Anti-gay conservatives are criticizing CBS News' Bob Schieffer for correctly identifying one of his guests as the president of an anti-gay "hate group," accusing him of "anti-Christian bias" for doing so. The outrage over Schieffer's disclosure highlights why it's so important for the media to hold extremists accountable for their views when they appear.
During the April 26 edition of CBS' Face the Nation, Schieffer invited Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC), to discuss the Supreme Court's upcoming oral arguments on marriage equality. Schieffer began the interview by noting that FRC has been listed as an anti-gay "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and citing critics who argue that Perkins' extreme views don't represent the views of most Christians:
SCHIEFFER: I'm going to start with probably the most vocal opponent of same-sex marriage and that is Tony Perkins. He is the president of the Family Research Council. And, Mister Perkins, I'm going to say this to you upfront. You and your group have been so strong in coming out against this -- and against gay marriage -- that the Southern Poverty Law Center has branded the Family Research Council an anti-gay hate group. We have been inundated by people who say we should not even let you appear because they, in their view, quote, "You don't speak for Christians." Do you think you have taken this too far?
On CBS' Face the Nation, Bob Schieffer accurately identified one of his guests as the president of an anti-gay "hate group," providing his audience with valuable context often missing from mainstream media interviews with anti-LGBT extremists.
On the April 26 edition of Face the Nation, Schieffer invited Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC), and Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, to discuss this week's Supreme Court arguments over marriage equality. Scheiffer began the interview by noting that Perkins' group has been labeled an anti-gay "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC):
SCHIEFFER: I'm going to start with probably the most vocal opponent of same-sex marriage and that is Tony Perkins. He is the president of the Family Research Council. And, Mister Perkins, I'm going to say this to you upfront. You and your group have been so strong in coming out against this-- and against gay marriage that the Southern Poverty Law Center has branded the Family Research Council an anti-gay hate group. We have been inundated by people who say we should not even let you appear because they, in their view, quote, "You don't speak for Christians." Do you think you have taken this too far?
For the second time this year, an anti-LGBT hate group is hosting a trip to Israel that will feature prominent figures from the Republican Party. The event will also feature Fox radio host Todd Starnes.
On October 27, the Family Research Council (FRC) will host its first ever eleven-day "Holy Land Tour" -- a "unique, one-of-a kind tour" where guests will "explore the land of the Bible and the roots of our Christian faith" and meet with "some of Israel's political and religious leaders."
According to the tour's brochure, the $5,000 trip features "insightful Bible teaching" and meetings with Israeli leaders aimed at providing guests with "a better understanding of Israel's important role in current geopolitical affairs and biblical prophecy."
The tour will feature a number of "special guests" including former Senator Rick Santorum, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), and Fox News commentator Todd Starnes, who has a history of acting as FRC's mouthpiece and peddling anti-LGBT rhetoric on Fox.
FRC was labeled an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in 2010 due to the group's peddling of false and damaging smears about the LGBT community. The tour will also feature FRC's president Tony Perkins, who has described pedophilia as a "homosexual problem," accused the "It Gets Better" campaign of trying to "recruit" kids into a "lifestyle" of "perversion," and praised Uganda for criminalizing homosexuality.
National Republicans were widely lampooned earlier this year for participating in a similar hate group-led trip to Israel. In February, the Republican National Committee faced criticism for sending national committee members on a 9-day trip to Israel paid for by the American Family Association (AFA), which has also been labeled a hate group by SPLC. Even conservative activists criticized the RNC for aligning with a group like AFA. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus eventually pulled out of the event, and MSNBC's Rachel Maddow reported that AFA demoted one of their most inflammatory spokesmen in the midst of the controversy.
Right-wing media attacked President Obama's Easter prayer breakfast speech, claiming he "smeared" Christianity by referring to "less-than-loving" statements from Christians.
From the April 7 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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From the March 31 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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Fox's Megyn Kelly misleadingly compared Indiana's controversial anti-gay "religious freedom" law to laws in other states and claimed that the measure wouldn't allow for anti-LGBT discrimination.
On the March 30 edition of The Kelly File, Kelly invited Tony Perkins - president of the anti-gay hate group the Family Research Council (FRC) - and Truman National Security Project partner Mark Hannah to discuss Indiana's recently adopted "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" (RFRA). The law, which has triggered a national backlash, provides a legal defense for individuals and business owners who cite their religious beliefs while discriminating against LGBT people.
