Rachel Percelay

Author ››› Rachel Percelay
  • Top Media Outlets Have Failed To Accurately Label Designated Anti-LGBTQ Hate Groups

    Six Years of Various Media Matters Studies Show Ongoing Problem With Reporting On Hate Groups

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD & RACHEL PERCELAY

    For more than half a decade, Media Matters has monitored broadcast, cable, print, and local media coverage of anti-LGBTQ hate groups, designated as such by Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Reporters frequently fail to disclose this designation and provide no context about anti-LGBTQ hate groups and their extremism, instead simply labeling them as “Christian” or “conservative” organizations. Those same outlets, however, often refer to SPLC as an expert in tracking hate and extremism, and often use SPLC’s “hate group” designation when reporting on other extremist ideologies, like white nationalist groups.

    SPLC has long been regarded as an expert in monitoring domestic hate and extremism. Since 1990, SPLC has been releasing an “annual census” of U.S. hate groups. SPLC defines hate groups as organizations that “have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.” But inaccurate or incomplete media coverage has allowed anti-LGBTQ hate groups to peddle the myth that they’re labeled as hate groups only for their conservative or religious beliefs about sexuality and marriage. Yet SPLC has clearly stated multiple times that it designates organizations as “hate groups” when they knowingly spread “demonizing lies,” engage in “baseless, incendiary name-calling,” or actively work to criminalize LGBTQ people -- not because of biblical or conservative beliefs.

    Media Matters' research shows that while major publications like The New York Times and The Washington Post often rely on SPLC’s “hate group” designation to provide meaningful context about white nationalist groups, those same outlets often label designated anti-LGBTQ hate groups only as “Christian” or “conservative.” Similarly, cable news networks have frequently invited anti-LGBTQ hate group representatives to comment on LGBTQ equality without providing context about their respective group’s extremism. Since being designated as a hate group in February 2017, the mammoth anti-LGBTQ legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom has been featured prominently in the media with no reference to its extremism or efforts to criminalize LGBTQ people.

    While some reporters -- like CBS’s Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation -- have provided audiences with meaningful context by accurately identifying anti-LGBTQ hate group leaders as such during interviews, over half a decade of research by Media Matters shows that journalists more often than not fail to identify anti-LGBTQ hate groups as such. Failing to properly contextualize extremism often allows hate group representative to peddle debunked anti-LGBTQ lies, which has led outlets like NPR to acknowledge that “we have to do a better job” in identifying extremists.

    Below are some of Media Matters’ largest studies documenting how journalists report on hate groups.

    NY Times and Wash. Post Failed To Properly Identify Or Contextualize SPLC’s Major Anti-LGBTQ Hate Groups

    A July 2016 Media Matters analysis revealed that between June 1, 2014, and June 30, 2016, The New York Times mentioned four anti-LGBTQ hate groups -- the Family Research Council, Liberty Counsel, the American Family Association, and Westboro Baptist Church --a total of 60 times and never clearly defined any of them as a current hate group. The paper most frequently labeled these hate groups as “conservative” (18 times or 30 percent of the total) or gave them no descriptor at all (14 times or 23 percent of the total). In Times coverage, anti-LGBTQ hate groups were most likely to be called “conservative” or given no designation at all.

    One New York Times article in our analysis used the hate group designation for anti-LGBTQ group the World Congress of Families, but it also included a quote from the group denouncing the label. The article also included criticism of SPLC’s authority and questioned its methodology. Finally, in a passing mention of the Family Research Council, the article falsely reported that SPLC designates hate groups based “on their stances on gay issues,” rather than on their propagation of known falsehoods about LGBTQ people. No other article in our analysis attempted to question the authority of SPLC’s classification or gave a platform to a hate group to defend itself. In fact, when reporting on white nationalist groups in the same period, the Times cited SPLC as an expert on tracking hate groups and frequently used the organization’s hate group designation. Note: Not all percentages add up to 100 due to rounding. 

    The Washington Post mentioned anti-LGBTQ hate groups 74 times during the study period. But it labeled them as hate groups only six times and failed to provide any context about their ideology 27 times. When it did label such groups, the paper was most likely (eight times) to call them “conservative” or contextualize them by mentioning their legal work such as with Liberty Counsel -- which represented the Kentucky county clerk, Kim Davis, who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the Supreme Court released its marriage equality ruling.

    In 2015, Major News Outlets Failed To Identify The Hate Group Representing Kim Davis

    A September 2015 Media Matters report found that major news outlets almost entirely failed to identify Liberty Counsel -- the group defending Rowan County clerk Kim Davis -- as an anti-LGBTQ "hate group," often referring to the group only as a "Christian" or "conservative" legal organization. The Washington Post was the only paper to identify Liberty Counsel as a hate group. An analysis of coverage from August 8 through September 11, 2015, revealed the following:

    • The Associated Press called Liberty Counsel a “Christian law firm” in four different articles.
    • Reuters characterized Liberty Counsel as a “religious” or “legal” “advocacy” group in five different articles.
    • The Washington Post identified Liberty Counsel as a “hate group” in one article -- but in three other articles, it described the group only as “Christian.”
    • The New York Times twice referred to Liberty Counsel as a “conservative” group -- once mentioning that Liberty “has been on the front lines of the same-sex marriage fight for roughly two decades,” and once calling it a nonprofit that works in “religious exemptions cases.”

    In October 2015, The Associated Press did note that Liberty Counsel has been labeled an anti-gay hate group. In response, Liberty Counsel President Mat Staver delivered a letter to the AP's assistant general counsel, Brian Barrett, that accused the AP of putting Davis and Liberty Counsel at risk of "death threats" and demanded that the article be permanently deleted.

    One Hate Group Leader's Appearances Plummeted On CNN And MSNBC In 2013, But Held Steady On Fox News

    A July 2014 Media Matters study found that Family Research Council (FRC) President Tony Perkins appeared significantly less frequently on CNN and MSNBC in the wake of petitions calling on the networks to stop hosting him. Perkins, whose organization has been labeled an anti-LGBTQ hate group, continued to appear frequently on Fox News. Media Matters examined coverage between August 1, 2012, and July 28, 2014. Graph includes data from a prior 2012 study on Perkin’s appearances.

    Cable News Networks Relied On Hate Group Leader For 2012 Primary Election Coverage

    A November 2012 Media Matters analysis of cable news networks’ coverage of the 2012 GOP primary between May 5, 2011, and August 28, 2012, found that the media outlets regularly called upon Perkins to provide commentary on behalf of social conservatives. Perkins made 56 appearances on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC over the course of the primary, but never once was identified as the leader of an anti-LGBTQ hate group.

    More Hate Group Coverage From Media Matters:

    March 2017: Reporting On Trans Rights Supreme Court Case, Major Outlets Failed To Call Alliance Defending Freedom A Hate Group

    February 2017: Major Publications Fail To Identify Anti-LGBTQ Hate Groups In Transgender Policy Coverage

    December 2016: 19 Times Breitbart Cited A Discredited Hate Group To Spread Harmful Lies About Pediatric Medical Care

    September 2016: Trump Just Finished Speaking At A Hate Group Conference; Why Didn’t Top Papers Take Heed?

    August 2016: FL Newspapers Largely Give Rubio A Pass On Scheduled Appearance With Anti-LGBT Extremists

    April 2016: Major News Outlets Largely Fail To Identify The Hate Group Boycotting Target

    December 2015: This Hate Group Leader Has Hosted Most Of The Republican Presidential Candidates On His Radio Show

    August 2014: Megyn Kelly's Cozy Relationship With An Anti-Gay Hate Group Leader

    December 2013: Only 10 Percent Of Louisiana Newspaper Articles About This Hate Group Leader Exposed His Extremism

    April 2012: Meet Todd Starnes, Fox's Mouthpiece For Anti-Gay Hate Groups

    December 2011: Cable News Networks Regularly Promote Anti-Gay Family Research Council On Air

    Graphics by Sarah Wasko.

  • New Reporting Exposes Anti-LGBTQ Hate Group Suing This Pennsylvania School District

    ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is the anti-LGBTQ hate group leading the national fight against transgender student equality. ADF recently filed a lawsuit against the Boyertown School District in Pennsylvania claiming that the district’s transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination policy “intentionally” violated a student’s “right to bodily privacy.” In reports, op-eds, and columns about the lawsuit, local print outlets in Pennsylvania are accurately labeling ADF as a hate group and exposing the group’s history of anti-LGBTQ extremism -- important context that national outlets often fail to provide when reporting on ADF.

  • How The Hate Group Alliance Defending Freedom Is Infiltrating Public Schools

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Media Matters first identified the anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) as the powerful legal group leading the national campaign against transgender student equality in November 2015. Since then, ADF has continued to email school districts, show up at school board meetings, and file lawsuits to oppose basic protections for transgender students -- and candidates who appear to be affiliated with ADF are even running in local school board races.

    In 2015, Media Matters published a piece about ADF’s campaign to influence local school district policies and pass state-level legislation that would ban transgender students from accessing bathroom and locker room facilities consistent with their gender identity. In December 2014, ADF started emailing public school districts across the country to "advise" them of its recommended "Student Physical Privacy" policy. In February 2015, ADF released a model state-level bill to prohibit all public school transgender students from using any facilities that correspond with their gender identity. Later that year, legislators in Nevada, Kentucky, Minnesota, Texas and Wisconsin all proposed versions of ADF's bill. Similarly, North Carolina’s disastrous anti-transgender House Bill 2 (HB 2), which passed in spring 2016, closely mirrors ADF’s model state-level bill regarding student bathroom access.

