Right-wing media are seizing on deceptively edited videos purporting to show that Planned Parenthood profits from the illegal sale of fetal tissue to justify comparing the organization to Nazis, invoking the deadly human experimentation of notorious Nazi Dr. Josef Mengele. In reality, the full, unedited versions of the videos debunk the allegations. Many groups, including Planned Parenthood, donate fetal tissue to support medical research such as the development of treatments for diseases, and such donations are legal with consent from the donor. It's also legal for providers to accept payment "for reasonable expenses" with "informed consent," but Planned Parenthood does not profit from tissue donations -- Legal reimbursement helps offset the costs associated with donations.
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson attacked transgender military members as "mentally ill" in response to the Pentagon's landmark announcement that the Department of Defense will create a working group to review "policy and readiness implications of welcoming transgender persons to serve openly."
On July 13, a press release from Secretary of Defense Carter Ash stated that the military's current ban on transgender service members is outdated and going forward, "must treat all our people with the dignity and respect they deserve":
The Defense Department's current regulations regarding transgender service members are outdated and are causing uncertainty that distracts commanders from our core missions. At a time when our troops have learned from experience that the most important qualification for service members should be whether they're able and willing to do their job, our officers and enlisted personnel are faced with certain rules that tell them the opposite. Moreover, we have transgender soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines - real, patriotic Americans - who I know are being hurt by an outdated, confusing, inconsistent approach that's contrary to our value of service and individual merit.
Today, I am issuing two directives to deal with this matter. First, DoD will create a working group to study over the next six months the policy and readiness implications of welcoming transgender persons to serve openly. Led by (Acting) Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Brad Carson, and composed of military and civilian personnel representing all the military services and the Joint Staff, this working group will report to Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work. At my direction, the working group will start with the presumption that transgender persons can serve openly without adverse impact on military effectiveness and readiness, unless and except where objective, practical impediments are identified. Second, I am directing that decision authority in all administrative discharges for those diagnosed with gender dysphoria or who identify themselves as transgender be elevated to Under Secretary Carson, who will make determinations on all potential separations.
After this announcement, Erickson responded on Twitter that transgender individuals, specifically those serving in the military, are "mentally ill":
It is very kind of the Obama administration to allow the mentally ill to serve openly in the military.-- Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) July 14, 2015
In its report on this news, Time cited a report from the Williams Institute at UCLA that estimated 15,500 transgender individuals currently serve in the U.S. military.
Note: This post has been updated for clarity.
In response to the Supreme Court's recent marriage equality ruling, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson claimed that many people become gay because of "abuse" and "parental issues."
On the June 29 edition of The Erick Erickson Show, Fox's Erickson claimed that it's "not really true in most cases" that people are born gay. Instead, "if you go back to it there's parental issues, there's abuse, and that has a lot to do with it":
ERICKSON: First of all, you're only talking 3 to 5 percent of the population. Now I know a lot of people, a lot of people the thought is that you're born gay. That's actually not really true in most cases. In some cases I think it probably is, but in a lot of cases if you go back to it there are parental issues, there's abuse, and that has a lot to do with it. And as you see a collapse of family - I don't think that it's a coincidence that a collapse of family is - is directly inverse proportional or inversely related to the rise in people who identify as being gay. [Emphasis added]
Erickson has a history of extreme anti-LGBT comments. He has previously said that countries with marriage equality are "bent on suicide," compared gay people to terrorists, and agreed that the "homosexual movement" is "destroying America." Erickson also regularly solicits support for an extreme anti-gay legal group working to criminalize homosexuality internationally.
On August 6-9, Erickson will be hosting the RedState Gathering - a conservative political conference - in Atlanta. A number of GOP presidential hopefuls, including Gov. Jeb Bush and Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, are slated to speak at the event.
In the wake of the June 17 mass shooting in a Charleston, S.C. church, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson claimed that Americans can no longer distinguish "normal from crazy and evil from good," citing society's acceptance of transgender people like Caitlyn Jenner.
On the June 18 edition of The Erick Erickson Show, and in an accompanying blog post on RedState.com headlined, "The Conversation We Won't Have," Erickson denounced the "political" conversation in the wake of the attack that killed nine people, and criticized what he called "cries from the left" about racism and gun laws. He lamented that "as a nation, when these things happen, we never have the conversation about real evil. We also never have the conversation about mental health:"
Erickson wrote that society's acceptance of transgender people like Caitlyn Jenner was evidence that people are reluctant to discuss things like the nature of evil and mental health issues (emphasis added):
As a nation, when these things happen, we never have the conversation about real evil. We also never have the conversation about mental health. For that matter, we don't have honest conversations about why some kid in Minnesota or Alabama would want to go join ISIS and kill their fellow citizens or why some kid would want to join neo-nazis or a gang.
Instead, we descend into partisan conversations where everything is political and neither side can concede or acknowledge the other's points. Everyone and everything gets blamed while ignoring the actual person who killed.
I realize now why that is. I realize why we will never have the conversation we should have.
A society that looks at a 65 year old male Olympian and, with a straight face, declares him a her and "a new normal" cannot have a conversation about mental health or evil because that society no longer distinguishes normal from crazy and evil from good. Our American society has a mental illness -- overwhelming narcissism and delusion -- and so cannot recognize what crazy or evil looks like.
While Erickson is the first Fox personality to link Caitlyn Jenner to the Charleston shooting, his comments are part of the larger effort by conservative media to steer the public conversation about the massacre away from the underlying factors of racism and gun laws.
Following an investigation by Atlanta's 11Alive into the inner workings of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) -- the secretive organization that brings together corporate lobbyists and state legislators to draft model legislation businesses want to see passed - RedState editor-and-chief, Fox News contributor, and Atlanta-based radio host Erick Erickson gave an ALEC spokesman a platform to deflect questions raised by the report and used his own microphone to question the investigative reporter's character.
On May 21, Atlanta's 11Alive News Tonight aired a report by Brendan Keefe that exposed what went on at an ALEC conference at a hotel in Savannah, Georgia. Keefe's reporting laid bare the cozy relationships between lobbyists and legislators that ALEC facilitates and revealed ALEC's hostile attitude towards the press. Keefe and his crew were denied access to meetings between Georgia legislators and corporate representatives, even though they displayed official press credentials. ALEC's vice president of public affairs, Bill Meierling, even tried to get Keefe thrown out of the hotel, where Keefe was a registered guest, with the help of uniformed police officers hired by ALEC as private security.
ALEC responded to 11Alive's investigation by saying Keefe's questions had "caught [Meierling] off guard," but had no comment on the story's revelations.
But Meierling had plenty to say on the June 4 broadcast of The Erick Erickson Show. During the interview, Meierling attacked Keefe's reporting by claiming he "snuck into a conference room" under a fake name "not for the purpose of interviewing anyone or having a frank discussion but to shove three cameras in people's faces and have a 'gotcha' moment." Meierling said if Keefe applied for media credentials from ALEC, the group could "try to shape the things that he was interested in." Erickson also defended the group and attacked 11Alive's report by claiming that Keefe had attempted to portray ALEC as a "vast right wing conspiracy group fueled by money" and "wining and dining legislators and shaping evil policies," all of which Erickson posited is untrue.
Keefe responded to Erickson's interview in a June 11 article on 11Alive's website that contained screenshots of ALEC's website showing that the group had changed its media policy since 11Alive's investigation aired. He also noted that 11Alive had repeatedly requested an interview with someone from ALEC but received no response.
The sudden change in policy at the American Legislative Exchange Council was made after the 11Alive Investigators were kicked out of an ALEC legislative committee meeting inside a Savannah resort hotel. Chatham County Sheriff's deputies, directly hired and paid by ALEC, were used to remove us from the entire hotel even though we had paid for a room.
The ALEC media policy remains nearly identical to the one in place when we launched our investigation, but after our report the line barring media was quietly removed and replaced with, "plenary sessions and workshops are open to members of the media."
A screen grab obtained by The Investigators in May and a capture of the same web page from earlier this year on archive.org both show the original line prohibiting reporters and their cameras: "business meetings and networking events are not open to members of the media."
That media prohibition was quietly removed, and the new line was inserted at the same time ALEC complained to a political commentator that we had never contacted the organization before the event. It turns out we did reach out to ALEC media relations twice in the months leading up to the closed-door Savannah meeting, but we never received any response to our requests.
Keefe also addressed the charge that he had used a fake name, or tried to conceal his motives for seeking an interview, and corrected Meierling and Erickson's claim that it was a Georgia Democrat who criticized ALEC in 11Alive's report; it was, in fact, a Georgia Republican and former ALEC member who said the group was full of "angry white men...controlled by industry."
While Meierling still won't talk with us, he did speak to conservative talk show host Erick Erickson, insisting that we would have been welcome inside the meeting had we simply pre-registered for ALEC credentials. Erickson and Meierling insisted we had booked the hotel "under an assumed name." My whole family stayed at the hotel that week, and my wife and I booked the room under the name "Keefe" which I assumed 46 years ago at birth.
