Fox News Radio host Todd Starnes wrote that "Record-breaking floods have inundated Washington, D.C. just days after the Supreme Court decided they knew better than God" and wondered, "Anybody got an ark?"
Starnes, the host of Fox News & Commentary, has issued dire warnings to his followers after the June 26 Supreme Court marriage equality decision.
After the decision, Starnes tweeted: "If you thought the cultural purge over the Confederate flag was breathtaking -- wait until you see what LGBT activists do with Christians." He wrote on Facebook: "Friends, it is imperative that you prepare yourselves, your families and your congregations for the coming persecution ... These are troubling days - and we must be willing to defend religious liberty." (In reality, such religious liberty concerns are bunk.)
His assessment veered toward end times territory in a June 28 Facebook post where he wrote: "Record-breaking floods have inundated Washington, D.C. just days after the Supreme Court decided they knew better than God. I seem to remember another time in history when there was a record-breaking flood." He added: "God painted the sky with rainbow colors after that flood. This go-around - Obama painted the White House with rainbow colors. Anybody got an ark?"
Starnes' remarks are so ridiculous that it sometimes seems like a parody of an intolerant conservative pundit. Indeed, The Daily Beast's Asawin Suebsaeng wrote of "the Worst Man on Cable News": "Todd Starnes did not respond to The Daily Beast's request for comment regarding whether he actually believes the shit he says, or if he is just forever trolling."
Right-wing media responded in disbelief and outrage to the Supreme Court's decision holding that state bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional.
The Libre Initiative's outrage over the Supreme Court's decision to uphold health insurance tax credits for millions of Americans mirrored the conservative media's extreme response, despite massive gains in insurance rates among Latinos since the Affordable Care Act was implemented.
After South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (R-SC) announced that she supported the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the state Capitol, right-wing media figures responded by attacking the flag's possible removal as "cultural cleansing" and asking whether the American flag would be next.
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?
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.
Right-wing media attacked President Obama's Easter prayer breakfast speech, claiming he "smeared" Christianity by referring to "less-than-loving" statements from Christians.
Conservative media figures railed against a New York high school at which a student recited the Pledge of Allegiance in Arabic for National Foreign Language Week, connecting the language with terrorism and demanding the Pledge be said in English.
A Navy Commanding Officer debunked conservative media's defense of a Navy chaplain, who was disciplined after discriminating against female and LGBT students, stating that the chaplain's ability to express his religious beliefs "has not been restricted or substantially burdened."
On February 15, chaplain Lt. Cmdr. Wesley Modder was given a "detachment for cause" from his unit after an investigation by the Navy found him guilty of repeated inappropriate and discriminatory behavior against students at the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command (NNPTC) in South Carolina, including telling a student that "the penis was meant for the vagina and not for the anus" and shaming a student for having premarital sex.
The anti-gay legal group Liberty Institute is now representing Modder, alleging in a March 9 complaint to the Navy that Modder has been discriminated against due to his religious beliefs. Fox News correspondent and serial misinformer Todd Starnes also jumped on the story, publishing a report defending the chaplain's discriminatory actions. Conservative media parroted Starnes' narrative, and praised chaplain Modder as a hero for religious liberty.
The claim that Modder was "discriminated" against due to his religious beliefs also gained traction with other anti-LGBT organizations, including the hate group Family Research Council, which collected over 80,000 signatures in a petition demanding Modder's reinstatement and securement of "his religious freedom."
But in a Navy memorandum released on March 16 in response to the Liberty Institute's complaint, Commanding Officer, Capt. J.R. Fahs rejected the conservative narrative that the disciplinary action was a result of Modder's religious beliefs (emphasis added):
In your case, I find that your ability to express your religious beliefs during pastoral counseling has not been restricted or substantially burdened. Rather, the decision to relieve you from your duties is based on your failure to uphold the core capabilities of chaplains as stated in reference (c), and the professional standards of conduct and the guiding principles of the Chaplain Corps
Specifically, under the core capability of "care," you have the duty to be sensitive to the religious, spiritual, moral, cultural, and personal differences of those you serve. Your inability to comfort and counsel in a manner that was respectful of the counselee while maintaining dignity and professionalism... led you to be relieved of your duties. I note that you dispute some of these allegations, but after considering your denials, I find the multiple allegations in references (e) and (f) to be credible. In making my determination I considered all applicable Navy rules and policies... and consulted with the Navy Chief of Chaplains office.