During the interview, Kelly suggested that Indiana's RFRA was similar to federal law and RFRAs in other states and denied that the measure could be used to justify anti-LGBT discrimination:
Top executives from Facebook and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment spoke at a conference for right-wing media personalities that features a number of anti-LGBT groups and Islamophobes and is co-sponsored by a right-wing birther website that has suggested President Obama is secretly gay.
National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) is holding its International Christian Media Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, from February 23-26. According to the convention's website:
The NRB International Christian Media Convention is a four-day, jam-packed event that connects, equips, and edifies thousands of Christian communicators.
The bottom line is that when you leave the NRB International Christian Media Convention you will be energized, empowered, and made more effective in reaching the lost for Christ.
In an interview with Radio World, NRB President Jerry Johnson said the conference would focus on training attendees to better use new-media platforms to reach young people with their messages. In the interview, Johnson specifically expressed his concern about "a new tone on the marriage issue, on sexuality, on so-called same-sex marriage and even on Islam" that could supposedly threaten broadcasters' freedom to speak about those topics.
Perhaps in service of the goal of reaching young people, NRB enlisted the help of top executives from Facebook and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
Simon Swart is the executive vice president of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and helped launch Fox's "Fox Faith" movie distribution label targeting the Christian community in 2006. On February 23, he spoke at the NRB conference's "Film & Entertainment Summit," leading a talk on "Successfully Distributing and Marketing to the World."
Katie Harbath is manager for policy at Facebook. On February 25, she spoke at the conference's Digital Media Summit, which Johnson specifically cited as a way to get his organization's message to reach the "current generation." Habath spoke on a panel led by Eric Metaxas, a conservative author who has written in defense of "ex-gay" therapy and pointed to gay-affirming churches to compare conditions in America to those in Nazi Germany.
Both Swart and Harbath agreed to speak at the conference despite the presence of extreme anti-gay hate groups, Islamophobic figures, and the co-sponsorship of a right-wing publication that has repeatedly suggested that Obama is secretly gay and wasn't born in the United States.
Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore praised a 1986 Supreme Court decision upholding anti-sodomy laws during a radio interview with a prominent anti-gay hate group.
On January 27, Moore wrote a letter to Gov. Roy Bentley recommending that he ignore a U.S. district court's decision striking down Alabama's same-sex marriage ban, in deference to Alabama law and "the Biblical admonition stated by Our Lord." The letter prompted the Southern Poverty Law Center to file a judicial ethics complaint against Moore for failing to "conform his conduct to the canons of judicial ethics" and ignoring the basics of "Constitutional Law 101" - that the judge "has himself taken an oath to uphold the federal constitution, even if there are other sources of authority he agrees with or prefers."
On January 28, Moore appeared on Washington Watch -- the radio show of the Family Research Council (FRC), a notorious anti-gay hate group -- to discuss the controversy surrounding his letter. FRC president Tony Perkins praised Moore for challenging the district court's decision, wrongly asserting that states aren't required to abide by pro-equality decisions made by federal courts other than the Supreme Court.
Moore went on to praise the Supreme Court's now-overturned 1986 decision in Bowers v. Hardwick, which upheld state laws criminalizing sodomy (emphasis added):
PERKINS: This has been happening in state after state. We've seen, you know, I think 23 or so states where judges have overturned votes of the people -- 21 states where they have overturned the vote of the people, substituting their view for the view of millions of Americans. What's it going to take to stop this?
MOORE: Well, I think, Tony, we need to wake up to what the Constitution says. And the danger of this is, if we let judges overturn the will of the people and do nothing about it and do not push that, then the United States Supreme Court turns around and says, "Well, now, 30 states have adopted this, and that's a majority of the people that want it." This should be brought out, because that is maybe what's going to happen. And in doing so, we're letting the judiciary run the country without constitutional authority. And that was exactly what the Supreme Court of the United States said in 1986 when they had a case in Atlanta, Georgia, Bowers versus Hardwick, and they refused to recognize sodomy as a right. And they said, "If we do so, we will become closest to illegitimacy." And then they said, "If we redefine a category of rights wrongfully, then we're attempting to rule the country without a constitutional authority." And I think that's what you're seeing here. You're seeing the Supreme Court intimate, in the cases they've had previously on this issue, and what the federal courts have picked up and started striking down all the traditional marriage laws of the states and people not reacting to it, not standing up against it, then the United States Supreme Court's going to take this case in April and simply say, "Well, we have all these states that have now adopted, or, you know, turned to same-sex marriage, so we're bound by it."
MOORE: And I think that's wrong, and I think this has to stop. And in Alabama, I'm simply doing my duty. I'm not doing anything to be noticed, which I've been accused of. I'm saying what the law is. The law is that they can't force their will upon us, because it doesn't affect our court -- our state court system. But when they try to make probate judges issue licenses, that is affecting our court system.
The rhetoric around the debunked right wing media meme about the existence of "no-go zones" throughout France, the United Kingdom, and the rest of Europe, ratcheted up last week. Driven by politics, viewers, listeners, and page views, even the multiple mea culpas from Fox News just last weekend haven't stopped the myth.
By the conservative telling, in these supposed "Muslim only" enclaves the population has "take[n] over parts of the country, entire portions, towns," (allegedly more than 700 in France alone!), and outside police are forbidden as extremism and Sharia Law flourish. And now, they present an active threat to the United States and our American values.
"If people don't want to come here to integrate and assimilate, what they're really trying to do is set up their own culture, their own communities," Louisiana Governor and potential 2016 GOP presidential contender Bobby Jindal said last week, continuing, "What they're really trying to do is overturn our culture. We need to recognize that threat." When criticized for the bogus claim, he pointed to the work of a foreign policy think tank led by Fox News contributor John Bolton.
On his radio show, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins warned that America has already succumbed to the spread of "no-go zones," blaming a failure to assimilate into American culture. "There are some areas in this country that, in effect, that has occurred. Dearborn, Michigan, is one of the places. There are some places in Minneapolis," he said. The Muslim-bashing continued on conservative outlets like Breitbart News and WND, which continued to post stories with inflammatory headlines like, "ISLAM EXPERTS: NO-GO ZONES LOOMING FOR AMERICA; Back Jindal's view non-assimilation is trouble because Muslims 'supremacist at core,'" and "EUROPEAN 'NO-GO' ZONES REMAIN UNASSIMILATED HOTBEDS OF RADICAL ISLAM."
While the narrative is long on fear mongering, it is short on actually examining the very real societal barriers, stigma, and racism that Muslim immigrants to Europe and their second and third generation children face as they actually try to assimilate. These barriers are mostly erected by the same society and government that accuses them of not wanting to assimilate, instead fueling Islamophobia and isolation.
It's compounded in France by decades of broken promises for investment, job training programs, improved schools, rhetoric of stemming the growing tide of racism, even calls for a Marshall Plan for the working-class suburbs that surround Paris. Instead, the problem has been left to fester, further isolating the Muslim community, as the far-right European anti-Muslim movement continues to grow.
I had the opportunity to work for a number of years on a project through the French American Foundation and the American Embassy in France aimed at helping and encouraging young minority candidates, many of whom were especially inspired by President Obama's election. A majority of them were Muslim and from the banlieue. Contrary to conservative propaganda, they saw themselves as French first, period. They were passionate about their county, incredibly smart, insightful and committed to serving France by being a part of the political system, and each talked about having to work overtime to illustrate their assimilation in the face of increasing racial tensions in France.
From the January 18 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:
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Fox News Sunday will host a debate on same-sex marriage featuring a anti-gay hate group leader who's known for peddling lies and smears about the LGBT community.
On January 18, Fox News Sunday is scheduled to host a debate on same-sex marriage featuring Ted Olson, a prominent pro-equality attorney, and Tony Perkins, president of the anti-gay hate group Family Research Council (FRC).
According to a Fox News press release announcing the debate:
Both sides in the same-sex marriage debate are looking to the Supreme Court as it decides whether or not to weigh in on the issue. The High Court is set to discuss cases from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, and decide whether to rule on petitions challenging state bans on same-sex marriage. We'll debate what has become a key social issue within the country, exclusively with Ted Olson, former Solicitor General who served as Co-Counsel for the plaintiffs in Virginia's same-sex marriage case, and Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council.
