Ken Blackwell

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  • An Anti-LGBTQ Hate Group Is Wielding Growing Power On Trump's Transition Team

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Wired spotlighted the growing influence of the anti-LGBTQ hate group Family Research Council (FRC) on President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team. The publication wrote that FRC is now “as well positioned as ever” to propagate its brand of regressive anti-LGBTQ pseudoscience through “lower level government officials” who have the power to “overrule scientific advisory committees.”

    FRC has been designated as an anti-LGBTQ “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center since 2010 due to FRC’s “distortion of known facts to demonize gay men as child molesters and similar false claims.” Despite initial reservations about Trump’s candidacy, FRC president Tony Perkins quickly embraced and endorsed him as a “teachable” candidate after he secured his party’s presidential nomination. Their relationship gave Perkins an opportunity to “shape” Trump into a nominee who embodies the former’s anti-LGBTQ extremism and to garner support from evangelicals for Trump.

    Wired’s Emma Ellis revealed just how much Perkins has taken advantage of that opportunity in a November 30 article about Trump’s transition team members who are affiliated with the hate group. They include:

    • Ken Blackwell, Trump’s domestic policy chair as well as an FRC senior fellow;
    • former FRC Vice President Kay Coles James, who co-leads the transition team in management and budget affairs;
    • Ed Meese, who has written for FRC and is co-leading the team in management and budget affairs; and
    •  Ken Klukowski, the transition team’s “constitutional rights” leader, Breitbart editor, and the former director of FRC’s center for religious liberty.

    Ellis’s profile also noted that many of Trump’s “cabinet appointees and soon-to-be staffers” have spoken at FRC’s annual conference, the Values Voter Summit, as did Trump.

    Despite FRC’s reputation for peddling misinformation and extremism, the group’s members “are treated as reasonable by many in Congress,” Ellis wrote. This is largely due to FRC’s success in what an English professor who studies homophobic language referred to as “‘cultivating a scientific identity,’” and in pushing an ideology that Ellis wrote “comes packaged in a way that looks like real science but is really just cherrypicked data stitched together to serve its agenda.”

    Media outlets a have largely ignored Trump’s selections for his transition team, instead mostly focusing on his cabinet picks, whom they’ve dissected in long articles exploring their professional histories and affiliations and speculating on their potential impact on policy. But Ellis noted that the “lower level political hires the transition team has the authority to make-- the undersecretaries, the assistant undersecretaries--have the power to overrule scientific advisory committees” -- and they could do so with FRC’s brand of anti-LGBTQ pseudoscience.

    From the November 30 Wired article:

    The Family Research Council isn’t content to oppose homosexuality on religious grounds; instead, it uses pseudoscience to give its homophobia a flimsy veneer of objectivity. And it could wind up shaping the incoming president’s policies.

    “They’ve been highly sophisticated in cultivating a scientific identity, which makes them powerful,” says David Peterson, an English professor who studies homophobic language at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. (The FRC and Trump transition team did not respond to requests for comment.)

    [...]

    The group has been making political moves since the early 1980s. Since then, it’s grown to become the most successful progeny of an effort among social conservatives to move the basis of their policy recommendations away from Scripture and toward sociology. Not that legitimate sociology is where the FRC has arrived. Rather, the group is to homophobia what the National Policy Institute is to the alt-right—a bland, respectable-sounding, quasi-academic front for a hateful, regressive ideology. It comes packaged in a way that looks like real science but is really just cherrypicked data stitched together to serve its agenda.

    [...]

    Nevertheless, FRC members perspectives are treated as reasonable by many in Congress. And now it appears they’ll enjoy similar esteem from the Trump administration. In part, that success owes itself to the group’s public relations effort to appear of respectable. Their website is well designed and hides some of the FRC’s most outré work. Perkins seems like a pleasant enough fellow on television.

    With current and former FRC staff all over the Trump transition team, the group seems as well positioned as ever to propagate its ideology. Perhaps most importantly—and least conspicuously—it may find a way to accomplish its goals through lower level government officials who buy into the FRC’s beliefs. “The headlines are about who is the secretary of this or that, but they deal with broad policy,” says David Himmelstein, a professor of public health policy at the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College. But the lower level political hires the transition team has the authority to make—the undersecretaries, the assistant undersecretaries—have the power to overrule scientific advisory committees, Himmelstein says, and have done so even under the relatively pro-science Obama administration. Such actions by a presidential administration can also provide political cover for more radical policy shifts at the state level.

  • 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. 

  • 20-Plus Years Of Anti-Gay Hate From The NRA

    ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    While the NRA is ostensibly an organization focused on gun rights, members of its leadership have attacked LGBT people for years, including blaming a mass shooting on gay marriage, calling societal acceptance of transgender people “perverted,” claiming gay people “created” the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and labeling gay people “despicable,” “perverts,” and “degenerates.”

  • 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.

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

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    Media outlets have repeatedly turned to an extreme anti-gay hate group to comment on the Supreme Court's recent marriage equality decision, needlessly exposing audiences to misinformation while failing to hold the group accountable for its track record of dishonesty.

    Following the Supreme Court's June 26 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges -- which found that bans on same-sex marriage violate the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution - several media outlets invited representatives from the Family Research Council (FRC) to offer their reactions to the decision.

    FRC has been labeled an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) because it propagates "known falsehoods" about the LGBT community, including linking homosexuality to pedophilia and accusing gay people of trying to "recruit" children. The group has a long track record of making wildly inaccurate policy predictions about the consequences of basic protections for LGBT people.

    But despite the group's extremism and without reference to their record, FRC was widely cited by major media outlets in the wake of Obergefell, including NPRThe New York Times, and USA Today.

    Spokespersons from FRC were also invited to react to the decision on national television. 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. On Fox News' The Kelly File, Megyn Kelly offered a platform FRC president and frequent guest Tony Perkins, who has called pedophilia a "homosexual problem." As usual, none of these outlets identified FRC as a hate group or informed their audiences about the organization's history of misinformation.

    And during the June 29 edition of CNN's New Day, host Chris Cuomo invited FRC's Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies, to discuss the decision in Obergefell. Sprigg, whoseprofessional experience before FRC includes serving as a Baptist minister and 10 years as a "professional actor," has previously suggested he'd prefer to "export homosexuals from the United States." But despite his extremism and lack of expertise, Sprigg was given a platform to fearmonger about the consequences of country-wide marriage equality:

  • Pundit Who Blamed UCSB Mass Murder On Gay Marriage Is An NRA Official

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Ken Blackwell -- who cited "the attack on ... natural marriage" as a reason for the May 23 mass murder in Isla Vista, California -- has longstanding ties to the National Rifle Association.

    Blackwell, who is also a senior fellow at anti-gay hate group Family Research Council, was flagged by People for the American Way's Right Wing Watch linking gay marriage to the killing spree that left six dead. From FRC's radio show:

    BLACKWELL: When you see there's a crumbling of the moral foundation of the country, you see the attack on the -- on natural marriage and the family that has been a part of the, not only the moral foundation and the upbringing of our children but the teaching of sexual roles and the development of human sexuality in our culture. When these fundamental institutions are attacked and destroyed and weakened and abandoned, you get what we are now seeing and that is a flood of these disturbed people in our society that are causing great, great pain. And as opposed to dealing with the foundational problems, we look for ways of blaming the Second Amendment, or blaming knives or blaming cars when they are used. At the end of the day, you have just underscored the problem. This is a convenient way of avoiding talking about what's at the root cause.

  • CNN Invites Anti-Gay Hate Group To Weigh In On Michael Sam's Kiss

    Blog ››› ››› LUKE BRINKER

    CNN hosted an anti-gay hate group to discuss the nationally televised kiss between gay NFL draftee Michael Sam and his boyfriend, resulting in a segment that included questions about whether homosexuality is a sin and a choice.

    On May 11, the St. Louis Rams announced that they had drafted the former University of Missouri defensive end, who made national headlines when he came out in February. The Rams' pick means Sam will be the first openly gay active player in NFL history.

    In an emotional moment captured by ESPN, Sam received word of his selection by phone, sharing a kiss with boyfriend Vito Cammisano shortly thereafter. The kiss sparked homophobic outrage from the likes of former Super Bowl champion Derrick Ward, who tweeted that Sam "is no bueno for doing that on national TV."

    During the May 12 edition of CNN Tonight, anchor Bill Weir invited local anchor Dale Hansen, whose February speech in support of Sam created an Internet sensation, and the Family Research Council's (FRC) Ken Blackwell to discuss the controversy. The segment - during which Blackwell asserted that Sam kissed his boyfriend to help push an "agenda" and  speculated that the kiss was a "political prophylactic" to protect Sam from getting fired - disintegrated into a back-and-forth over whether homosexuality is a choice and a sin, highlighting precisely why it's never a good idea for national outlets to provide a platform to hate groups like the FRC:

  • NRA Official At CPAC: Healthcare Reform Part Of Obama Plot To "Destroy The Family" And "Silence The Church"

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Speaking at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference, conservative columnist Ken Blackwell, who also holds leadership positions at the National Rifle Association (NRA) and Family Research Council (FRC), used health care reform to compare the Obama administration to a "totalitarian" or "authoritarian" regime and conspiratorially claimed that Obamacare was designed to "destroy the family" and "silence the church."

    Blackwell, Ohio's former Secretary of State, sits on the NRA's public affairs committee and has served on the organization's board of directors. He is also the Senior Fellow for Family Empowerment at FRC, an organization designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-gay hate group.

    When asked about the "unintended consequences" of Obamacare during a panel discussion titled "Healthcare After Obamacare: A Practical Guide for Living When No One Has Insurance and America Runs Out of Doctors," Blackwell spoke of a "deliberate strategy by the Obama administration to fundamentally take over that section of our economy" before comparing the current administration to an oppressive regime:

    From CPAC 2014:

    BLACKWELL: It is really hard for me to talk about unintended consequences around Obamacare because I actually think the consequences that we are experiencing are part of a deliberate strategy by the Obama administration to fundamentally take over that section of our economy.

    [APPLAUSE]

    BLACKWELL: Probably from their stand point, they've assumed -- they have assumed that the American people are asleep at the switch and what CPAC and organizations that are affiliated with this forum know that American people are wide awake and we are brighter than the administration gives us credit for. Look, if you go back over the whole span of human history and you look at authoritarian regimes, totalitarian regimes, or big welfare states had to do a couple of things, they've had to destroy the family and they've had to silence the church.

  • Fox Hosts Undisclosed Pro-Romney PAC Chair To Attack Obama

    Blog ››› ››› REMINGTON SHEPARD

    Fox turned to undisclosed Mitt Romney supporter Ken Blackwell to attack President Obama's efforts to gain the support of women voters in Ohio.

    Fox has allowed many of its contributors and guests to advocate for Romney and Republican election efforts without disclosing their ties to the campaigns or affiliated groups.

    In the latest example, Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson interviewed Blackwell, a former Republican Ohio Secretary of State. Blackwell claimed that the presidential race in Ohio had narrowed because Romney had closed "a tremendous gap that existed with women."

    But Fox did not disclose that Blackwell is the chair of the Tea Party Victory Fund, an organization that has spent more than $144,000 to help Romney win the presidential election - even though Fox previously identified Blackwell as affiliated with another pro-Republican super PAC.

    In August, Neil Cavuto hosted Blackwell on his Fox show Your World to promote an offshoot of the Tea Party Victory Fund, Defend Paul Ryan PAC. Blackwell described the organization's purpose as "making sure that the opposition and Obama forces don`t define, distort, and destroy Paul Ryan`s record and his chances of becoming, you know, Romney`s vice president."

    During his Fox & Friends appearance, Blackwell dismissed the Republican Party's efforts at the state and federal level to restrict women's reproductive health choices. He claimed  that the Obama campaign  "overplayed their hand in thinking that women were only concerned about abortion rights and contraception when many women in Ohio are worried about jobs and the education of their children."

  • Why Conservative Media Are Wrong About Attacking Iran

    Blog ››› ››› MIKE BURNS

    Conservative media are pushing for Israel or the United States to launch a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, claiming that inaction will cause great harm to Israel. In doing so, however, they are ignoring questions about whether Iran is planning to build nuclear weapons at all and minimizing the dangers of war with Iran.

    In a February 6 Townhall.com piece, Ken Blackwell and Bob Morrison, senior fellows with the Family Research Council (FRC), argued that Israel should "strike [Iran] now" as its "very survival is on the line," adding, "As worrisome as an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities might be, Iran with a nuclear weapon is infinitely more." They concluded:

    Today, surrounded by mortal enemies, with their backs to the wall, Israelis are told to take more "risks for peace" by a US. administration that is outraged by the sight of too many Jews in Jerusalem.

    If we wait until the Iranians have sunk their nuclear weapons deep into hardened bunkers it will be too late. The Obama administration will not act in time. Later, will be too late.

    Israel: Don't wait; hit the Iranian nuclear facilities now. The world will thank you for it.

    During the February 7 edition of his Fox News show, Sean Hannity said that "[t]here is a rise of Islamic extremism that is happening under [Obama's] watch, and he's not doing a thing," adding, "[h]e ought to be dropping bunker buster bombs on Iran's nuclear sites."

    On February 8, The Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens appeared on Fox News' Happening Now to discuss his recent piece on whether Israel should bomb Iran. During the segment, Stephens said that "Israel should bomb Iran if it's going to strike decisively," adding: "If it's going to have a surgical attack that will set the Iranians back by six months or one year then the question becomes, What's the point of that? But if it's going to use a strike as a first stage in a broader program of regime change joined by the United States, then that's worthwhile." Stephens concluded the segment by saying:

    As the Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak put it, Iran is now entering what he calls a zone of immunity. They will have too much material too deeply buried to be susceptible to an Israeli strike. And that window is closing for them. Unless they take advantage of this opportunity they will have to live with a nuclear Iran, which will be devastating for Israel's interest.

    And on the February 12 edition of Fox News' America's News Headquarters, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani said that "if we don't become very serious and convince the Iranians that we will use significant military force to stop them they're going to just keep moving straight ahead," adding, "I think we're going to have to be prepared to use military force." He concluded:

    I want this administration to get realistic and get tough about Iran. Stop this nonsense about talking to them, which goes back to when he was debating Hillary Clinton and Hillary Clinton told him to his face that he's naïve. Stop it. Cut it out, Mr. President. They don't want to talk to you. You know what they want to hear from you? That you're tough. That you are capable of attacking them if that is necessary and that you're not going to sit there and labor over it. That you are willing to do it if that is necessary to stop them from becoming a nuclear power. And he should say to them, in the toughest language he can come up with, there's no way on earth I'm going to let you become a nuclear power. It's just too darn dangerous.

    There are several things wrong here.

  • Ken Blackwell falsely claims Kagan supports human cloning

    ››› ››› ADAM SHAH

    On BigGovernment.com, Ken Blackwell falsely claimed that Elena Kagan has shown "support for cloning human beings." In fact, Kagan recommended that former President Bill Clinton propose a bill that would ban cloning for the purpose of creating a human baby while still allowing important stem-cell research to continue.

  • Wash. Times' columnist relied on falsehood to claim Kagan opposes gun rights

    Blog ››› ››› ADAM SHAH

    Conservative media have relied on distortions to paint Elena Kagan as an opponent of the constitutional right to keep and bear arms. Now, Constitutional Accountability Center's Doug Kendall has pointed out a particularly disingenuous attack on Kagan in this area. Last week, Townhall.com columnist Ken Klukowski and former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell claimed on BigGovernment.com that Elena Kagan showed that she opposes gun rights by deciding not to file a brief in a case challenging Chicago's gun control laws. In fact, as Kendall has demonstrated, Kagan followed normal Solicitor General practice in the case, and Blackwell's and Klukowski's purported evidence to the contrary is based on a falsehood.

    Blackwell and Klukowski claimed to have evidence that Kagan opposes "Americans' Second Amendment right to own a gun." They cited Kagan's decision as Solicitor General not to file a brief in McDonald v. City of Chicago, a case dealing with the question of whether the Second Amendment individual right to keep and bear arms enunciated in District of Columbia v. Heller applies to the states through the "incorporation" doctrine, under which certain protections of the Bill of Rights apply to the states.

    The argument is nonsensical on its face: Kagan didn't file a brief in the case. Therefore, she didn't take a position on whether the Second Amendment applied to the state. Therefore, one can't determine her views on the Second Amendment on the basis of what she did in that case. Not to mention that one can't infer personal legal opinions from Kagan's actions as Solicitor General in any event.

    But Kendall has uncovered an even more fundamental dishonesty in their work. Blackwell and Klukowski insist that it is normal practice for the Solicitor General's office to file briefs in incorporation doctrine cases and cite the fact that, in 1969, the Solicitor General filed a brief in Benton v. Maryland -- a case dealing, in part, with whether the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment applies to the states. Blackwell and Klukowski wrote:

    If someone asserts that the solicitor general shouldn't file a brief because it's a state issue as to whether the Second Amendment is "incorporated" to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment (which is the issue in McDonald) the record speaks to the contrary. The last time the Supreme Court "incorporated" a right from the Bill of Rights to the states, in the 1969 case Benton v. Maryland, the solicitor general filed a brief, and then (just like Heller in 2008) was given time in oral argument time to express the government's views in front of the Court.

    In fact, as Kendall notes, the Solicitor General's brief in Benton v. Maryland did not even mention the incorporation issue. Rather, the SG's brief dealt solely with another issue in the case: the issue of whether the federal courts should continue to apply the "concurrent sentence doctrine" to avoid hearing certain appeals in criminal cases. The SG's brief in Benton does not even mention the Double Jeopardy Clause or the incorporation doctrine. In addition, it was filed at the invitation of the Supreme Court. According to the majority opinion by Justice Thurgood Marshall: "The Solicitor General was invited to file a brief expressing the views of the United States and to participate in oral argument."