UPDATE: Banfield clarified her remarks on Friday's edition of CNN's Early Start. Her statement, via Mediaite:
I made some comments yesterday that ended up getting a lot of traction out there, not only on Twitter but elsewhere. And I want to be very, very clear about what my comments were about. I probably misspoke and mangled words, but I want to be very clear.
When I said that incest and pedophilia involve people who don't have a choice -- victims who don't have a choice -- and then said a gay relationship, you do have a choice, they are not crimes. Gay people involved in relationships are not committing any crimes at all. However, those who perpetrate incest and perpetrate pedophilia are committing crimes. I don't know that my comments were taken in that light and I certainly hope they were, but in no way did I ever want to suggest that being gay is a choice. It is not. And I probably used the word "lifestyle choice" -- not what I meant to say at all. Being gay is not a choice; being in a voluntary gay relationship is a choice. It is not a crime. So I hope that at least clears up any of the comments I made after that story of the pastor. And in no way do I agree with or stand by any of the comments that that pastor made either.
During the Thursday edition of CNN's Early Start, co-anchor Ashleigh Banfield reported on comments made by Kansas Pastor Curtis Knapp, who recently called for the government to kill gays and lesbians. In an exclusive CNN interview, Knapp clarified his comments, stating:
We punish pedophilia, we punish incest, we punish polygamy and various things. It's only homosexuality that is lifted out as an exemption.
Banfield wasn't pleased by Knapp's attempt to compare homosexuality to pedophilia and incest. In her attempt to discredit Knapp's explanation, however, she claimed that, unlike pedophilia and incest, "homosexuality is a lifestyle choice by people. It is voluntary":
BANFIELD: Pedophilia is not by choice, last I checked. In his sermon, Pastor Knapp blamed the Bush administration for its tolerance of gay people. Says that he claims that set the stage, in fact, for the Obama administration to endorse same-sex marriage. Like I said, you can't make this stuff up. Unbelievable. Speechless, right?
BANFIELD: Again, we gotta outline here, when he says "they punish incest and pedophilia," please. Those things are often not by choice and are crimes. Homosexuality is a lifestyle choice by people. It is voluntary.
While Banfield was clearly trying condemn Knapp's anti-gay remarks, she ended up doing a lot more harm than good.
A person's sexual orientation is not a "lifestyle choice" or voluntary - it is an immutable part of their identity. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), "most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation." Scientific research has demonstrated that a person's sexual orientation is not a matter of choice but rather "primarily neurological at birth." According to molecular biologist Dean Hamer, sexual orientation is regarded in the scientific community as a phenotype and is "deeply rooted in biology."
More importantly, the claim that gay people can simply choose to not be gay is a favorite talking point of some of the country's most notorious anti-gay organizations. Groups like the National Organization for Marriage, Family Research Council, American Family Association have all used the idea that gay people can voluntarily change their sexual orientation as a justification for denying equality to gays and lesbians. The "lifestyle choice" myth is also at the heart of efforts to "cure" gay people through "ex-gay" therapy, which has been discredited as ineffective and potentially harmful by nearly every major professional medical organization in America.
In other words, in her attempt to mock Knapp's extreme anti-gay remarks, Banfield ended up reinforcing one of the right's most damaging myths about LGBT people.
"Unbelievable" is right.
From the May 24 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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From the May 24 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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UPDATE: In a subsequent post on her blog, Bruce wrote that she was being snarky and sarcastic in her tweet and defended Fox for being "willing to hire an openly gay women before anyone else in television." She added that she had been told she would never guest host O'Reilly because of her sexual orientation by "a friend of mine" and that she has "never even asked to host the Factor (or any other show at Fox), and no one at Fox ever told me I couldn't."
Longtime Fox News contributor Tammy Bruce tweeted yesterday that she's been told she'll never guest host The O'Reilly Factor because she's gay. Bruce did not specify whether she had received that message from the network's personnel, but replied favorably to a fan who responded to her tweet by criticizing the network.
Bruce is a conservative radio show host who regularly appears on The O'Reilly Factor with host Bill O'Reilly. According to Nexis, Bruce most recently appeared on the program's April 6 broadcast with guest host Juan Williams.
Bruce is openly gay, a fact she's noted on The O'Reilly Factor. A biography posted on WMAL, which carried her radio show (the program now streams "exclusively at TalkStreamLive"), states that when her radio show "debuted in Los Angeles in 1993, she was the first openly gay woman in the country to host a show on a mainstream talk radio station."
