Fox News' Todd Starnes has never shied away from aligning himself with some of the more extreme and fringe elements of right-wing politics. He's flirted with "birtherism," made inflammatory comments about Muslims and African-Americans, and accused the Obama administration of launching a war against Christianity.
Over the past few months, it appears that Starnes has taken up a new cause – using his position as a Fox News Radio reporter to give a voice to some of the country's worst anti-gay hate groups
Last December, Starnes appeared on the American Family Association's (AFA) "Today's Issues" radio show to promote his Fox News website, ToddStarnes.com. He was joined by Tony Perkins, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center-designated anti-gay "hate group" Family Research Council (FRC). During the segment, Starnes claimed that his website would act as a hub of "culture war stories" that would depict hate groups like FRC and AFA in a positive light:
STARNES: This is sort of a place in the Fox family, the Fox News family, that folks can go and find those culture war stories that we cover.... These are stories that resonate with patriotic, God-fearing, God-loving Americans. And I think when people see the stories in one spot, they really understand what's at stake and how thankful we are that there are organizations like the Family Research Council and American Family Radio that cover these issues. [emphasis added]
Perkins was thrilled, to say the least. He said he was "encouraged" by Starnes' reporting, praising him for "giving voice" to social conservatives who believe that Christianity is under attack:
PERKINS: That's the kind of stuff we like to see. And, this is what I think happens when these issues are talked about. Because in isolation, people think 'oh well, we're all by ourselves" and so they usually back down... But when people realize 'hey, this is a connected effort,' and 'we're not alone,' and people are standing up, it has an encouraging effect to it. And that's why I appreciate the work that you're doing, Todd. I know you're just reporting, but what you're doing is you're giving voice to a lot of Americans out there who are deeply concerned about the direction of this country and in particular this attack on Christianity. And I for one am encouraged by that. [emphasis added]
Starnes was serious about his pledge to mainstream and promote FRC. Since his AFA radio appearance, Starnes has frequently included comments from FRC spokespersons – including Perkins, Peter Sprigg, and Ken Klukowski – in his reporting.
In November of 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center listed the Family Research Council as an anti-gay hate group due to its "propagation of known falsehoods" about the LGBT community. Since being listed, however, FRC spokespersons have been invited 52 times to discuss issues ranging from the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," to the 2012 presidential campaign. Despite FRC's long history of producing anti-gay propaganda, every major news network has invited the group on national television while failing to acknowledge its hate group designation.
From the May 26 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
Loading the player reg...
The new ABC/Washington Post poll about public attitudes towards gays serving in the military contains an interesting data point: Not only do 77 percent of all Americans think gays should be able to serve openly, but 70 percent of white evangelicals agree.
Let me say that again: 70 percent of white evangelicals think gays should be able to serve openly in the military.
This should serve as a lesson for journalists who tend to treat Tony Perkins and Bill Donohue as representative of people of faith: They aren't. The Washington Post, for example, routinely presents Perkins and Donohue (not to mention Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck) as respectable spiritual leaders, omitting mention of their hateful and divisive behavior. The Post poll's finding that an overwhelming majority of even white evangelicals believe gays should be able to serve openly is yet another reminder that bigots like Perkins, Donohue and their ilk are granted a larger and more respectful media platform than is justified by either the merit or popularity of their views.
In a Washington Times op-ed, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins falsely suggested that repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" lacks support from military officials and the public. In fact, numerous military officials and an overwhelming majority of Americans support repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
From the December 9 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
Loading the player reg...
Author and advice columnist Dan Savage appeared Tuesday afternoon on CNN Newsroom to discuss two reports out this week by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC): The first updating its list of anti-gay hate groups and the second finding that LGBT Americans "are far more likely to be victims of a violent hate crime than any other minority group in the United States."
Savage -- the founder of the "It Gets Better Project" which aims to stem the recent tide of LGBT youth suicides -- took the interview with CNN's Kyra Phillips as an opportunity to jab CNN and other networks for providing a platform to anti-gay hate group leaders like the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins. As Savage noted in a blog post following the interview, Perkins' Family Research Council is on the SPLC's list of anti-gay hate groups. From the interview:
PHILLIPS: You know, it's difficult to say what would be a solution [to anti-gay hate crimes]. But, could we start with more hate crimes legislation where bullies are prosecuted more severely?
SAVAGE: We can start with that, we can also start with… really, we need a cultural reckoning around gay and lesbian issues. There was once two sides to the race debate. There was once a side, you could go on television and argue for segregation, you could argue against interracial marriage, against the Civil Rights Act, against extending voting rights to African Americans and that used to be treated as one side, you know, one legitimate side of a pressing national debate and it isn't anymore. And we really need to reach that point with gay and lesbian issues. There are no 'two sides' to the issues about gay and lesbian rights.
And right now one side is really using dehumanizing rhetoric. The Southern Poverty Law Center labels these groups as hate groups and yet the leaders of these groups, people like Tony Perkins, are welcomed onto networks like CNN to espouse hate directed at gays and lesbians. And similarly hateful people who are targeting Jews or people of color or anyone else would not be welcome to spew their bile on networks like CNN and then that really -- we really have to start there. We have to start with that type of cultural reckoning.
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.
As you probably know, the Washington Post has been taking some heat for declaring that gay suicide is a two-sided issue, in which a live chat with Dan Savage discussing homophobic bullying and ways to prevent gay youths from committing suicide needed to be balanced by Tony Perkins' anti-gay hysteria. And it seems as though Perkins' falsehood-laden, homophobic rant in the Post was not viewed favorably by the Washington Post's own editorial board member, Jonathan Capehart.
In his blog post, he seeks to explain White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett's admittedly poor choice of words in suggesting being gay was a "lifestyle choice." Capehart recently interviewed Jarrett and asked her about the "rash of nationally reported suicides of gay youth." While expressing her concern about these tragedies, Jarrett laments that these were "avoidable deaths," in which the youths were "driven to commit suicide because they were being harassed in school and driven to do something that no child should ever be driven to do. And in many cases, their parents are doing a good job, their families are supportive." She then mentions meeting the family of a gay Minnesota youth who recently committed suicide following relentless harassment from his peers. She said of his parents: "These are good people. They were aware that their son was gay. They embraced him; they loved him; they supported his lifestyle choice. But, yet, when he left the home and went to school he was tortured by his classmates."
Jarrett took a lot of heat for her wording, and the following day, Capehart allowed her to explain her remarks:
In a recent interview I was asked about the recent tragedies about gay youth who have committed suicide, and I misspoke when I referred to someone's sexual identity as a "lifestyle choice." I meant no disrespect to the LGBT community, and I apologize to any who have taken offense at my poor choice of words. Sexual orientation and gender identity are not a choice, and anyone who knows me and my work over the years knows that I am a firm believer and supporter in the rights of LGBT Americans.
Capehart took the opportunity to tie this all back to Tony Perkins, writing: "Yes, Jarrett made a mistake. But those who think she and the president don't care about the rights of gay men and lesbians, don't give a damn about bullying and the tragedies of gay youth suicides are wrong. Jarrett is no Tony Perkins. She is no bigot." The link, of course, goes to Perkins's Washington Post homophobic diatribe. Capehart titled his post, "Valerie Jarrett is no Tony Perkins." Perhaps someone should have run Perkins's column by Capehart before deciding to publish. It might have saved the Post from a pretty big headache.
Yesterday, we noted that the Washington Post celebrated "National Coming Out Day" by posting an anti-gay screed written by notorious bigot Tony Perkins on its On Faith microsite. Today, we learned that the Post thought the publication of Perkins' bile was justified by the fact that it hosted a live Q&A chat with Dan Savage about his efforts to prevent suicide among gay youths. Because, as everyone knows, if you're going to feature an opponent of gay suicide, you need … um … balance. Savage was understandably displeased to see the Post use him as justification for publishing Perkins.
But it's important to understand that Tony Perkins' anti-gay rant was not an anomaly. On Faith has posted several anti-gay missives just this week.
Jordan Sekulow, described by the Post as a "human rights attorney," insists "the United States is a Christian nation" and quotes biblical references to homosexuality as an "abomination" and "unnatural" and "indecent" and "perversion." Again: The Washington Post describes Sekulow as a "human rights attorney." Though, to be fair, they didn't say he's an attorney working on behalf of human rights.
Frank Pavone, president of the National Pro-Life Religious Council and a Catholic priest, writes that his church teaches that sex can only be had "in a marriage between a man and a woman, and when open to life," adding that "Sex is an extremely powerful force, and never a neutral one. Either it serves life, or it serves death."
John Mark Reynolds, who previously* used the platform granted him by the Post to call advocates of gay rights "ideologues" and compare them to "racists," wrote a rambling post yesterday that refers to gay rights advocates as "the hateful" ("When the unchaste, the libertine, or the hateful demand we call their wrongs 'good,' this too is not new") and refers to support for gay rights as "prejudice." Oh, and he compares the oppression Christians face at the hands of these hateful, prejudiced gay rights advocates to the murder of Christians by pagan cultures:
In a September 19 "The Caucus" blog post, the New York Times reported that Family Research Council President Tony Perkins described Palin as "more of a cheerleader" than a President.