Perkins's FRC was labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in 2010 because it has often promoted smears and falsehoods about the LGBT community. Perkins' history of extreme anti-gay work is well documented: he's made a career of linking homosexuality to pedophilia and calling homosexuality a health risk.
A former Fox Sports analyst-turned-hate group spokesman couldn't bring himself to disagree with a radio show caller who suggested that gay people who file discrimination complaints against business should be killed.
In September of 2013, Craig James was fired from his job as a football analyst on Fox Sports due to anti-gay remarks he made during a failed 2012 Senate run. His termination made him a celebrity among anti-gay groups, and he was eventually hired as an assistant to Tony Perkins, president of the extreme anti-LGBT hate group Family Research Council (FRC).
During the December 12 edition of FRC's "Washington Watch" radio program, James spoke with a caller who suggested that gay people who filed discrimination complaints against anti-gay business owners should be put to death. "I don't know," responded James, before adding that Christians "have to be bold and firm and much stronger" in their opposition to LGBT equality:
JAMES: Thank you Phillip. You know what, that part there, I don't know about the executing, but I do know that we have to be bold and firm and much stronger. God doesn't tell us and calls us that we have to be timid and to stand for our straight -- our beliefs. I'm doing a course right now in seminary and it's the history of the early church and it's fascinating, there's been lots and lots and lots of men and women who have died for their Christian beliefs since the beginning and now we are in a time in this country and in this world where we must be bold and stand for God and His truths.
James' ambivalence about whether gay people should be put to death is - shockingly - not totally unprecedented at FRC. The extreme hate group previously praised Uganda's notorious "kill-the-gays" law for upholding "moral conduct."
Two prominent LGBT groups are urging journalists to stop conflating religious belief with anti-LGBT attitudes in their coverage of the upcoming midterm elections, pointing to the dramatic rise in support for LGBT equality in communities of faith across the country.
On September 29, GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign released a resource guide for journalists covering the 2014 midterm elections. The guide, Faith, LGBT People, & The Midterm Elections, is aimed at helping journalists "challenge anti-LGBT talking heads who mask bias as a 'tenet of faith'" by highlighting growing support for LGBT equality in religious communities. According to the resource guide:
For decades, entire denominations, networks of churches, and Biblical and Talmudic scholars have been making a robust case that scripture actually embraces full and complete LGBT lives. In 2012 Christian and Jewish communities of faith spoke out for marriage equality in record numbers in Washington, Maine, Maryland, and Minnesota. Likewise, the United Church of Christ has led a coalition of organizations that have sued North Carolina over its ban on marriage equality on first amendment grounds. And in Houston, Lutheran and Metropolitan Community Churches hosted and organized the effort to pass the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance. Even respected evangelical Bible scholars like Dr. James Brown and Dr. David Gushee have been encouraging evangelicals to rethink their reading of Scripture on LGBT issues while Catholics for Marriage Equality refuse to abandon their LGBT sons and daughters and the faith they love. These pro-equality voices of faith matter, and they aren't getting the media attention they deserve.
Instead of highlighting religious support for LGBT equality, media outlets tend to rely on the voices of some of the most extreme voices of anti-gay conservatism, treating them as broadly representative of religious voters. Nowhere was this more apparent than during the run-up to the 2012 presidential election, when even mainstream news networks relied heavily on commentators like Tony Perkins - president of the anti-gay hate group the Family Research Council - to speak on behalf of religious voters:
The annual Values Voter Summit will take place from September 26 through September 28 in Washington, DC. The convention is sponsored by hate groups like the Family Research Council and the American Family Association, and regularly features extreme rhetoric and hate from politicians and conservative media members. In 2013, Ben Carson said that Obamacare is "the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery." Here is some of what you can expect at the 2014 event:
Media figures speaking at the event are scheduled to include: Lt. General William Boykin, Fox News contributor Oliver North, Rick Santorum, Fox News contributor Sarah Palin, David Limbaugh, Fox News host Mike Huckabee, Fox News contributor and Redstate.com Editor-in-chief Erick Erickson, Fox News contributor Sandy Rios, Mat Staver, Mark Levin, Star Parker, Fox News Radio host Todd Starnes, Brigitte Gabriel, and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins.