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.
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:
The Daily Caller provided a hate group spokesman a platform to smear marriage equality and same-sex families, part of the conservative website's pattern of promoting the commentary of some of the most extreme anti-LGBT figures in the country.
In a May 5 column, Senior Fellow for Policy Studies Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council (FRC), an anti-gay hate group, touted Irreplaceable, a new Focus on the Family film celebrating straights-only marriage. Sprigg lauded the film for its support of "God's design for marriage." If society were to "devalue" marriage, he argued, it would "devalue being a parent," and thereby "devalue children":
If you devalue marriage, you devalue being a parent - or more specifically, being a mother or a father, since the importance of gender roles ("not deterministic, but dynamic") is emphasized.
If you devalue parents, then you devalue children. Jonathan Last, author of What to Expect When No One's Expecting, says that the sexual revolution dismembered the "iron triangle" of marriage, sex, and baby-making, and the resulting indifference in the West to creating the next generation constitutes a form of "civilizational sickness."
His column is relatively tame in the context of his career of fear mongering about gay people, including baselessly peddling the claim that gay men are sexual predators who prey on children.
Meanwhile, Sprigg's stances on other LGBT issues are no less offensive. He sits on the board PFOX, a group promoting discredited "ex-gay" therapy, and has asserted that the proper response to gay teen suicides is to encourage gay youth to change their sexual orientations. In remarks that he later walked back following fierce criticism, Sprigg said he "would much prefer to export homosexuals from the United States than to import them into the United States." Sprigg is no friend of the transgender community either, having declared contrary to expert consensus that trans people suffer from "delusions."
Sprigg isn't the first hate group spokesman to be granted column space in the Daily Caller. FRC President Tony Perkins has also written for the website. In July 2013, the site published a column from Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) President Austin Ruse cheering Russia's draconian anti-LGBT crackdown, praising Russian President Vladimir Putin for taking a stand against the sexual "immorality" that Ruse claimed pervades the United States.
The Daily Caller has also published numerous pieces from National Organization for Marriage (NOM) President Brian Brown, who condemns homosexuality as "deceitful, harmful, and degrading to the human soul," and American Values President Gary Bauer, who in addition to campaigning against marriage equality in the U.S. has used his Daily Caller column space to inveigh against critics of Russia's anti-gay laws.
While Sprigg, Perkins, Ruse, Brown, and Bauer have only written for the Daily Caller's opinion section, anti-gay talking points have also found their way into the website's purportedly straight news reporting.
Fox News host Shannon Bream invited the hate group Family Research Council's (FRC) Peter Sprigg to confirm her baseless belief that a proposed non-discrimination ordinance would ban Christians from holding public office in San Antonio, marking her third failed attempt to smear the measure.
On the August 27 edition of America Live, Bream and Sprigg peddled unfounded right-wing attacks on the proposal - which adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the city's existing non-discrimination ordinance - as an assault on the rights of Christians. Bream opened the segment by echoing critics who claim the ordinance could be "the first step to banning Christian conservatives from holding public office":
BREAM: New developments today with a controversial proposal in San Antonio that critics say could be the first step to banning Christian conservatives from holding public office. The city council proposing an ordinance that disqualifies anyone who has ever, quote, demonstrated a bias against a person based on race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity. That appears to include people who have spoken out against things like gay marriage and in support of traditional marriage.
Fox News hosted a spokesman from an anti-gay hate group to continue the network's ongoing assault on a California bill that will allow transgender students to have access to school facilities and teams that correspond with their gender identity.
Following Gov. Jerry Brown's signing of a law that prohibits California public schools from discriminating against transgender students, Fox News invited Peter Sprigg, spokesman for the Family Research Council (FRC), to appear on the August 13 edition of America's Newsroom.
Sprigg - whose history of extreme anti-LGBT commentary includes suggesting that gay people should be exported from the U.S. - asserted that the law would ignore "biological reality" while pandering to students' "transient feelings and emotions":
As Congress prepares to once again consider the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), media outlets should avoid giving platforms to hate mongers who have made careers manufacturing blatant falsehoods about the bill.
On July 10, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee will vote on ENDA - a bill that would prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. ENDA has been introduced in every Congress since 1994 except for the 109th. The measure already has 52 Senate co-sponsors, though its prospects in the House remain to be seen.
An overwhelming majority of Americans support ENDA, including a strong majority of Republicans, Catholics, and senior citizens. Even among people who identify themselves as having unfavorable feelings towards homosexuality, half favor workplace protections for LGBT people. In fact, nine out of ten voters incorrectly believe a federal law like ENDA already exists.
CNN invited Family Research Council (FRC) Senior Fellow Peter Sprigg - who has previously advocated the criminalization of homosexuality and deportation of gay people from the United States - to condemn the recent withdrawal of an anti-gay pastor from President Obama's second inauguration.
During the January 11 edition of CNN Newsroom, host Carol Costello invited Sprigg and Truth Wins Out director Wayne Besen to discuss Georgia pastor Louie Giglio's decision to withdraw from performing the benediction at Obama's inauguration.
Giglio announced his withdrawal after ThinkProgress revealed that he had given a "vehemently anti-gay" sermon in the mid-1990s during which he condemned the "homosexual lifestyle," claimed gay people would go to hell, and claimed that gay people could become straight through the power of Christ.
