Janet Mefferd has become one of talk radio's most relentless purveyors of homophobia, using her eponymous program to provide a platform to fringe anti-LGBT activists and to spout her own bigoted, occasionally conspiracy-minded views.
WHO IS JANET MEFFERD?
Billed as a "distinctively Christ-centered" host, Mefferd came to talk radio after a career in print journalism, during which she wrote for newspapers including Chicago's Southtown Economist and The Dallas Morning News.
After Mefferd had worked in Christian radio for two decades, Salem Radio Network syndicated The Janet Mefferd Show in 2010. Her show - touted by Salem as "mainstream, faith-based Christian radio"- is heard on more than 100 stations nationwide. Mefferd has scored such prominent conservative guests as businessman Herman Cain, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Attorney General John Ashcroft, National Organization for Marriage (NOM) President Brian Brown, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN).
A PLATFORM FOR ANTI-LGBT SMEAR ARTISTS
Despite Salem's avowals about Mefferd's "mainstream" credentials, her show routinely serves as a welcoming forum for the nation's most extreme anti-LGBT activists and hate group leaders to spew venom and misinformation.
Pastor Scott Lively, head of the anti-gay hate group Abiding Truth Ministries, can always count on a warm reception when he's a guest on Mefferd's show. Lively is a self-styled international crusader against homosexuality, meeting regularly with activists and lawmakers around the world to push for anti-LGBT legislation. When Russia enacted horrific laws banning the dissemination of so-called gay propaganda this summer, Lively expressed satisfaction that Russian lawmakers had followed the advice he offered during an extensive visit to the country in 2006 and 2007. Meanwhile, Lively faces a human rights lawsuit over his alleged complicity in the crafting of Ugandan legislation imposing the death penalty on gays.
Mefferd - who insinuated in August that a Satanic plot may be behind the lawsuit against Lively - invited him on her show in September to discuss his legal woes. In his interview, Lively called homosexuality "the moral issue of the End Times." For good measure, he also smeared the gay Ugandans whose livelihoods are jeopardized by the kind of legislation Lively champions. They're "really just dupes," Lively charged, of "the hard-left, Marxist ideologues" waging war against conservative Christians like Lively himself. Mefferd agreed, calling the lawsuit a "Soros-funded" effort.
Peter LaBarbera, president of the anti-gay hate group Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, has a penchant for making apocalyptic anti-gay statements, drawing criticism from LGBT activists and moderate-toned conservatives alike. But he appears to be a Mefferd favorite, appearing regularly on her program to denounce LGBT people as pedophiles and Satanists.
In fact, if you're familiar with any of LaBarbera's outrageous remarks, there's a good chance he made them on The Janet Mefferd Show. In a November 2012 interview on the show, he cited the election of openly gay Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and the popularity of the television program Glee as evidence that the U.S. is "falling apart." LaBarbera stoked fears about an all-powerful "gay mafia" in a September 2011 appearance on Mefferd's show. In the same interview, he declared that "homo-fascism" is a real and growing threat, driven by "raw bigotry and hatred."
Such comments have earned LaBarbera a reputation as one of the most outlandish anti-LGBT activists in the country, and Mefferd has helped spur them on. When LaBarbera appeared on her show in July 2011, Mefferd listed examples of where "the invasion of the gay agenda" has occurred, including "family, military, schools, leisure and entertainment," as well as "the medical field, our tax money, and most stunning, the church."
LaBarbera replied, "Well, first of all, sounds like you're doing my job better than I am, congratulations!" He continued to say that these examples indicate "Satan's point of attack on the United States of America."
Brian Camenker, president of the anti-LGBT group MassResistance has equated gay people with Nazis, compared pro-LGBT policies to Jim Crow laws, and asserted that LGBT activists prey on vulnerable children. In other words, he's an ideal Mefferd guest.
In an October 14 appearance on her show, Camenker told Mefferd that there's an epidemic of gay couples entering businesses and "fondling each other" to test owners' tolerance levels and possibly file anti-discrimination lawsuits. This kind of baseless allegation prompts quizzical head-scratching among those outside the right-wing media bubble, but generates howls of outrage from Mefferd and Co.
As the debate over California's Proposition 8 intensified, Randy Thomasson, president of the anti-gay hate group Save California, wanted to play a prominent role in the campaign against marriage equality. That he sought such a role was hardly surprising. His history of anti-LGBT commentary is extensive; Thomasson has compared LGBT educators to Adolf Hitler, called LGBT people "less than animal," referred to a fellow guest - a transgender man - as a lady during a CNN appearance, and asserted that homosexuality is inherently "unhealthy" and perverse. Not wanting to be associated with such a bombastic figure, Andy Pugno of the anti-equality Protect Marriage coalition refused to work with Thomasson, saying that he "represents the extreme fringe."
Thomasson's rhetoric might be too extreme for even professional equality opponents, but Mefferd has no such qualms. He has appeared on her show to condemn California's ban on discredited ex-gay therapy programs as the "devil's work" and a ploy to promote "the homosexual lifestyle."
Pacific Justice Institute
Most recently seen making up a story about a transgender teen harassing fellow students in the restroom, the right-wing Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) is not discredited in Mefferd's eyes. The group's leadership, after all, reliably delivers the anti-LGBT talking points listeners have come to expect from Mefferd's guests.
On October 10, PJI President Brad Dacus appeared on Mefferd's show to assail LGBT History Month as an effort to make children and the larger society "numb" to gay behavior.
The Family Research Council
The Family Research Council (FRC), a virulently anti-LGBT hate group, has earned that dubious distinction largely thanks to the remarks its leaders make on Mefferd's show. FRC President Tony Perkins told Mefferd in August 2011 that homosexuality "is essentially man shaking his fist in the face of God."
In one especially misinformation-laden appearance in July, FRC senior fellow Peter Sprigg falsely claimed that sexual orientation and gender identity are conscious choices, that it's "unclear" whether the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) applies to religious institutions, and that there's no "particular evidence" that LGBT people experience employment discrimination.
Liberty Counsel, a right-wing legal organization, employs some of the most vicious anti-LGBT minds in the business, including President Mat Staver and Vice President Matt Barber. Barber has told Mefferd that LGBT activists want to "criminalize Christianity," that he will "go to jail" instead of recognizing "counterfeit same-sex marriage," that statistics on anti-LGBT violence are all "nonsense," and that reports of "ex-gay" therapy causing depression and suicide are "politically motivated." And because no anti-LGBT case is complete without a slippery slope argument, Barber has taken to Mefferd's show to predict the acceptance of pedophilia and bestiality thanks to LGBT equality.
Staver, meanwhile, has appeared on Mefferd's show to call Scott Lively a "peaceful" man, despite the human rights lawsuit brought against him, and to engage in ignorant transphobic rants that would be laughable if real individuals weren't the target of his hateful rhetoric.
MEFFERD'S ANTI-LGBT BIAS
There's a reason Mefferd seeks to legitimate the views of hard-core anti-LGBT activists. Her own statements reveal she's convinced that the LGBT equality movement seeks to destroy the pillars of the country - faith, freedom, and family.
Not surprisingly for a woman who sees President Barack Obama as a latter-day Stalin, Mefferd espouses a set of decidedly conspiracy-oriented political views. According to her, the LGBT movement isn't simply pushing for equality; it's part of a concerted pagan bid to "wipe out Christianity." Anti-discrimination policies move us ever closer to becoming a "tyrannical culture." Mefferd wonders whether there will come a "day when every Christian who supports real marriage might be made to wear a yellow patch on the sleeve, a 'badge of shame' to identify us as 'anti-gay haters.' Kind of like the Jews in Nazi Germany."
Mefferd claims she's giving viewers a "Christ-centered" look at issues like homosexuality, but her own words belie such assertions, revealing a woman whose distaste for LGBT people is rooted in unfamiliarity and feelings of disgust. When a group of Indiana high school students sought to organize a second prom where gay and lesbian couples wouldn't be permitted, Mefferd took up the students' cause. Gay rights, Mefferd said, should not "trump the rights of Christians" who do not wish to see gays. "I know this isn't politically correct," Mefferd said, "but not everybody wants to see that."
After CNN host Anderson Cooper came out in 2012, Mefferd warned viewers that they might vomit listening to the story. God may have given Cooper "an ability to love," Mefferd went on, "but not that kind of love." "[T]hat kind of love," she declared, is "a lie from the pit" of hell. It follows, Mefferd believes, that if the Supreme Court ever finds a constitutional right to marriage for same-sex couples, the country can expect divine wrath.
Salem's syndication of Mefferd's show has given her and her anti-LGBT guests a soapbox from which to engage in malicious attacks on LGBT people and the movement for equality. The Janet Mefferd Show offers professional bigots and hate group figures the opportunity to air their narrow-minded views without the discomfort of pushback, no matter how fact-deprived their claims are. Call it what you will, but "mainstream" is the last word to describe Mefferd's daily offering of bitter animus.