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

Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

On September 9, Donald Trump addressed the 11th Values Voter Summit hosted by the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. Trump’s appearance marks the first time that a Republican presidential nominee has addressed the summit since it began in 2006. In the lead up to the event, the top five highest circulated newspapers in the U.S. failed to cover the fact that a major party presidential candidate was addressing a crowd at a conference hosted by a hate group.

The Values Voter Summit (VVS) is an annual event hosted by the Family Research Council (FRC), an organization the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has designated as an anti-LGBT “hate group” due to its known propagation of extreme falsehoods about LGBT people. FRC’s leader, Tony Perkins, has his own history of making inflammatory comments, such as calling pedophilia a "homosexual problem," equating being gay with drug use and adultery, accusing gay people of trying to "recruit" children, and comparing gay rights advocates to terrorists.

Over the last year, Perkins and Trump have developed a cozy relationship, which ultimately led to Perkins’ official endorsement of Trump in June. Previously, Perkins had backed Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in the GOP primaries until his withdrawal from the race in early May. In August, Perkins announced that Trump would speak at the 2016 Values Voters Summit. Perkins has been outspoken about his belief that he can shape and mold Trump’s ideologies to become more in line with FRC’s extremism. 

Newspapers Ignore Anti-LGBT Hate Group’s Role In Supporting Trump’s Candidacy

Prior to September 9, in the lead up to VVS, The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today -- the top five highest circulated U.S. newspapers -- failed to cover that a presidential candidate was preparing to speak at a conference hosted by a hate group, alongside many anti-LGBT extremist leaders. In articles published on the morning of Trump’s address, The New York Times and The Washington Post finally reported that Trump was scheduled to speak at VVS later in the day, but omitted FRC’s anti-LGBT hate group designation. Both outlets previously connected Trump’s campaign to white supremacist hate groups and the alt-right, but they have downplayed the influence of anti-LGBT extremism in this election.

 From a September 9 New York Times article:

Donald J. Trump and his running mate, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, will address the Values Voter Summit in Washington, which starts on Friday, putting the Republican presidential ticket in front of one of the largest audiences of social conservatives in the 2016 campaign.

Mr. Pence, who will speak on Saturday, is a social conservative who was photographed leading Mr. Trump in prayer aboard the real-estate mogul’s plane soon after he joined the ticket. But while Mr. Trump performed relatively well with evangelical voters in the Republican primaries, he has only fleetingly addressed churchgoers since then. He has previously supported abortion rights and has spoken favorably of same-sex civil unions, two issues that are of concern to evangelical voters.

From an article featured in The Washington Post on September 9:

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.), one of the Republican congressional caucus's most unfiltered members, told a morning crowd at the annual Values Voter Summit that Hillary Clinton was "mentally impaired" thanks to a 2012 concussion and that the news media was not doing all it could to reveal this.

[…]

At the Values Voter Summit, Gohmert didn't need to explain any of this. As the audience laughed along, Gohmert recounted a recent appearance on "Fox and Friends," where he tweaked the lyrics of a country song to "I can't remember/Hillary's brain's in a blender."

This omission is part of a larger trend when covering anti-LGBT extremism. Previously, a Media Matters analysis found that The New York Times has repeatedly and consistently failed to appropriately label anti-LGBT hate groups as such or provide context on their history of extremism. However, the Times frequently used SPLC’s “hate group” designation when reporting on other extremist groups and ideologies, such as white supremacists. The Washington Post also mostly failed to identify anti-LGBT hate groups -- though, out of the total number of hate groups that it labeled as such, anti-LGBT groups were represented proportionally.

Methodology

Media Matters searched The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Times in Nexis for coverage between July 1, 2016, through September 9, 2016, using the the search terms “Trump” AND “Values Voter Summit” OR “Family Research Council.” The same search was repeated for The Wall Street Journal in Factiva.

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