NBCNews.com badly bungled its report on anti-gay activist John Stemberger's formation of an alternative program for adolescent males following the Boy Scouts' decision to allow openly gay scouts.
A July 9 NBC News article noted that Stemberger's sole reason for founding the group was to protest the Boy Scouts' new membership policy, but accepted at face value Stemberger's assertion that his group would also allow gay members - as long as they don't "flaunt" their sexual orientations:
While the program, which doesn't yet have a name, will allow gays, it won't let them "flaunt" it, said John Stemberger, founder of OnMyHonor.net, a coalition opposed to the BSA's vote in late May to change the controversial membership policy.
"We don't think sex and politics should be in a program for kids. Those are issues for parents,"said Stemberger, of Orlando, Fla., who left the Boy Scouts along with his two sons over the decision in May.
"If a young man has a same-sex attraction he would not be turned away in the program, but he's not going to be allowed to kind of openly flaunt it and carry a rainbow flag," he added, apparently referring to the participation of some BSA members in LGBT pride parades in recent weeks.
NBC not only failed to push back on Stemberger's baseless assertion that the Boy Scouts' decision introduces "sex and politics" into the organization, but it also neglected to inform readers that Stemberger has a longstanding history as a stridently homophobic activist. As GLAAD pointed out in May, Stemberger's Florida Family Policy Council promotes discredited therapy programs designed to aid patients in "leaving the gay lifestyle." GLAAD noted that in 2008, Stemberger highlighted a transgender child's story to illustrate why he works against LGBT rights. He condemned the 5-year-old's gender identity as "a sinful little thought."
Furthermore, Stemberger has previously voiced anti-gay views that call into question whether his new organization will actually allow self-identified gays to join. Right Wing Watch reported in May that Stemberger had declared that "anything that has the word 'gay' on it in our culture ... [is] guaranteed to be inappropriate for kids."
The NBC piece also quoted Rob Green, the new group's interim director, whose anti-gay record similarly escaped scrutiny. When the Boy Scouts were debating changes to the organization's membership policy, Green decried the push to include openly gay members as "an obvious attempt of the homosexual lobby to 'get a foot in the door.'"
NBC's shoddy reporting stems from a failure to ask obvious questions: What underlying motives could possibly have led to the formation of this new group? What track record do the organization's leaders have on gay issues? Is there anything in Stemberger and Green's backgrounds to suggest that we shouldn't simply accept their avowals of openness to all sexual orientations? Because it didn't ask such questions, NBC allowed Stemberger and Green's anti-gay talking points - and not a commitment to the facts - to frame its story.