Journalists covering the 2016 GOP primary have an opportunity to expose the extreme hate group leader who just became the face of Ted Cruz's evangelical supporters.
In a secret December 2015 meeting of top national social conservative activists, Ted Cruz won the support of a group influential evangelical Christians leaders, reported as a "major boost" for Cruz's presidential campaign. The man credited with consolidating support behind Cruz at the meeting is Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC).
As the driving force behind Cruz's consolidation of evangelical support, it's likely Perkins will become a go-to commentator for media outlets covering the GOP primary. During the 2012 primary -- during which Perkins backed former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum -- CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC all welcomed Perkins as a near-constant source of campaign commentary.
Perkins' cable news appearances for the 2016 primary cycle have already started, with a January 5 appearance on CNN's OutFront to discuss Ted Cruz's faith and Donald Trump's questioning of Cruz's citizenship:
Given the likelihood than Perkins will once again become a sought-after guest in GOP primary and election coverage, here's what news outlets should know about Cruz's extreme evangelical hype man:
1. Perkins Is the President Of A Hate Group
In 2010, FRC was listed as an anti-gay "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center thanks to its propagation of known falsehoods about LGBT people as well as Perkins' history of making inflammatory comments about the LGBT community. Perkins has equated being gay with drug use and adultery, accused gay people of trying to "recruit" children, and compared gay advocates to terrorists.
FRC's "hate group" label is almost never mentioned by news networks that choose to treat the group like a seriously policy organization on national television. During the 2012 GOP primary, when Perkins was a regular fixture on cable news, he was never identified as a "hate group" leader. Since then, media figures that have identified Perkins as a hate group leader have faced criticism from FRC and its allies.
2. Perkins Has A History Of Peddling Misinformation
In addition to spreading falsehoods about LGBT people, FRC has a history of making apocalyptic warnings about government policies that advance LGBT equality.
Some examples of FRC's shoddy policy analysis include claiming that striking down same-sex marriage bans would lead to a full-scale revolution, that the repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy would bring back the draft and risk millions of lives, and that hate crime laws respond to a "phony 'crisis.'"
Perkins also regularly spreads known lies about LGBT people. He's repeated the widely debunked myth that pedophilia is "a homosexual problem," promoted the dangerous and discredited practice of so-called "reparative therapy," and falsely claimed that children raised by same-sex couples fare worse than those raised by opposite-sex couples.
3. Perkins Doesn't Represent Christian Voters
Mainstream media outlets regularly invite Perkins to speak on behalf of Christians and religious voters, but Perkins' brand of anti-LGBT extremism represents a far right fringe of American Christianity. In fact, a majority a US Christians now believe that homosexuality should be accepted by society.
Christian audiences have previously protested networks that give Perkins a platform. In 2012, the progressive Christian group Faithful America launched petitions asking CNN and MSNBC to stop allowing Perkins to "speak on behalf of American's Christians," generating tens of thousands of signatures.
As the face of Ted Cruz's support from religious conservatives, Perkins is poised to become another regular fixture in cable news' 2016 coverage. If that happens, it'll be those networks' responsibility to properly identify the anti-gay extremist they're putting on air.