As Donald Trump continues to wage a public fight with Fox News, several of his GOP primary rivals spoke with Media Matters at this weekend's Values Voter Summit about his feud with the conservative network and media coverage of the Republican primary.
Trump and Fox have been in a back and forth fight for much of the past two months. Last week, Trump announced that he was planning to boycott Fox News "for the foreseeable future" because the network has supposedly been treating him "very unfairly." Fox chief Roger Ailes and other "senior Fox editorial executives" are reportedly set to meet with Trump this week in an effort to smooth things over.
"All you have to do is look at the airtime, look at the airtime," former Fox News contributor Rick Santorum told Media Matters when asked about the Trump effect.
As Media Matters has documented, despite Trump's regular complaints about Fox's coverage of his campaign, he has dominated his Republican rivals in interview airtime on the network. From May through August, Trump garnered 10 hours and 21 minutes of interview airtime, more than three times as much as Santorum, who had just over 3 hours.
Asked by Media Matters when he would return to Fox, Trump said, "We'll see, we'll see. They have to treat me fairly and I'm sure they will. I'm sure they will."
Such a return is likely to keep the overwhelming media focus on Trump, prompting mixed reactions from his rivals.
"They're like a moth drawn to the flame," South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said about Fox's Trump coverage. "You can't help but cover it."
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal objected to candidates decrying media coverage, saying, "Any Republican or conservative that complains about the media, I think that's foolishness. There's nothing you can do about that, go out and talk directly to voters. "
While he was critical of Trump, Jindal conceded that he is "great for ratings."
"I've said over and over I think Trump is an egomaniac, he's not a conservative, he's not a liberal, he's not an independent," Jindal said. "He only believes in himself, I think he's great entertainment, he's great for ratings."
Former Fox News employee Dr. Ben Carson indicated he was happy with Fox News' primary coverage so far, telling Media Matters, "I've never had any problems with Fox News, I don't feel any problem, I am happy with what's going on."
Carson has good reason to be happy. Earlier this month, New York magazine reporter and Roger Ailes biographer Gabriel Sherman reported that Ailes "has been impressed by Carson, a former Fox pundit, and is promoting his candidacy inside the network." Sherman also quoted an anonymous Fox personality telling him, "Roger has told producers to push Carson and put him on whenever he wants to go on."
Tony Perkins is the head of one of the most extreme anti-gay hate groups in the country, yet media outlets continue to give him a platform that enables him to play a major role in mainstream conservative politics.
In 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) labeled Perkins' group, the Family Research Council (FRC), an anti-gay hate group, due in part to Perkins' history of making inflammatory comments about the LGBT community. Perkins has called pedophilia "a homosexual problem," accused gay people of recruiting children, and compared gay advocates to terrorists.
Despite FRC's extremism, mainstream media 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.
The media's forgiving treatment of Perkins has allowed him to establish himself as a powerful force in Republican politics, using his national platform to pressure politicians who don't act in lockstep with FRC's extremism. Perkins' influence is especially evident at FRC's annual Values Voter Summit, a conservative political conference that has become a must-attend event for rising GOP politicians. This week, Republican presidential candidates will attend FRC's Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. to vie for social conservatives' support. And they'll likely do so without worrying that major media outlets will scrutinize them for cozying up to a known hate group.
Failing to hold Perkins and FRC accountable for their anti-LGBT extremism isn't just bad journalism -- it proactively lends credibility to an organization that works tirelessly to attack and dehumanize LGBT people. As SPLC's Heidi Beirich explained, "If people were better informed about what FRC has said in the past... they'd be much less likely to be snowed by anything that comes out of Perkins' mouth or comes out of FRC."
It's long past time for media outlets to stop giving Perkins a pass and start giving their audiences the full story behind who's leading the fight against LGBT equality.
Video created by Leanne Naramore.
