A former senior Fox News producer spoke out in support of Russia's anti-gay crackdown at a forum sponsored by the Duma's family committee and conservative religious groups.
Right Wing Watch reported on October 3 that an assemblage of international right-wing activists traveled to Moscow in June to support the Russian government's campaign to restore "traditional values," an effort that gained international visibility after the passage of laws banning the dissemination of "gay propaganda" and the adoption of children by same-sex couples and families from LGBT-friendly countries. Among the participants in a roundtable discussion titled "Traditional Values: The Future of the European Peoples" was longtime Fox News employee Jack Hanick:
Russian news reports mention that also present to give the American perspective was a man named Jack Hanick. On his LinkedIn page and in interviews, Hanick describes himself as a founding employee of Fox News, who worked there for 15 years as a news director. Fox News confirmed that Hanick was an employee from 1996 through 2011 where he worked in "a production role dealing with the visual aspects of the show" rather than in any "editorial capacity."
Hanick told the roundtable that God had called on Russia to "stand up for traditional values."
Right Wing Watch further noted that Hanick told a Russian magazine in August that he admired Russia's increasingly theocratic state. The Russian Orthodox Church has often colluded with President Vladimir Putin - and lent crucial support to the country's anti-gay laws - and Hanick thinks the U.S. has a lot to learn from this model.
"In Russia the issue of separation of church and state, obviously, is much less of an issue," Hanick reportedly told the magazine, "and I see this as a positive thing."
Hanick's LinkedIn profile states that as a member of the "start-up Team for the Fox News channel," he took a leading role in developing "the original look and feel of Fox News Channel." While he left the network two years ago, he'd likely be pleased that his erstwhile employer hasn't joined the international outcry against Russia's assault on LGBT people. Even as Russia flagrantly violates essential norms of international human rights law, Fox News has ignored the country's anti-gay crackdown.
Journalist Stephen Jimenez's The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths about the Murder of Matthew Shepard makes the bombshell claim that illicit drug use, not homophobia, was the central factor in the gay University of Wyoming student's brutal 1998 murder. Shepard truthers in the right-wing media have pounced on the book to assail hate crime legislation and the larger push for LGBT rights. But Jimenez's argument is tainted by its reliance on wild extrapolation, the use of highly questionable and often inconsistent sources, paranoia that critics of his work are engaged in a "cover-up" of politically sensitive truths, and the cavalier dismissal of any evidence that runs contrary to his central thesis.
A year and a half after Shepard's October 1998 murder, Jimenez arrived in Laramie, Wyoming, to research a screenplay on Shepard's life and death. By that point, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson had received life sentences for the killing. There was no federal or Wyoming hate crime law, but media reports and McKinney's use of a "gay panic" defense at trial indicated that anti-gay bias motivated the crime. According to Jimenez, he accepted this version of the story when he arrived in Wyoming in February 2000.
When Jimenez returned to Laramie for a "final research trip" in October 2000, he stumbled upon a letter from an anonymous "Concerned Citizen," addressed to prosecutor Cal Rerucha. The letter expressed disbelief that McKinney had claimed "gay panic" at trial, because "[d]eep down inside, a small part of him really liked some homosexual action." This anonymous letter, Jimenez writes, became the starting point for "a second look at the whole case." "If Aaron McKinney, who reportedly targeted Matthew because he was gay, was not 'straight' himself, what else was going on that October night when he unleashed his rage?" Jimenez asks.
The Tampa Tribune published an article on the Florida Family Association's (FFA) campaign against the cable news network Al Jazeera America, failing to note the FFA's fringe Islamophobic and anti-LGBT views.
Al Jazeera America's journalism has been lauded by media critics, but the network's recent launch triggered a wave of right-wing, Islamophobic backlash. Most notorious among Al Jazeera America's critics is David Caton, head of the FFA, who has launched a crusade to stop corporations from advertising on what he describes as the radical Islamist network.
In a September 22 article, the Tribune reported on Caton and the FFA's campaign:
Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based news agency that stoked anti-Muslim emotions in the West a decade ago when it aired taped Osama bin Laden's threats to the United States, is now available to American news consumers and can be seen by Tampa area couch potatoes on the Verizon FiOS cable system.
That doesn't sit well with David Caton, head of the Florida Family Association, which has mounted an email campaign targeting corporations that advertise on the news channel.
He said there are only about eight major American companies advertising on Al Jazeera America.
"When we started, there were about 65," he said. "Our goal right now is to educate corporate America that the channel is there and urge them to stop spending advertising dollars there. We don't want American consumer dollars to go back to Qatar."
Caton and many Americans recall when, as U.S. forces hunted bin Laden, Al Jazeera aired tapes of the al-Qaida leader vowing violence on America and the West. That painted Al Jazeera for many as the voice of radical Islam. Since then, the news gathering agency has expanded across the globe, garnering journalism awards for its in-depth reporting.
Caton shrugged that off, saying the content of the news programs make no difference. He says the organization still is tied to radical Muslim organizations.
"If they played Warner Bros. Bugs Bunny cartoons 24 hours a day," he said, "our consumer dollars will still be sent to Qatar." [emphasis added]
Social conservatives will descend on Washington, D.C., next month for the Values Voters Summit (VVS), an annual convocation put on by an assemblage of anti-LGBT groups that will prominently feature high-profile right-wing media figures.
Sponsored by organizations like the Family Research Council (FRC) and the American Family Association (AFA) - both Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)-designated hate groups - VVS got its start in 2006. As in the past, this year's gathering promises to feature leading opponents of equality for women and LGBT people. Several confirmed speakers will be familiar faces to consumers of right-wing media:
Among the right-wing media personalities slated to speak at the conference:
Right-wing anti-gay advocate Austin Ruse is becoming the face of Breitbart.com's LGBT coverage, using his perch at the website to smear slain Wyoming student Matthew Shepard and tout Russia's horrific anti-gay legislation.
Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), has a lengthy history of rabid anti-LGBT bigotry. As GLAAD notes, Ruse believes all countries should pass laws stigmatizing homosexuality in order to "help society to teach what is good." Ruse asserts that affirming that LGBT people exist and should have rights amounts to sexual "indoctrination." Further, Ruse claims that LGBT teen suicides are caused not by bullying and social stigma, but by the LGBT movement's "ideology" and gay sex itself.
Breitbart.com can apparently think of no better figure to comment on LGBT issues. Ruse's first piece for the website made the transparently ridiculous claim that "human rights groups" supported Russia's laws banning the dissemination of "gay propaganda" and the adoption of Russian children by couples from LGBT-friendly countries. Ruse previously defended the Kremlin's anti-LGBT crackdown at The Daily Caller, where he lauded Russia's effort to "resist ... the political movement to regularize and even celebrate" homosexuality.
Ruse's latest hobbyhorse is Matthew Shepard trutherism, which he has pushed in two Breitbart pieces in as many weeks. Right-wing media outlets have seized on the publication of a new book claiming that the gay Wyoming college student's 1998 murder was the result of a drug deal gone awry, not anti-gay bias. Describing Shepard as a "winsome young homosexual," "achingly handsome," "slight of frame," and "delicately chiseled," Ruse has blasted "Matthew Shepard Inc." for promoting the "lie" that homophobia contributed to his murder.
In a September 14 column for Breitbart, Ruse denounced the "gay hagiography" that fed the "Mathew [sic] Shepard industry":
Media outlets are mischaracterizing legislation that licenses anti-LGBT discrimination as a bill that protects fundamental religious and personal freedoms.
Under the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act (MARFA), drafted by Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) and co-sponsored by 60 House members, the federal government could not take any "adverse action" against individuals who oppose same-sex marriage or premarital sex on religious grounds. The legislation effectively subsidizes anti-gay discrimination. In a statement, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) noted that religious liberty enjoys robust constitutional and statutory protection, but that MARFA would radically reinterpret the concept to allow federal employees and recipients of federal funds to deny services to LGBT people:
"Every American understands the importance of protecting the rights of people of faith to hold and express their beliefs, including about the equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people," said Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Legislative Director Allison Herwitt. "But our Constitution and laws already strongly safeguard that liberty. The purpose of the legislation introduced today is simply to let federal employees, contractors and grantees refuse to do their jobs or fulfill the terms of their taxpayer-funded contracts because they have a particular religious view about certain lawfully-married couples - and then to sue the federal government for damages if they don't get their way."
For example, if passed, the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act would permit a federal worker processing tax returns, approving visa applications or reviewing Social Security applications to walk away from their responsibilities whenever a same-sex couple's paperwork appeared on his or her desk. It would also allow a federally-funded homeless shelter or substance abuse treatment program to turn away LGBT people. Despite the cosponsors claims, there is no evidence that federal programs have or would discriminate against individuals because of their religious beliefs about marriage. Protections against discrimination based on religious belief are explicitly and robustly provided under the First Amendment and federal nondiscrimination statutes. [emphasis added]
Freedom to Marry added that the legislation would also permit businesses to deny leave to employees who wished to care for a same-sex spouse. The libertarian-leaning Volokh Conspiracy blog argued that MARFA is likely unconstitutional, as it privileges religious views in opposition to same-sex marriage and pre-marital sex over other religious views - a stark violation of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause.
Right-wing media have pounced on a forthcoming book claiming that gay Wyoming student Matthew Shepard's brutal 1998 murder was motivated by drug use, not homophobia. While these media figures shroud their interest in a desire to get at the facts, their vitriolic attacks on Shepard and the movement for whom his death became a rallying cry reveal that there's more to Matthew Shepard trutherism than a concern for the truth.
In The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths about the Murder of Matthew Shepard, journalist Stephen Jimenez revives his decade-old theory that Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson killed Shepard in a meth-fueled rage. Shepard's death sparked a national discussion on anti-LGBT violence, but Jimenez makes the bombshell claim that Shepard and McKinney had actually had sex and done meth together. McKinney has denied this assertion.
Jimenez's theory is also difficult to square with the fact that McKinney cited Shepard's sexuality as a factor in the murder, attempting to employ a "gay panic" defense at trial.
Inexplicably, media coverage of The Book of Matt has ignored Jimenez's history of shoddy reporting on the case. In November 2004, Jimenez co-produced a special on Shepard's murder for ABC News' 20/20. The widely panned report downplayed the role of anti-gay bias in Shepard's murder, suggesting that meth was the primary factor. After the special aired, Gay City News unearthed an email Jimenez wrote two months before 20/20 even began its reporting, in which he proclaimed that the report would upend the conventional interpretation of Shepard's death.
The Daily Caller continued its attacks on transgender individuals seeking equal treatment, asserting that their fight for access to appropriate bathroom facilities is actually a demand for "special treatment."
In a September 17 article, Daily Caller education editor Eric Owens reported on the case of Seamus Johnston, a transgender male student at the University of Pittsburgh. Johnston filed a discrimination lawsuit on September 16 alleging that university officials violated his rights by not allowing him to use men's locker rooms and restrooms. Owens deliberately misgendered Johnston and mocked the notion that he was entitled to use facilities appropriate for his gender identity:
It's back-to-school time across America and you know what that means: a fresh supply of stories about transgender students demanding special treatment--particularly when it comes to bathrooms and locker rooms.
The latest spat involves an expelled transgender student at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown who has filed a federal lawsuit claiming that the school violated her civil rights by preventing her from using men's locker rooms and restrooms, reports the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
The student, Seamus Johnston, was born female but identifies as a male. Johnston has undergone several months of hormone treatment recently.
The lawsuit was filed Monday. The suit claims that the school violated federal anti-discrimination laws. Johnston is representing herself.
Owens has previously ridiculed the "big fuss" made by transgender students seeking access to facilities that match their gender identities. Lambda Legal, meanwhile, underscores why access to the proper facilities is vital to transgender people's well-being:
Right-wing media outlets are already celebrating a forthcoming book that claims that brutal 1998 murder of gay Wyoming student Matthew Shepard - which became a rallying cry for LGBT activists - was actually fueled more by drug use than anti-gay bias.
In The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths about the Murder of Matthew Shepard, journalist Stephen Jimenez argues that Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson bludgeoned Shepard in a meth-fueled rage. Jimenez minimizes the role of anti-gay bias in the murder, writing that Shepard and McKinney had previously had sex and done meth together (an assertion that McKinney himself denies).
Although his report of a sexual history between Shepard and McKinney is new, Jimenez's central thesis - that drugs were the motivating factor in Shepard's murder - has been called into question before.
In November 2004, Jimenez co-produced a piece on the Shepard murder for ABC News' 20/20. GLAAD highlighted key shortcomings in 20/20's report, including the lack of hard evidence that drugs were a factor and its failure to point out that McKinney himself had cited ant-gay bias as a central element in the case, even attempting to employ a "gay panic" defense at trial. Shepard's mother also condemned the report, criticizing its selective reading of evidence and accusing ABC of taking her comments out of context.
The 20/20 report neglected to mention another crucial detail: that Jimenez was a friend of Tim Newcomb, Henderson's defense attorney.
Most disturbingly, email correspondence revealed that the Jimenez had already decided that Shepard's murder wasn't an anti-gay hate crime before 20/20 even started its reporting. As Gay City News reported in December 2004:
Repeating the right-wing trope that the mainstream media "leans to the left," Fox News contributor Erick Erickson criticized media outlets for describing animus towards LGBT people as "bias" and falsely suggested that most Americans oppose LGBT equality.
In a September 13 blog post for his RedState.com website, Erickson misleadingly claimedthat a majority of Americans oppose the affirmation of "alternative lifestyles" - and that media outlets should therefore avoid describing people who condemn homosexuality as harboring "bias":
Erin Burnett of CNN and formerly of CNBC is a wonderful person and a great reporter. But I'll never forget being on air the night of June 5, 2012.
John King and Erin Burnett were chatting as Erin promoted what was coming up on her show. A pastor was losing his church because he supported gay marriage. His congregation had left and there was too little money coming in. "It's a pretty powerful story of conviction and also the bias that is still very prevalent in certain places in this country," Burnett gravely stated. "Bias ... in certain places."
At the top of the seven o'clock hour, Burnett ran a David Mattingly story about Grace Community United Church of Christ in St. Paul, Minnesota. The real story happened seven years earlier. The pastor of the African-American church, way back then, supported gay marriage at the 2005 national meeting of the United Church of Christ over the desires of his congregation. Most of the congregation left his church. The week of June 5, 2012, would be perhaps, in David Mattingly's words, "the last service before the church closes its doors for good. What I saw was a far cry from the days when the seats were full."
It is not that Erin Burnett and David Mattingly's report clearly made the pastor who defied his congregation the hero and his congregants who demanded faithful adherence to their scripture the bigots. The media does this all the time. In a nation whose voters routinely tells pollsters they support gay marriage while routinely voting against gay marriage, most of the media is very much in favor of gay marriage. Stories about Christian pastors seem to focus on the bigoted and hateful few contrasted with a few open minded, tolerant Christians whose churches are dwindling as they embrace alternative lifestyles.
But we are a nation where a majority of states, through democratic processes, prohibit gay marriage. And the story was cast not as a preacher disobeying his congregation and dealing with the consequences, but as "bias ... in certain places" causing a church to close down. The presupposition of the story was against the congregation, not against the pastor who directly disobeyed the wishes of his congregation. [emphasis added]