Tanto Sean Hannity, presentador del canal de noticias Fox, como Jorge Ramos, de Univision, se equivocaron al hablar del voto latino al sugerir que si no fuera por el tema de inmigración, los hispanos votarían a favor de candidatos conservadores. Sin embargo, además del tema migratorio, los votantes latinos priorizan una variedad de temas en cuales tienden a apoyar reformas más progresivas de lo que Ramos y Hannity sugirieron.
En la edición del 15 de abril de su programa de Fox, Hannity falsamente declaró que los hispanos "generalmente" son "conservadores en temas sociales" y sugirió que la única razón que los Latinos no votarían por los candidatos hispanos del partido republicano como Ted Cruz y Marco Rubio era por sus políticas anti-inmigración. Ramos estuvo de acuerdo, y agregó que la razón por la que los hispanos tienden a apoyar a los Demócratas era enteramente el tema migratorio:
(Traducido de Hannity:)
RAMOS: Los Republicanos, creo, han desperdiciado una oportunidad enorme, porque en lo que se trata de valores, están cerca de la comunidad hispana, pero los latinos honestamente no ven más allá de la inmigración.
Ramos continuó para sobre-simplificar de manera incorrecta a los constituyentes latinos pintando el tema migratorio como un "prerrequisito" para apoyar a un candidato, lo que en su opinión le daría a Jeb Bush -- que ha apoyado un camino hacia la ciudadanía -- una ventaja con los latinos en la elección del 2016.
Washington Examiner columnist Paul Bedard told former Hewlett-Packard CEO and possible Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina that he "never met a presidential candidate with pink nail polish on" during a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
In response, Fiorina told Bedard, "There's always a first."
In an April 16 column about the event, Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart, who was also in attendance, noted that Bedard's comment "set off murmurs of sexism on my side of the table." Capehart followed up by interviewing Fiorina about the exchange, and reportedly asked how she would deal with "situations where people focus as much on her appearance as on her policies." Fiorina told him, "I've been dealing with it all my life."
Media Matters has repeatedly documented sexist media attacks on female politicians, ranging from Bill O'Reilly arguing in 2014 "there's got to be some downside to having a woman president" toNewsweek's demeaning coverage of former Governor Sarah Palin following the 2008 presidential campaign.
Less than one week into Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and it's a blurry image from a fast-food restaurant security video that's emerged as the defining media image. After "news" broke that Clinton, en route to Iowa to meet with voters, stopped in at an Ohio Chipotle for lunch and that the order was captured on film, the press corps basically went bonkers, treating it like a Tupac sighting and going all-in with fevered reporting.
The New York Times first got hold of the security cam video and reported that Clinton's order "included a Blackberry Izze drink, a soda and a chicken salad, and was filled just after 1 p.m." (1:20 p.m., to be exact, according to the New York Daily News.) Who carried the tray after payment? Clinton herself, the Times explained to readers.
Stories like the original Times report are not entirely out of the ordinary for campaign coverage. But the way the rest of the press went completely overboard in its wake suggests we could be in for a long and painful 19 months before the 2016 election.
More tick-tock details followed. "The newly-minted presidential candidate ordered a chicken bowl with guacamole, a chicken salad and fruit juice," according to ABC News, which interviewed the restaurant's manager. (The guacamole and fruit juice information was considered a mini-scoop; Business Insider noted guacamole "costs extra.")
For days, Clinton's Chipotle stop served as a treasure trove of information: Who made Clinton's burrito bowl? Politico sent a reporter to Maumee and determined, "The 25-year-old who cooked the chicken that went into the burrito bowl Hillary Clinton ordered at the Chipotle here on Monday makes $8.20 an hour and splits rent with two roommates." And assistant general manager Jef Chiet got Clinton her drink, Politico confirmed, "first a blackberry Izze, which she decided she didn't want after she read the ingredients, so he replaced it with an iced tea."
But campaign sleuths weren't finished. Bloomberg confirmed that, "The change from the meal totaled less than a dollar, but it was pocketed rather than deposited in the tip jar as many customers at the restaurant do."
Could any political analysis be gleaned from the mundane lunchtime stop? Of course:
"Hillary Clinton Goes Unnoticed at Chipotle In Botched Retail Politicking Bid" (Washington Times)
"Clinton Bypassed Centrist Taco Bell for Liberal Favorite Chipotle" (Wall Street Journal)
"What Hillary Clinton's Chipotle Stop Says About Her Campaign" (Christian Science Monitor)
Is it possible that maybe she was just hungry?