While I support your religious freedoms and sincerely held beliefs, my decision to relieve you was based on your failure to comply with references (c) and (d); not the exercise of your religion.
Starnes acknowledged the memorandum in a March 17 opinion article but refused to drop his Christian persecution accusations, titling his piece "Showdown: Navy forces chaplain to choose between faith and job." Starnes conceded that the Navy "rejected Modder's claim that he was being singled out because of his Christian faith," but dismissed the Navy's investigation by alleging that the chaplain "may have been the target of a set-up."
It is puzzling why a gay officer would continuously seek the counsel of a chaplain who clearly held to the Bible's teachings on both homosexuality and marriage.
It would be like a vegetarian getting upset at a barbecue joint for not serving tofu.
The Navy's response to Modder's behavior dismantles conservative media's argument that someone's religious beliefs create a blank check to ignore their job responsibilities and engage in discrimination.
Fox News commentator and serial anti-LGBT misinformer Todd Starnes rushed to the defense of a Navy chaplain who was disciplined after allegedly "discriminat[ing] against students who were of different faiths and backgrounds." According to a Navy document, the chaplain shamed a female student for having premarital sex and told another student that "the penis was meant for the vagina and not for the anus."
On March 9, Starnes published a report on the chaplain, Lt. Cmdr. Wes Modder, who was given a "detachment for cause" from his unit after an investigation concluded that he had discriminated against students at the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command (NNPTC) in South Carolina.
Modder is now being represented by the anti-gay legal group Liberty Institute, which alleges that Modder is being discriminated against because of his religious beliefs. In his report, Starnes echoed the Liberty Institute's allegation that Modder was punished for his Christianity:
Michael Berry, a military veteran and attorney with Liberty Institute a law firm that specializes in religious liberty cases is representing Modder. He accused the military of committing a gross injustice against the chaplain in a letter to the Navy. He told me they will respond forcefully and resolutely to the allegations -- which they categorically deny.
"We are starting to see cases where chaplains have targets on their backs," Berry said. "They have to ask themselves, 'Do I stay true to my faith or do I keep my job?'"
He said Modder is being punished because of his Christian faith.
Fox News uncritically reported a bogus story about the alleged bullying of anti-gay students in a California high school, according to the school's superintendent. It's the second time the network has been duped by the lies of one of California's most notorious anti-LGBT hate groups.
In a February 9 opinion piece for FoxNews.com, Fox News' serial misinformer and mouthpiece for anti-gay hate groups Todd Starnes reported on allegations that high school students at Acalanes High School in Lafayette, California, were "bullied" by the school's Queer Straight Alliance during a class presentation. His report drew heavily from a press release by the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), an anti-LGBT hate group with a history of fabricating horror stories to combat efforts to make schools welcoming for LGBT students. Starnes concluded his report by asking, "Has it really come to this, America -- forcing students to declare their allegiance to the LGBT agenda?"
But in an email to Equality Matters, Acalanes High School District Superintendent John Nickerson thoroughly debunked the claims made by Starnes and PJI (emphasis added):
An examination of the program and classroom environment would suggest gross inaccuracies in the Pacific Justice Institute press release. It is not clear what other primary source Fox News used for their reporting, but their "opinion" piece on the program does not reflect what actually took place. Did not happen [quoted directly from PJI's press release]: ridiculed and humiliated / intimidation and interrogation / also had students line up. The peer led classroom activity was a carried out in a respectful environment and under the supervision of the classroom teacher. The activity focused on tolerance and acceptance, with an emphasis on anti-queer harassment and homophobia. It was intended to help students better understand the LGBTQ student experience.
The program is in its 15th year at Acalanes High School and his been a model program and replicated throughout the region.
We will continue to examine the activity/program in our efforts to improve the safety on our campuses for all students.
This is the second time Fox News and other conservative outlets have been duped by the Pacific Justice Institute. In 2013, PJI was caught promoting a fabricated story about a transgender student in Colorado harassing girls in the school bathroom - a claim that was also debunked by that school's superintendent.
Starnes contacted Nickerson for his own piece, and Starnes quoted Nickerson as writing that the school was aware of the "concerns and allegations raised by two parents and the Pacific Justice Institute" and that it was "investigating the situation."
But rather than waiting for the investigation to be completed, Starnes uncritically parroted PJI's allegations. As a result, a 15-year-old school program that fosters tolerance and acceptance of minority students has been baselessly smeared across conservative media.
Fox has a history of giving headlines to PJI, despite the group's well-established history of manufacturing anti-LGBT misinformation. Given that only recently Starnes incorrectly reported facts in a story about anti-gay cake bakers, it might behoove both Starnes and Fox to stop relying on a discredited anti-LGBT organization as a legitimate source.
Right-wing media are indignant that President Obama appeared in a BuzzFeed video taking a selfie and saying "YOLO" as part of a promotion for HealthCare.gov.
Conservative media lashed out at President Obama for mentioning the Crusades and Inquisition at the National Prayer Breakfast after condemning the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) as a "death cult" that distorts Islam.
UPDATE: Starnes' post now includes an "Editor's Note" correcting the inaccurate $200,000 figure:
Editor's Note: A previous version of this column stated that the Kleins could face a fine of at least $200,000. However, an attorney for the bakers says the actual amount is at least $150,000.
In fact, $150,000 is the most the Kleins could face in fines - a maximum of $75,000 per person suing. No ruling on amounts has been made. The incorrect figure remains unchanged in the body of the post.
Fox News' Todd Starnes falsely reported that the Oregon bakers who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple could face up to $200,000 in fines, badly misinterpreting local reports about the case, according to the state's Bureau of Labor and Industries.
On January 29, an administrative law judge in Oregon rejected a request from the lawyers representing Sweet Cakes by Melissa to dismiss a discrimination complaint filed against shop owners Aaron and Melissa Klein. The case has been ongoing since early 2013, when the bakers refused to provide a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in violation of the state's non-discrimination law. A March 10 hearing will determine what damages the couple is owed.
On February 3, Fox News reporter and serial misinformer Todd Starnes published his report on the Kleins' failed attempt to have the complaint dismissed, stating that the bakers could face $200,000 "in fines and damages":
An Oregon administrative law judge ruled on Jan. 29 that the owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa did, in fact, discriminate in 2013 when they declined to provide a wedding cake for a lesbian couple because it would have violated their Christian beliefs against same-sex marriage.
The judge's ruling paves the way for a March 10 hearing at which the Christian business owners could be ordered to pay $200,000 in fines and damages.
Starnes' "$200,000" number is a blatant misreading of the original Oregonian report he cites. In actuality, it was the anti-gay bakers who were asking the judge for $200,000 in damages, court costs, and attorney fees:
An administrative law judge has rejected an attempt by lawyers representing the owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa to dismiss the case and award them $200,000 for damages, court costs and attorney fees.
The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) investigators involved in the case have actually recommended that the bakers pay $75,000 in damages per person.
In a statement to Media Matters, BOLI Communications Director Charlie Burr confirmed that Starnes' reporting was false:
Todd Starnes is writing that the bakery owners face fines of up to $200,000 in damages. That's false. In fact, it's the Kleins who have asked for $200,000 in damages from our agency for our enforcement of the Equality Act. We rejected the request due to jurisdictional issues.
The agency's prosecution unit is seeking up to $75,000 per person in damages, but no ruling on amounts has been made. [emphasis original]
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: