infamous "baby parts" videos that targeted Planned Parenthood.

    Newman has often suggested that the murder of abortion doctors is legally permissible, and his group has been connected to several notorious anti-choice acts of violence over the past 20 years.

    It would be virtually impossible not to be aware of this fact--it defines Newman's career--yet Cruz said in a statement Wednesday that "Every single national co-chair in this coalition has led the charge for the pro-life cause and is a true inspiration." Newman formally endorsed Cruz back in November, which created a small stir-up in the press, and Cruz is now doubling down on his connection with Newman.

    [...]

    Pro-choice advocates quickly noticed Cruz's bear hug of Newman. "Given that this announcement came out after [David Daleiden's] indictment, I'm pretty shocked that he included him," said Sasha Bruce, NARAL's vice president of campaigns and strategies. "It's not enough that he made his endorsement at a presidential level of somebody who advocates violence, he has now been indicted."

  • What The Media Isn't Saying About Ted Cruz's Newest Endorsement

    Tony Perkins Is A Hate Group Leader With Ties To White Supremacists

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Major news outlets reporting on Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-TX) newest endorser are leaving out that endorser's background as an extreme anti-gay hate group leader with ties to white supremacist groups.

    Tony Perkins is the evangelical right wing activist credited with consolidating evangelical support behind Cruz in a December meeting of religious conservatives.  Perkins has now formally announced his endorsement of the Texas senator, calling him "a constitutional conservative who will fight for faith, family and freedom" during a January 26 interview on Fox News' The Kelly File.

    Perkins is the president of the Family Research Council (FRC), which is designated as an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center based on the group's propagation of falsehoods about LGBT people, as well as Perkins' own history of inflammatory comments. Perkins has called pedophilia a "homosexual problem," equated being gay with drug use and adultery, accused gay people of trying to "recruit" children, and compared gay rights advocates to terrorists.

    In addition to his anti-gay extremism, the Southern Poverty Law Center has detailed Perkins' ties to white supremacist groups:   

    In 1996, while managing the U.S. Senate campaign of Woody Jenkins against Mary Landrieu, Perkins paid $82,500 to use the mailing list of former Ku Klux Klan leader and state Rep. David Duke. The campaign was fined $3,000 for filing false disclosure forms in a bid to hide the payment to Duke. Perkins has stated he did not know about the mailing list's connection to Duke.

    Perkins served as a state representative for eight years, starting in 1998. On May 17, 2001, he gave a speech to the Louisiana chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), a white supremacist group that has described black people as a "retrograde species of humanity." Perkins who addressed the group while standing in front of a Confederate flag, claimed not to know the group's ideology at the time, even though it had been widely publicized in Louisiana and the nation.

    But while reporting on Perkins' endorsement, media outlets failed to provide any information about Perkins' anti-LGBT extremism and white supremacist ties. Time, The Associated Press, and NPR all described Perkins as president of FRC without reporting the group's hate group designation. CNN and Reuters both characterized Perkins as an influential Christian leader. Politico did note that Perkins has "been vocal as an activist against LGBT causes," but didn't further detail Perkins' anti-gay extremism.

    Perkins has previously used GOP primary coverage to rise to prominence in national media outlets who failed to hold him accountable for his views while allowing him to position himself as a spokesperson for social conservative and evangelical voters.

  • What Reporters Should Know About Ted Cruz's Evangelical Hype Man

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Journalists covering the 2016 GOP primary have an opportunity to expose the extreme hate group leader who just became the face of Ted Cruz's evangelical supporters. 

    In a secret December 2015 meeting of top national social conservative activists, Ted Cruz won the support of a group influential evangelical Christians leaders, reported as a "major boost" for Cruz's presidential campaign. The man credited with consolidating support behind Cruz at the meeting is Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC).

    As the driving force behind Cruz's consolidation of evangelical support, it's likely Perkins will become a go-to commentator for media outlets covering the GOP primary. During the 2012 primary -- during which Perkins backed former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum -- CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC all welcomed Perkins as a near-constant source of campaign commentary.

    Perkins' cable news appearances for the 2016 primary cycle have already started, with a January 5 appearance on CNN's OutFront to discuss Ted Cruz's faith and Donald Trump's questioning of Cruz's citizenship:

    Given the likelihood than Perkins will once again become a sought-after guest in GOP primary and election coverage, here's what news outlets should know about Cruz's extreme evangelical hype man:

    1. Perkins Is the President Of A Hate Group

    In 2010, FRC was listed as an anti-gay "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center thanks to its propagation of known falsehoods about LGBT people as well as Perkins' history of making inflammatory comments about the LGBT community. Perkins has equated being gay with drug use and adultery, accused gay people of trying to "recruit" children, and compared gay advocates to terrorists.

    FRC's "hate group" label is almost never mentioned by news networks that choose to treat the group like a seriously policy organization on national television. During the 2012 GOP primary, when Perkins was a regular fixture on cable news, he was never identified as a "hate group" leader. Since then, media figures that have identified Perkins as a hate group leader have faced criticism from FRC and its allies.

    2. Perkins Has A History Of Peddling Misinformation

    In addition to spreading falsehoods about LGBT people, FRC has a history of making apocalyptic warnings about government policies that advance LGBT equality.

    Some examples of FRC's shoddy policy analysis include claiming that striking down same-sex marriage bans would lead to a full-scale revolution, that the repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy would bring back the draft and risk millions of lives, and that hate crime laws respond to a "phony 'crisis.'"

    Perkins also regularly spreads known lies about LGBT people. He's repeated the widely debunked myth that pedophilia is "a homosexual problem," promoted the dangerous and discredited practice of so-called "reparative therapy," and falsely claimed that children raised by same-sex couples fare worse than those raised by opposite-sex couples.

    3. Perkins Doesn't Represent Christian Voters

    Mainstream media outlets regularly invite Perkins to speak on behalf of Christians and religious voters, but Perkins' brand of anti-LGBT extremism represents a far right fringe of American Christianity. In fact, a majority a US Christians now believe that homosexuality should be accepted by society.

    Christian audiences have previously protested networks that give Perkins a platform. In 2012, the progressive Christian group Faithful America launched petitions asking CNN and MSNBC to stop allowing Perkins to "speak on behalf of American's Christians," generating tens of thousands of signatures.

    As the face of Ted Cruz's support from religious conservatives, Perkins is poised to become another regular fixture in cable news' 2016 coverage. If that happens, it'll be those networks' responsibility to properly identify the anti-gay extremist they're putting on air. 

    Previously: 

    This Hate Group Leader Has Hosted Most Of The Republican Presidential Candidates

    Fox's Megyn Kelly Invites Hate Group Leader To Measure GOP Presidential Field

    How The Media Is Helping A Hate Group Leader Gain Political Power

  • How Anti-Gay Talking Points Are Being Recycled For The Transgender Community

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    For over a decade, gay rights opponents peddled a set of myths and fearmongering tactics to try to sway voters against marriage equality and basic rights for gay people. Now that marriage equality is the law of the land, anti-LGBT organizations have started recycling the same bogus scare tactics to target the new bogeyman of the LGBT rights movement -- the transgender community.

    The Slippery Slope

    The "slippery slope" argument has been one of the most popular arguments used by opponents of LGBT equality, aimed at making even basic protections for LGBT people appear dangerous.

    In debates over sexual orientation non-discrimination laws, opponents warned that prohibiting discrimination against gay people would begin a slippery slope towards protecting pedophilia and bestiality.

    Similarly, in the debate over marriage equality, anti-gay activists predicted that allowing same-sex couples to marry would cause a slippery slope to legalized polygamybestialityincest, and pedophilia

    That idea persisted even after gay couples had been legally wedding in Massachusetts for over a decade without opening "a Pandora's box." Immediately following the Supreme Court's Obergefell decision in June 2015, anti-gay advocates continued to argue that marriage equality would undermine the legal limits on who could get married.

    Now that the debate over marriage equality has died down, the "transgender slippery slope" argument is emerging in debates over protections for trans people. Opponents suggest that allowing transgender people to define their gender identity would open the floodgates, with people claiming to be a cat, a flower, or a Cocker SpanielFox News and other conservative media outlets have deemed non-discrimination protections for transgender people a "slippery slope." As one prominent anti-LGBT group declared, accommodating transgender people is "not a slippery slope, but a trap door to sexual nihilism."

    Religious Freedom

    Opponents of legal protections for gay people have also warned that these protections threaten religious liberty -- specifically the religious liberty of Christians who oppose homosexuality. One of the most commonly cited myths in the fight against marriage equality was the idea that legalizing same-sex marriage would cause churches or pastors to be forced to marry gay couples, despite clear religious exemptions in marriage equality legislation. Anti-LGBT groups like the National Organization for MarriageAlliance Defending Freedom , and Family Research Council (FRC) hyped claims that pastors and churches were in danger of being forced to perform same-sex marriages.

    Despite the obvious constitutional protections for churches and ministers, both conservative and mainstream media outlets parroted religious liberty talking points, even years after states began legalizing same-sex marriage without issue.

    Baseless concerns about religious liberty are now playing a major part in debates about accommodations for transgender people. In March, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson claimed that a broad "religious freedom" law was needed to protect churches from being forced to build gender neutral bathrooms. In the same vein, the anti-LGBT legal organization leading the fight against accommodating transgender students claimed that these protections somehow violate the "religious liberty" of other students. And in November, an anti-gay hate-group successfully canceled a school reading of the trans-supportive picture book "I Am Jazz," with the claim that reading the book would "undermin[e] the religious free exercise" of teachers and students.

    Threat To Kids

    Opponents of gay equality used to be wildly effective at invoking concerns about the safety of children to argue against basic protections for gay people.

    For decades, the myth that gay men are more likely to engage in pedophilia than straight men has been a central right-wing talking point. Anti-LGBT organizations frequently employed the talking point to argue against marriage equality, allowing gay parents to adopt children, and even accepting gay Boy Scout troop leaders.

    Though the pedophilia talking point has fallen out of favor with mainstream anti-gay groups, fearmongering about children's well-being remains a central focus of anti-gay politics. Opponents of gay equality regularly cite pseudoscience to falsely argue that the children of gay parents fare less well than the children of straight parents. Others warn that prohibiting anti-gay discrimination would cause gay people to have "inappropriate" jobs like school teachers.

    Child-focused fearmongering has been incredibly effective in anti-LGBT politics. In a 2012 report, Political Research Associates noted that the "harm to kids" theme had a "clear, negative impact on how voters felt about same-sex marriage." Even people who generally support LGBT equality become anxious when opponents warn about potential harm to children.

    Which helps explain why anti-LGBT groups are using nearly identical talking points in attacks on transgender equality. In cities and states across the country, opponents of non-discrimination protections for transgender people have adopted the myth that these protections would be exploited by sexual predators looking to enter women's bathrooms and commit sexual assault -- especially against young girls. Government expertsadvocates for sexual assault victims, and law enforcement officials have debunked that talking point, but it continues to dominate debates about transgender equality.

    In November, opponents of transgender equality in Houston, Texas successfully demonstrated how horror stories about children's safety can impact public and media discussions about trans non-discrimination. The city's broad non-discrimination law was repealed following a public misinformation campaign that relied heavily on an ad picturing a man following a young girl into a public bathroom stall:

    The transgender community continues to face astronomical rates of harassment and discrimination at work, in school, in public places, and even from law enforcement. While public attitudes about same-sex marriage and acceptance of homosexuality shifted considerably over the past decade, acceptance of transgender people has lagged behind. Given that only 16 percent of Americans personally know someone who is transgender, it's still common for anti-LGBT groups to spread myths about the transgender community with impunity.

    But these myths aren't new -- and journalists should recognize that the talking points being used to attack transgender equality are the same bogus, recycled attacks that anti-LGBT groups have been peddling against gay people for years.  

  • After Hosting Anti-LGBT Hate Group, NPR Acknowledges "We Have To Do A Better Job"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    After NPR's The Diane Rehm Show hosted a spokesman from a notorious anti-gay hate group during a discussion of same-sex adoption, NPR's ombudsman admitted that the show erred in failing to properly identify the group.

    On the December 10 edition of NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, guest host Melissa Ross interviewed Peter Sprigg, Senior Fellow for Policy Studies at the Family Research Council (FRC), to discuss legal battles over parenting and adoption rights for same-sex couples. While the Southern Poverty Law Center has listed FRC as an anti-gay hate group since 2010, NPR didn't identify Sprigg as a hate group spokesman, and Sprigg used the platform to peddle misinformation about LGBT equality. 

    In a post responding to criticisms of the segment, NPR's ombudsman Elizabeth Jensen joined Diane Rehm in acknowledging that the show erred by "not us[ing] a clear identifier" for Sprigg. Rehm admitted that she has "to do a better job of being more careful about identification":

    I heard from many people after Media Matters for America, which calls itself a "progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media," wrote a blog post objecting to a guest on the Dec. 10 Diane Rehm Show (which had a guest host, Melissa Ross, that day). Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council, was one of four guests invited to discuss the day's topic: legal battles over parenting and adoption rights for same-sex couples.

    Media Matters wrote that NPR (which distributes the show but does not produce it) gave Sprigg "a national platform to peddle misinformation about same-sex parenting." The organization Faithful America also sent an email blast that said: "Tell NPR: Don't let anti-gay hate group speak for Christians."

    In the last 45 seconds of the program, as Ross was focused on wrapping up, Sprigg said that "most orthodox Christians" believe that "engaging in homosexual conduct is contrary to the will of God," a claim that depends on the murky definition of "orthodox Christians." (See this May 2015 Pew Research Center poll looking at Americans' attitudes over whether their religious beliefs are in conflict with homosexuality.) But as I read the transcript, the show's other guests forcefully pushed back against Sprigg's other claims at pretty much every turn.

    I asked Rehm about the guest booking. Her view (with which I agree): "I certainly don't see that there's a problem having someone like that on the program." Where the show erred, she said, "was we did not use a clear identifier [for Sprigg] other than the title of his organization." She added, "We have to do a better job of being more careful about identification."

  • NPR Invites Anti-Gay Hate Group To Debate Same-Sex Parenting

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    NPR hosted a spokesman from a notorious anti-gay hate group during a discussion of same-sex adoption, giving him a national platform to peddle misinformation about same-sex parenting.

    On the December 10 edition of NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, guest host Melissa Ross interviewed Peter Sprigg, Senior Fellow for Policy Studies at the Family Research Council (FRC) to discuss legal battles over parenting and adoption rights for same-sex couples.

    The Southern Poverty Law Center has listed FRC as an anti-gay hate group since 2010 due to the organization's propagation of known falsehoods about LGBT people. The group has a history of making wild and inflammatory attacks on LGBT equality while masquerading as a serious policy organization in the media. Sprigg, who served as an ordained Baptist minister before joining FRC, has called for recriminalizing gay sex in the U.S. and suggested LGBT people should be "export[ed]" from the country.

    But NPR didn't identify Sprigg as a hate group spokesman, and Sprigg used the platform to peddle misinformation about LGBT equality. Sprigg cited a widely discredited paper to suggest that children raised by same-sex couples perform poorly, and resurrected the long debunked horror story that Catholic adoption agencies have been shut down for refusing to serve same-sex couples. While guest host Melissa Ross did not push back on Sprigg's talking points, fellow guest Emily Hetch-McGowan, Director of Public Policy the Family Equality Council, called out FRC's use of discredited research:

    PETER SPRIGG: And I think that certainly there is abundant reason to believe that children do best when raised by a married mother and father. And within the context of foster care the judge has an obligation to do what's in the best interest of the child. And he exercised that discretion.

    MELISSA ROSS: And what research does the Family Research Council cite to buttress the claim that a child is better off with a heterosexual couple?

    SPRIGG: Well, there's an abundance of research showing that children do better overall when raised by their own married biological father who are committed to one another in a life-long marriage. There are just reams of research showing that. Now this is a slightly different situation because of the fact that you're dealing with a situation where they are being removed from their biological parents. But we think that there is evidence to suggest that children would do better with a mother and father even if it's not their biological parents.

    Previously:

    Asking Hate Groups About Marriage Equality Isn't Balance, It's Bad Journalism

    FRC's Sprigg Desperately Tries To Justify Discriminating Against Gay Blood Donors

    FRC's Sprigg Spreads Lies About Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)