The Chipotle nonsense reached such heights (or depths), that even starstruck E! called out the political press for its ridiculous overreaction to the story, and the fact that "ChipotleGate 2015" triggered "all sorts of in-depth analysis, from what her choice in burrito bowl means for America, to whether her decision to don sunglasses means she's unfit to be president."
During her first week on the campaign trail, Clinton has avoided any defining, self-inflicted gaffes. The same cannot be said of the press.
News organizations have gone on a "staffing binge" in preparation for the 2016 campaign, according to the Washington Post. That means political units have to produce content, no matter how trivial and innocuous. The machine must be fed (clicks must be harvested). And right now, that machine is spitting out some dreadful, breathless, and gossipy campaign dispatches that are divorced from anything remotely connected to a public discourse.
Just think about the Chipotle story. Was Clinton in hiding at the time? Had she dared the press to find her out? Was there any reason to think her highway pit stop for food was newsworthy? No, no and no. Maybe -maybe -- if it were the final weeks of an historically close White House campaign, that kind of myopic attention paid to a lunch order would be warranted. But 70-plus weeks before voters go to the polls? It's unfathomable.
Chipotle Week was so bad it produced a sense of dismay among some media observers and practitioners, as expressed on Twitter.
Daily Beast executive editor Noah Shachtman:
Hillary's campaign is only three days old and it has already been the subject of some of the worst political "journalism" of all time.-- Noah Shachtman (@NoahShachtman) April 15, 2015
New York Times writer Nate Cohn:
A lot of the analysis of the nascent Clinton campaign is unusually vacuous--and that says something-- Nate Cohn (@Nate_Cohn) April 15, 2015
New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen:
Detecting a sense of dread coming over watchers of campaign coverage after the first few weeks... Plotting how to write criticism into that.-- Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu) April 15, 2015
The irony was that while the campaign press freaked out over the trivia surrounding Clinton's lunch order, some pundits were simultaneously castigating the candidate for not rolling out a sweeping campaign agenda.
Politico assigned no fewer than eight reporters for an article about how, just 72 hours into her likely 18-month campaign, Clinton "has been slow" to articulate detailed positions on issues such as fast-track trade agreements and the need for reform at the National Security Agency.
The team at NBC's First Read agreed: "That lack of a message was on display at her Iowa event yesterday." Well, actually that wasn't true. NBC conceded that Clinton had already detailed four fights she wants to wage: "1) building an economy for tomorrow, 2) strengthening families and communities, 3) fixing America's political system by getting rid of "unaccountable" money, and 4) protecting the country."
Additionally, NBC reported Clinton had struck a "populist tone" and condemned income equality in America. But NBC didn't think any of that counted as much of a "message" from Clinton because she was just saying "what you hear from 90% of Democratic candidates running for downballot office."
Clinton didn't say anything entertaining and newsy! "She didn't say anything unique, which was always going to be the shortcoming of a rollout emphasizing theater over substance/message," according to NBC.
And there's the media's inadvertent punch line: It's Clinton who's guilty of emphasizing "theater over substance."
The staff at the Maumee, Ohio, Chipotle might disagree.
Fox News' Special Report helped GOP presidential hopeful Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) reframe the reproductive choice debate by misleadingly hyping a poll that found that a majority of Americans support a legal ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. But abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy are extremely rare and studies show a majority of Americans continue to support access to abortions in cases of rape, incest, and various other health care reasons.
According to Politico, on April 8, Sen. Paul "refused to tell The Associated Press whether he would support exceptions for abortions in instances of rape or incest or if the birth of a child would risk the mother's life." Later that day, Paul told journalists in New Hampshire, "Why don't we ask the DNC" whether it is "OK to kill a 7-pound baby in the uterus."
Paul's comment was lauded by right-wing media, and on the April 16 edition of Fox News' Special Report host Bret Baier and correspondent Shannon Bream claimed his statement put Democrats on the "defensive" over "views on abortion most Americans find extreme." During the segment, Bream highlighted a Quinnipiac poll showing "a majority of Americans support legislation that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks into a pregnancy," to paint Democrats as extreme. Later in the show, panelists A.B. Stoddard, Charles Krauthammer, and Steve Hayes applauded Paul for "flipping the script" and exposing Democrats' "extremism" on reproductive choice. Hayes called him "absolutely brilliant" saying he "reframed the issue entirely," and Charles Krauthammer praised Paul's move saying banning abortion is "the right thing to do, and it's a winning issue."
Fox's praise for Paul's misleading characterization of the reproductive choice debate is unsurprising given the network's history of helping the GOP rebrand itself - as Bloomberg Politics' David Weigel pointed out, Paul's attempt to flip the script was "exactly what the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List PAC ha[s] been advising Republicans to do since 2012."
Both Fox's Sean Hannity and Univision host Jorge Ramos misrepresented the Latino vote by suggesting that if it weren't for the issue of immigration, Hispanics would favor conservative candidates. But not only do Latino voters prioritize multiple issues in addition to immigration, on those issues they are far more likely to support progressive reforms than Ramos and Hannity suggested.
On the April 15 edition of his Fox show, Hannity misleadingly claimed that Hispanics "generally speaking" were "conservative on social issues," and suggested that the sole reason Latinos might not vote for Hispanic GOP presidential candidates such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio was their anti-immigration stances. Ramos agreed, and claimed that the reason Hispanics tend to vote for Democrats was entirely due to immigration:
RAMOS: Republicans, I think, they've missed a huge opportunity, because when it comes to values, they're close to the Hispanic community, but Latinos honestly can't see beyond immigration.
Ramos went on to inaccurately oversimplify the Latino constituency by painting immigration as their "prerequisite" to supporting a candidate, which in his opinion would give Jeb Bush -- who has supported a pathway to citizenship --an edge with Latinos in the 2016 election.
Media outlets trumpeted likely Republican presidential candidate Gov. Chris Christie as striving to be "authentic and brave" for proposing harmful cuts to Social Security benefits that would include raising the retirement age.
Speaking in New Hampshire on April 14, the New Jersey governor laid out a series of proposed broad changes to Social Security benefits, including means tests for seniors making $80,000 a year in non-Social Security income and a phase-out of all payments for those making above $200,000. Christie also proposed raising the retirement age at which seniors can receive benefits to 69 and the early retirement age to 64.
Many media outlets characterized Christie as a straight-shooter for his proposal, describing him as attempting to paint himself as a teller of hard truths.
The Wall Street Journal, for example, wrote that Christie had "moved to depict himself as the fiscal truth-teller of the Republican presidential field" with his proposal, calling it "provocative, and risky." A Washington Post opinion piece said Christie was "positioning himself, like other would-be presidents of the past, as the one guy willing to talk straight about the government's unsustainable finances." An NBC News article on the proposal was titled "Chris Christie Sells 'Hard Truths' on Social Security Reform," while a Business Insider headline declared, "Chris Christie's plan to win the White House is to tell people what they don't want to hear." Fortune's Nina Easton claimed on Fox News' Happening Now that Christie's proposal "plays into the narrative that he's authentic and brave and tells it like it is."
Painting Christie as seeking to be seen as a "brave" and "authentic" truth-teller in coverage of his proposed Social Security cuts not only helps the likely GOP candidate spread his desired narrative, but it masks the harmful impact such cuts would have on the poor and middle class.
"Raising the retirement age is terrible for the poor," Vox explained, despite Christie's contention that his plan would only affect the rich. Raising the retirement and early retirement age would effectively constitute "an across-the-board benefit cut of almost 10 percent in Americans' lifetime Social Security benefits." As economist Teresa Ghilarducci told PBS Newshour, "Evidence shows that many older workers are simply not able to work past traditional retirement age without substantial suffering. Reducing their retirement income and throwing them off medical insurance will create a new cohort of impoverished elderly, reversing the tangible gains in reducing old age poverty made since the Great Depression."
What's more, Mother Jones' Kevin Drum noted, cutting benefits for those making over $200,000 is unlikely to save the program much money, given how few recipients earn that much. His estimations are backed up by a 2011 Center for Economic and Policy Research study, which found that 90 percent of Social Security recipients earn less than $50,000 in non-social security income.
Fox News' Brian Kilmeade defended Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton after his Fox & Friends colleagues scandalized a Buzzfeed report about comments she made about her grandparents.
During a campaign stop in Iowa, Clinton described how her grandparents immigrated to the United States, and how her grandfather found a steady factory job in Scranton, Pennsylvania. "All my grandparents, you know, came over here," she said according to Buzzfeed, "And you know my grandfather went to work in lace mill in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and worked there until he retired at 65. He started there when he was a teenager and just kept going."
Buzzfeed subsequently reported that only one of Clinton's parents was born abroad -- Hugh Rodham Sr., who emigrated from the United Kingdom as a child. Buzzfeed noted that a Clinton spokesperson clarified her remarks:
"Her grandparents always spoke about the immigrant experience and, as a result she has always thought of them as immigrants," a Clinton spokesman told BuzzFeed News." As has been correctly pointed out, while her grandfather was an immigrant, it appears that Hillary's grandmother was born shortly after her parents and siblings arrived in the U.S. in the early 1880s.
But Fox News seized on the comments to attack Clinton as deliberately lying, with Fox & Friends co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck saying, "Again we see someone misspeaking, misleading." Co-host Steve Doocy interjected, "She's trying to make a better story, but it's not true." Doocy went on to state that "the Clintons have had a problem with the truth in the past."
But Brian Kilmeade called out his colleagues for manufacturing outrage over such innocuous remarks, asking, "Is it that big a deal?" He defended Clinton's recollection of her family's immigrant heritage despite protests from the other hosts:
KILMEADE: I will defend her on this. I mean, the other day, when Heritage.com came in here, I did not know if my grandmother and grandfather were born here or not, because they came over on the boat....But they did have the immigrant experience.... If you've just come over as opposed to, you weren't over yet, is it that big a deal?
Clinton's retelling of her family's immigrant experience came during remarks she made about the current state of immigration in the United States, and how current policies turn away "people who really want to work" and who are "doing the best they can to try to make a good life for themselves and their families."
Newly elected National Rifle Association president Allan D. Cors riffed on the NRA's "Stand and Fight" slogan by appending the words "or die" to the end and offered blatant falsehoods about a new background check law in an interview promoted on NRA News.
Cors was elected to a two year term as president of the NRA during the April 10 - 12 NRA annual meetings in Nashville, Tennessee, and replaces Jim Porter, who began his term in 2013. Before becoming president, Cors was the NRA's first vice president. Pete Brownell, who owns a company that manufactures gun parts and ammunition, was elected as the new first vice president at the meeting, meaning that he will likely become NRA president in 2017.
Cors has served on the NRA's board of directors since 1972 and is a past president of the NRA Foundation. According to an NRA profile, Cors, who has a background in governmental affairs, "enjoys his work on Capitol Hill, advocating for or against legislation."
Under the NRA's organizational structure, the direction of the gun group will still be led by executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre, who was also reelected to his position at the meeting but made headlines for complaining about the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency by saying, "eight years of one demographically symbolic president is enough."
The NRA is now introducing Cors to its supporters with an interview that aired on the April 14 edition of NRA News show Cam & Company.
During the interview, Cors described the NRA as "stronger than ever" by comparing the modern day NRA to the NRA of the 1960s that he said did not do enough to oppose the passage of the Gun Control Act of 1968. That legislation, enacted in the wake of the gun assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bobby Kennedy, created the federal framework for the regulation of firearms.
The main provisions of the Gun Control Act prohibit the sale of guns to felons and other dangerous people, require individuals "engaged in the business" of selling guns to obtain a Federal Firearms License, give authority to the federal government to prohibit the importation of firearms that lack "sporting purposes," and require manufacturers to affix serial numbers to guns.
Speaking of his efforts during the legislation's consideration, Cors said, "we did as much as we could to hold back some of the really bad things, but we did get rolled finally when Martin Luther King was -- when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated."
After The New York Times' Michael Schmidt scandalized the State Department's response to a congressional inquiry into personal email use by government employees, Schmidt admitted to Fox News that he was unaware whether other agencies had offered similar responses to those questions. In fact, documents obtained by Media Matters show that two other agencies responded in similar ways, undermining the Times' report suggesting wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton.
Schmidt reported in an April 14 Times article on the State Department's March 2013 response to a 2012 letter from House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa asking whether Hillary Clinton "used a private email account while serving as secretary of state." The article stated that "Mrs. Clinton did not reply" during her tenure and that State's response "ignored the question" by only providing general background on State policy, suggesting malfeasance by Hillary Clinton and her former department. The Issa letter had been sent to 18 department heads as part of a broad inquiry.
On the April 15 edition of Fox News' On The Record, host Greta Van Susteren asked Schmidt whether he was aware of how other government agencies responded to the inquiry, noting that she was trying to figure out "whether or not it was just the State Department that was sort of dodging that question" or "if this was sort of the standard protocol." In reply, Schmidt acknowledged he didn't know how other agencies responded, stating, "we just know that they responded":
VAN SUSTEREN: Did any of the other agencies specifically answer that question, if you know, I'm trying to figure out, you know, whether or not it was just the State Department that was sort of dodging that question, whether other agencies, if this was sort of the standard protocol.
SCHMIDT: We just know that they responded. And when we went back to the State Department yesterday, to say why didn't you answer the question, they didn't answer our question.
In fact, according to documents obtained by Media Matters, two other agencies responded in a manner similar to the State Department.
2013 responses from both the Labor Department (DOL) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), provided descriptions of department policies rather than directly address Issa's inquiry about whether officials had used personal email accounts. And the Labor Department response came in April 2013, after then-Secretary Hilda Solis stepped down, just as Clinton had stepped down as secretary of state between State's receipt of and response to Issa's letter.
The current push for expanded state "religious freedom" laws is thanks in large part to the work of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an extreme right-wing legal group that's worked to criminalize gay sex across the globe.
A $39 million non-profit Christian legal group, ADF bills itself as an organization that works for the "right of people to freely live out their faith." The group has laid the groundwork for "religious freedom" laws across the country, using their legal work to peddle the myth that Christians are under attack by the "homosexual agenda." But behind this religious freedom rhetoric, the group promotes an extreme anti-LGBT agenda, namely working internationally to criminalize gay sex.
Alliance Defending Freedom is a legal organization that works with 2,400 allied attorneys nationally on a $39 million (as of 2013) annual budget. ADF was founded in 1994 by several of the country's largest national evangelical Christian ministries to "press the case for religious liberty issues in the nation's courts" and "fend-off growing efforts by groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which seek to immobilize Christians." Today, it has become the country's best-funded and most powerful right-wing Christian group working against what the organization calls the "myth of the so-called 'separation of church and state.'"
As the "800-pound gorilla of the Christian right," the group has become a fixture on Fox News in stories about "Christian persecution," where the group is perhaps best known for defending anti-gay business owners who refuse to serve gay customers. But ADF's agenda is far more extreme than defending discriminatory florists and bakers in court.
While the group prefers to talk about its "religious liberty" work when in the media spotlight, ADF also actively works internationally to promote and defend laws that criminalize gay sex. ADF's formal support for anti-sodomy legislation dates to at least 2003, before the Supreme Court made its landmark decision in Lawrence v. Texas. ADF, which was at the time still known as the Alliance Defense Fund, filed an amicus brief in the case, defending state laws criminalizing gay sex. In its brief, ADF spent nearly 30 pages arguing that gay sex is unhealthy, harmful, and a public health risk.
Since the Lawrence decision declared anti-sodomy laws unconstitutional, ADF has taken its extremist agenda abroad, working in Jamaica, Belize, and India to support laws that imprison gay people for having sex. The organization annually expands its network of international (and domestic) lawyers at its Legal Academy, a week-long lawyer training event that, among other things, teaches attendees how to "battle the radical homosexual legal agenda." In exchange, the trainees are obligated to provide 450 hours of free legal services over a three-year period to ADF or other organizations "that forward the mission of the alliance." According to ADF, nearly 1,800 lawyers have participated in its training program.
The group also has rich history of extremist ant-LGBT positions, including opposing anti-bullying efforts in public schools and labeling the hate crime that led to the murder of Matthew Shepard -- a gay University of Wyoming student who was beaten and tortured to death -- a hoax to advance the "homosexual agenda." The organization's media kit explicitly supports this radical position, and instructs media to call violent attacks against LGBT people "so-called 'hate' crimes," to refer to the LGBT rights movement as the "homosexual agenda," and to call trans people "cross-dressing" and "sexually confused."
ADF partners with more than 300 like-minded institutions, including the rabidly anti-LGBT Pacific Justice Institute, the Thomas More Law Center, the Family Research Council (a hate group), the Heritage Foundation, and the now-defunct "ex-gay" organization Exodus International. ADF's relentless legal campaign against LGBT equality led the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to describe the organization as "virulently anti-gay." Unsurprisingly, the group has been at the forefront of the fight against same-sex marriage -- ADF attorneys represented the defendants in the Proposition 8 case before the Supreme Court in 2013, and have defended same-sex marriage bans in over 25 states.
ADF President, CEO, and General Counsel Alan Sears has his own personal history of extreme homophobia. In 2003, Sears co-authored the book The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today, which compares the gay "propaganda" movement to what "Hitler did so masterfully in Nazi Germany, to get the American public on their side." In another chapter, Sears claims that homosexuality and pedophilia are "intrinsically linked."
Sears' book echoes ADF's larger strategy of painting Christians as victims in a supposed war against Christianity, a position which depicts LGBT rights and religious freedom as mutually exclusive, writing:
The efforts of homosexual activists to convince Americans to tolerate homosexual behavior tramples religious freedom and leaves a trail of broken bodies in the dust.
His radical anti-LGBT conspiracy theories haven't stopped Sears from enjoying an influential career -- by his own count, Sears has persuaded legislators in 20 states to adopt his legislative recommendations. He's also "helped fashion the language for numerous state and federal laws and has testified before committees of the U.S. House and Senate, state legislatures, and many local governments, and commissions."
ADF has been peddling the myth of "Christian persecution" since its inception in 1994, when the newly formed "Alliance Defense Fund" solicited donations on Christian radio by claiming:
Pro-life demonstrations may soon be illegal. ... Religious broadcasting may soon be censored. Hiring homosexuals in Christian schools, churches, and even as Sunday School teachers may soon become the law of the land. ... Don't let Christianity become a crime.
Today, ADF lists "religious liberty" as one of the organization's "key issues." According to ADF's website, "religious liberty [is] under attack in America" and "those who believe in God are increasingly threatened, punished, and silenced."
This narrative is part of the broader misinformation campaign orchestrated by a network of conservative evangelical and Roman Catholic organizations to frame Christians as "victims" of discrimination. As Dr. Jay Michaelson, a religious liberty fellow at Political Research Associates, noted in a recent report, these organizations are (emphasis added):
Waging a vigorous challenge to LGBTQ and reproductive rights by charging that both threaten their right-wing definition of "religious liberty."
Religious conservatives have succeeded in reframing the debate, inverting the victim-oppressor dynamic, and broadening support for their agenda.
In an interview with ThinkProgress, Rob Boston, director of communications at Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said of ADF's religious persecution rhetoric, "if you read their emails, their magazines, go to events, you hear a constant message of 'we're under attack, under siege, being persecuted. It works, motivates people to give, makes them afraid, causes them to reach for checkbooks or credit card."
To further their myth of Christian persecution, ADF frequently provides legal representation to Christian business owners who refuse to serve LGBT customers and are then sued for violating local non-discrimination ordinances. ADF frequently seizes these cases -- which it almost always loses -- to rally conservatives around these highly publicized examples of "persecuted" Christians.
This past fall, ADF attorney's filed a lawsuit against the city of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, on behalf of a chapel owned by a Christian couple, both ordained ministers, who ADF alleged were being forced to perform same-sex marriages after the city passed an LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance. This turned out to be a patently false tale and baseless lawsuit -- the "chapel" owned by the couple was a for-profit business, and the city had not taken any legal action against the business, which, if it were registered as a religious nonprofit, would be exempt from the non-discrimination ordinance.
But that didn't matter to ADF. The goal in taking up these types of cases is to create publicity for their cause. And ADF succeeded -- right-wing media seized on the story of the chapel, which quickly spread across Fox and other conservative outlets.
In similar cases, ADF has represented a florist who refused to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding, two sets of couples who refused to host same-sex marriages at their for-profit, secular venues, and a New Mexico photographer who refused to work a same-sex wedding.
ADF's clients, who are allegedly "discriminated" against because of their religious beliefs, act as the horror stories that have become the primary argument behind the national push for expanded "religious freedom" laws, also known as Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRA). As the Indianapolis Star pointed out in the controversy surrounding Indiana's recently passed RFRA, there is a "pervasive perception that many argue is not a misconception: that Indiana's RFRA is -- and always has been -- a way to allow those who oppose same-sex marriage to deny providing wedding-related services on religious grounds."
The Center for Arizona Policy, which co-wrote Arizona's failed RFRA, crystallized the link between religious freedom laws and "protecting" wedding businesses, writing that "the critical need for [SB 1062] came to light" after the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled against the photographer, represented by ADF, who declined to provide services to a same-sex wedding.
In a recent blog defending Jack Phillips, a Colorado baker who refused to make a cake for a gay couple, ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco seized the case as an opportunity to encourage states to adopt their own RFRAs:
States should adopt religious freedom laws that protect their citizens' fundamental right to religious liberty so the government has to prove a compelling reason before it can force someone like Jack to violate his faith.
On their page dedicated to RFRA, ADF cites their own client, Barronelle Stutzman, a Washington state florist who violated the state's non-discrimination law by refusing to serve a same-sex couple, as an example of "what can happen when religious freedom is not protected."
ADF doesn't rely solely on their own mailing list and social media to spread the Christian discrimination narrative -- Fox News frequently provides ADF a national platform to bring these cases to national attention and simultaneously defend RFRA legislation. Recently, Fox hosted an ADF attorney to rally viewers behind Stutzman, depicting her as a victim who risked losing her home and livelihood because of the state's non-discrimination law. ADF's cozy relationship with Fox is mutually beneficial: ADF relies on Fox for publicity, and Fox relies on ADF for a steady stream of stories riling up its audience about Christians being under attack, allowing the network to campaign for anti-LGBT RFRAs under the guise of protecting religious liberty.
While ADF has worked publicly to make the national case for expanded RFRAs, the group is quieter about their coordinated legal and lobbying efforts to pass "religious freedom" laws. ADF first emerged as the driving force behind RFRAs in 2014, when the organization helped write Arizona's SB 1062. The bill, which sparked national controversy and was ultimately vetoed, would have expanded legal protections for businesses refusing service to gay customers. At the time, CNN's Anderson Cooper noted that ADF was behind the "genetic code" of SB 1062 and similar religious freedom laws across the country. MSNBC's Chris Hayes similarly documented ADF's involvement in writing the law, while also noting the group's support for criminalizing gay sex abroad.
ADF has had a hand in helping craft a number of similar RFRAs across the country. Gregg Scott, vice president for ADF, has characterized enacting RFRAs as "a legislator's most important duty." Last year, ADF senior counsel Joel Oster testified in favor of Kansas's RFRA, which was signed into law in April 2013. ADF recently pushed for a RFRA in Colorado, where on March 9 ADF senior counsel Michael J. Norton testified in defense of a "State Freedom of Conscience Protection Act," another license to discriminate "religious freedom" bill that was killed in the Colorado House. ADF also had a hand in writing Georgia's recently tabled RFRA.
Most recently, ADF helped "advise" Indiana lawmakers during the debate over the state's controversial RFRA. ADF's litigation counsel, Kellie Fiedorek, even stood behind Indiana Gov. Mike Pence during the private ceremony signing the bill into law:
ADF's reach extends all the way to state legislators where ADF alums and even currently allied attorneys introduce and sponsor "religious freedom" legislation. One of the sponsors of a recently introduced RFRA in North Carolina is House Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer (R), who proudly boasts her "continu[ed] involvement in promoting religious freedom" as "an Allied Attorney" with ADF. Similarly, in Louisiana, House Rep. Mike Johnson (R) has introduced the "Marriage and Conscience Act," a virulently anti-LGBT bill that explicitly allows discrimination against same-sex couples. Johnson previously served as a senior attorney and media spokesman for ADF.
Working under the guise of a "religious freedom" organization, ADF's efforts to curtail LGBT rights have been largely successful. Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, said in an interview with The Daily Beast:
In the last two years, there have been 35 bills introduced around the country to establish or expand a RFRA. And there have been over 80 bills filed that specifically allow for discrimination against gay and trans communities.
These RFRAs are more than just a legal shield for anti-gay business owners -- they're a product of ADF's mission to eliminate legal protections for gays and lesbians. Their intent is to make it easier to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. When Indiana considered adding an LGBT non-discrimination amendment to its RFRA, ADF senior counsel Kristen Waggoner told media outlets:
The new proposal unjustly deprives citizens their day in court, denies freedom a fair hearing, and rigs the system in advance. It gives the government a new weapon against individual citizens who are merely exercising freedoms that Americans were guaranteed from the founding of this country.
As constitutional law scholar Marci Hamilton explained in her book God vs. the Gavel: The Perils of Extreme Religious Liberty, the anti-gay groups behind state RFRAs reveal the laws' "true colors." Media stories about RFRA are not complete until they acknowledge the extreme anti-LGBT group that has worked to lay the groundwork, both legally and in the media, for expanded "religious freedom" legislation.