The radio interview also attributed a quote that ALEC was a group of "angry white men" to the wrong Georgia senator. Meierling and Erickson told listeners the quote came from Senator Nan Orrock, a democrat who was a member of a "left wing competitor of ALEC."
But Senator Orrock didn't say that. Republican senator and former ALEC member Renee Unterman told us ALEC was a group of "angry white men...controlled by industry."
Despite Meierling and Erickson claims that media have an easy time gaining access to ALEC meetings, attempts by journalists to investigate what really goes on inside ALEC meetings between legislators and lobbyists are often shut down by the group. And while Meierling tried to downplay the monetary influence these lobbyists have on legislators, saying "there's absolutely nothing nefarious about discussing limited government," lawmakers pay a very small proportion of ALEC's membership fees, while corporations pay up to $10,000 a year for access to legislators -- payments that add up to 98 percent of ALEC's revenues.
11Alive's investigation isn't the first to prove Erickson's claim that ALEC isn't "wining and dining" legislators wrong. In fact, ALEC's generosity towards lawmakers goes far beyond dinner, and includes "scholarship" programs that often involve paying legislators' way on trips to meet lobbyists at resorts and other vacation destinations, like the hotel in Savannah where Keefe tried to find out more about the group's activities. The same legislators who go on these junkets have supported such ALEC-promoted laws as "Stand Your Ground," which has been used to defend the reckless use of firearms; dangerous climate initiatives that promote corporate profits over public interests; and legislation to block increases in the minimum wage.
From the June 11 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Right-wing media responded with mockery, disrespect, and sarcasm after Vanity Fair released a preview of its July cover story featuring Caitlyn Jenner.
As Hillary Clinton announced she will run for president in 2016, right-wing media figures responded with predictable ire, from sexist comments to implications that Clinton is supported by Communists.
CNN highlighted religious support for LGBT equality in its coverage of Indiana's "religious freedom" law, avoiding the common 'God versus Gays' trope that typically defines coverage of debates over LGBT issues. CNN's coverage is in line with polls that show increasing support for marriage equality and LGBT rights by a variety of major religious groups.
During the April 1 edition of CNN Newsroom with Carol Costello, Costello invited Matthew Vines, a gay Evangelical Christian, to discuss Indiana's widely-criticized "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" (RFRA). The law has been at the center of controversy over concern that it provides a legal defense for individuals or businesses to cite religious beliefs as a justification for refusing service to LGBT people.
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson is aggressively lobbying for a "religious freedom" bill in Georgia that would create a broad license to discriminate against LGBT people on the basis of religion.
For the past two months, Fox News contributor, RedState.com editor, and radio host Erick Erickson has been relentlessly campaigning for the passage of SB 129, a so-called "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" (RFRA) that has already passed the Georgia Senate. The proposed RFRA would enshrine the ability of businesses and state employees to refuse service to LGBT people. Southern faith leaders, religious liberty scholars, businesses and even some conservative lawmakers have publicly denounced RFRAs over concerns that they would create a blank check for anti-gay discrimination.
Erickson, who has compared gay people to terrorists and believes businesses who serve same-sex weddings are "aiding and abetting" sin, might be SB 129's most vocal and prominent supporter. Between February 18 and March 18, he sent 11 emails in support of the bill to the list of subscribers to his radio show, wrote 8 blog posts about the measure on RedState, and has lobbied for the law on at least 5 of his radio shows. Erickson frequently touts the myth of Christian persecution across media platforms to advocate for RFRA, telling subscribers in a March 10 email:
If you are not willing to pick up the phone, we will lose. Our religious liberty protections in Georgia will start being eroded by left-wing activists inside and outside the judiciary.
Start calling now. Insist they tell the Speaker to bring S.B. 129 to the floor immediately without amendments. Your right to worship and practice your beliefs is on the line. And yes, it can happen here in Georgia.
Erickson has also falsely claimed that, without RFRA, local non-discrimination ordinances will force churches to build unisex bathrooms and dictate that "a man who says he's a woman should be able to use the women's bathroom;" in fact, churches are largely exempt from non-discrimination laws.
On March 18, Erickson announced that he will be recording calls to constituents in several districts across Georgia, especially in areas where he has "a regular media presence:"
It is the perfect robocall for a state whose elected officials claim not just to be "Republican", but to be Christians and conservatives.
We're moving from "make them see the light" to "make them feel the heat."
It is no surprise that Erickson is working to rally his supporters behind this type of license-to-discriminate legislation, given his cozy relationship with the extreme anti-LGBT organization Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). ADF is a multi-million dollar organization that works with "2,400 allied attorneys" nationally to draft and pass RFRA laws. As CNN put it, ADF has provided the "genetic code" behind RFRAs across the country.
Erickson has long been a vocal supporter of ADF - their "religious freedom" work so inspired him that he previously begged readers of his RedState.com blog to donate money to the organization. The close relationship between Erickson and ADF is a two way street - ADF hosted "An Evening with Erick Erickson" that focused on the "increasingly aggressive attack" on religious liberty. Just recently, in lobbying for SB 129 on his March 5 radio show, Erickson hailed ADF as a "wonderful wonderful organization" that "defend[s] Christians."
With their mouthpieces at Fox promoting their narrative of Christian persecution, ADF has helped craft a number of RFRA bills being considered in states across the country. It remains to be seen if Erickson will continue his role as ADF's cheerleader in its mission to enshrine anti-LGBT discrimination in the law one state at a time.
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson recently criticized potential Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee for pitching products like survival food and shady diabetes treatments, decrying the types of ads Huckabee endorsed as a "plague on conservatives." But Erickson is a hypocrite -- his RedState website also cashed in on Huckabee's shady diabetes infomercial and has previously sold out readers to a wide range of hucksters and conspiracy theorists.
On March 15, The New York Times reported that former Fox News contributor Mike Huckabee had recently appeared in an "infomercial for a dubious diabetes treatment, in which Mr. Huckabee, who is contemplating a run for the Republican nomination in 2016, tells viewers to ignore 'Big Pharma' and instead points them to a 'weird spice, kitchen-cabinet cure,' consisting of dietary supplements."
Times reporter Trip Gabriel explained that the diabetes treatment -- a "Diabetes Solution Kit" from Barton Publishing -- is part of a wide series of shady ads Huckabee has placed in his email commentaries while he explores a presidential bid. (Huckabee also spent years using his celebrity as a Fox News personality to sell out his fans to scam artists.)
After laying out the types of pitches Huckabee has recently sent to his supporters -- including survival food ads and a "miracle cure for cancer hidden in the Bible" -- Gabriel writes that they are all "designed to pry open the wallets of small-donor conservatives, some of whom distrust mainstream sources of information."
The article then quotes influential conservative activist Erick Erickson lamenting the proliferation of these types of scams as a "plague on conservatives":
"This is a plague on conservatives," said Erick Erickson, the founder of the influential blog Red State, who has criticized ads for products and outside political groups that he calls "hucksters," which prey on conservatives.
While a radio or TV host might not be able to choose his sponsors, Mr. Huckabee can presumably pick who he sells space to on email commentaries. "I don't know that a potential presidential candidate should be running survival food ads," Mr. Erickson said.
While the Times gave Erickson a platform to contrast himself favorably with "hucksters," Erickson's own RedState site has repeatedly sold out its readers to the very same groups.
For example, RedState sent out a paid advertisement last month featuring the Huckabee diabetes infomercial that was the focus of the Times article:
Prior to Huckabee's involvement, Erickson's RedState had previously sent out at least three email pitches -- all featuring the subject line "1 Weird Spice That Destroys Diabetes" -- promoting Barton Publishing's "Diabetes Solution Kit."
RedState has also sent numerous pitches to its readers from "Food4Patriots," the survival food kit company the Times notes Huckabee has promoted.
When Politico noted in January that Erickson's email list had been rented to the "scam PACs" that he has repeatedly criticized, it quoted Erickson saying that he does not control who rents his list and that "and it horrifies me that the list sometimes get rented to some of these guys." (Salem Media company Townhall Media owns RedState and manages its email list.)
As Media Matters has documented, Erickson's RedState fans have also been sent sponsored messages about "Reagan's Secret Victory Over Cancer," "Obama's Deadly FDA Secret," "1 Weird Trick to KILL old age," and the "Obama scandal" that "WILL KILL MILIONS [sic]."
From the March 13 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Fox contributor Erick Erickson parroted Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) to cast doubt on President Obama's Christianity, alleging he is not a Christian "in any meaningful way," despite the fact that right-wing attempts to call Obama's faith into question have long been discredited.
On February 21, Erickson expressed doubt about President Obama's Christianity, writing on Twitter that Obama is not a Christian "in any meaningful way":
I don't think Barack Obama is a Christian. He certainly is not one in any meaningful way.-- Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) February 22, 2015
Erickson's statement echoes the comments of 2016 presidential hopeful Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who told an interviewer "I don't know" whether Obama is a Christian, or whether "Obama loves his country" earlier the same day. As Democratic National Committee (DNC) spokesperson Holly Shulman pointed out, Walker's comments come after he sat "silently by when Rudy Giuliani made an outrageous comment that our President doesn't love America," -- a comment that has been condemned in mainstream media, but fiercely defended by conservative media like Fox News, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh.
Just as when right-wing media rushed to justify Giuliani's baseless assertion that Obama doesn't love America, Erickson's echoing of Walker's absurd statement will likely pressure other GOP presidential hopefuls to parrot claims that Obama is not a Christian in order to avoid attacks from the right-wing pundits who will help shape the opinions of conservative primary voters.
Fox News and conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck have a long history of questioning Obama's religion, and even pushing the debunked myth that he is a Muslim, despite the fact that references to his Christian faith are commonplace in Obama's public speeches, and accusations that Obama is a Muslim have no basis in reality.
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson compared LGBT-activists to terrorists to declare that "the divide between Islamic extremists and gay rights extremists is at death."
In a February 19 blog post on RedState.com entitled "The Line Between Islamic Extremists and Gay Rights Extremists," Erickson lamented a Washington state judge's recent decision finding that Arlene's Flowers, a florist which refused to service a same-sex wedding, had violated the state's non-discrimination law. According to Erickson, the only difference between the two groups is that LGBT activists don't kill their victims (emphasis added):
Gay rights activists... have not turned physically violent. But they are intent on destroying any who disagree with them. They will take the homes, businesses, and life savings of any who defy them. They will use the tools of the state and mob action through boycotts, fear, and intimidation to make it happen. They will not kill but they will threaten and scare.
The divide between Islamic extremists and gay rights extremists is at death. They meet on the line at destruction.
The gay rights activists who yell "bigot" at those who disagree with them are the Imams of America's cultural ghetto.
This latest anti-LGBT screed is typical of Erickson, who recently called the LGBT community "terrorists" over the firing of the anti-gay Atlanta fire chief and has previously endorsed the claim that the "homosexual movement" is destroying America.
Christians should, however, take heart. The faith that continued to flourish and spread while its adherents' bodies were being used to light the streets of Rome will survive this present turmoil. At a minimum, Christians have more children than homosexuals. We also have a God who stands with us, loves us, and will see us through to eternity.
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson asked his supporters to lobby for discriminatory, anti-gay "Religious Freedom Restoration Acts" that a Fox colleague denounced as "homosexual Jim Crow Laws."
In a February 12 email to "Erick's Conservative Activist List" titled "The Facts" and a February 13 blog post on RedState.com, Erickson asked his supporters to petition for the expansion of so-called state "Religious Freedom Restoration Acts" (RFRAs) - laws that would give individuals and businesses a broad license to discriminate against LGBT people on religious grounds:
An absolute majority of American support religious exceptions relating to providing goods and services to gay marriage. But gay rights advocates oppose that. The Supreme Court will undoubtedly impose gay marriage on the nation by June. Our state legislature needs to pass RFRA now to protect people of faith.
Call your state legislators and demand religious freedom protections for conscientious objectors to the culture wars.
Erickson supported his call for RFRAs by citing a number of anti-gay horror stories popularized by Fox News - all cases where a business violated state non-discrimination laws by refusing to serve gay customers.
Religious liberty scholars, southern faith leaders, and some conservative lawmakers and business owners have all publicly denounced RFRAs over concerns that they would create a blank check for anti-gay discrimination.
Even Erickson's colleagues at Fox have noted how extreme and discriminatory these kinds of RFRAs would be. Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers strongly condemned a RFRA bill in Kansas last year, taking issue with those who support the "homosexual Jim Crow Laws" that justify anti-LGBT bigotry in the name of Christianity. Even Megyn Kelly, a consistent enabler of homophobia at Fox, labeled Arizona's controversial license-to-discriminate bill as "potentially dangerous"- a position she later abandoned.
Erickson has a history of cozying up with the anti-LGBT organizations pushing for these discriminatory RFRA bills, including the extremist Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a group CNN found to be behind the "genetic code" of the RFRA bills popping up across the country. ADF's previous work on license-to-discriminate legislation so inspired Erickson that he begged readers of his RedState.com blog to donate money to the group.