Fox News hosts have used the controversy surrounding Rowan County, Kentucky clerk Kim Davis to repeatedly hawk the new book from a man considered one of America's most extreme and prominent anti-gay hate-group leaders.
Tony Perkins is the president of the Family Research Council (FRC), an organization that has been labeled a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center for spreading damaging lies about gay people, including the myth that they are more likely to engage in pedophilia.
Perkins' latest book, No Fear, was published on September 8 and tells the stories of "young people who have taken a stand for Biblical truth," including Aaaron and Melissa Klein, the Oregon bakers who were fined after refusing to sell a wedding cake to a same-sex couple. The book is a collection of misleading culture war stories aimed at depicting conservative Christians as the victims of religious persecution by liberals.
That's a popular narrative on Fox News, so it's not surprising that the network has promoted the book repeatedly during its news programming, playing off the controversy surrounding Kim Davis, the Rowan County clerk who went to jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples:
Fox's knee-jerk endorsement of Perkin's book is also self-serving: Perkins himself admitted that many of the stories in No Fear were pulled from Fox's reporting.
Perkins and the Family Research Council have long benefited from their relationship with Fox News. Todd Starnes, the network's serially misinformed culture war reporter, regularly turns FRC press releases into national news stories, while FRC touts the network's reporting to reinforce its Christian persecution narratives about LGBT equality.
Perkins has also found a close ally in Fox anchor Megyn Kelly, who has hosted the hate group leader more frequently on her show than any other Fox News program has, regularly giving his anti-gay extremism a veneer of mainstream credibility.
With Fox News giving Perkins free airtime to promote his book, the network has become both a political and financial asset to one of the country's most extreme anti-gay hate groups.
Right-wing media, particularly Fox News, immediately jumped at the chance to blame the Black Lives Matter movement after a gunman killed a Texas police officer at a suburban Houston gas station, going so far as to label it a hate group. Not only are both these charges incontrovertibly false, but the network itself has a long history of promoting organizations identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as "hate groups":
Como respuesta a la histórica resolución de la Corte Suprema de Justicia a favor de la igualdad matrimonial, los medios conservadores están apoyando una nueva ley federal llamada "Ley Defensora de la Primera Enmienda" (FADA por sus siglas en inglés). A pesar de que los conservadores están promoviendo FADA como un esfuerzo para proteger la libertad religiosa, críticos advierten que la ley podría poner en peligro la capacidad del gobierno para combatir la discriminación anti-gay.
In response to the Supreme Court's historic marriage equality ruling, conservative media has endorsed a newly proposed federal bill called the "First Amendment Defense Act" (FADA). Though conservatives have touted FADA as an effort to protect religious liberty, critics warn the bill would undermine the government's ability to combat anti-gay discrimination.
One week before the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional, a group of the country's most prominent anti-LGBT activists met at the Skyline megachurch in San Diego to discuss what their next steps should be in the fight against LGBT equality.
The meeting was part of the 2015 Future Conference, an event organized by Skyline Pastor Jim Garlow in order to respond to "the thorniest and most challenging issues in the current cultural landscape."
In promotional materials for the gathering, Garlow warned "our nation is in trouble" due to the lack of a "clear proclamation of biblical answers to the messiness of our culture." According to Garlow, pastors can no longer speak out about things like homosexuality because they are considered "political."
The four-day conference, which Media Matters attended undercover, featured presentations covering a range of issues -- from the threat of Islam to "biblical economics" -- but its unifying theme was the alleged rise of Christian persecution across the globe, and especially in the United States as a result of growing acceptance of LGBT people.
The list of over 50 speakers spanned the conservative political landscape and included members of Congress, Fox News contributors, and prominent right-wing activists. Senator James Lankford (R-OK), Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA), and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich submitted video remarks. There was even a presentation from Suzan Johnson Cook, former Obama administration Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.
The conference also featured speeches from some of the most prominent anti-LGBT groups in the country, including several organizations designated as "hate groups" by the Southern Poverty Law Center: the Family Research Council (FRC), Liberty Counsel, and Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM).
Shielded from the eyes and ears of major media, speakers at the Future Conference expressed the kind of casual homophobia that would otherwise offend mainstream audiences. More importantly, they discussed their plans for dealing with a country seems increasingly determined to protect LGBT people from discrimination.
Speakers at the Future Conference presented many of the same homophobic talking points that have defined the religious right for the past several years. Many disparaged same-sex relationships as destructive and unhealthy. Frank Schubert -- the political strategist behind many of the country's most successful anti-LGBT campaigns -- told his audience that "sexual entanglements" between gay men pose "substantial risk of harm," and called gay sex "inherently unhealthy":
Others decried LGBT activists as being overly-aggressive and totalitarian. "The rainbow flag of tolerance has become the dark flag of tyranny overnight," warned Everett Piper, president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University. Conservative columnist Star Parker lamented that "homosexuality is now dividing us and bringing hostility into the public square. They're coming out of the closet -- they're forcing the church in." Michael Brown, an anti-LGBT activist known for showing up at gay pride events to badger attendees, declared that the "gay revolution has within itself the seeds of self-destruction."
FRC Vice President for Church Ministries Kenyn Cureton, in a presentation about mobilizing churches to get involved in political battles, described LGBT activists as "pawns of a malevolent master."
Outside the conference's main auditorium, organizations set up displays to hand out promotional materials about their work. FRC's display included copies of its "Debating Homosexuality" booklet, which falsely claims that gay men are more likely to engage in pedophilia than heterosexual men.
The Future Conference's homophobic content was unsurprising given the venue. In 2008, Garlow's Skyline Church was at the epicenter of the religious fight against California's Proposition 8. At the time, Garlow convened a call with 1,000 ministers to discuss tactics for banning same-sex marriage in the state -- tactics that ultimately proved successful in mobilizing religious support for the ballot measure.
Less than a decade later, Garlow and his allies were meeting under very different circumstances.
Same-sex marriage had become legal in a majority of states, including California. Public opinion was firmly in favor of marriage equality, and religious opposition to same-sex marriage was giving way to religious acceptance and support. Most speakers were correctly predicting that Obergefell would result in the Supreme Court legalizing nationwide marriage equality.
That looming reality gave the Future Conference a sense of urgent and sober realism. Beyond making their typical anti-gay remarks, speakers explained how they planned to stop, or at least slow, the push for LGBT equality in America.
One of the recurring themes at the Future Conference, especially in reference to Obergefell, was the suggestion that Christians are not obligated to obey the laws of man if they contradict the laws of God.
In a video message to the conference. Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver compared a Supreme Court decision legalizing marriage equality to Dred Scott, the infamous Supreme Court decision that found African Americans were not American citizens. "Our highest respect for a higher law," Staver said, "requires that we not give respect to an unjust decision." He explicitly suggested that religious adoption agencies should refuse to place children in households headed by same-sex couples, adding that the Supreme Court lacked the power to enforce its decisions.
That sentiment was echoed by several other speakers, including Schubert, who argued that a constitutional convention might be needed to override an "illegitimate" decision on same-sex marriage from the Supreme Court. NOM's Brian Brown touted his organization's "Presidential Marriage Pledge," which -- in addition to calling for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage -- asks presidential candidates to pledge to work to "overturn any Supreme Court decision that illegitimately finds a constitutional 'right' to the redefinition of marriage."
The civil disobedience canard has gained popularity among anti-LGBT activists and even GOP presidential candidates, who have similarly compared Obergefell to Dred Scott and suggested that Americans should simply refuse to acknowledge the Supreme Court's authority.
Speakers also touted efforts to undermine and sidestep non-discrimination laws that would prohibit them from discriminating against LGBT people on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Steve Riggle, a Houston pastor at the center of the national controversy surrounding Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) earlier this year, decried the city's attempt to extend "special rights" to LGBT people, peddling the myth that sexual predators would exploit the law by pretending to be transgender and sneaking into women's restrooms.
In a session titled "Homosexual Marriage - Obliterating Religious Liberty," Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) senior counsel Kevin Theriot warned audience members that non-discrimination laws threaten the freedom of churches and businesses to act out their faith. ADF has been at the forefront of representing business owners who refuse service to gay customers, arguing that religious businesses should be exempt from non-discrimination protections. It's also the group behind the national push for state "religious freedom" laws, which would give business owners a legal defense for refusing service to gay customers. He offered audience members copies of ADF's booklet "Protecting Your Ministry," which offers advice on how for-profit businesses and churches can avoid non-discrimination lawsuits.
"Are you willing to do what it takes to prepare yourself for the coming onslaught?" Theriot asked before describing how churches might insulate themselves from discrimination complaints. One tactic, advised Theriot, is to take advantage of the ministerial exemption to non-discrimination laws by broadly defining "ministers" to include employees like IT technicians and food bank workers.
NOM's Brown encouraged attendees to throw their support behind the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), which had just been introduced in Congress and would shield businesses and individuals from being denied tax exemptions, grants, licenses, certifications, or grants from the federal government as a result of their opposition to same-sex marriage. FADA has been criticized for creating a national license-to-discriminate against gays and lesbians, but the measure has since quickly gained support among anti-LGBT groups and conservative media outlets.
Beyond a political agenda, speakers at the Future Conference also talked a great deal about influencing public debates about LGBT issues, especially through the media.
Ted Baehr, Chairman of the Christian Film & Television Commission, touted efforts to inject Christian themes and imagery into mainstream television and film. Shows like "Will & Grace," he argued, had gotten society comfortable with an "illegal, demonic form of marriage." Using Hollywood to expose the public to Christian values is, according to Baehr, a key step in turning the tide in America's culture war.
Other speakers were more concerned with coverage of LGBT issues in news outlets. In a presentation titled "Dealing With Media," conservative author and right-wing activist Jason Mattera suggested that the key to winning public opinion was to invert the dominant media narrative about LGBT equality by decrying LGBT activists as intolerant bullies while painting religious conservatives as the real victims in the culture war.
Leftists are "the most intolerant, bigoted people on the planet. And that is, they want Christianity purged from the public square," Mattera declared. He urged his audience to portray the fight for LGBT equality as intolerant when talking to reporters or appearing on TV: "Why do they hate diversity? Why do they hate tolerance? I'm for a multiplicity of viewpoints. Isn't that what America is about? Why does that person want to compel me to do something I don't want? What is it about fascism that appeals to them?"
That "flip the script" tactic -- essentially calling LGBT activists bullies -- has been widely successful in influencing conservative media coverage of the fight for LGBT equality in recent years. Stories about anti-gay bakers and florists who are fined for refusing service to gay customers have helped motivate the recent wave of "religious freedom" laws and gin up opposition to non-discrimination efforts that protect LGBT people.
Despite the Future Conference's anti-gay rhetoric, a recurring theme was the need to mimic the very tactics used by the LGBT community to win acceptance from American public. Conservative activist Lance Wallnau lauded the LGBT movement for its unified and media-savvy public relations efforts, encouraging his audience to look at the success of the fight for same-sex marriage as a blueprint for how conservatives might take back the culture war.
Near the end of the conference, NOM's Brown warned conference-goers that "the days of comfortable Christianity are over":
BROWN: Things have been good a long time for us. We don't experience the sort of persecution that we're witnessing in the Middle East. We don't fear for our lives in coming together and worshipping. We've felt for a long time that we're a part of dominant culture. And over the course of the last decade or so, maybe a little longer, we've realized that's not the case. Things are starting to change, and that, to put it bluntly, the days of comfortable Christianity are over.
A Supreme Court decision in favor of marriage equality, Brown argued, would put conservative activists in the same position that anti-abortion activists were in after Roe v. Wade.
That sentiment, echoed by many of the conference's speakers, represents a seismic shift in the way that anti-LGBT groups and activists have oriented their work. Their political agenda, which once prioritized a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, has become largely defensive, focused on staving off the rising tide of LGBT equality.
That agenda is no less dangerous -- threatening even the most basic non-discrimination protections for LGBT people. But it also represents the new reality facing the anti-LGBT right after Obergefell. Having lost the national debate over same-sex marriage, anti-LGBT conservatives are adapting to a political environment that increasingly pits their animus against the force of the state and public opinion. How the religious right chooses to deal with that new reality -- whether with disobedience, resignation, or legal maneuvering -- will set the stage for the next phase of the fight over LGBT equality.
Journalists planning to cover the upcoming Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa should be aware of the extreme anti-gay rhetoric regularly voiced by several of the event's sponsors and speakers, including host Bob Vander Plaats, president and CEO of The Family Leader and one of the most influential conservative activists in Iowa. Attendees will also hear from Tony Perkins, the head of the anti-gay hate group Family Research Council and Brian Brown, the head of the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage, among others.
Media outlets have repeatedly turned to an extreme anti-gay hate group to comment on the Supreme Court's recent marriage equality decision, needlessly exposing audiences to misinformation while failing to hold the group accountable for its track record of dishonesty.
Following the Supreme Court's June 26 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges -- which found that bans on same-sex marriage violate the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution - several media outlets invited representatives from the Family Research Council (FRC) to offer their reactions to the decision.
FRC has been labeled an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) because it propagates "known falsehoods" about the LGBT community, including linking homosexuality to pedophilia and accusing gay people of trying to "recruit" children. The group has a long track record of making wildly inaccurate policy predictions about the consequences of basic protections for LGBT people.
Spokespersons from FRC were also invited to react to the decision on national television. ABC's This Week invited FRC's Ken Blackwell - who previously blamed same-sex marriage for a mass murder - to discuss the court's decision. On Fox News' The Kelly File, Megyn Kelly offered a platform FRC president and frequent guest Tony Perkins, who has called pedophilia a "homosexual problem." As usual, none of these outlets identified FRC as a hate group or informed their audiences about the organization's history of misinformation.
And during the June 29 edition of CNN's New Day, host Chris Cuomo invited FRC's Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies, to discuss the decision in Obergefell. Sprigg, whoseprofessional experience before FRC includes serving as a Baptist minister and 10 years as a "professional actor," has previously suggested he'd prefer to "export homosexuals from the United States." But despite his extremism and lack of expertise, Sprigg was given a platform to fearmonger about the consequences of country-wide marriage equality:
Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly defended the Family Research Council (FRC), the anti-gay hate group that previously employed Josh Duggar, claiming that the group advocates for "strong Christian values." Kelly is one of the group's principal allies on Fox.
On the June 4 broadcast of The Kelly File, Kelly interviewed Democratic National Committee (DNC) committee member Robert Zimmerman about the media reaction to the revelation that Josh Duggar of TLC's 19 Kids and Counting had molested five girls, including his younger sisters, when he was a teenager. Before resigning in the wake of the controversy, Duggar was executive director of FRC Action, the political arm of FRC, which has been labeled an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for its promotion of known falsehoods about LGBT people.
During the segment, in response to Zimmerman's criticism of FRC's extreme attacks on LGBT people, Kelly defended the group and its president, Tony Perkins, as supporters of "strong Christian values":
Kelly's comments are the latest in Fox News' ongoing effort to conflate anti-LGBT extremism with Christian beliefs.
FRC has repeatedly peddled extreme and damaging myths about the LGBT community, including calling pedophilia a "homosexual problem" and claiming that gay activists want to "recruit" children into a "lifestyle" of "perversion."
Kelly has a history of whitewashing FRC's extremism and providing the organization with a welcoming platform on Fox News, despite knowing about their "hate group" designation. According to a recent study, she has hosted the group on her show more frequently than every other Fox News program combined.
Anti-gay conservatives are criticizing CBS News' Bob Schieffer for correctly identifying one of his guests as the president of an anti-gay "hate group," accusing him of "anti-Christian bias" for doing so. The outrage over Schieffer's disclosure highlights why it's so important for the media to hold extremists accountable for their views when they appear.
During the April 26 edition of CBS' Face the Nation, Schieffer invited Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC), to discuss the Supreme Court's upcoming oral arguments on marriage equality. Schieffer began the interview by noting that FRC has been listed as an anti-gay "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and citing critics who argue that Perkins' extreme views don't represent the views of most Christians:
SCHIEFFER: I'm going to start with probably the most vocal opponent of same-sex marriage and that is Tony Perkins. He is the president of the Family Research Council. And, Mister Perkins, I'm going to say this to you upfront. You and your group have been so strong in coming out against this -- and against gay marriage -- that the Southern Poverty Law Center has branded the Family Research Council an anti-gay hate group. We have been inundated by people who say we should not even let you appear because they, in their view, quote, "You don't speak for Christians." Do you think you have taken this too far?
On CBS' Face the Nation, Bob Schieffer accurately identified one of his guests as the president of an anti-gay "hate group," providing his audience with valuable context often missing from mainstream media interviews with anti-LGBT extremists.
On the April 26 edition of Face the Nation, Schieffer invited Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC), and Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, to discuss this week's Supreme Court arguments over marriage equality. Scheiffer began the interview by noting that Perkins' group has been labeled an anti-gay "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC):
SCHIEFFER: I'm going to start with probably the most vocal opponent of same-sex marriage and that is Tony Perkins. He is the president of the Family Research Council. And, Mister Perkins, I'm going to say this to you upfront. You and your group have been so strong in coming out against this-- and against gay marriage that the Southern Poverty Law Center has branded the Family Research Council an anti-gay hate group. We have been inundated by people who say we should not even let you appear because they, in their view, quote, "You don't speak for Christians." Do you think you have taken this too far?
For the second time this year, an anti-LGBT hate group is hosting a trip to Israel that will feature prominent figures from the Republican Party. The event will also feature Fox radio host Todd Starnes.
On October 27, the Family Research Council (FRC) will host its first ever eleven-day "Holy Land Tour" -- a "unique, one-of-a kind tour" where guests will "explore the land of the Bible and the roots of our Christian faith" and meet with "some of Israel's political and religious leaders."
According to the tour's brochure, the $5,000 trip features "insightful Bible teaching" and meetings with Israeli leaders aimed at providing guests with "a better understanding of Israel's important role in current geopolitical affairs and biblical prophecy."
The tour will feature a number of "special guests" including former Senator Rick Santorum, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), and Fox News commentator Todd Starnes, who has a history of acting as FRC's mouthpiece and peddling anti-LGBT rhetoric on Fox.
FRC was labeled an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in 2010 due to the group's peddling of false and damaging smears about the LGBT community. The tour will also feature FRC's president Tony Perkins, who has described pedophilia as a "homosexual problem," accused the "It Gets Better" campaign of trying to "recruit" kids into a "lifestyle" of "perversion," and praised Uganda for criminalizing homosexuality.
National Republicans were widely lampooned earlier this year for participating in a similar hate group-led trip to Israel. In February, the Republican National Committee faced criticism for sending national committee members on a 9-day trip to Israel paid for by the American Family Association (AFA), which has also been labeled a hate group by SPLC. Even conservative activists criticized the RNC for aligning with a group like AFA. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus eventually pulled out of the event, and MSNBC's Rachel Maddow reported that AFA demoted one of their most inflammatory spokesmen in the midst of the controversy.
From the April 7 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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From the March 31 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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