    In the 2017 legislative session, over 20 anti-transgender “bathroom bills” have been proposed in state legislatures across the nation. While none of these bills have passed yet, ADF continues to use its nearly $50 million annual budget and employ its mammoth network of over 3,000 allied attorneys to try to convince public school districts to adopt discriminatory, anti-transgender policies. The organization also appears to be trying to install friendly candidates on local school boards to further its causes.

    It’s impossible to know the extent of ADF’s anti-transgender activism, especially because many of its 3,000-plus “allied attorneys” never publicly identify themselves as such. Below is a nonexhaustive list of situations in which ADF representatives or affiliated individuals testified at local school events and ran in local school board races, sued school districts with transgender-inclusive policies, and sent letters to schools urging them to institute anti-transgender policies.

    ADF Representatives Testified At Local School Events

    March 20, 2017: ADF legal counsel Douglas Wardlow testified against a transgender-inclusive policy at an Anoka-Hennepin School Board meeting in Minnesota. Prior to his testimony, Wardlow sent a letter to the school board in which he cited discredited anti-LGBTQ junk science researchers Mark Regnerus and Paul McHugh to support his claim that protecting transgender students from discrimination isn’t supported by medical experts (it is). This “research” included a widely denounced report by McHugh attacking transgender people that was published in a journal -- The New Atlantis -- that is not “subject to rigorous peer review” as scientific research usually is. The New Atlantis is published by the Ethics and Public Policy Center, which is dedicated to “applying the Judeo-Christian moral tradition to critical issues of public policy.”

    September 7, 2016: ADF legal counsel Caleb Dalton testified at a public hearing in Prince William County, VA, on a proposed LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination policy for the district. As reported by the Washington Blade, Dalton told the school board that the district could face legal liability if it approved the proposal.     

    May 12, 2016: Ken Fletcher, ADF’s senior director of strategic relations, testified at a Board of Education meeting in Fannin County, GA, regarding rumors that the county was going to institute a transgender-inclusive restroom policy (those rumors were false). In his testimony, Fletcher cited the anti-LGBTQ hate group the American College of Pediatricians (a deceptively named extremist group with an estimated 200 to 500 members whose name is meant to be confused with the 60,000-member American Academy of Pediatrics) to claim that schools should lead transgender girls away from being transgender and “cure” their so-called “gender confusion” so that they do not “lead a life of heartbreak.”

    May 9, 2016: ADF senior counsel Matt Sharp advised the Horry County Board of Education in South Carolina during a specially called board meeting to give the school board “legal advice” regarding Title IX. After speaking with Sharp and two other lawyers employed by the district, the board agreed not to change its existing policy of allowing transgender students to use facilities that align with their gender identity.

    ADF Sued School Districts For Implementing Transgender-Inclusive Policies

    March 2017: ADF sued the school district of Boyertown, PA, for allegedly violating the “privacy” of a cisgender boy because the school had a trans-inclusive locker room policy.

    September 2016: ADF sued the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) and the Virginia Public School District in Minnesota on behalf of a group of 10 parents calling themselves “Privacy Matters,” who said that their children’s privacy was violated by a transgender student “twerking” in the locker room.

    June 2016: ADF sued the DOE on behalf of the Highland Local School District in Ohio because it said it was set to lose federal funding if it didn’t let a transgender girl use the girl’s restroom.

    May 2016: ADF sued the DOE and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on behalf of a group called “North Carolinians for Privacy” in response to the DOJ’s lawsuit regarding North Carolina’s anti-LGBTQ HB 2 law.

    May 2016: ADF sued the Palatine, IL, Township High School District 211 and the DOE on behalf of an anonymous group called “Students and Parents for Privacy,” saying a transgender-inclusive policy created an "intimidating and hostile" environment for students who share the locker room with the transgender student.

    ADF Affiliates Running For School Boards

    March 2017: In Palatine, IL, an ADF-affiliated group called “D211 Parents for Privacy” is advocating for ADF’s model policy and has endorsed three candidates for the board of education in that district. It’s also targeting current school board members who voted in favor of the transgender-inclusive policy.

    September 2016: ADF-affiliated attorney Derrick Good was tapped as an “emergency replacement” for a school board in Jefferson County, MO, after a controversy arose in 2015 when a Hillsboro High School student asked to use locker rooms and bathrooms that corresponded to her gender identity. Good, who said that people make "decisions" about being transgender, helped the district install an anti-transgender policy that prohibits transgender youth from using restrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity.

    ADF Sent Letters To Local Schools

    January 2017: ADF sent a letter to the school district of Egg Harbor Township, NJ, saying that it was ready to “litigate if necessary” regarding a proposed transgender-inclusive policy.

    May 2016: ADF convinced Grayson County, VA, to institute its “Student Physical Privacy Policy.” The superintendent told ThinkProgress that ADF claimed that “if we adopt their policy and it is contested,” ADF would come to the school district’s defense for free. During the debate over the policy, Virginia State Sen. Bill Carrico, who reported a $5,000 gift from ADF in 2014 for a trip with his wife to a conference in Naples, FL, also assured the district that ADF would defend the policy “all the way up to the Supreme Court, if necessary.” Prior to the debate, Carrico said that he had spoken with “legal organizations about the possibility of bringing suit against the Obama administration” regarding its guidance on transgender students. 

    May 3, 2016: ADF sent a letter to the Berkeley County School Board in South Carolina arguing that a transgender-inclusive restroom policy would “endanger students’ privacy and safety, undermine parental authority, violate religious students’ free exercise rights and severely impair an environment conducive to learning.”

    May 2, 2016: ADF sent a letter to the school board in Candia, NH, urging it to adopt ADF’s model anti-transgender policy. At a school board meeting on May 5, 2016, multiple speakers urged the board to adopt ADF’s model policy. But the meeting ended with the school district instituting a transgender-inclusive policy.

    April 28, 2016: ADF sent a letter to the Durham, NC, school board of directors and superintendent saying the school district had no obligation to protect transgender students and could be held legally liable for instituting a transgender-inclusive policy. ADF later sued the district after it instituted a transgender-inclusive policy.

    March 2016: ADF sent a letter to the Westwood Regional High School District in northern New Jersey opposing its transgender-inclusive policy. The policy passed with “little opposition” from school board members or the general public.

    February 29, 2016: In an article about a proposed bathroom bill in South Dakota that was drafted using ADF’s language, The Washington Post reported that ADF had sent its model school policy to “thousands” of school districts nationwide, which it described as an effort to protect the “bodily privacy” of children.

    January 2016: ADF sent letters to “every Tennessee school district” saying that districts could be at risk of “legal liability” for instituting transgender-inclusive policies.

    ADF Otherwise Influenced Schools To Pass Its Model Policy

    December 18, 2015: Political Research Associates reported that ADF’s model policy is also being disseminated through a project of the anti-LGBTQ group Focus on the Family (FOTF). The project website provides a “Tell a School” tool that allows visitors to share ADF’s Student Physical Privacy Policy with their local school boards, allowing ADF’s model policy to be sent through FOTF’s website without the sender even reading it.

    December 2, 2015: At least seven different people who have children in Township High School District 211 in Palatine, IL, cited ADF’s privacy policy while testifying in a special school board meeting after the board instituted a transgender-inclusive policy.

    Graphic by Sarah Wasko.

  • Reuters Foundation Exposes An Anti-LGBTQ Hate Group Representing America At UN Women’s Rights Event

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    The Thomas Reuters Foundation spotlighted the State Department’s decision to send a representative of an anti-LGBTQ hate group as one of the U.S.’s public delegates to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

    The State Department announced on March 13 that one of the U.S.’s two public delegates to the 61st session of the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women would be Lisa Correnti, executive vice president for the Center for Family & Human Rights (C-FAM). The commission -- described on its website as “the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women” -- is being held at the U.N. headquarters in New York, NY, from March 13 through 24.

    Founded in 1997 to “monitor and affect the social policy debate at the United Nations,” C-FAM -- formerly known as the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute -- has been designated as an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for five years due to its extreme rhetoric and spread of demonizing lies about LGBTQ people. C-FAM president Austin Ruse has proven himself so extreme that another anti-gay hate group cut ties with him in 2014 after Ruse said that liberal academics "should all be taken out and shot." Ruse has also served as a resident anti-gay columnist for Breitbart.com, where he voiced his support for laws criminalizing homosexuality, peddled the debunked conspiracy theory that the hate crime murder of gay teen Matthew Shepard was a hoax, and used the anti-transgender slur “trannies” to mock a 15-year-old transgender girl.

    Thomas Reuters Foundation -- the charitable arm of the Thomas Reuters news wire -- spotlighted C-FAM’s extremism and hate group designation in a March 15 article detailing C-FAM’s delegate status at the U.N. commission. The article also noted fears about the rollback of LGBTQ equality under President Donald Trump, who has surrounded himself with anti-LGBTQ extremists and hate group leaders. While not mentioned by the Reuters Foundation, the largest anti-LGBTQ hate group in the U.S. -- the Alliance Defending Freedom -- has had special consultative status at the U.N. since 2010.

    From the March 15 Reuters Foundation article:

    The Center for Family and Human Rights (C-FAM) was named this week by the U.S. State Department to attend the U.N.'s Commission on the Status of Women, an annual set of high-level meetings on women's equality and empowerment.

    C-FAM has been listed as an anti-LGBT hate group by nonprofit civil rights group the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for at least five years, said Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC's Intelligence Project.

    [...]

    The move comes as decisions by President Donald Trump's new administration raise fears of a rollback of LGBT rights.

    Trump has voiced support for LGBT rights, but his administration has revoked federal guidelines that let transgender students to use bathrooms of their choice. Vice President Mike Pence has expressed staunch opposition to gay rights.

    [...]

    Beirich said the inclusion of C-FAM "is taking the State Department in a very ugly direction" and failing to address the violence and discrimination faced by LGBT people in some places.

    [...]

    Jessica Stern, executive director of OutRight Action International, an LGBTI rights group, said C-FAM "regularly releases homophobic vitriol" on its website.

    "Maybe the violent mentality that got C-FAM labeled a hate group successfully panders to their base, but the U.S. government must ensure protection for the world's most vulnerable people," Stern said in a statement. [Thomas Reuters Foundation, 3/15/17

  • Reporting On Trans Rights Supreme Court Case, Major Outlets Failed To Call Alliance Defending Freedom A Hate Group

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    The anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) was quoted in four major publications’ coverage of the Supreme Court’s recent decision not to hear a monumental transgender equality case. The New York Times, The Washington Post, and CNN and Reuters wire services all failed to label ADF as a hate group, instead misleadingly identifying the extremist group as merely a “conservative Christian” organization and effectively erasing the context readers deserve.

    On March 6, the Supreme Court issued a one sentence order announcing it would not hear G.G v. Gloucester County School, which would have been its first major case on transgender equality. In its order, the Supreme Court vacated the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals’ previous ruling -- which stated that a transgender Virginia high school student, Gavin Grimm, had the right to access restrooms and locker rooms appropriate for his gender identity -- and asked the lower court to reevaluate the decision. This ruling was a direct result of President Donald Trump’s withdrawal of Obama-era nondiscrimination protections for transgender students last month.

    In reports on the March 6 Supreme Court order, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Reuters, and CNN’s wire service all quoted a representative of the anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom, according to a Media Matters search of four leading papers and three major wire services in the two days following the decision.

    The outlets all published similar variations of a statement from ADF’s communication director Kerri Kupec, who said that anti-transgender policies are needed to “protect” students’ privacy. None of the articles noted that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has designated ADF as an anti-LGBTQ hate group for its well-documented history of working domestically and internationally to criminalize gay sex, as well as spreading dangerous lies and misinformation that harm LGBTQ people and their families.

     A Washington Post blog also quoted an ADF representative, and while it did note that ADF opposes “allowing transgender children to use the bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity,” it similarly failed to contextualize ADF’s long track record of anti-LGBTQ extremism or hate group status. 

    ADF has an undeniably prominent role in leading the fight against transgender student equality. But the group is not merely a “conservative” an organization concerned with protecting “religious freedom” and “privacy.” It’s an extremist organization that has actively worked against protecting LGBTQ students from bullying in public schools. Identifying ADF as only a “conservative” or “conservative Christian” organization -- as the New York Times, The Washington Post, and Reuters did -- only helps ADF pretend its opposition to equality isn’t motivated by anti-LGBTQ animus.

    These dangerous oversights are just the latest in mainstream outlets’ journalistic failure to accurately label anti-LGBTQ hate groups, despite employing SPLC’s designation for other extremist ideologies. And it does a disservice to readers looking for the full story -- to properly asses ADF’s red herring plea for “privacy,” readers need to know up front that the group is disreputable and driven by hate.

    Methodology:

    Media Matters searched major publications The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, CNN Wire, and the Associated Press in Nexis for coverage between 10 AM March 6, through 10 AM March 8, 2017, using the the search terms “Alliance Defending Freedom" OR “Defending Freedom.” OR "Family Research Council" OR "American Family Association" OR "Liberty Counsel." The same search was repeated for Reuters using a site search of the Reuters website, and The Wall Street Journal in Factiva.

    Graphic by Sarah Wasko. 

  • A Fox News Radio Anchor Is Headlining A Hate Group's Anti-LGBTQ Briefing

    ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Fox News radio host Todd Starnes is headlining a special “pastors’ briefing” at the Texas Capitol on March 6 and 7 whose sponsors include the anti-LGBTQ hate group the Family Research Council (FRC). Other speakers at the event include FRC’s president and vice president of church ministries and Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton are also listed as unconfirmed speakers at the event, whose attendees will also go to a March 7 public hearing on the anti-transgender Senate Bill 6 (SB 6).

  • Daily Caller Mocks Anti-Semitic Graffiti: "FINALLY! The First Poop Swastika Of 2017"

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Pro-Trump right-wing web outlet The Daily Caller mocked an incident in which a swastika drawn with human feces was found in a gender-neutral bathroom at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), posting a piece with the headline “FINALLY! The First Poop Swastika Of 2017 Appears On An American College Campus.”

    The vandalism was found in a gender-neutral dorm bathroom over the weekend of February 18. The school’s public safety officials said that they are investigating the incident as “both an act of vandalism and potentially a crime of hate.” The anti-Semitic and possibly anti-LGBTQ incident came during a continuing national surge in anti-Semitic threats and hate crimes. Some RISD students also told local outlet NBC 10 that this is the latest in “a string of incidents with feces.”

    Notoriously anti-LGBTQ and misogynist Daily Caller reporter Eric Owens mocked the anti-Semitic vandalism in a February 27 article headlined “FINALLY! The First Poop Swastika Of 2017 Appears On An American College Campus.” Owens repeatedly referred to the feces as “poop,” writing that RISD students were “unsure about the meaning of the poop swastika.” Owens connected RISD’s anti-Semitic crime with a similar incident in October 2015, when a swastika drawn in feces was found in a dorm bathroom at the University of Missouri during a period of racial tension and protest on campus. The Daily Caller had repeatedly mocked the University of Missouri vandalism, using the tag “poop swastika” and running articles like “Who Is The Poop Nazi?” accompanied by an image of the infamous “Soup Nazi” from NBC’s Seinfeld.

    From the February 27 Daily Caller article: 

    A swastika created out of human feces appeared in a gender-neutral bathroom at a residence hall at Rhode Island School of Design last week.

    Officials at the highly selective art school just down the street from Brown University notified students that the swastika was, in fact, composed of human waste, according to local NBC affiliate WJAR.

    “It’s pretty shocking because I think everybody is wondering, you know, who it is,” Rhode Island School of Design student Cooper Thompson told WJAR.

    Students on the RISD campus were unsure about the meaning of the poop swastika.

    “You don’t know if it’s somebody who actually has a mental illness or you don’t know if it’s somebody who’s just trying to play a prank or they actually are anti-Semitic,” one student, Afi Goncalves, told the station.

    A third student, Rory Hernandez, noted that unauthorized poop art has become a trend at RISD lately.

    [...]

    America’s last campus poop swastika kerfuffle occurred in October 2015 on the campus of the University of Missouri.

    [...]

    Partly in response to the Gateway Hall poop swastika, a days-long protest ensued on Mizzou’s Columbia, Mo. campus.

    The protests centered on a group called Concerned Students 1950 and Jonathan Butler, a twentysomething graduate student and the son of a millionaire railroad executive, who went on a six-day hunger strike in November 2015.

    Previously: 

    Why Did The New York Times Call The Daily Caller “Moderate”?

    Campbell Brown's "Non-Partisan" News Site Hires Contributor With Long Anti-LGBT History

    Daily Caller Mocks Transgender Students "Running For Homecoming King, Queen, Whatever"

  • The Biggest Myth About Anti-LGBTQ Hate Groups Debunked

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Anti-LGBTQ hate groups have been surprisingly successful in pushing the myth that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) bases its hate group designations on conservative or religious beliefs about sexuality and marriage. But SPLC has clearly stated multiple times that it designates organizations as “hate groups” when they engage in inflammatory, hateful name-calling, spread malicious lies and misinformation, or support the criminalization of LGBTQ people -- not because of biblical or conservative beliefs. Journalists have a responsibility to be armed with the facts and accurately cover SPLC’s recent report on extremism and designated hate groups.

    On February 15, SPLC released its annual census of hate and extremism in the United States for 2016, which includes 52 active anti-LGBTQ hate groups. Over the six years that it has tracked anti-LGBTQ extremism, SPLC has clearly and repeatedly explained that it designates anti-LGBTQ organizations as hate groups when they knowingly spread “demonizing lies about the LGBT community,” engage in “baseless, incendiary name-calling,” or actively work to criminalize LGBTQ people.

    As SPLC stated in 2010, when it first began listing anti-LGBTQ hate groups, “viewing homosexuality as unbiblical does not qualify organizations for listing as hate groups.” But despite SPLC’s clear explanations of its criteria, mainstream media outlets have long allowed anti-LGBTQ hate groups to defend themselves with that very myth. For example, a 2016 Media Matters study found that from June 2014 through June 2016, the only instance in which The New York Times referenced SPLC’s “hate group” label when reporting on an anti-LGBTQ organization was in an article that questioned the validity of the designation and SPLC’s expertise. The article improperly characterized the designation criteria, alleging that SPLC has been “criticized for including groups that fall within the conservative mainstream, like the Family Research Council, based on their stances on gay issues.”

    For years, media coverage of LGBTQ equality has followed a "God vs. gays" narrative that pits LGBTQ people against religious -- and specifically Christian -- communities. But in recent years, a growing number -- now a majority -- of Christians believe that “homosexuality should be accepted by society.” And current public opinion polls show that a majority of Americans from all religious denominations support same-sex marriages and broad-based LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections without religious exemptions. Now more than ever, it’s bad journalism to equate mainstream Christian organizations with hate groups that actively fund and manufacture junk science to serve as “evidence” to harass and attack LGBTQ people.

    The newest anti-LGBTQ hate group on SPLC’s list is the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a media-savvy legal giant with a $48 million-plus annual budget that has actively worked to criminalize gay people. Despite this background, journalists typically identify the group merely as a “Christian legal organization.” Given ADF’s staggeringly high number of active lawsuits and its successful track record with the United States Supreme Court, it’s a hate group that will remain in the media spotlight. Journalists need to be aware of ADF’s -- and other hate group’s -- extremism and history of spreading malicious disinformation and be ready to fact-check anti-LGBTQ lies. 

