Days before the world's attention turns to Russia for the launch of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, conservative website Breitbart.com touted Russian President Vladimir Putin's support for "Christian values," citing the country's ban on "homosexual propaganda" while ignoring the horrific consequences Russia's anti-gay laws have had for LGBT citizens.
On January 29, Breitbart highlighted a Washington Times report on Putin's recent criticism of the U.S. for its alleged drift away from Christian principles, a rhetorical broadside fired amid the Kremlin's larger push to impose a hardline interpretation of Orthodox Christianity on Russian society. Echoing Pat Buchanan's recent assertion that "Barack Obama's America" has taken the erstwhile Soviet Union's place as the evil empire of the world, Breitbart suggested that Putin's attack on U.S. secularism indicated that Russia and the U.S. had switched places (emphasis added):
Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the West, including the United States, for eschewing Christian values and opting instead for a "path to degradation."
In his State of the Nation speech last month, Putin asserted that, "Many Euro-Atlantic countries have moved away from their roots, including Christian values... Policies are being pursued that place on the same level a multi-child family and a same-sex partnership, a faith in God and a belief in Satan." Russia has adopted new laws that ban homosexual propaganda and criminalizes the insulting of religious sensibilities.
The law on religious sensibilities was approved in the wake of a protest in Moscow's largest cathedral by a female punk rock group, Pussy Riot. State-run television said the group's "demonic" protest was funded by "some Americans." Russia's newfound embrace of traditional values has prompted a rise in Orthodox vigilantism. Extreme groups such as the Union of Orthodox Banner Bearers, an ultraconservative faction who adopted a slogan "Orthodoxy or Death," are gaining prominence.
It was not that long ago that the United States was accusing Russia for being a "godless nation."
Breitbart went on to recite the Soviet Union's history of anti-Christian persecution. What the website seemed less interested in exploring was the persecution resulting from the country's crackdown on LGBT people and their allies. The "homosexual propaganda" ban Breitbart referred to could encompass positive depictions of LGBT people, displaying the rainbow flag, public displays of affection by same-sex couples, and even coming out as LGBT. Harrowing reports reveal how state-sanctioned homophobia has fueled a climate of increased anti-LGBT violence and vigilantism.
Breitbart, however, is more likely to cheer on the Kremlin's assault on LGBT human rights than to lay bare its terrifying consequences. The website's Austin Ruse has firmly established himself as one of the crackdown's foremost American conservative defenders, claiming that Russia's anti-gay laws are vital to "human rights" and protecting "the innocence of children." According to Ruse, Russia's persecution of gay people is part of a laudable effort to "resist ... the political movement to regularize and even celebrate" homosexuality.
With its latest report on "Russia's newfound embrace of traditional values," Breitbart has once again adopted language that sounds no different than that employed by the Kremlin to defend its war on LGBT human rights. Such whitewashing provides media organizations an example of what to avoid as they train their focus on Russia in the coming month.
Breitbart.com Editor-At-Large Ben Shapiro predicted that Hollywood - credited with shifting American public opinion in favor of marriage equality - will soon push sentiment the other way, asserting that the weddings of 33 same-sex and opposite-sex couples at the 56th annual Grammy Awards exposes the entertainment industry's "hatred of Biblical values."
In a January 29 TownHall.com column titled "How Hollywood Is Killing Same-Sex Marriage," Shapiro baselessly asserted that Americans were beginning to abandon their support for marriage equality, arguing that the Grammys ceremony marked a key turning point. Joining other right-wing media figures in blasting the ceremony, Shapiro criticized Hollywood's "perverted" concept of marriage and its "anti-Biblical" support for the "destruction of traditional values" (emphasis added):
This wasn't an argument for same-sex marriage. It wasn't even attractive image-making on behalf of same-sex marriage. It was hatred of Biblical values cloaked in pietistic nonsense.
Begin with the marriages themselves. The only rationale for getting married on the Grammys en masse would be either attention-seeking or spite toward Americans with traditional values, or both. Neither of these rationales scream "love," "commitment" or "societal building block."
Move on to the cheering audience -- a group of anti-marriage Hollywoodites who largely see the institution itself as patriarchal. The same folks standing up for same-sex marriage at the Grammys largely scorn the institution of marriage itself. The only time they embrace marriage is when it is being mocked, undermined or perverted. That's not a cuddly case for same-sex marriage.
But this is Hollywood unmasked: angry, vindictive, self-righteous, anti-Biblical. The case for same-sex marriage rests on an application of Biblical principle -- monogamy and commitment -- to actions condemned by Biblical text. For years, Hollywood was able to get away with perverting the Bible by ignoring it. But in its rush to congratulate itself for overthrowing Biblical values without a shot, Hollywood spiked the football and revealed its true agenda. And that agenda is not the agenda of tolerance for individuals, but an ugly agenda of unearned moral superiority via destruction of traditional values.
His latest bigoted tirade fits a pattern of homophobic statements on Shapiro's part. An outspoken critic of efforts to combat anti-LGBT bullying, Shapiro has also waged baseless attacks on the "tyranny" of anti-discrimination laws, warned that marriage equality would force churches to perform same-sex marriages, and touted Matthew Shepard Trutherism because he sees it as a convenient way of undercutting the LGBT's movement's "broader agenda."
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.
Conservative media figures relied on gender norms to smear Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis as an uncaring mother after learning of her decision to give her ex-husband custody of her children as she pursued her law degree.
On January 18th, The Dallas Morning News reported that "some facts have been blurred" in Wendy Davis' personal story, including that she had been 21, not 19, when she divorced her first husband. The paper also reported that when Davis and her second husband were divorced in 2005, he was granted parental custody of her two children, one teenager and one adult.
Right-wing media have hyped demands from Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) to illegally remove the Department of Justice attorney tapped to investigate the IRS targeting scandal because of her political contributions, despite the fact that the DOJ is prohibited by law from considering political affiliations or contributions in personnel decisions.
Right-wing media have responded to a Supreme Court justice's decision to temporarily block the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) birth control mandate by falsely claiming that abortifacients are included in the coverage required by the health care law.
The right-wing media is pouncing on a federal judge's ruling striking down parts of Utah's anti-polygamy law, using the decision to assert that legalized polygamy is an inevitable consequence of the slippery slope created by marriage equality for same-sex couples.
On December 13, Judge Clark Waddoups, a U.S. District Court judge in Utah appointed by President George W. Bush, issued a decision finding that Utah's ban on "cohabitation" violated constitutionally protected rights of free exercise of religion and due process. The case, Brown v. Buhman, was brought by Kody Brown, a star of the reality television show "Sister Wives."
Conservative media outlets immediately linked the decision to the push for same-sex marriage rights. FrontPageMag proclaimed that "[t]urning gay marriage into a thing paves the way for legalizing polygamy. As everyone with a brain predicted." "Judge Cites Same-Sex Marriage in Declaring Polygamy Ban Unconstitutional," Breitbart.com reported. And even as he acknowledged that the decision didn't vindicate opponents of marriage rights for gay couples, Commentary's Jonathan Tobin declared that "[t]he floodgates have been opened."
In reality, here's what media outlets need to know about Judge Waddoups' ruling:
With Brown likely headed toward an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, it's far from clear whether Waddoups' ruling will stand. What should be obvious, though, is that contrary to the right wing's willful distortion of the decision, it's neither the inevitable consequence of same-sex marriage nor the first step toward legalized polygamy.
Conservative media figures have attacked House Speaker John Boehner for accusing tea party groups of undercutting Republican Party interests, claiming that Boehner did so to facilitate passage of "amnesty" in 2014. But the "amnesty" label that right-wing figures affix to immigration reform has been disputed even by Republican lawmakers opposed to reform.
Indeed, the comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the Senate imposes severe hurdles and makes undocumented immigrants wait 13 years before they can even begin to apply for citizenship.
As the Washington Post explained:
One of the weaknesses of the public conversation about immigration is that any proposal under which the final result for some undocumented immigrants is citizenship gets labeled "amnesty." But in reality, most proposals put a ton of hurdles between such immigrants' current status and that goal.
The Post included this graph from the Center for American Progress, which drives home the absurdity of calling what basically amounts to a 13-year wait -- that may or may not result in citizenship -- an "amnesty":
As the Post reported on December 12, Boehner criticized tea party and ultra-conservative groups who came out against a recently passed bi-partisan budget deal, calling them "misleading" and without "credibility," and saying they are "working against the interests of the Republican Party."
After Pope Francis released his first apostolic exhortation -- in which he criticized global inequalities of wealth and the tenets of so-called trickle-down economics -- right-wing media went on the attack, characterizing the pope's treatise as "disturbingly ignorant" and "pure Marxism."
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the gun industry's trade group, is pushing back on a conspiracy theory promoted by right-wing media that the Obama administration is using the Environmental Protection Agency to eliminate the domestic ammunition supply.
In November, The Doe Run Company announced that they will shutter their primary lead smelter at the end of the year -- the last such facility in the country -- as part of a settlement the company reached with the EPA in 2010. The settlement also involves the payment of $7 million in civil fines for violations of environmental law and an agreement to spend $65 million to correct past violations. A Doe Run senior communications liaison explained to The Salem News Online that, "The closure was really a result of increasing standards and an aging facility" and noted that it would be too expensive for the company to comply with clean air regulations.
Conservative media have claimed the EPA move was a backdoor attempt to limit the supply of lead ammunition. But responding to those conspiracies, NSSF senior vice president Lawrence Keane told The Washington Times that, "Manufacturers use recycled lead to make ammunition. They don't buy from smelters. The EPA closing, which has been in the works for a while, will have no impact on production, supply or cost to the consumers."
As Keane suggested, the root of the ring-wing media's conspiracy theory is the mistaken belief that ammunition must be made from lead obtained from the earth as opposed to recycled lead. Even Doe Run, which also operates a secondary lead smelting operation, noted in a November 7 press release that the closure will only affect products that require primary lead.
After an agreement was reached with Iran to halt parts of their nuclear program, right-wing media figures responded by calling the compromise "abject surrender by the United States" and comparing negotiations between the United States and Iran to British appeasement of Nazi aggression in the lead up to the Second World War.
As the nation mourns the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, conservative media figures have attempted to appropriate his legacy and attribute to the beloved former president their conservative ideas and positions. This effort runs counter to Kennedy's stated positions, speeches, and other historical facts surrounding his presidency.
President Obama's recitation of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is sparking hysteria from the right-wing media who slammed the president for omitting the phrase "under God." But ironically, in their hurry to attack the president, they omitted the fact that Obama was reading the first draft of the speech -- a draft that did not include "under God" -- at the request of filmmaker Ken Burns.
To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, filmmaker Ken Burns compiled footage of important national figures -- including Obama and all the living former presidents -- reciting portions of the speech.
On November 19, right-wing radio host Chris Plante accused Obama of omitting the phrase "under God" from his recitation of the Gettysburg Address. Other conservative media outlets like the Drudge Report, The Daily Caller, and National Review Online's The Corner promptly ran with the story. WMAL, which hosts The Chris Plante Show, remarked about the news:
One nation under God? Under President Obama, maybe not so much.
As first reported on WMAL's Chris Plante Show Tuesday, the Commander-in-Chief joined a cast of 61 other noted lawmakers, politicians, news anchors and celebrities, including every living President, in reciting the Gettysburg Address, which President Abraham Lincoln delivered on November 19, 1863.
The dignitaries all delivered the address as Lincoln had written it, including the phrase, "that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom." (Click to listen). Curiously, however, in his version of the address, President Obama omitted the words "under God."
Obama's recitation was not 'curious,' it was accurate -- Burns requested that President Obama read the 'Nicolay Version' of the Address, which was Lincoln's first draft of the Address and does not contain the phrase "under God." The relevant text of the Nicolay version, which Obama recites, reads (emphasis added):
It is rather for us, the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
The right-wing media's rush to hysteria and ignorance of the facts in this case is ironic: Burns' project is called Learn the Address.
UPDATE: After this post's publication, the Daily Caller acknowledged the error in an update to its original post:
The "Learn the Address" website notes that "We asked President Obama to read ... the 'Nicolay Version'" of the Gettsyburg Address, which omits the words "under God." That disclosure does not appear alongside Obama's video on the site.
UPDATE 2: National Review Online's The Corner also published an update to its original post:
During today's White House press briefing, press secretary Jay Carney claimed that President Obama had read from the version of the Gettysburg Address given to him by documentarian Ken Burns. This appears to be the case. As Mediaite notes, the website for Burns' upcoming project, Learn the Address, says that there are five manuscripts of the Gettysburg Address and that Obama read from the "Nicolay Version." This version of the manuscript is believed to be the earliest of the copies of the Address, and it does omit the phrase "under God." Three of the five manuscripts do include the phrase.
The office of Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) revoked access to a Senate meeting room for a right-wing confab planning to discuss how American social conservatives can learn from Russia's draconian crackdown on LGBT people. Among the participants slated to speak at the event was Breitbart.com columnist and notorious homophobe Austin Ruse.
BuzzFeed's J. Lester Feder reported on November 14 that Kirk - who supports marriage equality and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) -- had shut down the planned November 15 "Family Policy Lessons From Other Lands: What Should America Learn?" conference. A Kirk spokesman explained that "Sen. Kirk doesn't affiliate with groups that discriminate."
Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Instiute (C-FAM) and Breitbart.com's go-to anti-gay extremist, lashed out at Kirk, calling him a "coward" and blasting the "shameful" cancellation of the event. But while Ruse and his fellow anti-LGBT activists might be too fringe for the Senate's meeting rooms, he's always welcome to spew his hate at Breitbart.com and conservative websites like The Daily Caller, where he penned a column titled "Putin is not the gay bogeyman." At Breitbart.com, Ruse has been a relentless cheerleader for Matthew Shepard trutherism and supporter of Russia's anti-gay crackdown, which Ruse considers vital to "human rights." In his capacity as C-FAM president, Ruse has worked to block a U.N. treaty on the rights of people with disabilities and supported the former right-wing government of Poland in its effort to fire pro-gay teachers.
Ruse's Breitbart.com column on the "human rights" groups supporting Russia's anti-gay laws touted a joint statement signed by social conservative organizations from around the globe endorsing the Kremlin's crackdown and expressing concern "about the heavy attacks that the Russian Federation is facing" in the wake of the laws' passage. Several of the groups that signed the statement were planning on participating in the now-canceled Senate-sponsored conference. They include the Illinois-based World Congress of Families (WCF), whose spokesman says that the U.S. is "doomed to extinction" thanks to marriage equality. WCF has also worked internationally to defend laws criminalizing homosexuality. The anti-contraception Population Research Institute, another signatory of the pro-Kremlin statement, was also to have been represented at the November 15 event by President Steven Mosher.
The symposium would have been much more than a gathering of figures who wish to "discriminate." Ruse and his anti-LGBT compatriots are enthusiastic backers of vicious laws that have stoked a horrific climate of violence and vigilantism toward gay Russians. If full-throated support for such grievous human rights violations isn't disqualifying at Breitbart.com, what is?
Conservative media are applauding House Speaker John Boehner's (R-OH) decision to refuse negotiations on immigration reform between the House and Senate, which likely means the end of comprehensive immigration reform this year. This decision comes after months of right-wing media telling Republicans to obstruct any and all action to pass comprehensive immigration legislation.