Bruce's comments came in response to a follower who told her she needs "to fill in for O'Reilly sometime." Bruce replied: "I'd love to fill in for O'Reilly, but I've been told it will never happen because I'm gay. Go figure..."
Several followers responded to Bruce's tweet with criticism of Fox. One follower tweeted: "Tammy, so sorry to hear that! You've always been an intelligent and thoughtful commentator. Bad on Fox :-)" Bruce replied: "Thanks @gutsy9 I appreciate the support :)"
Messages to Bruce seeking clarification and comment were not returned. Fox News also did not return a request for comment by posting time.
From the May 23 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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On Friday, the New York Times published a story profiling Dr. Robert L. Spitzer, a prominent psychiatrist who recently retracted and apologized for a study he conducted in 2003 which purported to demonstrate that some people actually could change their sexual orientation through therapy. In a recent letter to Dr. Ken Zucker, the editor of the journal that published Spitzer's study, Spitzer wrote:
I believe I owe the gay community an apology for my study making unproven claims of the efficacy of reparative therapy. I also apologize to any gay person who wasted time and energy undergoing some form of reparative therapy because they believed that I had proven that reparative therapy works with some "highly motivated" individuals.
With Spitzer's apology, perhaps the last iota of 'credible' scientific evidence for the belief that gays and lesbians can be 'cured' of their homosexuality has vanished. Unfortunately, few of the news networks that touted Spitzer's study in 2003 have covered its retraction.
In fact, the belief that a person's sexual orientation or gender identity can be changed is still alive and well at Fox News thanks to the work of Dr. Keith Ablow - a member of network's "Medical A-Team."
Ablow is notorious for peddling the false idea that children might decide to identify as transgender if they see a happy transgender person - like Dancing with the Stars' Chaz Bono - on television. He's also suggested that using pink nail polish and having same-sex parents might similarly cause children to abandon their gender identity. He's been open about his belief that transgender people are suffering from "psychotic delusions" and should be encouraged, through therapy, to identify as their biological sex.
Ablow has also voiced his support for the claim that homosexuality is a product of environmental factors and, as a result, can be changed or reversed. In the past year alone, Ablow has argued that:
And last week, Ablow condemned the American Psychiatric Association (APA) for declassifying Ego-Dystonic Homosexuality (EDH) as a mental illness in 1987. EDH, which was the diagnosis given to people who were distressed by their same-sex attractions, continues to play an important role in the pseudoscientific research produced by modern "ex-gay" groups today.
Although Ablow has thus far avoided explicitly condoning "ex-gay" therapy, he's provided all of the allegedly 'expert' medical opinion one would need to buy into the myth that LGBT people can be 'cured': LGBT people made a choice, they're LGBT because of bad parenting, their identities can be influenced by external factors, etc.
So while Spitzer's apology seems to have left reparative therapy in critical condition, over at Fox News, the doctor is in.
From the May 21 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC all covered a 2001 study by psychiatrist Dr. Robert Spitzer that purported to show that a "change in one's sexual orientation was possible." Anti-gay groups claiming homosexuality is a choice have repeatedly cited the study. Last month, Spitzer retracted the study, and while MSNBC covered Spitzer's retraction, neither CNN nor Fox has done so, according to the Nexis database.
On ABC's This Week, George Will and Laura Ingraham engaged in a bit of revisionism to try to distance conservative billionaire Joe Ricketts from an incendiary plan to re-manufacture the Rev. Jeremiah Wright controversy, and in the process accused the New York Times of journalistic malpractice. Will claimed that Ricketts, who commissioned the plan, immediately repudiated the proposal, while Ingraham asserted that he "didn't even see" it. In fact, the proposal stated that Ricketts had given "preliminary approval" of the plan and commissioned it in part because he thought it was a mistake that John McCain's campaign refused to use Wright to attack Obama in 2008.
During a discussion of the plan, which was made public by the New York Times, Will claimed that Ricketts "repudiated [the proposal] the instant he saw it." Will went on to accuse the Times of fudging the facts of Ricketts' involvement because "it didn't fit their narrative: billionaire behaving responsibly."
Fellow panelist Ingraham added: "As far as I know, he didn't even see this proposal -- I believe, George -- and the idea that he was considering it was a total false narrative put forward by the New York Times to send a message to other people, don't you dare get involved in this election in any type of, quote, 'controversial,' way."
But their contentions aren't supported by the facts.
From the May 17 edition of Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight:
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Media Research Center director of media analysis Tim Graham wrote on his Twitter feed today: "If black Christian voters still vote for Obama now, they're not really Christians. Just like Robin Roberts for being such a lamb on ABC":
Graham was apparently referring to President Obama's interview with ABC News correspondent Robin Roberts, during which he announced his support for marriage equality, saying, "I think same sex couples should be able to get married."
As Graham's tweet shows, conservatives have been speculating about how African-American voters would take the news. Here's how Limbaugh highlighted the issue recently: "African-Americans on the Democrats' side, I hate to tell you what this came down to is the color of your skin versus the color of their money. Where Obama's concerned, guess what he chose."
This morning on Fox News, contributor Deneen Borelli took up the theme, repeatedly claiming that Obama has "thrown the black community really under the bus in order to get money from the gay community and to get their votes":
Recent polling, however, shows that black voters have not changed their views of Obama as a result of his statement on same-sex marriage.
Bill O'Reilly interviewed Romney campaign national finance committee co-chair Frank VanderSloot yesterday and whitewashed VanderSloot's record on LGBT issues. Discussing criticism of VanderSloot's record that appeared on KeepingGOPHonest.com, O'Reilly suggested the Obama campaign engaged in "political terrorism" and "slimed" VanderSloot. But O'Reilly failed to press or even mention the substance of VanderSloot's record on LGBT issues.
VanderSloot told O'Reilly that KeepingGOPHonest.com had "said that I hated gay people and that I was anti-gay." O'Reilly then interjected: "You're anti-gay. So anybody who was buying your product who was gay said I'm not going to buy my products from this guy." VanderSloot responded: "We have a lot of people we work with, who we deal with in the business world that are gay." And O'Reilly responded: "So they basically slimed you. They smeared you." And that is as close as O'Reilly got to confronting VanderSloot with the substance of VanderSloot's anti-LGBT record.
According to the Spokane Spokesman-Review, VanderSloot and his company, Melaleuca Inc., launched a billboard campaign in Idaho that attacked Idaho Public Television for airing a documentary called "It's Elementary: Talking About Gay Issues In Schools." Idaho Public Television said the documentary "chronicle[d] how some public and private schools in several states are dealing with gay issues in the classroom, specifically name-calling and harassment." But VanderSloot's billboards attacked the documentary, asking "Should public television promote the homosexual lifestyle to your children?"
Via Buzzfeed, here is an image of one of the VanderSloot-funded billboards (one that was defaced with the word "YES!" to alter its meaning):
From the May 14 edition of Fox News' America Live:
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If I ever have children, I'll be able to tell them about the day in May 2012 when the President of the United States finally endorsed marriage equality. Unfortunately, I'll also be able to tell them that the leader of a hate group was given a prominent platform in the wake of the president's announcement to say on national television that same-sex marriage "runs counter to nature" and threatens "religious freedom," "the family," and "the education of our children."
In November 2010 the Southern Poverty Law Center determined that the Family Research Council (FRC) is an "anti-gay hate group" because it seeks to "defam[e] gays and lesbians" by making "false claims about the LGBT community based on discredited research and junk science." Given FRC's record of spreading bogus information, it's risky for news organizations committed to accuracy to give FRC access to their audience. Nevertheless, FRC has repeatedly been presented as a legitimate and mainstream voice by every major cable news network.
Today both CNN's State of the Union with Candy Crowley and CBS' Face the Nation hosted FRC president Tony Perkins to comment on same-sex marriage and presidential politics. On CNN Perkins was balanced by ... Gary Bauer, another evangelical conservative who shares Perkins' anti-LGBT views. Perkins said that denying same-sex couples the right to marry is a matter of "defending the family, the cornerstone of civilization," adding, "it's more than marriage. It's about the education of our children. It's about religious freedom. It's about public accommodations."
On Face The Nation, Perkins was outnumbered on the panel by those who support marriage equality, but he was never actually confronted about his group's record or the lack of evidence for his claims about dire consequences of same-sex marriages. Host Bob Schieffer did not challenge Perkins' claim that parents will "lose the right to determine what their children are taught in school. Religious organizations forced to recognize or allow their facilities to be used for weddings such as this." During the segment Perkins said we should "allow all sides to have the debate" and, addressing Schieffer, added, "I'm glad that's what you're doing here this morning."
By contrast, some media figures including a few of Crowley's colleagues at CNN, have apparently recognized the absurdity of dancing around the house of cards underlying Perkins' views. Just as history will not judge Perkins well, neither will it be kind to those in the news media who facilitated his struggle on behalf of discrimination.