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In the year since the Supreme Court struck down state-level same-sex marriage bans, anti-gay extremists have continued to peddle misinformation about LGBT equality in the media. After more than 12 years of pushing lies and wildly inaccurate predictions about the consequences of marriage equality, it’s time for the media to stop letting anti-gay activists comment on LGBT rights without disclosing their proven track record of dishonest extremism.
It’s been a year since the Supreme Court’s June 26, 2015, Obergefell v. Hodges decision which found state-level same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional. In the decade leading up to the decision, anti-LGBT extremists and hate group leaders peddled specious talking points about the consequences of “redefining traditional marriage.” In media appearances, these figures predicted that allowing same-sex couples to marry would cause a “slippery slope” to legalized bestiality, incest, and pedophilia; pushed the myth that gay men are more likely to engage in pedophilia than straight men; and hyped claims that pastors and churches were in danger of being forced to perform same-sex marriages.
Several of these groups were so deceptive that in 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), designated them anti-LGBT “hate groups” for “propagating known falsehoods” and pushing “demonizing propaganda.” One of these groups was the Family Research Council (FRC), whose officials have accused gay people of trying to "recruit" children into homosexuality and endorsed a Uganda law that would have imposed the death penalty for engaging in gay sex.
For years, major cable news networks have hosted FRC representatives to comment on LGBT equality without identifying FRC as a hate group. Despite the efforts of progressive Christians to stop outlets from letting FRC representatives conflate their extremism with mainstream Christianity, the group continues to have a significant media presence. Since last June’s Obergefell decision, mainstream media outlets have continued to call on FRC to discuss LGBT rights, including:
In the past year, the media have given other anti-LGBT hate groups similar passes. In September, mainstream news outlets like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Reuters failed to identify Liberty Counsel, the anti-LGBT hate group representing Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, instead calling it merely a “Christian” or “conservative” organization. In April, major news outlets largely failed to identify the American Family Association (AFA) -- the group organizing a boycott of Target over its transgender-inclusive restroom policy -- as an anti-LGBT hate group.
The few instances when mainstream media like The Associated Press and CBS News’ Bob Schieffer did properly identify hate group leaders, anti-gay conservatives were predictably outraged. Right-wing anger at journalists who expose anti-LGBT extremism illustrates why it’s so vital to disclose when sources or commentators represent hate groups. The public has a right to know that the same groups with a track record of fearmongering about children’s safety to oppose marriage equality are now those peddling the anti-LGBT movement’s new favorite myth that LGBT nondiscrimination protections endanger the safety of women and children in bathrooms.
A year after Obergefell, it’s time for the media to stop letting the same extremists use media appearances to float new lies and recycle mythical talking points to oppose LGBT equality. Outlets seeking to provide balanced coverage of LGBT rights ought to find commentators who don’t have a decade-long track record of spreading hateful lies about LGBT people.
Nearly a week after declaring himself a “real friend” to the LGBT community, GOP presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump participated in a “conversation” with hundreds of conservative Christians organized in part by two anti-LGBT hate groups. Then his campaign announced an “Evangelical Executive Advisory Board,” a 26-member group featuring several well-known anti-LGBT extremists who have a well-documented history of opposing LGBT equality and making inflammatory comments, such as calling LGBT families “discombobulated, Frankenstein structures” and blaming the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on marriage equality.
In the wake of a deadly shooting at an LGBT nightclub, the sexuality of both the victims and survivors have moved to the forefront of the narrative of communities and families coming to grips with the trauma and loss of life trying to heal.
The New York Times highlighted the coming out stories of several people impacted by the June 12 massacre at Pulse, an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, FL. The Hispanic community was devastated by the violence-- a majority of the 49 murder victims were Hispanic. The June 22 article featured stories of those who were grieving in the aftermath of unthinkable violence, as well as navigating the newly exposed sexuality of themselves or their loved ones. From the June 22 article:
Some had their sexuality revealed by accident: Gertrude Merced learned that her 25-year-old son, Enrique, was gay only after she heard the news of his death. Others, though, have chosen to expose their inner lives, stirred by the outpouring of support for Orlando’s gay community or wrought with sorrow and unable to keep their secrets in anymore.
Cory Richards was in Pulse with his boyfriend, Enrique Rios, on the night of the attack; neither were out to their family. After surviving the attack, Richards came out to his father. Rios lost his life that night and that's how his mother found out he was gay:
Cory Richards, 24, spent the early hours of June 12 dancing under the strobe lights at Pulse with his boyfriend, Enrique L. Rios Jr. Neither man had told his parents he was gay. But around 9 a.m., as Mr. Richards emerged from the carnage, he cried into his phone to his father.“I can’t find my baby,” Mr. Richards recalled saying. “I can’t find my baby.”
“What?” his father responded.
“That’s my boyfriend, that’s not my friend,” Mr. Richards said he told him of Mr. Rios. “That’s my boyfriend.”
“I don’t care what you are,” he recalled his father saying. “You’re my son. I didn’t know, but I accept it.”
Mr. Rios had died. A thousand miles away, his mother, Ms. Merced, 48, learned of her son’s death. And then received a call from his boyfriend.
For Enakai Hernandez, a former regular at Pulse, news of the tragedy hit too close to home:
Enakai Hernandez, is a 27-year-old artist who had partied at Pulse for years. On the weekend of the attack, he was staying at his parent’s home in a gated community here, sick in bed.
When he woke and the depth of the tragedy revealed itself, his mother took him in her arms as he cried.
“Sabes que te quiero mucho?” she has told him over and over in recent days. “Que tú eres el amor de mi vida?” Her message: that she loved her son and considered him the love of her life.
Univision And Telemundo Offered Representation To The Overlapping, Diverse Communities Affected
In their June 13 coverage of the Orlando, FL, massacre, Spanish-language networks Univision and Telemundo uniquely provided a crucial platform for intersectional voices that included Spanish-speaking, gay Latinos. The distinctly diverse coverage outshined other national cable news networks which underrepresented the affected communities in their coverage.
A Media Matters study of the diversity of guest appearances on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC the day after the June 12 attack on LGBT nightclub Pulse found that “none of the three networks hosted a significant number of Latino” guests.
In a tragedy that overwhelmingly impacted the Hispanic community -- more than 90 percent of the victims were Hispanic -- Spanish-language networks Univision and Telemundo were uniquely equipped to provide a much-needed space for Spanish-speaking voices in their coverage the day after the massacre. Both networks featured survivors and family members of victims, who shared their stories in their own language (and some of them spoke only Spanish), while emphasizing the many communities -- sometimes overlapping -- that the tragedy impacted. Jorge Ramos said the attack was “truly a tragedy, for the Latino community, and truly a tragedy for the Latino gay community”:
In the aftermath of the tragedy, many family members of the victims were “in dire need” of “Spanish-language interpreters” in order to identify their missing loved ones, according to Fox News Latino:
Hundreds, if not thousands, across the country are lining up to donate blood to help the victims of Orlando’s tragic shooting at the Pulse nightclub. Others wanting to help are donating money for funerals and health care costs.
But in Orlando, for family members of the victims, there is also a dire need for something else: Spanish-language interpreters.
Dozens of people waiting to hear from their loved ones at the Hampton Inn in Downtown Orlando, near the nightclub where tragedy struck early Sunday morning, are heart-broken, confused — and compounding matters is that many do not know English.
Many of the people interviewed on Univision and Telemundo referenced the language barrier, and both networks included reports of Hispanic organizations that were providing resources and support for those with cultural or linguistic obstacles, emphasizing the need for “bilingual help”:
Hispanic media’s proximity to the Latino community -- Telemundo itself lost one of its producers to the attack -- aided the networks in providing coverage of the Orlando massacre that accurately represented the experiences of affected Hispanics, while providing valuable resources to grieving families. Just as Telemundo’s Maria Celeste Arrarás demonstrated when co-hosting the February 25 Republican debate, newsroom diversity -- and in this case, particularly Latino media representation -- empowers Latino audiences to “engage [with news content] at a higher level.”
Media Matters reviewed the diversity of guest appearances featured in cable news coverage the day after the deadly June 12 Orlando, FL, attack on an LGBT nightclub. Of the three cable networks, Fox News hosted a substantially lower percentage of LGBT guests. Although MSNBC and CNN did give considerable air time to LGBT voices, none of the three networks hosted a significant number of Hispanic or Muslim guests.
After the June 12 Orlando, FL, massacre -- which left 49 dead, a majority of them Latino -- various Hispanic media outlets and figures criticized Americans’ easy access to weapons and the National Rifle Association’s obstructive influence on gun legislation reform, making a renewed call to reform “our weak current legislation of firearms.” This response is reflective of the opinions of a majority of Latinos, who favor legislation to combat gun violence, perhaps because of statistics showing that Latinos are disproportionately victimized by guns.
The two National Rifle Association officials who appeared on Sunday political talk shows to respond to the June 12 massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, FL, both made anti-LGBT remarks as recent as a month ago.
One week after a gunman wielding an assault weapon killed 49 people and wounded 53 others during a terror attack at Pulse nightclub, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre appeared on CBS’ Face the Nation and NRA Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) executive director Chris Cox appeared on ABC’s This Week to advocate against passing stronger gun laws in response to the mass shooting.
As in the NRA’s official response to the shooting, which was authored by Cox, both Cox and LaPierre failed to mention that the shooting targeted a gay nightclub.
Both LaPierre and Cox made anti-gay statements during a May 20 event at the NRA’s annual meeting. During the annual NRA-ILA Leadership Forum, Cox and LaPierre both delivered speeches that led into the NRA’s endorsement of presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Cox spoke first, and attacked societal acceptance of transgender people as “perverted” and “twisted” just seconds into his remarks. Cox lamented that “the America we know is becoming unrecognizable. Everything we believe in, everything we’ve always known to be good, and right, and true has been twisted, perverted, and repackaged to our kids as wrong, backwards, and abnormal.”
Citing examples of America’s supposed downfall, Cox went on to say, “Who are our kids supposed to respect and admire? The media tells them Bruce Jenner is a national hero for transforming his body, while our wounded warriors, whose bodies were transformed by IEDs and rocket-propelled grenades, can’t even get basic healthcare from the VA.”
During his speech, LaPierre said the Obama administration was “in the toilet” because of efforts by the administration to prevent schools from discriminating against transgender students.
While ostensibly an organization focused on issues relating to guns, members of the NRA’s leadership have attacked LGBT people for years, including blaming a mass shooting on same-sex marriage, claiming gay people “created” the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and labeling or supporting the depiction of gay people as “despicable,” “perverts,” and “degenerates.”
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Tony Perkins Is Set To Appear On ABC's This Week
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, is set to appear on the upcoming edition of ABC’s Sunday morning news show, This Week. It’s paramount that, when introducing Perkins, the hosts accurately identify him as the leader of an anti-gay hate group.
The Family Research Council (FRC) has been listed as a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) since 2010 due to the organization’s propagation of known falsehoods about LGBT people as well as Perkins’ history of making inflammatory remarks about LGBT people. Perkins’ extreme views have been called out by critics as not representative of the views of most Christians.
Perkins’ record of bigoted anti-gay remarks includes calling pedophilia a “homosexual problem,” claiming that gay men “recruit” children into homosexuality, and endorsing a Uganda law that would have imposed the death penalty for gay sex.
In the past, mainstream media outlets have regularly failed to identify FRC as an anti-LGBT hate group, instead allowing it to pass as a serious policy organization. Outlets have treated Perkins as a credible and legitimate conservative commentator, regularly inviting him to speak on behalf of Christians without identifying him as a hate monger. But last April, Bob Schieffer, former host of CBS’ Face The Nation, set the gold standard when it comes to interviewing members of groups such as FRC by accurately identifying Perkins as the president of “an anti-gay hate group.”
Media owe audiences pertinent information about the guests they bring on to offer commentary. In the wake of the Orlando massacre at a gay nightclub, it is vital hosts disclose Perkins’ extreme anti-LGBT record to provide audiences with the necessary context to adequately assess his commentary.
UPDATE: Tony Perkins did not appear as scheduled on the June 19 edition of ABC’s This Week. No mention of his absence from This Week’s Powerhouse Roundtable was made:
President Obama delivered remarks on the recent massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, FL, and included observations that current gun laws fail to stop terror suspects and disturbed individuals from legally purchasing assault weapons. Right-wing media were quick to attack the president's “insulting” comments.