Sprigg, whose organization has been labeled an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for spreading known falsehoods about LGBT people, attempted to downplay Giglio's comments, accusing gay activists of pursuing "intolerance in the name of tolerance":
SPRIGG: The world we live in, unfortunately, is increasingly marked by the enforcement of intolerance in the name of tolerance, exclusion in the name of inclusion, and forced uniformity in the name of diversity. It's contradictory, it's downright Orwellian, and yet people actually make these statements, unbelievably, with a straight face.
Besen responded by pointing out that Sprigg has previously called for the criminalization for homosexuality and advocated for exporting gay people from the United States, a point that Costello confirmed:
BESEN: Peter, I find it ironic that you're embracing diversity. I mean you called for the imprisonment of gay people and said we should export homosexuals out of the United States and suddenly you're for tolerance? I'm a little confused here.
SPRIGG: [laughing] Well this is about Pastor Giglio and President Obama, it's not about me.
BESEN: No, I just find it ironic that you're a spokesperson for tolerance.
COSTELLO: But Wayne is right, Peter. Wayne is right about that, Peter.
Sprigg's history of inflammatory anti-gay rhetoric goes even further, endorsing "ex-gay" therapy and claiming that gay people are mentally ill. According to a recent SPLC report:
Sprigg authored a 2010 brochure touting "The Top Ten Myths about Homosexuality." In the brochure, Sprigg claimed that ex-gay therapy works, that sexual orientation can change, that gay people are mentally ill simply because homosexuality makes them that way, and that, "Sexual abuse of boys by adult men is many times more common than consensual sex between adult men, and most of those engaging in such molestation identify themselves as homosexual or bisexual." He also claimed that "homosexuals are less likely to enter into a committed relationship" and "less likely to be sexually faithful to a partner." Sprigg's sources are a mixture of junk science issued by groups that support ex-gay therapy and legitimate science quoted out of context or cherry-picked, a tactic long used by anti-gay groups to bolster their claims about gay people. [emphasis added]
It's not surprising, then, that Sprigg falsely claimed that the majority of Americans find homosexuality to be immoral. Pastor Giglio's anti-gay remarks may seem tame to someone like Sprigg, but they're far out of line with the American public's growing acceptance of LGBT equality.
From the July 15 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Family Research Council senior fellow Peter Sprigg was on CNN last night -- and quoted in yesterday's Washington Post -- opposing equal rights for gays. Neither news organization adequately explained who Sprigg is, perhaps because doing so would raise serious questions about why it granted him a platform.
Peter Sprigg wants "gay behavior" outlawed and has said he would "much prefer to export homosexuals from the United States than to import them into the United States because we believe that homosexuality is destructive to society." Sprigg's comments played a role in the Southern Poverty Law Center's decision to identify FRC as a "hate group." (Sprigg subsequently apologized for the comment about exporting gays, saying he was guilty of "speaking in a way that did not reflect the standards which the Family Research Council and I embrace" -- but he did not retract the substance of the comment.) The fact that Sprigg is so intolerant of gays is crucial to interpreting his comments on gay rights -- but neither CNN nor the Post offered a hint of the extremity of Sprigg's views.
That's nothing new at the Post, which has previously gone so far as to give Sprigg an unmoderated online Q&A session with its readers. And CNN has frequently hosted Sprigg and quoted him in news reports, presenting him to its audience as an expert on everything from parenting to (completely fictitious) attempts to prevent the celebration of Christmas to military readiness. (Dan Savage has previously criticized CNN for providing a forum for gay-bashers.)
It's hard to imagine CNN or the Washington Post treating, say, David Duke this way. And yet they frequently feature Peter Sprigg as though he's a legitimate, mainstream figure -- and they do so while withholding from their audience information that would make clear that he is not.
The obvious implication of all this is that CNN and the Washington Post are far more comfortable with homophobia than they are with racism or anti-Semitism. I just wish they'd come out and say it.
Family Research Council president Tony Perkins recently suggested that gay youths who committed suicide after being bullied were actually responding to their "despair" after being told by gay-rights groups that "they are 'born gay' and can never change." The FRC has long sought to minimize anti-gay bullying and attacked those who seek to stop it.
Earlier this month, I noted the massive ideological disparity in WashingtonPost.com online Q&As over the previous three months -- the Post hosted nine conservatives and only two liberals during that time.
On Friday, the Post added another conservative to the list -- Family Research Council senior fellow Peter Sprigg, who discussed his opposition to President Obama's extension of hospital visitation rights to same-sex partners. The Post also hosted a Q&A with a Human Rights Campaign staffer who supported the decision, an all-too-rare attempt at balance from the Post.
But the Post's decision to host Sprigg is alarming nonetheless. See, Peter Sprigg says "gay behavior" should be outlawed. And Sprigg has said "I would much prefer to export homosexuals from the United States than to import them into the United States because we believe that homosexuality is destructive to society."
It seems safe to assume the Washington Post would not provide a forum to someone who says the practice of Judaism should be outlawed, or that he would prefer to "export blacks from the United States." So why does the Post host anti-gay bigot Peter Sprigg?