MSNBC hosted a spokeswoman from a notorious anti-gay hate group twice in one day to discuss controversial "religious freedom" legislation, failing to identify her as an extremist who has opposed the decriminalization of gay sex.
On April 1, American Family Association (AFA) spokeswoman Sandy Rios appeared twice on MSNBC during segments discussing a number of controversial "religious freedom" laws being debated in state legislatures. The AFA has been labeled an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center because of its history of anti-gay extremism, including blaming gay men for the Holocaust and supporting the criminalization of homosexuality.
Rios herself is an anti-gay extremist who has denied that homophobia motivated Matthew Shepard's murder, opposed a Supreme Court decision decriminalizing gay sex, believes people can choose to "stop being gay," and has stated that being gay is "broken hearts, it's disease."
Rios appeared on NewsNation with Tamron Hall to defend Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), where she falsely claimed that RFRAs weren't intended to allow for anti-LGBT discrimination:
The anti-gay hate group American Family Association (AFA) announced that Bryan Fischer -- the organization's most prominent face -- had been fired as the organization's director of issues analysis due to his years of inflammatory rhetoric. Fox News has a history of whitewashing Fischer's anti-LGBT extremism.
On January 28, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow reported that AFA had fired Fischer as the group's long-time director of issues analysis. In 2010, AFA was labeled an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, thanks largely to Fischer's extreme rhetoric about the LGBT community.
The announcement came in advance of a controversial AFA-sponsored trip to Israel that nearly 100 RNC members are scheduled to take this weekend. Fischer has made a number of disparaging comments about "counterfeit religions" and has repeatedly blamed gay men for the Holocaust:
Louisiana Governor and GOP presidential hopeful Bobby Jindal is the keynote speaker for a rally funded and organized by an anti-LGBT group that has blamed gay people for causing the Holocaust and advocated imprisoning homosexuals. So why isn't his appearance garnering national media attention?
On January 24, Jindal will keynote a six-hour prayer event at Louisiana State University called "The Response: A Call To Prayer For a Nation In Crisis." The event is sponsored and funded by the American Family Association (AFA), one of the most extreme anti-gay hate groups in the country. It's also being staffed by a number of notorious anti-LGBT activists.
The event has drawn protests from members of the LSU community. On January 22, the Faculty Senate passed a resolution expressing displeasure with the event, and a university spokesperson has clarified that the rental of an LSU facility "does not imply any endorsement."
Jindal has thus far dismissed criticism of the event, according to The Clarion-Ledger:
Asked if he agreed with the American Family Association's agenda, Jindal sidestepped that question and said, "The left likes to try to divide and attack Christians."
Jindal said the protesters themselves should consider joining the prayer rally. He said they "might benefit from prayer."
AFA's status as a hate group is largely thanks to the work of its spokesman, Bryan Fischer, whose anti-LGBT remarks go well beyond mainstream social conservatism. Fischer's inflammatory comments about gay people include:
As the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote in a 2011 report:
The AFA has been extremely vocal over the years in its opposition to LGBT rights, marriage equality and allowing gay men and lesbians to serve in the military. The group's arguments are filled with claims that equate homosexuality with pedophilia and argue that there's a "homosexual agenda" afoot that is set to bring about the downfall of American (and ultimately, Western) civilization.
The event is likely to attract widespread media attention - largely seen as a precursor to Jindal's eventual presidential run. Texas Gov. Rick Perry launched his 2012 presidential bid with a similar AFA-backed "Response" prayer event in order to reach out to social conservatives. But Perry's association with the extreme hate group wasn't scandalous enough for major media outlets that covered the event.
And aside from a few outlets noting AFA's "controversial" stances, national coverage of Jindal's association with the hate group has similarly been glossed over by the media. It's a stark contrast to the tremendous media attention surrounding GOP House Majority Whip Steve Scalise's infamous 2002 speech to a white nationalist group. When it comes to GOP politics, media outlets have a hard time seeing what's newsworthy about a hate group like AFA being used to cement the campaign of a potential presidential candidate.
The annual Values Voter Summit will take place from September 26 through September 28 in Washington, DC. The convention is sponsored by hate groups like the Family Research Council and the American Family Association, and regularly features extreme rhetoric and hate from politicians and conservative media members. In 2013, Ben Carson said that Obamacare is "the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery." Here is some of what you can expect at the 2014 event:
Media figures speaking at the event are scheduled to include: Lt. General William Boykin, Fox News contributor Oliver North, Rick Santorum, Fox News contributor Sarah Palin, David Limbaugh, Fox News host Mike Huckabee, Fox News contributor and Redstate.com Editor-in-chief Erick Erickson, Fox News contributor Sandy Rios, Mat Staver, Mark Levin, Star Parker, Fox News Radio host Todd Starnes, Brigitte Gabriel, and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins.
Megyn Kelly was supposed to be a harbinger of Fox News' "gay rights revolution," but she's used her primetime spot to enable some of the country's most extreme anti-LGBT activists.
At the height of the controversy over Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson's homophobic remarks in a December 2013 interview with GQ magazine, Kelly invited GLAAD consultant Jeremy Hooper to appear on The Kelly File and weigh in on the firestorm.
She also invited Tony Perkins, president of the notorious anti-gay hate group the Family Research Council (FRC), to appear immediately afterward.
During his segment, Hooper urged Kelly to hold Perkins accountable for his extensive history of bigoted rhetoric. "What specifically? Because I'll ask him," Kelly promised. Hooper pointed to Perkins' endorsement of a Ugandan bill that would have imposed the death penalty for homosexuality, his claim that gay people face "eternal damnation," and his comparisons of gay people with terrorists.
In the segment that followed, however, Kelly didn't ask Perkins to explain his virulent anti-gay rhetoric. Instead, she introduced him as the leader of "a group whose mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and culture from a Christian worldview":
Kelly's failure to hold Perkins accountable is a case study in her broader habit of mainstreaming anti-gay hate.
In the seven months since The Kelly File launched in October of 2013, Fox's 9 p.m. hour has been a friendly forum for some of the country's most odious anti-gay extremists, including Perkins, the far-right legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), and, most recently, the Benham brothers, the home renovators whose rabidly anti-gay activism led HGTV to cancel their planned reality show.
Since Kelly's promotion to Fox's prime-time lineup, she has hosted Perkins six times. (Filling in for Kelly on the December 27 edition of the program, Shannon Bream hosted Perkins an additional time.) Perkins has used his appearances to condemn Gov. Jan Brewer's (R-AZ) veto of her state's license-to-discriminate bill, champion anti-LGBT discrimination, opine on openly gay NFL draftee Michael Sam, and lambaste HGTV for cancelling the Benham brothers' planned show.
Kelly's willingness to grant Perkins a platform isn't a recent development. As a daytime host on Fox's America Live, she provided Perkins the opportunity to peddle anti-gay talking points with impunity - and often parroted the same talking points herself, asking Perkins why gay rights activists are so intolerant and defending him and other "openly religious" leaders against charges of bigotry.
Meanwhile, Kelly has invited ADF to defend anti-gay business discrimination on her program. While other cable news anchors have exposed ADF's anti-gay extremism - including its international work to criminalize homosexuality - Kelly gave the group the same treatment she afforded Perkins, failing to hold ADF to account for its disturbing work.
The Benham brothers could also count on Kelly to downplay their history of strident anti-gay and Islamophobic activism, including condemning homosexuality as "demonic" and "destructive." On the May 19 edition of her show, she called the backlash to their activism "incredible," asking them to enlighten viewers on their "more traditional views":
Fox News contributor Ben Carson is slated to be the keynote speaker at the first Gala dinner of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), becoming the latest Fox figure to appear before an extreme anti-gay group.
In a May 6 email to supporters, NOM President Brian Brown wrote that "it's 1972 for marriage," referring to the year before the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed a woman's right to an abortion and the growing expectation that the Court will take up marriage equality once again by 2015. To protest the frightening possibility that same-sex couples nationwide will soon enjoy civil equality, NOM will hold its second annual March for Marriage in Washington on June 19. Brown's email touted Carson's appearance - previously flagged by GLAAD's Jeremy Hooper - at NOM's gala that same evening (emphasis original):
It was a crisp winter day in 1973 when the United States Supreme Court issued their horrific decision in Roe v Wade. How much would you sacrifice to go back in time to a few months before that fateful decision, to the Fall of 1972, and mobilize the American people BEFORE the Supreme Court issued that infamous decree?
Just about anything, right? Well, when it comes to marriage, we have that chance!
You see, it's 1972 for marriage. Within the next 12 months, it is very likely that the United States Supreme Court will take up the marriage issue again. Many people have bought in to the lie that the courts redefining marriage is somehow "inevitable." Well, I refuse to believe that, because it's simply not true!
That's why the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is organizing its second annual March for Marriage this summer on June 19th in Washington, DC -- bringing together thousands of marriage activists from all across the country to make sure the elites in our nation's capital hear loud and clear: Marriage matters because every kid deserves a mom and a dad!
One incredibly courageous leader who is standing up for marriage is Doctor Ben Carson, who will be the keynote speaker at NOM's first ever Gala dinner on the evening of the March for Marriage. He said in a speech earlier this year that the "P.C. police" have "tried to shut him up" because he's willing to state his belief publicly that marriage is between a man and a woman.
Two days after frequent Breitbart News contributor Austin Ruse proclaimed that liberal academics "should all be taken out and shot," the American Family Association announced that it was cutting its ties with the inflammatory social conservative.
Filling in for American Family Radio host and Fox News contributor Sandy Rios on March 12, Ruse weighed in on the controversy surrounding a Duke University freshman who recently revealed that she has acted in porn to help pay her college tuition:
RUSE: That is the nonsense that they teach in women's studies at Duke University, this is where she learned this. The toxic stew of the modern university is gender studies, it's "Sex Week," they all have "Sex Week" and teaching people how to be sex-positive and overcome the patriarchy. My daughters go to a little private religious school and we pay an arm and a leg for it precisely to keep them away from all of this kind of nonsense. I do hope that they go to a Christian college or university and to keep them so far away from the hard left, human-hating people that run modern universities, who should all be taken out and shot.
As Right Wing Watch reported on March 14, American Family Radio announced on its Facebook page that Ruse would no longer be filling in there:
Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes effusively praised hate group spokesman Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association (AFA) as "one of the most intelligent talk show hosts in the country." Fischer is notorious for making rabidly homophobic statements, including the claim that gay men caused the Holocaust.
During a February 24 appearance on American Family Radio's Focal Point with Bryan Fischer, Starnes and Fischer discussed a halted Federal Communications Commission (FCC) study that would have examined how well newsrooms are meeting the public's "critical information needs" on key public policy issues. Right-wing media hyped the study as an invasive survey that could lead to the federal government dictating news coverage.
While the FCC has backed off the study following public comment, Fischer said it "sounded" like the FCC is "reloading" and will proceed with the study anyway. In his discussion of the study, Fischer accused the Obama administration of trying to censor anti-gay views. Starnes agreed, suggesting that the Bible could soon be censored or outlawed. The Fox commentator praised Fischer's analysis of the FCC study as emblematic of why Fischer is "one of the most intelligent talk show hosts in the country":
Right-wing media figures condemned the weddings of 33 same-sex and opposite-sex couples at the 56th annual Grammy Awards, describing the ceremony as an attack on Christianity.
Days after Fox News "Medical A Team" member Dr. Keith Ablow penned a column saying he wasn't "convinced" that transgender identities are real, hate group spokesman Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association (AFA) used the column on his radio program to justify his own transphobic views.
On January 14, Ablow published an ill-informed, transphobic rant against California's new law allowing transgender students to use facilities and participate in programs that match their gender identities. Disregarding the positions of the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association, Ablow wrote that he simply doesn't "believe" that it's possible for someone to identify with a gender different from his or her sex at birth.