    Graphic by Sarah Wasko

  • 10 Facts About The Nation's Largest Anti-LGBTQ Hate Group

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has added the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) to its list of active anti-LGBTQ hate groups. Here are 10 terrifying facts about ADF everyone needs to know:

    1. SPLC Labeled ADF A Hate Group Because Of Its Extreme, Demonizing Lies About LGBT People. SPLC added ADF to its list of anti-LGBTQ hate groups because ADF’s leaders and affiliated lawyers have “regularly demonized LGBT people, falsely linking them to pedophilia, calling them ‘evil’ and a threat to children and society, and blaming them for the ‘persecution of devout Christians.’” As SPLC has repeatedly clarified, it does not list organizations as anti-LGBTQ hate groups on the basis of “opposition to same-sex marriage or the belief that the Bible describes homosexual activity as sinful.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2/15/17, 2/15/17]

    2. ADF Boasts A $48 Million-Plus Annual Budget And Over 3,000 “Allied Attorneys.” In 2015, ADF had a $48 million-plus annual budget. In addition to its staff of over 30 staff lawyers, the group marshals what it calls a “powerful global network” of over 3,100 ADF-trained “allied attorneys,” many of whom are expected to provide at least 450 hours of pro bono services within three years of attending one of ADF’s training programs. ADF’s elite “Blackstone Fellows” have worked or interned in at least nine state governments. [Media Matters, 1/25/17; Alliance Defending Freedom, accessed 2/15/172/15/172/15/17; Rewire, 5/13/14]

    3. ADF Defended The Constitutionality Of Criminalizing Gay Sex In The U.S. ADF has formally supported anti-sodomy laws since 2003, when it filed an amicus brief in Lawrence v. Texas to defend state sodomy laws on the grounds that gay sex is unhealthy, harmful, and a public health risk, writing that “same-sex sodomy is a distinct public health problem. It clearly is.” [Media Matters, 11/19/14, 1/25/17]

    4. ADF Has Expanded Its Anti-Choice, Anti-LGBTQ Extemism Internationally. While ADF has largely run out of options for promoting the criminalization of homosexuality in America, the group has taken its anti-sodomy agenda overseas. ADF has actively worked to promote and defend anti-sodomy laws that criminalize gay sex in Jamaica, Belize and India. In 2010, the United Nations granted special consultant status to ADF, allowing the group to help shape international human rights policy and treaties. More recently, the group has become involved in the Organization of American States, where ADF’s mission has been battling “abortion and radical sexual agendas.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2/15/17; Media Matters, 11/19/14]

    5. ADF Is Behind The National Push For Anti-LGBT “Religious Freedom” Laws. Since 2013, ADF has led the national push for so-called “religious freedom” laws (RFRAs) that seek to enshrine a legal right to discriminate against LGBTQ people. ADF was behind Arizona’s failed 2014 RFRA, Indiana’s controversial 2015 RFRA, and similar bills that were eventually killed in Colorado, Georgia, and Arkansas. [Media Matters, 4/16/15]

    6. ADF Is Leading The National Campaign For “Bathroom Bills” Targeting Transgender Youth. In 2014, ADF launched a national campaign to eliminate nondiscrimination protections for transgender students and instead enshrine its own legislation that would prevent transgender students from accessing facilities consistent with their gender identity. ADF has influenced discriminatory state and local school district policies across the country with so-called “bathroom bills,” like North Carolina’s infamous HB 2, that borrow language from ADF’s model legislation. [Media Matters, 11/5/15, 3/31/16]

    7. An ADF Attorney Once Called Matthew Shepard’s Murder A Hate Crime Hoax. During the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s annual national conference in 2014, ADF attorney Erik Stanley peddled the myth that Matthew Shepard's brutal anti-gay murder was fabricated in order to advance the "homosexual agenda." [Media Matters, 10/28/14

    8. ADF Believes In A “Homosexual Agenda” Dedicated To Destroying Christianity. ADF founder Alan Sears literally wrote the book on the alleged “homosexual agenda” -- his 2003 book The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today compared the gay "propaganda" movement to what "Hitler did so masterfully in Nazi Germany, to get the American public on their side." As SPLC noted, ADF “has also promoted the idea of a ‘homosexual agenda’ -- a nefarious scheme to destroy Christianity and, eventually, civilization.” [Media Matters, 4/16/15; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2/15/17]  

    9. ADF Has Long Opposed Anti-Bullying Efforts In Schools And Even Launched The “Day Of Truth” To Combat The “Day Of Silence.” ADF has long opposed anti-bullying efforts in public schools that include LGBTQ students; the group even made an “yardstick” that decried any anti-bullying policy that includes “sexual orientation” or “gender identity.” In 2005, ADF launched a “Day of Truth” campaign to combat the “promotion of the homosexual agenda” in schools to counter the ongoing “Day of Silence” organized by LGBTQ advocates, in which students remain silent as a protest and to help spread awareness about the effects of anti-LGBT bullying. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2/15/17]

    10. ADF Wields Significant Power In The U.S. Legal System. ADF utilizes an aggressive legal strategy and, according to a review of its press releases, has served as lead counsel in 57 court cases filed since January 2016. A review of successful petitions of the United States Supreme Court revealed that ADF is not only highly active, but also highly successful in getting its cases heard. From 2001 through 2015, ADF’s Supreme Court involvement ranked among the nation’s leading law firms, vastly surpassing almost all other legal advocacy groups. Many ADF alumni move on to serve in high-power roles in the government. Most notably, Austin Nimocks, former ADF senior counsel, now works for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, whose office is responsible for the multistate lawsuits challenging federal nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people in health care and protections for transgender students. [Alliance Defending Freedom, accessed 2/15/17; University of Southern California Law School, “Finding Certainty in Cert: An Empirical Analysis of the Factors Involved in Supreme Court Certiorari Decisions From 2001-2015,” 1/14/16; Media Matters, 8/26/16]

    Graphic by Sarah Wasko.

  • Journalists: Don’t Let Trump Pretend He’s “Supportive” Of LGBTQ Rights

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Following a flurry of rumors that the Trump administration is planning to overturn Obama-era LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections for federal employees and contractors, the White House issued a statement saying the president will continue to enforce the Obama order. The press release made the claim that Trump “continues to be respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights,” but journalists shouldn’t be fooled. President Donald Trump has a proven record of supporting anti-LGBTQ laws and surrounding himself with anti-LGBTQ extremists -- and he could still issue a broad executive order undermining equal protections under the guise of “religious freedom.”

    On Monday, numerous outlets reported on rumors that the Trump administration was planning to issue an executive order overturning President Obama’s 2014 order protecting LGBTQ federal contractors from workplace discrimination. Monday evening, the White House issued a statement claiming that Trump would not overturn the Obama-era nondiscrimination protections (emphasis added):

    President Donald J. Trump is determined to protect the rights of all Americans, including the LGBTQ community. President Trump continues to be respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights, just as he was throughout the election. The President is proud to have been the first ever GOP nominee to mention the LGBTQ community in his nomination acceptance speech, pledging then to protect the community from violence and oppression. The executive order signed in 2014, which protects employees from anti-LGBTQ workplace discrimination while working for federal contractors, will remain intact at the direction of President Donald J. Trump.

    But his own record on LGBTQ equality disproves the White House’s claim that Trump is “respectful and supportive” of LGBTQ rights. Trump has long publicly opposed marriage equality, and in early 2016 he said he would “strongly consider” appointing Supreme Court justices who would overturn the court’s recent ruling in support of marriage equality. He has pledged to sign the First Amendment Defense Act, “religious freedom” legislation that would codify a broad right to anti-LGBTQ discrimination and nullify the current federal protections for LGBTQ people Trump just pledged to protect. And he has repeatedly surrounded himself with anti-LGBTQ extremists -- both on the campaign trail and in the White House. These extremists include hate group leaders like Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, who came to embrace Trump as a “teachable” candidate who Perkins could “shape.” 

    Yet despite Trump’s record, journalists have repeatedly fallen for his attempts to rebrand himself as LGBTQ-friendly. Throughout the 2016 campaign, multiple outlets ran with baseless claims that Trump is an advocate for the LGBTQ community:

    • NBC’s Hallie Jackson said in April that Trump "is considered one of the more LGBT-friendly Republican candidates";
    • in June, Politico fed into Donald Trump’s attempt to rebrand himself as an advocate for LGBT rights by describing his response to the Orlando mass shooting at a gay nightclub as a “welcoming tone toward LGBT Americans” and saying that “in Trump, pro-gay rights Republicans see a new hope”;
    • ABC’s Jonathan Karl called Trump the “most pro-gay rights” Republican presidential candidate ever; and
    • Fox’s Gregg Gutfeld falsely claimed that Trump supports marriage equality.

    Journalists covering Trump’s most recent attempt at rebranding himself as LGBTQ-friendly shouldn’t fall for the same old trick -- though at least one already did. The claim that Trump is “respectful and supportive” of LGBTQ rights just because he isn’t dismantling Obama’s executive order is just further evidence that the press should stop treating White House statements as fact. 

    Additionally, as The New York Times noted, leaving in place the Obama protections “does not preclude another executive order that would roll back gay rights in other areas.” And as Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin said in response to the White House statement, “LGBTQ refugees, immigrants, Muslims and women are scared today, and with good reason.” Journalists should be ready to call out hypocrisy in possible future anti-LGBTQ executive orders, especially “religious freedom”-type orders that could codify a broad right to discriminate against LGBTQ people.