From the September 19 New York Times' The Caucus blog post, titled, "Pence is Values Voters' Choice for President...and Vice President":
"I think she is a great spokesman," he said. "I mean, I think that she challenges the status quo. She says what a lot of people think. But, you know, a lot of people sometimes realize we shouldn't say everything we think. Maybe it is that she is more of a cheerleader and one who rallies conservatives together as opposed to being their top choice for president. I don't know. I would say the No. 1 consideration was that she was not here to speak."
In a panel discussion at today's Values Voter Summit attacking efforts to allow gay men and lesbians to openly serve in the U.S. armed forces, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins and retired Lt. Col. Robert Maginnis casually smeared the militaries of vital U.S. allies who have aided U.S. efforts in Afghanistan. Watch:
MAGINNIS: To just stab us in the heart, on an issue that is fundamental to monotheistic groups like Christians and Muslims and others, is just suicide for an all-volunteer force. That's why countries like the ten largest militaries in the world, that have the ten largest militaries in the world say "no, this isn't the thing to do." They spin this as if Great Britain and we ought to copy them and the Dutch. Well the fact is that 80 percent of the militaries in the world don't embrace this particular view.
PERKINS: Well, those that do, they're the ones that participate in parades, they don't fight wars to keep the nation -- the world free -
PERKINS: So there's a big difference.
While Perkins and Maginnis mock them as "the ones that participate in parades," Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and Canada -- all of which allow gay men and lesbians to serve openly -- all have more than 1,000 service members deployed in Afghanistan. The United Kingdom and Canada have each suffered more than 100 casualties since the war began. Additionally, Australia and the United Kingdom both participated in the invasion of Iraq; Australia sent 2,000 troops while the UK originally contributed 46,000.
As for their claim that "the ten largest militaries in the world" don't allow gay men and lesbians to serve openly, that's a list that includes such prominent nations who "fight wars to keep the world free" as China, Russia, North Korea, and Egypt. That's generally not a list you want your country to be on where human rights issues are concerned.
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins dubiously claimed that "there is not conclusive evidence" that the children of same-sex couples "fare as well as children who grow up with a mom and a dad." In fact, the consensus among medical, and child-welfare groups is that children of same-sex couples do fare as well as children of heterosexual parents.
From the August 8 edition of CBS' Face The Nation:
Loading the player reg...
On Faith, the Washington Post religion web site edited by Sally Quinn and Newsweek's Jon Meacham, currently features guest post by Media Research Center president Brent Bozell, writing on behalf of something calling itself "Citizens Against Religious Bigotry." Bozell and his ostensibly-anti-bigotry buddies are upset about some animated show Comedy Central may or may not produce and may or may not air.
What's striking about the Post's decision to grant Bozell and "Citizens Against Religious Bigotry" this forum is not the substance of their criticism of Comedy Central, but the fact that the coalition is made up of some of the most irredeemable bigots you'll ever encounter.
Take, for example, Catholic League president Bill Donohue. Donohue is a rabid anti-gay bigot with a long history of highly questionable commentary about religions he does not practice. He has said, for example, that "[p]eople don't trust the Muslims when it comes to liberty" and that "Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular." Donohue has also demonstrated selective outrage when it comes to the religious bigotry of others, defending conservative writer Jerome Corsi's attacks on the Catholic Church and conservative actor Mel Gibson's anti-Semitic rants. (Donohue has previously been granted a guest post at On Faith.)
Or Tony Perkins, another anti-gay bigot who is a member of the "Citizens Against Religious Bigotry." Perkins has said "the soil of the Islamic faith just does not work with democracy" and has spoken to the Louisiana chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a hate group that "oppose[s] all efforts to mix the races of mankind … and to force the integration of the races."
Or Michael Medved, another member of the "Citizens Against Religious Bigotry." Medved has said that "Islam, as a faith" has "a special violence problem." (Medved also seems to have more problems with gay people than you might expect from a member of an anti-bigotry coalition.)
Tim Wildmon, another member of Bozell's band of self-described opponents of bigotry, has praised a far-right author who has advocated the execution of gays, adulterers, and doctors who perform abortions.
I'm sure there are plenty more examples, but you get the point: Bozell's "Citizens Against Religious Bigotry" is made up of some of the most notable bigots in American public life. And yet Sally Quinn and the Washington Post allowed them to portray themselves as opponents of bigotry, without any indication of their own enthusiastic bigotry towards a wide range of people.