Two days later, Fischer voiced the same view on his show, reading from Ablow's column and extolling his credentials as a supposed expert on the issue.
From the January 16 edition of American Family Radio's Focal Point:
FISCHER: We're gonna bring this in, because this is a piece written by Dr. Keith Ablow. He's a psychiatrist. You see him on Fox News all the time, he's part of the Fox News "Medical A Team," and he writes about this bathroom bill. Now this guy is a psychiatrist - that means he's a medical doctor. He's an M.D. And he writes about his analysis of this bill. ... And Keith Ablow has a good piece about how destructive this is.
This isn't the first time that AFA - a Southern Poverty Law Center-designated anti-gay hate group -- has taken its bigoted talking points from Fox. In 2011, Fischer cited Ablow's condemnation of Chaz Bono's appearance on ABC's Dancing with the Stars while arguing that transgender people should be criticized rather than celebrated on television.
Conservative media figures are touting a far-right coalition's sensationalist claim that the U.S. military is rife with anti-Christian hostility, ignoring the lack of evidence to substantiate the charge and allowing anti-LGBT hate groups to drive coverage of the issue.
Restore Military Religious Freedom (RMRF) - a coalition of right-wing organizations including Liberty Counsel, the Heritage Foundation, and Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)-designated hate groups the Family Research Council (FRC) and American Family Association (AFA) - is leading the charge with this bogus claim. In early November, RMRF released a video featuring interviews with current service members making sweeping statements about the alleged anti-Christian bias permeating the armed forces. The video listed a few examples of apparent attacks on religious liberty in the military, but those examples don't withstand scrutiny.
Hinting at the real motives behind the RMRF's effort, the video includes a soldier complaining about the new wave of "tolerance" sweeping the military - a not-so-thinly-veiled reference to the repeal of the Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) policy. For years, the organizations behind RMRF have crusaded against open service by gay and lesbian soldiers, often using vitriolic language. Depicting the armed forces as anti-Christian has been central to the right's attack on the post-DADT military.
Anti-LGBT hate groups decided long ago that their ultimate solution must be the end of open service, but it was a solution in search of a problem. In its Christian persecution narrative, social conservatives have managed to manufacture that problem, despite that it consists of made-up anti-LGBT horror stories. Right-wing media are happy to take the hate groups' bait.
On the November 11 edition of Fox & Friends, FRC President Tony Perkins sat down with co-hosts Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Brian Kilmeade to promote RMRF's campaign. While he didn't cite a single example of anti-Christian retaliation by the military, Perkins asserted that "all evidence would suggest" that the Obama administration is "on a search-and-destroy mission as it pertains to religious liberty." Hasselbeck didn't ask Perkins to back up his claim, but she did make sure viewers knew about RMRF's website:
Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes urged listeners to donate money to two anti-gay hate groups that routinely accuse gay men of being pedophiles.
The Family Research Council (FRC) and American Family Association (AFA) are two of the most extreme anti-gay hate groups in American politics. They regularly peddle smears about LGBT people, including the myths that gay men are more likely to engage in pedophilia and are responsible for the Holocaust. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC):
Together, the Family Research Council (FRC) and the American Family Association (AFA) may comprise the most important anti-gay lobby in this country... The FRC and the AFA are certainly among the most powerful groups on the American religious right.
They are also among the chief purveyors of lies about LGBT people. They have both regularly pumped out propaganda asserting that gay men molest children at far higher rates than their heterosexual counterparts -- a claim that has been debunked by virtually all the recognized scientific authorities in the field. The FRC has claimed that gay activists "work to normalize sex with boys," seek to "abolish all age of consent laws and to eventually recognize pedophiles as the 'prophets' of a new sexual order," and support anti-bullying programs solely in order to promote homosexuality. The AFA has declared that "homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler ... the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews," suggested that gay sex be punished like heroin use, and said that the "homosexual agenda" endangers "every fundamental right" in the Constitution, including religious freedom. Both groups have enthusiastically promoted "reparative therapy," which claims against the bulk of the evidence that it can "cure" gay men and lesbians and make them heterosexual, but in fact has left a string of people behind who were badly hurt by the process. [emphasis added]
On the October 23 edition of FRC's Washington Watch radio program, FRC president Tony Perkins invited Starnes on to once again falsely accuse the military of persecuting Christian groups because of their opposition to homosexuality. At the end of the segment, Starnes - who has acted as a de facto mouth piece for AFA and FRC on Fox - encouraged listener to "pick up that phone and throw a few dollars into the cause" by donating to the notorious anti-gay groups:
STARNES: Tony, I want to thank American Family Radio. This is a share-a-thon.There's a reason why we need groups like Family Research Council, why we need folks like American Family Radio. Get the word out there, airing my daily commentaries. So folks, pick up that phone and throw a few dollars into the cause.
This isn't the first time a Fox News employee has solicited donations for an anti-gay group. In August, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson encouraged his supporters to give money to the Alliance Defending Freedom, a group working to criminalize homosexuality abroad.
Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes continued to shill for the extremist American Family Association (AFA), allowing the anti-gay hate group to bill itself as "a mainstream, evangelical, pro-family group" and baselessly asserting that the military is waging a campaign of "retribution and reprisals" against conservative soldiers who support the AFA.
In an October 15 column for FoxNews.com, Starnes assailed the U.S. Army for including the AFA in a presentation on domestic hate groups. Much as he did in an appearance on Fox & Friends earlier on October 15, Starnes whitewashed the AFA's record of anti-gay hate, describing the organization as a "well-respected Christian ministry" that simply supports "traditional family values" (emphasis added):
The Pentagon has admitted that information used in an Army briefing that labeled the American Family Association (AFA) as a domestic hate group was not acquired from official sources and does not reflect Army doctrine.
Meanwhile, the president of the well-respected Christian ministry says his organization may file a defamation lawsuit against the military.
"We are probably going to be taking legal action," said Tim Wildmon, president of one of the nation's most prominent Christian ministries. "The Army has smeared us. They've defamed the American Family Association."
The AFA was listed alongside domestic hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazis, the Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam during a briefing last week at Camp Shelby in Mississippi.
A soldier who attended the briefing recently sent me a photograph of a slideshow presentation that listed AFA as a domestic hate group because of their support of traditional family values and their opposition to homosexuality.
"For a taxpayer-funded organization like the military to use a politically-motivated group's hate group list is problematic," Wildmon said. "One way or another, we're going to get this changed."
And he strongly rejects accusations that AFA is a hate group.
"We are a mainstream, evangelical, pro-family group," he said. "We don't hate anybody. We have strong feelings on moral values. We oppose the gay and lesbian social and political agenda. We always have. We always will, but that doesn't mean we hate anyone."
Bryan Fischer, director of issues analysis at the American Family Association (AFA), praised Fox News for its "very friendly" coverage of his organization, which has been designated an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
On the October 15 edition of American Family Radio's Focal Point, Fischer lauded the network for providing Fox News Radio reporter and hate group mouthpiece Todd Starnes a "very friendly venue" to attack a military training session on domestic hate groups, including the AFA:
Right-wing media erupted in outrage over New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's decision on August 19 to "reluctantly" sign into law a bill banning "conversion therapy" for gay, lesbian, and bisexual minors, attacking Christie's decision as an affront to religious freedom, the epitome of government overreach, and a boon to child molesters.
As Christie noted in signing the law, the American Psychological Association (APA) opposes "ex-gay" therapy as harmful and scientifically unsound. Reports have exposed the cruel, degrading, and disturbing tactics employed by "ex-gay" therapy organizations, and a staggering 92 percent of former "ex-gay" patients report that they experienced harm as a result of the treatment.
On his radio program, Sean Hannity ignored the fraudulent quackery of "ex-gay" therapy to frame the debate as a matter of religious freedom. "Is there freedom of religion anymore, or is that banned in New Jersey?" Hannity asked, before concluding that it "sounds like" the answer is the latter: